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Review of the Film "Killing Oswald," 2013, Shane O'Sullivan

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There is film for free now on YouTube, the 2013 effort by Irish author and movie-maker Shane O'Sullivan, entitled "Killing Oswald."


So you guys need some fresh meat to tear into, and here is a film review:


Killing Oswald

In the range of films and literature made about the JFKA, the film Killing Oswald (2013) by Shane O’Sullivan is not bad, but seriously stumbles in presentation, content and tone. Slickly and even cleverly made by documentary standards, one could have wished the effort went the extra mile, or found better advisers. But at least Killing Oswald it is not in the Lone Nutters abyss, and for small favors we can be thankful.

Despite some strengths, Killing Oswald starts off on its left foot, presenting the otherwise highly intelligent author and historian David Kaiser as a knowledgeable JFKA authority figure. 

“Otherwise,” because for reasons that baffle, Kaiser in 2008 authored The Road to Dallas, a book that posits the Mob somehow hoodwinked Lee Harvey Oswald into shooting the president, all by himself. 

And indeed, early in Killing Oswald “the Mob did it” angle gets a lot a credence, as related by Kaiser, who cites Robert Blakey, the chief counsel (19767-8) of the House Select Committee on Assassinations. 

Blakey was a veteran mob-hunter who suspected the Mob in the JFKA, and said so during his days at the HSCA. It should be noted in his later years Blakey realized he had been bamboozled by the CIA, and publicly said so (to his credit).  

After Killing Oswald stumbles out of the gate, then the jockey fall off the horse: Almost breezily, Kaiser dismisses the substantial work of Mark Lane and Oliver Stone as a pair who seize on on “any discrepancy in the evidence as proof of a conspiracy and cover-up.”

Kaiser then sanctimoniously places himself and other sensible people as between recondite extremists on the JFKA who are either 1) conspiracy-addled or 2) lone-nutter freaks. 


Lane’s book and film Rush to Judgement (1967) stands tall to this day on the merits, and moreover, Lane trudged cross-country with clunky camera equipment and old-fashioned celluloid to record for posterity, in their own words, what actual witnesses had to say about the JFKA. In Rush to Judgement, one can watch an actual witness such as railroad-worker Sam Holland, and take the measure of the man. Lane’s work was not mere cinematography, it was history, and provides unvarnished testimony.

No one doubts Josiah “Tink” Thompson, but imagine how much stronger the effect would be if Thompson had filmed Parkland personal director O.P. Wright that the bullet found near a hospital gurney on Nov. 22, and later presented as CE-399, the very bullet that passed through JFK and then Connally, was not the slug O.P Wright had held in his hand on Nov. 22. 

And Oliver Stone may have taken some artistic license with the JFKA in his film, but his contributions again tower, and have led to The President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992, which has helped pry documents from the federal government’s grasp that illuminate not only the JFKA but that period of history. 

Kaiser should pay contrite homage to Lane and Stone, not peevishly snipe. Why Killing Oswald starts with Kaiser leading the way is unfathomable. 

Kaiser is unabashed however, and digs his hole deeper by subscribing to the extremely dubious “single bullet” theory of the JFKA.

But as the Zapruder film rather clearly shows, Governor John Connally reacts to a separate gunshot from the one that apparently struck JFK in the neck. (To me, this is the most simple and indisputable evidence of more than one gunman).

Between Connally’s reaction to being struck by a bullet, and the subsequent fatal shot to Kennedy (frames ~290 to 313), is a little more than one second, or not enough time to have been executed by a single-shot bolt-action rifle. That’s just for beginners, among many other reasons why there were at least two guns in Dealey Plaza that day. 

Of course, JFK also appears to have been violently bashed to his left and back in the shooting, as if he received a blow from the direction of the Grassy Knoll. 

Beyond that, the connections between LHO and the Mob are sketchy as best, and involve LHO’s uncle-by-marriage Charles “Dutz” Murrett. Evidently Murrett operated in the world of New Orleans boxing and gambling, and was mobbed up. So what? This is the flimsiest sort of guilt-by-association. 

