We’ve got a double doseof reviews for you this morning starting with Tex’s DVD review of Faces of Death: 30th Anniversary Edition, which is now available at retailers everywhere. In addition, inside you’ll find Ryan Daley’s Blu-ray review of the film, which isn’t so pleasant.Swaggering onto Blu-Ray with its 2-ton reputation sitting squarely on its hunched shoulders, THE ORIGINAL FACES OF DEATH (1978) is known to some as an unflinching look into the eyes of the Grim Reaper himself, and to others as merely a patently offensive compilation of sadistic death footage involving both animals and humans. Narrator/host Francis B. Gross—a dead-eyed hippy posing as a doctor—introduces random and seemingly unconnected segments of film featuring shit like livestock getting slaughtered, seal clubbings, a dude getting the electric chair, a bear attack, random shots of dead bodies and concentration camp footage, train wreck footage, a choppy crocodile attack, a monkey getting killed by a handful of restaurant patrons wielding hammers (one of the film’s more infamous segments), and many other happy-go-lucky images culled from questionable sources from around the world.
It’s common knowledge that many (if not the majority) of the scenes were staged with the use of dime store make-up effects and bad cinematography, but in past VHS versions all of the segments shared a grainy, low-grade aesthetic, making it difficult to tell the real footage from the fake stuff. And arguably, therein lies the allure of FACES OF DEATH: it’s easier to embark on a tour of death scenes if you can convince yourself that most of them have been faked, feeling kind of like the single member of the firing squad whose gun is possibly loaded with a blank round. But releasing a film like FACES OF DEATH on Blu-Ray poses an immediate problem. With the increased image clarity it becomes far easier to discern the real footage from the bogus set-ups, negating any of FACES OF DEATH’s almost-negligible cinematic magic.
Without any accompanying context the death scenes are as unaffecting and belabored as a Junior High childbirth video, and this emotionally empty mondo film lacks the visceral impact of fictional cinematic strong-boxes like NEKROMANTIK, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, or even CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST. It may have once had a reputation as a real 80s bad boy, but these days, FACES OF DEATH is like an old man trying to get you to pull his finger.