Thursday, April 24, 2008

Film clips shown in class, 24 April 2008

I have to be out of town again today, once again thanks to our fair city's poor transportation links, so Marlin will be showing a couple of film clips. The first is a roughly 10-minute dramatization of one of the Salem witch trials, from the 1985 PBS film Three Sovereigns for Sarah. Vanessa Redgrave stars as Sarah Cloyce.

Then, looking forward to the last week of class when we will consider anti-Semitism and its attendant conspiracy theories, including Holocaust denial, you will be seeing roughly the last half of Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr., a 1999 documentary. The films tells the sad of story of a self-taught engineer who made his living improving capital punishment equipment for various states. Then he made a big mistake. Leuchter claimed to have worked on gas chambers, and because of that, was tapped by Holocaust denier Ernst Zündel to investigate the site of the Auschwitz death camp, with the intent of "proving" that there were never any gas chambers there. Leuchter's surreptitious, comically inept investigation was used as evidence in defense of Zündel during a hate crimes trial in Canada. Naturally, Leuchter's business was ruined by the publicity from the trial, and most of the states he claims to have worked with now deny any association with him. The clip to be shown picks up with Leuchter talking about his work on capital punishment, and then turns to the story of the Auschwitz investigation.