Mr. Death

Bomb Rating: 

At the very end of Errol ("The Thin Blue Line") Morris' documentary about Fred A. Leuchter, Jr., Morris asks the execution machinery expert a question. He asks, "Do you ever think you could be wrong?" to which Leuchter replies, "I'm past that." In other words, the answer is "no." This is the first and only interruption by Morris in the film -- the only time he makes it plain that there's a man behind the camera filming Leuchter talk.

The question could very well be a trick since if Morris had asked it and the answer had been "oh sure, every day, all the time. In fact, I probably am wrong," there might not have been a movie. In other words, the question was asked and answered before the film was actually made. Why is this important? Because it has nothing to do with making execution machinery better (Leuchter's job) and everything to do with a matter that ruined Leuchter's life -- that he went to Germany, chiseled pieces off the walls of various concentration camps, then claimed he had proven there were no mass executions because his samples lacked cyanide residue.

With the aid of a chemist, Morris quickly disproves Leuchter's method. Essentially, the chemist explains that by chiseling and then later disintegrating (which the chemist did, not knowing what he was looking for or at) the pieces of concrete, there was no chance anybody would discover cyanide residue. It was impossible once the pieces were smashed into bits.

Through a combination of naiveté stupidity, and some degree of cruelty by others, Leuchter's life has been ruined. So, naturally, it's going to be hard for a man having gone through this to admit that he may have really messed something up along the way, especially someone like Leuchter, which is part of Morris' point. However, what echoes at the end of the film is not the ringing pronouncement against ignorance and vanity, as Morris intended, but the filmmakers inability to take Leuchter by the ear, to the chemist, and have it explained what a complete moron he is. A dog will crap all over your house if you let it. Morris could have at least had the decency to show Leuchter how to use a toilet.

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