EJ Moreno on the best UK video nasties…
In a moment of conservative panic over films, groups like National Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association, along with the press and religious figures, all came together to end the filthy cinema.
The UK Video Nasties list is the holy grail of shocking, offensive, and must-see horror films from the 60s, 70s, and 80s. During this campaign, the Director of Public Prosecutions released a list of 72 movies the office believed to violate the Obscene Publications Act 1959. This was used to help local authorities identify obscene films, so individuals could be prosecuted for trading these lewd videos.
It honestly seems like a wild time for movies, particularly horror and arthouse films from worldwide. We’ll look at six of the very best films from the video nasty list. While there are countless memorable films like Cannibal Holocaust and I Spit On Your Grave included in the whole video nasty list, we’ll be picking out only the best here. So read on, or click here for a video version of the article…
Flesh for Frankenstein
Director Paul Morrissey is a cult film legend, and this 1973 horror film is a prime example of why he’s earned that legendary status. Flesh For Frankenstein is probably the unique take on the Mary Shelley story, adding in sexuality and the perfect amount of camp. Baron Von Frankenstein mixes his urges to create a new life with his desires to create perfect sexual beings. Flesh For Frankenstein is shocking, sexy, and an ideal way to kick off this list.
Dubbed Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein in the U.S, this filthy little movie made a splash. What helped land this on the Video Nasty list is how the 3-D added to the film’s gruesomeness. They used the technology to put the gore right in viewers’ faces, literally showing disembowelments like viewers never had before. In the States, it earned an X rating, also gaining cult status. In the UK, the film passed with 56 seconds cut in 1996; released uncut in 2006.
The oldest film on the video nasty list is also one of the most shocking. I don’t know if it’s because this was filmed in 1963 or it’s just that shocking, but Blood Feast is easily a highlight for any horror hound. Much like the previous entry, Blood Feast sees a deranged man killing people in hopes of using their bodies to bring back a dormant Egyptian goddess. The premise makes this a good exercise in extreme gore and a hilarious viewing for its wild plot.
One of its most notable shocks is credited as one of the first films to show people dying with their eyes open. Seeing that kind of eye contact during graphic kills shook viewers and helped place this on the banned list very quickly. While it did see a backlash in the UK, the surprise is that director Herschell Gordon Lewis also saw pushback in his native state of Florida. Blood Feast was later released with 23 seconds cut in 2001; re-released uncut in 2005.
Filmmaker Dario Argento knows a good shock, but he’s also one of the filmmakers on this list who loves making artful content. Somehow, the beauty of his filmmaking only makes the extreme moments more extreme. Tenebrae is an excellent example of that, another impressive Giallo entry from Argento. We get the usual mystery and madness following an American writer trying to outsmart a serial killer in Rome.
What’s interesting about this release is Tenebrae played through most of Europe without any issue. But once the UK placed this on the video nasty list, even the United States took a stand against it. It was censored and released under a new name in the U.S, resulting in it being marred by critics. It was finally released in the UK with 5 seconds cut in 1999; released uncut in 2003.
Zombie (a.k.a. Zombie Flesh Eaters)
One of my personal favorites included, Zombie is a must-see for anyone who loves the genre. If you think George A. Romero was a master of zombies, wait till you see what Lucio Fulci cooks up in this Italian splatter film. Hilariously enough, this was once considered a quasi-sequel to Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, showing just how close the world of zombie filmmakers could be. If you haven’t seen the iconic zombie vs. shark fight from this, go out of your way to find it.
British Parliament took offense to three scenes, with the iconic eye-gouging scene being on the top of their list. Even when the film was released in the 90s, it was still cut up and not the whole vision intended by Fulci. The British Board of Film Classification did not have a problem passing the movie uncut, but as it was still classed as having been prosecuted for obscenity, they could not by law. It was finally released with 23 seconds cut in 1999; re-released uncut in 2005.
A Bay of Blood
Bay of Blood is what many considered a highly influential movie in the slasher genre. Without this film, we wouldn’t get Halloween or Texas Chain Saw Massacre later in the decade. Considering the banned nature of this film in the UK and its controversial release in the US, the power of this Mario Bava classic is astounding. Not to take away from how great it is, you have to be amazed a film as gnarly as this 1971 release can influence so many.
The film’s story of being placed on the video nasty list does not come with as much fanfare as the others. It’s one of the more polished films presented and feels like less shock art and more art, but still, the violence and sexuality were too much for the censors. Thankfully this classic was released with 43 seconds cut in 1994 and saw an uncut release in 2010.
Last House on the Left
Wes Craven was an absolute master of the genre. The late filmmaker knew his way around terror and horror, but none of his films exemplify that quite like Last House on the Left. This early sexploitation film kicked off a sub-genre known as the rape & revenge genre and became a cult classic by doing what many other movies wouldn’t dare. Craven never returned to films this pretty brutal, but he made a lasting impression with this shocking piece of cinema.
If something as polished as our previous entry or as sexless as our number one entry caught some heat, you could imagine how quickly this found its way onto the video nasty shit-list. The film was refused a certificate for cinema release by the BBFC in 1974. During the 80s, 90s, and 00s, this film gained a considerable cult following in the UK, with people even touring banned copies without a certificate. It was finally released uncut in 2008, though some scenes are still missing.
The Evil Dead
A movie with little introduction needed, Evil Dead is an absolute classic. The gore is ruthless, the tone is fun, and you can see why Sam Raimi gets hired for big gigs. I’ve gone this entire channel without diving into the first Evil Dead, and its place on the video nasty list is the best reason to bring this up. If you haven’t seen this movie yet, check it out as soon as possible; this feels like the start to everything horror fans love in the modern era.
What makes this a fascinating inclusion on the video nasties list is that it is one of the few movies included with little to no sex. Usually, the sexuality helped bump moves to this list, but the Sam Raimi introduction mainly was known for its wild early 80s gore. While the sequels and countless other shock films would take it to another level, this classic feels tame compared to others. The Evil Dead was released in the UK with approximately 2 minutes cut in 1990; released uncut in 2001.
Check out the video version of this article here (although be aware that it’s NSFW)…
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