This excellent documentary by the master documentarian Werner Herzog illustrates the far-reaching ramifications for families connected in any way with capital punishment.  He states from the outset when interviewing a prisoner on death row just eight days before his execution that he is against the practice.  Then he proceeds to illustrate his point.

 We hear accounts from the criminals and their families, the families of the victims, friends of the perpetrators, the guard who led over 120 prisoners to the death chamber, the officer who investigated the crime scenes, and even short cameos of townspeople in the communities where the crimes took place.  Not surprisingly, the (triple) murders were not the only dramas taking place in all these families, and it becomes a bit overwhelming to consider how much many of them have been up against in their lives.  It is also surprising to hear about a young woman who becomes attracted to one of the imprisoned men who is still claiming innocence (but is sentenced to 40 years in prison), marries him, and is having his(?) baby.  

 Listening to the two prisoners talk about their situation and the crime is most instructive.  The one sentenced to die is clearly illogical in his thinking.  He will alternately admit to the crime and then deny it, is convinced he is going to heaven and will look down from above upon his mother, and repeatedly draws strange conclusions from his reasoning.  The other prisoner is more intact, but also—strangely—says he wants his wife to have 50 children.  It’s a joke, really, but an odd thing to say since he will be in prison until his children are well into adulthood.

 Bottom line:  This is a film that would be instructive for all to see, since we rarely hear the back stories of those sentenced to capital punishment.  

Grade:  A

By Donna R. Copeland