Plot: What’s it about?
This is a documentary piece on the rise and fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr., who has a very interesting story to tell on this piece. In case you’re not familiar with Leuchter’s work, let me give you some background on the man. Fred grew up as the son of a prison worker, and his stand on execution as a punishment for crime has been present for his whole life. Leuchter is in favor of capital punishment he says, but not capital torture, which is what he says most modern prisons practice on sentenced inmates. Instead of just talking about the issue, Fred set out to change the way the execution process worked. He set his sights on the electric chair, and on his own time he redesigned the way the chairs should work and be built. After his work was accepted, he began to receive requests to help other states in their execution efforts, to make them more humane. When a man claimed the holocaust was false, and was put on trial in Canada for it, he saw Leuchter as a chance to prove his point. Leuchter thought the case would be his shining moment, but that’s not exactly how things worked out, as you’ll see.
If you’re a fan of documentary filmmaking, chances are you know about Errol Morris and his work in the genre. I am such a person, so when I found out I would be reviewing a film by Morris, I was pumped, to say the least. Just as I had expected, I was sucked in by this film, both the style and subject matter had me glued to the television sets. To watch Leuchter is see a man who looks normal, there’s nothing striking about him, but he is involved in some unusual activities. To hear him talk, you wouldn’t think twice about him, and to most points you shouldn’t, he just has different beliefs than the norm. This is a powerful and innovative film, one of the finest documentaries I have seen to date. If you’re a fan of documentary film, this is an absolute must see, as are other Morris films. I recommend this movie very highly, but the disc is pretty bare bones, so give it a rent and make the choice from there.
This documentary was directed by Errol Morris, who is a highly acclaimed filmmaker, and a master of the documentary form. While his films don’t always turn out to be classics, they are all filled with Morris’ passion for the subject matter and his unique and powerful style, which is enough to make them worth watching at least once. While Mr. Death is not Morris’ finest film, it seems to be the slickest of his resume, almost seeming like an A&E or similar documentary, very professional in nature. While it lacks some of the low budget, home movie type feel of his earlier work, I don’t feel this film is any less effective, it still packs quite a punch. Since this is a documentary, there are no actors, simply people being themselves. Fred A. Leuchter, Jr., the focus of this piece, and his story is certainly an interesting one, worthy of such a documentary. He seems at ease in front of the camera, and has little trouble telling his tale, and this makes the film run smoothly and without serious hitch. Others appearing in this film include Ernst Zundel, who hired Leuchter to help him discredit the holocaust, Leuchter’s wife and step son, and several more folks.
Video: How does it look?
Mr. Death is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. This film has several different types of video, from home video to polished film. While these vary in quality from shot to shot, the overall image quality is good. The colors look natural, as do flesh tones and no errors emerge at all. The contrast is consistent, no detail loss is seen, and compression errors are non existent.
Audio: How does it sound?
This release implements a 2.0 surround track, but you wouldn’t notice it by listening to it, since this is a dialogue driven piece, to be sure. There are times when the surrounds kick in, but on the whole this is a front channel film. The dialogue comes across very well, with no volume or separation issues to speak of.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This release contains the theatrical trailer for this film.