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West of Memphis

4.5 out of 5 stars 204 customer reviews

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Product Description

From Academy Award®-nominated filmmaker Amy Berg (2006, Best Documentary Feature, Deliver Us From Evil) in collaboration with the multiple Academy Award®-winning team of Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh (2003, Best Picture ' Best Adapted Screenplay, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King), WEST OF MEMPHIS tells the untold story behind an extraordinary and desperate fight to stop the State of Arkansas from killing an innocent man. Told and produced by those who lived it, Damien Echols and Lorri Davis, the film uncovers new evidence surrounding the 1993 murders of three eight-year-old boys in the small town of West Memphis, Arkansas, and exposes the wrongful conviction of three teenagers who lost 18 years of their lives imprisoned for crimes they did not commit.

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You'd think that after the exhaustive Paradise Lost trilogy of documentaries by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky (in 1996, 2000, and 2011) about the so-called West Memphis Three child murders that the subject would be pretty well accounted for. That is certainly true, but West of Memphis is in no way superfluous or redundant in its passionate examination of what is nearly impossible not to call a grave miscarriage of justice. For anyone who has seen the Paradise Lost films, the details of the case against Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley are well known. Ever since their trial, conviction, and life sentences (with a death sentence for Echols) as teenagers for allegedly murdering three young boys in West Memphis, Arkansas, in 1993, the men have been regarded as scapegoats by thousands of people around the world as well as those intimately involved in the case. Though the state of Arkansas never budged on its obstinate stance, the three were released in a plea deal after 17 years when pushes for a possible new trial pointed to further rancor and the probability of new evidence that would expose a massive web of injustice. Director Amy Berg interviews many of the same characters that Sinofsky and Berlinger did, but her perspective is focused on efforts to free the men with a plethora of allegations infinitely more believable than that which the state used to ramrod them into guilt. Her star witness in this film is Lorri Davis, the woman Echols befriended by mail, then married in prison in 1999. Her efforts on the outside led to the ongoing campaign to free the West Memphis Three as well as to new investigations into who actually committed the crime. (Berg and Echols are coproducers, along with Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh of Lord of the Rings fame, who were massive financial and moral supporters of the cause since its beginning.) There is, of course, some duplication of material and it feels a little long, but West of Memphis is scrupulously crafted in both its visual style as well as its attention to the minutiae of facts--forensic and otherwise--that overwhelmingly point the finger of guilt at the stepfather of one of the victims. Digging deep, adding moral and emotional weight, and doling out information gradually to truly damning effect, West of Memphis is completely absorbing and extraordinarily moving. It also seems to be not nearly the end of the story in asking so many questions about whether genuine justice will ever be served. --Ted Fry

Product Details

  • Actors: Jason Baldwin, Pam Hobbs, Jessie Miskelly, Damien Wayne Echols, Mara Leveritt
  • Directors: Amy Berg
  • Writers: Amy Berg, Billy McMillin
  • Producers: Peter Jackson, Damien Wayne Echols, Fran Walsh, Amy Berg, Lorri Davis
  • Format: Multiple Formats, AC-3, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: French, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Thai, Spanish, English
  • Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    R
    Restricted
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: August 6, 2013
  • Run Time: 147 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (204 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00AIBZKFG
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #40,611 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "West of Memphis" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Hui Shen ben Israel TOP 1000 REVIEWER on December 12, 2013
Format: DVD
WEST OF MEMPHIS (Dir. Amy Berg, Prod. Damien Echols and Peter Jackson, 2012, 145 minutes) ~ Since I just came away from seeing this riveting documentary about the three innocent men known as "The West Memphis Three", I have read no other review on Amazon as yet. This is deeply personal for me. I'd like my review to reflect that and stay simple.

Anyone not living in this dimension might say they don't know who "The West Memphis Three" are--so in case you do not know, they were the teen kids (Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley and Jason Baldwin) who were falsely convicted and imprisoned for the murders of three little boys. That happened in the early 1990s. Help from all around America and the globe spurred action in Arkansas (that is where West Memphis is, not Tennessee).

