American Experience (1988– )
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The Lobotomist 

This program tells the gripping tale of medical intervention gone awry.


Barak Goodman


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Episode credited cast:
Campbell Scott ... Himself - Narrator (voice)
Lee Wilkof ... Dr. Walter Freeman (voice)
Clint Jordan ... Family Member (voice)
Joanna Merlin ... Family Member (voice)
Richard Biermann Richard Biermann
Veronica James Veronica James ... Alice Hammett
Carl Nubile Carl Nubile ... Dr. Walter Freeman
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Howard Dully Howard Dully ... Himself - Former Patient
Jack El-Hai Jack El-Hai ... Himself - Author, The Lobotomist
Angelene Forester Angelene Forester ... Herself - Daughter
Walter Freeman III Walter Freeman III ... Himself - Son
Franklin Freeman Franklin Freeman ... Himself - Son
Walter Freeman Walter Freeman ... Himself (archive footage)
Christine Johnson Christine Johnson ... Herself - Granddaughter
Leslie Jones McPortland Leslie Jones McPortland ... Herself - Daughter


This program tells the gripping tale of medical intervention gone awry.

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Release Date:

21 January 2008 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Ark Media, WGBH See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

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User Reviews

Hard to watch yet very compelling...
26 November 2011 | by MartinHaferSee all my reviews

I cannot stress strongly enough that this documentary from "The American Experience" is VERY hard to watch!!! Not only is the topic very disturbing, but actual photos of lobotomies are shown and you WILL see folks with ice pick-like rods shoved through their eye sockets into their brains!! Do NOT watch this is you are highly sensitive and do NOT show this to kids!! This film is about the amazing proliferation of lobotomies that was championed by Dr. Walter Freeman. While it's not exactly a biography of Freeman, it does follow much of his life and discusses his crusade to popularize this seemingly barbaric operation. It discusses his successes, but it also discusses his many failures--including some patients who died or were permanently disabled due to this brain surgery.

Like a typical episode of "The American Experience", this one is made up of photos, interviews and the like. What makes it a little different is that two of Freeman's sons participated as well--making this a highly unusual film and offering unusual insights into the motivations of the man. Well worth seeing and very compelling--thank God this sort of treatment is, for the most part, no longer done as better and far more human procedures are now available.

It would be interesting to see a film like this about Electro-Convulsive Therapy (ECT)--especially since the way it's done and its long-term side effects have changed dramatically over the years.

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