Judge Patrick Bromley is a video nicety.
To avoid moral panic, keep relating: they're only movies? they're only movies? they're only movies…
The early '80s. It was the beginning days of videotape, when exploitation and genre films filled the shelves because stores were starved for titles and could be sold based exclusively on a gory or salacious box cover. Just as no one could have predicted the VHS explosion, no one could have predicted the backlash against certain titles in UK, leading to the prosecution and banning of 72 titles by the Director of Public Prosecutions. These 72 "video nasties" (as they came to be known) are the focus of the comprehensive Videos Nasties: The Definitive Guide, a three-disc set now available from cult label Severin Films.
Produced in 2010 and running just over an hour, the documentary Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship & Videotape chronicles the Video Nasties case of the 1980s and is the main feature of this collection. Like most documentaries about film history, it amounts to mostly talking heads and archival footage with clips from the banned movies themselves. Rather than focusing on the 72 titles, the documentary sticks to the case—it's not about the Video Nasties themselves, but about what happened when the Video Nasties were banned. Both sides are represented, though if you're anything like me you won't see much merit in some of the arguments being made by the likes of Mary Whitehouse and the National Viewers' and Listeners' Association, the group that led the campaign to get art banned. At just over 70 minutes, the doc actually feels a little underdeveloped, but it does provide a good overview and some interesting perspectives on a troubling period for lovers of all horror and cult films.
It would be misleading to call the two discs' worth of trailers "bonus features" since they're technically part of the main feature, but that's what's collected on the second two discs of this three-disc set. Disc Two of Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide contains the trailers for the 39 movies prosecuted in the UK courts, while disc three contains trailers for 33 movies originally on deemed Video Nasties but had their status overturned and were taken off the list. The trailers can be viewed as one complete program or separately with introductions (new to this disc) from genre scholars and journalists, several of which are featured in the documentary. The introductions are great at providing some background and context for each title, and while it will take a long time to get through them all (one sitting is nearly out of the question), they're well worth the time of anyone interesting in these films or this topic.
The only real "bonus" features are featured on the first disc, and they are for the most diehard VHS fanatic (the people at Severin weren't kidding when they called this the Definitive Guide). There's a 10-minute montage of original VHS box art for all of the titles on the Video Nasties list, plus a nearly hour-long collection of logos and bumpers from the companies that put out videos back in the day. It's interesting as a curiosity, but I don't know why anyone would sit and watch the full hour.
Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide isn't so much a title you'll watch over and over again as it a resource—like a reference book for your movie collection. Severin should be commended for their comprehensive collection which, if nothing else, provides a wonderful look back at the Wild West days of horror and exploitation cinema. This Video Nasties collection reminds us that they don't make them like this anymore.
Nasty in the best way.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Severin Films
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