The film, shown in a documentary-like style, centers on pathologist Francis B. Gröss, played by actor Michael Carr. The narrator presents the viewer with a variety of footage showing different gruesome ways of dying from a variety of sources. Some of the most iconic scenes were faked for the film, while most of the film is pre-existing video footage of real deaths or the aftermath of death.
After performing open heart surgery on an unnamed patient, pathologist Francis B. Gröss states to the viewer that he has become interested with the transitional periods of life and death thanks to a recurring dream, while his experience as a surgeon has desensitized him grotesque deaths. He has accrued footage from himself or several parts of the world in an effort to better understand the many \"faces of death\".
Footage is played of animal deaths, including chickens at a slaughterhouse, dog fights, the mummified corpses of the deceased inhabitants of Guanajuato, the natural predators of the Amazon rainforest & the ways they kill their prey, a monkey being killed and its brain being eaten by guests of a banquet, and a man killed by an alligator, which Gröss calls a \"violent retaliation from a creature who has suffered continued abuse from mankind\".
Gröss next narrates over recordings of assassinations, stating that homo sapiens are the only species to kill for greed. Assassin François Jordan is interviewed, admitting that he kills solely for payment, not for \"political\" or \"social value\". Gröss introduces another type of killer, \"the one who kills for no apparent reason\". A gunfight ensues between a SWAT team and an armed murderer. During the gunfight, the SWAT team throws tear gas into the house of the murderer who is later shot, after which the team enters the killer's house to find his family stabbed to death; Gröss questions whether the man's actions were caused by society. As criminal Larry DeSilva is executed by electric chair, Gröss questions \"if two wrongs make a right\".
The next segment displays war & atrocities in history, including the Holocaust. The segment ends with Gröss saying that Hitler \"lost control not only of his army, but of his mind\". Footage of a woman jumping from twenty-three stories and hitting the concrete is shown. Gröss admits that suicide is a face of death he wishes to never face again.
Footage of several more tragic accidents is shown, culminating in a scene of a person attempting a parachute jump but dying after the parachute fails to open properly. Gröss disputes the notion that this death was quick & painless, as he would have been conscious and aware for the entire fall to the ground. The segment ends with photographs, footage & air traffic control audio from the crash of PSA Flight 182, and its grisly aftermath of scattered mutilated body parts & numerous destroyed houses. Gröss states that the neighborhood smells like \"rotting bodies and jet fuel\" and that a mutilated body with only its torso & right hand \"is the worst face of death\".
Gröss introduces his next topic, the role of supernatural forces in death. He meets with architect Joseph Binder, whose wife & son both died under tragic circumstances. Binder confides to the viewer that he believes his family remain as ghosts in his house that are attempting to communicate with him. Gröss enlists the services of parapsychologists to verify this. The team takes photographs of footprints & two apparitions. Binder communicates with the spirits of his family through a medium, seemingly confirming the existence of life after death.
After studying Binder's case, Gröss concludes that \"when we die, it isn't really the end\" as \"the soul in each of us remains a traveller forever\". Gröss ends by questioning whether death is \"the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end\" and leaves the footage he has shown to the viewer's interpretation. The film ends with peaceful music, footage of a baby's birth, and photos of the child & its mother being together & happy.
The movie was written and directed by John Alan Schwartz (credited as \"Alan Black\" for writing and as \"Conan LeCilaire\" for directing). Schwartz also took credit as second unit director, this time as \"Johnny Getyerkokov\". He also appears in one of the segments of the film, as the leader of the alleged flesh eating cult in San Francisco and has brief appearances in several other movies of this series. Schwartz wanted to depict very real death with \"an analytical view, rather than a purely exploitive purpose\", but the films inclusion of fake scenes have brought this to debate. The movie features Michael Carr as the narrator, and 'creative consultant' called \"Dr. Francis B. Gröss\", whose voice is reminiscent of Leonard Nimoy in the popular TV show In Search of.... John Alan Schwartz has said that this movie's budget was $450,000 and there are estimates that it has grossed more than $35 million worldwide in theatrical releases, not including rentals.
