FACES OF DEATH
Directed by Conan le Cilaire (John Alan Schwartz)
Written by Alan Black (John Alan Schwartz)
Cast: Dr. Francis B. Gröss (Michael Carr)
1977/105 mins/Color/Dolby Digital 5.1
1.85:1 anamorphic/English/US/NTSC Region 1
Review from the Gorgon Video DVD
"You'll be witness to what I have discovered. May you be the jury, but your verdict will be one of self-conviction. I know what I have witnessed; now it's your turn. Prepare yourself for a journey into a world where each new step may give you a better understanding for your own reality. For I'm sure you shall gain a new perspective for the many faces of death!"-- Dr. Francis B. Gross, Narrator
You've probably seen it out of curiosity or simply just heard about it and are afraid of watching it. You might have been shocked, disgust, or loved it but no one can deny of the importance of FACES OF DEATH. This shockumentary explicitly depicts a variety of ways to die and violent acts. All because of mankind's morbid curiosity of death.
I remember seeing that oversized VHS box where that very graphic cover of that man on the electric chair. Everyone knew about the film, but few actually managed to see it. And when we did it was on a grainy bootlegged VHS tapes passed down from friends. This film by itself created so many urban legends, as everyone knew someone who knew someone who somehow was in this "documentary".
Not surprisingly thirty years later, FACES OF DEATH is just as powerful. Some scenes are still hard to watch, while others are not as shocking any more thanks in part to the avalanche of similar materials on the Internet. In 1975, the Italian mondo-movie THE GREAT HUNTER, which showed explicit footage of animals being killed, proved remarkably popular in Japan. Japanese distributors wanted something similar but with humans, that’s where documentarian John Alan Schwartz (aka Conan le Cilaire) became involved in the project. FACES OF DEATH was released in Japan in 1997 as JUNK and became a huge hit; the film even outperformed the original STAR WARS in some cities. In the United States, the film would not a get a theatrical release until a few years later but it became one of the most successful videotape releases ever. The 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.
Gorgon Video has unleashed this timeless mondo classic on DVD one more time. This 30th anniversary edition features a restored, 1.85:1 anamorphic picture from supposedly extremely rare vault materials. The image looks great especially considering that this was mostly filmed on 16mm thirty years ago. There is some grain and print damage but it only ads to the realness of the film, something that make it even all the more believable back in the days of tenth generation washed out bootleg tapes. We have the choice of either a Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital Surround 2.0 tracks. Both sound good but I didn't notice any major differences between the two. Optional English subtitles are available.
The highlight of this edition is the very interesting and informative feature-length audio commentary track with director John Alan Schwartz and moderator Michael R. Felsher. The director goes into all the details on the making-of and controversial nature of this classic. "The Death Makers" is a 22 minutes featurette with special effects guys Allan A. Apone and Douglas J. White. "Choice Cuts" is a 16 minutes featurette with editor Glenn Turner. We also get deleted scenes, eleven minutes of outtakes and a trailer.
The film is separated in 21 chapters stop and features some nicely designed animated menus with music. It comes in a keep case with no inlay card of booklet. My only complain about the whole packaging is that Gorgon Video should have release a Collector's Edition with the DVD in these oversized VHS box of the time, that would have been a nice touch for fans and collectors.
This Film Features:
Review by Kim Dubuisson. All Right Reserved. 2008. ©
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