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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

10 years of Flick Filosopher: death as a hobby

From my review of Errol Morris’s freakishly fascinating documentary Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr.:

Fred Leuchter is an odd bird by any reckoning. A self-taught engineer with an obsession with capital punishment, Leuchter stumbled into the death-penalty business accidentally. Concerned about the “deplorable condition” of execution hardware in prisons, Leuchter, on his own time and at his own expense, designed a new electric chair that would allow for more “humane” killings. With the manner of an appliance salesman, Leuchter leads us through a death chamber, demonstrating the use of his chair and dispassionately describing how electricity kills humans, and what can go wrong. Obviously proud of his accomplishment, he boasts that this new chair is reasonably priced.

review of Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr., posted 12.29.99

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