Film Censorship: Faces of Death Series


 

 

 

 

Faces of Death

Directed by John Alan Schwartz / 1978 / USA / IMDb

In December 1980, Roadshow had a 2956.10-meter (107:52) print of FACES OF DEATH Refused Registration. The reason given was violence, which was described as being:
Frequency: Frequent
Explicitness/Intensity: High
Purpose: Gratuitous

An appeal to the Review Board in January 1981 failed.

 

 

Banned on video

In November 1983, FACES OF DEATH was back before the censors, this time submitted by M.C Stuart and Associates. The 113m videotape was again banned for reasons of violence, which was described as being:
Frequency: Frequent
Explicitness/Intensity: High
Purpose: Gratuitous

 

 

Unclassified bootleg video releases

In the late 80s, unofficial video releases of FACES OF DEATH 1 and 2 began to surface in Australia. The covers credit them to Gorgon Video, the label that first issued the tapes in the U.S. The back cover read:

Distributed by Silver Screen,
C.P.O. Box 1073
Auckland

This print was a direct dub of the U.S. Gorgon/MPI VHS, and ran 105:39.

The database of the New Zealand OFLC lists FACES OF DEATH as being passed by the Chief Censor of Films with an R18 (Content may disturb) rating in December 1986. Their 1987 Video Recordings Act eventually saw it banned when it was rated as 'Objectionable' in May 1989.

 

Faces of Death (1978) - Silver Screen [nz] VHS

 

A second release of FACES OF DEATH (as FACE OF DEATH) came from Melbourne based company, DayNight Video. The cover featured a close-up shot of the electric chair execution, and carried an obviously fake M-rating.

The only other title credited to this label was Barry Prima's THE WARRIOR AND THE NINJA (1985), which was submitted for classification by a Mr P. Baglieri in January 1987.

 

Faces of Death (1978) - DayNight Video [au] VHS

 

 

Gorgon Video FACES OF DEATH is censored

On the Pre-Cert forum, Marc Morris wrote that the American Gorgon tape was actually cut. He also mentions that the uncut Dutch VHS has an Australian Roadshow Distributor logo at the beginning.

 

The Dutch tape (on the Standard Video label) runs 104m 2s at 25 fps.
The American tape (on the Gorgon Video label) runs 105m 45s at 24 fps.

Both versions are in English (the Dutch version adds Dutch subtitles), and both are full-screen, though the framing is slightly different - the Dutch tape favours the bottom of the image, while the American transfer favours the top. The Dutch transfer is superior in terms of brightness and colour.

Unlike the American version, the Dutch version begins with a distributor's logo: "A Film From Roadshow - The Australian Company".

The Gorgon Video version is cut in the following places.

1- 15m 42s in. A shot of a man holding a long knife has been slightly shortened (at the end of a reel).
2- 20m 33s in. Two shots of streets in the Middle East have been cut.
3- 32m 28s in. A single medium close up of a man has been cut (near the end of a reel).
4- 101m 14s in. A complete 2m 6s sequence involving a psychic has been cut.

 

 

FACES OF DEATH and the Victorian Police

In February 1988, the two illegal releases of FACES OF DEATH 1 and 2 attracted press attention following their alleged link to a murder. Note that the M-rating that is quoted below is definitely a fake.

 

Brutal Video in Link to Murders
sunhearld.com.au, February 21, 1988

A BRUTAL video series being examined by Melbourne police in connection with two murders is readily available in Sydney and renting well.

The video, Faces of Death, comes in two parts, is rated "M" and boasts "the brutal and explicit depiction of actual death".

Video outlets in Sydney yesterday said the video, banned in 46 countries, was rented out three times a week on average. Detective Inspector Graeme McDonald, of Melbourne Homicide Squad, said a man was charged with murder hours after viewing the video and another alleged killer was believed to have seen it, but died before he could be charged.

 

 

FACES OF DEATH and the NSW Police

Presumably prompted by the media reports, the NSW Police picked up the unclassified tapes and submitted them to the Censorship Board.

In April 1988, a 108m videotape of FACES OF DEATH was again banned for reasons of violence, which was described as:
Frequency: Frequent
Explicitness/Intensity: High
Purpose: Gratuitous

 

 

Uncut DVD release

In March 2007, a DVD of FACES OF DEATH was rated R18+ (High Level Violence, Distressing Images and Themes).

Umbrella Entertainment released the DVD in February 2008. The print ran 105:39, and was uncut. The disc contains the 1999 documentary FACES OF DEATH: FACT OR FICTION? as an extra. This contains clips from FACES OF DEATH 2, 3, and 4, all of which were banned in Australia.

 

Faces of Death (1978) - Umbrella Entertainment [au] DVD

 

 

The abandoned Umbrella DVD box set

Umbrella Entertainment intended to release the first four FACES OF DEATH films in February 2008 as part of a DVD box set. Unfortunately, only FACES OF DEATH 1 escaped with an R18+, whilst the remaining three were banned.

 

Promo for the abandoned DVD box set.

Faces Of Death - Vol. I-IV (4 Disc Box Set) (797568)
Coming Soon! Pre-Order Now - Available Monday, 04 February 2008
$AU39.83 (inc GST)

Possibly one of the most talked about series of all time, Faces of Death examines the many guises of death in the extreme close-up. Sure to shock and horrify, these brutal films are not meant for the faint of heart.

Volume I features a vicious pit bull fight, the clubbing of baby seals, a man setting himself on fire, an electrocution, San Francisco cultists dining on human organs, and a suicidal jumper taking his final leap.

