A few years back, Nucleus Films made some noise in the European genre home video market with a release entitled Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide. Not only did it deliver a definitive documentary on the U.K.‘s “Video Nasties” furore of the early ‘80s but also included trailers for all 72 films that made the official video nasties lists AND commentary on these films from a variety of U.K. genre experts and scenesters. American horror fans will be happy to hear that Severin Films just gave this triple-disc set a domestic release — and those horror fans will find it to be a cause for celebration.
The first disc contains a 72-minute documentary entitled Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship And Videotape (to read Schlockmania’s full review of this film, click here). The transfer of this digitally shot piece is anamorphic. It’s also interlaced but this is not a big issue as the film incorporates film and video footage of varying quality and the resulting “rough and ready” look registers just fine.
Also included on the first disc is an hour-long (!) reel of video label intros from the companies that released horror titles in the U.K. during the 1980’s. The visuals include everything from cheap video-toaster lettering to full animation and music that covers the gamut from synth doodles to orchestrated music-library fanfares. It’s the VHS fiend’s equivalent of a “video fireplace,” delivering the same kind of hypnotic video wallpaper for that specialized audience.
Disc two is devoted to trailers for the 39 films that comprised the finalized “Video Nasties” list. Having a disc of trailers for The Burning, Evilspeak and Zombie is cool enough but the producers of this set also filmed a series of intros for each film by the same genre pros interviewed in the Video Nasties documentary. Sometimes the commentary delivers some unexpected serious insights: for example, Xavier Mendik delivers some amazing, scholarly analyses of I Spit On Your Grave and House On The Edge Of The Park that draw out a level of intellectual depth from films that are often considered mindless shockers.
There are also some personal, often funny insights included into the mix: Kim Newman offers some fond musings about the role Last House On The Left played in his career as a critic while Alan Jones tells a short but hilarious anecdote about the first time he met Lucio Fulci in his intro to Zombie. The producers also make a worthy attempt to pair up experts with the filmmakers they study: for instance, Abel Ferrara biographer Brad Stevens does the honors for Driller Killer while an array of Jesus Franco titles are given thoughtful intros by Stephen Thrower, who does a good job of explaining this controversial director’s esoteric appeal.
The third disc covers an additional 33 titles that appeared on earlier versions of the video nasties list but were either dropped or successfully defended in court. Again, it’s a fun and diverse collection of shockers like The Beyond, The Funhouse and Visiting Hours and everything gets an in-depth intro from the documentary’s circle of experts. A new wrinkle included here is that the intros reveal why the film was dropped from the list, the best example of this being an extended intro for The Evil Dead where Kim Newman’s observations reveal how the film was a crucial case that showed it was possible to defend a video nasty in court (Patricia MacCormack also offers an interesting aesthetic reading of the film).
And there’s more highlights to be found in the intros on the third disc: highlights include Marc Morris offering an interesting bit of research on the several possible directors who might have helmed the obscure Cannibal Terror and Thrower offering an impassioned defense of Don’t Go In The House. MacCormack also does wonders with an unexpected choice when she discusses Boogeyman II as a critique of the film business.
In short, Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide is a can’t-miss proposition for a serious fan of horror’s grindhouse side. It delivers a great documentary, hours of trailers and even more hours of commentary that will both educate and entertain. It’s worth noting that you can watch the trailer discs with or without the intros, with the latter option giving you maximum “party tape” playability. To further sweeten the pot, the producers also uncovered some truly rare trailers, like I Miss You Hugs & Kisses, Love Camp 7 and The Witch Who Came From The Sea. It’s well worth the cheap admission price and a necessity for the shock-horror scholar’s DVD shelf.