Great Video Nasties Moral Panic Documentary

Great Video Nasties Moral Panic Documentary

I remember the Video Nasties furore like it was yesterday. With my father being an avid Daily Mail reader and staunch Thatcherite I felt like I had a front row seat with the then Tory government seeking to ban the very films I loved when they were released on video in the early 80’s.

I saw most of the media coverage regarding this as it happened. I’ve also seen the later retrospective takes on the moral panic regarding the so-called ‘Video Nasties’ but there is one documentary that perfectly captures the sense of fear, paranoia and scapegoating for the ills of society unfairly placed on these horror films which some were even calling ‘snuff movies’ (!) I’ve uploaded this here for your delectation. Please watch and prepare for your jaw to drop as you witness a frankly unbelievable episode from history in which, at the time, there seemed to be plenty of authoritative voices against these videos but none in the mainstream media who were standing up for them. It was akin to book-burning.

DBP

Hopefully we can learn from this sad era. It could never happen again. Or could it? With this documentary reminding us what happened, more and more this seems like an episode of unjustified censorship which can be consigned to history where it belongs.

 

Excursions Into Hell: My Favourite Filmgoing Experiences

Excursions Into Hell: My Favourite Filmgoing Experiences

With the news that Female Trouble, John Waters’ meisterwerk and design for living is being shown, my noggin got a joggin’.

I started thinking about the films that I’ve been lucky enough to watch on the big screen and with an audience.

My favourite filmgoing experience has to be when I got to see a film that I never thought I’d ever see in a cinema AND in the format that it was intended to be seen in. That film is the brilliant Friday the 13th Part 3D. I had moved to London from York in 1994 to study film and had started to go to the amazing but very high-brow (although it can’t be that high-brow as they let me in…) National Film Theatre known as the NFT to London’s cineastes and skinny latte drinking set.

NFT

Shortly after graduating from Uni and getting a job (real life is worse than ANY horror film) I heard that the NFT were to show a season of 3D films which were to be actually shown in 3D using the vintage technology that was required. I then read that the third Friday the 13th film would be part of the season. I have never bought a cinema ticket faster in my fucking life!

MeathookCinemaFridaythe13th3DNFTScreening

Friday the 13th Part 3D starts with the end of Part 2 which isn’t in 3D. The NFT film snobs were sniggering at how corny this sequence was and were clearly thinking that their tastes in film were so much more elevated than this supposed generic slasher film they were watching on the screen.

But then, Part 3 started in earnest. If you haven’t seen the film, the 3D is brilliantly done. The makers of the movie really knew how they could make full effect of the 3D process and were willing to use it to blow audience’s minds.

The first glimpse of the 3D happens when the titles literally shoot out of the screen at the audience out of the decapitated head of Pamela Voorhees. But to really show how awesome the process was and how far it could be taken, the titles come forth but only part way before they come out even further so that they are right in front of the audience’s noses. It was a great piece of showmanship on the part of the filmmakers- ‘Here’s the 3D. Oh, hang on, we can do better than that! HERE’S the 3D!’

Friday13th3DTitles

With that first 3D one-two punch by the film I have never heard such a scream of excitement emitted by a cinema audience (and it sounded like every single member of that audience squealed in delight) before or since. The film was so well crafted with so much thought placed on the 3D aspects and how the gimmick could be used in so many innovative ways. A movie that was primarily made for horror fiends had just demonstrated that it could also work on the snobbiest film audiences imaginable and completely enthral them. Now that’s genius.

The 3D was used for both comical purposes to make the audience chuckle ( these involve yo-yos, juggling, a joint being passed towards the audience) but more importantly it’s also used so that spectators can experience the sheer pain of Jason’s killings. There is one scene in which Mr Voorhees squeezes a bit too hard on a character’s head and one of his eyeballs shoots out of it’s socket and straight at the audience. In another we get an arrow shot from a harpoon that Jason has fired at another victim. This also shoots her in the eye (after wheezing towards us first). It’s almost like the filmmakers wanted to exploit the ‘eye injury’ angle with this being a 3D movie. They were making the movie as painful as possible for the audience. Hooray for 3D!

We even get Jason staggering towards us whilst he’s mid-battle with the film’s Final Girl with an axe sticking out of his hockey mask.

