Thursday, June 4, 2009

Faces of Death (1978)

...aka: Original Faces of Death, The

Directed by:
John Alan Schwartz

Many people know that this "mondo" movie became a huge hit on video, but I bet fewer people know that it was also a hit on the big screen and played in many theaters across the globe. By now, it's also pretty common knowledge that a lot of the supposedly "real" footage contained in this notorious shockumentary is actually fake. In fact, the Make-Up Effects Lab out of Hollywood even gets a special thanks in the end credits for creating some of the death/gore scenes! “Highlights” include an electrocution, a decapitation, a bear attack ("Don't get too close!"), animal being killed (a look inside a slaughterhouse, monkey brain eating, etc.), car wrecks, plane crashes, cannibalism and lots of autopsy footage. If you're game I guess you could have some gross-out fun trying to figure out what's real and what's not. Otherwise, this probably isn't worth watching unless you're a sick fuck who gets off on this kind of stuff. Director "Conan Le Cilaire" and writer "Alan Black" are aliases for John Allan Schwartz (primarily a TV writer) and host/narrator "Francis B. Gross" is really actor Michael Carr, who would go on to play same in some of the "sequels."

A huge money-maker, this helped establish Gorgon as one of the top horror labels of the VHS era and was followed by FACES OF DEATH 2-6 (1981-1996, with part 5 and 6 simply reusing footage from the other four), THE WORST OF FACES OF DEATH (1987; which is nothing more than recycled footage from the first three) and FACES OF DEATH: FACT OR FICTION? (1999), which contains even more recycled footage and feins being a revealing look at the series but instead comes off as a desperate attempt to squeeze more nickels and dimes out of an already-dead franchise. Speaking of which, a 2008 "Director's Cut" was issued by Gorgon complete with audio commentary from Schwartz. Does anyone actually care anymore?

Dozens of similar tapes were released during the 80s and early 90s in the wake of FOD's success (DEATH FACES, TRACES OF DEATH, etc., etc.). Many of them even copied the cover art (a skull) to cash in. I haven't seen a single one that I deem worth ones time, especially nowadays when some of the sickest shit imaginable is only a mouse click away.

Score: 2 out of 10

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