Full disclaimer. I have owned Video Nasties The Definitive Guide from Nucleus, region locked for some time. I snatched it from across the pond some time ago, so this is rewatch, a second exploration and a chance to see if the Severin release did anything different for better or worse than the original release. This documentary is one that is near and dear to my heart, perhaps going so far as to say that it acts as my fifth chamber. I have sung its praises and mourned those tapes inside that were unjustly confiscated, individuals wrongfully prosecuted. I have seen the UK try time and time again to create their own moral bubble by creating laws that ban content rather than address social and criminal issues on a proper level. They continue to this day with their potential new requirements for DVD/Blu-ray extras rating requirements. Let’s state something that I believe strongly from the outset: Violent Movies DO NOT Make Violent People. I do believe that moral “crusaders”, zealots and ignorant fuckers create panic and falsely project their own squeamishness and cynicism onto movies that cannot defend themselves. However, we, the video watching, movie collecting, content- hungry populace can and must defend movies and art of any kind Censorship makes the censor hungry. The movies they kill and devour only cause an insatiable self-righteous lust in the censor. Hunger for power. The greatest weapon against this censor, the power monster, the ignorance and the “moral” warriors… is this three disc Video Nasties set (and the pending sequel to be released in the UK every so shortly). We will remember history; Never again, the Video Nasties!
Synopsis from Severin/Nucleus:
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I’m guilty of glorifying the video nasties as much as any one. I did a challenge a couple of years back, watching all of them and writing about them. You can learn a great deal about what people find offensive or misunderstand by watching 72 films that get the axe, but while the video nasty list serves as a great menu of “must watch” gore fests, boobie chokers and filth, it also represents the suffering of many individuals who were prosecuted for nothing more than wanting to sit back on a Friday night with a low budget splatter fest no their couch. Distributors with families. Consumers spending money only to see their pounds ride off into the Thatcher governments secret vault, the no-no room (if a room exists in Parliament that could house all the nasties it would surely be called the no-no room). If you lived in England in the mid-80’s you had to fight to put your eyes on some of the greatest Italian movies every made. You had to cross your fingers when the post delivered your parcels from out of country. Would your bootlegs be seized? Would YOU be seized? I think of the movie V for Vendetta with Mr. Cready and his black bags and his government that would confiscate and devour human life for merely possessing a Koran. What is Cannibal Holocaust if not the holy book of the horror watching community? So I say again, remember that enjoy your nasties, but remember that they were more than a list of must-watches. They were a list of life destroyers and not because of the content on the screen.
Note: Share your stories in the comment section below if you endured the nasties.
Now that you’ve had some time to think about the movies you’ve been fawning over and the sacred list of films that inflicted so much pain, it’s time to actually appreciate them. Love them. Gorge on them, and satiate your thirst for some truly B cinema surrounded with exploitation gold, effects people who deserve awards who may never have received them and countless musical scores that are perfect for your workout routine (I speak from experience). Of course there are plenty of naked people… I mean a lot! Remember that one of the foci of the lawmakers during the nasty era was the blood-on-boobs factor. Using the video nasty list correctly, as an addendum to your horror watching career as a supplement to main stream releases and lighter fare is the perfect way to expand your horizons. This documentary provides a check list that spans nations and directors, subgenres and actors, decades and decay. Watching all 72 creates an automatic versatilitarian out of you. With this documentary you get a companion to your viewing journey from experts, from people like you, from filmmakers you love.
Last year, I helped to judge and assisted in a movie watching competition called the Halloween Horror Movie Marathon Madness with my compadre, Elizabeth Kathryn Gray. That year’s theme was called Portrait of a Video Nasty which essentially meant you’d get bonus points in the competition for watching video nasty list items among other banned movies not on the nasty list. The conversations the surrounded this competition were intense creating controversial statements and bold accusations, but at the end of the whole damn thing a number of well-versed horror fans had seen the entire nasty list, understood what “banned” looked like and sort of laughed at what the UK lawmakers saw as the purveyors of moral degradation. This documentary itself would get you points for watching even though it wasn’t widely available to the US market unless you owned a region free DVD player. No longer and issue for those of us in the United States thanks to Severin. That means that you can be a better educated debater when it comes to the VN’s with the assistance of this set.
If you haven’t had the chance to enjoy this set full of fourteen hours worth of content, you have a chance, with the region set to North America. Disc 1 contains a documentary that details the history of the video nasty list and the creation of the Video Recording Act of 1984. You’ll find stills and an amazing reel of bumpers from labels that featured the nasties during their hey-day (pre certification). Disc 2 is a powerhouse selection to be sure. Each of the 39 nasties that were successfully prosecuted are featured with trailer and discussion. I’m talking about 39 separate minutes long segments with intelligent discussions about movies you love and don’t get enough conversation. Disc 3 contains the trailers for the other 33 initially banned titles. Movies that are excellent, worth watching and are as a part of the nasty list as any of the actually prosecuted titles. The box is a nice oversized package that easily holds the three discs, each disc is a different color and the artwork on the front of the box, should really be a half sleeve on my goddamn arm.
Full release notes from Severin:
Disc One The era-defining and critically acclaimed documentary VIDEO NASTIES: MORAL PANIC, CENSORSHIP AND VIDEOTAPE directed by Jake (Doghouse) West and produced by Marc Morris features interviews with filmmakers Neil Marshall (‘The Descent’, ‘Doomsday’), Christopher Smith (‘Severance’, ‘Black Death’) and MP Graham Bright as well as rare archive footage featuring James Ferman (director of the BBFC 1975-1999) & Mary Whitehouse. Taking in the explosion of home video, the erosion of civil liberties, the introduction of draconian censorship measures, hysterical press campaigns and the birth of many careers born in blood and videotape, West’s documentary also reflects on the influence this peculiar era still exerts on us today.
Disc Two presents the 39 titles that were successfully prosecuted in UK courts and deemed liable to deprave and corrupt. These included: ‘Absurd’, ‘Cannibal Holocaust’, ‘The Driller Killer’, ‘I Spit on Your Grave’, ‘Nightmares in a Damaged Brain’, ‘Snuff’ & ‘Zombie Flesh-Eaters’.
Disc Three presents the 33 titles that were initially banned, but then subsequently acquitted and removed from the DPP’s list. These included: ‘Death Trap’, ‘Deep River Savages’, ‘The Evil Dead’, ‘Human Experiments’, ‘The Toolbox Murders’ & Zombie Creeping Flesh.
Discs 2 & 3 can be viewed either as a non-stop trailer show, or with newly-filmed introductions from a wide range of acclaimed media academics and notable genre journalists. Each disc is preceded by a brief introduction by cult horror presenter Emily Booth.
You can order Video Nasties The Definite Guide now. Keep your peepers peeled for the sequel Video Nasties Draconian Days.
Be a better horror fan. Watch a video nasty today. Of course if you’re going to watch a video nasty, then you probably need to enjoy this documentary to gain the most of your viewing experience. A great big thanks to Severin who is helping us to remember what the real face of evil looks like, in the UK and beyond.
Note: Save for the region, I believe the original UK release and Severin releases to be identical from my viewing and box notes. Nothing cut out. It's all there, and now the region-ed folks can enjoy it too.