Snuff (1976, dirs. Michael Findlay, Horacio Fredriksson, Simon Nuchtern)
Question – when does a film need three directors?
Answer – when that film is Snuff, one of the most legendary titles in the annals of exploitation movie history, with a marketing gimmick so sick and perverse, it was always destined to be a grindhouse hit. You see, the makers of Snuff decided to sell the film on the idea that at the end of the film, you would see an actual real-life snuff sequence of an actress being killed.
It was, of course, a load of bollocks, though that didn’t stop the FBI sending an agent to a screening to look into it. (Incidentally, that agent is briefly interviewed on the Blue Underground Blu-ray.) We may as well begin by talking about this notorious sequence, as it’s probably the only reason the film is still remembered, which is unfair, but I’ll get to that soon. At around the seventy-five-minute mark, the film you’ve been watching —a Mansonsploitation flick shot in Argentina in 1971 —abruptly ends, and we cut back to a shot of the actors on the set, surrounded by crew members. Except it’s actually a different group of people shot several years later under the auspices of exploitation producer Allan Shackleton. The actors don’t match, nor does the set dressing, but no one’s gonna let that spoil things. The “director” coerces a young starlet onto the bed and proceeds to stab her, snip off a finger, saw her hand off and then pull out her guts. It’s sometimes disturbing in its intensity, and the performances are more convincing than anything we’ve seen in the previous 75 minutes, but it’s also pretty laughable, culminating in the hysterical shot of the director cutting open the girl’s stomach and pulling out her heart.
Perhaps some basic anatomy lessons are in order here? It’s hard to believe anyone could have been so naive as to believe this was real, but then again, I watched Snuff on pristine Blu-ray. Perhaps, on a beat-up old print in a sleazebag cinema in 1976, it could have looked convincing? And so on this sequence rests the grisly myth of Snuff as an actual snuff movie. It was an extraordinary hook, and inevitably led to the film being banned in the UK in the early 80s as a “Video Nasty”. Hilariously, it’s now available in practically every home in the country, yours to rent for only £1.99 on Amazon Prime. Since the 70s, the term snuff movie has become mainstream, with Hollywood films like 8mm tackling the subject, and I even wrote a giallo-esque thriller about snuff movies called Dead Girl Blues. Hey, check out that bit of marketing! I may not be Allan Shackleton, but I’m getting good at this.
Anyway, if there’s one thing everyone seems to be able to agree on, it’s that the first seventy-five minutes of Snuff are a waste of time. THESE PEOPLE ARE NOT TO BE TRUSTED. Well, okay, they might be right, but if they are, then am I glad to be wrong. Because I think that what remains of Snuff is sheer exploitation nirvana. The full story is that the film was shot, as previously mentioned, in Argentina, 1971, as a violent cult/biker-gang thriller loosely based on Charles Manson. It was co-directed by legendary exploitation provocateur Michael Findlay, and shot by his wife Roberta. Together, the pair had been responsible for some of the grubbiest, scuzziest, most cynical and downright nasty films of the 1960s “roughie” era. The Ultimate Degenerate, The “Flesh” trilogy, Satan’s Bed, Shriek of the Mutilated…the Findlays had a knack for tapping into the audience’s darkest desires and laying bare their most lurid fantasies onscreen.
Shot as The Slaughter, the film apparently never played in its complete form. It was bought by Allan Shackleton, who reportedly thought the film was garbage. Shackleton cut the climax of the film and inserted the snuff coda instead. On one hand, I’m happy, because the snuff gimmick has allowed the film to live on in infamy…but on the other, I’m gutted, because I absolutely adore the footage from The Slaughter.
We begin with the opening bars of Steppenwolf’s Born To Be Wild, which are then very poorly looped over and over again. It’s the perfect crackpot soundtrack to the best female biker gang I’ve seen since Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! These chicks are beautiful and badass and I could happily have watched a whole film of them. They chase their friend around and shoot her, then put her feet in stocks and cut between her toes, just because. It’s truly squirm-inducing. Watching over them is Satan (pronounced Sah-taaaaahn), the handsome leader of their weird and pointless cult. Later they all go skinny dipping, then kill a man in an airport bathroom for no reason. Honestly, these guys are just terrific, and every second they’re onscreen is a second spent in heaven. The music is terrific, mostly well-chosen library tracks by the sound of it, and the cinematography has a raw power that sometimes transcends its micro-budget origins with moments of strange beauty, never more so than when the stock abruptly changes to black-and-white for a few minutes.
