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72 Reviews
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Murder, Chemistry, New York, American History-- something for everyone
I was enthralled with this episode of American Experience. There is not a boring minute in it. The murder mysteries are each worthy of their own documentaries (there are innocent-faced female murderers and a Rasputin-like male victim of an insurance fraud, to name a few).The dramatizations and period pictures are fantastic. Even the sets and costumes and worthy of an...
Published 13 months ago by Amelia J. Brideson

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2.0 out of 5 stars A diversion. Something to watch when unable to reach ...
A diversion. Something to watch when unable to reach a family consensus on something more edifying or intellectually satisfying. In other words, it beat arguing over the remote.
Published 2 months ago by Gavranot


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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Murder, Chemistry, New York, American History-- something for everyone, January 16, 2014
By 
This review is from: American Experience: Poisoner's Handbook (DVD)
I was enthralled with this episode of American Experience. There is not a boring minute in it. The murder mysteries are each worthy of their own documentaries (there are innocent-faced female murderers and a Rasputin-like male victim of an insurance fraud, to name a few).The dramatizations and period pictures are fantastic. Even the sets and costumes and worthy of an award for documentary-making. Two hours very well spent! It will make you appreciate the FDA. If you ever thought a show about chemistry would be a snooze-fest, think again. Students of American history and chemistry will be especially enthused, but please watch this with your family-- you may inspire a budding scientist or forensic detective.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing Forensic History Lesson told in an Entertaining Way, January 10, 2014
This was a wonderfully done documentary. It explores the pioneering work of Charles Norris (medical examiner) and Alexander Gettler (toxicologist). Viewers are transported to a time period when chemistry and science began to take a more prominent role in forensics. The element that makes this documentary so compelling is that it shares Norris and Gettler's story in the context of historical events that took place during the time period when they conducted their work. There are also some reenactments and real photos to give viewers more context. After watching this documentary, viewers are educated about forensics and American history
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars NOT WHAT YOU MIGHT THINK, June 16, 2014
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This review is from: American Experience: Poisoner's Handbook (DVD)
Despite it's title, this is NOT a lesson on how to kill people. It does illustrate however, before forensic evidence became a precise science, poisoning was the most popular and successful way to commit murder. Thanks to Charles Norris and Alexander Gettler, it eventually became one of the least successful methods to get away with.

This program also shows how many incredibly toxic, deadly substances believed to be innocuous or actually beneficial, were as easy to obtain as a loaf of bread.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars how forensic science came to be ..., June 2, 2014
By 
Michael Dobey (colorado springs) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: American Experience: Poisoner's Handbook (DVD)
This is a incredible and true story of one doctors story , as he helps create forensic science in regard to poisoning. which is why that form of murder is so rare now. He does get it wrong sometimes though and he even helps a murderess get off twice , only to his horror realize that on the third time that she was guilty all along. There's many stories here and this would make a great movie! HE looked at over 100,000 cases in his long career which begins way back in the early 1900's. You will learn a lot here and it's a good thing men like this existed. The show is full of recreations with a good narrator to provide information as well. So it's a entertaining watch from start to finish.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A History Lesson in Modern Day Forensics, August 29, 2014
Enjoyed this American Experience! This is one of the best American Experience episodes that I have seen. I watch a lot of true crime documentaries so I found this to be very informative and intriguing. As other have pointed out, this has a blend of history and science. I was not very familiar with early forensic science and this brought things to light. This was excellent and I would recommend it for those that are interested in chemistry, history and forensic science.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating, September 11, 2014
Very informative, well written. The twists and turns of real life displayed in this movie are beyond belief. The accomplishments and hard work that these men performed is almost unheard of these days. Once you begin to watch this it is nearly impossible to stop for any reason. One of the most interesting movies I've watched for some time.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I love American Experience and this is perhaps the best one ..., August 21, 2014
I love American Experience and this is perhaps the best one I have seen. The story of the two pioneers Norris and Gettler is simply remarkable. It a beautify account of the emergence of forensic science. In addition, the production level in this episode (reenactments, photography, etc) its higher than in previous episodes.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just As Great As The Book!, November 1, 2014
I absolutely loved this. I'm majorly into history, medical science/forensic science, and any combination of the two, so this documentary was thrilling to watch. It also helps that I've read the book form by the same name (which is ever so wonderfully accessible on Amazon in Kindle and other formats).

I spent many long hours absorbed by the book, the history and cases and gradually progressive movements into the formation of modern forensics and toxicology. The cases mentioned in the movie are all listed in the book with a wealth of minute and fascinating details that aren't exactly touched on in the movie, and the book has even more cases and substances to read about. But not only is it (both book and movie) a history of the blooming forensics field, it's a also an mid-depth history of the early decades of the 1900's and the transition of society from the 20's onward, going from Prohibition and its repeal, the beginnings of the Second World War, how the many different levels of NY society lived and worked in these times, as well as how the standards of manufacturing, drug/product testing, and safety procedures were informed, updated and implemented.

I would say that if you have any interest in the science fields such as medicine, forensics, toxicology, chemistry or biology, this is just one of those movies (and books) that will truly satisfy you. Please, look at both and decide for yourself!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow, April 6, 2014
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I saw this on PBS when it aired and had to watch it again. Dark, but absolutely fascinating and inspiring. I was transfixed from beginning to end, just incredible!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fun and fascinating history, December 2, 2014
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This review is from: American Experience: Poisoner's Handbook (DVD)
Enjoyable and educational story of the life work of New York's first medical examiner Charles Norris, and his head toxicologist Alexander Gettler. Before Norris, New York coroners (as in many places) weren't doctors, and often had absolutely no scientific training. It was more a give-away, political patronage job, and forensic evidence wasn't taken very seriously by juries, judges, or lawyers.

But Norris and Gettler dragged New York, and ultimately the rest of the U.S., into the age of science in the courtroom. For this show it specifically focuses on the issue of poisonings and how Gettler and Norris got ever better at exposing the truth behind these killings – to the point where intentional poisonings in New York went from hundreds of cases a year to only one or two. That's how good they were. It was no longer worth the risk.

Unlike most American Experience films, this relies heavily on reenactments. That usually means cheesy and unimpressive. But here the acting is first rate, and it makes the device work surprisingly well. One could imagine a fascinating series about these two – a sort of real life Holmes and Watson.
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American Experience: Poisoner's Handbook
American Experience: Poisoner's Handbook by American Experience (DVD - 2014)
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