Friday, December 31, 2010

A Loving Poem To Video Nasties

There has never been anything quite like this incredible 3-disc set from Nucleus Films (UK/PAL). All 72 titles that were on the UK's "Video Nasties" list are individually discussed, the specifics of their releases are cataloged, and each movie's trailer is presented.

On top of that, the first disc contains an amazing documentary exploring the "Video Nasties" phenomenon.  Every angle of the issue is examined via interviews with media experts, actual politicians behind the bans (such as the silly Sir Graham Bright), and well known genre commentators such as Stephen Thrower, Kim Newman, Alan Bryce, Xavier Mendik, Dr. Patricia MacCormack, and Alan Jones. Actress/TV personality Emily Booth pops in to do some presenting and points her pretty, leather-clad ass at the camera to keep the fans transfixed.

For those not familiar with Britain's draconian crackdown on films deemed unsuitable even for adults, the documentary will be an eye-opening experience and testament to just how ignorant certain human beings -- those in powerful public positions, in particular -- can be. 

The packaging of this extraordinary DVD project shows great love for its subject.

For example, the emphasis here is on VHS releases because the bans affected the distribution of VHS's several years before DVD's came along. The producers have built their menus to resemble collections of VHS's on shelves. To watch a trailer separately, you simply arrow left or right across the VHS spines of your favorite "Nasty" and press "OK" to launch the trailer. Little details like this make the experience special.

The conditions of the trailers vary. All are complete, though, and brought back many memories for me. In Australia, there was no official "Video Nasties" list. Nevertheless, the jackboots of the censorship gestapo were well and truly stomping on many of the same titles in the convict colony. Bans were not as frequent, but heavy cuts were common. Fulci's Zombie Flesh Eaters (aka Zombie/Zombi 2) had much of its beefy goodness excised. The splinter in the eye sequence was cut at its juiciest moment. Even Dead and Buried, which spent some time on the "Nasties" list, was attacked with scissors by the Aussie censor. The primary victim was the scene where Lisa Blount (playing a nurse) stabs 'Freddy' in the eyeball.

The poster child for the nastiest of "Nasties" has always been  Ruggero Deodato's Cannibal Holocaust.  It was banned for years in the UK and was only passed uncut in Australia a year ago. Watched as one of 72 films on this compilation, it certainly stands out as superior entertainment. It's also easy to see how it got the attention of Britain's moral guardians.

Two of my favorite trailers of the 72 are William Asher's  Butcher Baker, Nightmaker Maker and J.S. Cardone's The Slayer. The former, though released on VHS in most territories and screened frequently on US cable in the 80's, is pretty much MIA on DVD. Various companies have announced plans to release it, but there's been no movement so far. It really is a fantastic, terribly twisted movie, and boasts a car stunt you have to see to believe. There is a great central performance by Susan Tyrell, too, who plays a murderous, jealous aunt. Interestingly, Mr. Cardone, still active, recently wrote the remakes of The Stepfather and Prom Night.

Cardone's The Slayer, a formidable presence on the "Nasties" list, was released in Australia by Palace Explosive Video, the "nasty" arm of Palace Home Video's distribution set-up. I was always quite impressed with its grim tone and island setting. Another memorable aspect of it is a murder scene involving a pitchfork pushed through a woman's back and out her chest. This scene is in the terrific trailer.

Some of the titles that made the "Nasties" list did so on title alone. Anything with "Cannibal" in the title (Cannibal Man, Cannibal Apocalypse)) or a power tool (The Tool Box Murders and Driller Killer) was guaranteed a place. But it's hard to explain how the feeble Forest of Fear ended up there, let alone The Boogey Man, Terror Eyes, Possession (!), and Frozen Scream.  Interestingly, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre never earned a place on the list, so go figure that one. Also of interest is the trailer for Don't Go in the Basement, the inspiration for Edgar Wright's parody trailer in Grindhouse.

If anything good came out of the "Video Nasties" phenomenon, it's that massive amounts of attention were given to movies that might have been otherwise ignored or totally forgotten. And the DPP's  "Nasty" list became a type of Holy Grail of must-see movies for adventurous fans and scholars.

In addition to all that, excellent books such as The Art of the Nasty, Seduction of the Gullible, and Shock! Horror! were published, and a fine 3-disc DVD set examining this strange period in British culture has been thoroughly explored.

Even if you're only half a horror fan, you cannot be without this extraordinary volume, a poem to the bloody celluloid that keeps us all sane.

1 comment:

  1. jervaise brooke hamsterDecember 31, 2010 at 9:09 AM

    I want to bugger Emily Booth (as she was in 1994 when she was 18, not as she is now obviously).