Given such a thorough examination of the events that lead up
to the UK having one of the most stringent censorship regimes in the western
world, in the 2010 documentary “Video Nasties : Moral Panic”, you’d be forgiven
for thinking that it covered pretty much everything. But, you’d be wrong.
Picking up were the previous documentary left
off, “Video Nasties : Draconian Days", by Jake West and Marc Morris, looks at how
censorship in the UK affected the availability of various horror titles after
the video recordings act came into effect ,and looks at just how scissor happy
the BBFC were under James Ferman, up until his departure in 1999.
Many infamous film titles that were heavily
censored, like “Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer”, or were
‘unofficially’ banned on video via the back door, like "The Exorcist” or “Texas
Chainsaw Massacre”, are examined, showing the problems Ferman had with them, as well as looking at many of the infamous news stories which the press falsely
attributed to being influenced by screen violence. Such as the Hungerford
massacre and the killing of James Bulger and how these either directly, or
indirectly, influenced decision making at the BBFC.
However, the most enjoyable part of the documentary for me
was showing how all this censorship simply lead to a huge underground black
market of people dealing in uncut imports and dodgy bootlegs, selling through fanzines,
carefully worded ads in horror magazines and at illicit movie fairs in and
around London. I particularly enjoyed
this section as I used to attend similar movie fairs back in the 90s and used
to get a real buzz out of spending a small fortune on imported VHS horror tapes.
As with the previous documentary, the stories are told
through a series of interviews with various media academics, like Professor
Julian Petley, together with current and former BBFC examiners, such as Craig
lapper and Carol Topolski. Which are interspersed with vintage news articles,
containing interviews with the pro-censorship brigade such as MP Graham
Bright, who introduced the Video Recordings Act and David Alton, who very
nearly succeeded in getting all 15 and
18 classified movies banned from video shelves in the 1990s.
These are of particular interest as it shows you just how
vociferous the pro-censorship brigade were and how quickly anyone trying to
oppose them was shouted down. Indeed, there’s one particularly funny TV debate
in which “Death Wish” director Michael Winner goes up against morality
campaigner Mary Whitehouse in a studio where the audience are all, rather
bizarrely, dressed up as Rambo, which is worth buying the disc for alone.
It also features interviews with the likes of film critics
and authors Kim Newman and Alan Jones, directors Alex Chandon (Bad Karma, Cradle
of Fear) and Christopher Smith (Creep) and many others, who put their slant on
how all this censorship affected die hard horror fans like themselves.
Unless you were a horror fan (like myself) who lived through
that era, you may find a lot of the things that went on with the BBFC back then
hard to believe. Especially given the relatively liberal nature of the board
these days. So this documentary will certainly be an eye-opener for many
younger horror fans, as well as being a nice nostalgia piece for older fans
As with the previous documentary, this is a 3-disc set, which
comes loaded with extras.
On Disc one, you get the documentary. Plus video cover scans
of the original 72 films that the authorities tried to ban and prosecute as
video nasties under Section 2 of the obscene publications act (these were also
included on the previous documentary), as well as cover scans of 82
pre-cert films known as “section 3 titles”, which were a secondary list of
films that the govt felt were liable to contravene section 3 of the obscene
publication act (more on this in a moment). Also included is a “Fanzine”
section., which is essentially a cover scan gallery of various fanzines that dedicated
fans used to put out in those pre-internet days, telling you all about where to
get the good stuff from.
On Discs 2 and 3 you’ll find trailers for a number of
pre-cert films from the aforementioned “Section 3” list. There’s a nice little
intro explaining all about what Section 3 titles were on disc 2, but to summerise,
whereas the original Nasties were prosecuted under section 2 of the OPA, these
were felt by the Director of Public Prosecutions to be in breach of the less
serious section 3. Which meant the police could confiscate them, but not
prosecute and the dealer or distributor, who’d had them seized, could contest
them in a magistrates court, though few bothered.
There are 82 trailers split over 2 discs, which includes the
likes of “Rosemary’s Killer”, “Happy Birthday to me”, “Last Cannibal World”,
“Friday the 13th”, “Zombies – Dawn of the Dead” and many more, which
all come with specially filmed intros from some of the critics and journalists
who took part in the documentary. Such as Alan Jones and Kim Newman, together
with Academics such as Drs Karen Oughton and Patricia MacCormack and even a few
genre fans like Justin Kerswell who runs the Hysteria website, who all provide some
interesting insight into the films and why they got included on the list.
I should also mention there are apparently 4 special “Easter
Egg” features on disc 1, but I’m damned if I can find them, so if anyone
manages to work out how to access them from any of the menus, please let me
This an excellent companion piece to the original
documentary, which will definitely appeal to old and new horror fans alike. This
release is strictly limited to 6,666 copies, so if you’re a serious horror fan,
be sure to pick your copy up quick.
"Video Nasties : Draconian Days" is out now on DVD from Nucleus films...