First Run Features // 2008 // 52 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Steve Power // June 5th, 2010
"The best political weapon is the weapon of terror." -- Heinrich Himmler
Heinrich Himmler: Anatomy of a Mass Murderer. The title pretty much tells you all you need to know. In the years leading up to and during the second World War, this now notorious figure was the power behind the Waffen SS, the core of Nazi Germany's Anti-Semitic terror squads, and the iron fist behind the German war machine. Michael Kloft's documentary, unfortunately, devotes relatively little time to anything but demonizing the man we already know, furthering the pre-existing notions that over 60 years of history have already told us. Nazi's were evil, Himmler was a Nazi, ergo Himmler was evil. Very little is said of his actual life, instead we get some choice soundbites and the jot notes version.
While I don't wish to belittle the strife of the Jewish people at the hands of Hitler's Nazi regime, I must say that I was terribly disappointed when a documentary that promised me "The anatomy of a mass murderer," instead treats it's supposed focus as a footnote, and instead becomes yet another documentary full of Holocaust testimonials. There's a lot of stories of train cars and atrocities, and very little to put it into context with the man named in the title. Again, I must stress that I do not wish to belittle or dismiss the Jewish Holocaust in any way, shape, or form, but there are much more thorough, important, and essential viewings about that particular chapter of human history. I would have preferred a look into Himmler's personal life, a more intimate look at how he was directly involved, what he was responsible for, why he did what he did, and how he was perceived. What was it about those early rallies that got him involved? How did he and Hitler meet? How did they get along? What sorts of deals did he attempt to make with the allies before Hitler cut ties with him? How much of the "final solution" was actually his doing rather than Hitler's (some conspiracy folks claim Himmler was the true motivator of the genocide commited, and Hitler's whereabouts were unknown). Instead of a close up look at one of the "big three" Nazi Boogeymen (Hitler and Mengele being the other two), we get sparse talk of him amidst all of the usual Holocaust trappings. At times I forgot I was watching a documentary on Himmler, as there are long stretches where his name vanishes completely in favor of yet more talk of concentration camps and train cars, atrocities and persecution. Sure, one may argue that Himmler himself was such an integral part of the "final solution," that any talk at all of the Holocaust is talk of the man directly, but again, there just doesn't seem to be a lot of focus on the man.
First Run Features has done a solid job on this disc. Technically, the anamorphic picture is great, with archival film and color footage looking as good as one might expect for something from the period. The sound is likewise a great effort, with the well spoken narrator coming through loud and clear in stereo. Extras consist of a gallery of other World War II centric offerings from First Run, some with trailers, and a bio on director Michael Kloft.
It's truly a shame that you'd learn more about Hienrich Himmler by checking out his entry on wikipedia.
The documentary barely touches on the subject matter alluded to in the title, but the disc is first rate. Sentencing is suspended for the time being.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: First Run Features
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 52 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Image Gallery