TV Highlights

What was on Saturday 16th August

Werner Herzog on Death Row

Discovery - 10pm

Who's in it?

Legendary filmmaker Werner Herzog sat down for some hypnotically eerie chit-chat with an unrepentant murderer in the return of his prison-based series.

In a nutshell

On the cheesiness scale of TV programmes, most true crime shows are fondue-level. The narrator always sounds like he's fresh from the trailer of a Jason Statham movie, and you're usually hit with a barrage of ultra-violent reconstructions and close ups of bodily bits. The pleasure of Werner Herzog's Death Row shows – if pleasure is the right word, which it definitely isn't – is how still it is. How poised, and delicate, and peaceful.

He simply lets the imprisoned killers tell their sad stories, in generally matter-of-fact ways. Herzog's own voice adds to the surreal atmosphere – liltingly European, both aloof and friendly, he sounds like an off-duty Dracula hobnobbing with humans. "Human" being an elastic term when applied to the chap in this episode – Douglas Feldman, who for no reason whatsoever shot two truck drivers to death in cold blood one night in 1998. Coldly emotionless (he wrote in prison letters that he'd wipe all of humanity out if he could), Feldman was possibly the least sympathetic of all Herzog's subjects to date. But definitely one of the most compelling.

What's the verdict?

Showing the sombre ugliness behind the flashy media monster (Feldman was dubbed "The Terminator" by some tabloids), this was a brilliant, if deeply uncomfortable, piece of television.

5/5

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07-07-2011