Color, 2014, 97m. + 590m.
Severin (US R0 NTSC), Nucleus (UK R0 PAL) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9) / DD2.0
Color, 2014, 97m. + 590m.
If you thought the topic of the video nasty debacle of the 1980s was covered thoroughly in the astonishing three-disc set Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide, think again. While that one covered the main history of the moral panic that gripped Britain throughout the decade and instigating a wave of horror movie censorship whose sting still lingers today, this sequel of sorts adopts the same format but explores some of the stranger detours taken by the video industry during that period. The set has been released in the UK by Nucleus Films and in the US by Severin, virtually identical in content apart from label logos and slight promotional variations touting their other products.
Disc one contains the main documentary directed by Jake West and produced by Marc Morris, Video Nasties: Draconian Days, which clocks in at 97 minutes and goes into more depth about the climate of the era as well as some of the baffling non-horror casualties of the craze. Among the participants here are BBFC examiner David Hyman, senior examiner Craig Lapper, Video Business editor John Hayward, conservative MP Sir Graham Wright, the British Video Association's Lavinia Carey, authors Stephen Thrower, Kim Newman, Alan Jones and Marc Morris, media scholars Professor Julian Petley and Dr. Sian Barber, and director Christopher Smith. Needless to say it's a very thorough piece with a lot of ground to cover including the roles of such films as Withnail and I, The Last Temptation of Christ, the Rambo series, and the Salman Rushdie uproar. Of course, it's exploitation cinema that still receives the majority of attention as we get to explore the fates of Ms. 45, New York Ripper, The Exorcist, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Nekromantik, and the Guinea Pig films, with a great detour into the large role played by fanzines in spreading the word about forbidden titles. Also on the first disc is a "Fanzine Flashback," a gallery (split into three sections) covering the UK publications devoted to horror and extreme cinema (Sheer Filth, Samhain, Atrocity, Giallo Pages, Flesh & Blood, etc.), plus galleries of video art for the titles listed under the DDP 72 and DPP 82 orders.
Now we move on to the really rare stuff with discs two and three, both of them maxed-out, dual-layered DVDs, which follow the template of volume one by packing in a tidal wave of trailers with optional, newly-recorded intros. As opposed to the prior release, these are the 82 videos "not liable for prosecution under Section 2 of the Obscene Publications Act, 1959" but which are still often lumped in with the official nasties and frequently wound up being thrown on the proverbial bonfire by invading police officers. What's up this time? Abducted, better known as Girls in Chains on DVD and Let's Play Dead to VHS junkies, gets a solid intro from Thrower (who covered director Don Jones in his book Nightmare USA), and there's a rare trailer for the post-nuke zombie oddity Aftermath (which got in trouble for its graphic cranial gunshot gags). The '81 video perennial The Black Room comes next with a very cool, creepy trailer, followed by the grisly Swiss shocker Bloodlust (a.k.a. Mosquito), which Kim Newman grapples with as it straddles the line between art and exploitation. The Alan Levi oddity Blood Song from '74 gets some context from slasher expert Justin Kerswell, who points out the sheer oddness of teaming up Frankie Avalon and Donna Wilkes. Alan Jones makes his crooning video debut introducing the Paul Naschy vehicle The Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll, a rare Spanish stab at giallo cinema, and then there's the typical gross-out mondo film Brutes and Savages (with fake croc wrestling and groovy Riz Ortolani music intact) and Cannibal, Ruggero Deodato's infamous gutmuncher better known now as Jungle Holocaust (featuring comments from both Jones and Deodato himself), whose nifty trailer features the director on location talking about shooting in a "world where cannibalism still exists." Considerably less respectable is The Cannibals, Jess Franco's absurd and often hilarious addition to the subgenre with Marc Morris giving it the bemused treatment it deserves. Perhaps the most unwarranted film on this list comes next, Fred Schepisi's acclaimed Australian film The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, with regular Nucleus commentator Dr. Patricia MacCormack explaining its significance in the history of Aussie cinema.
