'An American Murder Mystery' DVD: Documentary Series on Cases Ranging From Natalie Wood to Casey Anthony
National Enquirer executive editor Dylan Howard being both a producer and a host regarding the current Investigation Discovery series "An American Murder Mystery" is very apt for this equally entertaining and educational guilty pleasure. The September 18, 2018 3-disc DVD release "An American Murder Mystery Collection" provides a good chance to relish seven especially intriguing cases that that tabloid television series analyzes. These one-time national obsessions include the Natalie Wood, Scoot Peterson, and Chandra Levy cases.
These offerings combine archival footage, talking heads that include investigators and prosecutors from the cases, interviews with ordinary folks with a relevant tale, and reenactments of key events. In at least one case, we also get a sit-down one-on-one with a prime suspect.
"Collection" begins with a three-episode study of the Casey Anthony case; the synopsis of this one is that Floridian Casey is the early 20-something mother of illegitimate daughter Caylee. The drama begins with Casey telling parents George and Cindy with whom Casey and Caylee live that she has not seen her daughter for a month. In a variation of stating that the butler did it, Casey asserts that a nanny is the culprit.
The resulting wild goose chase gets the goat of the po po and puts them on the right track in ways such as poking a sieve worth of holes in virtually every aspect of the story of Casey. The concurrent search leads both to discovering the body of Caylee and to literally putrid evidence regarding the storage of the corpse in the interim between the killing and finding Caylee.
The soap opera continues with Casey being arrested for the murder and with her trial for the offense, The clear theme is that there is a difference between the law and justice. Under the law, the weakness of direct evidence hinders prosecuting Casey. A related issue is the fact that the legal system does not require that Casey prove that she is innocent; the prosecutor must prove that she is guilty,
The tabloid aspect includes outrageous claims by Casey; one of the most memorable ones is her attorney graphically describing a teen-age Casey attending school as if nothing is amiss after being molested the night before. We also hear an absurd theory regarding the circumstances of the death of Caylee. More guilty pleasure relates to reports regarding the manner in which Anthony compensates her attorney. A clue is that he does not get "gas" or "grass" for his services.
Refraining from stating the outcome of the trial and the public response to that verdict is for the benefit of folks who are unfamiliar with the case.
The similar JonBenet Ramsey case from a decade before the Anthony murder gets a comparable three-episode arc. The elements that make this mid-90s spectacle noteworthy include it occurring relatively early in our current era of 24-hour cable news networks that must find enough material to keep people watching for hours. It further shines a spotlight on the creepy world of beauty pageants for young girls.
The tabloid-worthy elements begin with former Miss West Virginia/current trophy wife Patsy Ramsey coming downstairs in her luxurious home the day after Christmas to find an oddly lengthy three-page ransom note. The ensuing investigation leads to Jon Benet father/Patsy husband John Ramsey finding the body of the little girl in the basement of the house.
This one is a tabloid production dream; we get a mother vicariously living through her young daughter having credible circumstantial evidence against her. We also have a pedophile Santa and other creepy men with despicable thoughts toward young girls, and a complete freak who claims to be an eye witness to the death. This odd-looking man who currently does not have any balls is the person-of-interest who grants "Murder" an interview.
Just as a major theme in the "Murder" coverage of Casey Anthony is the lack of direct evidence, a primary aspect of the episodes on JonBenet is literally sloppy police work. The first cops to respond to the report of the kidnapping neglect to preserve the crime scene. Another surprising early bungle is to meet the demand of Patsy and John Ramsey that they be interviewed together. Sadly, that is not the extent of that part of the story.
The concept of the national obsession cases and the manner in which the Anthony and Ramsey cases are presented strongly suggest that the other five stories in "Collection" receive similar treatment. The "ingredients" are well-known facts, new revelations, professional insights, and speculation. All of these are particularly suitable for the included story of missing intern Chandra Levy who ultimately is found dead in a D.C. park.