Fridaythe13th3DAxeMask

This screening was such a success with the NFT’s audience that there was even applause when it finished. The audience whooped, yelped and had a jolly good time. Job done.

I went to see Jaws 3D the following night. Even in 3D it’s dreadful and further testament to the innovative use of the format by Friday’s filmmakers.

MeathookCinemaJaws3DNFT

Shortly after this screening I heard about a season of films showing at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (known as the ICA), another establishment of all things high culture and respectability. All of the films chosen were then (1998) still banned by the British Board of Film Classification (the BBFC- as you can tell we like our acronyms here in the United Kingdom or UK *haha*) and were all banned horror movies with some appearing on the infamous Video Nasties DDP List. Through some legal wrangling the ICA had asked the BBFC to let them be shown for one day only.

Thus, Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Driller Killer, Zombie Flesh Eaters, House by the Cemetary, Nightmares in a Damaged Brain and Zombie Holocaust were all shown whilst they were all still banned in the UK.

The thrill of seeing these forbidden fruits of the Video Nasties era when they were still banned was palpable. James Ferman was still the Director of the BBFC and was notoriously strict when it came to horror (it was under his regime that The Exorcist and Texas Chain Saw Massacre remained banned. He seemed inflexible when it came to art of any kind and clearly behind the times).

But things were about to change when it came to TCM. The movie was released in early 1999 in London when Camden Council were granted a license to show the film within it’s area boundaries only. For this release the film even had it’s own certificate of ‘C’ for Camden. Only people who were 18 and over would be able to watch the film in a cinema. I saw the film during this release.

MeathookCinemaTCM1999Screening

I remember I had gone into London to browse the many film memorabilia shops that existed around the West End then (all sadly gone now unfortunately) and then to go onto the gay scene with it’s numerous bars that were close to the ABC Shaftesbury Avenue. As I exited the excellent Cinema Store I walked past the ABC Cinema on Shaftesbury Avenue and saw that TCM was showing. I didn’t know about this release until I saw the poster outside the cinema.

TCM1999CamdenCouncilPoster

This was also my first visit to this particular cinema with it’s gorgeous carved frieze on the outside. It reeked of history inside and out and with further investigation I found out that it went back decades and was even used for film premieres.

ABCShaftesburyAvenueABCShaftesburyAveFrieze

The afternoon screening of TCM only had two other people in it. Watching TCM is like going to Hell (in a good way) for an hour and a half and it seemed really perverse that one minute I was trolling the West End and was then immersed in one of the most intense and frightening horror movies ever made. I remember none of the punters in that screening left before we had seen all of the end credits through to the end. The house lights then went up, we exchanged looks to each other as if to say ‘What the fuck have we just been through together?!’, smiled and then left.

A favourite more recent screening that sticks in my mind was when my local arthouse cinema showed Pink Flamingos. The Hyde Park Picturehouse here in Leeds shows a cult film most Saturdays under the banner of Creatures of the Night. The cinema is located in a part of Leeds which has a huge student population. Hence, you have plenty of students who attend these screenings, a minority of whom think that ‘cult’ means ‘rubbish’. These people obviously don’t know what cult cinema is and wouldn’t know shit from clay. I’ve attended screenings here of films such as The Terminator, The Warriors and Christine which, unfortunately, this clueless and jaded minority have thought it appropriate to snigger at and ridicule. As a side note, these people will never ruin a cinema screening for me. I would never give them the satisfaction or feed their narcissism in such a way.

HydeParkPicturehouse

A surefire way to tell if your film still has ‘it’ when it comes to cult cinema is to see and hear how the audience reacts. Right from the get-go Pink Flamingos shocked the audience at this particular screening into submission. At the start of the film there was a stunned silence of utter disbelief at what was being seen and then there were howls of laughter at all the right places with screams of disgust at all the appropriate scenes also (the dog poo scene especially) as Divine and co won the hearts of the punters.

PinkFlamingosLicking

In fact, there have been a few John Waters related screenings that stick in my mind. Firstly, the time I went to see his live film This Filthy World in New York which he attended. He answered questions after it. Also, the time he taught a film class that I was lucky to be invited to in which he showed one of his favourite films, Boom! starring Liz Taylor and Richard Burton. We all then talked about it and asked him about his career…But that has been covered by myself in a previous blog post. Talking about it again might be seen as bragging *walks away whistling*

Video World- A Blast From The Past

Video World- A Blast From The Past

It’s funny what crops up on the internet.

