SNUFF (1976)

When holding a round table discussion about Snuff, there are two separate things that need to be hashed out. The first thing on the agenda would be Slaughter, a mostly worthless and unreleased Michael Findlay film that he and Roberta cobbled together in Argentina in 1971 which makes up the actual bones of Snuff. The second thing to cover is Snuff, the final product distributed by Allan Shackleton, as it was released in 1976 to huge box office returns due to some of the best stunt publicity money could buy (and likely did).

The plot of Slaughter concerns itself with superstar Terry London as she arrives in Buenos Aires with filmmaker Max Marsh (any relation to Julian?) to shoot a movie. Terry has been seeing a Casanova on the side by the name of Horst Franck who is also sleeping with Angelica, one part of a gang of drug fiend biker chick marauders who are under the spell of a cat named Satan (pronounced say-tahn). As Angelica was the one to bear a child with Horst as a sacrifice for Satan, the cult leader’s plan shifts when the unwitting Terry quickly becomes pregnant.

Slaughter certainly appears like it wants to be Jess Franco’s swing at Mansonmania and, in some of its moments, it achieves that goal. But one really has to be Jess Franco to pull off the kind of ragged and sunbaked genre pictures that made him a beloved figure worth serious study. This is not to say that Michael Findlay doesn’t belong in academia somewhere but Jess Franco he most certainly was not and far too often Slaughter shows the tell-tale signs of being a catch-as-catch-can production. Footage is stitched together to get the slightest hint of a story and time collapses in such a way that important things (Terry becoming pregnant, for example) occur in the blink of an eye. The climactic attack on the Franck estate, the stand-in for the deadly invasion of the Tate-Polanski residence by the Manson gang, happens in broad daylight which means any sinister atmosphere is erased and replaced with something found in a tropical adventure film from AIP. Likewise ludicrous is Slaughter’s representation of hedonistic and bourgeois fat cats, the ire of Satan and his crew, all of whom find themselves in a double cuckolding session as if it were a regular activity on the Tuesday menu. And even though it’s not without its own ironic entertainment value, Slaughter is poorly dubbed throughout its entire length with Roberta and Michael voicing several of the characters.

On the plus side, Roberta’s cinematography is mostly crisp and, along with the groovy locations, is the best thing about the movie. And I can’t complain too much about the time capsule interiors nor can I find a bitch in regards to the film’s score. It’s not quite in the same ballpark as the music attributed to The Fear on the soundtrack to Janie but, just as I would that score, I’d buy it if it were ever officially released. As for the film’s actual non-technical merits, well… I’d be lying if I didn’t say that the best moment is when the gals rob a grocery store and kill a loudmouthed old woman and her snotty grandchild.

Slaughter also allows Michael and Roberta one last hurrah to explore their very specific type of sexploitation including torture, mutilation, and a bizarre flashback where a pubescent Angelica gets both turned on and repulsed while watching a cow being milked immediately before she’s sexually assaulted (while her brother watches, for some added sleaze at no extra cost). Unfortunately, none of it really lands and, by 1971, this kind of material was shopworn, old hat, boring, and being done better by other filmmakers.

I always get a little miffed that I don’t know how Slaughter comes out as the last five minutes of Snuff, a half-day’s work that spun the film’s mountain of box office gold, contains the notorious tacked-on footage that was shot in Carter Stevens’s garage studio. Set up as a documentary eye on the production of Slaughter where the camera ostensibly captures one of the film’s actresses being tortured and killed, the performances during this portion of Snuff are mostly good and the effects, while not great, could have been worse. But the what that REALLY gives away the game are the multiple and careful angles that make up the assemblage of the footage where everything is a little too polished and clean for it to look too much like the real thing actually would. However, tell 100% of the people that what they’re seeing is the real thing and you’re guaranteed to get around 30% who will believe you without question. And if all one wants to do is make a ton of cash, that’s more than enough people that will help you do so.

And armed with a hotted up ad campaign that promised maximum carnage that had been filmed in South America (where, as the one sheets so eloquently opined, life is CHEAP), word of mouth, and the very real possibility of paid protestors that eventually mixed with real ones, Snuff became a sensation in a way that was only possible during a very brief time in our country’s history. Michael and Roberta Findlay, having sold the film to Shackleton for a flat fee years earlier, never saw a dime of its ultimate profits. By the time Snuff was released, five years had passed since the production of Slaughter and the Findlays were no longer a duo, having broken into two very different solo acts.

In summation, Slaughter is a uniquely bad movie devoid of genuine thrills, suspense, character development, or any other thing that would add to its stock. And, honestly, Snuff is a pretty risible controversy generator that ultimately makes the person who bought the ticket to see something verboten feel like the same kind of sucker carnivals have worked over for generations. But yet, somehow, so far removed from its initial release, outrage, and falllout, Snuff remains a very strange curio that, despite not containing one single ingredient that would be ingestible on its own, works in a weird and hypnotic way when swallowed whole.

(C) Copyright 2023, Patrick Crain

3 thoughts on “SNUFF (1976)

  1. When “Mark Of The Devil” was released in 1972, they put “rated V for violence” on the poster, and offered vomit bags to patrons..well that worked well, and “SNUFF” is another savvy marketing ploy that also scored as you say. Wild to believe that anyone really thought it was real, but as carnival barkers know, just keep yelling and yelling and people will move forward and give yo their money! This is a great review of a unique cinematic experience. Really enjoy your posts

    Liked by 1 person

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