Snuff [DVD] [1974]

One could argue that there's a difference between the most detailed and the most appropriate presentation for a film on DVD (just because there's more bonus material available for American Pie than Citizen Kane doesn't mean the former merits a more elaborate package than the latter), and Blue Underground's DVD release of Snuff may well be the ultimate example of this theory in action. Snuff gained lasting infamy after producer and distributor Allan Shackleton launched a wildly successful rumor campaign to convince naïve filmgoers that the film's onscreen murders were real (though few would be likely to believe that after seeing the film), and Blue Underground's disc has been designed to give off the air of forbidden fruit. Clad in a package printed to look like a brown paper wrapper (emblazoned with the film's ad slogan, "The film that could only be made in South America...where life is CHEAP!"), with no credits or signs of its corporate origin (save for a UPC bar code), the Snuff disc has no menu, no chapter stops, no subtitles or captions, and no bonus material -- put it in your player, push play, and it'll just keep playing until you turn it off. In short, it looks and acts like the cheap bootleg you'd expect something like Snuff to be, except for the fact that this movie has never looked this good on home video before. The full-screen 1.33:1 image makes the most of the film's sometimes muddy camerawork, the source material is surprisingly clean and free of major blemishes, and the Dolby Digital Mono audio is crisp and reasonably clean, making the shoddy faux-dubbing all the more laughable (with Michael and Roberta Findlay's voices easily recognizable to grindhouse aficionados). Short of including a commentary track or bonus documentary explaining the nuts and bolts of the film's marketing -- one of the creepier and more fascinating frauds in the history of exploitation film history -- this is probably the ideal presentation for Snuff, a DVD that's in on the joke of the movie's lurid history.
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Director Max Marsh (Aldo Mayo) flies to Argentina to make a sexually explicit film with his girlfriend and star, Terri London (Mirtha Massa). Unbeknownst to Max, Terri has taken a new lover, a rich playboy named Horst (Clao Villanueva), who lives on his father's nearby estate. Terri becomes pregnant by Horst, threatening the production of the film, though the entire shoot is canceled when Max is murdered during a street carnival. Meanwhile, a woman named Angelica (Margarita Amuchástegui), who lives in the mansion with Horst, is in cahoots with a vicious band of female hippies who are in thrall to a Mansonesque leader named Satan (Enrique Larratelli). He preaches that the decadence of the rich must be punished, and plans to start with Horst's family. Angelica's mission was to become pregnant by Horst in order to provide a baby to be sacrificed as the first victim in Satan's war against the wealthy. However, the news that an American film star is carrying the child is even better, and the band of killers bide their time (though they keep busy by swimming naked and murdering innocent shopkeepers). Six months later, the girls return to Horst's estate, where a lascivious, drunken party is in full swing. The guests are murdered, Horst is castrated, and the pregnant Terri is stabbed to death in her bed. At this point in the film, the camera pulls back to reveal the set -- the director of Snuff is seen congratulating the actors for such great performances. He convinces one actress to join him on the bed, where they begin kissing. When she realizes that she's still being filmed, she gets confused, and the director suddenly brandishes a knife. With the help of two production assistants, he cuts off a finger, saws off her hand, and then disembowels her. He holds the entrails in the air and howls with triumph as the film suddenly runs out and members of the crew say, "Ok, we got it, let's get out of here!" ~ Fred Beldin, Rovi

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