With the rise of the internet it seems everything you could ever want film-wise has become available online. Whether it’s tasteless, indecent or banned in your country, chances are you can find it with just a few clicks.
But this was not always the case, and the UK still has stringent laws when it comes to censorship. Whether or not you agree with the need for censorship is another matter, but the history and requirement of media censorship is fascinating, especially when it comes to film and the horror that was the ’80s era of the Video Nasty.
During this time, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) were offended by the schlocky, low-budget, extreme-horror films that had crept their way onto shelves across the country. Their censorship efforts resulted in certain offensive films being labeled as “Video Nasties”, and restricted from viewers in the UK.
A lot of these films ended up on the list merely because of their names or salacious video covers. Of 72 videos listed, only 39 were successfully prosecuted. Upon examining some of these films, it’s almost impossible not to feel a morbid sense of fascination and curiosity. Today we will be counting down some of our favorite (and others that are so outrageous that we would be remiss if we didn’t give them a shout-out). Minor spoilers ahead.
25. Don’t Go In The House (1979)
Director: Joseph Ellison
Stars: Dan Grimaldi, Charlie Bonet, Bill Ricci, Robert Osth, Ralph D. Bowman, Johanna Brushay
Don’t Go In The House is the first (alphabetically) in a line of “Don’t” warnings on the Video Nasty list. In the film, Donny Kohler is a loner, living with his mother in a grand yet creepy mansion. One day Donny comes home to find his mother has passed away, but instead of calling the hospital or getting the body removed he celebrates, as you do, by constructing an indoor furnace/torture chamber. He then proceeds to lure unsuspecting young women over to his place and roast them alive.
We learn that Donny was severely abused by his ultra-religious mother growing up – as punishment she would hold his arms over the cooktop, burning him severely. Now, in his adult years Donny suffers from terrible voices in his head telling him to kill, so that’s what he does. FYI, Quentin Tarantino happens to think that Don’t Go In The House is one of the most disturbing films he has ever seen.
24. Flesh For Frankenstein (1973)
Directors: Paul Morrissey, Antonio Margheriti
Stars: Joe Dallesandro, Udo Kier, Monique van Vooren, Arno Juerging, Dalila Di Lazzaro
In Serbia, Baron Frankenstein lives with the Baroness and their two children. He dreams of a super-race, returning Serbia to its grand connections to ancient Greece. In his laboratory he builds a desirable female body, but needs a male who will be superbody and superlover. He thinks he has found just the right brain to go with a body he’s built, but he’s made an error, taking the head of an asexual aesthete. Meanwhile, the Baroness has her lusts, and she fastens on Nicholas, a friend of the dead lad. Nicholas forms an agreement with the Baroness to sexually satisfy her (something which the Baron is apparently not achieving).
Most famous for its act of necrophiliac love towards a gallbladder, Flesh For Frankenstein (aka Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein) is truly a bizarre misfit among the Video Nasties. It is quite gruesome and deals with dodgy deeds such as incest, but the horror of the film is greatly tempered by lots of humor, campness and a totally over the top approach to the subject matter.
23. Night School (1981)
Director: Ken Hughes
Stars: Leonard Mann, Rachel Ward, Drew Snyder, Joseph R. Sicari, Karen MacDonald
Someone is killing off the female students who are taking night classes at a local college. Each victim is decapitated and has her head thrown into the nearest body of water for reasons unknown. The detectives working the case discover a connection between the victims and a certain professor at the college, which makes him their prime suspect. Is the professor really responsible for the murders or is someone else to blame?
Ken Hughes, best known as the co-writer and director of the 1968 film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, is not the director you’d expect to see helming a slasher flick involving a psycho decapitating women. However, thanks to this, Night School (aka Terror Eyes) proves to be a classier affair than most. The influence of giallo is painted all over this flick, including the mysterious masked psycho, the slightly kinky tone, the older characters and the stylistic look of the film. A must see for any slasher fan.
22. Love Camp 7 (1969)
Director: Lee Frost (as R.L. Frost)
Stars: Bob Cresse, Maria Lease, Kathy Williams, Bruce Kimball, John Alderman
Two undercover British female soldiers go into a Nazi camp to get some information from a female prisoner, and to possibly rescue her. Of course, once our heroines arrive at the camp, the narrative takes a back seat as torture, degradation and abundant nudity fill the screen. The German female inmates are treated like prostitutes and subject to the most vile degradations (with one particular flogging that lasts uncomfortably long in duration).
Love Camp 7 is a classic film in that it helped to birth the Nasty Nazi subgenre and also the WIP (women in prison) subgenre as well. Although certain Nazisploitation movies (particularly those out of Italy) would later outdo Love Camp 7 in terms of excess, the film still offers enough depravity, sleaze and general schlock to please most fans of the genre and at the very least deserves recognition for being the first to have the balls to tackle such a delicate subject in such a brazen manner.
21. Possession (1981)
Director: Andrzej Zulawski
Stars: Isabelle Adjani, Sam Neill, Margit Carstensen, Heinz Bennent, Johanna Hofer
A woman starts exhibiting increasingly disturbing behavior after asking her husband for a divorce. Suspicions of infidelity soon give way to something much more sinister.
Directed with a slimy mix of David Cronenberg’s gut-spilling style and Brian De Palma obsession, Andrzej Zulawski’s Possession piles on an atmosphere of anxiety and gruesome horror and adds a decidedly European sensibility to the mix. It is a film that highlights the tragic underpinnings of obsession, exposes sexual panic and stands by its characters, unafraid to show their flaws. The film is not easy to explain. The narrative can get very confusing and sometimes downright nonsensical. Yet is also remains compelling and intriguing. Beginning with what seems like a commonplace break-up of a marriage, the films sets out to answer a simple question: why has the woman left?
Possession has no business being on the Video Nasty hit list. It is very much an art house film that some overzealous joker in the establishment got their knickers in a twist over. When it comes to the sheer artistry of filmmaking, Possession is an astounding, jaw-dropping feat of furious beauty.