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Executions- (1995)

State-sponsored murder or justice? More than 26 million people have been executed since 1900. But less than 10% have committed any real crime, other than belonging to the 'wrong' religion, race or political party. So begins this documentary on the death penalty and state-sponsored killing which looks at the social, political and moral impact of these methods of death. The film is separated into chapters on various execution styles and uses the theme of merciful death in every segment. The French Guillotine is presented in the first chapter, and the use of this rather old device is highlighted with some pretty gruesome results, would you believe they did not cease using the Guillotine until 1978!

What was considered a quick and humane way to die is thrown out due to one doctor's shocking discovery, a condemned prisoner was able to give signals after decapitation, proving that the head could stay alive for up to 20 seconds. The Middle East tradition of stoning is shown, and even in our modern world, this sick and primitive technique is still employed by fundamentalist governments and usually against women. The film then shows how the Nazi's used research to study the quickest and most efficient way of disposing of their undesirables. When bullets were not fast, enough they turned to an American idea, Gas! Carbon Monoxide and Cyanide were used in vehicles and showers to kill millions of innocent Jews and gypsies, much of the research was based on the American Gas Chambers utilized in the early thirties! Thomas Edison's electrical devices paved the way for yet another "cruelty-free" execution style, the Electric Chair. A prison official shows how an inmate is strapped in and how he is wired to the system. The process is simple and so efficient that a portable electric chair was even employed in one community for the enjoyment of the audience. The last humane form of death would be the lethal injection, like the electric chair an audience is present to watch as a prisoner is strapped to a hospital gurney and has two chemicals injected. Ironically it was Nazi research on Jewish kids that gave us the idea for the drugs used in this execution style.

The film never once takes a stand for any execution method, yet they do present the facts and leave you to the knowledge of the world and its barbaric nature. The film does indeed raise questions about the logic behind the state-sponsored killing and offers unique parallels and surprising statistics which show how execution may not be the best way for a society to deter crime. The final chapter deals with war and the injustice of the mob mentality. The most frequent and brutal style of execution would, of course, be the bullet, the final images of the film have a Middle Eastern man being tied up and readied for execution. He is given a sign to wear which asks for forgiveness from Allah, and he is shot several times by gunmen, yet the narrator explains the poor man took almost one full minute to die. Unlike the more expletive Faces of Death, Executions comes across as a very well made documentary, with its actual footage and accurate statistics the film is a far cry for the shock tactics of FOD and a unique departure from other death movies.

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