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Some of the world's most horrific crimes have inspired Hollywood.

But have the movies also influenced murderers to strike too? In films, as in real life, the killer without remorse holds a gripping fascination. When Stanley Kubrick's film, A Clockwork Orange, hit the screens in 1971, it received four Oscar nominations. It also created a monumental outcry. The movie, which billed itself as "being the adventures of a young man whose principal interests are rape, ultraviolence and Beethoven," was soon under fire. Campaigners including Mary Whitehouse, the moral standards commentator, as well as judges and police hit out over its closeness to real-life crime.

In the film, delinquent teenager 'Little Alex' (Malcolm McDowell) and his friends - or 'droogs' using the story's futuristic slang - brutally kick a drunken tramp unconscious, break into houses and gang rape women.

Alex stands at the centre of this depraved world, a true psychopath lacking either morals or conscience. The plot revolves around the controversial brainwashing 'cure' used on Alex after he is imprisoned for battering a woman to death. Kubrick himself saw it as a very moral film - a study into free will.

But in the weeks following the controversial film's release, a flood of apparent copycat crimes began to emerge.

One 16-year-old boy pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of an elderly homeless man, claiming he'd been influenced by the movie.

Another teenager kicked a younger child unconscious while wearing a bowler hat - the trademark of Little Alex.

The judge at his trial, Judge Desmond Bailey, called for a tightening of censorship laws. And newspapers began to report crimes by 'Clockwork Orange gangs.' A year after its release, a concerned Kubrick asked for the film to be withdrawn from British cinemas. It remained banned, gaining cult status, for more than 27 years, until after Kubrick's death in 1999.

"Kubrick's widow Christiane told me the reason they withdrew it was because they were getting death threats," the film's star, McDowell has since told.

Another film banned, not only in the UK but in many countries across the world, was the 1974 low-budget American horror, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. In Britain, the word 'chainsaw' was banned from use in film titles. It wasn't until 1999 that the film would be approved for release again.

Censors were shocked by the sadistic family group of killers, most memorably the deranged saw-wielding character of Leatherface, played by actor Gunnar Hansen.

The film's poster promised: America's most bizarre and brutal crimes. But the sobering truth is that the most unthinkably repellant acts of violence exist outside the imaginations of film-makers.

The character of Michael Myers in John Carpenter's 1978 movie Halloween is fictional and has a supernatural ability to survive.

None of us really believe in Freddie Krueger, a child killer returned from the dead - and yet millions watched the Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) movies about his demented slayings. What draws us most to Krueger and Myers is their embodiment of a dangerously disordered personality on a mission to kill.

The censorship boards can outlaw slasher movies such as the texas Chain saw massacre, yet it is the occasional parallels in real life that deeply disturb, yet captivate, us.

many may have blasted the depiction of leatherface as gratuitous and unrealistic. But then few of us could have imagined the terrible horrors that would be unearthed after the arrests of true-life monsters such as Fred West or Jeffrey Dahmer.

leatherface impales his victims on meathooks, keeps bodies in the freezer and makes furniture from their bones. however, such trophy-collecting is not solely the grizzly invention of the horror movie.

human organs were found in Dahmer's freezer. American serial killer Jerry Brudos hoarded the amputated breasts of his victims.

murderous grave-robber ed Gein is cited as the inspiration for both norman Bates in Alfred hitchcock's Psycho (1960) and Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs (1991). evil Gein fashioned a bowl from a human skull and then made clothes from human skin.

It is the elements of possibility that make murderers in movies so chilling. While we know these are the rarest, most extreme exceptions, there is a fascination that such madmen can actually exist.

they give us a glimpse into the darkest corners of humanity.

Antony Perkins' depiction of norman Bates, the psychotic killer who holds conversations with the mummified body of the mother he murdered, is truly disturbing because of his character's outwardly unassuming demeanor.

Friends and colleagues of notorious American serial killer ted Bundy, who murdered 30 women in the 1970s, described him as charming. similarly, none of the patients of manchester killer doctor, harold shipman, thought he was capable of anything but good.

