Snuff (film)  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Snuff is a 1976 splatter horror film, and is most notorious for being marketed as if it were an actual snuff film. This picture contributed to the urban legend of snuff films, although the concept did not originate with it.



The film started out as a low-budget gore film titled Slaughter which was written and directed by the husband-and-wife grindhouse filmmaking team of Michael and Roberta Findlay. Filmed in Argentina in 1971 on a budget of $30,000, it depicted the actions of a Manson-esque murder cult, and was shot mainly without sound due to the actors understanding very little English. The film's financier, Jack Bravman, took an out-of-court settlement from American International Pictures to allow it to use the title Slaughter for its Blaxploitation film starring Jim Brown. The Findlays' film enjoyed a very limited theatrical release.

Independent low-budget distributor and sometime producer Allan Shackleton took the film and shelved it for four years—but was inspired to release it with a new ending, unbeknownst to the original filmmakers, after reading a newspaper article in 1975 on the rumor of snuff films produced in South America and decided to cash in on the urban legend. He added a new ending, filmed in a vérité style by Simon Nuchtern, in which a woman is brutally murdered by a film crew, supposedly the crew of Slaughter. The new footage purportedly showed an actual murder, and was spliced onto the end of Slaughter with an abrupt cut suggesting that the footage was unplanned and the murder authentic. This new version of the film was released under the title Snuff, with the tagline "The film that could only be made in South America... where Life is CHEAP!"

Once the film was released, distributor Shackleton reportedly hired fake protesters to picket movie theaters showing the film. This soon became moot when Women Against Pornography began staging real protests, outraged at the film's purported imagery of sexual violence. The group's protest received coverage by such media outlets as the CBS Evening News.


Although the film was exposed as a hoax in Variety in 1976, it became popular in New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Boston. Twenty female protesters protested the film's return engagement in Rochester, New York at the Holiday Ciné. Four of those protesters were arrested after they broke the poster frame to destroy the film's poster.

The rumours persisted that the film showed a real-life murder. "[P]rompted by complaints and petitions from well-known writers, including Eric Bentley and Susan Brownmiller, and legislators", an investigation began into the circumstances surrounding the film's production conducted by New York District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau, who dismissed the supposedly "real" murder as "nothing more than conventional trick photography—as is evident to anyone who sees the movie". Morgenthau reassured the public that the actress being dismembered and killed in the ending of the film "is alive and well", having urged the police to trace her.

Critical reception

The film received negative reviews. Richard Eder of the New York Times described it as "a horrendously written, photographed, acted, directed and dubbed bit of verdigris showing a group of devil-girls massacring people."


Further reading

  • Kerekes, David & Slater, David (1994). Killing For Culture. Creation Books.
  • Johnson, Eithne & Schaefer, Eric. "Soft Core/Hard Gore: Snuff as a Crisis in Meaning," in Journal of Film and Video, University of Illinois Press, (Volume 45, Numbers 2-3, Summer-Fall, 1993): pages 40–59.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Snuff (film)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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