UKHS Does The Nasty! VIDEO NASTIES PART 2: DRACONIAN DAYS (2014)

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VIDEO NASTIES PART 2: DRACONIAN DAYS (2014) Review

The official UK Horror Scene verdict on Marc Morris and Jake West’s sequel to their excellent 2010 documentary…

Directed by: Jake West
Written by: Marc Morris
UK Certification: 18
UK RRP: £24.99

Runtime: 97 minutes
Distributor: Nucleus Films
UK Release Date: OUT NOW

“It’s alright for you middle-class cineastes to see this film, but what would happen if a factory worker from Manchester happened to see it?”
– James Ferman, BBFC

After the critically acclaimed success of their documentary Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship & Videotape, which brilliantly managed to encapsulate the hysteria created during the Video Nasty shenanigans (“research WILL show they can also affect dogs”), Marc Morris and Jake West in their second feature on the subject examine the years 1984 – 1999. This period of course found the aforementioned Mr. Ferman still at the helm, but in the wake of the Nasties outrage and the introduction of the Video Recordings Act which stipulated by law that ALL new releases had to be certified, our infamous BBFC Director was intent on bringing a public face to the institution.

cp1Ferman himself was American by birth and came to the UK following a period in the US Air Force. After a spell at Cambridge he worked behind the camera in television directing shows such as Armchair Theatre and Emergency Ward 10 before taking up a position at the BBFC in 1975 – a time when the organisation was accused of being too liberal. He was a very hands on Director, and had quite a penchant for conference appearances where he would regularly whip out a prepared compilation of scenes they had cut from notorious films, which when viewed in isolation naturally caused the audience to feel repugnant. Even respected genre critic and author Alan Jones stated how he came out pro-censorship following this showman-like spectacle. Only in the cold light of day would he realise that it was just clever propaganda and, as he states in Draconian Days, “from that moment on [Jones] would never trust the censor”.
Draconian Days goes on to analyse how individual tragedies affected the BBFC’s practices, and both the Hungerford Massacre and the murder of James Bulger are afforded pertinent scrutiny.

The key issues that surrounded these incidents include the difficulty in enforcing who watches a VHS in the home, and also the ability for a viewer to isolate a scene. The use of weapons too, it turns out, was a particular area of concern for Mr. Ferman – the ‘Rambo knife’ for example, and nunchucks, ninja stars and other martial arts orientated weaponry led to strict censorship. As we saw with Video Nasties part one though, such strict guidelines often resulted in frequent moments of idiocy such as the covering of the word ‘chainsaw’ in Fred Olen Ray’s Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers (1988).

hch1The hero of Morris and West’s first documentary was undoubtedly Martin Barker who was a continual source of enlightened reason. In Draconian Days he says something at the beginning which every person with the slightest regard for cinema – not just genre movies, should have etched into their brain: “We have to care about the way things got controlled in the past. If we don’t remember, we’ll allow them to do it again”.

At times I think there’s a perception that the Video Nasty period is looked back on with rose-tinted glasses as something that’s buried in the past. Draconian Days though highlights the members bill put forward by MP David Alton in 1994 which intended on implementing a new classification, ‘unsuitable for home entertainment’ – effectively banning anything that was not suitable for children. This received a political consensus AS WELL AS overwhelming public support. Pro-censorship lobbyists will always rear their ugly head – they don’t trust you, and they don’t think you’re intelligent enough to view material that they consider unsuitable. As one of the former BBFC examiners states to camera in regard to Lucio Fulci’s New York Ripper (1982), “It’s the most damaging film I’ve ever seen in my life. After the film three of us were quietly weeping. That there’s an audience for it… That says something about the viewing audience”.

This second Video Nasty documentary is essential viewing. While the first one I regarded more as an eye opening history lesson about a ridiculously heightened moral panic (even now the thought of someone walking into my Video Store and seizing my own product I find chilling), Draconian Days takes it and broadens the timeline, giving us a complete picture of the role of the BBFC through the 80s and 90s. There’s little about it to look back fondly over, be it with Ferman’s private conversations with studios to dissuade them from even submitting films like The Exorcist (1973) or Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), or with BBFC examiners seemingly devoid of a balanced analysis of the work of one of Italy’s most loved genre filmmakers. Irrespective of the shocking nature of the organisations behaviour, Morris and West keep their documentary moving at a brisk pace with superb commentary from folk such as academics, industry experts, writers and Morris himself with archive clips inserted where necessary.

