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H.H. Holmes - America's First Serial Killer

3.6 out of 5 stars 87 customer reviews

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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.

Special Features

None.

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
    Not Rated
  • 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 (87 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0002XL1NU
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #93,012 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "H.H. Holmes - America's First Serial Killer" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jeffrey Leach HALL OF FAME on October 30, 2005
Format: DVD
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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Format: DVD
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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Format: DVD
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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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This documentary about the notorious killer (though he is mostly overlooked today), H. H. HOLMES, is informative and interesting. I was particularly impressed by Holmes' education level (med school grad), and his architectural knowledge: drawing up his own plans for the "castle" in which he lived. This, of course, was also where he terminated most of his victims. The interior was a labyrinth of hidden rooms, false doors, and secret passages. One room was equipped w/ gas pipes for easy, clean executions. Then, it was off to the basement / dungeon, where the bodies were immersed in acid, the flesh dissolved, so that Holmes could sell the skeletons to the local university! Holmes was more than just a serial murderer, in that he was also a master con-man, bigamist, and insurance fraud expert. His only mistake came when he "forgot" to pay a promised $500 to a man he met in prison. That error cost Holmes dearly, as it led to the investigation that would be his undoing. While not the greatest production, I am just happy to have anything at all on this forgotten story...
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