25TH FESTIVAL OF FANTASTIC FILMS Oct 31st to Nov 2nd 2014 – A Review

fff125TH FESTIVAL OF FANTASTIC FILMS October 31st to November 2nd 2014

FRIDAY
So the festival of fantastic films is 25 years old and with such an illustrious anniversary the organisers have decided to charge the entire weekend ticket for the festival for £25, which is probably the best and cheapest ticket price for any festival especially in this day and age, and is a nice reflection of the price of the first ever festival back in 1990. Alongside this there is the fantastic line up of guests involved especially for the horror crowd with CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST director Ruggero Deodato and HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2 star Laurence Harvey, who this very writer had the chance to interview on stage, making this a weekend for any genre fan not to miss.

Starting on the FRIDAY I turned up straight after finishing my “normal job”, and had a chance to see Pete Walker’s classic FLESH AND BLOOD SHOW, which I’ve seen ages ago and cause its Walker its always worth seeing. After this and due to the late start of the film it was straight over to the main room for the opening ceremony and a chance for some of the weekends guests to be introduced, and also a nice little compilation video made up by Elmer Podlasly, to celebrate the 25th year. It’s also a chance to see Carl Whiteley’s short comedy film called THE EMPIRE, which is a nice spoof on THE OFFICE (the American version, as opposed to the English version, as Carl told me), where Star War’s characters go about their daily routine in an office, and Darth Vader is the jolly David Brent/Michael Scott kind of boss. After a brief trip to the bar, it was back into the main room for an interesting talk from David Hyman, a representative from the BBFC, who was talking about the ways of classifying horror, which turned out to be interesting, in getting a view of how horror films are perceived by the censors, and even how the distributors, especially in the current age, can have such a say over what is shown in the film and effectively edit their own films to get a lower rating.

eurocrimeThe only thing I felt that could have been added into the talk was more of a Q&A session, as it only lasted a few minutes at the end of Hyman’s talk, which is a shame as I had a question in mind. Ironically enough in the bar after, Hyman did come over to the table I was sat at with some friends, and this is where we spent most of the rest of the Friday at the festival speaking to Laurence Harvey and the BBFC representative, as well as drinking plenty of Boddingtons. Though at the end of the night after they showed (and as its Halloween why not) the superb GHOSTWATCH they screened EUROCRIME: THE ITALIAN COP AND GANGSTER FILMS THAT RULED THE 70’S (2012), which I’ve already seen twice, once at Frightfest 2012 and in a special screening at the Moston Small Cinema last year and it’s still a superb watch and if you love documentary’s on genre cinema then you need to see this film, it’s essential viewing. After this it was time to call it a night and get a taxi home, and sleep for at least a couple of hours.

SATURDAY
I usually get in early on the first full day as one of the screens always puts on the superbly bad Japanese series SPECTREMAN, but as I wake up late I arrive with a coffee in hand and take a look at the film fair, that is on in the big hall area. The first thing I want to check out of the day is a screening of a brand new recently completed horror film NOCTURNAL ACTIVITY directed by Steve Lawson, who previously submitted a short film into the festival 15 years ago. In all honesty I went into it expecting not much and to be honest this was a bit of a strain to watch, and even at 75 minutes it drags quite badly, and this is not hampered by the clunky and wooden dialogue. Though as the director explained he was approached by some American investors to make a sort of trashy horror, with plenty of nudity, which it does have, it’s just that it has no pace or flow, that makes it a disappointment. After this, we had the first UK screening of the ZOMBIE KING, which I will be making a full review soon. Made almost three years ago and still trying to get a release here in the UK, the film actually turned out to be much better than expected. The cast and crew where there and I managed to interview some of them, and hopefully we can find the footage to put up on the website.

fff2Then it was onto a screening of VHS FOREVER, a documentary looking at the explosion of video tape industry in the UK and of course, the ever immortal video nasties, which as its the celebration of another anniversary, that being the 30th year since the video recordings act, is another nice co-incidence with the festivals current anniversary. An interesting documentary that comprises mostly of talking head interviews, it is slightly over long and could do with possibly 20 minutes or 30 minutes being cut down, though it does come up with some interesting insights, especially when its revealed that people who were buying videos through dark side magazine from tape traders, in the early 90’s where getting stung and arrested by the police, which shocked me as I was buying films through dark side magazine at the same time, and I was only 11 at the time! After the documentary, it was a chance to grab some food, of the takeaway kind to soak up the alcohol in my body, and it was onto one of the talks of the day and that was with Ruggero Deodato, who has been at the festival before and Me Me Lai, who has appeared in LAST CANNIBAL WORLD and EATEN ALIVE.

