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Death Diploma (1987)

| Documentary
Documentary on notorious US murderers. Includes Charles Manson and his family, Kenneth Bianchi "The Hillside Strangler", Henry Lee Lucas, and Otis Toole. Has some interview footage and ... See full summary »


Peter Vieira




Complete credited cast:
Joseph Campanella ... Narrator
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Kenneth Bianchi Kenneth Bianchi ... Himself
Stephen R. Kay Stephen R. Kay ... Himself - Manson Prosecutor
Henry Lee Lucas Henry Lee Lucas ... Himself
Charles Manson ... Himself
Martin T. Orne Martin T. Orne ... Himself - MD Ph D
Otis Toole Otis Toole ... Himself


Documentary on notorious US murderers. Includes Charles Manson and his family, Kenneth Bianchi "The Hillside Strangler", Henry Lee Lucas, and Otis Toole. Has some interview footage and recounts their deeds. Written by Josh Pasnak <chainsaw@intouch.bc.ca>

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A shocking look at America's most notorious and savage murderers.






USA | Canada



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Grecian Productions See more »
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American murderers
28 October 2001 | by petershelleyauSee all my reviews

The title comes from the idea that serial killers have graduate degrees in murder, though I would have thought the committing of multiple acts would jettison them into post-graduate territory. The 4 killers mentioned here - Charles Manson, Henry Lee Lucas, Ottis Elwood Toole, and Kenneth Bianchi - receive disproportionate coverage. Manson is not seen at all, which may be a blessing considering the one crazed interview I have seen him give. Henry Lee Lucas gets short shift, as well, but his partner Ottis Toole has perhaps the most troubling predicament. Although convicted and imprisoned for what is said to be an unbelievable 700 killings, with Lucas, Toole gives the impression that he didn't do any of them. That's not to say he is totally crimeless, since he freely admits to various acts of arson, but he claims that he confessed to the murders based on the information the police gave ie that wanted him to be guilty so he obliged them. The study of Kenneth Bianchi, known as the Hillside Strangler, also touches on this behaviour which psychiatrist Martin T Orne defines as textbook sociopathy. But whilst it's easy to believe that Bianchi in his interviews is pretending, it's harder to accept that Toole is, with his bumpkin personage and smiling facade. Perhaps that just makes Toole the better actor, since Orne also believes Toole is a serial killer. Bianchi's initial defense for his killings was multiple personality disorder, and when Dr Orne proved him a faker, negating the testimony of other psychiatrists, Binachi dropped the charade and was found guilty, though plea bargaining for evidence against his accomplice lessened the number from 14 victims to 7. This video was made in 1987 and it is said that Bianchi was due for parole in the 1990's, something that Dr Orne believes that he had a good chance of getting since Bianchi's tactic of no remorse-no memory was winning him alliances. However while Toole's face reveals an idiot child amused by his own game, Bianchi's is the banality of evil, a bland surface that cannot be trusted. The video concludes with survivors of serial killers, including the mother of Sharon Tate, who regularly meet to monitor the parole hearings of convicted murderers. One can only wonder if they were able to have an influence on Bianchi's release, since Orne predicts that once this form of obsessive/compulsive behaviour is acted upon, there is no stopping it. In Dr Orne's opinion, no matter how good a prisoner Bianchi had been, once free he would start up again. Some may feel it a pity that these men escaped the death penalty by being in states where it was been abolished, and the idea that life imprisonment being a worse form of punishment than execution is diluted by parole and good behavioural conditions of service. This may seem harsh but Dr Orne says there is no civilised method of punishment effective enough to be a deterrant - the best that can be done is to keep the perpetrators isolated from the rest of society. There are no parallels drawn between the killers seen here, no similarities that could possibly explain what triggered their actions. If we are unable to comprehend their behaviour, at least we can be grateful that it was stopped, at least for a time.

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