One of the most beloved Something Weird-released horror films, The Child, gets a particularly eloquent treatment from Thrower, who made it a centerpiece of his book and has a lot to say about its merits as a surreal horror gem, while Newman gets to explain the bizarre yuletide favorite Christmas Evil as a standout among the slew of psycho Santa films. One of the greatest psycho slashers ever made, Communion, is better known as Alice, Sweet Alice, with Jones covering its peculiar distribution history and Catholic background before the wildly misleading reissue trailer (as Holy Terror) kicks in. The lovably trashy gorefest Dawn of the Mummy gets some Kerswell coverage and once again reminds us that this nutty Egyptian gut puller would make a great Blu-ray someday. Far less bloody and pretty inscrutable for nasty consideration is the oddball quasi-slasher Dead Kids, a.k.a. Strange Behaviour, with Jones pointing out a fun visual connection between this film and Blade Runner and discussing which role was originally intended for Klaus Kinski. Newman returns for one of the most-requested drive-in titles that's currently missing in action, Death Weekend, a..k.a. The House by the Lake, a 1976 sleazy Canadian shocker from AIP with Brenda Vaccaro turning this into a superior revenge outing. Alan Jones (of course) takes a look at Dario Argento's classic Deep Red, delving into the film's status as the transition between the famous animal trilogy and his supernatural shockers and offering a good thumbnail sketch of the film's video history (which included BBFC issues with the lizard scene as recently as its Blu-ray release). The Media VHS stalwart Demented comes next with a very quick intro, and keep your eyes peeled for Harry Reems. Jess Franco's The Demons was one of the more prominent cash-ins on The Devils, with Morris ticking off its influences and status among the stable of nunsploitation titles. The grimy Crown International hit Don't Answer the Phone comes next, and why it didn't make the final nasties list is anyone's guess; then it's back to cannibal territory with Umberto Lenzi's Guayana-inspired Eaten Alive, whose abuse of wildlife (especially snakes) and reuse of footage from Deep River Savages made it a prime target. One of the more obscure titles here is Enter the Devil, a.k.a. Disciples of Death, contextualized by Newman as part of the demon cult fad sweeping films in the early '70s. It's quite a miracle they dug up the trailer for this one! Jess Franco rears his head yet again as Thrower dives into The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein, which exists under a wide variety of titles and a bewildering number of variant editions. The fairly innocuous late '70s haunted house programmer The Evil wound up on this list somehow, though the trailer does a good job of making it look as violent as possible. Definitely boasting a higher body count but even more unlikely is The Executioner, better known today as Massacre Mafia Style, whose sadistic cover art is mostly likely accountable for its targeting; Evrim Ersoy, co-founder of the Duke Mitchell Film Club, makes a case for this, one of his favorite films. A slasher movie so mild its inclusion here is downright baffling, the quirky but decidedly timid Final Exam gets the Newman treatment (and he isn't much of a fan, particularly of its insane campus shooting sequence), while that notoriously extreme potential video nasty, Foxy Brown, gets the prize for the funkiest, funniest trailer out of the batch (albeit with some racial epithets that wouldn't fly today). One assumes its implied castration finale wasn't a big hit with the BBFC, but come on... Jones gets a couple of minutes to cover the phenomenon that was Friday the 13th, the legendary original that turned up on UK video in a significantly gorier version than what American audiences saw. The much-noted connection to Bava's Bay of Blood gets trotted out yet again here, regardless of the fact that the sequel pilfered far more by comparison. The UK TV countdown spot seen here is actually a nice rarity and a slight variation from the usual ones, including a great tag at the end. (The traditional trailer rears its head, too.) Friday the 13th Part 2 makes the cut, too, despite the fact that it played worldwide in a heavily edited version so neutered by the MPAA it remains one of the most galling butcherings in slasher history.
Cliff Twemlow's GBH: Grievous Bodily Harm is one of the lesser-known titles here, a sort of British straight-to-video look at the violence of the Manchester gangland lifestyle. The saga behind this one is actually quite fascinating, and it's a shame the film is virtually impossible to see now. Newman continues trashing smaller slasher titles with the lovably kooky Graduation Day, though his reading of the original VHS packaging is pretty priceless. The more slasher-positive Kerswell appropriately handles the beloved Happy Birthday to Me, arguably the high point of the Canadian slice and dice cycle, whose shish kebab murder inspired the iconic (and temporarily displaced) key art. Considerably less adored is the New York trashfest The Headless Eyes, which Thrower adores as "real New York scuzz" that feels like it was filmed "in a piss-streaked doorway." It's great to finally see the trailer in relatively nice quality, too. 1980's Hell Prison is a mostly forgotten women-in-prison offering with Dr. Karen Oughton reading into its philosophical approach to the nature of mankind and society itself, while Wes Craven's The Hills Have Eyes really needs no introduction. That said, Newman manages to offer his own take on the film as a sort of personal remembrance about where he first saw it screened at what is now the BFI Southbank Centre. Again there's a great rare UK TV spot included as a nice bonus, too. The often overlooked Home Sweet Home (again with Newman) is another semi-slasher obscurity whose generic title certainly hasn't helped its reputation, and having its trailer here is a great find indeed (complete with lots of maniacal laughing and blood squibs). Honeymoon Horror is another mostly forgotten little VHS perennial with Julian Grainger offering some background about its director and tangled production history starting in the late '70s. He also points out some pretty insane gay subtext, most of which flew right by most viewers in the '80s. Jones has plenty to say about Norman J. Warren's giddily trashy Inseminoid since he got to visit the set, including memories of the cast and crew; as far as Alien rip-offs go, it's odd this one wound up on the list -- apparently because a pregnant woman was severely distressed by a viewing. The frequently reissued Invasion of the Blood Farmers gets the Newman treatment as he recalls the film's appearance in the UK for the first time via VHS and sings its "sub-amateur" praises. MacCormack offers a few possible reasons for the inclusion of Armand Mastroianni's The Killing Hour, a fairly restrained thriller with a few giallo nods and a potentially troublesome twist revelation. Newman and none other than Caroline Munro turn up for a look at the truly goofy The Last Horror Film, whose reputation has risen considerably in recent years as its combination of meta commentary, humor, and slashing is now much easier to untangle. (However, Newman still isn't enamored of Murno's hairstyle or the performance of Joe Spinell's mom.) Antonio Margheriti's extremely violent The Last Hunter has long been a fan favorite with David Warbeck blowing away everyone in sight, and Jones covers it well from its origins as an unofficial sequel to The Deer Hunter(!). Of course, Thrower has a go at The Love Butcher, whose title made the Intervision UK release an obvious target despite its obvious darkly humorous slant. And kudos for salvaging the original trailer, which has never been on any of the film's home video releases.
