DiCaprio, Scorsese, and Hulu Will Adapt the True Story of Serial Murder H.H. Holmes

In a recent announcement posted by Variety, it appears Leonardo DiCaprio, Martin Scorsese, and Paramount Studios have obtained a new distribution partner, Hulu, to assist them with the decade long “in limbo” adaptation of Erik Larson’s bestseller non-fiction book The Devil in the White City. Originally intended years ago to be a straightforward movie adaptation will now be re-worked as an episodic series; although, it is unclear at the present moment how many episodes will be produced.

The book is about Chicago’s most notorious serial killer: Dr. Henry Howard Holmes, or commonly referred to as H.H. Holmes. The exact number of his victims is unknown, but his methodology of drawing people away from the 1893 World’s Fair, only to kill them in his apartment style hotel in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago. The property was later nicknamed as the Murder Castle. [Source: History.com]

Known as the Murder Castle, the building was torn down in 1938.

According to Variety, the studio had won, lost, and regained the movie rights for the book several times over the years, which includes the current ownership of the rights they won in a 2007 auction. DiCaprio partnered with the studio in 2010 to serve as an executive producer and lead actor for a movie adaption.

In 2015, Martin Scorsese joined the pair to serve as it’s director with the (now dated) plan to turn the book into a movie; then the pre-production of the project stalled for the next four years. Both men will remain on board to serve as the executive producers, but may no longer serve as the leading actor and director.

This would not be the first, nor last, attempt to bring the story of H.H. Holmes to the movies or television screens. Television network Investigation Discovery aired a three episode mini-series in 2017, which was considered by many viewers as a very shallow retelling of the infamy.

FX Network offered a scarier interpretation of the story in 2016 when they aired American Horror Story: Hotel, which took many creative liberties with more of an “inspired by” approach of H.H. Holmes and his hotel rather than a literal retelling of the story.

Review: Russian Ark (2002)

Russian Ark [Russkiy kovcheg] (2002) is a Russian film, as if the title wasn’t obvious enough, that has attempted a risk taking maneuver. The film was shot in a single ninety minute take utilizing a Steadicam and a high-definition video camera. This technical feat isn’t the only time a film crew has shot an entire movie in a single take. However, this film is unique because the crew was handling thousands of actors and a lot of coordination of time constraints, potential failures with the equipment, and a high amount of constraint with the location they were filming.

The lens of the camera serves a gateway between you and the characters on the screen. Placing yourself into the role as the casual observer, which is the viewpoint that is physically demonstrated through the motions of the camera operator, your interactions are rather limited. You can see and hear what’s going on, but your only real direct interaction is with the film’s narrator of sorts — The Frenchman (he is also credited with the name “The Stranger”). No one else in the film ever takes note of your existence except for The Frenchman, who is seen in the photograph above, and provokes an interacting conversation with the film’s viewer. If you could imagine a Frenchman acting as a curious docent for a Russian museum than you have already taken a step in the right direction for a clear understanding of the film’s design.

At the start of the film you are witness of a group of elite members of the upper class, at least you could suspect, who are exiting their carriage to enter the Russian State Hermitage Museum to join a fanciful party that is already in progress. Much to the dismay of these party goers they loose their sense of direction in the huge building as they attempt to find the grand ballroom. As you are casually following the group of people through the underbelly of the museum you stumble across the path of an unfamiliar face. He’s a nineteenth century French aristocrat who is skeptical of the Russian’s lavish lifestyle. After the proper introductions between the Frenchman and yourself have been completed the two of you are tossed into a world of cinematic illusions with two-thousand cast members, three orchestras, thirty-three rooms (all in the same building), and about three-hundred years of Russian history.

The ninety-minute long single take offers a unique addition to a rather dull story. I was thinking that this film offers a flyby overview of Russian history more than it actually tells a dramatic story that is entertaining for the viewer to be drawn into watching. Some of the scenes in the film droned on and on incessantly with no dramatic conflict that would hold my interest. It was the technical use of the single camera and a single take that picked up the slack during the story’s dull moments. The technical feat is a display of novelty that I fear will fade in time when a new film technique is presented to the pleasure of the viewing public.

