Icarus Films remains true to its philosophy of "be part of the conversation" regarding the November 10, 2015 DVD release of the 2014 HBO Documentary
"Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart" from this distributor of the best documentaries from just about every country. The post-Halloween treat this time is that the tabloid subject matter adds a dusting of confectioner's sugar to the typically provocative subject of a DVD in the Icarus catalog.
The following YouTube clip of the HBO promo. for "Captivated" awesomely showcases both the sensationalistic elements of the case and the expert portrayal of the related elements.
The underlying incident that triggers (pun intended) the events that "Captivated" artfully documents is the 1990 murder of Derry, New Hampshire resident Greg Smart. A subsequent "would you believe" turn-of-events provides the more direct fodder for the documentary. Discovering that charming psycho teen boy Billy Flynn and his equally dirt bag buddies are the perpetrators is only the beginning of the story. The evidence soon shows that Greg's Van Halen-loving wife Pamela, who works at the media center of the high school that Flynn attends, seduced hot-for-teacher Flynn and paid him and his aforementioned buddies to kill Greg.
The primary noteworthy element of the titular trials are that the pre-OJ and pre-reality show glut judicial proceedings to determine the degree of guilt that Pamela possesses regarding the death of Greg is that it is the first televised trial in U.S. history. "Captivated" shows that, ala the subsequent Simpson trial, Americans become obsessed with watching the proceedings here and that the judicial system may be out to get Smart.
The possible alleged bias begins with the strong potential that knowledge of pre-trial media coverage of the Smart case likely taints the objectivity of candidates for the jury. Aside from learning about the case through news reports, a provided example of the media not accurately portraying the known circumstances of the case include widespread reports of Pamela being a teacher despite her being the director of media services at the school.
A related (and arguably more valid) issue in "Captivated" is the difference regarding the penalties that the boys and Pamela face. It is undisputed that a guilty verdict for the crime with which Smart is charged requires a much longer sentence than the possible liability of the boys from the 'hood straight outta Seabrook.
"Captivated" further documents the then-ground breaking nature of the impact of the Smart trial on the national psyche. Film maker Jeremiah Zagar treats us to wonderfully lurid footage from the Gus Vant Sant feature film "To Die For," which stars Nicole Kidman and the cheesier CBS television movie "Murder in New Hampshire." The latter stars Helen Hunt and then-teen-idol Chad Allen.
Zagar demonstrates the media savvy of Smart even before being becoming a suspect in the case; one of several compelling scenes has Smart directing a reporter who is covering the story to include a "poignant" shot of her sadly looking at the frozen top tier of her wedding cake. A later scene shows that Smart still plays to the cameras 25 years later.
"Captivated" presents all of the above in the comprehensive and equal parts entertaining and educational manner for which HBO documentaries are famous. Smart, the reporter who first covered the story, the father of Greg, the attorney for Smart, and a cast of seemingly 1,000s with a role in the proceedings all tell their stories. Cleverly formatted copious video clips of said news coverage and legal proceedings supplement said talking heads.
The best way to think of all of the above is that the Smart trials are the second biggest media circus that the 20th Century had seen, Whether the judicial system missed it by that much regarding dispensing justice to Pamela amidst all the chaos and if anyone involved should be 86ed remains subject to debate.
The bonus features include a Toronto International Film Festival Q&A session with Zagar and the theatrical trailer for "Captivated."
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Captivated" is strongly encouraged to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.