Filmmaker John Alan Schwartz, best known for directing the movies in the controversial Faces of Death franchise, has sadly passed away. In a post shared on Schwartz’s personal Facebook account, the late filmmaker’s wife confirms Schwartz peacefully died this week, although the cause of death hasn’t been made clear at this time. Although the filmmaker credited himself with pseudonyms and lived a fairly private life, it’s clear from his wife’s message the man was as far-removed from the horrific nature of the Faces of Death movies as could be.
“This morning John passed away. He is now with the angels. But I have a feeling he will be back. He died peacefully. He was one of the funniest, most unique, original, creative and magical person I’ve ever known Living with him was an adventure. He cried at sad movies, laughed hard and made others laugh hard. He’d wake up everyday with a new idea for a tv show or a movie. He brought the writer out in me and brought me coffee and a bagels in bed every day for twenty two years.
He shared the same passion for travel as I did and we went on some really extraordinary adventures and threw some amazing parties. John was a great cook and loved having dinner parties…Although he never ate at them. He was always too full from tasting the food he was creating. He was as passionate about animals as I was.
He loved talking to people and he’d ask them the most intimate questions and because people knew was being sincere they would reveal to him there deepest secrets. He was definitely one of a kind. I think John and I knew each other in another life. The second I saw him I knew in every cell of my body that we were going to be together forever and on some level we will be. Goodbye Johnny. You will be missed.”
The original Faces of Death movie was first released in 1978. While the movie credits Conan LeCilaire as the director and Alan Black as the writer, Schwartz was in actuality the one doing both. Although technically a horror movie, Faces of Death is presented as a pseudo-documentary, exploring the subject of death by depicting a variety or graphic and violent death scenes. The footage looked disturbingly and convincingly real, fooling viewers for decades into thinking they were watching footage of actual deaths. In reality, while some of the footage in the movie is genuine, a bulk of it is performed by actors with special effects. While the movie had a budget of less than half a million dollars, it’s reported to have earned over $35 million at the box office, as controversy clearly creates cash.
A few years later, Schwartz released the first official sequel Faces of Death II in 1981, this time focusing on deaths in sports and stunt work. Faces of Death III would follow in 1985, highlighting the work of serial killers and re-enacting crime scene footage of police officers finding bodies in a dumpster. The third installment also features the legendary scene of a parachuter unfortunately landing straight into an alligator farm pond. Faces of Death IV, released in 1990, presents several new fictional death scenes, ranging from bungee jumping mishaps to a Satanic ritual gone awry. As it’s the last installment to contain original footage, the fourth movie is considered to be the last of the “real” sequels in the series.
After Faces of Death IV, multiple sequels were released, although they mostly consisted of highlights from the previous movies. Imitators such as Traces of Death were also released to horror fans, although nothing ever seemed to match the controversy and cult status of Schwartz’s original movie series. Nine years after the release of the fourth movie, Schwartz gave it another go with the hoax documentary Faces of Death: Fact or Fiction?, presented as a fictional behind-the-scenes doc on the making of the movies. Certainly, once you know how much from the movies is actually complete fiction, watching them because a bit less disturbing and much more enjoyable.
The Faces of Death movies were legendary for multiple generations of horror fans. Their controversial nature has forever enshrined them a spot in horror movie history, and Schwartz’s legacy as an artist will continue to live on. At this time, our thoughts are with Joan and John’s friends and family. Rest in peace. This information comes to us from John Alan Schwartz on Facebook.