Film: Faces of Death

Faces of Death is a series of "shockumentaries" made by John Alan Schwartz, credited under the names "Conan le Cilaire" (for his directing credits) and "Alan Black" (for his writing credits), beginning in 1978.

The whole gimmick of the series is to showcase various ways and events involving death, with actual stock footage of real deaths and injury spliced along side staged footage. Initially hosted by Dr. Francis B. Gross (actually played by actor Michael Carr), who was later succeeded by Dr. Louis Flellis (played by Schwartz's brother James B. Schwartz), these films were ostensibly vehicles for their hosts to ponder the meaning of life and death, which were illustrated by "real life" footage, though in reality they were vehicles for all sorts of gore effects and footage of actual accidents.

The films include:

  • Faces of Death (1978)
  • Faces of Death II (1981)
  • Faces of Death III (1985)
  • The Worst of Faces of Death (1987) — A Clip Show made up of footage from the prior films, albeit with new narrator Dr. Louis Flellis.
  • Faces of Death IV (1990) — Another instalment hosted by Dr. Flellis
  • Faces of Death V (1995) — Another Clip Show, this time not even bothering with adding any new footage.
  • Faces of Death VI (1996) — See above.
  • Faces of Death: Fact or Fiction? (1999) — A documentary about the series, featuring interviews with "le Cilaire" and "Flellis."

See also the Traces of Death series, which is very similar to Faces of Death except that it features less staged incidents and focuses more on actual footage of real death and injury.

Tropes include:

  • Alan Smithee:
    • John Alan Schwartz also had a career as a television writer, counting the likes of Knight Rider among his credits, along with the theatrically released film Black Ice, and so used pseudonyms for his work on these films.
    • James B. Schwartz actually did use his real name for his writing credit on the fourth film, but not for his portrayal of Dr. Flellis.
  • Art Shift: By the time the third and fourth films were made, portable VHS camcorders were more commonplace, leading to both video and film being used in an attempt to help sell the idea of the footage being real.
  • Badass Biker: Surprisingly enough, Dr. Gross in the second film. Naturally, this sets up a sequence of vehicular accidents.
  • Documentary Of Lies: To varying degrees throughout the series. The first and fourth films have a roughly 50/50 mix of real and fake footage. The vast majority of the second film is actually real, with only two sequences definitely known to have been faked. The third film, however, is almost entirely faked.
  • "Do It Yourself" Theme Tune: The song over the end credits of the fourth film was written by James B. Schwartz, with John Alan Schwartz as the lead vocalist.
  • Gorn: Along with the Italian-produced "cannibal" films that were popular around the same time, the first film was one of the Trope Codifiers for cinema where gore was the main draw factor.
  • Insistent Terminology: le Cilaire/Schwartz points out in Fact or Fiction? that he never faked any scenes in any of his films, he simulated them.
  • Lighter and Softer: The fourth film (and Worst of...) takes on a noticeably more tongue in cheek tone, thanks to Dr. Flellis being a far more sardonic narrator than his predecessor was.
  • Medal of Dishonor: The VHS and DVD releases of each film take pleasure in announcing how many countries they're currently banned in.
  • Retcon: Dr. Gross's death is explained away as the result of botched surgery by Dr. Flellis in Worst of..., but then changed by the fourth film to him being Driven to Suicide as a result of witnessing so much death.
  • Stock Footage: The second film is almost entirely made up of real footage, and the other films also generally use some too.
  • You Look Familiar:
    • The leader of the flesh-eating cult in the first film apparently started stooping to petty crime and got shot while trying to hold up a convenience store, which so pissed him off that he seemed to brutally murder his girlfriend, but apparently was acquitted and took up a new career driving ambulances. In reality, of course, all these are cameos by John Alan Schwartz.
    • Similarly, Dr. Flellis apparently got really depressed at one point and threw himself off a building, which was caught on camera and shown in the third film, but he somehow recovered and resumed his medical career just in time to host Worst of....