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Damiel Echols...before his release from prison

Damiel Echols…before his release from prison

“WEST OF MEMPHIS” My rating: B  (Opens March 8 )

147 minutes | MPAA rating: R

The infamous case of the West Memphis Three – teens convicted of the Satanic 1993 murders of three boys – has already been the subject of three first-rate documentaries by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky: “Paradise Lost: The child Murders at Robin hood Hills” (1996), “Paradise Lost 2: Revelations” (2000) and “Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory” (2011).

Amy Berg’s “West of Memphis” though, benefits from being the first film on the subject since the three accused murderers – Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, Jr. – were released last year after their lawyers successfully argued that new evidence (much of it disseminated through the Berlinger and Sinofsky docs) warranted an appeal in front of the Arkansas Supreme Court.

“West of Memphis” (produced by Hobbit-lord Peter Jackson) tries to be encyclopedic…and with a running time of 2 ½ hours it not only recycles  well-known details of the case (sloppy investigative work, the prejudicial witch-hunt atmosphere during the trial) but takes side-trips into new revelations and accusations.

There’s some really fascinating stuff here, like an experiment using dead pigs to show that the marks on the bodies of the murder victims were not signs of ritual torture (as maintained by the prosecution) but rather were the results of turtle bites inflicted while the dead boys floated in a water-filled ditch.

(more…)

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