When video started to become popular there were also brilliant magazines that catered for the video industry and video fans alike. The majority of the column inches and pages were devoted to horror, action and exploitation with a few pages at the back devoted to porn. I think this is why my Dad always took an opportunity to flick through/perv over these video magazines when I bought them. They usually featured a Page 3 stunner on the front cover but my newsagent never once thought not to sell these mags to me even though they looked identical to top shelf filth like Razzle or Fiesta. Even my Dad didn’t care about me buying these magazines. Maybe he thought that his youngest son might be *normal* rather than homosexual which I know he worried about. Sorry Dad.

Anyway, someone online scanned pages from Video Review which came out in the early 80’s. I remember this periodcal along with Video World. The memories (and mammories) come flooding back. What a giddy exciting time the 80’s were for horror fans and gorehounds.

Day 8- 31 Days of Halloween- Night Train Murders (1975)

Day 8- 31 Days of Halloween- Night Train Murders (1975)

Or Last House on the Left On A Train.

Two young teenagers cross paths (or tracks) with a trio who degradate and sexually humiliate them. One of them is accidentally killed, the other jumps from the train to escape her captors. The trio then find themselves at the home of one of the teenagers. Revenge ensues.

tumblr_pun453pFr31tbcweeo1_400.png

Stylish direction and cinematography prevail in this film whilst the 70’s Euro vibe is captured very well indeed. Just like Last House this film is VERY extreme!

In fact this film was banned by the BBFC when submitted for cinema screenings in 1975. The video was placed on the Video Nasties list in 1983 but was then acquitted the year after and promptly removed from the DPP list.

3/5 out of 5 stars

Day 4- 31 Days of Halloween- The Witch Who Came From The Sea (1976)

Day 4- 31 Days of Halloween- The Witch Who Came From The Sea (1976)

A far-out and thoroughly groovy tale of the swinging scene of 1970’s California. But also a disturbing tale of childhood abuse. Molly has fantasies of tying up men that also involves the use of razors. Two American Football stars are found butchered. Could Molly be responsible? Have her fantasises started to overlap with reality?

The great thing about the Video Nasties list was that it contained low-key gems that were truly left-field like this movie.

CcPzJKaW0AAjzts

The film doesn’t really make much sense but it doesn’t have to. The Drive-In and 42nd Street crowd would have been watching this film with their friend Mary Jane in attendance. And its possibly much more of a mind-expanding experience that way. But either way this is a very enjoyable piece of off-kilter 70’s goodness.

The film also looks unexpectedly gorgeous. And so it should as the Director of Photography was a young Dean Cundey. He shot this just two years before Halloween.

4 out of 5 stars

Day 2- 31 Days of Halloween- The Horrifying Experiments of the SS Last Days (1977)

Day 2- 31 Days of Halloween- The Horrifying Experiments of the SS Last Days (1977)

Is this-

a) A beautifully acted, nuanced and sensitive portrayal of the horror of the Nazis and those unlucky enough to have crossed paths with them?

or b) A badly acted slice of exploitation resplendent with terrible dubbing and almost no budget?

I’ll give you a clue- look at the film’s name! This is also known as The Beast in Heat (it’s on the UK Video Nasties list under that title) and Gestapo’s Last Orgy.

beastheat5

I’d love to give you a summary of the plot but I don’t want to be banned from this platform.

Be sure to run a bath before watching this. You’ll need it.

But when you know exactly what you’re letting yourself in for this movie ticks all of the depraved boxes regarding lurid and boundary pushing schlock filmmaking. Imagine watching this back in the day on 42nd Street or on VHS in the early 80’s in the UK. Your mind would have been well and truly blown.

And by a weird turn of fate it’s uncut on YouTube! Enjoy (if thats the word).