Volume II shows guerrilla death squads in el Salvador, Napalm bombings in Vietnam, and a train disaster in India.

Volume III exposes viewers to a disaster on Germany’s Autobahn, a parachutist landing in a crocodile pit, and torture and murder in el Salvador.

Volume IV depicts a cremation, an electrocution, a terrorist destroyed by his own bomb, and a man-eating tiger turning on its trainer.

Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Fullscreen Transfer Format: 4:3
Category: Box Sets
Documentary Horror
Region: 4 Format: DVD
Year: 1978
Distributor: Shock Rating: R18+
Running Time: 485
mins

 

Umbrella's e-mail promo

Umbrella Entertainment
E-mail Promo
February 2008

Faces of Death
Possibly one of the most talked about series of all time, Faces of Death examines the many guises of death in the extreme close-up. Sure to shock and horrify, these brutal films are not meant for the faint of heart. Volumes 2-4 have now been banned by the censor, only volume 1 is available

 

Faces of Death (1978) - Umbrella Entertainment [au] DVD Box set

 

 

 The Australian censors on Shockumentaries and Mondo films

Films such as FACES OF DEATH have had a long history of being banned in Australia. This is a list of titles that have had problems. All are covered in our Film Censorship Database.


 

 

 

 

Faces of Death 2

Directed by John Alan Schwartz / 1981 / USA / IMDb

In November 1983, M.C Stuart and Associates had a 100m videotape of FACES OF DEATH 2 Refused Registration. The reason given was violence, which was described as:
Frequency: Frequent
Explicitness/Intensity: High
Purpose: Gratuitous

 

 

Unclassified bootleg video releases

In the late 80s, unofficial video releases of FACES OF DEATH 1 and 2 began to surface in Australia. The covers credit them to Gorgon Video, the label that first issued the tapes in the U.S. The back cover read:

Distributed by Silver Screen,
C.P.O. Box 1073
Auckland

Faces of Death 2 (1981) - Silver Screen [nz] VHS

 

There was a second unofficial release of FACES OF DEATH 2 that had an alternative Gorgon Video cover.

 

Faces of Death 2 (1981) - No name label [au] VHS

 

 

FACES OF DEATH and the Victorian Police

In February 1988, the two illegal releases of FACES OF DEATH 1 and 2 attracted press attention following their alleged link to a murder. Note that the M-rating that is quoted below was definitely a fake.

 

Brutal Video in Link to Murders
sunhearld.com.au, February 21, 1988

A BRUTAL video series being examined by Melbourne police in connection with two murders is readily available in Sydney and renting well.

The video, Faces of Death, comes in two parts, is rated "M" and boasts "the brutal and explicit depiction of actual death".

Video outlets in Sydney yesterday said the video, banned in 46 countries, was rented out three times a week on average. Detective Inspector Graeme McDonald, of Melbourne Homicide Squad, said a man was charged with murder hours after viewing the video and another alleged killer was believed to have seen it, but died before he could be charged.

 

 

FACES OF DEATH 2 and the NSW Police

Presumably prompted by the media reports, the NSW Police picked up the unclassified tapes and submitted them to the Censorship Board.

In April 1988, a 108m videotape of FACES OF DEATH 2 was again banned for reasons of violence, which was described as:
Frequency: Frequent
Explicitness/Intensity: High
Purpose: Gratuitous

 

 

Banned on DVD

FACES OF DEATH 2 was back before the censors in December 2007 following a submission by Umbrella Entertainment. It was Refused Classification again, twenty-five years after the first ban.

Umbrella Entertainment intended to release the first four FACES OF DEATH films in February 2008 as part of a DVD box set. Unfortunately, only FACES of DEATH escaped with an R18+, while the remaining three were banned.

 

Classification Board Annual Report 2007-08
RC (Refused Classification)
Films

Banned from TV and three films from the Faces of Death series were classified RC for gratuitous depictions of violence to humans and animals. Additionally, the Faces of Death films contained detailed depictions of deceased persons that are offensive and exploitative.


 

 

 

 

Faces of Death 3

Directed by John Alan Schwartz / 1985 / USA / IMDb

Umbrella Entertainment had a DVD of FACES OF DEATH 3 banned in December 2007.

Umbrella Entertainment intended to release the first four FACES OF DEATH films in February 2008 as part of a DVD box set. Unfortunately only FACES OF DEATH escaped with an R18+, while the remaining three were banned.

 

Classification Board Annual Report 2007-08
RC (Refused Classification)
Films

Banned from TV and three films from the Faces of Death series were classified RC for gratuitous depictions of violence to humans and animals. Additionally, the Faces of Death films contained detailed depictions of deceased persons that are offensive and exploitative.


 

 

 

 

Faces of Death 4

Directed by John Alan Schwartz / 1990 / USA / IMDb

Umbrella Entertainment had a DVD of FACES OF DEATH 4 banned in December 2007.

Umbrella Entertainment intended to release the first four FACES OF DEATH films in February 2008 as part of a DVD box set. Unfortunately, only FACES OF DEATH escaped with an R18+, whilst the remaining three were banned.

 

Classification Board Annual Report 2007-08
RC (Refused Classification)
Films

Banned from TV and three films from the Faces of Death series were classified RC for gratuitous depictions of violence to humans and animals. Additionally, the Faces of Death films contained detailed depictions of deceased persons that are offensive and exploitative.


 

 

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