“Faces Of Death III” (1985)

As you might have gathered from the title, Faces Of Death III is the third installment in the infamous Mondo series. In my opinion, it was the last good entry in the series. It also marked the last appearance of the series infamous host, Dr. Frances B. Gross. (Played once again by actor Michael Karr.) Unlike the previous installment, which opted for more stock footage, this one focused more on dramatizations. Although not as widely popular as the previous two entries, this one still managed to keep the spirit of the franchise alive.

faces-of-death-iii

By Jerome Reuter

So what is the ‘spirit’ of the franchise you might ask? Well, it’s just how serious the Faces Of Death films take themselves, which make them so timeless. With so much material obviously staged, anyone with half a brain would call shenanigans on any of these films being a serious documentary. The infamous tagline of ‘banned in 36 countries’ baits us, and reels us in—hook, line and sinker.

Which brings me to the third installment, and the film I’m addressing today. In my opinion, this one tried a little to hard to be shocking. It isn’t that it doesn’t shock at some times; it certainly does, and leaves an impression on you. Quite a few of the films segments deal with matters involving law enforcement. This wasn’t anything new to the series, shootouts had been shown before, with drug users and people pushed to their breaking point. This one had two segments in particular that differed from what we had previously seen before.

One of which followed the police perusing a serial killer, who preyed on the homeless. In an attempt to add authenticity it’s played up like a news crew following the action as it happens, complete with interviews with various vagrants in fear for their lives. At first glance, it does seem authentic—and more entertaining than anything you’d see on an episode of COPS.

The second segment that comes to mind—is where this film tries to hard. We follow a serial killer, his arrest and trial. A home video of one of his crimes is presented in the fake court created for the film. This is where things are taken in a new direction. We’re shown a scene of simulated rape, somewhere these films never went to up until now. The audience becomes the voyeur, to the crimes committed by another. This would be repeated in a scene from Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer, released just one year later.

Much of the other segments are somewhat typical, or a least what you would expect. We’re shown a grab bag of roadside accident footage, a parachuting accident, an execution in an unnamed South American country, and of course, stock footage from the slaughterhouse. It’s the films ending however, that I’ve always found the most memorable.

In a segment aptly titled God spelled backward, some criminals receive their just desserts. (No pun intended.) Almost every Mondo films showcases animal cruelty, here the animals get their revenge. Two crooks beak into a junkyard, where one meets his untimely end at the jaws of a guard dog. Although it’s a scene tat’s obviously staged, its’ presentation is nothing short of brilliant. The segment is told without narration, and instead relies on a rotating surveillance camera to tell the story. Mans’ best friend? Indeed.

This wouldn’t be the last segment of the series. Unfortunately, Faces Of Death IV would try to bring the series in a new direction, with a new host. Sadly, it would fail horrendously. The film was laughable, and the series new host Dr. Louis Flellis—was about as scary as Larry David. I’ll always cherish these first three films, and always have time for them. Seeing that the era of the Mondo film has long passed, this series is somewhat of a time capsule for a bygone era.

What else is there to say? Discover your’ own face of death.

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