Thursday, 2 June 2011

Video Nasties ! From Absurd to Zombie Flesh Eaters

Does the world need another series on the Video Nasty phenomena ? Probably not, but I wanted to set myself a challenge - to review the DPP 39 list of Video Nasties, (see full list below) from Absurd to Zombie Flesh Eaters and hopefully make it interesting for you the reader. I don't expect to offer a new slant on any of the films - there's at least 2 or 3 definitive studies of the Nasties out there, but I'll try to be entertaining while your visiting.

Time marches on and nowadays no one thinks of the Nasties anymore as a list of banned titles. What was controversial back in the 80's is perfectly acceptable today - Contamination, a film that was swept up in the hysteria, is now available in the UK with a 15 rating. Even one of the great outlaw titles of the list, Last House on the Left is freely available in the same country that banned it, fully uncut. I tend to look at the Video Nasties these days like a film equivalent of a mix-tape of unruly punk rock songs - there's Lucio Fulci (Zombie) Dario Argento (Tenebrae), Jess Franco (Bloody Moon), American Exploitation like I Spit On Your Grave and Blood Feast, and demented sub-genres like the Cannibal film (Cannibal Ferox, Cannibal Holocaust) and Nazi Exploitation (Gestapo's Last Orgy and SS Experiment Camp)...

Much of this is nostalgia of course. I discovered the list in April 1992, when I picked up UK horror mag, Dark Side's 20th issue which featured their own A-Z of the Video Nasties. It was a life-changing moment - I was exposed to European Cinema, American Independent Cinema, auteurs like Argento, Fulci, Franco whose films I had to seek out (Fulci clocked up three films on the Nasties list so it was a good starting point). Consequently I discovered the underground fanzine scene, especially rich and vibrant in the UK, spreading the word on impossible-to-find, near mythical films. Fanzines like In The Flesh which ran an ongoing Nasties series with every issue, and Samhain whose extensive classified ads revealed a wellspring of tape collecting and trading just bubbling away under the surface.

A page from In the Flesh issue 5, reviewing the Nasties
The Video Nasties series is now complete and below are the list of the 39 titles reviewed. Each title links to a review.


  1. Great idea, Wes, to review the Nasties. I have a few myself. Check out Don't Go Near The Park if you haven't seen it - it's hilariously, bizarrely inept. I saw Fight For Your Life quite recently and was impressed with it. Still a powerful film.

  2. Many thanks Jon... I did a very stupid thing a few years ago - as soon as I started importing uncut stuff from the US on DVD, I threw out quite a few of my Video Nasties. Admittedly, most of the tapes were in terrible condition - but I should have kept them anyway even just for the sleeves. I still kick myself today for doing that...

    Don't Go Near the Park - y'know I liked this one, even though it's considered one of the worst titles on the list (some claim to fame!). But like you said - its hilarious, bizarre, inept - and sometimes that's enough...

    One of the reasons to do this series was really just to motivate myself to re-watch stuff like Fight For Your Life. I mean, has anyone seen I Spit on Your Grave more that 3 or 4 times over the years ?

    Of all the 39 titles, the one I'm least looking forward to sitting down with is Faces of Death - I've never been a mondo fan.

  3. We can kick ourselves in unison then, Wes. I sold about 400 tapes in the early 90s for £400...
    We'll never get bored of reading about the nasties!

  4. Jeremy, what were we thinking ?! There's a lot to be said for not living up to your eyes in collector's stuff - but I wish I had kept my tapes. I had some nice Palace tapes as well - all gone except for a copy of Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence... I set up one of those daily email alerts from eBay for pre-cert VHS tapes, y'know, just to check out the eye-candy. I love those old Warner big boxes...

  5. It's a subject that will live forever Wes so why not have a crack at it? I have only seen 14 of that list, or rather I only remember seeing 14 of them. I was really into all this stuff back in the day but became a little jaded and it was during this period I had my head turned by HK cinema. I never did go back to watching the rest of the nasties, possibly because the story is much more interesting than many of the films!

    Anyway, your review of Absurd does make it sound like fun, so maybe someday.

  6. thought you might like this video nasty title wordle...

  7. Many thanks Cinemascream. There's a very cool Burroughs-style cut-up of the titles going on there. Some nice imaginary films emerge from the mix - Nightmare Cannibal Camp, Toxic Dead, Gestapo's Morgue, SS Bogeyman.

    Your blog is great by the way. I was gonna do a tribute to Moviedrome in the next few weeks but you've beaten me to it ! My big Moviedrome experience was Godard's Weekend - it pretty much got me interested in World Cinema, so for that I owe Alex Cox and series producer Nick Jones a huge debt of gratitude for shaping my love of strange, alternative Cinema.

  8. Challenge accepted! I'll look forward to checking these all out!

  9. Yeah - it's such a wild thing - that I think anyone can dig in on the The Video Nasties and still find many interesting things to say or point out. I look forward to working through these with you - I'm wondering how many I will have seen? (The list of titles, by the way - is there, but is white font on white blackground - so it's invisible unless you highlight it with the mouse.) Consequently, I decided to just see what the movies are as I work my way through the next several posts. Cheers!

  10. Ah, many thanks Craig, I might not have copped that white on white if you didn't comment - this post went up during the black power phase of the blog, and I never adjusted it for the white desert. List is displaying again now, thanks !