4 out of 5 stars

Day 18- 31 Days of Halloween- Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979)

Day 18- 31 Days of Halloween- Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979)

A boat sails into New York but the only person onboard happens to be a morbidly obese zombie who seems to be pissed off and hungry. The daughter of the boat’s owner decides to venture to where her father had been, a Caribbean island called Matul. She takes along with her a journalist who smells a story.

fat-zombie

This film was butchered by the BBFC on its initial release. The distributors decided to release a stronger uncut version that then lead to the film being banned and placed on the DPP video nasties list.

zombie-flesh-eaters uncut

This film is reknowned for going the extra mile. Ever wondered what would happen if a zombie took on a shark? Of course you have! This film features it. Add to the mix a revolutionary eye-gouging scene, a great score by Fabio Frizzi and one of the most iconic ending scenes in horror history. Oh, and some of the most annoyed zombies with especially bad attitudes and you have a great movie.

e034013d52c6c61263e33eb49fb3a584fd42f12f_hq

This Italian shocker directed by maestro Lucio Fulci actually billed itself as a sequel to the Argento cut of Dawn of the Dead in Italy. Is it a masterpiece like Dawn? No. But its still one hell of a ride.

Evil Dead 2 – Day 29 – 31 Days of Halloween

Evil Dead 2 – Day 29 – 31 Days of Halloween

A bigger budget, a remake of sorts, this film was released when the video nasties furore was petering out. People were starting to see that horror movies wouldn’t turn the working class oinks into bloodthirsty serial killers or even adversely affect their dogs (as Graham Bright so hilariously claimed) but could be considered as art and great entertainment to boot.


This film was held up quite rightly as one such film. Raimi’s imagination goes into overdrive with this entry as we have Ash battling his own hand, chopping it off and replacing it with a chainsaw. Groovy. My favourite character has to be the mounted moose head that suddenly comes back to life.

This really is one of the most franetic, kinetic pieces of film I’ve ever seen. We also get to see Ash as a Kandarian demon. Brilliant. And the premise for the next film in the series is established at the end. And theres no CGI. Hooray. There is so many great scenes in this film that its impossible to cover even a tiny amount of the insanity. Watch this film and fasten your seatbelts.

Highly recommended. 4 out of 5

Tenebrae – Day 24 – 31 Days of Halloween

Tenebrae – Day 24 – 31 Days of Halloween

Probably Argento’s best movie in my opinion.

A successful writer Peter Neal is visiting Rome from America. He becomes aware that a serial killer is on the loose and strongly influenced by his work.

This film is staggeringly good. Prepare to be astounded by the tracking shot of the outside of the apartment block- one of the best shots I’ve ever seen in a film. Also, the scene where a characters arm is chopped off with an axe and her blood completely redecorates a wall. Directed with the usual flair and attention to detail and aesthetics that you’d expect from The Master.

This film also features an amazing turn by the legend John Saxon. Argento manages to coax a wacky, insane performance out of the actor which steals the show. Look out for the scene where he shows how his hat stays on no matter what.

tenebrae4big

The ending is a master stroke also. I’m certainly not going to spoil the surprise here but its a corker and doesn’t feel forced or contrived.

This film came a cropper in Britain- it was mixed up in the 80s Video Nasties moral panic and was banned for years. There seems to be three vile repercussions of the DPP list- obviously the fact that it prevented the viewer watching what they wanted but also that masterpieces like Tenebrae were banned and much lesser films were immortalised. Wrongly so- some of the films on the lists should have disappeared without a trace otherwise.

Even the poster for Tenebrae caused a commotion. The original poster features the blood from a neck wound on a female victim. This was too much for London Underground who said that they wouldn’t display the posters as they were too graphic. Hence the red trickle of blood was instead replaced by a red ribbon for the UK posters and even the soundtrack art here.

tenebrae-poster
The original poster
tenebrae_quad_uk-2
The altered poster- now fit for London Underground
If you love horror, see this film. If you love giallo, see this film. Damn- if you love cinema full stop- SEE THIS FILM.

5 out of 5

The New York Ripper (1982) – Day 19 – 31 Days of Halloween

The New York Ripper (1982) – Day 19 – 31 Days of Halloween

This film has quite a reputation. It was submitted to the British Board of Film Classification for a rating. But it didn’t receive a rating. The head of the BBFC was so disgusted with the film that he made sure it was actually escorted out of the country. Its still cut to this day after it was resubmitted years later.


Does it deliver? In a word- yes! The murders are graphic, the violence extreme and the grime thick.

Yet its also beautifully shot and captures New York at its rotten 80s best. 42nd Street, prostitutes, the subway as a perilous way to travel, crime laden streets. Its all here.

And the killer has a Donald Duck voice.


Look out for the scenes involving the high class sexpot. Priceless.


Recommended. 3.5 out of 5.