‘The Martha Mitchell Effect’, a Netflix documentary, is for anyone interested in US history

Image from ‘The Martha Mitchell Effect’ (Photo: Playback/Netflix)

Anyone who has completed the “Gaslit” series (on Starzplay) and wants to continue on the theme can check out “The Martha Mitchell Effect” (on Netflix). The friend who recommended the documentary to me warned that it was a short film with no narration. It’s 40 minutes gathering images of John Mitchell’s ex-wife. He was attorney general under Richard Nixon and then spent time in prison over the Watergate scandal. Martha denounced the government’s misdeeds from the beginning, against all odds. She paid dearly for it.

In “Gaslit,” Julia Roberts plays Martha. Sean Penn plays her husband. I recommend (there’s a review here). It’s the kind of plot that invites the viewer to research what really happened. Diving into archives from the time also serves to compare the actors’ brilliant work with the real figures.


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In the scenes seen in the documentary, Martha is always laughing, looking vulgar and strident. We do not know if the choice of images was intended to detract from it. Anyway, there is an important passage in which Nixon says in full: “Without Martha Mitchell there would have been no Watergate”. The speech is taken from the former president’s series of interviews with British journalist David Frost (they became a movie, “Frost/Nixon”).

The ex-president’s statement serves to put the points in the i’s. She places Martha in the right place: that of someone who has denounced a very serious fact. After that, she was forgotten. Neither “Gaslit” nor “The Martha Mitchell Effect” makes her a sympathetic figure. Even so, it should be known to anyone interested in American history.

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