VN Draconian Days titleIf you care about artistic freedom as well the dangers of living in a society where the content of the films you want to see can be regulated by the actions of rogue MPs, self-serving BBFC directors or pompous campaigns in the Daily Mail, then it’s imperative you support this release from Nucleus films.

9 out of 10

The extras from the mammoth three disc, limited edition DVD set were sadly unavailable at press time.

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Grindhouse Trailer Classics: Volume 4 (2014) DVD Review

 

GRINDHOUSE 001GRINDHOUSE TRAILER CLASSICS: Volume 4 (2014) DVD

Review by: Dave Wain

UK Certification: 18

UK RRP: £12.99

UK DVD Region: 2

Runtime: 111 minutes

Directed by: Various

UK Release Date: 16th June 2014

Distributor: Nucleus Films

When I pitch the concept of the Grindhouse Trailer Classics series to my rental customers the idea tends to elicit vague stares of minimal comprehension. In fact one guy that rented a volume returned it with his verdict being that they “did a great job of making them look like the Tarantino movie”. After I spent the next five minutes explaining that they were real films that all appeared in a variety of fleapit cinemas on 42nd Street New York, I needed a crane to pick his jaw up from my counter.

The notion of the Grindhouse is one that we struggle to understand in this country – but having been so far away from that era of cinema viewing it’s understandable. For many of us our vague interpretation of the subject does indeed stem from the Tarantino / Rodriguez movie, though ironically that was split up into two individual features prior to crossing the Atlantic with the ‘Grindhouse’ name only ever appearing on a special edition blu-ray.

Immense credit is certainly due then to Marc Morris and Jake West who continue to release such a compendium of rarities to an unsuspecting British public. Every few years they succeed in making us all envious of growing up in middle-England suburbia as opposed to living round the corner from The Rialto in Manhattan, and subjecting ourselves to midnight showings of films like Snuff Bottle Connection and Maraschino Cherry.

GRINDHOUSE 002Grindhouse Trailer Classics 4 opens with the ‘classic’ Samuel Z. Arkoff flick Little Cigars and quickly gathers a lascivious head of steam with ‘horrific tales of white slavery’ (!) in the movie Women For Sale. The ultimate goal for a trailer, irrespective of the era it hails from has always been for the film company / distributor to convince you to go and see the movie. That said, the way these Grindhouse trailers are pitched, specifically the raspingly leery voiceover are an undoubted highlight of this trailer reel.

Mama’s dirty girls…”

Sultry sisters in sin…”

The turn-on trio…”

They change men from soft pussycats to hard animals…”

They fight dirty and they love dirty…”

Academy award winner Gloria Graham stars as Mama… “

All of the above lewd dialogue is packed into ONE single trailer for Mama’s Dirty Girls – and how about that Oscar orientated punchline just to add a little credibility! Before we mock the outrageous too severely though, it’s important to add that many of the movies trailered in Volume 4 are really good films! Often I read about the whole Grindhouse era being shrugged off as some short-lived period of cheap and seedy cinema going, but it’s worth remembering the quality of some of the pictures that wound up playing 42nd Street. To name a few examples from this edition of GTC there’s the superb Shaw Brothers flick The Hammer of God aka The Chinese Boxer, underrated horror in Curtains with John Vernon and Deathmaster with Robert Quarry. Let’s not forget top level Blaxploitation with Willie Dynamite or some sublime Paul Naschy in Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror.

GRINDHOUSE 003

Critics moaned with Volume 3 how “they’re struggling to find anything new” (an oxymoron surely) and “it’s just more of the same” – but surely if you romanticise this era, which is something I’m often guilty of, then that criticism is music to your ears. Volume 4 does indeed provide us with more shockingly outrageous movies than we would likely be subjected to in a lifetime were it not without this series. It also makes us pine longingly for movies like The Hitchhikers or Too Hot to Handle to finally get a release on DVD or blu-ray in the UK. It makes you wonder though, with the British home video market having come so far that companies are managing to break even releasing product like Troma and Full Moon, whether one day we could accommodate a Grindhouse specific niche label. We can dream I guess, but for now Nucleus Films’ regular compendium of trailers quenches our thirst for these films like a Bloody Mary from a smoke brown tumbler.

8 out of 10