Severin hit a home run in 2014 with their release of Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide, a dazzling triple-disc set that combined a fantastic documentary on the history of the video nasties furor with two discs worth of trailers for every titled on the Video Nasties list, all accompanied by a series of in-depth video intros from the U.K.’s top critics and academics about the history and significance of each title. It’s hard to come up with an encore to a release of that magnitude but Severin has brought out a worthy follow-up in Video Nasties: The Defintive Guide Part 2.
The first disc is devoted to the new Jake West documentary Video Nasties: Draconian Days. The anamorphic transfer looks great, mixing nicely-shot new interview footage in digital form with a variety of t.v. broadcasts, film clips and other ephemera. Quality varies on this other footage but it all looks as good as it can – and with the film’s underground/bootleg aesthetic, it all works as a piece. The stereo mix is also well-done with all the sound from various sources coming through nicely.
Also featured on this first disc is a three-part gallery of covers for all the English horror ‘zines that popped up during the era the film covers. You’ll see a lot of the expected titles – Shock Xpress, Eyeball, Samhain, Sheer Filth – along with a variety of lesser known publications. Many titles rate multiple representative covers. The results offer a nice glimpse into the underground press of that pre-internet era.
Discs two and three follow the same format as those of the first Video Nasties set, covering a series of titles on a third list of horror and exploitation titles that weren’t banned but could be pulled from video shelves at the discretion of local law enforcement (a handy intro explains how this loophole in the Video Recordings act allowed for such random censorship). Some 83 trailers are divided between the two discs, all with new introductions by a variety of critics mixing familiar faces from the last set – Kim Newman, Stephen Thrower, Alan Jones, Patricia MacCormack – with new faces like Karen Oughton, Justin Kerswell and Evrim Ersoy.
These two discs are where this set goes from “valuable and worthwhile” to “indispensible.” For starters, the trailers are a fun mixture of the familiar and obscure: acknowledged genre classics like Night Of The Living Dead and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre sit alongside pure grindhouse fare like Don’t Answer The Phone and Xtro. Even better, this collection of trailers is further spiced up with an array of super-rare trailers like Bloodlust and Pigs. Both trailer discs offer the option to watch just the trailers back to back: this makes a great party-disc option if you have the right kind of friends.
However, the critical intros to those trailers really amp up the set’s value and are necessary viewing for students of this era of horror/exploitation fare. The new faces offer some impressive takes on lesser-known material: for example, Oughton makes a spirited case for the obscure sci-fi/action item The Aftermath and Ersoy offers a witty analysis of the psycho/slasher flick Demented. Kerswell ably covers a lot of slasher items, with informative takes on titles like Blood Song and Midnight.
That said, the biggest surprise amongst the material from the new faces comes with the trailer for Grievous Bodily Harm, an English shot-on-video action flick. The intro features C.P. Lee offering a fascinating thumbnail bio of bouncer turned musician, author and straight-to-video pioneer Cliff Twemlow. Lee actually wrote a book on Twemlow so he knows all the angles of his subject and covers them with skill.
The familiar faces also do well. Kim Newman is the workhorse in this area, covering both obscurities and classics with equal aplomb. He’s able to approach familiar titles from interesting angles, including an interesting observation on Prom Night that remembers from an old Cinefantastique review and why Night Of The Living Dead is the kind of film that fans should revisit every few years.
Elsewhere, Alan Jones is able to offer unique anecdotes on Suspiria thanks to his friendship with Dario Argento and presents an interesting examination of Mark Of The Devil that also includes comments from director Michael Armstrong. MacCormack isn’t on this set too much but always offers interesting scholarly insights on strange titles: for instance, she offers a very thoughtful take on the obscure The Killing Hour.
That said, the M.V.P. of this set in the area of commentary is definitely Stephen Thrower. As you might expect, he covers both obscure American independent horrors and Jesus Franco films with a mixture of rock-solid research and unique insights. Highlights of his work here include his takes on The Child, The Erotic Rites Of Frankenstein, Headless Eyes, The Love Butcher and Pigs. They all display a consistent, engaging mixture of scholarship, dry wit and an unpretentious, deeply felt appreciation for outsider art that gives his access to unique insights. Whether he’s admiring the accidental homoeroticism of Mad Foxes or acting as a passionate advocate for backyard genre filmmaker Don Dohler on Night Beast, you’re guaranteed to find a Thrower intro rewarding.
In short, Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide Part 2 is an embarrassment of riches, offering a killer documentary, scads of trailers and tons of fascinating insights from genre pros. You get about 13 hours of material here and its all consistently rewarding. As a result, it gets Schlockmania’s highest recommendation. The year might be new but it has already seen one of its best home video releases.