Directed By: Nick Broomfield
Starring: Nick Broomfield, Alleen Wuornos, Steve Glazer
Line from this film: "I don't care what the sentence is. I'm already on death row"
Trivia: Nominated for the Grand Jury Prize for Documentary at the 1993 Sundance Film Festival
It was between 1989 and 1990 that Aileen Wuornos, known as “Lee” to her friends, killed seven men along the highways of Central Florida. A prostitute by trade, she’d lure her victims into a wooded area, then shoot them and steal their wallet and car. Her live-in girlfriend Tyria Moore claimed to know nothing about these crimes, and when Lee Wuornos finally surrendered to police, she told them that she acted alone. Once incarcerated, Wuornos, now billed as the first ever female serial killer in U.S. history, was tried for all seven murders (over the course of many months) and each time was sentenced to death by electrocution.
But then, we know all this from the excellent 2004 Patty Jenkins film Monster, in which Charlize Theron played Wuornos and Christina Ricci was Tyria Moore. Nick Broomfield’s 1992 documentary Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer shows us what happened in the months and years immediately after Lee Wuornos’ arrest, when everyone from her lawyer to the police were looking to profit from her crimes.
After a brief rundown of the events mentioned above (including video footage of Wuornos confessing to the crimes), Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer introduces us to some of the people who grew close to Lee after her arrest. Following her trial for the murder of victim #1, Richard Mallory (which resulted in her first death sentence), Wuornos replaced her public defender (who failed to introduce evidence that Mallory was a convicted rapist) and brought in Steve Glazer to represent her. A former professional musician who decided to try his hand at law, Glazer also put director Broomfield in touch with Arlene Pralle, who had “adopted” Wuornos a few months after she was taken into custody. Claiming that it was Jesus who brought them together, Arlene tells of how close she and her new “daughter” have become, and it was Arlene and Steve, working together, who convinced Wuornos to plead “No Contest” (in other words “guilty”) at her next trial. They told her that confession was good for the soul, but it sure didn’t help her body much, seeing as Wuornos was sentenced to death three more times (Arlene and Steve said she was “ready to die”, but instead of remaining calm, Wuornos throws a fit when the judge pronounces sentence, shouting obscenities as the guards led her from the courtroom).
Steve and Arlene claim their intentions are pure, that they simply want to help their good friend through this most difficult time. Of course, they also demanded $10,000 from Broomfield to speak with him on-camera. As for Wuornos, she refused to talk to Broomfield on numerous occasions, despite assurances from Arlene and Steve that she would gladly do so.
In addition to this, we learn Wuornos’ former lover Tyria Moore may have swung a deal with police for (if you can believe it) the movie rights to the story. Wuornos complains about “police corruption” during her subsequent court appearances, though most dismiss it as the ramblings of a crazy woman. Imagine their surprise when, a few months later, three investigators on the Wuornos case were forced to step down over… you guessed it.. their role in trying to secure a movie deal for the story!
By keeping his cameras rolling, Broomfield captures all of the turmoil that made its way into Aileen Wuornos’ life once she was in prison, and quite often we’re rolling our eyes at the gibberish coming out of Steve and Arlene’s mouths (Arlene tells of how she was in a serious auto accident a while back, and the doctors told her it was “the flow of love” from her to Wuornos that saved her life). Merging this behind-the-scenes fiasco with actual news reports and police file footage, Broomfield creates a documentary that’s as engrossing as it is sad.
Bottom line: Aileen Wuornos committed seven murders, and she deserved to be punished for her crimes. What she didn’t deserve, though, were all these yahoos in her life!