Monsters are hard to walk away from …

Here follows a screen adaptation proposal a scriptwriter has written for my book DIE IN PARIS.

Here follows a screen adaptation proposal  a scriptwriter has written for my book DIE IN PARIS.

Should you be a movie producer or director, or should you know someone who is, then you would find the following interesting.


A proposal for screen adaptation


Dr. Marcel Petiot was one of the 20th Century’s most notorious – and prolific – murderers.

These days it would be fashionable, and accurate, to call Dr. Petiot a serial killer; that’s the phrase we use when trying to describe multiple murderers we most readily identify as monsters. It sounds suitably sickening. But to some extent, society (the social environment) makes its own monsters. The World War Two Parisian press had a field day with Marcel Petiot. The issue of the Occupation of France by the Germans often played second string to tales of the good doctor’s bad habits.

The statistics are horrific; the methodology chilling in the extreme. To know more about this man and what he did is a journey into the basement of the human condition.

He was guillotined in Paris in 1946 for the murder of 26 people. Those investigating thought he had murdered (slaughtered in a way too bestial for an abattoir) at least 200. As one police inspector said wryly: “To be on the safe side, I’ll settle for 150.”

Petiot charmed and lured people (the term ‘innocents’ would be too inaccurate, too glib: some of his victims were hardened gangsters) in with the promise of an escape route from Nazi-occupied France. What he gave them was death by intense violence followed by incineration and incarceration (of the little that was left) in quicklime.

He was mentally ill. These days the signs might have been spotted earlier and reacted to more effectively. In early 20th Century, rural France, Petiot’s unchecked illness was fomented by circumstances and environment. His guile and the ineptitude of the law enforcement officers were such that his early crimes went unpunished as later, so many would go almost unnoticed. The world he lived in was a far cry from the media and legal microscope we live under – for better and worse – in the west. War became his camouflage and his opportunity. Without it, we can surmise that his crimes would have been less in number, and would have come to light sooner. War was his friend.

The war within him was the greater conflict, and was his enemy; yet his madness was his ally, too. Insanely deluded, he could construct a heroic status for himself that was believed by people society called sane – hundreds and thousands of them. Such was his state of mind that the awful suffering he caused could be perfectly self-justified.

The Proposal

The proposal is to create a dramatized adaptation for the screen.

My research of the subject led me to 1944, to the discovery of smoldering human remains in a dilapidated townhouse in a chic Parisian arrondissement by police summoned by neighbors sickened by a nauseating stench. It turned out to be the reek of roasting flesh. This event began a media feeding frenzy the likes of which we think are the province of our times alone. Not so. The event was followed by an investigation of Petiot that led by way of Gestapo interrogation to his arrest and epic, ludicrous, exasperating trial. It ended under the sharp blade of the guillotine.

Knowing this subject as I do, I am sure it lends itself to screen adaptation. I also evince the obvious: that there is a multi-demographic appetite for such a movie worldwide. If probed with an ideal balance of scientific objectivity and dramatic flare, bestial human behavior can be bleakly fascinating.

I believe that adaption to the screen of DIE IN PARIS to be viable as scant attention has been paid to this most curious, frightening and charismatic of serial murderers. Almost all that exists about Petiot is in written form, and is similar in extent to writings in various forms on similar characters: Crippen, Bundy, Jack the Ripper et al. The lives and criminal activity of these people have been examined at length in the movie and TV documentary format, however. The life and crimes of the good Dr. Petiot has been filmed only once, some 25 years ago by a French film maker; it was a screen adaptation that was not a box office success and was never dubbed into English.

Marilyn Z. Tomlins

4 Responses to “Monsters are hard to walk away from …”

  1. 4
    mackdaniel Says:

    this was a really nice post, thanks

  2. 3
    Marilyn Z. Tomlins Says:

    Badmash – More on what subject? Thank you for signing up to my blogs rss feed.

  3. 2
    badmash Says:

    I just signed up to your blogs rss feed. Will you post more on this subject?

  4. 1
    Jo Wake Says:

    Wouldn’t that be something, to get your book turned into a movie. I will keep my fingers crossed for you that someone does pick it up.

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My book

The horrific story of WW2 French serial killer Dr Marcel Petiot, France's most prolific killer.



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