God Save My Shoes and Oso Blanco are examples of what NOT to do in a documentary. Recently I’ve watched some very middle of the road documentaries on Netflix. These fluff films from National Geographic are strictly by the numbers – if you enjoy the subject then you might enjoy the forty-five minute documentary on it. This is fast food and not terribly filling. In other words, these are a passable waste of three quarters of an hour.
Russia’s Toughest Prisons (2011) – TV-14
“For the first time, three prisons across Russia unlock their doors to an international film crew, allowing viewers access to top-security facilities where cannibals, terrorists and killers live out the rest of their days.”
This is a brief slice of life from Russia’s prisons – not much depth (hey it’s forty-four minutes) but some interesting information.
Madness in the White City (2007) – TV-14
“Dramatizing the events depicted in Erik Larson’s best-selling The Devil in the White City, this program investigates the life of H.H. Holmes, the 19th-century serial killer who fabricated a real-life house of horror at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.”
Okay forty-five minutes for this subject is hopelessly inadequate. This documentary tries to cover H.H. Holmes in the context of the world’s fair. Depending on your preference, this either covers the fair too much or H.H. Holmes. Go read the book for more information on both.
Science of Armored Cars (2009) – Rated TV-PG
“Armored cars are tough enough to resist an onslaught of gunfire, fast enough to evade ambush and strong enough to repel ammunition strike-back. This enlightening documentary examines what it takes to build these fortresses on wheels.”
Again forty-five minutes to give you the most basic overview of armored cars. Actually about fifteen minutes of useful information but watching an SUV in the process of being armored is pretty neat. It also comes across as a paid commercial for Alpine Armoring.