ruggeroChaired by Callum Waddell, it was a chance for both guests to look over there distinguished career, and of course CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST was brought up naturally. It was a very good talk and was great to see Deodato in person, especially as he is the man behind one of the most notorious horror flicks of all time, and with Eli Roth’s GREEN INFERNO coming up, one of the most well known cannibal horrors of all time. On top of that Deodato can lay claim to fame for being the godfather of the found footage film, with HOLOCAUST. Who would have known that a film like that would still being talked about to this day and still be as strongly influential and controversial. HOLOCAUST was also shown later on in the night. Before that though was a documentary, called YELLOW FEVER directed by one of the festival interviewees, Callum Waddell, again another fascinating genre documentary, this time focusing on the Italian giallo, and it’s about time someone made a documentary about this genre and again another well made documentary, one that I would like to get another repeat viewing of as it was approaching past the witching hour, and with the alcohol intake and the fact that I have been up for so long, tiredness was setting in fast, still it didn’t deter form ending the night with one of the original nasties, CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, and then slowly but surely home to bed.

SUNDAY
Again I woke up late, and missed SPECTREMAN (will have to make up for that next year) much of the first part of Sunday was spent walking around chatting to friends who where there, admiring a massive collection of VHS tapes on sale that were in the film fair hall (that included both pre and post certificate VHS) and also watching the City and Utd derby, as this was the second time in two years where I’ve been to the festival and where the annual 1st of 2 clashes between Manchester’s two footy sides, somehow co-insides with the festival. Though this year It was interrupted for me, as I was scheduled to interview Laurence R Harvey at 2.30pm, the same time as the second half of the derby kicked off, and even though City where still 0-0 with Utd, I of course had to do my interviewing duties, though as festival organiser Gil knew, being a City fan that I would be watching the derby, he did say to me that he deliberately schedule the interview at this time (thanks Gil).

laurenceharveyThe interview was excellent and is available to view here (CLICK HERE), and for my first interview it went very well, it was good to hear some positive feedback from the festival goers in regards to the interview (that’s enough showing off- editor). Also Harvey himself proved to be a fantastic guest, and even though he was right in saying that there was no point in asking the actor when the Human Centipede 3 was out, we are still waiting for Tom Six to reveal that, but he did promise that there is a 500 person centipede!!! (Watch the interview). This was followed by a screening of THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2, which is certainly a decisive film, even for horror audiences, as I’ve met fans who love the film and those who hate it, along with a good majority of the critics, yet I feel it’s actually an interesting sequel.

Yes it’s crude vulgar, and Tom Six might be aiming for the shock tactics deliberately, but like any good horror sequel it piles on the gore, and has a slight satirical or darkly comic swipe at the supposed corrupted influence on horror fans, as Laurence’s character of Martin Lomax, is obsessed with the first film and sets about doing his own crude version of a human centipede, but without the surgical know how of the first films mad doctor. After this was another brief break before a screening of an interesting recent documentary on scream queens entitled SCREAM QUEENS, and then one of the final screenings which was Deodato’s sleazy giallo thriller THE WASHING MACHINE (1993). One more final event and that was the traditional closing ceremony, where the remaining guests where thanked for their attendance along with the festival organisers, the venue and obviously the attendees.

The Festival of Fantastic Films 2014 guests.

The Festival of Fantastic Films 2014 guests.

So overall a great weekend, filled with films, guests and plenty of Boddingtons. Even after 25 years the festival is still attracting attention, and it will be interesting to see what happens in the future for the festival. Yes there are mistakes and cancellations in the festival, sometimes the films don’t run, there’s always delays, and yes the festival does not have the gravitas, of something like Frightfest for instance, or even the pull of films that GrimmFest can conjure up, but then even those festivals can suffer from technical gremlins and other glitches, human or otherwise. But the fact the festival has a great laid back vibe, where you can mingle with the guests at the bar, enjoy numerous talks, find odd and rare DVD’s or even VHS to buy, and catch some films as well, that makes the event an entertaining gathering and shared meeting of like minded individuals, old and new, and a testament to how it has stood up for 25 years!

The Washing Machine (1993) DVD Review

WM 1THE WASHING MACHINE (1993) DVD Review

Also known as Vortice Mortale

Directed by Ruggero Deodato
Written by Luigi Spagnol
Starring Philippe Caroit, Ilaria Borrelli, Katarzyna Figura & Barbara Ricci

Out 25th August from Shameless Screen Entertainment

It’s sex, lies and dismemberment in this twisty-turny erotic thriller; a giallo-tinged sexer from Cannibal Holocaust helmer Ruggero Deodato. Though lacking the brutal power of that said gut-muncher, and not quite capturing the same kind of spiteful excitement that makes the likes of House on the Edge of the Park and Cut & Run so essential, The Washing Machine is nonetheless a required look for those familiar with this often underrated spaghetti splat journeyman. It’s certainly tacky and downright bizarre enough to hold one’s attention – casual horror lovers or those who find the Italian stuff already indecipherable, however, should probably give it an exceptionally wide berth.

