Written by: George Pacheco on June 25th, 2014
Theatrical Release Dates: UK, August 30th, 2010
Director: Jake West
Cast: Marc Morris, Andy Nyman, Martin Barker, Kim Newman, Alan Jones, Emily Booth
DVD Release Date: June 3rd, 2014
Approximate Running Time: 13 hours 58 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo English
DVD Release: Severin Films
Region Encoding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $27.58
This three disc deluxe presentation by Severin films marks the Stateside debut of director Jake West’s brilliant 2010 documentary Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship and Videotape, an account of the scandal, prosecution and fear-mongering surrounding the formation of the British Board of Film Classification by those who were on the front lines.
Indeed, both sides of the censorship coin are documented here in West’s film, from the politicians and police who were out to censor and eliminate video tapes which they deemed “offensive” and “corrupting” from video store shelves (while prosecuting those owners who didn’t comply) to those advocates of art and free speech attempting to curb the growing public demand for such draconian measures, bolstered by daily witch-hunt newspaper articles which were attempting to fan the flames of awe and outrage.
The story itself would almost sound ridiculous if it weren’t so frighteningly true, as power-hungry politicians and shocked, clueless parents-who found their moral compass within the movement’s public figurehead, Mary Whitehouse, a determined and surprisingly charismatic old lady-managed to get the country in such an uproar (while simultaneously avoiding the clamor against an unpopular Falklands War with Argentina) that they managed to set the dangerous political precedent of a country’s government becoming directly involved with the private viewing habits of its citizens.
What’s particularly striking is how honestly righteous the members of Parliament and Scotland Yard feel to this very day about their actions. Modern day interview footage is cut against period newscasts with very little having changed in their perspectives, while anti-censorship activists such as Martin Barker-who famously appeared on British talk shows in the 80s to debate with his opposition-come across as equally fiery and passionate when discussing their verbal clashes with those who would strip homes and store shelves of such “nasty” videos.
Speaking of which, discs 2 and 3 of this set feature the original trailers for 72 films, the 39 “official” Video Nasties, and the 33 titles which were initially banned, but eventually allowed back into the public domain. The trailers can be viewed as a non-stop showcase, or with informative and entertaining history/back story from a number of the most respected and talented voices in cult film critique, including Kim Newman, Alan Jones and Stephen Thrower, author of the book Nightmare USA.
Notable UK horror presenter Emily Booth also makes an appearance in vignettes introducing these trailer segments, making these latter two discs the perfect bit of relaxing fun after West’s studious, stylish and passionate documentary. It’s a perfect storm of genre movie history and culture wrapped up in a package which is essential for film fans across the board.
Severin Films presents Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide in an anamorphic widescreen presentation which preserves the film’s original aspect ratio. Jake West inserts some stylish nods to the old tracking and fuzz issues experienced by the VHS generation, yet the film itself possesses a clear picture without blemish or damage, while the Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack is audible without any noticeable drops, including the archive footage of Mary Whitehouse and Co.
This release is an export from the Region 2 set put out by Marc Morris’ Nucleus Films in 2010, with nothing exclusive added to the pot, despite claims on Severin’s box that there are “newly-filmed introductions” from the aforementioned journalists. Still, there’s so much material to wade through here, that it’s highly unlikely any fan is going to complain about the trailers, critique, VHS cover galleries and video company logo checklists which make up the 13+ hours of cult movie goodness which makes up this set. Simply stated: no collection should be without this monster effort.