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Saturday, 5 February 2011

Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide (2010)

This is the holy grail. The era of the video nasty is something I lived through as a child. I didn't see any of the films back then, but the controversy is there in my memory. It was a big deal at the time, a real cultural moment that is even more fascinating than the films that were involved. The political and cultural elements of the video nasties controversy were so closely intertwined that they are impossible to separate.

The bill that was passed which banned these films and prosecuted those selling and distributing was an ill-informed move that was largely based on the cover artwork of the films on their list of so called 'Video Nasties' rather than the content. Plus, when the content was shown to MPs while the bill was being rushed through, instead of entire films, a compilation of the most extreme scenes was put together and shown instead. This, of course, would be grotesque and ludicrously offensive to anyone that saw it. Thus, these films were seen completely out of context when boiled down to just a couple of minutes of gore as opposed to complete 90 minute films.

This astoundingly comprehensive and fascinating triple-disc set tells the story of that time, the films, the censorship and the culture of the video era, along with bringing together trailers for every single one of the 72 films on the Video Nasties list, new intros from experts, artwork, company idents and more. It's pricey, but worth every penny for any fan of one of the most notorious moments in horror history. Here's one of the most important selling points I can give you: It is nigh on 13 AND A HALF HOURS LONG!

Let's take a look at each disc in the set.

Disc One:

The first disc of Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide contains the hour-plus Jake West documentary 'Video Nasties: Moral panic, Censorship and Videotape. It's an engrossing and in- depth look at what happened with the whole controversy, how it came about, the reaction of the media and the government, the culture of the video-tape era and its supposed effects on society.

The whole era is covered in depth by an array of film critics, politicians and people involved on both sides, along with some truly astounding archive footage (some featuring the astonishingly ill-informed Mary Whitehouse, whom I remember causing so much hassle in the 80s), press clippings and much more. It's an eye opening, engrossing documentary that has been made with obvious love for the films themselves.

Also included on the first disc is a lengthy compilation of video company idents (the company logos at the start of videos), which may well be something for completists only, but is interesting viewing for the faithful. The interlinking footage stars notorious UK actress Emily Booth, and is very in keeping with Jake West's own films.

Disc Two:

The second disc features the original trailers to all of the 39 films that were prosecuted as 'liable to deprave and corrupt'. These trailers are wonderful snapshots of a truly insane period in genre cinema, and the grindhouse visuals and atrocious acting are sure to cement this disc in the hearts of many fans.

The trailers are arranged in alphabetical order, and there is an option to watch them with newly filmed intros from some of the people involved in the documentary. These intros are excellent, but on repeat viewing you'll probably want to go for the'trailers only' option. This disc also includes an artwork gallery from all 39 films. I would have happily paid full price for this disc alone.

Disc Three:

The final disc of the set contains the trailers for the 33 films on the banned list that were acquitted and removed from the list. Those trailers are every bit as entertaining as those on the previous disc, but there is perhaps a little less of the perverse satisfaction of knowing you're watching naughty things like there is on the second disc.

Once again there are newly shot intros for each film, and the option to view with or without them, along with an image gallery of artwork. The disc may not have the brilliance of the first disc or the taboo excitement of the second, but it perfectly rounds off a box set that is, in all honesty, completely and utterly essential and indispensable. It is impossible to recommend this box set highly enough. It is worth every penny of the price, and sure to have you hooked for pretty much all of its massive running time.

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