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Mr. Death: The Rise & Fall of Fred A. Leuchter Jr.
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That said, this is one documentary that would most certainly please those very masses. It plays like the highest rate cliffhanger and while the twists and turns are real, they are as clever as any fictive ones I've seen.
"Mr Death" is the story of Fred Leuchter, a self-taught but obviously intelligent "engineer" of execution equipment that is more humane than that currently in practice. The first part of the film is largely a biography of his rise from working on an electric chair in Tenessee, to redesigning a lethal injection room, a gallows, and even a gas chamber in other states.
If the first half is about his rise, the second half - the title suggests it - pertains to his fall. This happens when Ernst Zundel, a holocaust denier out of Canada, hires Luechter after being brought up on arcane charges by the Canadian government, where it is illegal to deny the holocaust on paper(?). Luechter's job is to go to Auschwitz to determine whether Zundel's claim that there were no gas chambers there is in any way rational. The film chronicles Luecther's travels and ultimate judgement that Zundel is correct.
From there - and Zundel eventually loses the case - Luechter's buzzing career enters a tail spin. No one in the states, that is, wants to work with a holocaust denier, much less on execution equipment. He is blackballed.
Most of the film consists of interviews with Luechter interspersed with scentery pertaining to the events being discussed.Read more ›
Altogether "Mr. Death" is a fascinating study of a man whose macabre career notwithstanding comes across as more sympathetic than one might expect given the subject matter. Occasionally, I felt as if Leuchter were Chance Gardner in "Being There," or perhaps Zelig from the Woody Allen film of the same name: essentially a guiless person who wants to belong. That may, in fact, be rather too charitable in the case of Leuchter, though one of the movie's charms is that it leaves possible this ambiguity even as the credits roll.
Some wonderful editing and camerawork throughout. Intoxicating and creepy--a film that's hard to turn away from.
And so Errol Morris introduces us to the latest intriguing character to sit in front of his Interrotron. Fred Leuchter is a slippery guy. He's a self styled engineer in an industry consisting almost solely of himself: consulting prisons on instruments of execution. Leuchter himself is not even sure how he got there. "I built helmets for electric chairs, so now I could build lethal injection machines," he says. "I now build lethal injection machines, so now I'm competent to build a gallows. And since I'm building gallows, I'm also competent to work on gas chambers, because I've done all the other three." He almost laments that he's been shoe horned into an area that few others would be willing to go, but he does so anyway. He clearly enjoys his line of work and comes to see himself as a real expert. This belief in his own propaganda would be his downfall.
He's a proponent of the death penalty but has a strong conviction that it should be handled "humanely." Those awaiting execution, after decades of imprisonment, are "just like you and me" he argues. He would like to see lethal injection performed in molded seats like a dentist's office has. The condemned could watch TV, listen to music or look at pictures on the wall. Furthermore, execution could be a safe and painless process for the executioners as well. "Nobody should have to place his life in jeopardy because an execution is being conducted." And the beguiling thing about Leuchter is that he is absolutely sincere. He is completely without guile. He clearly wants us to like him.
Errol Morris tends toward the fringes in his selection of subject matter, but he rarely goes wrong.Read more ›
This is where the film becomes really awesome and hair-raising. Here it discusses the trial that followed after the results and people reacting to Leuchter's odd behavior. Errol Morris does his best to give an objective viewpoint on the whole affair. He does not try to make Leuchter look like a devil or angel. It is surprising that a seemingly innocent and simple man like Leuchter could be caught up in such a gigantic controversy. Morris pretty much lets the viewer decide about this man. Worth the watch if one can find it.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Dr Fred Leuchter was arguably the first researcher to examine the HCN (Hydrogen Cyanide) penetration levels in the masonry of alleged ‘homicidal gas chambers’. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Wulfgar
This is the story of a simple, capable man who exposed the hoax of the twentieth century - and of what happened to him for being so bold. Read morePublished on December 23, 2013 by john thames
Fred Leuchter, a leading expert in gas chamber executions, conducted an examination of the alleged gas chambers at Auschwitz and concluded that they could not have been gas... Read morePublished on February 15, 2013 by HolocaustHistory channel
If you watch this film thinking that it is about capital punishment or Holocaust denial, then you will have missed it. The film is not even about Leuchter. Read morePublished on July 4, 2012 by A fellow with a keyboard
There's no one quite like Fred Leuchter. After all, there aren't many people who earn money designing ways to execute prisoners while pursuing holocaust denial on the side. Read morePublished on October 30, 2010 by stoic
Utterly compelling documentary that follows a self-appointed "executions expert" as he gets hired, first, by various US states to service killing machines, and then, by Holocaust... Read morePublished on March 13, 2010 by Frank Gorshin
This excellent and disturbing documentary leaves us with two practical questions.
(1) Auschwitz is a national monument and a tourist destination. Read more