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Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide

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    Ian Jane
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  • Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide (Severin Films)



    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: June 3rd, 2014.
    Director: Jake West
    Cast: Various
    Year: 2010
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movie:

    Sort of an unofficial companion piece to Mark Morris and Nigel Wingrove's book, The Art Of The Nasty, the three disc Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide was originally released in the UK by Nucleus Films and has now been given a domestic release courtesy of the good people at Severin Films. So what is it? A ridiculously comprehensive look at the strict and overzealous censorship practices that evolved in England during the home video boom of the eighties. With tapes coming in featuring all manner of content, British censorship big-wigs saw the flood gates opening and unleashing a tide of filth upon a populace they deemed unable to judge for themselves. The result? The Video Nasties controversy in which the fascists in with the power to sway public opinion either heavily censored or banned outright seventy-two films making it illegal to own or watch them in their uncut form. This may sound outdated by today's standards but keep in mind that when it was in full swing in the eighties, people got into no small amount of legal hot water over something as simple as owning a copy of Cannibal Holocaust, something that American horror fans take for granted (given that you could, at one point, buy that movie uncut on the shelves of national retailers).

    At the heart of all of this was a moral crusader named Mary Whitehouse who took it upon herself to submit films she deemed offensive, most of which she admitted quite openly she'd never watched, as criminal. Whitehouse would go so far as to claim that she didn't need to actually view the films in their proper context in order to know if they were immoral or not (a clip in this documentary preserves that). This set celebrates those films by way of a feature length documentary entitled Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorhip And Video Tape.

    Contributors to the documentary (including both those newly interviewed and appearing through archival clips) are many and varied, ranging from the likes of Martin Barker, John Beyer, Emily Booth, British Member Of Parliament Sir Graham Bright, Darkside Magazine editor Allan Bryce (whose inclusion will leave a sour taste in the mouths of some, this reviewer included), former BBFC director James Ferman, John Hayward, Dr. Beth Johnson, author Alan Jones, Peter Kruger, Craig Lapper, Patricia MacCormack, Derek Malcolm, Neil Marshall (the man who directed Dog Soldiers and The Descent), Xavier Mendik, Nucleus Films founder Marc Morris, author Kim Newman, Andy Nyman, Julian Petley, Geoffrey Robertson QC, Severance director Christopher Smith, Brad Stevens, author Stephen Thrower (he of Nightmare USA and Beyond Terror fame), and the late Mary Whitehouse (whose puritanical crusading would wind up getting a porno magazine named after her!). By including insight from filmmakers, collectors, horror fans and those who fought against the censorship of these films beside comments from those who created and subsequently enforced these laws (and who still to this day stand by their decisions), the documentary does a fine job of explaining both sides of the story. Of course, the bias is that the films shouldn't have been censored (and they shouldn't have, so we're okay with this bias!) but at the very least those involved in making it did at least take the time to interview people from the opposing side. While most of these proponents of censorship are, admittedly, well educated and intelligent enough, it would seem that they are more than a little misguided in their moral crusading.

    Well put together and not made without a sense of humor, the piece explains how it was back in England during the early home video days by reminding us about the taboo factor of seeing an nth generation tape of something previously only heard about. We remember here how it provided a bit of a rush and felt more exciting because of it. In the days before almost anything could be found online, the advent of affordable consumer grade video was a huge deal. From there we learn how the censorial issues evolved, where they took the country as a whole, how they affected certain people and where it landed England's culture as a whole. It's quite well made, well edited, and interesting even if you don't have any ties to Britain, made all the better by some interesting newspaper clippings, TV news broadcast clips, and of course, pertinent snippets from many of the films in question.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    The documentary is presented in 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen and while it's interlaced the video quality is otherwise perfectly fine. Early in the documentary the interviewees discuss how the deficiencies in VHS added to the 'taboo' factor of watching certain movies and in these moments, the interview footage switches from HD quality to rough, bootleg VHS quality but it's all for artistic effect and it works nicely. The archival footage used throughout the documentary is, understandably, varying in quality based on whatever source was available - the same can be said of some of the movie clips used. Overall though, the newly shot footage assembled specifically for this piece looks really good.

    The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo tracks on the three discs in this collection are fine. Dialogue is always easy to understand and the various commentators come through clearly without any problems. Levels are well balanced and while there's some hiss here and there during some of the archival clips, you can't really fault anyone for that - all in all this set sounds just fine.

    So if the feature documentary wasn't enough, this set is filled with a load of bonus content (or you could consider this to be the bonus content and the documentary to be the extra if you prefer). Aside from the documentary, disc one includes an amusing Video Ident-A-Thon in which you can watch opening promos from loads of video companies from the boom years, both British and American distributors alike. Also on this disc is a massive still gallery of VHS cover art.

    Disc two features trailers for the thirty nine 'final Nasty films' available to watch with or without introductory commentary from many of the participants interviewed in the documentary. Hosted by Emily Booth, this is a pretty fun look back at many of the films that caused such an outrage in the first place.

    The trailers on this disc include: Absurd / Anthropophagous / Axe / Beast In Heat / Blood Bath / Blood Feast / Blood Rites / Bloody Moon / The Burning / Cannibal Apocalypse / Cannibal Ferox / Cannibal Holocaust / Cannibal Man / Devil Hunter / Don't Go In The Woods / Driller Killer / Evilspeak / Expose / Faces Of Death / Fight For Your Life / Forest Of Fear / Andy Warhol's Frankenstein / Gestapo's Last Orgy / House By The Cemetery / House On The Edge Of The Park / I Spit On Your Grave / Island Of Death / Last House On The Left / Love Camp 7 / Madhouse / Mardi Gras Massacre / Night Of The Bloody Apes / Night Of The Demon / Nightmares In A Damaged Brain / Snuff / SS Experiment Camp / Tenebrae / The Werewolf And The Yeti / Zombie Flesh Eaters

    The third disc follows the same formula as the second, though the focus here is on the thirty three titles originally banned and then removed from the list. Again, it features insight from various experts as well as some fun intros from Booth. Both the second and third discs in the set are as much fun as the documentary itself and they're both amazingly comprehensive and wholly entertaining. The trailers included on the third disc are:

    The Beyond / The Boogeyman / Cannibal Terror / Contamination / Dead And Buried / Death Trap / Deep River Savages / Delirium / Don't Go In The House / Don't Go Near The Park / Don't Look In The Basement / The Evil Dead / Frozen Scream / Funhouse / Human Experiment / I Miss You Hugs And Kisses / Inferno / Killer Nun / Late Night Trains / The Living Dead / Nightmare Maker / Possession / Pranks / Prisoner Of The Cannibal God / Revenge Of The Boogeyman / The Slayer / Terror Eyes / The Toolbox Murders / Unhinged / Visiting Hours / The Witch Who Came From The Sea / Women Behind Bars / Zombie Creeping Flesh

    The Final Word:

    It's hard to imagine any cult film or horror buff not having a good time with this set. Not only is it ridiculously entertaining but it lends a lot of insight into the moral panic that British censors sent the country off on during the video boom of the eighties. This makes it historically interesting and quite a good document of a very strange time in the annals of English censorship. A pretty great set, all in all, and one which anyone with an interest in horror movies or the censorship thereof ought to own.




























































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