We’ll Be Hanged Hangman

DATELINE:  Pacino & Shahi

 Hangman stars

Al Pacino is at an age when Robert DeNiro plays comedy roles, but Pacino is still looking at detective action thrillers.

He is a bit long in the tooth, and we worry when he falls down that he may break a hip. He looks great actually.

In Hangman, he has chosen the role of a detective who retired a year ago (at 77) and is back on special assignment with his young partner (Karl Urban) when a serial killer calls out their badge numbers.

There is some initial interest in seeing this movie because of the cast, and Sarah Shahi (Person of Interest) as the young, tough woman captain of the force in some small city.

For some reason inexplicable to anyone, Pacino plays his detective with an Andy Griffith, aw shucks, Mayberry accent. He’s the only one with such a speech impediment among the New York actors.

If that were not weird enough, the serial killer wants to play Hangman, literally, hanging his victims with a letter carved into their bodies.

Well, if koo-koo descends into ridiculous, we do not find it sublime. We’ve had our fill of brilliantly smart serial killers. We are challenged to stay with this film, mainly because of the actors.

The plot does not thicken: it curdles. We discover both detectives have a personal connection to victims, but this does not disqualify them from the case.

And, to make matters worse, there is a Lois Lane type tagging along to all the crime scenes. When told not to obstruct justice, she enters the case and compounds trouble. Call her the plot hole.

It’s enough to throw in the noose and call it a hang dog day afternoon. Just terrible, and what a waste of talented actors.

Billy the Kid Up-ends His Tough Teen Movie Image

DATELINE: Way Outted West

Featured image Fops Out West

You probably have seen the newly confirmed photo of Billy the Kid.

He was the sociopathic killer and dime novel hero of the great American West.  As a dangerous desperado who shot 21 people down, at his minimal serial killer standard, he may have taken a hit to his image with the discovery of his picture playing croquet.

A few people have hinted that now it is clear that Billy was a pantywaist who murdered people to bolster his gun size. Others think he proves that the Old West was not a home for fashion plates.

The subject of 200+ movies, Billy wears a cardigan sweater like a Yalie on holiday at the dude ranch, the Yves Saint Laurent devotee looking like a fish out of water. We can hardly wait for the updated Billy western where he plies his wares with a croquet mallet.

Billy would not have passed muster as a model for Abercrombie and Fitch. His chin is big enough to hang a kettle on, and his acne seems to defy the New Mexico sunlight.

Of course, the news accounts are slightly wrong. There is at least one other photo of Billy, though some still dispute it, but the same points of facial recognition have been counted. He was not the most handsome of young men. And if you are not good-looking at 21, time has run out on the star meter.

Many are making a great deal of noise over the croquet mallet, which easily could become a club and weapon of choice in a robbery while playing the game most favored by matrons of elite 19th century leisure.

Imagine adding hustler to the litany of Billy’s crimes. Billy’s gang of male escorts? That’s why we love Americana.

Carl Panzram is the Real Thing



ImageCarl Panzram: the Spirit of Hatred and Vengeance is one of the most chilling documentaries about a serial killer and vile human being. It is worth every uncomfortable and squeamish moment to study.


Panzram wrote 40,000 words at the behest of a guard named Henry Lesser who encouraged him in 1928 to tell his twisted and horrifying life story. The guard smuggled the pencil script out of the prison (against regulations) and unsuccessfully tried to publish it for 40 years. No one wanted to read it or to believe it.


Now on DVD and streaming video comes a documentary film, reenacting the scenes related by Lesser as an elderly man in an interview from the 1970s.


Panzram will haunt you for his timeless sense of life and death. He was self-educated, brutal and brutalized, and admitted to sodomizing thousands of men in his life, most by rape. He is the epitome of 21st century violence and hatred, caught in a time warp that defied credibility in the early years of the 20th century.


If man’s inhumanity to man ever needed confirmation, the life of Panzram provides definitive evidence.


John DiMaggio reads the words of Panzram during the re-enactments with chilling effect. Henry Lesser, the man who encouraged the autobiography and smuggled it out of the prison, is seen in archival interview footage. Their unlikely ‘friendship’ bespeaks of someone seeing an unusual quality in the killer—which we would never call redeeming. Lesser made the right decision to document this bizarre case of human psychology.


A battery of psychologists and criminologists weigh in, but their words are hollow next to the sharp, clear, incisive prose of Panzram.


The story is so disturbing that no traditional movie version with a big name star has appeared, though we would never rule it out as time marches on.


In the meantime, real horror is far beyond the manufactured stuff of moviemakers. This is not for the squeamish.

You may sample William Russo’s movie reviews in MOVIES TO SEE–OR NOT TO SEE, now available in softcover and e-book formats on Amazon.com.