A prison guard at Leavenworth with lofty ideals and hopes of reform struggles to understand a violent, hateful and conscienceless convict. The result is a written testimonial to a crime that no one could have predicted.

Director:

Tim Metcalfe

Writers:

Thomas E. Gaddis (book) (as Thomas Gaddis), James Long (book) | 1 more credit »
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2 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
James Woods ... Carl Panzram
Robert Sean Leonard ... Henry Lesser
Ellen Greene ... Elizabeth Wyatt
Cara Buono ... Esther Lesser
Robert John Burke ... R.G. Greiser
Richard Riehle ... Warden Quince
Harold Gould ... Old Henry Lesser
John Bedford Lloyd ... Dr. Karl Menninger
Jeffrey DeMunn ... Sam Lesser
Conrad McLaren Conrad McLaren ... Judge John W. Kingman
Steve Forrest ... Warden Charles Casey
Richard Council ... Cop
Christopher Petrosino Christopher Petrosino ... Richard Lesser
Michael Jeffrey Woods Michael Jeffrey Woods ... Harry Sinclair (as Michael Jeffery Woods)
Rob Locke Jones Rob Locke Jones ... Junkie
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Storyline

Carl Panzram is sent to Leavenworth Prison for burglary. While there, he is brutally beaten by a guard. Neophyte guard Henry Lesser feels sympathy for Panzram, befriends him, and gets him to write his life story. Lesser learns that Panzram's past is much more violent than he thought, but also that he's capable of being a much better person than the rest of the prison staff believes - or so Lesser thinks. Written by Jon Reeves <jreeves@imdb.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Liar. Thief. Murderer. He hated all of humanity, himself most of all.


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong language and strong, brutal violence, including a rape | See all certifications »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Matthew Broderick and Robert Downey Jr. were considered for the role of Henry Lesser. See more »

Goofs

The amount of beer in Henry Lesser's glass at the speakeasy. See more »

Quotes

Carl Panzram: I don't want to be alive. I want out of these clothes. I want out of this body. I want out of this world.
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Connections

Referenced in Tomorrow by Midnight (2001) See more »

Soundtracks

A NICKEL FOR COFFEE
Music & lyrics by Bill Elliott
Performed by Bill Elliott & His Orchestra
Sung by Nicole Sill
Courtesy of Windswept Pacific Entertainment Co.
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User Reviews

Doesn't live up to its potential
23 May 1999 | by Brujo-2See all my reviews

Don't get me wrong; this movie is worth at least one viewing. James Woods - as usual - is great in his performance, and the supporting cast is good, too.

Killer: A Journal of Murder is based on Thomas Gaddis' and James O. Long's fascinating 1970 book of the same name. It contains many of the letters Panzram wrote to Henry Lesser (who was a Washington, D.C. jail guard, not a prison guard at Leavenworth) while he was on death row in Leavenworth.

While it is a common practice for films to take artistic liberties when dealing with true stories, this film went a bit far in trying to make Carl Panzram (Woods) into a sympathetic character. True, Carl Panzram was the product of a barbaric prison system, but he stands out in history as one of the few arch-criminals who did not want sympathy, something this film ignores.

This was a film that needed to be made, but unfortunately, the story was mishandled in a maudlin attempt to get the viewer to care about one of the most reprehensible human beings who ever lived. If they had wanted to make a biographical film to convey their particular message, the people responsible for this movie should have made a film about Caryl Chessman, a criminal more eloquent, tragic and - most importantly - far more sympathetic than Carl Panzram.


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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

6 September 1996 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Killer: A Journal of Murder See more »

Filming Locations:

Connecticut, USA See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$31,993, 8 September 1996

Gross USA:

$82,029

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$82,029
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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