Snuff (1976)
(Release Date: January 16, 1976)

Never happened!

Snuff Z'Nuff

J.C. Maçek III... 

Video Nasty Critic!
J.C. Maçek III
The World's Greatest Critic!!!

For a movie that has spawned urban legends in and of itself, it's interesting to note how many legends and myths surround this very film. First, and most obviously, Snuff was a 1976 splatter film that purports to have given rise to the "Urban Legend" of the "snuff film". If, indeed, an urban legend it is. Regardless, the distributors of Snuff certainly wanted the public to believe that their film depicted an actual, premeditated on-screen murder. It doesn't, of course, but the controversy certainly worked. American distributor Allan Shackleton actually hired people to protest his film in front of theatres, getting the notice of organizations who actually started to protest the film for real (and for free) which eventually got it featured on CBS News. Yes, folks, sometimes Exploitation works!

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Interestingly enough, Snuff wasn't always Snuff. Herein lies the second biggest myth about this film. Although the most (in)famous scene in the film was shot specifically for this 1976 release, the majority of this movie was, in fact, already shot and released in 1971 by a married couple production team of Roberta and Michael Findlay. Many might tell you that the original film whose footage contributed the lion's share of Snuff was a relatively innocent little flick that just happened to have a fake (yet realistic for the time) murder scene tacked on to the end of it.

This is bullshit.

The original film was called Slaughter (1971), featured a Manson-like satanic cult led by a scrawny douche-bag actually named Satan (pronounced "s'Taan") and also featured plenty of Murders and naked women (one of whom was an international model and beauty contest winner). This was hardly a film about cute, fluffy bunny rabbits making friends. In fact, it arguably had enough violations before the added scene to land it on the Video Nasty List... that addition sealed the deal like a wax stamper, though.

Apparently when Michael Findlay found out that almost all of his film had become Snuff, he and Roberta angrily sued Shackleton, with whom they eventually settled out of court. Soon after that Roberta left Michael for Allan and together they made lots of Porno Movies. Seriously, the story behind the film is much more interesting than the damned film (in either version) itself.

Snuff begins by telling the story of US Film Mogul Max Marsh (Aldo Mayo) who is sleeping with his beautiful star Terry London (Mirtha Massa, a former Miss International Argentina). Together they travel down to Buenos Aires to film a movie, which is great for her because she's also sleeping with a rich goof named Horst Frank (Clao Villanueva). Horst is also sleeping with Angelica (Margarita Amuchastegui), who has slept with a lot of people, including (and finally) the douche-bag cult leader (with the scrawny physique) named Satan (Enrique Larratelli). Satan, in turn, is sleeping with the rest of his cult as well. It isn't terribly long before Terry starts sleeping with Horst's nasty, bald arms dealer dad (played by Alfredo Iglesias, who clearly was owed some serious favors by the Findlays). This isn't such a bitch-slap to Horst, however, because he's also sleeping with some other guy's wife... while that guy watches. And this isn't even one of their pornos, man! This is the horror flick.

The majority of this film covers scenes of torture (especially of the cult members who don't "obey" perfectly) along with long, dull, lackluster, boring, snooze-worthy, puke-making soliloquies by Satan (who sucks). This is coupled with stock footage of Carnivale and a long-ass flashback or two that more turns the stomach than turns the plot on its ear.

It's hardly a spoiler to tell you the ending of this film, seeing as how this isn't the end of the plot itself and seeing as how this is the sole basis for the marketing campaign and the fact that this film isn't completely forgotten. Be that as it may SPOILER WARNING HERE!!! During the predictable Manson-esque murder sequence, the film cuts and the camera pans back to what is suggested to be the crew that filmed Slaughter. As they break for lunch, the "director" and one of the "actresses" start getting busy on one of the beds on the set while the crew keep filming. When she protests, the crew sets about their intended task, which is her torture, dismemberment and murder as the cameras (some hand-held) continue to roll. While what is shown is quite hideous, it's hardly convincing to my eyes.

Naturally, I'm viewing this 30 years later on DVD with a clear picture and after years of exposition on how films are made (remember, before the 1980s, a whole lot of what was "behind the scenes" remained decidedly "behind the scenes"). However, considering the fact that this film, until recently, would have been seen in grindhouses with scratchy, used, oft-melted and re-spliced prints and then blurry, low-definition VHS tapes, it's somewhat simple to imagine that SOME might have bought into the controversy. Soon the morbid, the horror fan, the simply curious and the average guy who just wants to "see what the fuss is about" is forking over their cash to watch or rent this actually very bad movie. Sure it wouldn't have appealed directly to Connie Servative, Parochial Minister of the First Baptist Church, but that wouldn't exactly be the target audience, would it?

Consider this from a marketing point of view. You don't have much of a product, but everybody (including the national news) is talking about it. You won't be able to sell it to a really large segment of the populace, but if you can distribute the film in a fuckload of countries and appeal widely to several shallow populations, all you have to do is sit back and watch the royalties roll in (since buying a cheap film is cheap, it's almost all profit). Your advertising is primarily complete and there are curiously morbid horror fans who want to see what all the fuss is about everywhere, so your audience is built in like GPS into a Prius. This is why Controversy works. This is why Exploitation works.

Something needed to work to get this thing out there. It sure wouldn't have been a hit (relative though that term may be) without the controversy. And, again, in hindsight, the gore effects are rather obvious, particularly after the scrutiny that centered around Alien (whose chest-burster scene used many of the same techniques... better). Audiences know more about film now than they did then and DVD (along with digital re-mastering) has made pictures clearer than ever. With the Cinema Verite style of the last act and the grainy, scratched, imperfect nature of the Film/ VHS presentations, it's not too much of a stretch to see how (maybe with a little assistance from Mr. Suspension O. Disbelief) this could have been believed to be the real thing. One clip on CBS could create a hell of a lot of word of mouth, no? After all, more than 20 years after this film called Snuff made its bloody splash in theatres and was released on VHS (and subsequently Banned in the UK), people were all too ready to believe that The Blair Witch Project was the Real McCoy too.

Helping this was the idea that it wasn't the entire film (most of which is poorly acted and ridiculously dubbed), but only the final five minutes or so. The film even appears to run out before the crew is finished with their shot (though the odds of this happening on multiple cameras simultaneously seems decidedly hard to believe). Who would fake that? Allan Shackleton, apparently, who knew damned well that one couldn't rewind the film at will in the theatre to re-watch each questionable moment. It was pay again, or just theorize. Remember, folks, it costs the same amount of money to buy a ticket to lambaste a film as it does to buy a ticket to praise a film. It costs the same amount to buy a VHS tape and burn it as it does to buy a VHS tape and watch it repeatedly. Either way, the schlock-hoisters get rich (and, in this case, get the girl too).

Without the added shock-cinema scene, Snuff would get a Dog! With the added shock-cinema scene, Snuff still gets a DOG!!! There is one somewhat artistic scene in which a woman's orgasm is juxtaposed with the murder of her lover as she's cheating on him (and, as I mentioned, in real life and in this film, everyone was cheating on everyone). Sadly, the scene doesn't live up to its potential and it just loses out. On the bright side, the women are beautiful. The movie still sucks. Snuff you in the next controversial reel!

Okay, enough Snuff!
In the history of "Way Longer than Needed Reviews"
This one takes the proverbial Cake!
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Snuff (1976) reviewed by J.C. Maçek III
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