Sequels to popular Horror/Exploitation/Mondo films are not always a good thing.When a film is highly popular, naturally a sequel is warranted and expected.When Faces Of Death was released in 1978, It became such a hit on the grindhouse circuit, that director Conan Le Cilaire (real name John Allan Schwartz) began work on it’s follow up.Released in 1981, Faces Of Death II comes very close to surpassing its predecessor.
At the end of the first FOD, we had a very uplifting and positive ending.Dr.Gross talked about a circle of life that is never ending.And the film even ended with a woman giving birth to a child, them frolicking with uplifting music playing in the background as the end credits began to roll.GAG ME.
The second installment opened up with scenes of a violent car wreck and real footage of a fire in a West German apartment building.And a horribly burned vicim slowly dying in a hospital bed struggling to breathe through a tracheotomy.Gross’s opening narration is a total betrayal of his closing thoughts from the first film. Talking about his hopes of life being a never ending cycle had completely diminished.Just what the doctor ordered, (no pun intended) a real and somewhat pessimistic view of the human spirit.
What makes this film stand out from the first installment is it’s realism.Yes, there are some scenes that are quite obviously staged.The real footage though is quite memorable.As I mentioned last week some of the segments showcased are footage from a boxing match between Wales’ Johnny Owen and Mexico’s Lupe Pintor.Owen had suffered a severe hi to his head during the fight, and subsequently slipped into a coma and died.There are however a few segments that somewhat dull the viewing experience.Those of stuntman Kenny Powers attempting to jump the St.Lawrence River in a rocket powered car are bland.As are the exploits of truck stunt driver Chuck Strange.The footage of survival training of American special forces is mildly entertaining.Not to mention the footage of a New Guinea tribe known only as the “Cannibal Kings.”Which could have easily found it’s way into any of the Mondo Cane films quite easily.
Much like the first installment it had several scenes of stock footage from wartime. Including the conflicts in Lebanon and even some of the terrorist activities of the Sadonistas in El Salvador.As well as more stock footage from America’s involvement during the Vietnam war.Which is what makes this film stand out in my opinion.Much like the Soviet film I reviewed earlier this year, Come And See It’s a lot more disturbing when the audience knows what they’re seeing is real.Or at least they know has actually happened.
Now I touched on this briefly in my review of the original FOD, but It’s the films conclusion that has always stuck in my mind.The film documents the trial and execution of the Tolbert regime in Liberia.After the coupe launched my Kenyan Doe.After the tribunal and subsequent death by firing squad, The film slows down and a score mimicking a heartbeat take over as the credits roll.I’ve always felt this was very ironic in some ways.Doe himself was overthrown in the mid 1980’s.His trial and torture were filmed by his captors, and are easily accessible to anyone with an internet connection.
Like most of this series, yes it contains scenes if animal cruelty.Thankfully it’s only one segment.For some however (including myself), thats one segment to many.As far as the staged footage goes; It’s more or less forgettable.In conclusion it’s possible that this is the crown jewel of the series.Bold with its realism, It forces the viewer to realize that age old axiom. ‘Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction”