DVD Review: Doctors of the Dark Side

When you become a doctor, you’re supposed to take the Hippocratic Oath. This professional promise includes “and never do harm to anyone.” But what if you’re a medical professional working for a government agency that specializes in what can be considered torture? Around the globe, there are plenty of Best Doctors who take part in interrogation sessions. The doctor’s job isn’t to directly harm the subjects. Their job is to monitor the tortured person’s vitals to determine if there’s just a little more pain that can be applied. For those in the pro enhanced interrogation game, that extra touch might coax out the necessary information to save the world. Doctors of the Dark Side explores those who not longer practice the healing arts.

While it’s easy to think enhanced interrogation techniques are only used on foreign terrorists, the movie addresses the case of Petty Officer Daniel King in the Fall of 1999. He was a Navy cryptologist who flunked a routine polygraph test. He was immediately imprisoned and treated as a spy. He had no clue what he could have possibly had done to trip up the machine. During his time locked up, he was given access to a psychologist. Turned out the guy was a stealth interrogator who pretended to be there to help King. The torture got King to confess to anything to stop the punishment. In the end, the Navy let him go finding out he wasn’t a spy. The psychologist would find himself in more demand post-9/11.

He and other medical personal have helped gray up the “what is torture” concept. Doctors have moved into realm of letting CIA interrogators know how much farther they can go. They act as fight doctors patching up the prisoner for another round. Their job isn’t to treat the patient. These doctors sound more like characters in an Eli Roth Hostel sequel. There is coverage of what doctors did at Abu Ghraib prison. Plenty of experts discuss the role of these doctors. The only downside of the documentary is a lack of interviews with any of the doctors and psychologists. They aren’t blindly proud of their career path. After the tape of the psychologist working Petty Officer King, the various medical officials did their best to remain off camera. Director Martha Davis recreates torture scenes to give a sense of the physician’s role. These were based on declassified documents from the government so it’s not merely taken from Zero Dark Thirty. Doctors of the Dark Side raises important questions about whether these individuals should be considered doctors or sadists with medical knowledge.

The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic. The recreated moments look a little better than several of the interview subjects. But you can sense the details in the torture scenes. The audio is Stereo 2.0. The levels are fine on the people talking about torture techniques.

How We Filmed the Torture Doctors (3:47) allows Martha Davis explain how the medics and doctors kept away from camera. She had to recreate moments.

Worse Than the Pictures: An Insider’s View of Abu Ghraib (13:16) addresses the blight of the serviceman who wouldn’t stay silent about what he saw in the notorious Iraqi prison. This is an extended part of his interview.

How to Help Doctors Prevent Torture (9:50) talks about medical ethics.

Doctors of the Dark Side questions the role of medical professionals during interrogations that might considered torture back in World War II. Is it ethical? Or are these doctors The film does its best even with its subjects being rather media shy.

Shelter Island presents Doctors of the Dark Side. Directed by: Martha Davis. Narrated by: Mercedes Ruehl. Featuring: Dr. Steven H. Miles and Nathaniel Raymond. Running Time: 71 minutes. Released: May 7, 2013. Available at Amazon.com.

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