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I know you love “extreme” films. It's not even fringe or edgy anymore; the internet has made freaks of us all.
The 21st century has given us such a cornucopia of horror and depravity. August Underground, A Serbian Film, Taggart Lake, Grotesque. It's really been a banner couple of decades so far. But you know all that.
You've seen all these and more, a true Renaissance fan in our streaming age. But how far back have you gone to get your jollies?
Flower of Flesh and Blood was real enough for Charlie Sheen. Cannibal Holocaust killed real animals on camera and had to bring its actors out of hiding in a court of law. Shit, Last House on Dead End Street was directed by a self confessed speed addict and was nearly an urban legend because of its rarity.
But what about the grandaddy of them all? The video nasty with five minutes of hot pink-splattered footage tacked on to the end that gave us the modern Death Film? Come on gore-hound, you have to have at least heard of SNUFF. A picture that gifted pop culture with that term to encapsulate all those metaphysical fears about the birth of home video and the rise of pornography.
But let's forget that for now. You're not interested in an analysis of fringe cinema. You want to know if this nasty little picture can slake your thirst for extreme content, right?
The answer is no, at least not the cut most widely available, which itself is a re-cut of a “film” originally entitled Slaughter. This unwatchable mess fell into the hands of a certain Mr. Shackleton, a purveyor of no-budget celluloid in the early 70's, who found a way to make money off of it: shoot some equally low budget “behind the scenes” segments, tack them on to create a new ending and change the title.
The well known cut of Snuff only added roughly five minutes of footage, implying that the director and some of the film crew torture and kill the main actress of the film proper on camera. By today's standards, it's pretty laughable, what with the strawberry-colored blood and piss poor acting.
But the longer cut, the one shown in some of the theaters during its controversial cross-country tour, would be much more in line with the modern definition of “extreme cinema”.
It was rumored that Shackleton had made additional cuts of the film and seeded them out to random theaters to help create even further controversy and protests and keep the free press train rolling.
The lesser known “Emanuelle Cut”, as it's referred to on horror blogs, should be right up your alley, you sick little duck.
This cut proceeds as normal through most of the film, the nonsensical Manson-sploitation plot-line running right up to the added murder sequence. Here we glimpse our first change.
As the director begins cutting off the actress' fingers, the shots of the film crew standing around watching with elation are replaced with shots of people standing in a field, some distance away on the top of a slight incline. With each cut away from the actress being tortured, the camera moves close to the subjects, their features never becoming more distinct. The subjects are totally in silhouette. The shots are somehow even crummier than the torture scene. Bad lighting and serious film grain.
Relax, we haven’t even gotten to the good part yet.
The next change comes as the director starts opening up his victim and rooting around inside her. The “normal” version of the scene has a very fake looking prosthetic torso in place of the actress'. The Emanuelle Cut has what appears to be the director plunging his hands into a cow carcass and pulling out actual innards.
Not unheard of in that era, sure, but the thing does appear to be in a state of decay, as flies are seen buzzing in and out of frame and the tissue and organs he pulls up are mottled.
The missing footage of the cast watching now shows up, extending this messy sequence.
There are a few additional cast members in these shots including a short dusky haired woman in a yellow dress and a young man in clerical garb. The camera holds on them as they appear to have a conversation, but with no ADRing, it's impossible to hear what's being said. The man in the priest getup looks to be over enunciating his words and accidentally looks directly into the camera the last time he's seen.
The final change, the one that gives this cut its name, the one that will have you hot and bothered, comes after the director has pulled out the heart of his victim, but before the cut to black and the infamous “Did you get it – get the shot?” line.
The film freeze-frames for almost thirty seconds just as the director throws the heart and a handful of viscera up into the air, then cuts to a shot of the actress lying on the bed, presumably dead. Minutes pass as the camera remains steady on her brutalized form before she suddenly bolts upright in a what has been described as a crude jump scare.
The damage and gaping wounds covering her torso are still apparent as she lethargically pulls herself off of the bed. It's pretty impressive prosthetic work for the mid-seventies. The remaining viscera in her falls out in a big wet lump as she begins moving across the room. Bet you'd get wet from just a still frame of it.
The crew is still all around, but standing motionless. Everyone is frozen in place. If you look closely, you can see one or two of the actors shifting slightly, trying to remain still. She stumbles past a few of the crew before we cut back to the field with the grainy silhouettes.
All audio cuts out except for a tinny voice repeating some half indistinct phrase. Something like “(indistinct)... calls them, Emanuelle.” It's all a little art housey, but then we get a legendary, Cannibal Holocaust pole girl shot that extreme cinephiles still argue about to this day.
It's the money shot, the great white whale of classic gore effects.
There's a smash cut to red viscera, then the camera pulling back, giving us tissue and bone more in focus. We keep pulling back until it's apparent the camera had been nesting inside the actress's chest cavity. The woman is looking to her right as she idly puts her hand inside and begins to tug hard at one of her ribs. No cut-aways, no blur, no change in angles, just her tugging and grunting as she tries to pry the rib loose. Before the final cut to black, she turns back to the camera and opens her mouth just as the rib comes loose and you finish all over yourself.
No one is one hundred percent sure how they achieved this without super imposing frames together or some type of impossible ye old green screening. Guess it doesn't matter in the end, since you won't see something like this for another thirty years or so. It was ahead of its time and still hard to come by.
You may be able to find some clips of this cut on Vimeo if you dig around for awhile, but let me tell you, nothing beats seeing it on the original film print in its entirety.
It's stimulating as all hell.