Intentional? Or did the money for colour stock runout? Who gives a fuck? It looks terrific. At this point, I could watch these biker girls drive around the desert for hours, shooting innocent people for no reason. Sadly, not all the film is as successful. We are introduced to the movie’s nominal lead —Terry London, international superstar actress. We spend a lot of time watching her decide whether to sleep with her producer boyfriend or some awful spoilt rich kid asshole. There’s a scene that takes place during a carnival that consists of about twenty hours of stock footage, often the same bit of footage repeated a few seconds after you last saw it.
There then follows about forty minutes of absolute cinematic perfection. There’s a staggering black-and-white flashback to a scene of insane childhood trauma, followed by a convenience store hold up that Rob Zombie wishes he’d directed, and then the piéce-de-résistance —the climactic assault on the mansion. This section hits my sweet spot of beautiful women tying up pretentious rich pricks and murdering them, soundtracked by some awesome psychedelic rock. If only this had been the whole film? Know your strengths guys. Know your strengths! It all ends with one of the Sisters of Sah-taaaaahn about to stab our actress right in her pregnant belly, in a savagely tasteless version of the Manson Family’s Tate/La-Bianca murders. Here, the movie as we know it ends and the “snuff” coda begins. Which means we never get to see the end of the damn movie, and probably never will!
I mean, come on, if people can get the fucking Snyder Cut of Justice League released, surely we can get the last few minutes of The Slaughter out there! It’s a disappointing end, but somehow a perfect one too. Snuff is the myth that just keeps on giving. Look, it’s worth pointing out that you’ll most likely hate this film and think it’s terrible, and that’s cool with me. Snuff is an idiosyncratic slice of sweaty madness. The voices are all dubbed, at least five of them by director Michael Findlay himself, and the technical credits are dubious at best, if you care about that sort of thing. Personally, I don’t. I got swept up with the Sisters of Sah-taaahn and their ludicrously brutal hi-jinx. I loved the look and the feel and the sound of the movie. Even the slightly dull stuff with the Hollywood jerks doesn’t take up too much screen-time. And hey, before you call me crazy for my obsession with this absurd film, just know that in the Blu-ray intro, Nicolas Winding Refn compares Snuff with the films of Jean-Luc Godard, a comparison even I would hesitate to make.
But hey, now that you mention it…
David Sodergren lives in Scotland with his wife Heather and his best friend, Boris the Pug.
Growing up, he was the kind of kid who collected rubber skeletons and lived for horror movies.
Not much has changed since then.
His first novel, The Forgotten Island, was published on October 1st 2018. This was followed by Night Shoot, a brutal throwback to the early 80s slasher movie cycle, in May 2019.
2020 will be Sodergren’s biggest year yet, with two new horror novels being published. Dead Girl Blues is a slasher-noir mystery, and it will be followed by a return to full-blown supernatural horror before the end of the year.
You can follow David on Twitter @paperbacksnpugs
To find out more about David please visit his official website www.paperbacksandpugs.wordpress.com
Find David on Instagram here
The small Scottish town of Auchenmullan is dead, and has been for years. It sits in the shadow of a mountain, forgotten and atrophying in the perpetual gloom.
Forty-seven residents are all that remain.
There’s nothing to do there, nothing to see, except for a solitary grave near the top of the mountain.
MAGGIE WALL BURIED HERE AS A WITCH reads the faded inscription.
But sometimes the dead don’t stay buried. Especially when they have unfinished business.
A relentless folk-horror nightmare from the author of The Forgotten Island, Maggie’s Grave will disturb and shock in equal measure.
Dead Girl Blues
When a young woman dies in Willow Zulawski’s arms, it sets in motion a chain of events that will push her to the brink of madness.
A mysterious video is the only clue, but as Willow digs deeper into the murky world of snuff movies, those closest to her start turning up dead. Someone out there will stop at nothing to silence her.
After all, when killing is business, what’s one more dead body?
Part noir mystery, part violent slasher, Dead Girl Blues is the latest twisted shocker from David Sodergren, author of The Forgotten Island and Night Shoot.