Monday 28 July 2014

"Video Nasties : Draconian Days" - UK DVD review.

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 like myself.
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 know.
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...
Buy the UK DVD from

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