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      Death Row

      2012 3 hr. 8 min. Documentary List
      Reviews 88% 50+ Ratings Audience Score Death row inmates in Texas give intimate interviews about life in a maximum security prison. Read More Read Less

      Audience Reviews

      View All (6) audience reviews
      Audience Member This film runs too long, but Herzog does provide any interesting glimpse into the darkest sides of humanity. Rated 3 out of 5 stars 01/29/23 Full Review Audience Member 'On Death Row' is a four-episode series by Werner Herzog which was shown by Channel 4 in the UK but the 4th episode (Linda Carty) was not shown there as they had their own bio on her (this is called 'The British Woman On Death Row') and wanted to avoid overlap. Channel 4 have kindly still got the other three Herzog episodes available to watch for free online despite them being aired over a year ago now. So if you are in the UK check them out. Thankfully you can find the Linda Carty episode on Youtube but it is copyright-blocked in the UK so you'll need a good proxy to gain access to it. The American Investigation Discovery channel showed the full series and so American citizens should be able to find all four episodes easily. As each episode contains a different case I shall review each of them separately and then give my thoughts on the series overall. Hank Skinner- "It is a place of human bondage and human suffrage." Skinner genuinely seems like a nice guy and if it weren't for the bars and the uniform one wouldn't suspect that he was on death row. Then of course we discover his crimes and we're reminded that we can never really know a person at all, not from looking in their eyes, hearing what they say or even by being close to them. There are certain things we can believe though- maybe not the calls of innocence but certainly how they feel knowing that they may soon be put to death and that is what Herzog is after here and Skinner seems happy to provide it. Skinner had actually come closer to death than most by being only twenty minutes from execution and it was terrifyingly easy to put yourself in that position as he gave a detailed account of that day of his life. Herzog is intrusive as always and gets as much as he can from Skinner- there's also some of the humour that you expect from him in there too amongst the obviously-dark narration that he provides. Pampa looks like a dismal place and the camera work is great as always with Herzog's work- the tone and atmosphere are as doomy as you could ask for, for a suitable doomy subject matter. Skinner's case really is an interesting one and I won't give away the details but there is little Herzog really had to do with this one- it was interesting from the get-go and made for a strong start to the series. Skinner seemed like a smart man who knew what Herzog was after and loved being in front of the camera and he gives us some good observations but also some honesty, whether intentional or not, through his manic laugh that could turn to tears at any time. In those moments we see that he is a man still struggling to come to terms with his fate. Maybe he never admitted guilt because he couldn't come to terms with his past either. On top of all of this- Herzog's analysis of the trip from death row to the death house is his most haunting and touching work that I've so far come across- "the road to death." Being that the series is a bit old now I'll give an update on Skinner- he is currently still on death row and the DNA tests mentioned in the programme implicate him further but the State lost the jacket that he described as the biggest piece of evidence that implicated someone else. Whether he is innocent or not is irrelevant though for this piece- Herzog simply wanted us to know how it feels to be on death row and by God did he succeed here. 10/10 James Barnes- "it was just an easy spot to throw someone in and fill up" This time we have someone fairly different- a man who committed two murders and actually confessed to the second which led to him being put on death row after converting to Islam. He seems like a smart man but there is something deeply uncomforting about his presence which is entirely sensible considering the atrocities he committed but I didn't feel that way about Skinner. This made for a more chilling and unpleasant experience. He seemed remorseless, though he argued the opposite, it felt to me like he thought he was remorseful without actually understanding what that meant- he likely just felt bad about his situation rather than his actions. I certainly got the feeling that he was a manipulative sociopath. We also hear from his twin sister who is somewhat strange herself but seems considerably different from her brother. She describes parts of Barnes' childhood that may help explain his killings. This is all fairly similar to what you see in many portraits of serial killers and doesn't stand out in the same way that the first episode did. Herzog does however have some tricks up his sleeve with regards to Barnes and his family and manages to get the viewer as close to feeling compassionate for Barnes as is possible considering his evil. Of course the evil prevails and some new information from Barnes shows that he committed even more atrocities than the two that were first known. It becomes