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Thursday, March 6, 2014

'The Cheshire Murders' DVD: A Massacre in Connecticut

The Cheshire Murders (HBO)
Warner Archive's recent DVD release of the 2013  film "The Cheshire Murders" from the uber-awesome HBO Documentary Films series, which usually premieres entries at 9:00 p.m. ET, demonstrates that this movie about an "In Cold Blood" style crime in New England remains compelling after multiple viewings.

"Cheshire" focuses on the aftermath of a 2007 event in the titular Connecticut community in which soccer mom Jennifer Petit and her two daughters are killed and subjected to other atrocities following a home invasion and in which her badly beaten pediatrician husband Dr. William Petit barely survives.

Director Kate Davis, who won several awards for directing the 2001 documentary "Southern Comfort" and who helmed the exceptional 2010 documentary "Stonewall Uprising," provides amazingly comprehensive coverage of  numerous topics in "Cheshire." These include the histories of the Petit family and the admitted perpetrators Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky, allegations of police negligence, the court proceedings regarding the prosecutions of said malfeasors, and the debate regarding the death penalty generally and proposed changes to the relevant law in Connecticut in the years following the crimes.

As one talking head states eloquently and politely in the film, the nature of this event makes even the most ardent opponent of the death penalty want to shout "Burn, Baby Burn!"

Davis achieves the seemingly impossible feat described above through world-class editing of news footage, interviews with relevant individuals, and archival photos. Each segment is the perfect length, and none are extraneous.  It is even more amazing that Davis achieves all this in roughly two hours.

These compelling stories and the sheer volume of information that "Cheshire" conveys makes it a textbook example of a film that never goes stale.

The following promo, courtesy of YouTube, for "Cheshire" does an equally amazing job conveying the themes of the film in 46 seconds.



The underlying story of a family experiencing what Komisarjevsky fully realizes is a horrific violation of their intimacy and security is adequately fascinating to warrant a documentary; this theme of (often random) horror invading an ordinary existence is a Hitchcock mainstay and a theme in the theatrically released February 2014 documentary "As the Palaces Burn" that Unreal TV reviewed when it premiered.

The fact that the "Cheshire" incident occurs in relatively wealthy low-crime community contributes to the impact of the film.

This is one is series of horrible reminders that spending a premium to live in an upscale city or town does not fully insulate you from the type of violent crime that is more common in less affluent areas; more specifically, it sends a message nearly one year after the Boston Marathon bombings on a street with high-end shops and restaurants that no place in America is safe these days.

The other well-proven lesson from "Cheshire" is that society does not adequately intervene before someone who gives off enough warning signs to trigger scads of sirens and flashing red lights for years commits a horrible crime that has a much worse ripple effect than the flapping of the wings of even the largest butterfly in the world.

A huge gap exists between the thought police and letting asylum inmates run amok. Law enforcement and political leaders simply must move appropriately closer to the latter; retroactive band-aids after the proverbial horse is halfway to Calie do not cut it.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Cheshire" or the strong views expressed in the brief trip to Blogland are encouraged to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.