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Of Dolls And Murder

9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Of Dolls and Murder explores a haunting collection of dollhouse crime scenes and our universal fascination with murder. The documentary film explores the dioramas, the woman who created them, and their relationship to modern day forensics. From the iconic CSI television show to the Body Farm and criminally minded college students and a crime fighting granny, legendary filmmaker and true crime aficionado, John Waters narrates the tiny world of big time murder.

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: John Waters
  • Directors: Susan Marks
  • Format: Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: SEMINAL FILMS
  • DVD Release Date: April 24, 2012
  • Run Time: 70 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0071BY2R8
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #130,705 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By C. Bennett on March 22, 2012
Format: DVD
Of Dolls and Murder is a great little documentary about the art of the crime scene. The film is wonderfully narrated by the famous John Waters who's added flair makes the gruesome subject manner oddly enjoyable.

While the film jumps around a bit, studying everything from the popularity of the CSI franchise to a local body farm, the main focus is on Frances Glessner Lee. Lee was frustrated about her home life, a strict father kept her from continuing her education like her brother. Her Brother, George Burgess Magrath, would occassionaly visit home and share stories of crime and the criminals who were literally getting away with murder. These stories would eventually inspire Lee to create a series of intricate dollhouses depicting various crime scenes.

While it might seem juvenile to some, these detailed doll houses helped mold the science of forensics into what it is today.

As mentioned earlier, the film has a few subjects all related to the study of the crime scene. There are various interviews with experts in the field, from seasoned detectives to the creators of television shows. We get a behind the scenes look at everything, no stone is left unturned. As a fan of not just documentaries, but also true crime, I was intrigued from beginning to end. My one and only complaint is that it wasn't long enough!

Do yourself a favor and check this one out!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Palermo on July 31, 2012
Format: DVD
I was so excited to see this that I bought it sight unseen. That was a mistake. The story of Frances Glessner Lee's Nutshell Studies is a fascinating one, but this film does little to flesh the story out. The first 15-20 minutes delve into creation of the murder dioramas and their creator (Lee).

From there, the documentary takes a negative turn and wastes the closing 45-50 minutes describing modern forensics/crime scene investigation. This would have been effective if the filmmaker hadn't abandoned Waters' narration (his narration literally lasts for 7-10 minutes) and further discussion of Lee and her work. Instead, the viewer is forced to sit through the banter of producers/writers for TV dramas like CSI talk about modern forensics. What do they know about modern forensics, save for the kind that are portrayed on TV in melodramatic fashion?

The film started out strong and completely died before it was given an honest chance of becoming something bigger. Hopefully someone will create a longer, more fleshed out telling of Lee's life, her complex works, and her undeniable influence on forensic investigation.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By ejodee on May 26, 2015
Format: DVD
The fabled dioramas and their creator are just a supporting part of this documentary. It is hard to imagine anyone who is interested in the Nutshell dioramas, who also needs to be brought up to speed about why we care about crime scene investigation, and that real life investigation is not glamorous, and there are no tricked-out labs like in CSI. But this banality hogs more than half of
of the film, while the dioramas share second chair with another subject that would be fascinating in its own right: the Body Farm.

The actual scenes and treatment of the dioramas are interesting and entertaining, including Jon Waters' narration, but each scene is dropped as soon as it is introduced. Talking heads interrupt with more of the numbingly obvious, that has nothing to do with the miniature scene just viewed. It ruins the chance to explore this fascinating scientist and her historic pieces, and makes for a frustrating viewing experience.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A. Baldwin on December 6, 2012
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
The Nutshell Murderer dollhouses are so mesmerizing with their mix of innocence and the macabre that it's no wonder the filmakers felt they had to share them. Along with telling the story of the dollhouses, they tell the inspiring story of the woman who made them, Frances Glessner Lee. Lee is a forgotten pioneer in modern police and forensics techniques, so it is wonderful to see her story told.

The best part of the film though is how the filmmakers feature and follow real detectives and forensic pathologists doing mundane, thankless--and definitely not glamorous-- work to find justice for murder victims and their families. Their dedication to their work is very moving.

In the end, I feel this is a film about passion. The passion for creation, deduction, and justice.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Carlos E. Velasquez on October 11, 2012
Format: DVD
These are the times of CSI, the crimes series that has been ruling TV for some time, with its flashy and colorful style of making science - crime investigation, in this case -look so easy. Still in my mind is the exciting "Quincy," a favorite of mine, which was kind of a precursor to CSI during the seventies, but without the technology and fantastic photography. However, science is not as easy and fast as these shows portray. The exquisite "Of Dolls and Murder" provides a fascinating, highly educational and detailed look on how forensic and criminal science really works. This is the real deal.

The documentary centers on the so-called "Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death," made by the late Frances Glessner Lee, the first female member of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. These "nutshells" are miniature doll-house-like scenarios of famous murders of the time. They are quite detailed and, if observed carefully, can give you clues about the murders and how to solve them. Each one is built by one inch to one foot in scale. In fact, part of the film takes place at the State of Maryland's Forensic Medicine Center, where we meet Dave Fowler (Chief Medical Examiner) teaching detectives about forensic science. Also in hand was Jerry Dziecichowicz, who teaches about the nutshell models to detectives. Some of the models mentioned and detailed in the program are: the Three Room Dwelling (1937), Dark Bathroom (1896), Kitchen (1944), Blue Bedroom (1943), Parsonage Parlor (19460, Attic (1946), and more. In total, Glessner made 20 nutshell models, of which 18 are in Maryland, one is missing, and one was destroyed.
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