The Original Faces of Death (1978) (30th Anniversary Edition) (Blu-ray Review)
Directed By: Conan LeCilaire
Starring: Michael Carr, Samuel Berkowitz, Mary Ellen Brighton
Rated: UR/Region A/1:85/1080p/Number of Discs 1
Available from GORGON VIDEO
It began as a graphic exploration of the one destiny we cannot escape. It would soon become the most controversial, critically reviled and fastest selling documentary in home video history. Parents tried to stop it. Video stores had to hide it. Yet across the nation, millions found ways to secretly watch it…if they dared. Renowned pathologist Dr. Frances B. Gröss is your guide to the most bizarre and grisly death scenes ever recorded, from executions, assassinations and mass murder to suicide, disease and disasters. Three decades later, is it hardcore gross-out, elaborate hoax or still the ultimate forbidden movie? One thing is certain: you will never forget the original Faces of Death!
Like a lot of people my age the legend of Faces of Death was well-known. My first memories of the series was back as a kid at the local video store, where over in the horror section they’d have all the films in the series lined up (Old school VHS) with stickers on each that were written by the store’s owner that said “Will not be rented to anyone under the age of 18”..never mind the fact the MPAA usually said 17 on most things but this was Faces of Death darn it!! This was “real” right? Well, this was all hype. Hype that psyched out even my own family members and they never rented it. So next my memories of the series came from High School where my friends, still believing it was all real, would downloads clips from the series (most being far worse than what’s actually in the original) and watch them in class. I on the other hand still was under the impression this was all real so I saw a couple and swore off the rest. Now, years later I finally find out the worst kept secret in the business that much of what you see in Faces of Death is either flat-out faked or just enhanced for the over-all effect. I mean, yes, I knew this before now, but we’ll at least play along a bit as we dive into Gorgon’s re-issued Blu-ray of the original “taboo” film, The Original Faces of Death: 30th Anniversary Edition.
If you didn’t already know, Faces of Death is a documentary on death of sorts. And when this opens we are lead on this journey of death by the good Doctor Gross (who strangely looks like the local Doc at the Rite-Aid in my town) as we see many images and film of death. Clearly in most cases everything is fake, but had this been a VHS and you been a kid, I’m sure you’d still have been freaked out. Now don’t get me wrong there is some nasty stuff here as we take trips into the wild, seeing animals killed for real. As well as seeing what takes place in a slaughter-house. The latter of which I could have done without because I get no joy from seeing a sheep get its throat cut and then skinned. Maybe you wouldn’t think that with me being from Tennessee, but that is the case. The animal stuff is easily the worst part of Faces of Death, or at least it was when watching the original one. Now when it comes to the human side of it, what we get is very much fabricated. Sure the old war footage of the Hitler days is real, but we’ve probably all seen that before in history class. Other on-screen “deaths” like the woman jumping out the window of the building and the para-shoot that don’t open may all very well be real but the after shots of the woman is obviously not. You probably know all this, but it needs repeating. Overall, Faces of Death is a legendary film for many reasons, most are bad, but some good. It isn’t something you will want to watch again over and over, but it makes for a nice addition to the collection. One that you can freak your friends out with from time to time.
– Feature-length Commentary with the Director Conan LeCilaire
– “Choice Cuts” Feature with the Editor
– “The Death Makers” FX Feature with Effects Artist
– Deleted Scenes
Quality of Transfer: 77%