Continuing Deodato’s fascination with ghastly occurrences rooted in reality (“I don’t like films with a fantasy element,” he once told Eye For Film’s Jennie Kermode. “If I make a horror film I want the horror to come from something realistic, not something made up.”), The Washing Machine finds Budapest detective Alexander Stacev (Frenchman Philippe Caroit, leading a pretty damn good multi-national cast) investigating the peculiar case of some poor sod who’s been hacked to pieces and stuffed inside the titular white appliance… Well, allegedly anyway. The problem is there’s actually no sign of the gorily disjointed body, even though the supposed victim – sleazy pimp Yuri, played with zest by Yorgo Voyagis – is nowhere to be found either.

WM 2Soon, Stacev is in Polanski-aping territory and at the mercy of Yuri’s lover Vida (Katarzyna Figura, billed as Kashia) and her two sisters, Maria (Ilaria Borrelli) and Ludmilla (Barbara Ricci); becoming a plaything in their strange, cat-and-mouse love quadrangle…

It’s spicy stuff for sure, even if the simulated bonking veers more towards absurd smut than anything particularly sexy. Though slightly reminiscent of Paul Verhoeven’s psychosexual horror-comic The Fourth Man, The Washing Machine is closer to the type of soft-core silliness that Channel 5 used to broadcast late on a Friday evening; the same kind of murder mystery T&A fluff that Shannon Tweed would have excelled in, just a little more Euro-pudding. Deodato of course directs with his usual gusto, assuredly embracing both the occasional splashes of grue and Figura’s pneumatic chest in typically unreserved fashion.

It’s during the weirder, quieter moments where he really excels though; the moments in which the increasingly bewildered Stacev tries to piece together just what the hell is actually going on playing like a macabre and surreal joke. Deodato conjures up a pleasingly off-kilter mood, one perfectly served by cinematographer Sergio D’Offizi (who also lensed the director’s Cannibal Holocaust and House on the Edge of the Park, as well as Lucio Fulci’s exquisite giallo Don’t Torture a Duckling) who’s cool colour palette also compliments the Budapest locations rather nicely. It’s a pleasure to look at, and Shameless’ unremarkable transfer is solid enough to do it justice: It’s watchable, even if it’s a touch on the hazy side thanks to a dodgy compression job.

WM 3The Washing Machine is no classic, mind you; there’s far too much narrative flab for that. Italian television writer Luigi Spagnol’s script piles on the intrigue, but it’s too rambling when it should be twisting the suspense screws; too unfocused when it should be razor sharp. Moreover, both he and Deodato can’t quite keep the pace going; it kicks off with a bang but peters out before ending with a nonsensical damp squib. There’s still plenty to enjoy though in this stylish and entertaining potboiler; it won’t convert anyone to the church of bloody Italian chills, but it’ll certainly satisfy the parishioners already worshipping within it.

On the extras front, Shameless‘ disc is an odd one: Bells and whistles with its swanky-looking, Graham Humphreys-designed metal tin packaging (this critic was privy to the check disc only, sadly) but almost completely devoid of anything additional feature wise. There’s a cute easter egg spotlighting Deodato’s nosey neighbour cameo and a surprisingly lacklustre selection of on-set stills; compared with the slew of specially produced extras the company prepared for their new cuts of Cannibal Holocaust and House on the Edge of the Park though, it’s damn disappointing.

Reportedly unhappy with the finished product, it would have been interesting to hear what Deodato himself has to say on the project. And with the likes of Death Waltz Records et al creating a fresh demand for horror soundtracks of late – Italian especially – the lack of an isolated score option to showcase the splendid work of Goblin man Claudio Simonetti is a bit of a missed opportunity too.

WM 4Still, it’s hard not to recommend it, if only for the chance to pick up this dotty little movie itself. Shameless‘ package is the first time The Washing Machine has been available since a small VHS release back in 1999, and the fact that things like this are getting released into the ever more difficult British market is something to be applauded. Hopefully, with enough sales, Shameless will be able to whip up a few more Deodato releases; uncut versions of his poliziotteschi Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man and his American sylvan slasher Body Count would be most welcome indeed…

The film 6/10
The disc 3/10

The Washing Machine is available on Amazon from HERE 

And visit Shameless Films site & shop HERE 

Follow Matty on twitter @mattybudrewicz

An Exploration of Cannibal Holocaust (1979) by Daniel Stillings

Cannibal Holocaust (Poster)CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST (1979)

Dir: Ruggero Deodato

Writer: Gianfranco Clerici

Starring: Francesca Ciardi, Luca Barbareschi, Robert Kerman, Perry Pirkamen.

