Sunday, 7 August 2011

Video Nasties - The Definitive Guide

Video Nasties - The Definitive Guide DVD Region 0. Nucleus Films. 
For anyone who wasn’t around in Britain in the early 1980s, exactly why a bunch of cheap and often poorly made horror films could grab the attention of the entire nation and its media may be somewhat baffling. Even now, almost thirty years on, the events that took place back then and the infamous Video Nasty list they spawned retain a certain aura that continues to fascinate. Video tape collectors around the world pay way above the retail prices of pristine, uncut DVD re-issues of these films just to own the original pre-certification video cassette complete with its chunky case and incredibly garish [read: FANTASTIC!] box artwork.
So what was all the fuss about?

The 72 films that were banned and the story behind the infamous DPP list are all covered in detail in Nucleus Films’ numbered limited edition 3xDVD set.

The first disc starts with Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship and Videotape - a documentary by Jake West, first shown (I believe) at FrightFest 2010. West’s film sets out in great detail the events which lead to the moral panic of 1982. The film features interviews with MP Graham Bright as well as archive footage of James Ferman, director of the BBFC and Mary Whitehouse and her various cronies. Film makers Ruggero Deodato, Neil Marshall and Christopher Smith, and a number of well known genre critics and fans including Kim Newman and Marc Morris give balance to the argument and talk us through the explosion of the home video market in Britain, draconian censorship legislation and hysterical press campaigns from the likes of the Daily Mail and the Daily Mirror - campaigns that led to the erosion of civil liberties and the 1980’s equivalent of a Nazi book burning.

A key element of the film is that it illustrates lucidly how the manipulations, fraud and madness of the moral minority in the events of almost thirty years ago continue to teach us important lessons regarding liberty and freedom of choice, lessons which are especially relevant in 2010. While we may think that censorship and fundamentalist moral crusaders have less and less impact on our lives in the twenty-first century (with the advent of the internet - finding extreme visual entertainment is as easy as buying a packet of cigarettes, and far stronger material than anything which is currently available legally in the UK is just a “click” away) They are sadly very much alive and kicking. Far from being just a nostalgic flashback for 40 something gore-hounds, Video Nasties instructs that these same lunatics are still free and in positions of power. Positions they are only too happy to abuse for their own ends if we refuse to learn from history and allow them to do so again.

Discs two contains trailers for the “Final 39” – films that were successfully prosecuted in the UK and deemed liable to deprave and corrupt. Disc three has all thirty three trailers for the “Dropped 33” – Films that were initially banned and subsequently dropped from the DPP’s hit-list. On both discs there are entertaining filmed introductions to each of the trailers, with plenty of Nasty trivia to keep things interesting. There’s also fifty minutes of nostalgic company idents and tons of video box artwork to keep the obsessed involved just a little longer.

Overall this 3 DVD set with its 13 hours 25 minutes running time is an excellent archive of material and comes highly recommended.

[My review was originally published here. The Limited edition is now out of print, but a re-release can be bought at]

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