Directed By: Jake West
Written By: Jake West
Color/97 Minutes/Not Rated
Release Date: February 10, 2015
West follows up his acclaimed 2010 documentary Video Nasties: Moral
Panic, Censorship & Videotape, which documented the 80+ horror
and exploitation films that the BBFC cut, edited and outright banned
from home video distribution. West is back with the follow up, VIDEO
NASTIES: DRACONIAN DAYS an equally entertaining and even more poignant
look at the British Board of Film Classification's work during the
mid-80s after the initial "scare" of these ostracized films up through
1999 and the overall impact it had on British culture.
DAYS is packed with interviews from those who lived through the decade
plus of abhorrent censorship that is quite difficult to believe happened
in a fully developed first-world country as recently as 20 years ago.
From film makers, to critics and fans who had their homes raided by
police and their property seized as evidence, even to people that worked
under the Director of the BBFC, James Ferman, who made it his personal
mission to keep the morals of Great Britain safe and secure.
in the UK became so extreme that any weapon that was outlawed in the
country, from ninja throwing stars, to nunchucks and cross bows had to
be edited out of films, regardless of their content because of their
imitability by children. This means that even the opening scene in
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Secret Of The Ooze, a PG rated film made
for kids of all ages was heavily cut because one of the heroes uses
nunchucks to fight some villains. If you've seen the movie you know that
the violence on display, especially that with the weapon in question is
lighthearted, and comical, far from anything threatening to the minds
of the beloved children.
In fact, that is what it
seemed to boil down to - Will the purchase and viewing of these films in
the home (whether a home has children or not was of no difference)
leave the children at risk. The answer, at least to James Ferman, was
"yes!". Ferman's power reached a tyrannical breaking point when he
suggested that any film that could of questionable content to the youth
be banned from private ownership on video and from private home viewing.
Again, the question of whether a home had children living there did not
matter. This proposal did not care on the purpose of a film or its
artistic merit (I'll leave the debate of one film's artistic merit vs
another film's for another day). This means that films widely held as
classics like The Godfather or Schindler's List would be illegal for an
adult to buy and watch in the comforts of their own living room. Luckily
Ferman's team realized the wide reaching and frankly damning
implications this would have and talked him out of it.
fact remained however that many horror and exploitation films were just
too damned violent, vile and disgusting for anyone to own and view in
their uncut nature. Films underwent such heavy censorship that very
little if any of the actual horror remained. What was left was some odd
minutes of a totally illogical and disjointed group of scenes. Not only
was the gory, nudity and violence removed the film itself had been
destroyed in many cases. This didn't stop fans from seeking out these
video tapes and acquiring them of course. Uncut releases from Germany
and other areas of Europe were smuggled through customs and passed their
dogs and fans would post ads in fan published magazines and newspapers
with lists of what titles they had for sale or trade or their wishlists.
The bootleg market boomed at this point and many video rental stores
even had secret back rooms for trustworthy customers to get their fix.
black market boom in illegal video tapes led to police raiding many
homes, businesses and trade shows. Anywhere these contraband tapes were
being stored, swapped or duplicated was subject to search and seizure.
The accounts with this documentary are funny at times with many first
hand accounts of collectors having their home raided and the police
having no real idea of what they were doing with my personal favorite
example being from contributor David Flint, author of "Babylon Blue"
when he was raided and some 70 or 80 tapes were seized including some
properly certified PG rated kids titles but hardcore porn was skipped
over and "Nudie-Cuties" was taken but "Nudie-Cuties 2", which was right
next to it on the shelf, was skipped over!
Ferman's hold on the BBFC ironically came to an end in 1999 shortly
after he lifted the ban on hardcore porn. Yes, dear reader, the
ownership and home viewing of pornography was illegal in Great Britain
until 1999. In the years since Ferman resigned from his position the
majority of the Video Nasties and the dozens upon dozens of titles
associated with them have been passed uncut for home video in the UK and
have received rather lavish releases on formats ranging from VHS and
DVD to high definition Blu-ray.
THE VIDEO NASTIES:
DRACONIAN DAYS is a must-see documentary for any horror and exploitation
fan as a piece of history for the genres but more importantly it is a
work that all artists should view regardless of their medium to show
that we'd be damned to let history repeat itself with this type of
censorship. Jake West has made an important film that will stand the
test of time as an article and example of what once was and hopefully
will never be again in the world of censorship and art in the home.
The Audio & Video
has released a nice overall set here with an anamorphic
widescreen transfer that is sharp and has good color
reproduction. The sit down interview footage obviously looks better than
footage shot 15-30 years ago but even the older footage still looks
fine. There's no damage or dirt with the source material. The English
audio is handled through a mono track which is nothing special but it
gets the job done with no background noise, popping or crackling. While
the audio isn't dynamic it gets the information across perfectly which
is what's important.
-Fanzine Flashback - A gallery of classic covers from the prominent fanzines of the video nasties era.
72: The Final 39 - A still gallery of video cassette covers of 39 of
the 72 films that were successfully prosecuted and anyone found with
these tapes would be liable for prosecution.
-DPP 82 - A still gallery of the "Section" 3 tapes that were not prosecutable despite being liable for seizure.
3 Films A-L: Trailers for each of the 82 "Section 3" films with lengthy
introductions (optional). These introductions are closer to mini
commentary tracks than simple intros!
-Section 3 Films M-Z: Trailers for each of the 82
"Section 3" films with lengthy introductions (optional). These
introductions are closer to mini commentary tracks than simple intros!
The Bottom Line
genre of film has a documentary or two that is essential viewing for
that genre. THE VIDEO NASTIES: DRACONIAN DAYS is essential viewing for
fans of exploitation and horror movies and will make an excellent
addition to your collection especially next to Video Nasties: The
Essential Guide previously released by Severin.
VIDEO NASTIES: THE DEFINITIVE GUIDE: PART 2 is available HERE