Disc three starts the only way it possibly could with Mad Foxes, which Thrower terms "the gayest exploitation film I've ever seen" as bikers, karate club members, explosives, and Krokus music mash together to create a cult film like no other. Thankfully the BBFC was unsuccessful in depriving the world of this gut-busting masterpiece, though the UK video version was ridiculously cut. An obvious target that surprisingly didn't make the final cut was Mark of the Devil, the notorious witch-hunting torture epic whose legendary ad campaign and bizarre authorship history get a lengthy overview here from Jones. (Director Michael Armstrong pops up here briefly, too.) George Romero's classic vampire tale Martin features Jones again introducing its great trailer (with John Amplas chatting directly to the camera), featuring mentions of the major players in the production and its unorthodox release in Italy. Despite its cast including Richard Basehart and Gloria Grahame, Mansion of the Doomed is a mostly ignored curio with Newman covering some of its minor charms; considerably more trashy is the much-touted Mausoleum, which got plenty of monster mag ink but wound up barreling to VHS in most territories instead. It's still a fun monster romp, though, especially if you can find it uncut. Equally unfortunate on the theatrical front was John Russo's Midnight, which was mentioned far more often in the horror press than actually seen; Kerswell handles this one and thankfully points out the merits of its unforgettable theme song. Morris takes a stab at the insane Filipino nudie martial arts extravaganza Naked Fist, a.k.a. Firecracker, which pilfers the Shogun Assassin soundtrack to truly unforgettable effect. The trailer's still one of the best you'll ever see, too. Often lumped in with slasher films of the early '80s, the memorably strange The Nesting has enjoyed a bit of a resurgence in recent years with Newman rattling off a few facts and figures about the actors. Euro trash film fans will definitely get a kick out of finally getting the trailer for The New Adventures of Snow White, known in America as Grimm's Fairy Tales for Adults, a fascinatingly surreal, sexy, and grisly adaptation of famous fairy tales that really deserves an uncut special edition one of these days. MacCormack gives a surprisingly thorough reading on the film including one particularly dubious bit of ethnic profiling that seems queasy in a West German production.
