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Summary

Bestselling true-crime master Harold Schechter explores the real-life headline-making psychos, serial murderers, thrill-hungry couples, and lady-killers who inspired a century of classic films.

The necktie murders in Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy; Chicago’s Jazz Age crime of passion; the fatal hookup in Looking for Mr. Goodbar; the high school horrors committed by the costumed slasher in Scream. These and other cinematic crimes have become part of pop-culture history. And each found inspiration in true events that provided the raw material for our greatest blockbusters, indie art films, black comedies, Hollywood classics, and grindhouse horrors.

So what’s the reality behind Psycho, Badlands, The Hills Have Eyes, A Place in the Sun, Arsenic and Old Lace, and Dirty Harry? How did such tabloid-ready killers as Bonnie and Clyde, body snatchers Burke and Hare, Texas sniper Charles Whitman Jr., nurse-slayer Richard Speck, and Leopold and Loeb exert their power on the public imagination and become the stuff of movie lore?

In this collection of revelatory essays, true-crime historian Harold Schechter takes a fascinating trip down the crossroads of fact and fiction to reveal the sensational real-life stories that are more shocking, taboo, and fantastic than even the most imaginative screenwriter can dream up.

©2020 Harold Schechter. (P)2020 Brilliance Publishing, Inc., all rights reserved.

Critic reviews

“The exploits of Depression-era homicidal sweethearts Bonnie and Clyde and the 1960s strangler who inspired the necktie murders in Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy are among the true stories behind many of cinema’s most famous crimes and criminals. Schechter, author of numerous books on serial killers, tracks the path from felony to film.” (Publishers Weekly)

What listeners say about Ripped from the Headlines!

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  • Admiralu
  • 06-08-20

Fascinating Look at Films Based on True Crimes

This was another great book from noted crime author Harold Schechter. I've read several of his books before, especially some period crime books. As is normally the case, he has done extensive research on many cases not known in modern times and cross referencing with the films that inspired them. There is a mix of old and new. He givens the basic film information, a short synopsis of the story, then delves into the crimes that inspired the film. On many occasions there are multiple films inspired from a case. They are included as well. It reads more like a novel. Many of the crimes were gruesome and he doesn't shy away from recounting them. It was interesting to note several trends were not new and how many of the more popular and noted old films were based on true crime. A great book for true crime fans. I read this book using immersion reading and the narration by Malcolm Hilgartner was perfect for the material.

5 people found this helpful

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  • 6catz
  • 23-11-20

Movies and true crimes

This is an excellent collection of well researched essays on films that were inspired by true crime stories. Schechter does a great job of laying out the facts behind classic and not-so-classic crime, thriller and horror movies, including Hitchcock’s “Psycho,” and “Rope,” not too mention “A Place in the Sun,” “Arsenic and Old Lace,” “Chicago” and slasher flicks like “Scream” and “The Hills Have Eyes.” Ghoulish, full of historical context and very entertaining, expertly narrated by Malcom Hillgartner.

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  • Texaspaz
  • 13-08-21

shockingly human

Train wreck brain candy. You'll love it if you like true crime books or tv. I had no idea so many movies were based on true stories.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Frank
  • 05-02-21

half true crime, half cinematic critique.

no more, no less. just okay. Detail is light and the criticism is shallow. interesting to learn the true stories that influenced the creation of things like Scream. While being a brief overview, it doesn't show any nuance in describing the actual crimes. deeply disturbing so beware.

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  • Renee Milton
  • 22-11-21

Good Listen

loved it, interesting if you like movie history and true crime. like the narration as well

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  • Marsha L. Woerner
  • 21-09-21

Reality becomes movies

(As posted in GoodReads)
Well, I was probably looking for different things in the book than the standard reader/listener, but I found it really interesting. Some of the true crimes referred to in these movies are instances in which I have familiarity/knowledge. What's really interesting is the number of movies that are really based on killings with which I am familiar, but I didn't know it. I admit that I had not heard of several of the movies – or cases, but it was still an enlightening journey. Of course, I'm not much of a movie person; I like to read or listen to books. I prefer my own imagination in framing of situations that I READ as opposed to having directors, actors, and others showing their impressions.
Anyway, it was nice to have connections between movies and their back stories– and the true crimes that inspired them.

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  • Clifford
  • 18-08-21

A decent listen

Not a deep enough dive into either the movie or the crime it was based on. Fewer movies and more detail would’ve been better. For a couple of the movies, I had no idea how the crime actually related to the movie.

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  • Dina
  • 22-06-21

good listen!

it was an easy listen. very informative! I didn't know about some of these movies being based on true events! I'll be watching 'Arsenic and Old Lace' very soon!

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  • Midge Ridgway
  • 18-06-21

Hollywood meets True Crime

Narrator very dramatic, brings popular Hollywood movies to live by introducing the true life stories.