VIDEO NASTIES THE DEFINITIVE GUIDE, the stunning 3-disc set released in the UK in 2010 by Nucleus Films and now in the US by Severin Films, really is the best introduction to/retrospective of a particularly shameful episode in British film censorship that you'll ever find.
Its creators, Marc Morris and Jake West, have now compiled another 3 discs' worth of material as a follow-up, and are releasing it in July 2014 to nicely tie in with the 30th anniversary of the introduction of the infamous Video Recordings Act.
This sequel-of-sorts proffers all-new documentary "Video Nasties: Draconian Days" (a successor to the original collection's superlative "Video Nasties - Moral Panic, Censorship and Videotape"), and two discs covering all 82 titles that were removed from video store shelves under "Section 3" during the 'nasty' cull despite never making it onto the Department of Public Prosecution's official banned list: as well as an original trailer for each one, every title gets its own mini-featurette in which various historians and genre luminaries share trivia and views.
We were sent a screener DVD of the documentary, "Video Nasties: Draconian Days", for the purpose of this review.
The documentary is, as if it needs saying, excellent. On this occasion, the focus lies between the years of 1984 and 1999.
Readers who are old enough will remember that these were troubling times for UK-based film fans, the after-effects of the tabloid-driven hysteria over the so-called video nasties and the public vilification of them that followed being felt by way of stringent censorial decisions - most 18-rated horror films were suffering BBFC cuts before being released onto video - and a media keen to associate any home-grown acts of violence with exposure to anything from CHILD'S PLAY 3 to RAMBO...
Directed once again by West, the film does a tremendous job of covering this era in fine detail, while allowing for equal amounts of dry humour and serious political debate to seep through.
As is traditional with more conventional sequels, this one is bigger (97 minutes in length) and farther reaching than its predecessor. Alongside Morris, we get an impressive array of talking heads. These include the likes of Dr C P Lee, BBFC examiners past and present such as Carol Topolski, David Hyman and Craig Lapper, former Psychotronic Video Store owner Tony Clarke, filmmakers Alex Chandon and Christopher Smith, genre experts martin Barker, Stephen Thrower, David Flint and Alan Jones, as well as plenty of archive interview footage with late BBFC chairman James Ferman.
The result is a perfect companion piece to the celebrated original documentary, maintaining the tone of enlightenment and entertainment while broadening the horizons and offering a finer balance between those scratching their heads and the people still adamant to this day that violent videos will one day destroy the world. It makes for intelligent, thought-provoking viewing, all the while remembering to crack on at an unrelenting pace and incorporate lots of vivid clips to help illustrate the films being debated.
Ferman comes across as affable but misguided in archive interviews. Michael Winner and Mary Whitehouse come to an amusing disagreement in a wonderful piece of vintage television. Alan Jones tells a great anecdote about how he attended a presentation hosted by Ferman, after which even he was tempted to admit movie censorship in the UK was necessary.
Along the way, gory clips from the likes of UNHINGED, SAVAGE MAN SAVAGE BEAST, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, CANNIBAL FEROX and many more tantalise the eyes. It's ironic that, given this documentary's subject matter, we can now see the hideous castration footage from SAVAGE MAN SAVAGE BEAST in all its uncensored gory ...right here, on this very disc.
More sobering footage includes news clips reminding us of the shockwaves caused by Jamie Bulger's senseless killing, linked by the press at the time to the viewing of the innocuous CHILD'S PLAY 3, and the Hungerford shootings which saw more calls for the tighter regulation of 'irresponsible' violent action films on VHS. The tone of the interviewees noticeably dims while discussing such matters.
As the film looks at the formation of the Video Packaging Committee and their impact on how home releases were presented to the public (certificates on all sides of the cover; the bizarre mandate surrounding the use of ‘household’ tools in films that saw HOLLYWOOD CHAINSAW HOOKERS lose its middle word), we even get footage of DJ Simon Bates patronisingly explaining to consumers what to expect from each BBFC rating.
THE NEW YORK RIPPER gets a segment to itself. Topolski recalls how all four BBFC examiners had to take time out to recover after viewing it before they ultimately rejected it outright on grounds of "the pornography of violence". This leads to a neat section where sexualised violence is touched upon, allowing for brief glimpses of Abel Ferrara’s excellent MS 45 along the way.
Most damning of all is the reveal that Ferman once addressed a middle-class gathering of cineastes and suggested they were fine to watch potentially harmful material, whereas factory workers from Manchester (!) were likely to be far more impressionable. It’s a despicable view that even Topolski now condemns as being "classist". Quite.
Expertly edited, consistently attractive to look at and effortlessly engrossing, "Draconian Days" is a vital, cautionary and yet never preachy film that deserved to be seen by any horror fan and/or film collector.
This set comes recommended on the strength of viewing this must-see documentary alone.
However, alongside that - though sadly unavailable for review purposes - are those aforementioned trailers and mini-featurettes for all 82 "Section 3" films. These are said to include trailers for the likes of ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST, XTRO - according to Jones, who was on the set during the shoot, the film most people incorrectly believe to have been included on the official nasties list, CANNIBALS, BLOOD LUST, DEAD KIDS, HEADLESS EYES, DEEP RED, BRUTES AND SAVAGES, HELL PRISON, MARK OF THE DEVIL, DEMENTED and SUICIDE CULT.
Lucky buyers also get individually numbered packaging (this set is limited to only 6,666 copies) with cover artwork once again courtesy of Graham Humphreys, and a collection of postcards containing infamous Section 3 artwork on them.
VIDEO NASTIES THE DEFINITIVE GUIDE was, in fairness, never going to be topped. It's bloody brilliant. But what Jake West, Marc Morris and Nucleus Films have done here is little short of miraculous: they've equalled it.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by Nucleus Films|
|see main review|