The broad coverage of Russian history is the clear definition that could be associated with the film’s title. Think back to the Biblical story of Noah and his over sized boat filled with every possible animal that he could capture. If by chance you were a guest visitor on Noah’s ark and you were allowed to bring along your home video camera I’m sure you could release a zoological film called Biblical Ark. This awkward concept that I am trying to explain can be applied to this film. You are the special guest who wanders the halls of Russian State Hermitage Museum viewing little bits of Russian history as they are neatly placed in their rhetoric stalls within the ark of a museum. The Stranger is the modern day Noah who would guide you along on your trip through the ark.

If the film’s narrative wasn’t a broad brush stroke of a story, then I would be more enthralled by the story then by the paintbrush that was used to paint the story. Another film that has attempted to pull of the trick of using a single take was Mike Figgis’s film Time Code (2000). I was more entertained by the story line for Time Code than I was for Russian Ark, but that shouldn’t deter anyone from giving either film a good viewing. My final rating for the film is rather generous, but with an explanation. I have chose to rate this film with an eight out of ten possible review points. It was the intriguing method of camera work that held my own attention through the film. I am curious to know what the opinion of the other viewers who are not so easily intrigued by the fancy technique of the film crew.

In One Breath: The making of Alexander Sokurov’s Russian Ark.

Raymond Chandler’s ‘The Big Sleep’ (review)

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

The Big Sleep: A Philip Marlowe Novel
by Raymond Chandler
Publisher: Vintage Crime / Black Lizard
Original Publication: 1939, Alfred Knopf.

Movie Adaptations:
The Big Sleep (1946), Dir. Howard Hawks.
The Big Sleep (1978), Dir. Michael Winner.

After reading one of the later books in the Philip Marlowe series, The Long Goodbye, before heading back to the first installment, The Big Sleep, I was concerned it would be a cause of hindrance in the enjoyment of the series. Debunked, as the cause for my concern was unfounded! Both books stand on their own, respectively. There is very little of a connection between the plots of the two stories other than the appearance of the main protagonist, Philip Marlowe! A great place to start for any reader who is new to the series could not go wrong by starting at the very beginning with The Big Sleep.

However, depending on the initial approach to reading any of Raymond Chandler’s writings, you could either read the novels first before his short stories, or vice versa. By chance, I happened to have read a few of the short stories, Killer in the Rain and The Curtain, before I moved on to read The Big Sleep. Both of these short stories were integrated into the primary plot for the novel and slightly altered for the sake of cohesion of the story.

Even though I knew some of the events that were going to unravel as I worked my way through the book, it was still an enjoyable read. It was nice to see how Chandler was able to pull the two stories together and iron out the material to make it mesh well as one larger story. The novel was an easy read, and I enjoyed the witty banter of dialogue between the characters.

The only relevance the novel’s title has in connection with its plot could be directly associated with the catalyst of the story: General Sternwood. He is a dying, old man who hires Philip Marlowe to investigate a blackmailer who may ruin the family name. Sternwood is portrayed as someone who desires to be in control of everything in his life, but hesitantly accepts his inability to control the action and behaviors of those around him. It is with an internal observation Marlowe begins to wonder towards the end of his investigation if anyone’s opinion of our name and legacy should really matter, when it will no longer be of a personal concern once we are gone from this world.

The first 4 ½ minutes of the BBC Radio Drama adaptation.

There are a total of seven novels in the Philip Marlowe series written by Raymond Chandler; each one centers around an investigation prominently featuring the gritty sleuth with a decent work ethic, a questionable interest in booze, and a nose for getting on everyone’s irritable side.

Here is the complete list of novels, in order of their publication:

  • The Big Sleep (1939)
  • Farewell, My Lovely (1940)
  • The High Window (1942)
  • The Lady in the Lake (1943)
  • The Little Sister (1949)
  • The Long Goodbye (1953)
  • Playback (1958)