Before filming martin scorsese's Taxi Driver (1976), robert De niro bought himself a taxi which he drove for months. his character in the film, travis Bickle, is a depressed, insomniac war veteran who, living alone in new York, becomes obsessed with ridding his city of corruption. As a resut, travis begins to plan the assassination of a presidential candidate.

the depiction of travis' growing mental instability and feelings of alienation, before he tips over the edge of sanity and shaves his hair into a mohican, have echoes in real life killings that have happened since. michael ryan slaughtered 16 innocent people in the infamous massacre at hungerford, Berkshire, in 1987, while Derrick Bird, a self-employed taxi driver, randomly slaughtered 12 people in Cumbria in June 2010.

It's not only everyday people who are the targets. In 1981, five years after taxi Driver was released, John hinckley attempted to assassinate the then-president ronald reagan.

hinckley, who was found at trial to be not guilty by reason of insanity, had an obsession with the film and with its female star, Jodie Foster.

De niro would later say that a pathological personality such as hinckley's can be pushed over the edge, regardless of the trigger.

"Anything can affect anybody that way if they're predisposed to it," he insisted. "Whether it was because he was obsessed with Jodie Foster or because he identified with the character, I don't know. But to hang it all on that makes no sense."

Fifteen years after taxi Driver, De niro portrayed another terrifying killer in Cape Fear (1991), scorsese's remake of the 1962 classic. De niro played max Cady, a brutal convicted rapist seeking revenge on the defence lawyer (nick nolte) he believes let him down.

simply than audience. and it movie we in this and be Cady is a ruthless, cunning and pathological individual who can turn on the charm but who is driven by the most ferocious sadism.

Another ScorSeSe film, again featuring De niro, examines the homicidal unpredictability of a disturbed personality. In Goodfellas (1990), De niro plays Jimmy "the Gent" Burke. the gangster movie is based on the memories of real-life mobster turned FBI supergrass, henry hill. Practically all of the characters are involved in mob violence, but there's one who actually relishes killing - tommy Devito (Joe Pesci). tommy - a role for which Pesci won an oscar for best supporting actor - is the life and soul.

his good-natured laughter can suddenly erupt in the most murderous rage in a split second in which he loses all sense of selfcontrol.

he seems entirely incapable of any remorse or of understanding the sheer gravity of his actions.

tommy is closely based on the flesh-andblood gangster thomas 'two-Guns tommy' Desimone, who like Pesci's character is eventually believed to have been executed in a mafia revenge killing.

Unlike Pesci, Desimone was a burly man of over six foot. the real henry hill, though, once described him as a "pure psychopath."

And a former police officer, Frank santorsola said of Desimone: "It gave him enjoyment to break somebody's wrist, murder somebody, beat somebody with a bat."

this is a madman who likes to hurt others and we are both repulsed and fascinated by it.

We may see the movies as an escape. But violent death on screen and in real life will always reflect each other.

henry hill once admitted that real life mobsters often based their behaviour on on-screen depictions of gangs: "You know, the dress, the manner, the cockiness - a lot of it comes from the movies..." he declared.

eXPert that Fifteen comment Fear Murderers in movies tend to be seen simply as evil - killing machines who are less than human. This is both comforting to the audience because we see the killer as not like us, and it also helps to prompt the action of the movie by allowing the killer to do things which we would never dream of doing. However, in this way, murder becomes entertainment and the murderer a character type that can be relied upon to generate an audience. Professor Name Surname the Texas chaiN saW Massacre Leatherface impaled victims on meat hooks, kept bodies in freezer and made furniture from bones NighTMare oN elM sTreeT Freddie Kreuger, below, a Hollywood horror hit, echoing real life American mass killer Jeffrey Dahmer, inset Taxi Driver De Niro, above, played war vet killer Travis Bickle. Evil John Hinckley, inset, who tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan was obsessed with the movie Psycho The big screen's most infamous madman, Hitchcock's Norman Bates, took his real life inspiration from evil graverobber Ed Gein A CLOCKWORK ORAngE The brutal antics of Alex and his deranged 'droogs' led to a string of copycat killings, right


HOLLYWOOD KILLERS (from top): Goodfellas line-up; Psycho's Janet Leigh; De Niro in Cape Fear and Taxi Driver; hand of horror in Halloween; Texas Chain Saw Massacre; McDowell's menace in A Clockwork Orange
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Sep 17, 2011
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