Between the 1950s and early 70s, the CIA had conducted unsavory, often illegal, experiments with mind control. They attempted to use psychedelic drugs to make the human mind more malleable, force captives and spies to cough up confidential information. It is widely known as Project MKUltra. If not the most infamous, it is certainly one of the most bizarre publicly documented projects the CIA ever went forward with. The grandest irony is that these experiments led to the development of a little drug known as LSD, which made its way into the public and sparked the hippy free love movement of the 60s, a counterculture that became a heel to the American government. Perhaps where the CIA failed to use drugs for manipulative purposes, Manson succeeded.
Netflix is looking to reopen this x-file with their new miniseries, ‘Wormwood,’ a six-part docudrama about MKUltra and a death that, according to the victim’s son, remains unsolved. On November 28th, 1953, CIA scientist Frank Olson jumped through the 13th-floor window of his New York City hotel room. Originally deemed a suicide, investigations into Olson’s death uncovered that the CIA had secretly dosed him with LSD to monitor the effects. While he confessed to the dosing, Olson’s supervisor Sidney Gottlieb denied the drugs as the cause for Olson’s death, saying that he had been subjected at a company retreat well over a week before his death. In the years since LSD hasn’t exactly become associated with spontaneous window jumping either.
Peter Sarsgaard will be portraying Frank Olson in Wormwood.
Frank Olson’s son, Eric Olson, has never been satisfied by this account. Olson prompted the case to be re-opened in the early 90s, discovering evidence that suggest foul play may have been involved. Eric serves as the main subject in Wormwood. Even if it includes fictionalized versions of events, Wormwood is being created by famous documentary maker Errol Morris.
Morris’ most famous film, The Thin Blue Line, is credited for freeing Randall Dale Adams from a death sentence after being wrongfully accused of murdering a police officer. Morris won an Academy Award in 2003 for The Fog of War, a film about defence secretary Robert S. McNamara. When Morris released his first film, a documentary about pet cemeteries called Gates of Heaven, he won a bet against legendary documentarian Werner Herzog, who believed Morris would never complete a film. Herzog then had to eat his own shoe, which itself became a film by yet another famous documentarian Les Blank.
“I felt there was something there and I don’t know how it ultimately shapes out,” Morris told The Independent about his MKUltra film. “I talked with Eric and he was capable of telling a compelling story and he had a vast quantity of photographic material, movies and stills, that his father had taken and then there was the 60 plus year quest to solve the mystery of his father’s death.”
Wormwood comes to Netflix on December 15th.