In 1984, the Video Recordings Act ushered in a terrifying new era in UK home video entertainment. The regulation and subsequent censorship of home videos by the British Board of Film Classification led to a number of films being seized by the authorities and prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act 1959. In total, 39 of these films were successfully prosecuted, over the coming months The Horror Video will look very briefly at the release history of each film and its current status. To view the rest of the series…
Part 1: ‘Absurd’, ‘Anthropophagus’ and ‘Axe’, click here
Part 2: ‘Bay of Blood’, ‘The Beast in Heat’ and ‘Blood Feast’, click here
Part 3: ‘Blood Rites’, ‘Bloody Moon’ and ‘The Burning’, click here
Part 4: ‘Cannibal Apocalypse’, ‘Cannibal Ferox’ and ‘Cannibal Holocaust’, click here
Part 5: ‘The Cannibal Man’, ‘The Devil Hunter’ and ‘Don’t Go in the Woods’ click here
Part 6: ‘The Driller Killer’, ‘Evilspeak’ and ‘Expose’. Click here
Part 7: ‘Faces of Death’, ‘Fight for Your Life’, ‘Flesh for Frankenstein’, click here
Part 8: ‘Forest of Fear’, ‘The Gestapo’s Last Orgy’ and ‘The House by the Cemetery’, click here
Title: ‘House on the Edge of the Park’ (1980)Director: Ruggero Deodato
Uncut running time: 91 minutes
Alternative titles: ‘La Casa Speruta Nel Parco’, ‘La Casa al Confini del Parco’, ‘Der Schlitzer’
Deodato certainly knows how to cheese off the censors, this is another fairly graphic and controversial film featuring rape, torture and extreme violence. Even Deodato himself thought that the script was too violent (this was the man who made ‘Cannibal Holocaust’!) and it was perhaps inevitable that it’d end up on the UK banned list.
Essentially it’s a home invasion film where a couple of killers (who indulge in a bit of rape on the side) are invited to a party by a group of rich people who they end up helping out of a spot of car trouble. Of course it turns nasty when they make fun of their eventual assailants and, much like another film starring David Hess, ‘The Last House on the Left’, the tables are turned by their victims. It does have a decent twist in the tale at the end, albeit a little convoluted and I’m not sure it really justifies the film itself which is pretty nasty at times. That said, Deodato knows how to shoot a film and as long as you can put up with the violence, which is sexual at times and not easy to take, then it’s on the better side of the 39 films on the original DPP list.
Needless to say it was the sexual violence that got this into trouble more than anything else and it was refused even a cinema certificate in the early 80s in the UK. It’s a sign of the unregulated times that Skyline managed to put out an uncut version on VHS in October 1982, less than a year later it was successfully prosecuted and banned in July 1983. It remained unavailable until VIPCO, rather pointlessly, release a version that was missing a ridiculous 11m43s, mainly from the strong rape scenes and moments of sexual violence, this was in 2002. Shameless did a lot better, missing 43 seconds which was pretty much exclusively reserved for razors being used suggestively and intimately up and down the female form. We may one day see an uncut version, if someone can be bothered to release it, but for now the version we have isn’t at all bad.
Current status: unavailable in the UK on Shameless DVD, cut by 43 seconds, available uncut on region free Code Red in the US.
Title: ‘I Spit on Your Grave’ (1981)Director: Meir Zarchi
Uncut running time: 94 minutes
Alternative titles: ‘Day of the Woman’, ‘I Hate Your Guts’, ‘The Rape and Revenge of Jennifer Hill’
To describe this film as divisive would be an understatement with people calling it both feminist and exploitative of women in equal measure. There’s no right or wrong answer in that and I’m sure we all know the simple plot which is essentially a rape revenge film where the female victim turns the tables on her attackers. It’s monumentally brutal in its depiction of rape and incredibly difficult to watch, in fact you feel that you need to take a shower afterwards.
It’s clearly low budget and that grittiness just adds to the feeling of shock and Camille Keaton as Jennifer is astonishingly convincing. You are firmly on her side when she exacts her terrifying and brutal revenge and, from my perspective, you certainly aren’t invited to revel and enjoy the horrors that those ‘men’ inflict upon her. The writers and filmmakers make it easy for us by portraying the gang as one dimensional and pure evil, would it have been more challenging had we been given more characterisation? Their actions cause us to want to see them punished so there is a case for calling the filmmakers out for expecting us to revel and enjoy castration, decapitation and basic murder…even if it is an act of revenge. It’s a challenging film and one that asks a number of questions of the audience who, on first viewing (many may never watch it again), are likely to be too traumatised to want to think about.
The film landed itself in serious trouble with the BBFC after Wizard put out the uncut version in January 1982 and then again by Astra shortly after. By July 1983 it had been seized and successfully prosecuted, not seeing any further release until 2001 when it was brought out again on VHS by Screen Entertainment. More than seven minutes were removed, interestingly all from the rape scenes with none of the moments of revenge tinkered with.
In 2006 Screen Entertainment tried again with a version they claimed was uncut, before the BBFC removed 41 seconds. In reality what they had done is reframe some of the scenes in line with previous cuts. This had a very bizarre effect by diluting the rape scenes so much that the moments of revenge suddenly seemed a little over the top! Finally 101 Films put forward a genuinely uncut version in 2010 which suffered from 2m54s of cuts, again to the stronger elements of the rape scenes, entirely removing the rape over the rock and any exploitative emphasis that the rapists were enjoying it. I can’t see an uncut version ever being released in the UK
Current status: Available on DVD and blu-ray on 101 Films, cut by 2m54s in the UK, available uncut in the US on Anchor Bay.
Title: Island of Death (1972)Director: Nico Mastorakis
Uncut running time: 108 minutes
Alternative title: ‘A Craving for Lust’, ‘Devils in Mykonos’, ‘Psychic Killer 2’, ‘Island of Perversion’, ‘Cruel Destination’
Hell’s Bells this is a seriously nasty film! A couple (Christopher and Celia) leave London, seemingly intent on ridding the island of Mykonos of anything they believe is perverse or unnatural and nothing is off the table. An artist is crucified and has paint poured down his throat, a policeman is hanged from his own plane, Christopher urinates on another woman before beating her half to death and decapitating her with a JCB…oh, and he also rapes a goat! It seems as if the filmmakers sole intention was to cram as much depravity and exploitatively violent scenes as possible into one film and pretty much succeeded. The twist in the tale is that the couple were brother and sister so the whole thing was driven by incestuous desires…of course it was!
All of the above may sound like a certain amount of fun but it really isn’t. It’s not particularly well made, save for a shot or two using a fish-eye lens involving a mysterious figure who haunts Celia’s dreams. Of course he turns out to be very real and is also a murderous rapist. If the intention was to make a purely exploitative film then it’s a resounding success!
The film was absolutely hammered by the BBFC who removed just over 13 minutes for its original cinema release (as ‘A Craving for Lust’) in 1976 before reverting back to its original title for an uncut VHS release by AVI. It was banned in November 1983 but, possibly due to confusion with a similarly titled Narcisco Ibanez Serrador film, was removed (but not released) from the list only to be reinstated in October 1985. It was refused a video certificate again under the name ‘Psychic Killer 2’ (it’s worth noting that this was a heavily cut version which shows the extreme nature of the material) before being released with 4m09s of cuts by VIPCO in the early 00s. Incredibly Arrow got it past the BBFC completely uncut in 2010 and it’s even been shown without cuts on the UK Horror Channel. How times have changed!
Current status: Uncut in the UK and US on Arrow Video.