Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship & Videotape (2010)

Video Nasties (2010) DVD cover

Director Jake West
viewed: 09/20/2015

The nostalgia for the heyday of VHS continues to rise. Predating Rewind This ! (2013) and Adjust Your Tracking (2013), Video Nasties is not just nostalgic for the format, the obscurist movies, and the cult of collecting (Though it is interesting to see that collection and preservation has gone academic –see “Saving the Scream Queens” ).

Video Nasties is specifically about the impact of home video culture in the UK and the cultural, political and pseudo-political reaction that rose in its wake. “Video nasties” is a typically British coin of phrase and the upswell in outrage was extreme and reactionary.

When the boom of home video hit, a work-around developed to subvert the pretty astringent British film police and suddenly, shops all over suddenly had video boxes with outrageous titles, graphic covers, and lurid content available to the eager and avid public. It’s interesting to note that the puritanical backlash including such attitudes as “not even needing to watch the film to know what was in it” or even more outright laughable that “video nasties” could pervert not just children and adults but dogs as well.

Out of this period, a 72 film hit list was crafted, the “official video nasties”, a not entirely random though hardly carefully selected list of decadent and sleazy titles that has gone into the lore as some of the most subversive and therefore need bans movies.

The documentary’s focus on the political debate and featuring talking head interviews and archival footage of key players spells out that nothing was really learned by the witch-hunters and potentially some lives and businesses were impacted.

The films, mostly from the 1970’s-early 1980’s range from the truly legendary to the pretty darn obscure if it wasn’t for having been enshrined on this list. You owe it to yourself to watch this film for its history and context and then to go and watch one of the “video nasties” and bask in latent subversion.

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