Running Time: 96 minutes

It is no underestimation to describe Ruggero Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust (1979) as one of the horror genre’s defining films, and for a variety of reasons also one of its most troubling, for audiences, censors and critics alike. According to the director himself, the film began life when his son became upset by images of real violence he had seen in a television news report, used less through a desire to inform the public of world events than through a need to give the viewers increasingly sensationalistic thrills. Out of this experience, Deotato began work on a screenplay that would form a pointed attack on the whole concept of sensationalistic reportage in general, and also work as a critique of the cycle of shock-documentaries known collectively as “Mondo” movies, specifically the works of two filmmakers, Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi.

Gualtiero Jacopetti a journalist who had previously penned the narration for Luigi Vanzi’s two nightclub act compilation movies – European Nights (1959) and World By Night (1960) – directed and produced what is generally regarded as the feature that kick started the genre, Mondo Cane (1962). The film consisted of a series of cultural juxtapositions to prove in the words of the title, “It’s a dogs life,” but it was the images of real death that had the greatest impact on audiences and the film’s imitators. The following year, Jacopetti directed a sequel, Mondo Cane 2 (1963) which became the first director / producer collaboration for Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi who had been associate director / producer on the first movie with Paulo Cavara.

Cannibal Holocaust#1The two then went on to direct and write Africa Addio (1966) which set the tone for all mondo movies that followed it. Known as Farewell Africa in the UK, Africa Addio followed the continent’s transition from colonialism to independence. Jacopetti and Prosperi had initially entered the continent to work on another project only to be caught up in the political upheaval, and decided to turn their cameras on that instead. The film is literally packed with images of death, a fact stressed even more when an edited version of the film was released in America in 1970 called Africa: Blood And Guts. Shorn of nearly an hour of its more pleasant, contextualising footage, this new 83 minutes version was an unrelenting bloodbath, and a box office hit.

In the film, animals are seen slaughtered by the dozen and people are put up against a wall and shot, none of which was faked for the camera…well not quite. Jacopetti and Prosperi were both guilty of manipulating footage on the two Mondo Cane films, going as far as to restage Quang Duc suicide by fire in the second film. In Africa Addio this manipulation of events reached even further. In one nauseating sequence, a family of hippos are slaughtered in a sequences seemingly staged for the camera. More serious though were the allegations that the filmmakers encouraged the unlawful killing of a man by a mob in order to procure powerful and shocking footage for their documentary. This was the starting point for Deodato’s movie.

When a group of four documentary filmmakers disappear in the South American jungle, the TV company who employed them funds an expedition to be headed up by a professor called Monroe to find them, or discover what happened to them. On arrival they soon pick up their trail but the discovery of the rotting remains of their guide Filipe do not bode well for discovering the missing four alive. These suspicions prove well founded when they eventually make contact with the Yamamono tribe who display evidence of contact with them, some wearing camera lenses as jewellery and another a wristwatch.

Cannibal Holocaust#4The tribe are initially distrustful of Monroe and his team, but when they aid the tribe during an altercation with another Indio tribe, they are accepted, and lead to what turns out to be the skeletal remains of the four missing filmmakers, and the cans of exposed film they shot before whatever fate befell them (eagle-eyed viewers will notice the plot gaffe involving the film cans that puts a real crimp on the film’s logic). Back in New York, the TV station intends to use the footage Monroe brought back to form the basis of a piece entitled “The Green Inferno,” but on viewing the footage, the unpalatable truth of what actually transpired deep in the jungle begins to become clear.

From a technical standpoint, Cannibal Holocaust is brilliant. By the film’s half way point we know the fate that befell the missing filmmakers, but that fatalistic edge just amplifies the visceral tension in the second half when we actually get to see the footage shot by the now dead crew. As the atrocities committed escalate to the point where the seemingly peaceful Indios fight back with equal ferocity, we are repeatedly reminded that we are watching a film within a film by cutaways to the faces of Monroe and the TV executives’ disgust at what they are watching. While suspension of disbelief is not absolute when viewing the crew’s grainy “found” footage it is still powerful stuff, the look of which seems to have been inspired by Joe D’Amato’s Emanuelle In America (1976), and though Deodato’s footage is not as shocking as the faked snuff material in that film, its use here much more complex.

