Snuff film

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A snuff movie (known as hei in Japanese)[1] is a motion picture genre that depicts the actual death or murder of a person or people, without the aid of special effects, for the express purpose of distribution and entertainment or financial exploitation. For-profit snuff films are generally regarded as an urban legend, whose persistence demonstrates more about our anxieties than the reality of such films being made. Some filmed records of executions and murders exist but have not been made or released for commercial purposes.[2]

Contents

History

The first recorded use of the term "snuff film" is in a 1971 book by Ed Sanders, The Family: The Story of Charles Manson's Dune Buggy Attack Battalion. He alleges that The Manson Family was involved in making such a film in California to record their murders.[2]

The metaphorical use of the term "snuff" to denote killing appears to be derived from a verb for the extinguishing of a candle flame. The word has been used as such in English slang for hundreds of years. J.C. Hotten lists the term in the fifth edition of his Slang Dictionary in 1874 as a "term very common among the lower orders of London, meaning to die from disease or accident." The word is descended (via the Middle English "snuffen" or "snuppen"[3]) from the Old English "snithan", meaning to slaughter and dismember, from "snide", meaning to kill by cutting or stabbing, from "snid", to cut.

The Michael Powell film Peeping Tom (1960) featured a filmmaker who committed murders and used the acts as the content of his documentary films. The concept of "snuff movies" being made for profit became more widely known in 1976 with the commercial film Snuff.[4][5][citation needed] A low budget exploitation horror film entitled Slaughter, the film was directed by Michael and Roberta Findlay. In an interview decades later, Roberta Findlay said that the film's distributor Allan Shackleton had read about snuff films being imported from South America and retitled the film to Snuff to exploit the idea.[6] He added a new ending that depicted an actress being murdered on a film set[7] and retitled the film Snuff. The promotion of Snuff on its second release suggested it featured the murder of an actress: "The film that could only be made in South America... where life is CHEAP."[citation needed], but that was false advertising.[7] Shackleton put out false newspaper clippings that reported a citizens group's crusading against the film [4] and hired people to act as protesters to picket screenings.[8]

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