April 22 2014
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Articles Home » Interviews » Filmmaker John Borowski
Filmmaker John Borowski



Your new movie is about Carl Panzram. Why did you pick Carl as the subject?

Choosing the next subject of my film is very difficult but I am usually drawn to serial killers who are psychologically complex and Panzram fit that category. Initial reading on killers are usually devoid of the more interesting details, usually summing up the total number of murders and possible motives. When my research leads me to other fascinating aspects of a killer’s personality/psychology, it is then that I decide to make a film on that killer. One of the most interesting part of Panzram’s story is that he broke INTO a prison to help a fellow convict escape. He was caught once he broke into the prison, but he did get in. I had never heard of a criminal breaking into a prison.

What are you hoping to accomplish with the film?

There are many aspects to Panzram’s life story. Instead of completely concentrating on how Panzram was mistreated in early American state prisons, I decided to focus on Panzram as a symbol of mankind’s hatred and destruction. It was hatred that created Panzram and he made others suffer because of it. I hope that we can learn from Panzram’s story because he is trying to teach us something as a society by telling us how to treat each other with kindness and respect instead of hatred and abuse.

Were there any others you considered making a film about?

I would like to make the definitive feature film on Ed Gein. None of the films made really give a true sense of what his life was like. I am ready to make the feature if any investors out there are willing to take the chance. Even thought here have been three films made on Gein, mine would be the definitive version.

What are some things you learned in your research that you hadn't expected to find out?

Through my researches I have discovered many inaccuracies in the story of Panzram that many people are now familiar with, especially what is known about Panzram’s time at Leavenworth. I am producing a book which will detail more of Panzram’s life which I could not fit into the film. Panzram’s last words will always be a mystery, but I have at least three different versions of what his last words may have been, if he even spoke anything on the gallows. It is easy to dismiss Panzram as a psychopath and call it a day, but I found him to possess numerous character archetypes. Through his writings, you can catch a glimpse of his intelligence and sense of humor.

It's suggested that it is possible that Carl only killed one man. What are your thoughts on this?

In my researches into Panzram’s case, I uncovered some truths. He was incarcerated in reform schools, jails, and prisons. He did have a scar behind his left ear from what he says was a mastoid operation. He murdered Warnke, the laundry foreman at Leavenworth. He wrote his autobiography for Henry Lesser. He was tortured at the Washington DC district jail. I believe Panzram murdered only one man because that is all that I can prove. I cannot prove any of the murders. But that does not mean that they did not happen. It is my belief that once Panzram knew he was going to the first fderal penitentiary with the rest of the truly bad men, he had to build himself up to being an even worse person that just a criminal and made the murders up. We will never know if Panzram killed more than one person.

In his letters, Carl gives advice on how to properly raise kids so they don't turn out like him. With his lack of education, do you think is ideas would work?

WE will never know if Panzram’s theories on how to raise children would work, but they make a lot of sense to me. Panzram was lead down the wrong path in life by how he was treated by others. It seems natural that, because of those experiences, he is an expert in sharing his views on how to treat children with kindness and teach them respect for themselves and others. Panzram is trying to tell us that we have to stop creating more PANZRAMS by treating each other better. I feel that is the moral to his story.

Having never seen Carl's tattoo's, how did you come up with the designs used in the film?

In Panzram’s Leavenworth file, there is a description of the tattoos which were on his body. I then worked with Matthew Aaron, who designed the fake tattoos, and based the design on traditional tattoos and utilized the design of the American Eagle on the one dollar bill as the double eagle head on his chest, which is also a reference to the dollar bill that was given to him by Henry Lesser after his torture in DC.

Carl recieved a lot of abuse via the prison system. Do you think torture like he recieved still goes on in prison's today? If so, are we just birthing more Carl Panzram's?

There are abuses that still occur in US prisons and may always happen. The difference is now there are watchdogs and higher authorities which were not in place in early US state run prisons. There will always be angry and frustrated people. The recent Batman shooting is a perfect example of someone who is of the same mindset of Panzram. Even though Panzram was not a mass murderer, he wrote about how he would go about killing the most people with the least harm to himself. He believed that all mankind should be wiped out and the earth left to nature.

Now that you've released a trilogy of serial killer documentaries, what is next for you?

I will be concentrating on making feature films, documentaries, producing books and creating a true crime documentary series for television.

Will you make anymore documentaries on serial killers? If so, who would you like to do one on?

I am not sure if I will make any more documentaries on serial killers. If I produce a documentary on a killer outside of the US, it would be Peter Kurten. I have filmed his head in detail, which is at the Ripleys Believe It Or Not museum at Wisconsin Dells.

How can people purchase the Panzram DVD and find out more about the films of John Borowski?

The DVD is now available for purchase at the official film website: panzram.com and the first 1,000 DVD’s include a collector’s card autographed and numbered by filmmaker John Borowski. The DVD also contains numerous extra features such as an extended interview with Panzram’s DC jail guard Henry Lesser. Information on Borowski’s other films can be found at johnborowski.com.


Here's a few that were submitted from members of skc..

Narcissa Moriarty: Do you have any idea for who you'll make a film about next? And how do you immerse yourself in the worlds of who you make your films about? For example, what did you do to get into the head of Panzram?


If I do decide to create another film on a serial killer, I am looking at possibly Peter Kurten. I would like to direct feature films on Ed Gein and Dennis Nilsen. When I research I leave no stone unturned. I contact everyone I can think of who ever wrote anything on my subject. I also look into the pop culture references through film and music, which is how I discovered the song, Just Born Bad by the World Famous Crawlspace Brothers which I used in the film. I read Panzram’s writings many times and compared his writings to the research I uncovered as well as what other experts had written about him. By doing that I developed an understanding of what was going on in Panzram’s head throughout his life. I believe serial killers are souls in torment and Panzram was very tormented.

Justin Bell: Would you consider making a film on the moors murders?

Yes I would consider doing a film on The Moors Murders. I attempted to interview Ian Brady for my film on Panzram, since he wrote about Panzram in his book, The Gates of Janus. I wrote to Brady through a friend and he responded with this: “He says that he is not allowed by hospital rules to give interviews or be recorded in any fashion, regardless of the subject matter. He also does not admit visitors. He did say that he is glad you enjoyed Gates of Janus and hopes that his writing on Panzram helps you in your endeavours.”

Elizabeth Nicholette Crenshaw: What made him want to do films on murders ? Was there a certain one that sparked his interest and he felt he had to make a film about it ?

I had always loved horror films since I was young, so the transition to historical true horror was probably inevitable. My best friends father was a detective in Chicago when Dahmer was arrested and I saw the entire file which contained copies of the photographs Dahmer took of his victims and their body parts. That made such an impact on me that I made a short film on Dahmer when in College. Later, I learned about the life of HH Holmes and decided to create a film based on his life. The rest…is history.


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April 16 2014 14:05
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