106 min., 1978
Directed by John Alan Schwartz (as “Conan la Cilaire”)
My rating: ★
A movie that was banned is now more a PSA than anything else.
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Considering that Faces Of Death doesn’t really follow the normal flow of a movie, I’m not going to be writing this as I normally would. Now if you’ve read my review of Banned! In America you know what the world of Mondo films are, if you haven’t then damnit read it now then come back. Don’t worry I will wait patiently while you go. (quietly hums CKY to myself). Done? Good. So now that you understand what the world of Mondo film is I can talk a bit about Faces Of Death.
The movie begins with a man named Dr. Francis B. Gröss (Michael Carr) talking to us about life and death. As the movie goes along we see scenes of death happening or the aftermath of death. During most of the scene we get a voice over by Mr. Gröss and most of the time it really nothing more than him warning the viewers to not do what the people in the movie did wrong. A perfect example is when they are taking a body out of the water. He explains to us that you should never drink and swim. Yep, it’s really that much of a PSA. It’s just a bit more brutal then most PSAs. That’s how the movie goes for a while, then we get a song about Jesus, then the movie ends.
Let me just tell you the story of a little Drudgeon that kept hearing stories about this movie called Faces Of Death. The name itself pulled me in, but when I heard what the movie actually contained that’s when I was onboard and had to find this movie. Real people dying? Holy shit, how can they get away with this? So I went to Blockbuster Video and spent about two hours looking for it and when I finally asked the man behind the counter if they had Faces Of Death, he gave me a nasty look and answered with a very stern, no. That’s when I started noticing the little mom and pop video rental places. Upon entering my first mom and pop store (which name I have actually forgotten which is surprising considering how many times after that first time I kept going back) the musty smell attacks my nose and I really don’t know if I want to venture deeper into the cave of VHS tapes. The first think that you are greeted with (beside the smell) was a strange cardboard arch that looks like it was stolen from the Blockbuster dumpster (which was only about a block away). Now anyone that has been to a Blockbuster or Hollywood Video knows that they have all of their movies neatly placed so you can read every title and there is a bunch of space in the aisles so more than one person can fit. Well this rental place was the complete opposite. There were VHS tapes everywhere. Stacked in piles here and there, comedy and dramas in the horror “section”, slasher movies in the kids “section”, yes I put quote around the sections because they were labeled as such but there was no rhyme or reason to the placement of the movies. I approach the man at the desk (which I later found out was the owner), who looks exactly how you would expect a child molester to look, and ask him about Faces Of Death. Without even questioning my age he says that they have it. I ask where and he tells me the horror section, duh. After hours (and I really do mean hours) I finally found it in the Disney section (I’m really not joking about this). I take it up to check it out and he has me fill out some paperwork so I can get a “card” (a business card with his signature on the back) for the video store. Just wanting to see Faces Of Death I filled them out without even questioning what I was doing, hell I could have just sold myself into slavery and I never would have known, I blindly signed the papers. I got my copy for twenty-five cents (a fucking quarter, man those were the days) and rode my bike home as fast as I could. I ran downstairs, turned out all of the lights, shoved my face against the screen and had my hand on the power button (because this is something that I shouldn’t be watching and I was ready in case one of my parents came down stairs). I watched the movie wide eyed and surprised. This was a completely beaten up copy of the movie and that’s what made it feel even dirtier. After watching it I felt like I had committed a crime by watching people die. But it was a crime I got away with and that made it even more thrilling. I re-watched that movie about a dozen times (never getting caught) before I returned it. Years later I finally got to see the blu-ray edition of the movie and holy shit was I disappointed. Not because I found out that I was faked, but because it looked like it was fake. This is a movie that needs to be watched on a bad VHS and not on DVD or Blu-Ray.
In the long run this movie has not fared so well with time. Most of the scenes are obvious fake and the acting is just completely beyond hammy, that it loses its fun value after about twenty minutes then it’s just a giant groanfest. In fact that is what most of the movie is, just a PSA filled with groans.
One thing you have to understand before watching the movie is that nowhere does this movie claim that everything you are watching is real. Actually it never says that any of the movie is real. It’s just people taking what they see and attaching something else to it. It does have the feel of a Mondo film, but once you realize what it actually is, it really does lose the fun. If you want to see real people dying watch Banned! In America. But if you want to see a movie that is like a Mondo film, this is for you, just make sure you watch a crappy VHS copy. Trust me this is a movie that should have never been cleaned up.Have You Read...?