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Snuff (1976)

Blue Underground
Blu-ray Disc Released: 10/22/2013

All Ratings out of
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/28/2013

In theory, a movie should stand on its own merits and do the job which it was intended to do. However, every once in a while, we come across a movie whose behind-the-scenes story is much more interesting than the one presented in the film itself. Snuff is just such as film, and Blue Underground has now brought this notorious movie to Blu-ray Disc.

Let's start from the beginning. In 1971, American filmmakers Michael and Roberta Findlay went to Buenos Aires, Argentina to shoot a film entitled The Slaughter. Remember, this was during the time of the Charles Manson Family trials, so Manson-like cults were considered to be a hot property.

As such, here is the story of The Slaughter: Actress Terry London (Mirtha Massa) arrives in Buenos Aires with film producer Max Marsh (Aldo Mayo), to begin shooting a new picture. While there, she re-connects with Horst (Clao Villanueva), a man she met in New York. Unbeknownst to these people, a man who goes by Satá n (Enrique Larratelli) is planning a small-scale revolution. Satá n (which is pronounced Sah-tahn) leads a group of women which includes Angelica (Margarita Amuchastegui), Ana (Ana Carro), and Susanna (Liliana Fernandez Blanco), and he commits them to commit acts of mayhem, such as random shootings, robberies, and stabbings. Angelica once lived at Horst's estate, and she and her group are now closing in on Terry.

The Slaughter was completed, but the Findlay's had difficulty finding a distributor, so the film sat on the shelf. Around 1976, producer Allan Shackleton bought the film and added a new ending to it. In this new finale, the last shot of The Slaughter suddenly turns into a film set, where we see a crew supposedly making that movie. A man and a woman (who go unidentified) began to make out, but the man suddenly turns violent, killing and dismembering the woman while the other crew members not only watch, but film this event as well. This version of the movie was released as Snuff, with no crew or cast credits listed. Shackleton's plan was to capitalize on the urban legend of the "snuff" film, in which a person is truly killed...and it worked. Based solely on the title, groups picketed the film and theaters refused to play it, thus giving it overnight infamy.

The problem is that most of these people probably never saw Snuff. If they had, then they would realize what a truly horrible movie this is, and that it should be picketed on the grounds of bad filmmaking, not for being obscene. Let's break this down. It's easy to see why The Slaughter was ignored. Even for the period, this is an awful movie. The story is all over the place, and the movie can't decide if it wants to be about Terry or about Satá n's gang. The story is taking place at the time of Carnival, so this gives the Findlay's an excuse to insert scene after scene of stock footage from the celebration. (I didn't measure it, but it seemed like there was about 10 minutes of this.) The movie's low-budget nature makes it absurd at times, such as when a police detective interviews Terry while sitting at a desk in the doorway of a garage. One scene is tinted blue for some reason. The gore effects are pretty bad and the action scenes reminded me of a Western. At one point, Satá n says "I am who am", which offend some people, but that just sounds like something which Popeye would say. At the 1:14:26 mark, the new footage begins. This was shot on a thread-bare set in Shackleton's house and it looks nothing like the set from The Slaughter. The action here is very lackluster and Herschel Gordon Lewis called to say that the gore effects were ridiculous.

Snuff is one of those movies which I'd read about for decades, but never seen until now. I certainly wasn't missing anything, and again, the film's legend greatly outweighs its actual presentation. The sad thing (on several levels) is that there are probably some people out there who would like to know how The Slaughter ended, but I'm not sure if the movie has ever been re-released in its original form. Snuff is one of those films which people seek out due to its reputation, but I highly doubt that many enjoy it, unless they looking for something with camp factor. The most shocking thing about Snuff is that the movie is still being promoted with the tagline "Made in South America - Where Life is Cheap!"

Snuff is way to mod for its own good on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Blue Underground. The film has been framed at 1.66:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 29 Mbps. The image is somewhat sharp and clear, but the image shows numerous defects from the source materials, such as black dots and scratches. There is some noticeable grain here, but it's not distracting. For the most part, the colors look good (except for that odd blue scene) and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is adequate, although some shots look soft, but the image has an overall flatness to it. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 876 kbps. For the most part, the track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. There are some mild pops and clicks at times, but otherwise, the track is well-balanced and the music doesn't overwhelm the dialogue.

The Snuff Blu-ray Disc contains several extras. "Shooting Snuff" (10 minutes) is an interview with Carter Stevens, who describes how the original film and the new ending came together. Having been involved in the salvaging of The Slaughter, Stevens gives us a first-hand account of the final scene. In "Up to Snuff" (7 minutes), Director Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive) gives an overview of the film and describes why he admires it. "Porn Buster" (5 minutes) is an interview with retired FBI Agent Bill Kelly who talks about the part of his job in which he was tasked in finding real "snuff" films. "Snuff: The Seventies and Beyond" is an essay by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas which examines the film and its repercussions. "Controversy Gallery" is a still gallery which offers newspaper clippings which describe the fervor created by the film. We get the U.S. TRAILER, as well as the German TRAILER. The final extra is a “Poster & Still Gallery”.

Review Copyright 2013 by Mike Long