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April 07, 2000 - Image 10

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2000-04-07

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10 - The Michigan Daily - Friday, April 7, 2000

ARTS

'Death' at the
door; a look into
mind of egomaniac

Marvel 'Punishes'.
its competition

By Aaron Rich
Daily Arts Writer
To be considered the Clara Bar-
ton of criminals awaiting the death
penalty might sound like a
,espectable distinction. And, in
theory it is. But for Fred Leuchter,
this distinction is laid out rather
ironically.
Leuchter, the main subject in
Errol Morris' new documentary
"Mr. Death - The Rise and Fall of
Fred A. Leuchter, Jr.," helps to
ease the pain of condemned peo-
pie. He has been obsessed with
executions since he was a young
boy. His father worked in the state
prison in Massachusetts, where

Lcuchter remembers fondly explor-

ing as a child. He
FMl Death
Grade: A
Starts Sunday at the
Michigan Theater

recalls being in
the room
where Sacco
and Vanzetti
lived in the
night before
their execu-
tions (he
makes no com-
ment on their
culpability).
Making a
career .out of
his passion,
L e u c h t e r
became a

By Michtael Anderson
For the DAly
Since making his debut as a hired gun
stalking a falsely accused Spider Man in.
the early 1970s, Frank Castle, a.k.a. the
Punisher, has become one of the most
popular and controversial characters in
comic books. Castle, an ex-Marine clad
in black with a skull adorining his chest,
embarked on a one-man crusade against
the New York underworld he held
responsible for the senseless murders of

Courtesy of Lion'sGate
Fred Leuchter stands by the side of a highway contemplating death, electric
chairs, the holocaust and his own greatness.

designer, or redesigner, of execu-
tion equipment. Beginning simply

rt

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with basic devices, he reworked the
electric chair of the state of Ten-
nessee making it more suitable for
men with bigger builds and adding
useful gadgets like a collection
system for bodily fluids that are
released as the prisoner dies.
Leuchter makes it clear that he is
in favor of the death penalty. He is
not in favor of torture, though, and
he feel that death machines not
designed by him are generally
inhumane (ergo the Clara Barton
analogy).
With this in mind, Leuchter
accepts offers from many different
states to develop a reliable lethal
injection machine. Later he reno-
vates the state gallows in Delaware
and works on a gas chamber. He
makes it clear that gas chambers
are the least reliable method of
quick and painless death. It is like-
lv, he says, that with most systems
the executioners will receive lethal
doses of the gas as well as the con-
demned.
Soon, Leuchter gets involved
with a trial in Ontario based on
one man's assertion that the holo-
caust did not happen and that what
are commonly considered Nazi gas
chambers for executing hundreds
at once, are actually bunkers and
air raid shelters. Leuchter is
employed to get to the root of the
"question" and decide if the gas
chambers are what the world has
come to accept.
Leuchter's findings are a mix of
poor science and bravado. He con-
cludes that the chambers are not
real and that there was no way for
the Nazis to kill so many Jews.
Immediately he is thrown into a
sea of hate. He loses work and

goes on tour reading his report to
holocaust revisionist and neo-Nazi
groups.
This film marks an interesting
turning point in Morris' work as
for the first time, he shows a story
revolving around an entirely piti-
ful, in evil, man. Before, sorry
characters would appear for a few
moments, they would be support-
ing faces in his stories or they
would serve as comic relief.
Leuchter is different. We get the
sense that he is aloof beyond nor-
mal convention. This leads him to
get caught in traps he did not see
on his horizon, though they were
readily apparent (as in getting
involved with neo-Nazis).
We wonder if his holocaust con-
clasion is entirely based on the
questionable scientific evidence or
if it rests largely on Leuchter's
assumption that he is the only
human capable of designing a
workable gas chamber. Leuchter is,
in effect, insulted by Nazi high
technology.
This true-life tale works as a
dynamic social and psychological
expose. Morris makes us ask why
state governments would let a man
with only a little specific experience
design certain execution devices
(what do the workings of an electric
chair have to do with the workings of
a trap door in a gallows?).
This is not a story about whether
the death penalty should be legal or
not and it is definitely not made to
question the truth of the holocaust.
It is about the inherent evil in
humans - the ability to rationalize
badness by diluting oneself. This
relates to Adolf Hitler as much as it
relates to Fred Leuchter.

