The shocking true story behind the video nasties!
Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide Part 2 (AKA, “Video Nasties: Draconian Days”) is a follow-up documentary to the 2010 documentary Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship, and Videotape, which continues the probing look at the story of home entertainment in the UK during the 1980s and 1990s. In 1984 the Video Recording Act ended up restricting much of what could be seen by overseas movie goers. Films like Driller Killer, Friday the 13th Part III, Savage Streets, Re-Animator, Cannibal Holocaust, and many others found themselves censored, re-cut, or altogether banned overseas (some still unavailable to this day). This documentary continues to look at the repercussions of the “video nasties” scene in the UK during the decade of decadence with interviews by filmmakers, journalists, and film historians who were in the midst of the controversy.
I have not seen Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship, and Videotape, which was released five years ago on DVD. Unfortunately, I feel as if I’d missed something watching Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide Part 2. The film picks up immediately with only a very short recap of what had come before, and due to my missing out I think there was some background that I may have missed. While I think that those who grew up on VHS (especially B-movies) will find Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide Part 2 interesting, I think there will be those who feel…well, if not lost, at least a little bewildered by some of the things discussed in the film. Since the documentary is about UK censorship the interview subjects were unknown to me (save for some old clips of David Cronenberg and a short appearance by Ali G) and the ratings systems (called ‘video certificates’) were unfamiliar.
Even with little understanding of the UK ratings system, Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide Part 2 has a lot of interesting moments discussing the moral code of films, the rating system, and what kind of impact the horror/sleaze market had on viewers (especially children). Of particular focus is James Ferman British Board of Film Classifcation (from 1975–1999) who thought he was doing a service for society by cutting and editing films, even as other filmmakers and fans disagree. Ferman is often vilified by many of the interview subjects, feeling as if Ferman became almost drunk with power and censoring a lot of movies that they feel should have been released on video. Often the ryhyme and reason made no sense, where fantastical films would be censored while others, like director Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ, was not. Other interviews subjects include Sir Graham Bright, Neil Keenan, Alan Jones, David Kerekes, Julian Petley, Kim Newman, David Flint, Alex Chandon, Carol Topolski, Stephen Thrower, and many more discussing the impact and implications of the UK censorship.
The second two discs include 82 different trailers for classic VHS B-movies including Blood Lust, Death Weekend, Massacre Mansion, Xtro, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Deep Red, Eaten Alive, Hell Prison, Scream for Vengeance, Zombie Holocaust, Brutes and Savages, Mark of the Devil, Suicide Cult, and many more. These trailers are actually more than just a supplemental feature; the give viewers a good idea of the kinds of movies that the UK found ‘distasteful’ and ripe for censorship. While the documentary is interesting, I almost found watching these trailers to be even more fascinating. While I haven’t seen a lot of the movies included on the second and third discs, each trailer gives a unique insight into how good and (more often than not) bad these movies were, and how ridiculous the “video nasties” label ended up being.
Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide Part 2 is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The video transfer looks good in spots, and not so good in others due to using archival footage and newer interviews for the documentary. The newer footage is in great shape for a standard DVD release with sharp colors and dark black levels. The archival footage isn’t fantastic, but it looks good considering the age and elements. The soundtrack is presented Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono in English. This audio mix isn’t great but it gets the job done. Not surprisingly, there are no directional effects or surrounds to be found. Also included on this set are English subtitles.
The extra features included on this disc are the previously mentioned 82 theatrical trailers to many of the films listed by the UK as “video nasties.”
Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide Part 2 will find its greatest appreciation among B-movie fans, though I’d suggest watching the first installment otherwise you may feel like you’ve missed a few things. The video and audio portions of the documentary are good and the extra 82 trailers are a real treat for horror/sci-fi/schlock movie fans.