Kaiser essentially posits that LHO mother’s sister married a mobbed-up fellow, and that means LHO was mobbed up and the Mob did it? 

If we could choose our relatives….

In vast contrast, thanks to the work of long-time and serious JFK researcher John Newman and others, it is clear the CIA and other intel agencies had an operational interest in LHO that extended back as far as 1959. 

To be sure, Killing Oswald recovers its footing a bit when the documentary interviews Newman, who relates in several segments the CIA’s sustained interest in LHO.

Indeed, Newman goes so far as to say elements within the CIA were biography-building LHO with dread purpose before the JFK assassination for many months, perhaps for even a year. 

Newman, shockingly, then all but says elements in the CIA planned the JFKA, and manipulated the events that defined LHO, such as leaf-letting in New Orleans, his radio appearances, and the LHO visits to the Cuban and Russian embassies Mexico City.  

(My own suspicion is the CIA, and CIA Chief of Western Operations David Atlee Phillips, planned a false-flag fake assassination attempt on JFK, with LHO as the participant shooter who misses. The plan was piggybacked on by other elements, CIA assets, who implemented the plan but in earnest, with a ready-made patsy in LHO. Likely, then CIA higher-ups authorized the Mob to bring in Dallas mobster Jack Ruby to provide the title to Killing Oswald, in exchange for favors not known.) 

Viewers Adrift

The intelligent-but-uninformed viewer of Killing Oswald is thus left stranded, not sure if the initial “Mob did it, tricked Oswald into being patsy” version holds water, or whether it was the CIA that planned and then executed the JFK hit, or some other narrative. 

Adding to foggy schizophrenia, late in Killing Oswald, Kaiser fleetingly introduces the character John Martino, an anti-Castro militant who has sketchy Mob and CIA links. But how Martino ties into LHO is left a blank. Martino made claims that he was involved in a visit of LHO to Cuba shortly before the JFKA, but the assertion floats in the air, unverified in any way, and indeed seems unlikely. Martino also said he had a tertiary support role in the actual assassination. 

Again, the Killing Oswald viewer is left adrift, like a diner at an uncertain buffet without a menu, and where the restauranteur has great flair but no conviction in his fare. 

Dead Ends

There are some dead ends in Killing Oswald, such as the interviews of Dick Russell, who relates the strange tale of Richard Nagel, the Korean War hero who once worked in military intel, suffered brain injuries and also seems to have become consumed by inner devils. Russell is a tremendous and earnest author, but Nagel has never really panned out, and in the context of Killing Oswald, his story just clouds the waters. Too much of the Nagel story relies on Nagel’s word.

The ever-murky Silvio Odio episode is revived, in which she claims that LHO and two men visited her in October, 1963, about the time LHO was in Mexico City. Yes, if true that means LHO was impersonated in Mexico City since he could not be in two places at the same time, and also that LHO had pals in the anti-Castro movement. 

But there is plenty of indisputable evidence of LHO involved with anti-Castro people in New Orleans, and Odio’s claim may be one of mistaken identity. 

The Nagel and Odio stories are not verifiable, and not necessary to the construction of a compelling JFKA narrative. 

The Cloying Oswald Actor

In addition, Killing Oswald relies on too many re-enactments, in which an actor plays the Oswald character, who sometimes reads from letters, diary entries, political treatises, and so on. Some scenes, such as Oswald at the Cuban embassy in Mexico City, are also re-enacted. 

The character Oswald quickly becomes cloying in these scenes, especially in what are effectively soliloquies. 

Killing Oswald does not indicate that many of these LHO writings may have been intended for official consumption, such as letters home from Russia, or indeed may have been part of a biography-building program. 

Moreover, like many young people LHO may have been wandering for his political bearings, so to speak. We all know former liberals who become libertarians, and vice versa. Ultimately, LHO’s writings are largely inconsequential, but unfortunately, within the context of Killing Oswald, they suggest LHO was a true-blue communist who one day acted on his urges. 

Another failing is Killing Oswald’s treatment of the pot-shot taken at General Edwin Walker in Dallas in April, 1963. The documentary more or less takes at face value the cover story that LHO did it, and intended lethality. 