rThe Pu:sher
Issue #1
Marvel Comics
Grade: A-

his wife and chil-
dren.
Utilizing
enough artillery
to make even
Rambo jealous,
the bloodthirsty
vigilante operated
outside of the
system, much to
the disdain of the
police and fellow
crime fighters like
Spider Man and
especially Dare-
devil. Neverthe-

screen adaptation starring Dolph "Ivan
Drago" Lundgren. Amidst all the expo--
sure Castle lost his mystique; and outra-
geous plots and poor writing finally did
in the character.
However, you can't keep a good anti-
hero down. With the debut of this new
series, writer Garth Enniss and Steve
Dillon have gone back to the basics,
reincarnating Castle as a morose, exis-
tential loner, a modern-day Grim
Reaper. In essence, he's been dead for
years, unable to join his family in hcavr
en because of his psychopathic tenden,
cies. Thus he remains on Earth, leading
one to believe there is no worse place
for him to descend. This suits Frank just
fine, he says after throwing a drug lord
to his death from atop a skyscraper. He
says, "the angels thought it would be
hell for me. But they were wrong."
Ennis and Dillon are the appropriate
team to undertake the task of reviving
Frank Castle since they helped another
excellent, violent series featuring an
anti-heroic protagonist, "Preacher." Cas-
tle is framed by a city as black as his
soul and as cold as his fierce blue eyes.
One could call this book comic noir.
The blasts of gunfire and bright red
pools of blood only illuminate the
scenes. The bad guys are always per-
spiring heavily before Frank methodi-
cally disposes of them. There is also just
the right pinch of humor to make his
endeavors as funny as they are unset-
tling. For example, witness his disposal
of a longhaired punk and his assistance0
to a fat man stuck in a doorway at his
dingy apartment building.

less this no-nonsense former family
man struck a nerve and his persona
made the transition from semi-villain to
recurring guest star to the lead of a suc-
cessful limited series and finally his own
series in the late '80s.
Unfortunately the market soon
became over saturated with spin-offs.
There was "Punisher War Joumal," then
"Punisher War Zone." More offshoots
followed, along with an atrocious big-

Photo courtesy or MarveliComics
Frank "The Punisher" Castle is a bad, bad man - and that's just how he likes it.

Pork Tornado to storm Pig,

By Chris Kula
Daily Arts Editor
If you're a nationally-known
musician who tours for the majori-
tv of the year, what do you do with
your time off?
If you're anything like Phish
drummer John Fishman, you jump
right back on the road.
When he gets a break from per-
forming with his high-profile Ver-
mont-based jamband, Fishman
plays with several other Burlington
musicians in the all-star bar band
called Pork Tornado.
The group is currently touring
select clubs along the East coast

Pork
Tornado
Blind Pig
Sunday at 9:30 p.m.

and throughout
the Midwest,
including a
Sunday night
stop at the
Blind Pig.
According to
fan reviews,
recent concerts
have been wild
affairs, with
girls jumping
onstage to
dance along to
20 minute ver-

sions of "Disco Inferno."
The band, which is comprised of
Fishman, keyboardist Phil Abair,

bassist Aaron Hersey, guitarist Dan
Archer and saxophonist/vocalist
Joe Max Moore, specializes in the
kind of dirty, funky tunes that are
the stuff of cover band legend.
However, in addition to its standad
James Brown covers, the Tornado
is also performing selections from
"The Century Turns," Abair's new
solo release.
The album features each of t
Pork Tornado players on variou-
tracks, further establishing their
collective - and respective -
prominence in the Burlington
music scene. Abair is a versatile
keyboardist who's appeared as a
session musician on albums by .a
number of area bands, most
notably Strangefolk, while Archer
owns and operates White Crow
Studios, the place where Phi*
recorded its 1991 album, "A Pic-
ture of Nectar."
Speaking of those hippie-rock
kings, the Pork Tornado tour offers
phans the rare opportunity to see
Fishman perform in intimate
venues - a stark departure from
the huge amphitheatres and arenas
that Phish now frequents.
Because of Fishman's large
appeal among the jam-happy mass-
es, several clubs hosting Pork T4
nado shows have reported quick
and thorough sellouts, a probable
fate for the 250 person-capacity
Blind Pig.

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