This idea of presenting fake footage as real is complicated by the material that makes up the documentary within the film entitled The Last Road To Hell shown to Monroe as an example of the unscrupulous tactics the four filmmakers were willing to employ to get the footage they need. Monroe is told that the documentary is fake, but in reality the footage (“bought from an English company” according to Deodato) is real. This is according to David Kerekes & David Slater’s two books, See No Evil: Banned Films And The Video Controversy and their excellent dissection of the mondo genre, Killing For Culture, but a close inspection reveals some possible slight of hand. One stand out moment during the sequence in which a young boy is shot at point-blank range several times before collapsing out of sight appears to display evidence of blood squibs being detonated as he is shot when viewed frame by frame. The footage in this scene also appears to be of a different quality to the murky, authentic footage that surrounds it. All the material has turned up in several other mondo documentaries over the years.

Cannibal Holocaust#5The use of this real documentary material in a fictional narrative is dubious, but no more so than the use of real concentration camp footage in Stanley Kramer’s Oscar winning Judgment At Nuremberg (1961), and Deodato’s intended reading of the film would still be sound if not for the fact that in filming the grainy sensationalistic found footage the film deplores, he staged several animal killings for real, most notoriously involving the dismemberment and disembowelment of a live turtle. This particular sequence is utterly nauseating  and imbued with a gloatingly sadistic quality that makes it extremely difficult to watch. Claims have been made that the cast can barely hide their real sense of disgust and that actress Francessca Ciardi vomits for real, but any reservations the actors may have had to slaughtering the animal are not really evident, and the shot of Ciardi’s vomiting is obviously fake.

In Luca M. Palmerini & Gaetano Mistretta’s book Spaghetti Nightmares, Deodato claims, “The rats, wild pigs crocodiles and turtle were killed by the Indios themselves, for food. I simply followed them on their hunts – the equivalent of shooting the butchers at the city slaughterhouse, except that I always had someone from the animal protection league breathing down my neck.” As the actors are clearly visible hacking up the turtle in the scene described above, this is clearly untrue.

Much of the criticism written about Cannibal Holocaust tends to ignore this when discussing it. Kim Newman in his seminal study of the horror field Nightmare Movies described the film as, “the definitive cannibal movie and an auto critique of the genre,” and David Prothero in The BFI Companion To Horror said the movie is, “Deodato’s demythologising response to his own trend setting entry [Last Cannibal World (1977)] and the acme of the sub genre.” David Winter also alluded to the problem describing it as Deodato’s “crippled classic.” Tim Lucas who has a great appreciation for the film describes it in The Video Watchdog Book as, “one of the most devastating nightmares ever committed to film,” but goes on to address the animal cruelty issue head on saying, “it also uses footage of live animal slaughter to make its human slaughter effects appear more realistic, which is reprehensible.”

Cannibal Holocaust#7 For Lucas, the hypocrisy over Deadato’s use of the footage he objects to does not negate the value of the film as it does for Stanley Wiater, who wrote in Cut: Horror Writers On Horror Films, “unlike nearly all the other cannibal films, these acts are not committed by the natives, with the viewer assuming these animals were later eaten by savages in a typically savage manner. Here the slaughter is committed by the explorers as part of the plot. Either way, the very idea of animals being literally butchered as part of a fictional story where humans beings are supposedly butchered is morally reprehensible to say the least.”

The desire to find an argument that will justify the use of the real animal slaughter footage is desirable to fans but simply unattainable. Cannibal Holocaust’s reputation a one of the horror genres defining texts is well established, and guarded by fans to the point that drawing attention to the hypocrisy inherent in Deodato’s thesis is frowned upon. But dishonest claims about how the real scenes of animal slaughter were obtained are not the only false statements Deodato is guilty of.

In an interview with Deodato conducted by Emily Booth for the TV series Shock Movie Massacre about the similarities between The Last Broadcast (1998) and The Blair Witch Project (1999), and in the latter’s similarity to Cannibal Holocaust, he claimed, “I had the idea to convince my young actors to sign a contract that said that they had to disappear for a year and pretend to be dead. When the film came out, it was confiscated by the authorities who accused me of having really killed the journalists, so I had call the actors and ask them to reveal that they were still alive just to prove that I didn’t kill anyone.”

Cannibal Holocaust#8In addition to accusing the makers of The Blair Witch Project of stealing his ideas, he dismisses director Daniel Myrick’s claims of ignorance simply as “Lies.” The problem with this statement is that despite going through pages of interviews and analysis, I was unable to find any corroborative evidence for Deodato’s claim concerning the stunt with the actors. Bearing in mind his false statements concerning the animal killings depicted in the film, it would appear likely that these claims are also untrue (If anyone has more information on this, I would love to hear it). In reality all three films explore quite distinct themes, despite these similarities: Cannibal Holocaust is intended as a pointed attack on the mondo cycle, The Last Broadcast is more about the documentary medium as message in itself, and The Blair Witch Project offers no context for what it show, relying solely on “found” footage, presented as real to scare the shit out of audiences.

