Reviewed by: JimmyO
What's it about
The true life story of serial killer Albert Fish is told in reenactments based on historical facts. Sadomasochism, cannibalism and violent fetish ensues.
Is it good movie?
Sadomasochist, pervert, cannibal, serial killer… are all words that would be appropriate for Albert Fish. For fifty years the man acted out his fetish of torture and pain on young boys and girls (mostly boys) all the while speaking of images of Jesus Christ which gave him messages. He took quotes from the Bible and used them to his own twisted life (and they say horror films and video games make people violent). As he drew deeper and deeper into his sick little world, he discovered cannibalism which leads to the kidnapping of several youngsters only to be chopped to pieces and prepared and eaten by Fish. This is a man who had a family that included six children yet back in the early 1900's up until the 1930’s, there were very few stories of serial killers and people were more than willing to trust thy neighbor; including one family that allowed their seven-year-old daughter Grace Budd to go along with the kindly old gent to his granddaughter's party. He didn't take her to any party… he took her to an abandoned house, stripped her and cut her up into pieces. Years later he sent her mother a letter describing, in detail, how he prepared her to eat. Yes folks, this dude had some issues and writer, director and producer John Borowski wanted to tell his tale within this documentary.
First off, there is some fascinating information here. I had only really heard about Mr. Fish through Rob Zombie, courtesy of House of 1,000 Corpses. But watching this film felt like a “one-step above a crime show reenactments” with fanciful artistic images creating his story made for a somewhat tawdry show. When watching a documentary, you hope to be enlightened on its subject. I'm not saying I wanted to "like" Albert Fish, but all this film really achieved was making me despise him in every way possible. The actor that played him in the reenactments looked quite like him and worked for what they seemed to be trying to do. But the awful voiceover (by Harvey Fisher) just made him sound vile and really made you wonder who would trust this old man at all… no matter how naïve the victims’ families were. Mr. Borowski is a talented filmmaker and has some unique visions. The moments when "Jesus" (Cooney Horvath) spoke to Fish were compelling yet they also felt a bit on the crude side and seemed to revel in homoerotism. What you have here is a subversive telling of a true life criminal. It is loaded with interesting facts but the deviant nature made for a dark and not all that engaging show.
Video / Audio
Video: This 1:33.1 transfer is surprisingly clear. It looks very good with only a few moments of grain which worked for some of the scenes and was most likely done on purpose.
Audio: The Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround and the 2.0 Dolby Digital sounded fine yet a few times during reenactments, it seemed a bit unbalanced.
Wow. The extras were definitely the best part of this disc. We start off with several Interviews including John Borowski (23:36) which is really more of a behind the scenes. I like this guy and I get what he was trying to do but frankly, I was more interested in the making of, than watching the film.
The remaining interviews include Nico Claux: The Vampire of Paris (7:16). This is a guy who has done the cannibal thing and is very fascinated by serial killers of Fish’s ilk. He says at one point that he has a “special relationship with meat”… you get the picture. He’s also a macabre artist and speaking of macabre… we get an interview with Macabre: Murder Metal Band (8:42). These boys are a death metal band that sings about… you guessed it, death. They base their songs on serial killers and other family friendly material.
In the Outtakes section, we get to see a little more behind some of those involved in the documentary and other sections that had been cut out. This includes Fritz Haarmann: Vampire of Hanover (1:30), Walter Winchell Column (:47), Roses (:18), Tony Jay Reads as Fish (1:07) which was much better than the man who ended up reading it. Sadly, Mr. Jay passed away, so maybe he was scheduled to voice the role. We finish off this section with extended interviews with Joe Coleman (:33) and Katherine Ramsland, Ph.D. (10:10) who is by far the most interesting interview in regards to this film. She also has a book entitled “The Human Predator”.
Next up we have several Trailers for the film, four in fact, which all give a different angle to the film. And yes, a couple of them are pretty damn creepy. And there is also a trailer for H.H. Holmes also directed by John Borowski. Guess what it’s about?
We also get Production Stills (3:45) which includes several photos from the film set to the score.
Now if you would like to hear Albert Fish with that awful voiceover read the disturbing letters that he sent to his victims’ families, you’re in luck with Fish’s Letters: Budd and Gaffney (7:30).
If you want to see Joe Coleman’s Portrait of Albert Fish, you can click here and zoom in on all the gory details, he’s a pretty good artist.
Okay, I still dig me some death metal and I kind of like Macabre’s Live Performance of “Albert Fish was Worse than any Fish in the Sea” (2:42) Headbangin’ time!
Finally, we get a History of the Electric Chair (11:45) which details this killing invention which includes talk of discovering how to kill someone with electricity. A pretty interesting watch and it is also more “basic” documentary style than the film itself.
With all its fascinating history, Albert Fish was only a mediocre docudrama with faux news reports and bad voiceover for Mr. Fish. John Borowski made a valid attempt to create something more than just a history class biography on one of the most infamous serial killers, but he failed to resonate any understanding for the man that ate children or stuck needles into his body because of some Christ fixation. All he really did was show what a sick f*ck this guy was. But if you want to see a documentary that is twisted up with homoerotism, scenes of fetish and Albert Fish talking about children's "sweet asses" then you may find this of interest.