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H.H. Holmes - America's First Serial Killer (2004)

Tony Jay , Harold Schechter , John Borowski  |  Unrated |  DVD
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)

Price: $47.21 & FREE Shipping. Details
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Product Details

  • Actors: Tony Jay, Harold Schechter, Thomas Cronin, Marian Caporusso, Ed Bertagnoli
  • Directors: John Borowski
  • Writers: John Borowski
  • Producers: John Borowski, Dimas Estrada
  • Format: Black & White, Color, Dolby, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Facets Video
  • DVD Release Date: October 19, 2004
  • Run Time: 64 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0002XL1NU
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #239,498 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "H.H. Holmes - America's First Serial Killer" on IMDb

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

Erik Larson’s bestselling book The Devil in the White City introduced America to one of the most horrific but little-known episodes in our nation’s criminal history. When the shocking exploits of the mysterious Dr. H. H. Holmes became known, U.S. tabloids dubbed him the American Jack the Ripper. H.H. HOLMES: AMERICA’S FIRST SERIAL KILLER is the first film to tell the entire true story of this grisly episode. H.H. HOLMES: AMERICA’S FIRST SERIAL KILLER focuses on Holmes’ entire life of crime and villainy, from childhood to his death sentence and ultimate execution. Original photographs and newspaper reports of the period create a chilling authenticity, while actor Tony Jay (Time Bandits, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast) provides spooky, insightful narration to enliven the proceedings.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
52 of 55 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A monster revealed October 30, 2005
I think it's safe to say that we can separate serial killers into two categories--let's call them "A" and "B"--when discussing their name recognition. Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, Richard Speck, Jeffrey Dahmer, Henry Lee Lucas, Jack the Ripper, and Charles Starkweather would definitely fall in the former. Thanks to the media, the public is all too aware of these vicious killers. Numerous books, articles, documentaries, and movies describe their exploits in nauseating detail. The second tier murderers, no less appalling in their capacity to take human lives, would draw mostly blanks if you dropped their names into polite conversation. Albert Fish, Beck and Fernandez, William Bonin, and dozens of others fall into this category. One name that, until recently, also garnered blank stares was Dr. Herman W. Mudgett aka Henry Holmes aka H. H. Holmes. Thanks to a best-selling book entitled "The Devil in the White City," Holmes is finally receiving his due. I haven't read Erik Larson's treatment, but I have read dozens of serial killer compilations over the years. Holmes made the grade in all of them. I decided to reacquaint myself with this monster recently by watching John Borowski's documentary "H.H. Holmes: America's First Serial Killer."

Borowski's production, which runs a scant sixty-four minutes, gives the viewer everything they ever wanted to know about this notorious butcher. Holmes grew up in New Hampshire in the 1860s and 1870s, a brilliant but troubled child who eventually attended medical school. After running an insurance scam involving stolen cadavers from school, Holmes disappeared for a number of years before popping up again in Chicago in 1885. Then the nightmares began in earnest.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WHAT THE PITEZEL DESCENDENTS THINK... September 2, 2004
I am one of Benjamin's great-grandaughters (baby Wharton was my g-pa) and my family waited 2 years for John's film. To state we were all very pleased, would be a gross understatement! John has told the story in a way that greatly exceeded our expectations, it was definitely worth the wait. The research he did is an accomplishment in itself, and John just could not have presented the story better, I often felt like I was "back in time" while watching, because of his meticulous eye for detail. The film flowed so well, better than most "major motion pictures" playing these days, and stuck to the facts of the story, which shows me just what a master John is in the art of film making, and in staying true to making a documentary. I know the story backwards & forward and yet, I was literally on the edge of my seat watching the film! And what can I say about Tony Jay? He was the ulimate choice for narration, and brought so much to the story, we can't thank him enough for his contributions. I really liked (& wasn't expecting!) seeing Harold presenting his thoughts & research, and Tom Cronin's insight gave additional "food for thought". The "making of" portion of the DVD was very interesting & equally enjoyable, it simply could not have been done any better. We greatly appreciate the time & effort John put into this production, he's earned my utmost respect & admiration. These events were such a source of shame for our family for so many, many years, John's shown the truth, bringing light to a very dark time in our family history, which we can now be proud of.