Due to its graphic content, Faces of Death was banned and censored in many countries. The movie is often billed as \"Banned in 46 Countries\", but this claim is doubtful. In the United Kingdom, the film was prosecuted and added to the \"video nasty\" list, as it was deemed to violate the Obscene Publications Act 1959. In 2003, the film was allowed to be released on DVD in the UK; however, cuts of 2 minutes and 19 seconds were required by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) to remove scenes of \"fighting dogs and [a] monkey being cruelly beaten to death in accordance with Cinematograph Films (Animals Act) 1937 and BBFC Guidelines.\" In 1980, Faces of Death was refused classification by the Australian Classification Board. Despite the ban, several bootleg VHS tapes were released in the country, and the film was unbanned and released uncut on DVD in 2007. However, its sequels remain banned in the country. The film was also banned in New Zealand in 1989. In Germany, the film was edited for a VHS release, with the removal of some graphic scenes. The ban in Germany was lifted in Spring of 2022.
Faces of Death V and Faces of Death VI were released in the mid-90s, and are compilations made up entirely of highlights from the first four movies, with no new footage, intentionally released in countries where the original movies were banned. The first three featured Carr as \"Dr. Gröss\", although The Worst of Faces of Death (released between installments III and IV and consisting of highlights from the first three installments) instead featured Schwartz's brother, James Schwartz, as \"Dr. Louis Flellis\". Flellis explains that he accidentally killed \"Dr. Gröss\" while operating on him the prior week. However, in Faces of Death IV, Flellis explains the absence of Dr. Gröss by stating that he had killed himself, having been driven insane as a result of witnessing so much death.
In November 1986, Canton High 14-year-old Rod Matthews bludgeoned his classmate Shaun Ouilette to death with a baseball bat. Matthews claimed the idea to kill Ouilette was conceived after he viewed Faces of Death, as he was curious about what it would be like to actually kill someone. He had shown previous signs of mental illness. Matthews was sentenced to life in prison, with parole eligibility after 15 years. In February 2022, he was denied parole for the fourth time.
That's all thanks to the reputation of the original Faces of Death, as notorious a movie as you would have found on the shelves of your average video store in the '80s and '90s. The film featured footage of animal and human deaths, some real and some fabricated, but all presented as the genuine article and cumulatively intended to disturb even the most tough-stomached of viewers.
\"One day, several Japanese executives came to us and asked if we could make a documentary about death,\" Schwartz recalled in a 2013 essay for Cine-Excess. \"They wanted us to capture the horror of extinction, and the more macabre, the better. After the meeting, the owner's son came up with the title, and I came up with the concept: the story of a pathologist who, over time, has compiled a library of death. The movie would simply chronicle his experiences.\"
The truth is that the original film is a mixture of real footage and movie magic -- about 60 percent real and 40 percent fake. Scenes from slaughterhouses and the Holocaust are obviously genuine, but more questionable segments -- such as that of a woman jumping to her death -- are also real, having been purchased by the filmmaker from other countries and news organizations. Thankfully, some of the most distressing scenes are set-ups. An early scene of animal cruelty, in which a monkey is beaten to death, is fake -- that infamous execution scene is, too. Perhaps the only way to view the movie is through a mistrustful lens. Instead of investigating the reality presented by the film, the audience must instead take what they are given, allowing the false deaths to affect them just as much as the real ones. But blending reality and fiction never comes without a cost.
Placement on the \"video nasties\" list wasn't the only issue for Faces of Death and its fuzzy truth. In 1985, a high school teacher screened the film for his class -- a questionable affair that ended with a successful lawsuit from the families of two traumatized students. The students later said that they assumed the entire film was real. A year later, there was even a murder for which Faces was cited as inspiration by the 15-year-old murderer. Maybe this pattern of real-world violence leaked from reality into the series -- almost all the material in follow-up releases is, in fact, real. Instead of leaning into recreations, the series instead became more focused on real footage, including scenes of bombings, shootings, and even a man parachuting into crocodiles. (Or maybe alligators This scene is questionable.) In short, they became what their predecessor was always accused of being: Simply recordings of real death. If you came here looking for reassurance, we're sorry -- and if you have a weak stomach, steer clear. 59ce067264