Cannibal Holocaust opened in Italy on 8th February 1980 but was withdrawn four weeks later because on the scenes of animal cruelty. It was declared obscene by the High Court in Italy (using an old law that either forbid the import of bulls for use in the corrida or an old Fascist law forbidding the torture of guinea-pigs, depending on what source you consult) and banned. After three years and two more trials, Deodato eventually won his case and the film was again released in Italy with a “14” certificate. In France it was released with an “18” certificate after approximately 8 minutes of footage was cut amidst rumours printed in the January 1981 issue of Photo that the film was a genuine snuff movie (similar accusations would plague the film in the UK when it was seized in April 1993 during a comic mart in Birmingham). In Japan, it was the biggest box office draw after E.T. – The Extra Terrestrial (1982).

Cannibal Holocaust#9Deodato’s movie was first sprung on an unsuspecting British public via GO video’s cassette released in the UK in the early eighties. Though this version was eventually withdrawn after being successfully prosecuted as a “video nasty,” it was not the complete version as was widely believed. Details totalling 6 minutes 24 seconds were removed included all references to the fact that the woman clubbed to death in the “social surgery” scene was pregnant, all the below the waist shot of the girl impaled on the pole, and it is also rumoured that the distributor cut many of the artificially damaged frames, but this is unconfirmed.

In addition to these edits, the sequence in which the crew chase the native girl before raping her is played twice. Rumours of an official re-release of the film on video in the UK never transpired. Despite its unavailability in the UK, it could still be purchased on the continent on videotape courtesy of Cult Epics in Holland and later on DVD from EC Entertainment. Unlike GO’s banned UK version, these were almost complete (for unknown reasons they were missing a few seconds of footage from The Last Road To Hell sequence).

In light of BBFC policy change, VIPCO submitted the uncut version of Cannibal Holocaust for a video certificate. They left some surprising and explicit things intact but still insisted on 17 cuts totalling 5 minutes 44 seconds before passing the film with an “18” certificate. The cuts are: 1 cut (17 seconds) deleting the scene of a musk rat being killed with a switchblade, though shots of the carcass remain; 3 cuts (47 seconds) to the ritual punishment of the native woman by the river, deleting the shot of her legs being forced apart including the sight of her vagina, details of the man using a dildo to rape her including a shot of the dildo covered in blood, and shot of the man forcing a clump of mud with bones protruding from it between the woman’s legs; 1 cut (11 seconds) deleting the scene of a native woman being raped, though a long shot remains; 4 cuts (1 minute 43 seconds) all shots of the turtle being killed (the cutting off of its head, it’s still kicking leg, and the animal being eviscerated in close-up) have been removed though a shot of the empty shell remains; 1 cut (21 seconds) a monkey having its head sliced open and its blood drained into a bowl have been removed; 1 cut (20 seconds) footage of the tethered pig being kicked and shot in the head have been deleted; 4 cuts (30 seconds) removing the more explicit details of the native girl being raped; 1 cut (1 minute 33 seconds) shots of Faye being stripped naked and raped twice, the second time while the natives hold her legs have been cut entirely; and 1 cut (2 seconds) deleting a shot of Faye’s vagina as she is carried away resulting in a jump cut.

The cuts to Cannibal Holocaust posed a difficult conundrum. The scenes of animal cruelty contained in the film are nauseating and almost unwatchable. The only difficulty with the censors’ intervention in 2001 was that in removing the footage of animal slaughter, they turned the film into the unambiguous critique of the mondo genre it most definitely wasn’t. Would it not have been more beneficial to an audience that they see the hypocrisy of Deodato’s thesis undiluted rather than have it misrepresented to them with a false impression of what actually happened during the making of the film? The BBFC admitted to playing it safe at the time in light of the films reputation and its history as a video nasty, but when the DVD label Shameless resubmitted the film in 2011, the board had a clearer and more defined idea of how to apply the revised guidelines, and waived all but one of the original cuts (the 15 second shot of the muskrat being killed was deleted and replaced with alternate footage).

Cannibal Holocaust (Cover)Over three decades on from when it first came to the attention of horror fans world-wide, and now almost completely intact, Cannibal Holocaust can finally be judged more clearly, animal violence and all, but now it seems as though Deodato himself realised his error, preparing a special edit to remove or obscure much of the animal violence (it was included in the Shameless edition). This new version solves nothing, the animals were still killed, it’s just seems like an apologists attempt to cover up what actually happened. Cannibal Holocaust is the horror genre’s most frustrating film. It’s an impressive work prevented from being the intelligently savage critique of the mondo cycle Deodato intended by the hypocritical inclusion of about two minutes of grotesque footage, and it’s a real shame because it didn’t need to be that way.

