Dirty Movies 6.03
by D.K. Holm

by Yaron Svoray with Thomas Hughes (Simon & Schuster)

Camera running. On the set a woman is tied up, beaten and raped. Smash cut to a man holding a loaded pistol. Close-up on the woman’s face as the bullet penetrates above her nose. Fin.

A wrap. In the can. Bury the body and sell the snuff film for $250,000, the going rate, according to Yaron Svoray, a former Israeli police detective and undercover officer for the U.S. drug enforcement Agency.

Rumors of snuff films imported from South America started circulating in this country in the early 1970’s. Picking up on the grisly urban legend, an enterprising film producer, Allen Shackleton, churned out a fake film titled Snuff! in 1976. “ The film that could only be made in South America where life is CHEAP!” screamed the film’s poster, showing a woman’s neck under the sharp blade of a clapper board about to cut off her head.

The film bombed, but to this day the idea that snuff films are in circulation haunts the public imagination, or at least Yaron Svoray’s imagination. Svoray’s cop background allowed him to submerge himself in the seamy underworld of small-time hustlers, mobsters and porn producers. As a thriller, the snuff cop whirling through Bangkok, Paris, Munich, Bosnia and L.A. in search of films is exciting. He claims to have seen seven snuff films, but was unable to get his hands on any of them. A couple of them out of Bosnia seem credible. But a film of troopers shooting women and children, however horrifying, is not a snuff film.

When it comes to the real thing, we have to trust the cop. He interviews the ex-girlfriend of a Hell’s Angel who says she was present when the bikers made a snuff film on a Super 8 camera about 20 years ago. After her graphic description of a girl getting her throat cut, Svoray writes: “I knew it was true–I knew it deep in my guts. “

Not deep enough.

His gut feeling does nothing more than add one more anecdote to a list of rumors piling up over the years.

Of all the snuff sightings in this book, the most vivid encounter takes place at a screen premiere of sorts. One of Svoray’s contacts takes him to a house in Connecticut where nine men, who have paid a $1,500 tab at the door, gather in the living room, take their seats and masturbate during the film.

He says little about the men and does not describe the snuff film in detail. Again, you have to take him at his word, as you do throughout the narrative.

In 1994 a San Francisco Chronicle reporter, Rider McDowell, spent six months investigating this same territory. Result: Nothing. “I’ve endured watching a myriad of horrible fake snuff films...I’ve poured over dozens of unsolved murders around the country, searching, always searching. To no avail...” he writes. This I can believe, but it would bomb as a book. (Actually, this book of revelations bombed, but Borders still has a few copies. The book’s failure indicates people are no longer interested in snuff stuff, but it’s one of my obsessions.)

It is impossible to state categorically that no snuff film has ever been made. Maybe the ultimate orgasmic murder on film is circulating among sickos in search of their thrill. For those who believe snuff films are out there, this book will confirm their beliefs. For the skeptics he has no solid proof, or worse, he’s embellished his police reports.

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