7.5/10
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54 user 46 critic

Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr. (1999)

A cinematic portrait of the life and career of the infamous American execution device designer and holocaust denier.

Director:

Errol Morris

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1 win & 8 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Fred A. Leuchter Jr. ... Himself (as Fred Leuchter)
Robert Jan Van Pelt Robert Jan Van Pelt ... Himself
David Irving ... Himself
Caroline Leuchter Caroline Leuchter ... Herself (voice)
James Roth James Roth ... Himself - Analytical Chemist
Shelly Shapiro Shelly Shapiro ... Herself
Suzanne Tabasky Suzanne Tabasky ... Herself
Ernst Zündel ... Himself
David Collins ... Re-enactment cast
Daniel Polsby Daniel Polsby ... Re-enactment cast
Jeff Brown Jeff Brown ... Re-enactment cast
Robert Duerr Robert Duerr ... Re-enactment cast
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Storyline

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 ccampbell

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for thematic elements | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA | UK

Language:

English

Release Date:

14 January 2000 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Mr. Death See more »

Filming Locations:

Poland See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$24,125, 2 January 2000, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$495,318, 26 March 2000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

According to A Brief History of Errol Morris (2000), Morris made a rough cut that he showed to colleagues and friends that only had Leuchter interviewed and it was Morris' intention that the audience would understand he was saying things either as lies or flat-out wrong. He was advised to go to Auschwitz and dig deeper so that there would be no doubt for the audience that Leuchter was wrong. See more »

Quotes

Fred A. Leuchter Jr.: The human body is not easy to destroy and it's not east to take a life humanely and painlessly without doing a great deal of damage to the individual's body.
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Disturbing and Often Funny
12 September 1999 | by Stroheim-3See all my reviews

I saw a rough cut of this documentary last year presented by Errol Morris. At this point, I had never seen an Errol Morris documentary, but I have to say I loved it. It's the story of the man who reinvented the modern electric chair and other devices to carry out capital punishment.

The first half of the film is darkly funny. The juxtaposition of images with Leuchter's descriptions makes for hilarious irony. The shots are in and of themselves wholly serious, but Leuchter himself is very comedic (whether he knows it or not).

The second half of the film evokes anger more than humor. Leuchter becomes an advocate for Holocaust denial through his scientific (?) research for a Canadian Neo-Nazi. The cut that I saw didn't have an explanation as to why Leuchter got the results that he did until a little later in the film. I though Errol Morris should have had this description as soon as the results of the tests were determined. Maybe he changed it, and maybe he didn't.

At the film's heart is, like a Greek tragedy, the story of a man whose rise to prominence is cut short by his hybris - his inability to accept that he could be wrong. As a result, a man who was once in demand by state after state is left to rot in his own misery and mistake.


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