Who would have believed it? The long infamous exploitation schlock video nasty 'Faces of Death' has been officially released on DVD in the UK. A film that long irked the likes of the late James Ferman and his cronies at the British Board of Film Censors, 'Faces of Death' was long marked by its fans as one of those films just too extreme and taboo to ever dream of getting a release in this country. But those canny folk at Hard Gore DVD bit the bullet and submitted a fully uncut extended directors cut to the BBFC and held their breath…amazingly the film was passed with only two very minor trims (due to the laws on animal cruelty) and is now unleashed for any witless UK viewer to lose their lunch at the onscreen mayhem that is now available for all to see!
For many years old school video nasty fans like myself the only way to see 'Faces of Death' was through the bootleg video trading market, it was a film that (more so when viewed on a ninth generation fuzzy video bootleg copy) both shocked and nauseated. If you've never had the (mis)fortune to see 'Faces of Death' then be prepared. The film is basically an compilation of scenes of violent death, mutilation, slaughterhouse carnage, corpse carnage and more - all under the witless guise of being an informed documentary (presented by the hammiest of actors Dr Francis Gross) looking at death and its impact on society. To spice the presentation up the filmmakers interspersed the proceedings with staged fake mondo footage of such delights such as the infamous monkey brain eating, a death sentence electrocution and so on. But for many years fans of the film were always unknowing as to what footage was real (with many believing everything was) and what was not.
No doubt the most successful and notorious mondo movie ever made, 'Faces of Death' really is one of those films that tests your tolerance to the limits. What was once essential taboo viewing for teenage horror fans like myself now screens as either a classic of exploitation cinema at its purest or as a witless catalogue of repellent imagery depending on how you view it. There's no denying that this is without doubt one of the strongest gross outs you're ever likely to see (and I wouldn't recommend eating your dinner with a date whilst viewing or else you'll vomit it right back up) but at the same time as a fan of a horror scene that is built round fantasy scenarios of terror I know find myself questioning whether this can be classified as 'entertainment'? Myself, I surprised myself by even know (with my history of extreme viewing) feeling inclined to reach for the fast forward button on occasions. Sure some might praise the open viewing of slaughterhouse carnage (vegetarians would have a field day utilising it to put off meat eaters, it would work) but I'm just not one of those folk that slows down at a road crash in the hope of seeing some human misery and with 'Faces of Death' you get an hour and forty minutes of exactly that.
Ghouls amongst you (and I know there are many) will relish the opportunity to see the catalogue of death and carnage on show here so with 'Faces of Death' you get the granddaddy of all Mondo movies and this release from Hard Gore will not in any way disappoint. As for the 'film' itself the direction by John Schwartz (here hiding under the cowardly guise of one Conan le Cilaire) is straightforward TV movie stuff but no ones expecting anything fancy for this sort of exploitation fare. The print on show here from Hard Gore is solid throughout and is no doubt the best the film ever has or will look. Sure it's not Lucasfilm pin sharp but again exactly what you'd expect from a collection of mondo footage pasted together for a low budget exploitation feature. As mentioned previously there have only been two very brief trims to the film by the BBFC - one of a scene of dog fighting (fair enough) and another slight cut from the monkey brain eating scene. This cut seems slightly over cautious though as the bulk of the scene is still here (the fake skull splitting and brain eating) with only the presentation of the real unharmed monkey actually missing. The BBFC say this is because the monkey looks traumatised but in the grand scheme of things its questionable as to whether this is true, especially in a scene so obviously (and knowingly so) staged. On the other hand, the slicing off of a chickens head and let loose to run about (nee the headless chicken lore) is fine with the BBFC as well as endless footage of real animals being slaughtered (throats slit etc), but that's ok as their heading for the dinner table?!
But as ever I digress. 'Faces of Death' may not be my own cup of tea but the more easily pleased mondo fan out there will understandably lap this up, more so as Hard Gore have included (on the special edition double sided DVD release) the bonus documentary 'Faces of Death: Fact or Fiction?" which welcomingly uncovers some of the faked scenes but also perpetrates to try maintain some level of untruths about the filmmakers with the shadowed camera shy appearance of so called director John Schwartz and wheezing fake shemp Dr Louis Flellis attempting to give again some sort of serious gravity to the proceedings.
Sick, depraved and questionable exploitation cinema at its best (or worst) for sure but even to this day this hapless old horror fan found his tolerance levels tested. Sure it out grossed (in every sense of the word) Star Wars on its original theatrical release in the East and fans of extreme mondo movies will cream their knickers on viewing this but you can't help wonder why? Not my bag at all but I'm still pleased to see it released onto the UK market at last. Another landmark release (and a massive one at that) for the team at Hard Gore DVD and essential viewing for all you sick little monkeys out there!
Review by Alan Simpson
|Released by Hard Gore|
|Region All Pal|
|see main review|