I look forward to seeing John's other productions, as he is a true artist, anyone would be proud to have him tell their "story", it is a priviledge to have had him tell "our story".
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Murderous Masterpiece September 27, 2004
With overtones of Murnau's Nosferatu, this documentary/film about the life and crimes of HH Holmes is one not to be missed. It is a highly polished independant production that rivals the big studios. Borowski has done his research and takes the viewer on a journey into the dark annals of Chicago in the late-nineteenth century.

The eerie black and white re-enactments brings the case to life, with the suspense of the old monster films of the turn of the century. The haunting voice-over by esteemed actor Tony Jay gives the film it's final touch.

I look forward to future projects by John Borowski.

Amanda Howard

Author, River of Blood: Serial Killers and Their Victims.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Creepy, thrilling, and frightening! July 29, 2006
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I watched this last night. For a new documentary filmmaker, John Borowski, is somebody to watch out for. This coumentary reminds you of old black and white thriller films but with great narration and commentary by Harold Schechter who wrote depraved about Dr. H. Holmes born Herman Mudgett. The criminal profiler reminds me of a blonde Chris Parnell and the forensics person is quite vague but explains the lack of forensics science during that time. Dr. H. Holmes was a frightening man who killed, slaughtered, dismembered humans and sold their skeletons for profit. He was truly a genius at manipulating poor men like Benjamin Pitezel and his family who were his greatest casualties. He was the first serial killer to become so notorious by the end of one century on par with England's Jack the Ripper.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty good documentary. September 27, 2010
Format:Amazon Instant Video|Verified Purchase
I was pleasantly surprised by this documentary! I rented it on impulse because I'd nothing better to watch and the subject interested me. It's a fairly good overview of the H.H. Holmes story, from Holmes's early years in New Hampshire right through to his execution. What it is not is a thorough investigation which is why I gave it only 4 stars. There were some details lacking and the film, though extremely polished, seemed to have a low-budget quality to it.

It's great if you're looking to kill (pardon the pun) an hour and don't know much about one of America's worst serial killers. However, those of you familiar with the Holmes story, don't look for any startling revelations or intense detective work.

The format is typical documentary with "slide shows" of pictures from that era interspersed with interviews from experts on the subject (although there were only a few of those). The narrator has a stuffy British-y accent which makes the documentary seem more "official" somehow. Also there are voice-overs reading some of Holmes's autobiography. There are short dramatizations of Holmes stalking a young frightened woman around a creepy dark house. Again somewhat low-budget but still very entertaining. Be prepared, though, later in the film, there is a dragging part where the narrator is describing Holmes's flights across the country where all you see is a red line bouncing across a map for what seems like 10 minutes.

I would have liked to see more of how Holmes's house of horror was built (more plan details) and more on the subsequent police investigation once Holmes was caught. Again, this is more an overview documentary instead of an in-depth analysis. But it was definitely worth the 1.99 rental fee. I would never buy it though unless it was about the same price for the dvd.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
very interesting
Published 9 days ago by kim
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Well done indeed!!!
Published 1 month ago by DannyBoy
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Another great documentary about another sadistic monster.
Published 2 months ago by Ray Clemons Jr.
3.0 out of 5 stars He Was a "Fiend," I Say!
(I changed my rating from a 4 to a 3 on 2014-08-28 and explain why.)

I'm currently reading "The Devil in the White City" (DITWC) by Erik Larson. Read more
Published 2 months ago by California Dreaming
3.0 out of 5 stars More Details Would Have Helped
I just finished watching it on Netflix. I felt it had a lot of holes in it, considering the information that was available. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Warren A. Slaughter
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
boring and melodramatic.
Published 2 months ago by D. Napoli
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
If you read devil in the white city much of this is covered.
Published 3 months ago by Melissa Guilmain
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great well researched
Published 3 months ago by Marie
3.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing Introduction to Holmes
I'm pretty sure this guy was not our first serial killer, so the title is misleading. There's a book entitled Psycho USA that covers this point. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Zalmorion the Fantastic
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Documentary
I was very impressed with this documentary. I am not a serial killer fan but am very interested in their lives. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Donna Mason
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