Daniel Stillings

UKHS Does The Nasty! HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK (1980)

House 1UKHS Does the Nasty!

HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK (1980)

Kicking off our very special week of Video Nasty features, Stuart Smith casts his analytical gaze over the sensationally sleazy Italian rape-revenge shocker HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK…

Also known as: La Casa Sperduta Nel Parco, Der Schlitzer, The Ripper on the Edge

“In our societies we don’t believe in constraining the media, still less in censorship.”

Believe it or not, these are the words of one Margaret Thatcher PM shortly before one of the biggest and most insane media frenzies in British history. These words would of course prove both bitterly ironic and completely worthless as politicians from all parties and a tabloid media practically foaming at the mouth went on a crusade that changed the way movies in the UK would be consumed forever, leading to the introduction of the Video Recordings Act 1984 and the Video Packaging Review Committee.

As video made its way into homes across the country, enterprising independent distributors such as VIPCO and GO Video were quick to fill the then unregulated market with lurid sex and horror epics that otherwise had fallen foul of the censor. Marketing the films using ridiculously over the top and gore-drenched cover art, it wasn’t long before they began to draw the wrong kind of attention; a mixture of fear towards this new technology and questionable political grandstanding, with the overt hypocrisies of the ‘free press’ coming to the fore. Films like The Driller Killer (1979), Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979) and I Spit On Your Grave (1978) were suddenly all scapegoats for every social and political ill that Britain, at the time, was then experiencing: a handy distraction for a government up to no good!

House 2It was a difficult and crazy period, with certain unfortunate distributors landing themselves in jail for stocking certain tapes and for supposedly depraving the minds of the general public. It all sounds ridiculous in hindsight, but in the early eighties the confusion and the constant evolution of the political landscape meant that it was a very real possibility that the police were going to raid your local video store.

After a few years of headlines and assorted prosecutions, a final banned list of thirty-nine titles emerged (whittled down from seventy-two targetable ones). All successfully prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act, they became something of a shopping list for a whole generation of horror fans. Hunting them down on often bootlegged video cassettes, it was rebellious, dirty and wrong… But it had to be done if you wanted to be in the club. Some of these Nasties have become acknowledged classics (Last House on the Left, Zombie Flesh Eaters); others have rightly almost vanished into obscurity (Mardi Gras Massacre (1978), Night of the Bloody Apes (1969), and several pushed the boundaries of taste and common sense (The Beast In Heat (1977), SS Experiment Camp (1976); each one though is a curious monstrosity that every British horror fan should still seek out.

One such film is Ruggero Deodato’s La Casa Sperduta Nel Parco, or House on the Edge of the Park as it’s better known. Made in three weeks straight after the directors much more famous Nasty Cannibal Holocaust (1980), it was quickly eclipsed by its bigger, more popular cousin. Whilst Cannibal Holocaust was a sprawling horror epic about the evils of the media, House on the Edge of the Park is a taut, claustrophobic affair that deals with the class system and boasts one very skewed moral compass.

House 3Like Cannibal Holocaust, it’s an extremely confrontational movie but it is arguably much more representative of what it really means to be a ‘Nasty’. Featuring a roll call of Nasty-era talent like David A Hess (Last House On the Left), Giovanni Lombardo Radice (aka the most mutilated man in cinema history) and Cannibal Ferox’s (1981) Lorraine DeSelle, it was most obviously conceived as a straight up exploitation film; not surprising given that it was written by Gianfranco Clerici and Vincenzo Mannino of New York Ripper (1982) fame. It was ripe for the fledgling UK video market when it first reared its ugly head in 1983, but – just as its clear inspiration Last House On the Left was – it was made by a director with more smarts than your average exploitation hack. A mixture of social commentary and cynically vicious incident, House on the Edge of the Park is very much a film of two halves but one that must be seen if the impact of these films in their pre-VRA days is to be understood.

Giving the viewer no time to settle in, we’re immediately hit with a Blitzkrieg opening: Alex (Hess), driving through New York, forces a young woman off the road. He then forces himself into her car where he proceeds to assault, rape and strangle her. It’s raw, brutal and unpleasant, and pushes upon the viewer its antagonists mind set. The film then changes gear for a while as Alex and his simple minded friend Ricky (Radice) are invited to a party by a rich young couple whose car they have helped fix. Once at the party sexual tensions and social politics begin to play out and it becomes more and more apparent that the hosts are mocking the two interlopers, seeing them as their lesser. The naïve Ricky in particular is exploited as he just tries to have fun. Alex however is wise to it: sharp and dangerous, he quickly turns the tables on the party goers and an escalating tide of rape, mutilation and violence soon follows.

