Documentary on the Friedmans, a seemingly typical, upper-middleclass Jewish family whose world is instantly transformed when the father and his youngest son are arrested and charged with shocking and horrible crimes.
Documentary about Fred Leuchter, an engineer who became an expert on execution devices and was later hired by revisionist historian Ernst Zundel to "prove" that there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz. Leuchter published a controversial report confirming Zundel's position, which ultimately ruined his own career. Most of the footage is of Leuchter, puttering around execution facilities or chipping away at the walls of Auschwitz, but Morris also interviews various historians, associates, and neighbors. Written by
This is a documentary that feels like a compressed news broadcast. Errol Morris, the reason why Werner Herzog ate his shoe, makes this documentary about, well, the rise and fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr., also known as Mr. Death. During the 70's and 80's, Mr. Leuchter found himself in a successful niche improving upon and creating new machines to implement capital punishment. Though he was not a licensed technician, he sold blueprints and homemade machines to state penitentiaries as well as acted as a consultant on the lethal machines in prisons across the country. Where Mr. Leuchter went awry was when he was contacted to investigate the truthfulness to the claim that Nazis used lethal gas to exterminate thousands of people at concentration camps in Germany and Poland. His research found him knee deep in the ruins of Auschwitz, taking rock samples off the walls of gas chamber rooms to take back to the United States for arsenic analysis. His research turned up no traces of cyanide in the wall samples nor evidence of the structural integrity of the supposed gas chambers to safely contain the gases. He presented his findings to the trial of Ernst Zundel, a holocaust denier on trial in Canada for publishing documents refuting the Holocaust ever occurred, and was successively outcast from society as a fellow Holocaust denier. Through Morris' ninety minute film, we are shown the relative success of a man quickly sink to the bottom of the world's hating order through the publication of one research project. Mr. Leuchter is portrayed as objectively as possible in this film, sometimes even going to black while his voice continues, but the sheer tenacity of this man makes me grit my teeth with rage when I think of him. His lack of concern for human life and the sufferings of others and his ambivalence towards people as both models of death and financial gain is a horrifying example of what kinds of people do what kinds of things in this world. The movie was well made with nice interludes of beautifully shot slow motion 35mm as well as video footage from trials, video from Leuchter's own research in the tombs of Auschwitz, and the interviews of Leuchter sitting and talking about his work as calmly as a dove coos.
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