unquestionably clear that Barnes cared about no one other than himself and, despite me being against capital punishment, I had absolutely no sympathy for him whatsoever and didn't feel comfortable that he was being handed an opportunity to boast, in a roundabout way, for his crimes. There is also Barnes' lawyer who discusses his views and how he justifies his work- this is interesting and it is one of the few times where Herzog shows his dislike for capital punishment outside of the opening monologue that occurs at the start of each episode. Sadly I can't provide any update on Barnes because the internet is strangely quiet about him outside of his appearance on the show- I did however find a more recent-looking picture of him which would suggest that he has not yet been executed. Overall this is another strong work from Herzog but Barnes is not a character whom I want to receive any recognition or who I feel should have been featured on the show and that leaves a large aftertaste when all is said and done. 7/10 Joseph Garcia & George Rivas- "They took away all hope from me and when you do that to a person, anything is possible." This time we deal with a combination of cases that begin to provide a real critique of the system itself- some strange loopholes in the law that allow for a burglar to end up with more life sentences than any serial killer or for someone to be charged with a murder which they did not commit come into question. We deal with two of the Texas seven who are on death row due to the daring escape. This one is more story-based because there is a lot going on- the interviews generally tell us what happened as opposed to being more personal as in other episodes. It is an engaging and powerful story though and it is handled well- despite the hardened criminals and the crimes that they committed this somehow still manages to successfully call capital punishment into question without ever pushing focus on that over the story being told. Update-wise everything remains the same as it did at the end of the episode. 8/10 Linda Carty- "Linda Carty, some people sing for making a living but you'd sing for life." This is the most 'political' episode of them all as it concentrates primarily on the failings in Carty's trial rather than on her experiences on death row which it doesn't even touch on. While it is good to feel that Herzog is tackling the issue this time it is strange to see him doing so since his documentaries don't tend to work like that. This one didn't do much for me because the case is already widely-known and I learnt nothing new from watching the episode. There were also few moments that had emotional depth to them or that contained some of the harrowing moments we see in other episodes- one standout moment is when Herzog is accused of humanizing Carty and he responds by saying that he isn't humanizing her but rather that she is human, period. Moments like this, particularly with such an unjust case as this one, are enjoyable indeed but as a whole this episode was well below the others in the series and veered dangerously close to just being a platform for Carty to claim her innocence and if we look back to what Herzog said to Michael Perry in 'Into The Abyss' then we know that that is entirely not what the whole process is about. 5/10 Overall then this series was a great companion piece to 'Into The Abyss' that provided us with seemingly-typical documentaries that actually, for the most part, burrow deeper and show why Herzog's work is so fascinating to watch. It is a pity that the episodes differ so much in quality but the best ones do stay with you and are truly memorable- possibly amongst some of Herzog's best documentaries. This is certainly thought-provoking stuff regardless of your views on capital punishment and so I highly recommend but be prepared for some episodes to pale in comparison to others. 9/10. Rated 4.5 out of 5 stars 02/20/23 Full Review Audience Member Brilliant look at life and Death through the eyes of Death row inmates. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 02/03/23 Full Review Audience Member This sounds like a compilation of work he did for Discovery Networks called On Death Row which aired in 2011. it was a 4 part 1 hr series which focused on 4 or so other inmates he met while filming the project Into The Abyss. Mr Herzog is a filmmaker who has an excellent trait for telling stories and focusing on things in his films no other filmmaker would even go near... Love his work, and will tell you if you have the opportunity to watch this, Do so... Rated 5 out of 5 stars 02/24/23 Full Review Audience Member http://filmreviewsnsuch.blogspot.com/2012/05/on-death-row.html Rated 5 out of 5 stars 02/25/23 Full Review Audience Member Splendid documentary series from the great man, really looking forward to Into The Abyss now. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 02/05/23 Full Review Read all reviews Post a rating

      Movie Info

      Synopsis Death row inmates in Texas give intimate interviews about life in a maximum security prison.
      Director
      Werner Herzog
      Executive Producer
      Dave Harding, Nick N. Raslan, Henry S. Schleiff, André Singer, Lucki Stipetic, Sara Kozak
      Screenwriter
      Werner Herzog
      Genre
      Documentary
      Original Language
      English