Faces of Death

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This article is about the film. For the rap album of the same name, see Faces of Death (album).
Faces of Death
Faces of Death (movie).jpg
French VHS cover
Directed by Conan LeCilaire
Produced by William B. James
Herbie Lee
Rosilyn T. Scott
Written by Alan Black
Starring Michael Carr
Music by Gene Kauer
Cinematography Michael Golden
Edited by James Roy
Distributed by Aquarius Releasing
Release dates
  • November 10, 1978 (1978-11-10)
Running time 106 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
German
Budget $450,000[2]
Box office $35 million[3]

Faces of Death (also released as The Original Faces of Death) is a 1978 mondo film which guides viewers through explicit scenes depicting a variety of ways to die and violent acts.[4]

Production[edit]

The film was written by John Alan Schwartz (credited as "Alan Black" for writing) and directed by Conan LeCilaire (also John Alan Schwartz). Schwartz also took credit as second unit director, this time as "Johnny Getyerkokov". He also appears in one of the segments in this film, as the leader of the alleged flesh eating cult in San Francisco and puts in cameo appearances in several other films in this series. This film stars Michael Carr as the narrator, and 'creative consultant' called "Dr. Francis B. Gröss". John Alan Schwartz has gone on record as saying this film's budget was $450,000 and there are estimates that it has grossed more than $35 million worldwide in theatrical releases, not including rentals.

Release[edit]

The film is often billed as Banned in 40+ Countries, but actually it has only been banned (at least temporarily) in Australia, Norway, Finland, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. Although several of the "human death" scenes are obvious fakes (with Allan A. Apone, make-up and special effects artists for the film saying that about 40% of it is fake),[5] some of the footage is genuine. Famous scenes of death from the media are included, such as stock footage of a napalm bombing in Vietnam, various newsreel footage, and wartime footage of Adolf Hitler. Also featured are the actual on-camera deaths of a variety of animals, including seals being clubbed to death and animals being killed on the slaughterhouse line. In their book Killing for Culture, authors David Kerekes and David Slater note that the nadir of the film is the inclusion of an extreme fatal accident; "the shattered remains of a cyclist are seen under a semi-tractor trailer. The camera pans long enough to capture paramedics scooping up blood clots, brain matter, and clumps of hair from the tarmac – this incident is authentic and culled from newsreels."

Home media[edit]

In 2008, the film was re-released on DVD accompanied by an extensive interview with the film's editor Glenn Turner (credited as "James Roy"). Turner explains how they used numerous film techniques and tricks to make the fake footage appear real. Dark Sky Films released the film on Blu-ray Disc on October 7, 2008. A brand new high definition transfer was made with new material and a 5.1 digital soundtrack.[citation needed] In 2014, a region 2 DVD was released by Spinal Cord Filmz, using the 2008 HD transfer, including several extras, such as a trailer, a deleted scene, outtakes, two featurettes and a commentary track.

Reception[edit]

Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that Faces of Death received a positive review from 18% of 11 surveyed critics; the average rating was 2.6/10.[6]

Joshua Siebalt of Dread Central said, "As a curiosity piece, Faces of Death is well worth a look, especially if you've not seen it in a very long time. As for its place in horror cinema history, well, that remains to be seen. As I said it's not a film that holds up very well at all, but considering how groundbreaking it was for its time, I doubt anyone will ever forget it. And while it is nice to have all of the myths about Faces finally addressed by the people who created it, it also takes some of the fun out if it, too."[7]

Christopher Kulik of DVD Verdict wrote, "The YouTube generation will be unable to comprehend what purpose the film served thirty years ago, and thus it's difficult to ignore how hopelessly dated Faces of Death really is. In short, it's a cinematic experiment which has long outlived its effects, although it remains compelling for film and horror buffs viewing the film in the proper perspective. For the curious virgins, I say give it a shot only if you can handle what has been described up until this point; if you can get through Faces of Death, then you can get through just about anything. Feel free to judge for yourself."[8]

It was ranked #50 on Entertainment Weekly's "Top 50 Cult Films of All Time" in 2000.[citation needed]

Legacy[edit]

A number of sequels were made. Faces of Death II, III, and IV, as well as Faces of Death: Fact or Fiction? (a "documentary" on the making of the series) were written and at least partially directed by John Alan Schwartz. Faces of Death V and VI were released in the mid-90s, and are compilations made up entirely of highlights from the first four films, with no new footage at all, released in some countries where the original films were banned. The first three starred Carr as "Dr. Gröss", although The Worst of Faces of Death (released between installments III and IV and consisting of highlights from the first three installments) instead featured Schwartz's brother, James Schwartz, as "Dr. Louis Flellis". Flellis explains that he accidentally killed "Dr. Gröss" while operating on him the prior week. However, in Faces of Death IV, Flellis explains the absence of Dr. Gröss by stating that he had killed himself, having been driven insane as a result of witnessing so much death.

Also released under the title Faces of Death VII, was a condensed version of Anton LaVey's 1989 film, Death Scenes; and another assemblage of stock footage entitled Faces of Death part 7 was released as an online file sometime in the late 1990s. [source: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3026448/trivia]

Some of the actors and special makeup/effects crew have reportedly come forward to try to obtain credit for their work on this film. Most of these people were not in any union at the time of filming. This is the reasoning for the brief credits that helped make the film seem more realistic.[citation needed]

In 1993, copycat film Traces of Death was released. This film contained significantly more real footage of actual deaths, including footage of the televised suicide of Budd Dwyer.

The rock group Sonic Youth featured clips from the electric chair and morgue scenes in the music video for the song "Mote" from their 1990 album Goo.

The line "I had heard rumors about their ceremony. They believe that the power of everlasting life was found in the internal organs of the dead." is featured as an iconic sound sample by the death metal band Malodorous in their song "Eyes of Abomination".

Rock group Cymbals Eat Guitars reference the film in their 2014 song "XR" with the lyric "Here I am again at Ben's MySpace grave / And then out of nowhere the smell of his basement / Where we watched Faces of Death, and we regretted it".

References[edit]

  1. ^ "FACES OF DEATH (18) (!)". British Board of Film Classification. 2003-08-22. Retrieved 2012-12-30. 
  2. ^ Welch, Michael Patrick (2000-10-26). "Lifting the mask from 'Faces of Death'". Saint Petersburg Times. Retrieved 2014-01-02. 
  3. ^ "Faces of Death, Worldwide Box Office". Worldwide Box Office. Retrieved January 27, 2012. 
  4. ^ "Faces of Death". New York Times. AllRovi. Retrieved 2011-05-01. 
  5. ^ "Two Insiders Uncover the Not-so-real Faces of Death". AMC. Retrieved 2008-05-22. 
  6. ^ "Faces of Death". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2014-01-02. 
  7. ^ Siebalt, Joshua. "Faces of Death". Dread Central. Retrieved 2011-05-01. 
  8. ^ Kulik, Christopher. "Faces of Death". DVD Verdict. Retrieved 2011-05-01. 

External links[edit]