Monday, September 5, 2011

Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr. (1999)

Director: Errol Morris

Starring: Fred A. Leuchter Jr

More info: IMDb

Plot: Documentary about Fred Leuchter, an engineer who became an expert on execution devices and was later hired by revisionist historian Ernst Zundel to "prove" that there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz. Leuchter published a controversial report confirming Zundel's position, which ultimately ruined his own career. Most of the footage is of Leuchter, puttering around execution facilities or chipping away at the walls of Auschwitz, but Morris also interviews various historians, associates, and neighbors.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again? After two views, I think I'm OK.

I really enjoy Errol Morris' documentaries and the music he chooses. It's always so smooth (at least from the ones I've seen) and the films flow or glide by. You could probably cut them in half by eliminating the moments where the music fills the gaps between narration by the players but it wouldn't be the same. When I watch his films I feel like I'm being immersed into them. It probably sounds weird but that's the best way I can describe it.

A lot of folks will find Leuchter creepy from the start. Not me. He's an engineer so his mind works differently than others, more methodical and analytical I guess. So when he talks about designing electric chairs, gas chambers, etc, he's approaching differently than a musician would or a banker. He's going to be more matter-of-fact about the subject from his approach and show less emotion beyond the job at hand well done. Then he jumps the shark and blindly and stupidly goes off the deep end with helping out the Holocaust deniers which is what takes him down...way down. It's a fascinating story on several levels and I highly recommend it.

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