Terror Tuesday: A Look At The Video Nasties

Brian examines why the British lost the Revolutionary War - because they’re so afraid of violence on film.

But now I watch a Horror Movie A Day, and now that I have access to the entire list (72 films), I have once again begun an attempt to see them all, or at least all of the horror ones. By my count I’ve seen at least 30, and it’s possible there are a couple more as many of the films on the list are Italian and thus go by some 75 titles each. For example, the official list includes a movie called Zombie Flesh Eaters, and while I know I’ve never seen that title on-screen, it is in fact another name for Lucio Fulci’s classic Zombie (aka Zombi 2), which I’ve not only seen but is possibly the first on the list I ever DID see in full (I eventually finished Toolbox Murders just last year). So I’m somewhere around the halfway mark, which ain’t too shabby.

Now, if you’ve never heard of the list, it’s too complicated to get into full detail here, but the gist of it is, in the early 1980s, Britain higher-ups started getting concerned about the VHS explosion allowing folks (children) access to films that had been deemed obscene or simply not classified for theatrical distribution. At first, they had no guidelines and were actually conducting raids, picking titles seemingly at random to confiscate (in one ridiculous example, the Dolly Parton film The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas was thought to be pornographic). Therefore, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) was pressured into creating a list of films that had either not been classified by the BBFC (similar to the MPAA here in the states), or had already been deemed obscene. Ultimately, 72 titles were confirmed as part of it at one time or another.

The reason for the revolving list of titles was because the filmmakers were allowed to resubmit for classification after cutting out some “obscene” material, though several titles were never resubmitted and in fact remain banned to this day. Some had endure significant cuts, such as the notorious House On The Edge Of The Park, which was classified as an 18 (must be 18 to view) with a whopping 11 minutes and change excised from the film. Others, quite hilariously, were re-classified as 15 (must be 15 to view, basically a slightly stricter PG-13) without any cuts, such as Tobe Hooper’s The Funhouse. Luckily, over the years, just over half of the films were resubmitted and released with 18 certificates sans any cuts.

But what kills me about the list is how random it is, especially when you consider it was formed in order to KEEP unworthy titles of being thrown into the mix. One such title is Visiting Hours, which I just watched the other day and was what inspired this article. Most of the films on the list are zombie/cannibal movies, with a few rape-revenge or Nazisploitation titles thrown in for good measure, but Visiting Hours is a pretty tame (actually just plain boring) slasher thriller, with Michael Ironside as the world’s least effective killer as he spends the entire movie just trying to murder Lee Grant. There are very few kills (not very graphic ones at that), and there is a suggested rape but no nudity. I have to assume that the makers simply forgot to submit it at the time for classification and thus it ended up alongside movies like Anthropophagus and Last House On The Left, though the they still had to cut 2 minutes from the movie (the buildup to the assumed rape, I imagine, which ran about that length) and remains cut to this day. I have to assume some of these films wore their “Nasty” status as a badge of honor when advertising in other countries, so I feel really bad for anyone who watched the movie just because they saw it was “BANNED IN THE UK!” and figured they were in for some extreme horror. Nope, sorry! Just Ironside dressing up like a doctor and wandering around a hospital for 90 minutes.

But at least it was released in some form, unlike the 11 films that are still banned there, either because they were never resubmitted (way to play hardball!) or because they were just deemed unacceptable in any form. I have yet to see any of the still banned films (I actually have never even heard of most of them), so I cannot comment on how silly it is that they remain illegal, but one (Fight For Your Life) is banned simply because the main villain is pretty racist - if that’s not silly I don’t know what is. However it’s not too late, at least for the ones that were simply never submitted; the classic Silent Night, Deadly Night (one of the few films that ever caused this much of a stir here in the US) was actually just finally certified and released uncut last year. Others that were classified with cuts were ultimately released uncut, such as House by The Cemetery (Fulci again!), which had 33 seconds cut in 2001 but in 2009 was re-released uncut with an 18. However, it’s just sort of sad that the list still technically exists, with those 11 films (and others, such as Mikey, that are not part of the official “Nasty” list) still banned, over 25 years later.

