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
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]


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.


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. 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.


Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that Faces of Death received very poor reviews, accounting for 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] However, many reviews considers it to be a grotesque and morbid voyeuristic experience.


Although about 40% of its content was shown to be fake, debates have raged on for years about what content in the film is real and what content isn't.

However, some of its faked scenes were based on real practices. For example, a scene that simulated a monkey being beaten to death with a hammer and its brains being eaten was based on preparation of a real dish called monkey brains.[9][10]

See Also[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. There were two actors going by the same name. The actor who portrayed Francis B. Gross was an actor who worked only from the 1950s to the 1970s. Born July 17, 1930 And Died May 4, 2001 and was not found hung from a ceiling, but died from cancer. The second actor who went by the working name Michael Carr was a foreign actor, who made US films. who was found dead, but was a much younger actor worked only in the 90s til the early 2000s who was in B films like, Legion of the Dead (2001) and Erotic Confessions (1994) mostly soft core films. He has no correlation with the Faces of Death films other than sharing the same name. [11]

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.[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".

American singer-songwriter Amanda Palmer references the film in her 2008 song "Guitar Hero" with the lyric "I'd rather pick up right where we left/ Making out to Faces of Death."

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".


  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. 
  9. ^ http://www.filmmonthly.com/horror/faces_of_death_30th_anniversary_edition.html
  10. ^ http://www.cine-excess.co.uk/the-face-of-death.html
  11. ^ http://www.michaelcarr.com/content_actor.html

External links[edit]