Sunday, May 24, 2015

Enter: The Video Nasties

As promised earlier, I've started a new channel, Dr Sparkle After Dark, for uploading non-gaming related content. The first (non-pilot) episode of the Video Nasties series has just been uploaded, and is available for your viewing enjoyment. I suspect an age restriction will end up being placed on this series at some point.

Just as with Chrontendo, episodes will also be posted to In the event that a Nasties video gets pulled from Youtube, it will still be available to view on Archive.

I provide some background information on the video nasties phenomenon in this video's intro, but here's a quick summary: The UK has historically been one of the most censorious  nations in the western industrial word, with film censorship being handled by an organization called the BBFC. The BBFC rates films much like the MPAA does in the US, though failure to obtain a BBFC rating usually prohibits a film from being distributed in a normal theatrical setting. When home video formats such as the VHS tape became available in the late 70s/early 80s, there was no sort of regulation or censorship placed on them. A number of foreign sex and horror movies were released in the UK on video, causing an uproar in the tabloids. UK tabloids are notoriously sensationalistic, and labeled such films "video nasties," though the term was first used in The Sunday Times. The theory was that viewing such films would corrupt the unsullied minds of Britain's youth, thus turning them into a generation of degenerates, murderers and criminals.

Typical anti-nastiies headline.

The authorities stepped in and began seizing tapes from video stores, on the grounds that they were legally 'obscene.' Obscenity was illegal in the UK, but had previously been used only to ban things for sexual content such as hardcore pornography.  Now, horror movies on video were being ruled as obscene in the British courts.  After a couple years of chaos, Parliament passed the Video Recordings Act in 1984, which put video tape releases under the control of the BBFC. From this point onward, VHS  movies not passed by the BBFC were effectively banned in the UK. Most of the films considered to be 'nasties' had no chance of getting passed by the BBFC, or at the very least would require sizable cuts. The original "pre-cert" video tape releases of the nasties films became highly collectible in the UK: in particular, the "DPP 39," a group of 39 movies successfully prosecuted as obscene prior to the VRA.

In addition to those 39 films, there are an additional 33 that the DPP considered obscene but were not successfully prosecuted as such. Also, there were 82 films which were seized and destroyed under civic forfeiture hearings, rather than a criminal trial. We'll cover films from all three categories in this series. As time passed and the BBFC became more lenient, many of the nasties films finally got official DVD/Blu-Ray releases in the UK, though some remain banned in uncut form.

A natural place to start would be Abel Ferrara's The Driller Killer, a 1979 low-budget horror film about a guy that (not surprisingly) kills people with a power drill. It's much closer to a gorier, grittier version of Roman Polanski's Repulsion than a typical slasher movie. The Driller Killer was one of the movies that ignited the original nasties firestorm, but this was more due to the VHS box cover than the film itself. Though the use of a drill as murder weapon was also contentious, since it would easy for people to get their hands on one and re-enact the film's murders.

This cover virtually started the who nasties scare.
As for my opinions on Driller Killer, you can watch the video and find out for yourself. In short, I'll say that I liked it. Now, I'm certainly not the first guy on the internet to tackle the nasties. The nasties are in the UK, much like the Famicom library in Japan: everyone's taken a swipe at them. One of the main video reviewers is Glenn Criddle, who has reviewed all of them (I think) under the Youtube handle Lampyman.  Here's his take on The Driller Killer:

If anything, Criddle is even more low-key and subdued that I am. He has a pretty different interpretation of it than I do, overlaying a sort of  Freudian/Oedipal theme onto the film. I see it more as an economic horror movie, and quite frankly, don't understand why anyone in the 21th century would be engaging in Freudian analysis of movies. Also, while Driller Killer is a gritty little film, I think Criddle overstates the awfulness of the NYC setting in which the protagonist, Reno, lives. The words "squalor" and "slum" pop up in his review, when in fact, NYC in the 70s was a virtual paradise for artistic bohemian types. Reno's Union Square apartment/loft is rather spacious. And while Ferrara plays up NYC's crime and transient population, this ain't exactly Gangs of New York era Five Points.

Here's another Nasty reviewer, doing mini-reviews of Killer and a few others. He's more breezy and animated than Criddle or me, though he doesn't care for the movie much.

Due to the pretty short production time required for these things, (a fraction of the time it takes to make a complete episode of Chrontendo) you might see episodes pretty frequently. And I have other stuff planned for the Dr. Sparkle After Dark channel as well.

Next time will be a much prettier movie, yet still quite gory.


matt.mcneely said...

I am looking forward to this being an interesting and insightful series. I enjoy Driller Killer as well; there's more going on in the film than some might give it credit for.

Hadean said...

Awesome stuff! I'll definitely be watching future episodes. As the above poster said, these movies are (sometimes) more than just gore and mayhem and I'm glad you're going to walk us through them.

Brian Jeffears said...

Enjoyed the first proper episode and congrats on the particularly well done intro sequence---looking forward to seeing where the rest of the series goes.