This month Paramount Studios announced that Martin Scorsese and Leonardo Dicaprio would team up to bring to the big screen the infamous story of H.H. Holmes, the 1890’s Chicago murderer known as the Monster of Sixty-Third Street. Although Holmes confessed to twenty seven murders, there have been persistent theories that the actual number of victims may be closer to 200. Now those interested in H. H. Holmes can view on Netflix writer and director John Borowski’s documentary on the killer titled, ‘H.H. Holmes: America’s First Serial Killer’.
Borowski’s touch on the documentary, filmed in black and white with photos and a few reenactments, is informative, educational, and macabre. Borowski knows how to tell the story of Holmes, with the help of deep voice actor Tony Jay. Jay has performed as an actor and done voice work since 1970. With his immense voice work range including children’s cartoon characters like Shere Khan in the 1990 animated series “Talespin”, as Grim Reaper in the 1992 animated series “Darkwing Duck”, and even as the mutant Magneto in the video 2004 video game “X-men Legends” Tony Jay shows how his range is amazing. With his deep voice Tony Jay narrates the story of H.H. Holmes in a very eloquent and bone chilling way. Helping Jay tell the story horrific story are criminal profilers, authors, police officers and detectives, and an unusual choice to voice H.H. Holmes himself, as he tells his own story, Willy Laszlo. Laszlo, a Chicago native and award winning short filmmaker has directed thirty nine comedy shorts. His voice for Holmes is satisfactory, but for such a grim tale, seems miscast. While Holmes was reported to be a pleasant man, hearing the atrocities he had committed, you can’t help but want a more evil tone for the killer’s voice.
Borowski’s documentary on the horrific murderer, while supplying the experts, photos, and facts, does tend to feel as if it’s more of a tease, leaving out most of the grisly details. The film quickly lists a few different techniques that were possibly used, and gives information on a couple ways he disposed of his victims, but it seems shortened in supplying more particulars. While to hear more precise specifics would be abhorrent, the lack of it seems to soften the impact of the crimes. Perhaps the information provided is all that is known, or perhaps Borowski chose not to go into too many gory details. With such an astounding and shocking murderer, the more horrific information given would truly reveal how evil Holmes was. The little facts given are still shocking, but seems like a documentary that holds back so it can be shown on television.
‘H.H. Holmes: America’s First Serial Killer’ is a well put together documentary on a gruesome killer of Chicago’s historic past. John Borowski’s film does a fine job of giving the basic truths and telling the story of H.H. Holmes, yet seems to hold back just enough. With the announcement of Scorsese and Dicaprio in plans to bring the story of the murder to the big screen, this documentary is a must see for those wanting to know just who H.H. Holmes was. It will also prepare you for what Scorsese may bring to the screen. To others, it may be too disturbing and might be one to pass over.