Again, this isn’t the place for a full history of the list and its repercussions, but if you are interested and don’t mind importing (it’s not yet released in Region 1), Jake West made a pretty great documentary about it called Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship & Videotape, which itself isn’t a definitive account either (it lacks participation from the filmmakers whose films were on the list, for one thing), but it’s a great place to start learning about it all the same, and a lot of fun to boot. And the DVD release is jam-packed with great bonus material, including about 5-10 minutes dedicated to each film, often provided by wonderfully candid British folks who don’t mind telling you that some of these movies just plain suck (I haven’t gotten through the whole thing yet, but I can’t wait to see what they say about Visiting Hours).

And now, without further ado, here is the list, under the title they are listed on the IMDb and the director (for an easier time looking them up). How many have you seen? And how hard did you laugh when you saw Evil Dead on there, of all things?

Note - films marked with * are still banned.

  1. Absurd (D’Amato)
  2. Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein (Morrissey)
  3. Anthropophagus (D’Amato)
  4. *The Beast in Heat (Batzella)
  5. The Beyond (Fulci)
  6. *Bloodeaters (McCrann)
  7. Blood Feast (Lewis)
  8. Bloody Moon (Franco)
  9. The Boogeyman (Lommel)
  10. Boogeyman II (Starr)
  11. The Burning (Maylam)
  12. Cannibal Apocalypse (Margheriti)
  13. Cannibal Ferox (Lenzi)
  14. Cannibal Holocaust (Deodato)
    The Cannibal Man (de la Iglesia)
  1. Cannibal Terror (Deruelle)
  2. Contamination (Cozzi)
  3. Dead & Buried (Sherman)
  4. Delirium (Maris)
  5. Devils in Mykonos (Mastorakis)
  6. Don’t Go in the House (Ellison)
  7. Don’t Go in the Woods (Bryan)
  8. Don’t Go Near the Park (Foldes)
  9. The Dorm That Dripped Blood (Carpenter/Obrow)
  10. The Driller Killer (Ferrara)
  11. Eaten Alive (Hooper)
    The Evil Dead (Raimi)
  1. Evilspeak (Weston)
  2. Faces of Death (Le Cilaire)
  3. *Fight For Your Life (Endelson)
  4. The Forgotten (Brownrigg)
  5. *Frozen Scream (Roach)
  6. The Funhouse (Hooper)
  7. *The Gestapo’s Last Orgy (Canevari)
  8. *The Ghastly Ones (Milligan)
  9. The House by the Cemetery (Fulci)
  10. House on the Edge of the Park (Deodato)
  11. Human Experiments (Goodell)
  12. I Miss You, Hugs and Kisses (Markowitz)
  13. Inferno (Argento)
  14. I Spit On Your Grave (Zarchi)
  15. Killer Nun (Berruti)
  16. The Last House on the Left (Craven)
  17. Last Stop On The Night Train (Lado)
  18. Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (Grau)
  19. Lisa, Lisa (Friedel)
  20. *Love Camp 7 (Frost)
  21. Madhouse (Assonitis)
  22. Mandingo Manhunter (Franco)
  23. The Man from the Deep River (Lenzi)
  24. *Mardi Gras Massacre (Weis)
  25. The Mountain of the Cannibal God (Martino)
  26. *Nightmare (Scavolini)
  27. Night of the Bloody Apes (Cardona)
  28. Night of the Demon (Wasson)
  29. *Night of the Howling Beast (Iglesias)
  30. Night of the Zombies (Mattei)
  31. Night School (Hughes)
  32. Night Warning (Asher)
  33. Possession (Zulawski)
    The Slayer (Cardone)
  1. Snuff (Findlay)
  2. SS Experiment Love Camp (Garrone)
  3. Tenebrae (Argento)
  4. The Toolbox Murders (Donnelly)
  5. Trauma (Clarke)
  6. Twitch of the Death Nerve (Bava)
  7. Unhinged (Gronquist)
  8. Visiting Hours (Lord)
  9. The Witch Who Came From the Sea (Cimber)
  10. *Women Behind Bars (Franco)
  11. Zombi (Fulci)

Much thanks to Wikipedia and the IMDb for their ‘assistance’ in this article.