This documentary covers just about all I could have hoped or imagined about this epic wrong-men story. Having been absorbed by HBO's seminal and important documentary series about this, The Paradise Lost Trilogy Collector's Edition (see my reviews but I reviewed each of the three films, not the set), this documentary shocked me deeply.

It was only days ago I saw a 2012 "Frontline" 55-minute special on this subject--"Frontline" seems to have stolen quite a bit of material from this documentary, and I suspect it was actually a slighlty ssanitized, shortened "free" version of this.

WEST OF MEMPHIS stunned me because several people who allegedly do not do interviews (or refuse to talk) were here, and BOY, were they a-talkin'.
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I have to give this documentary 5 stars because it was even more riveting, thought-provoking and devastating than the original Paradise Lost film which I saw on HBO when it first came out in 1996. Though a bit long and drawn out in parts (should have been edited down to make it a neat 2 hours) I simply could not stop watching. I have never been convinced one way or the other about this case. On the one hand, I thought the evidence against the WM3 as presented in Paradise Lost and several of the books written about the case was minimal, I don't think I ever lost sight of the fact that 3 beautiful little children were viciously ripped from the world by someone and, putting the evidence together as it was presented by the prosecution, I could understand why the 3 were found guilty. This film doesn't gloss over that evidence or pretend it didn't exist but carefully and precisely dissects that original evidence presented in the prosecution's case to illustrate how it was misinterpreted, misrepresented and used to paint a picture of what they thought likely happened, NOT what was, in fact, the truth.

Motivated by electoral pressure, hearsay and ignorance, the state of Arkansas concocted a scenario (which ends up being proven wrong in this film) fueled by Jerry Driver, a 'Satanic cult' specialist and an unlicensed medical examiner who worked for the prosecution. Putting these things together, the prosecution produced this satanic scenario and made Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley fit this profile along with the so-called ritualistic wounds that were purportedly present on the victims. These wounds were misinterpreted to be evidence of sexual assault and ritualized murder from the start, based on the penile mutilation of one of the victims.
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Format: DVD
This movie shows a true mistake in the American justice system. If you know anything about the case of the west Memphis 3 than you know that Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley Jr were wrongfully convicted of the murder of 3 eight year old boys. West Of Memphis shows the damning amount of evidence against Terry Hobbs a victims step father. He is the only parent of the victims that still believe's the West Memphis three are the killers. What is truly sad is that because the state of Arkansas will not admit a mistake, Terry Hobbs has gotten away with murdering 3 eight year old boys. This movie shows when the West Memphis 3 walked free after accepting an Alford Plea. If you don't know what that is it means the West Memphis 3 can maintain their innocence but must plead guilty to the murders. That means that the case is closed and the real murder Terry Hobbs gets away with it. This shows that the state does not care about justice AT ALL they only care about being right.
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For those that would like some insight on how the US Justice System mostly works, then this is the doc for you. Don't even think that these three innocent men are the only ones rotting in a prison when they have done nothing wrong. Far too many folks are not given a fair shake and once the word "Guilty" is dropped on them, they are ignored and all but forgotten, with appeals taking years and most of those being denied before a judge even looks at the file.
This particular case garnered so much attention because of the absolute bungling the state of Arkansas performed on the case of the murdered three boys. Instead of trying to actually solve the crime, they took the easy way out and went full-bore on three teens who had alibis (which were ignored), had never met the boys (didn't matter) and had absolutely no motive (what's that?). Although I am glad with the release of Damien, Jesse and Jason, I am appalled that they still have to walk with guilt tied around their necks just so Arkansas doesn't have to admit to any wrongdoing.
Justice in this case will not come if the murderer is not found. On top of that, though, justice will not come until the prosecutor, judge and jurors of the original trial are all behind bars, where they belong. They ruined three lives based on bigotry and ignorance. I hope they all rot.
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