A worthy moment in Killing Oswald are the old newsreels of the window sill that deflected the shot as it entered Walker’s home; as seen in Killing Oswald, the sill is struck on the underside. Indeed, the window sill deflected the shot downwards, per DPD reports.

Yet the shot, fired from perhaps 30 yards away, missed the seated Walker on the high side, so much so that Walker told the DPD he initially was unaware he had been shot at, and thought a firecracker had been tossed into the house by local youths. 

Here the Harvard historian Kaiser outdoes himself, first by revealing he does not like to read primary materials like DPD reports, and then by musing if only LHO had shown the lack of resolve on Nov. 22 that he had shown in targeting Walker in April, history would be different. 

The far more likely explanation, that LHO was on a CIA-sponsored biography-building mission in his missed pot-shot at Walker, had assistance at the scene, and that LHO missed intentionally, does not seem to dawn on Kaiser, or the Killing Oswald filmmakers.   

Other missing elements

A single documentary cannot capture everything about the JFKA, and so we might forgive that Killing Oswald does not examine the lengthy and persistent cover-up of the JFKA, exemplified by such issues at the ersatz CE 399, the “magic bullet” now debunked, and almost certainly introduced into the evidentiary record by the FBI. 

Nevertheless, if the JFKA had been a Mob or Cuban-revenge hit, or just a nut-job assassination, there would be little stopping the federal government from a solid investigation. 

Instead, we got the Warren Commission and media complicity, the purpose of which was to obfuscate and pacify. This elementary truth was not addressed by Killing Oswald, and yet the cover-up is an excellent indicator of a foul, underlying truth. 

Even the feeble under-financed HSCA investigation, bungled by Chief Counsel Blakey, concluded there had been a conspiracy to assassinate JFK—and yet HSCA staffers bitterly complained about the lack of CIA cooperation.

By simple deduction, the CIA and federal government have something to hide. Given that deduction, then Mob, or Cuban-revengers, or lone-nut JFKA scenarios lose traction. 

Bright Spots

Killing Oswald does have many bright spots, including clips of LHO’s erstwhile friend, the ever-mysterious George De Mohrenschildt, gifted with a vague, deep Teutonic-Eastern European accent reeking of intrigue. De Mohrenschildt steals the show with his line that the establishment says a lunatic shot JFK, then a lunatic shot the lunatic LHO, and that the New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison, conducting a 1968 investigation into the JFKA, is lunatic too. “It is extremely insulting for the United States, this assumption that there are so many lunatics here,” says De Mohrenschildt.

The old black-and-white clips of President Kennedy, particularly in small interview settings, are painful to watch, so thoughtful, well-spoken, intelligent and measured is the president. What has happened to the nation that could find a JFK in 1960, but now finds a Trump, and Bush Jr. or a Biden? 

Anti-Castro warrior and CIA-asset Antonio Veciana is introduced, and makes his claim that he met LHO in the company of Maurice Bishop, aka David Atlee Phillips, in Dallas in September 1963.

A curiosity of Killing Oswald is researcher Newman identifies Phillips as the likely CIA higher-up handling LHO. But today Newman darkly suggests Veciana’s relations with Phillips are at least partly falsified, and the infamous LHO-Phillips-Veciana meeting never happened. 

Joan Mellon makes a few appearances in Killing Oswald, to lesser effect but always fun to watch, but she gets ensnarled in a confusing story about an Angelo Murgado (Kennedy) that does not move Killing Oswald forward. Mellon would have been far better deployed in explaining how the CIA gut-knifed Garrison while stabbing him in the back with planted agents on his staff—all with media complicity. 

A section on how the CIA, Washington establishment and a complicit media torpedoed Richard Sprague, the first HSCA counsel, would have been worthy as well. 

And of course, what is a JFKA documentary without James DiEugenio? Killing Oswald needed narrative assistance and guidance, and DiEugenio, with his encyclopedic knowledge, could have provided it.

It says something about the genre that with all of the flaws mentioned above (and many more, but this review is too long already), Killing Oswald is still one of the better treatments of the JFKA on film, and fun to watch.  














Edited by Benjamin Cole
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