Of Dolls and Murder Screens Tonight at SMoCA Lounge

of dolls and murder.jpg
See Dead Doll Films
A scene from Of Dolls and Murder
Well-honed powers of observation are an absolute must for any detective. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle knew this, as demonstrated by the sleuthing skills of his greatest creation Sherlock Holmes.

Millionaire heiress Frances Glessner Lee also believed criminal investigators should have a similarly keen eye, which is why she helped revolutionize forensic science and spent decades creating painstakingly decorated and highly accurate dollhouses depicting miniature crime scenes.

Inspired by actual murder cases, this series of corpse-strewn dioramas were titled "Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death" and are at the heart of the enthralling 2010 indie documentary Of Dolls and Murder, which screens tonight at SMoCA Lounge in Scottsdale.

of dolls and murder diorama.jpg
See Dead Doll Films

Susan Marks, the film's director, exhaustively details both Glessner Lee's background and the creation of her dollhouses in the 70-minute documentary, as well as how both influenced forensic pathologists, police detectives, and even the hit TV show CSI. Plenty of screen time is also devoted to a much headier issue: Our culture's obsession with murder as entertainment.

Dr. John Eric Troyer, one of talking heads featured in Of Dolls and Murder (who works as a scholar with the Centre for Death and Society at the University of Bath in England) states that mankind's morbid curiosity with murder is a byproduct of grappling with our own mortality.

"There's sense of a kind of a need to understand that we all die. But I think more than the need there's a desire to see some kind of depiction of death as long as its not our own," Troyer says.

Before diving into such heavy-duty material, however, the film explores the late Glessner Lee's unique life. A Midwestern socialite who was forbidden by her family from attending college, she instead spent two decades creating the 20 "Nutshell Studies" dollhouses. It allowed her to indulge her meticulous nature, a yen for miniatures and mysteries, as well as a lifelong love of Sherlock Holmes.

Doyle was once stated, "It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important," and Glessner Lee's dollhouses illustrated the author's belief in exhaustive fashion.

A particular fan of Holmes' obsession with easily overlooked facts other gumshoes might miss, her "Nutshell Studies" dioramas intricately mimicked murder scenes down to the smallest detail, including working doors and locks, realistic-looking decomposition, and bloodied bodies adorned in outfits knitted with straight pins. For inspiration, she combed through court records of cases such as the triple murder of couple Robert and Kate Judson (as well as their infant daughter) or the death of Charlie Logan (who's wife attempted to hide his murder by making it look like a suicide).

Location Info


SMoCA Lounge

7374 E. 2nd St., Scottsdale, AZ

Category: General

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