Faces of Death: Fact or Fiction? (1999)

John Alan Schwartz

A documentary about the Faces of Death films consisting of interviews with the director and the host of Faces of Death IV(in character) and clips of the various death films. Released in 1978, Faces of Death sparked an international scandal at the time and a wide-ranging discussion about depictions of violence in film. The film also put the previously interesting genre of the Mondo film in an even worse light and gave a new dimension to voyeurism: Billboard exploitation of death, all for purely commercial ends in itself. In fact, the series, which followed the original and retained the concept, secured its maker John Allan Schwartz financially and was able to achieve great success with relatively little effort. The consistently negative critical reviews did nothing to dampen its success but instead fostered welcome controversy. Since little material exists on the creation and impact of these infamous films, most of which have been hushed up, many legends have grown up over the years. Most of them deal with the alleged authenticity of the scenes shown, which are largely staged. However, since this is already pointed out in the credits of the first part, one cannot speak of label fraud. Famous scenes like the clip around the eaten monkey brain, the execution on the electric chair or also the bizarre giant leech. In "Faces of Death: Fact or Fiction," Schwartz recounts the difficult circumstances of obtaining authentic footage. Due to numerous legal problems, it was easier to obtain information about various scenarios and to stage them as credibly as possible. In part, for example in the case of the monkey's brain, this undertaking also succeeds brilliantly. The cleverly placed cut hides the artificiality of the scene and the disgusted faces of the actors while eating the fake brain are not posed. The taste of the monkey brain substitute must have been so bad that it greatly benefits the effect of the scene.