Wormwood

Wormwood

Oscar-winning filmmaker Errol Morris examines the 1953 death of scientist and CIA employee Frank Olson in this docudrama. Olson fell from the window of his New York City hotel room and the death was originally ruled a suicide, but a 1975 report tied his death to a top-secret experiment. The series follows Olson’s son, Eric, on his decades-long quest to identify the mysterious circumstances surrounding his father’s death and figure out exactly what happened. As part of the search for information, Eric checks into the hotel room in which his father was staying on that fateful day and a forensics expert exhumes Frank’s body to find new clues.

Director: Errol Morris
Network: Netflix

Esquire best film of 2017

By Nick Schager
Esquire (full article)
December 18, 2017

Review: ‘Wormwood’ Confirms That Errol Morris Is Our Great Cinematic Sleuth
By A.O. Scott
New York Times 
December 14, 2017

Wormwood Is an Amazing Story About a CIA Murder Mystery
By Matt Zoller Seitz
vulture.com
December 14, 2017

Episode 1: “Suicide Revealed”
Wormwood opens with a mysterious death, LSD, and the CIA… and it only gets stranger from there.
Critical summaries of all six Wormwood episodes, by Vikram Murthi, AV Club
December 18, 2017

Episode 2 – “A Terrible Mistake”
In spite of the Colby documents, Wormwood doesn’t know what happened in that room.
December 19, 2017

Episode 3- “The Forbidden Threshold”
Wormwood spins its wheels slightly as Dr. Lashbrook and germ warfare enter the picture.
December 20, 2017

Episode 4 – “Opening The Lid”
Wormwood digs up Frank Olson’s body and looks through the CIA’s assassination manual.
December 21, 2017

Episode 5 – “Honorable Men”
Wormwood breaks through the frame and looks at the picture.
December 22, 2017

Episode 6 – “Remember Me”
It’s all bitter in the final chapter of Wormwood.
Dec 23, 2017


Code Name Artichoke (PDF – 12MB)
By Eric Olson, 2002
This important documentary, which premiered in 2002, was made for German public TV (ARD) by the excellent German investigative journalist Egmont Koch. It contains the only deep reporting to date on the connection between Nazi interrogation programs during WWII and the interrogation efforts carried out in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s by the CIA’s Artichoke project. This connection is essential for understanding the crisis Frank Olson underwent in the summer of 1953 after returning from Berlin, as well as the “enhanced interrogation” methods employed by the CIA after 9/11.

Eric Olson with his father, Frank Olson, Frederick, Maryland, late 1940s; from Errol Morris’s Wormwood. (Netflix)

 

Wormwood is different from any documentary I’ve experienced. It’s a masterful example of the power that can come with mixing facts with artful reenactments. And most notably, it’s Errol Morris again demonstrating his gift for allowing his subjects to reveal themselves: quirky pet owners; the citizens of Vernon, Florida; the MPs who served at Abu Ghraib; Robert McNamara; Donald Rumsfeld; and now, none more memorably than Eric Olson. Wormwood is a film I’ll long remember and think about.
— Frank Beaver

The Bitter Secret of ‘Wormwood’
By Tamsin Shaw
New York Review of Books
January 18, 2018

Nonfiction film sleuth
By Frank Beaver
Michigan Today
February 21, 2018

Who Killed Frank Olson?
NYRB website, subscription required
PDF Version
By Michael Ignatieff
The New York Review of Books
February 22, 2018