Very little else can be said about Romero's Night of the Living Dead, but Newman gives it a good try (appropriately presented monochrome himself here) and should inspire a rewatch from more than a couple of viewers. Don Dohler's Night Beast features Thrower covering the story of this early example of a fan-based production, with its rubbery monsters and tacky laser effects providing some low-rent but undeniable thrills. Umberto Lenzi's Nightmare City has become adored for both its status as the first "fast-running" quasi-zombie movie and its cracked screenplay, loaded with inappropriate dialogue and disco TV interludes -- all of them covered in Kerswell's intro. Once again it's Jess Franco time with his famous clinker Oasis of the Zombies, whose prevalence did its fair share of damage to the director's reputation despite a few glimmers of cleverness here and there; Thrower does an articulate job of covering its messy qualities, at least enough to perhaps inspire a revisit. One of the earliest films in the '80s 3-D revival, Parasite is best remembered today for featuring a young Demi Moore with Newman covering the early days of filmmaking for Charles Band, and Thrower gives his own childhood-based take on one of the most-loved films of the '70s, Phantasm, and a more traditional overview of the oft-retitled '70s drive-in horror offering, Pigs, later reissued as Daddy's Deadly Darling and presented back in the '80s by Elvira. Jones isn't much of a fan of Norman J. Warren's Prey, a plodding but eventually graphic sci-fi/gore twist on D.H. Lawrence's The Fox with the requisite amounts of nudity, gore, and sharp teeth. God only knows how Prom Night ended up here, as it's an entertaining but hardly explicit early entry in the slasher cycle with Jamie Lee Curtis shaking her stuff on the dance floor. Thrower offers an intriguing take on David Cronenberg's Rabid as one of the director's more emotional early films while also pointing out its weirdly prescient look at the commercialization of plastic surgery. Kerswell is the obvious choice to do Rosemary's Killer, better known now as The Prowler, whose graphic Tom Savini kills actually stymied its already limited theatrical possibilities thanks to the lack of studio support. Not surprisingly, it was chopped to bits on video in the UK but still wound up cited as a prospective nasty. Nice to see the UK trailer here, too. Virtually unseen today is Savage Terror, a.k.a. Primitives, a '79 Indonesian film covered in depth by Oughton as a peculiarly local and sometimes psychedelic look at primal customs. It's Cronenberg time again with Scanners, which Newman points out stands alone as the one film by the director to inspire a franchise, and he also covers Scream for Vengeance, a typical but rather brutal home invasion tale. Considerably better known is the one and only Shogun Assassin, the legendary reworking of the first two Lone Wolf and Cub films with some of the most outrageous gore scenes in history. Ersoy explains its confusing placement on the nasty lists and offers a thumbnail sketch of the history of the series, which originated as a manga and continued as a TV show. Street Killers is the obscure UK VHS retitling of Sergio Grieco's Beast with a Gun, a.k.a. Ferocious and Mad Dog Murderer, which MacCormack appraises as an example of the Italian '70s crime film complete with a nasty central performance by Helmut Berger. Slightly better known as The Astrologer, James Glickenhaus's Suicide Cult gets what is most likely its most thorough coverage here from Thrower as he tries to piece together this ambitious crazy quilt of genres and locations.
A nifty fusion of supernatural and slasher tropes can be found in the early '80s indie film Superstition, which Newman describes as "one of those movies that makes a great trailer" thanks to its avalanche of kill scenes. Naturally Jones gets to cover another famous Argento film here, Suspiria, whose outrageous gore scenes were softened in many countries; he touches on the authorial controversy behind the film, the casting of Jessica Harper, and the strength of its female roles. Then it's Norman J. Warren time again as Elsoy goes into the blatantly Suspiria-inspired Terror, which has enjoyed a surprisingly long video life over the decades. Newman provides some context for the masterpiece The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and its fate with the BBFC, who refused it a certificate in uncut form; nevertheless its journey to unavailability for many years in the UK was extremely tangled, making for a very interesting tale here. Equally respected and far more fortunate in the UK was John Carpenter's The Thing, again covered by Newman and a quite ridiculous choice as a potential banned title. Tomb of the Living Dead is a lesser-known retitling of Eddie Romero and Gerardo De Leon's Mad Doctor of Blood Island, one of the most famous Filipino horror films; Newman gets a particular kick out of the VHS promo credit for Romero as being "of Apocalypse Now" fame. Easily one of the best films made by Harry Novak and a highlight in the Something Weird catalog, The Toy Box offers as much horror and weirdness as softcore sex and still makes for jaw-dropping viewing. (Incredibly, it was even recut rather drastically into a hardcore porn film in Italy!) The trailer's great, too, promising a trip into a "gaping orifice of depravity." Jones is on hand for one of the junkiest Euro horror films of the '70s, Werewolf Woman, an apparent Tarantino favorite and still quite an entertaining monster film today with some early Carlo Rambaldi makeup effects. The particularly nasty Wrong Way, handled by MacCormack, is another softcore rape/revenge title from the '70s with a few freaky plot curve balls in the final act and a lot of repugnant naked people. Jones makes his final bow here with Xtro, decried by its director as a mess and one of the more shocking major theatrical releases thanks to its presentation of alien violence, pregnancy, and sexual assault. Newman gets a last double header with both the Italian cannibal gutmuncher Zombie Holocaust (and its American theatrical variant, Dr. Butcher, M.D.) and Romero's Dawn of the Dead, both familiar to genre fans and almost inconceivable today as anything that could get censors into a lather. Of course, things close appropriately enough with our final Jess Franco film, the notorious Zombie Lake, which Thrower tries to defend in the most sincere manner possible and compares to a virus you're reluctant to spread to other film fans. As with the prior volume, all of the trailers look quite good, many far superior to their presentations elsewhere, and the sheer volume of rarities on hand should make it a no-brainer purchase for any cult film fan.