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

Critics Consensus

Mr. Death outlines its subject's controversial life's work with the deeply fascinating and thought-provoking élan film fans have come to expect from director Errol Morris.



Total Count: 43


Audience Score

User Ratings: 4,023
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Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr. Photos

Movie Info

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.


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

All Critics (43) | Top Critics (9)

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

  • Jan 27, 2012
    Wow! Great early effort by Errol Morris and we can see how his effective documentary tools were developed here. Leuchter probably gets more attention that he deserves as a result but it is a shocking look at the true nut jobs that exist in the broader world.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Jan 18, 2009
    Interesting study of Fred Leuchter's underwhelming career, poor judgement and antisemitic reasoning.
    Randy T Super Reviewer
  • Apr 22, 2008
    What a bizzare little man.
    The M Super Reviewer
  • Feb 08, 2008
    Amazing look at an outsider, and the choices he makes to be accepted, no matter by whom. Disturbing and sad, this is a truly great film about lonliness and what it drives people to do.
    Christopher B Super Reviewer

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