Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship & Videotape

Dir: Jake West, 2010


The ultimate documentary on a very low point in Britain’s history.

Filled with talking heads, archive footage and clips from the actual films, Video Nasties highlights the absurdity of censorship and the ludicrous attitude of the establishment.

Scared and fearful, the police and the government panicked about the material that was available on Britain’s high streets.

So, what do you do when you don’t know the answer to a problem?

Simple. You just ban it.

It’s a tried and tested formula that’s been in use for aeons.

The solution doesn’t really work but it’s out of sight and that’s what counts. It also has the added bonus of serving two further purposes; one, it makes the government and the police look like they’re doing something and, two, it’s a great scapegoat for all of society’s ills.

This film is part one of, what is currently, a two-part documentary. Here, West focuses on the furore of unregulated videos.

Led by minge whinger and expert in causing a ruckus, Mary Whitehouse was able to whip the media up into a frenzy and had them foaming at the mouth.

The horror director successfully exhibits the redundancy of censorship and what was a seriously flawed investigation by the government on children accessing horror videos. West doesn’t even have to try. The evidence is laid out in front of us.

He isn’t afraid to show censorship for what it is and allows banning advocates the opportunity to make fools of themselves without any aid from the production.

Bollocks spouting pro-censorship faces like the MP Graham Bright (who tried to bring in what was, essentially, a ban on all videos with a certificate higher than ‘PG’) and, who was then the Director of Public Prosecutions, Peter Kruger.

Both, ably, portray themselves in a ridiculous light and must, surely, look back in embarrassment at the things they’ve said.

With inane statements asserting that the videos were genuine  and contained images of real death and carnage, it

Of course, no self-respecting documentary on censorship would be worth anything without the inclusion of the face of the video Nasties and total arse-wipe, James Ferman.

Ferman was the director of the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), a non-governmental mandatory body who has the legal responsibility of approving films for public consumption.

Notoriously overzealous, it was Ferman who was responsible for the banning of The Exorcist on video and continuous rejection of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

A former television director who failed to make any mark in the industry, his role at the BBFC allowed him to utilise his creative side by editing films and, in many ways, ruining its intention (see Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer).

With an overactive imagination, the American-born censor would think up inane scenarios as to what would happen if he allowed the public to see certain scenes.

The majority of the decisions that were made under his tenure have now been overturned with no reports of any of the fears being realised.

It would’ve been the icing on the cake to hear his justifications for censoring so much and his thoughts on the board releasing the stuff he prohibited but, sadly, Ferman passed away from pneumonia on Christmas Eve 2002.

A decade of alarm, the eighties was a political and social upheaval with anger on every doorstep so it was no surprise that attentions would be turned to videos; a new media that everyone was scared of.

West deftly demonstrates a brilliant talent for documentary filmmaking, overshadowing  his cinema output such as Razor Blade Smile and Evil Aliens.

B-movie horror favourite and all round sex bomb, Emily Booth (Pervirella) appears as the chainsaw wielding maniac, driven to a murderous insanity by the videos in the opening credits.

The only gripe I have is that I wish it was longer. I’m sure there are hours more footage at West’s disposal that delve deeper into the pandemonium and scaremongering.

But what has been released is one of the best documentaries you’ll ever see and if watched with the sequel, Video Nasties: Draconian Days, will provide a thoroughly enlightening and fascinating night.

Released as a three-disc set, the remaining DVD’s consist of trailers to the infamous films with introductions by esteemed film critics, such as Kim Newman, which are just excellent as the documentary.

The trailers make you hang your head in disbelief at the idiocy of the law and the censors.

This is a doc that’s not to be missed!



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