Faces of Death: 30th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray Review
The disc presents a theatrically correct 1.85:1 1080p transfer that has been VC-1 encoded. Now this picture was never going to be great, it's a film made up of varying material of differing grades, 35mm, 16mm blown up, video etc. so please don't expect a glorious picture here; there simply isn't one. The film has been visited though it is very stable, no judder or movement of the frame. Detail is pretty lousy though, it's quite soft in places and varies wildly between the different stocks; the woman jumping off the building compared to the opening operation for example; the woman is merely an indistinct blob, the operation shows the depth of the heart within the chest.
Colours are all rather faded and again wash between different source stock, although there was no colour bleed. Reds fair quite well in some scenes, after all, it's all about the blood, and comes off as a satisfying deep brown, much like real blood does on film, excepting where it's vivid and over the top, such as the monkey brains. Greens are pretty dull and blues lifeless; and both fair badly on the different stocks, the train crash is particularly weak for colour.
Brightness is set to give dark blacks, but there is no shadow detail, just a murky mess; look to the fabricated monkey brains or the satanic orgy, where people and objects just get loss in the black. Contrast is set to give some over blown whites in most cases; the opening dream sequence typifies this.
Finally the original print is riddled with damage, every frame suffers; scratches, hairs, projectionist cues, they're all here to see along with plenty of film grain. Some might argue that all this adds to the filmic nature, I disagree; it just looks like a mess. Digitally there were no compression problems neither did I spot any edge enhancement. A pretty dire picture really, even if you're not expecting much.
Two sound tracks to choose from English Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0. Neither are particularly exciting, but then they wouldn't be, it's not that type of film, at least they haven't gone the 'Anchor Bay' route and fabricated the sound. The 5.1 track is pretty wide utilising the surround to fill out the score, but the narration suffers from being rather weak in the centre channel. To this end I actually preferred the 2.0 track, sure you loose the 'surround' but the presence of the narration spread over the front two channels gives a far more rounded feel to the sound.
Bass levels were pretty none existent and there were no LF effects. The closing music faired the best with a good range and pushed bass, but even then it was never enough. On the plus side the tracks were absolutely clean without hiss, pops or distortion; something that surprised me. Functional tracks and nothing more.
- Audio Commentary
Of particular note is a full audio commentary with director Conan Le Cilaire (as he's introduced) and moderated by fanboy Michael Felsher; apparently it's the first time Le Cilaire has spoken about he film - so what about the Faces of Death Fact of Fiction documentary? Just another fabrication perhaps. But whatever the box claims the talk is actually a very interesting listen. Filcher quizzes Le Cilaire on all aspects of the making of the film, right from its concept, design and intended market up to and through every scene proving conclusively the fabricated nature of it all. In fact it makes for a far better listen to than Gröss' own narration and I'd recommend this is the way to watch it!
- Choice Cuts - 0.16.13
Short featurette with editor Glenn Turner as he remembers the making of the film. Interesting to hear him talk about regulating himself into not becoming a censor with regard the material he was cutting just because he found it repugnant. A human face behind the atrocities this film shows.
- The Death Makers - 0.21.54
A short featurette that includes interviews with make up artists Allan A Apone and Douglas J White; the crew that created all of the fabricated material including the cauliflower as the brain of the monkey to the pools of blood through to the bear suit. Their effects, though dated, still look pretty good by virtue of the editing used.
- Trailer - 0.02.41
As the name suggests
- Deleted Scene - 0.04.12
Missing from some prints (including this release which is the original Japanese theatrical print) and no longer exists as film, included here as a video from film recording; faked material of a prisoner being gassed in a chamber; so bad that you hear him coughing in an air tight chamber!
- Out take - 0.11.23
Scene extensions and behind the scenes photographs, not much of interest here.
Considering the wealth of material available about this particular film, including the aforementioned Faces of Death documentary, odd that there is so little included on this release. However the commentary itself is well worth listening too and more than makes up for the rest.
Clearly this is a release for a very limited market; it is a difficult film to watch and does become harder and harder the more it assaults you with death after death. Although the filming style does have some merit and there is an ethic to the story, the material is presented in such a repugnant way that it's depressing. And I guess that's the whole point. Whatever my own views, this film will always find a home; the name itself has become synonymous with real death but in a world full of 24 hour news and internet videos showing far worse than anything in this film, it's possible that this 'original' may gently fade away.
As a Blu-ray package the poor video, sound and extras package (excluding the terrific commentary) are not the selling point of the feature, because if you want to see this film then such things are unlikely to dissuade anyone.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £18.59
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.
- Audio Commentary