Dr. Gitchoff’s troublesome commentary.

The good doctor makes Panzram out to be something that he was not.He practically lionized a serial killer and rapist! It’s one thing to say that we should learn from Panzram history. That what he went through helped create the monster that he became. But to say that Panzram gave his life is to put this psychopath on par with a GI from WWII or the people on United 93. Panzram is deserving of only our contempt. Plenty of human beings have been brutalized. Few react with the level of malevolence that Panzram did.

Furthermore, Panzram’s “insight” into what makes people bad while salient for an unlearned man is for those who are aware of the world outside of themselves, is problematic. For example, many Nazis were not abused or maltreated as youths. But they grew up to be monsters who committed some of the most ghastly crimes know to man. Frankly, Dr. Gitchoff’s worldview is much too simplistic. Dr. Ramsland to me offers a much more nuanced and accurate view of Panzram. Gitchoff seems to be making excuses for a person completely unworthy of them.

THis film also speaks to the general lack of awareness of Americans to the past and the world around them. The bit about Panzram leaving a warning about brutalizating prisoners conveniently forgets that prisoners were regularly brutalized the world over for thousands of years before the US came into being. But the people i this film act as if such brutality is unique to America and her prisons. My gosh, Americans need to get out more. This Americancentric view of everything is warping our minds.


For the purpose of a documentary about an American prisoner in Americam prisons, it served its purpose. I'm not sure why it would be necessary to probe brutality in British prisons, for example, when they did not apply to Carl Panzram. This documentary was about him and his experience.


As someone who watches many (probably too many, LOL) documentaries? I somewhat agree with the OP. Other than 'the finer details' of prison abuses 100 years ago, there wasn't a whole lot of new ground. I may be over educated in terms of 'American' and such, but? No mystery prison wasn't where you wanted to be.

And Panzram was romanticized by much of the tone in this doc. He was no hero, and was not trying to 'help'. He was bragging to a naive young trusty, essentially. I had that sorted out before any of the 'talking heads' began to touch on it, about halfway through.

I'm not saying he wasn't a bad guy, he surely was. But he was a drifter, probably a drunk, and had no productive ambitions. I've met more than a few of those, and more often than not, they have a tendency to exaggerate their deeds. I especially loved the comment about 'his 30 year sentence was completely over the top for his crime'. Yea, except the man was a ten time loser who always began his next trip back to prison the moment he left one.

All that said, I enjoyed the movie. There is a story there worth telling. It's just, IMO, it only frames some of the issues about a hard life. I didn't discern any 'direct causal' explanation for his continued bad behaviors. The woman actually even mentions this towards the end, but it's almost done in passing, and is immediately rebutted by the stronger 'they made me cruel' theme that dominated the film. Nothing remotely justifies his behaviors, no matter how hard the point is pushed.

He was anti social from jump, not to mention a criminally violent sociopath. He didn't wind up back in prisons and eventually hanged because they were 'mean to him' in jail, reform school, etc. He wound up back in jails because he was scum.


And Panzram was romanticized by much of the tone in this doc.

I came here to say the same thing.

With that said, I think it is fair to look at systematized violence and what it produces. I do not think this film does a good job of that, as it tends to see him as a victimized prophet of sorts. It is reasonable to report his experiences as facts, while we are always responsible for our actions--and re-actions--to any trauma or system we are subject to.

While I don't know any of the "talking heads" in this film, I did notice that some seemed far more well-balanced (and nuanced) than others.

To go back to the original point, I thought the choice of voice-over actor tried to play up his "persona" and likability. It would have been interesting to have some recording of the actual man for reference.



All I could think of while listening to Dr. Gitchoff was that he would be the kind of person who would encourage a person to "open up about your ill treatment at the hands of the prison system and how it made you what you are" instead of allowing the person to give his own narrative of events. Gitchoff wants to believe that people or the system are evil and will do what he can to achieve that narration--otherwise he would take a more neutral stance. Then again, he was a pretty good foil to the forensic psychologist, who seemed to truly want to understand what was going on with Panzaram. The man was a sociopath who wanted to blame everyone but himself. His diary was written by an unreliable narrator who had every reason to frame his story the way he did. Lots of people went through the system without being tortured or, if they were tortured, did not end up killing dozens of people. Evidence has repeatedly shown that sociopaths are born, not made. Society may have bumped Panzaram along his inevitable road, but it's a path he probably would have taken to some degree on his own.


Yep, to me the big flaw of the "it was the environment he was in" argument. Many other people might have gone through what he went through, but they all didn't end up like him.


Clearly there was an element of psychopathy involved in Panzrams case, so while many people may go through the same thing they may not have underlying psychopathic tendencies. Being a psychopath or having those tendencies doesn't always lead to someone being a murderer or a bad person, there are psychopaths in all walks of life and it's likely the world couldn't function without them, as they are often the people making the difficult decisions that other people don't want to make or doing the jobs others can't or wont.

So there is definitely some merit to environment being a contributing factor in whether someone with psychopathic tendencies becomes a productive member of society or a serial killing maniac. There are obviously exceptions when it comes to dealing with something as random as humans of course.

This forum gets better every time you hit the ignore button...