Cover image for Mr. Death the rise and fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr.
Mr. Death the rise and fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr.
Morris, Errol.
[DVD version].
Publication Information:
[Place of publication not identified] : Lion's Gate Home Entertainment, [2003]

Physical Description:
1 videodisc (90 min.) : sound, color ; 4 3/4 in.
Provocative and chilling true story of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr., the son of a prison worker and a self-taught execution expert who consulted with prisons across the country to make capital punishment more humane. When Leuchter is called in as a high-profile expert in a sensationalistic Canadian trial, his ego, bravado and absurd testimony reaches nation media prominence. Ironically, what Leuchter thought was going to be an apex in his career - only ruins it.
General Note:

Originally released as a motion picture in 1999.

Dolby digital.

For specific features see interactive menu.
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Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DVD 6060 Adult DVD Open Shelf
HV8978.L48 M5 2003V Adult DVD Central Library

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In 1988, Canadian authorities brought charges against neo-Nazi Ernst Zndel for publishing literature deemed to be deliberately false. His inflammatory pamphlets-- with such titles as Did Six Million Really Die? and The Hitler We Loved and Why--claimed the Holocaust never happened. During the highly publicized trial, Zundel hired an American expert in execution methods, Fred Leuchter, Jr., to conduct a forensic investigation into the use of poison gas in WWII concentration camps. The goal was to prove that the infamous concentration camps had simply been work camps, not human extermination facilities. Leuchter flew to Poland and retrieved brick and mortar samples from the walls of presumed gas chambers at Auschwitz, then smuggled them back to the United States. When these samples tested negative for poisonous substances-- thereby proving that genocide did not take place at Auschwitz, according to some-- Leuchter issued his sensational findings in the famous Leuchter Report. Overnight, he became a hero to historical revisionists and a villain to human rights organizations and Jewish groups around the world. But Fred Leuchter's story isn't a Holocaust story. It is a tale of ignorance, self-deception, and vanity. In Mr. Death, Errol Morris sews together a patchwork of diverse viewpoints that seek to uncover the central mystery behind Fred Leuchter's motivations.


Throughout his work, documentary filmmaker Errol Morris has sought out characters lost in their own eccentric worlds, and he has managed to convey their sense of wonder with their passion, be it a topiary gardener arguing the merits of hand shears in Fast, Cheap & Out of Control (1997) or astrophysicist Stephen Hawking discussing the origin of the universe in A Brief History of Time (1992). In his most provocative work since The Thin Blue Line (1988), Morris details what happens when this interior dreamscape collides with the hard facts of history. As a young man accompanying his father to work at a state prison, Fred A. Leuchter, a bespectacled mouse of a man, learned how inefficient and inhumane most executions were, and he set out to design and build a better electric chair. Soon he began getting offers from state institutions throughout the country to redesign their electric chairs, along with gas chambers, gallows, and lethal injection machines. He quickly became a renowned expert in capital punishment. When the notorious Nazi sympathizer Ernest Zündel was arrested in Canada, he needed an expert witness to corroborate his assertion that the Holocaust was a hoax; and Leuchter soon found himself chiseling chunks from the gas chamber walls in Auschwitz -- on his honeymoon. His illegal samples showed no significant residue of cyanide, so he concluded that the Holocaust did not happen. He soon became a celebrity of the neo-Nazi set: he testified on behalf of Zündel, gave lectures around the world, and published the Holocaust revisionist tract Leuchter Report . Much to his surprise, his death-machine business began to flounder, his marriage collapsed, and he found himself pursued by Jewish organizations and creditors. This film was screened at the 1999 Toronto Film Festival. ~ Jonathan Crow, Rovi