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

U.S.A. / 1999 / English / Color / 35mm (1: 1.85) / 91 min

Director: Errol Morris
Photography: Robert Richardson, Peter Donahue
Editing: Karen Schmeer
Music: Caleb Sampson
Producer: David Collins, Michael Williams, Dorothy Aufiero
Production Company, Source: Fourth Floor Productions
678 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge
MA 02139, U.S.A.
Phone: 1-617-876-4499 / Fax: 1-617-876-4540
E-mail: 4thfloor@world.std.com

Errol Morris

Studied philosophy at University of Wisconsin, Princeton, and University California, Berkeley. He made his first film, Gates of Heaven in 1978. Vernon, Florida (1981), his second film, was shown at YIDFF '95. His 1988 film, The Thin Blue Line, won numerous awards including The New York Film Critic's Award. A Brief History of Time (1992) won the Grand Prize and the Filmmakers Award at Sundance. His 1997 documentary, Fast, Cheap & Out of Control won the American Film Critic's Award. Morris served as a juror at YIDFF' 93.

Meet Fred Leuchter, an expert in electric chairs, lethal injection machines, gallows and gas chambers. To opponents of capital punishment who ask him if he sleeps well at night, this mild-mannered middle-aged gentleman replies, "I sleep very well at night, knowing that those persons that are being executed with my equipment have a better chance of having a painless, more humane and dignified execution."
Simulating the look of a B-movie Sci-Fi horror, director Errol Morris explores the universe of this eccentric pragmatic philosopher - whose thoughts are so based on pragmatic realities that they may sound surreal. Leuchter's accounts are re-enacted and visualized by master cinematographer Robert Richardson, of Martin Scorsese's Casino (1995) and Bringing Out the Dead (1999), whose bravura reaches a new peak in this film, its magnificence so literally brilliant that you may not believe these scenes are re-enactment of real incidents.
Morris also utilizes virtually all the technical possibilities of digital non-linear editing to shuffle 35mm film footage, CGIs, video, 8mm home-movies and historical footage, to portray this quite unique individual and his even-more-amazing turns of life which also involve arguments on one of the biggest crimes in human history. Even though the film takes interest in Leuchter, it does not necessarily affirm his opinion about... being a proponent of capital punishment, for instance. Either you agree or disagree with him, you cannot ignore that his presence itself rases shrewd question about the fundamentals of humanity.
[Fujiwara Toshifumi]

Director's Statement
We are now separated from the events of World War II by over fifty years. What does it mean to deny the past or to reimagine it in such a way that it loses all meaning?
In all of my movies I have been obsessed with how people reveal themselves through their use of language. Fred Leuchter is one of the most prolific talkers I have ever encountered. And yet, a puzzle remains. Who is this man? Humanitarian? Humanist? Scientist? Truth-seeker? Hero? Charlatan? Is he playing some grotesque game with reality and truth or does he really believe what he is saying?
I like to think of this film as a mystery story where the ultimate mystery is not what really happened but rather the mystery of personality, the mystery of who we are.

COPYRIGHT:Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival Organizing Committee