Of Dolls and Murder (DVD) Recreates the History of Forensics
Who would have imagined that one of the moving forces behind forensic science was an upper-class senior citizen who was so protected in her youth she wasn’t allowed to attend college? Francis Glessner Lee has been described as a “crime-fighting grandmother,” but in so many ways that description minimizes her role in the birth of forensic science.
Lee was the creator of the “Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Deaths,” essentially doll house crime scenes fashioned with miniatures to educate law enforcement personnel. The dioramas Lee produced in the 1930s and 1940s were small-scale reproductions of murders and suicides that are still used to educate investigators on crime scene analysis.
Of Dolls and Murder is a quirky glimpse at Lee’s dollhouse crime scenes and their value, as well as an introduction to forensics, an examination of the differences between CSI and real life criminal investigations, and a look at modern facilities such as the body farm and its function as a learning tool.
John Waters was a fitting choice to narrate the history of various dioramas; his droll delivery of the facts behind each case provides suitable context for the unknown. Disappointingly, the true facts of each case are kept locked away and are known to one man who has no intention of sharing them. Instead, those involved in law enforcement and forensics view the recreations as part of their training in investigation.
There is something macabre about dollhouse reproductions of brutal murder scenes, but Of Dolls and Murders puts it into perspective, allowing viewers insight into the workings of crime scene investigation units. It is a fascinating documentary, especially for those interested in forensic sciences. DVD release date: April 24, 2012.