• Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide

    Released by: Nucleus Films
    Released on: 11/01/2010
    Director: Jake West
    Cast: Various
    Year: 2010

    The Movie:

    Sort of an unofficial companion piece to Mark Morris and Nigel Wingrove’s book, The Art Of The Nasty, Nucleus Films’ three disc Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide is 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 BBFC 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 This may sound outdated by today’s standards but keep in mind that when it was in full swing in the eighties, people got into no small amount of legal hot water over something as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, by 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, going so far as to claim that she didn’t need to 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, Dog Soldiers/The Descent director Neil Marshall, 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 Mary Whitehouse. By including insight from filmmakers, collector’s, horror fans and those who fought against the censorship of these films beside comments from those who 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 but at the very least those involved in making it did at least take the time to interview people from the opposing side, most of whom are well educated and intelligent enough, if possibly 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, 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.

    The DVD


    The discs provided for review are DVD-Rs with a stamp on top stating ‘compressed to single layer’ indicating that finished product will be dual layer. This can only be a good thing as the test discs show some pretty heavy compression artifacts. Should proper, finished product be made available, we’ll update the review accordingly but since this obviously doesn’t represent finished product in this department, no video grade is assigned.

    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, Nucleus has filled the set 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 and trailers for a few other Nucleus DVD releases.

    Disc two features trailers for the thirty nine final Nasty films, available to watch with or without 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 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 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, making 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.
    Comments 1 Comment
    1. MarcM's Avatar
      MarcM -
      Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide 2 is released in the UK tomorrow in a limited edition of 6,666. http://amzn.to/1o8zsKO

      We have a limited number of signed copies available direct from our website too: Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide 2 (Ltd SIGNED)