I SAW THE BEST VIDEO STORES OF MY GENERATION
DESTROYED BY MADNESS: growing up during a moral panic...
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[ Forward (23/04/03): I wrote the following pages on the 'video-nasty' hysteria back when the site first opened (probably late '98). Now, a lot of what's written is still relevant: certainly my recollections of the time are the same, but the times they are a changing, as you, dear reader, are probably well aware. Many of these previously banned films are now available in BBFC sanctioned versions on video and DVD in the UK; some of which I confidently predicted would never see the light of day here (my crystal balls were a bit dusty that day). However, it's worth noting that although we live in more enlightened times (where even THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE can play uncut on TV) certain films will never be released here uncut (yes, we have DRILLER KILLER out, but in a heavily pre-cut form (that's still just censorship, not real progress)). So, whilst I do not have time to fully adjust this section (maybe one day soon) I hope this forward will put the list and these essays into context for you ... ]
I was only twelve when the whole furore about ‘video-nasties’ began to really hot up in 1982 and I have two memories that really stand out from that time. First was passing these new fangled video shops and gawking at their garish displays for such schlock busters as SS. EXPERIMENT CAMP (1976), the poster of which actually formed the catalyst of the first ‘nasty’ bashing, and Fulci’s ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS (1979). Snatching furtive glances at the top shelf - all those chunky, garish plastic boxes, full of the promise of horrid delights. Previously, I’d had to satisfy my morbid curiosity and fascination for all things scary with anaemic 70’s TV movies like SNOW BEAST (1977) or stolen moments with the remote control, as the rest of the house slept, immersing myself in some old Hammer nonsense or other. Seduced by the promise of forbidden fruit I pleaded, cajoled and practically begged my parents to drag our home entertainment unit into the modern age. They finally succumbed, but not until early 1984- just when the virtual witch hunt was reaching its zenith and many films had disappeared from the shelves all together. The hulking great silver monolith sat, wedged under the tele, fed, almost exclusively, on a diet of soaps, music videos and...shudder...THE SOUND OF MUSIC.
My second vivid memory, which I must admit to this day I’m not sure if it really happened or was part of my over active imagination, I seem to recall watching a news report on the ‘nasties’ showing tapes ,by their thousands, being crushed by huge digger trucks and shovelled across an enclosed wasteland. Presumably ending in some mass burial. On one hand I was furious- what a waste! But on the other it just made them more appealing- those films must be so dangerous, so horrific, so deliciously terrifying! I recall listening, with absolute wonderment, to the stories of older kids who had seen some of these fabled movies- many of which, now that they had been banned, were especially sought after in the playgrounds across the country. Word of mouth, becoming Chinese whispers of epic proportions created legends around the fabled 52- the number of movies that officially appeared on the Director of Public Prosecutions’ list of banned movies. Wild stories of abject horror were told in a surrounding of hushed awe, descriptions of gory mayhem that now I have had a chance to see many of these films I realise were usually bogus. It was important to state that you had seen at least one of the films, even if you hadn’t- leading to wildly inventive synopsis’. I remember one girl telling me, and me lapping it up, that FRIDAY THE 13TH concerned a series of accidents that occurred on ‘unlucky’ Friday 13th. One of which apparently involved a man driving along the freeway , his car filling up with water and him drowning! A year later I actually saw it and realised she was talking bollocks. And so, yes I did get to see quite a few horror movies- including some of those mythical nasties, on friends VCRs. Despite the virulent crackdown on all things dubious there were still a number of local shops that had the odd unsavoury item tucked away on a dusty shelf and would turn a blind eye to a trembling fourteen year old with his parents video card. Even when I did get challenged I had perfected the look of innocence- " Really! LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT is an ‘X’ ?", and even though I had to leave sheepishly with RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK instead, at least I didn’t get the card confiscated. But even the days where one or two ‘nasties’ would cling to the shelves was in decline, gradually replaced by cut-to-shit FRIDAY THE 13TH sequels, and soon there would none left- finding new homes at boot fairs and eventually changing hands for silly money between collectors.
Today I still have, a some what irrational, nagging desire to see each and everyone of the ‘nasties’- perhaps it is the futile hope of actually finding the one that actually did satiate that , half forgotten, tingling sense of terror anticipation. Perhaps it is just plain old nostalgia, I don’t know. But what I do know is that time has not been especially kind to many of these films. What the press, foaming at the mouth, declared as the ‘embodiment of evil’, was in fact just some cheesy old schlock, with bad dubbing and ropy gore FX. There are some gems on the list to be sure, but for every TENEBRAE (1982), BLOOD BATH (1971) or DEAD AND BURIED (1981) there are at least two dull, incompetent duds like LOVE CAMP 7 (1968) or Andy Milligan’s BLOOD RITES (1967). Plus many of the films that looked contemporary back in the early 80’s now look like a particularly demented episode of CAGNEY AND LACEY. Youngsters of today are more likely to scream at Tisa Farrow’s hair-do than they are at Fulci’s zombies!....Don’t get me wrong- I love cheese, the riper the better, and I can enjoy many of these films today on that level. Heck, half this site is given over to the more pungent of the species! ....But quite a few on the list owe their celebrity to sheer luck (be it good or bad), the fact that a legend was born through a moral panic which resulted in an accolade no amount of publicity could buy. The banning of these movies ended in a paradox which would make the righteous fume, and cheer me up on a grey day, that far more people got to see the ‘nasties’ than if they had been ignored and consigned to obscurity..... Hooray!
The 'Video Nasty' fiasco in Britain- an overview
(or- why I learnt to hate the Daily Mail!) (2/3)
No knives, No powerdrills and definitely no chainsaws-
the slasher in the dock (coming soon) (3/3)
A-Z of Video-nasties