House 4The first half of House on the Edge of the Park is a brilliantly paced and extremely tense affair, one that could rightly exist alongside other key rape-and-revenge films like the aforementioned Last House on The Left and I Spit on Your Grave. However it differs in one key respect to those films and it is here where it stands apart, becoming something much meaner and crueler in tone: it tells its story almost entirely from the point of view of Alex. From the start we’re inside his head, seeing the world through his eyes. Last House on the Left and I Spit on Your Grave both tell their stories from the point of view of the victims and, despite their obvious exploitation roots, use their atrocities to make some sort of moral point regarding the destructive nature of violence and revenge.

House on the Edge of the Park though wallows in the damaged mind of its antagonist and at times seems to take as much perverse pleasure in all the terror and violations as Alex himself does. Take the film’s opening scene: by starting with such an incredibly brutal opening and showing Alex’s true colours so soon, the film lays its cards unflinchingly out on the table, and leaves everyone watching in one very awkward and edgy position. Knowing who – and what – Alex is and what he is capable of so early in the film means that every scene after that is dripping with his potential for violence. We know it is going to come at some point, but we don’t know when. It’s incredibly tense.
Unfortunately, once Alex’s straight razor comes out and the violence starts, the film spirals out of control and it inevitably becomes the same kind of nasty trash that much of the first half manages to avoid.

House 5 skyline adIt becomes difficult to defend it beyond the fact that it is very well made, its mixture of illogical seductions and sex scenes leading to an utterly ridiculous and painfully patronising twist ending that feels like a desperate last minute add on: a trite justification for all the terrorisation and assault that has preceded it. It also becomes hard not to concede accusations of misogyny as the film hints the women in the film are all ‘asking for it’. This is particularly evident in the introduction of Cindy (Brigitte Petronio). Coming late to the film, she exists solely to be abused and mutilated, offering nothing to the overall action, and the suggestions that she is under age renders the film’s finale all the more obnoxious. Becoming a victim of its own intentions, there is no escaping that despite Deodato’s skill as a filmmaker it’s one deeply unpleasant movie.

House on the Edge of the Park’s part in the Nasties scandal was a little more clandestine than some of the more famous titles. A permanent member of the Director of Public Prosecutions’ obscene list, it was the film used by then BBFC patriarch James Ferman as an example of how difficult his job was becoming: he’d regularly screen the film at various debates to outline the extremity of material which was flooding the country. What is particularly interesting about this is how it exposes the arrogance and hypocrisy of a select few in thinking that they have the right to decide what is and isn’t safe for everyone else to view. Considering the film’s themes of social division and hierarchal contempt too it’s somewhat ironic that Ferman would use it, suggesting instead that he was more scared of the under-classes being able to choose and think for themselves than he was bothered about protecting them.

I can’t in good conscience recommend the film to anyone. It is at times complex, and it indeed hints at a better, more intelligent film under its surface, but it quickly becomes a ruthless and degrading experience that even the most hardened horror fan would struggle to justify. It is though what a good Video Nasty should be: confrontational, morally ambiguous, dirty – even just a little bit dangerous. When Alex remarks to his captives, “No one tells Alex what to do!”, he could easily be speaking for a generation of film fans such as myself that refused to let the law get in the way of our viewing habits.

House 6 vipcoEven thirty years on there’s something wonderfully anarchic about it all and House on the Edge of the Park’s anything-goes attitude is a fitting example. The scandal itself may seem relatively quaint today, with assorted extreme horror now readily available mostly uncut on the high street. But these were game changers and the fine line they walked helped shape the way in which all home entertainment in the UK was packaged, presented and consumed. Video Nasties kicked the door in, invaded your home and gleefully tortured and raped the moral fibres of a nation then-desperately repressed.

 

House at the BBFC:
The Film’s British Censorship History

⦁ 16th March 1981: Rejected outright for cinema release

⦁ 1983: Released UNCUT on video by Skyline in 1983. Subsequently prosecuted and banned

⦁ 1st July 2002: Resubmitted by Protected Ltd. for release by VIPCO. Classified 18 with a whopping 11 mins 43 secs of cuts: “Cuts required to several sequences of sexual violence, humiliating depictions of female nudity and gross violence, in accordance with BBFC policy and guidelines.”

⦁ 26th September 2011: Resubmitted again by Argent Films Ltd. for DVD release by Shameless. Classified 18 with 42 secs of cuts: “ Company required to make cuts to one sequence of sexualised violence in which a razor is traced over a woman’s naked body after which her body is cut with the razor. Cuts required in accordance with BBFC guidelines, policy and the Video Recordings Act 1984.”

Get it uncut: There are multiple uncut editions available from various non-UK sources. It is also readily available on youtube…
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