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The DPP 39: Video Nasties List - Part 11

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
Part 9: ‘House on the Edge of the Park’, ‘I Spit on Your Grave’, ‘Island of Death’, click here
Part 10: ‘The Last House on the Left’, ‘Love Camp 7’, ‘Madhouse, click here

Title: Mardi Gras Massacre (1978)

Director: Jack Weis
Uncut Running Time: 95 minutes
Alternative Titles: None

A perfect example of how being placed on the DPP’s list and subsequently prosecuted has, on occasion, resulted in undeserved notoriety. Not quite a slasher film and not quite occult, it’s plot is not unlike H.G. Lewis’ classic piece of schlock ‘Blood Feast’ but without that all important side order of extra cheese…in fact this is more likely to induce unintentional outbursts of guffaws and smirks than anything else.

It’s not without a certain sleaze factor as an oddball named John scours the seedy underbelly of Louisiana for the most evil prostitutes so that he can tie them up, cut them up and then offer the most evil part (the heart, obviously) to a Peruvian goddess. It sounds like an entertaining premise but the execution (pun intended…sorry!) is not as good as the concept and, without the sense of delicious fun that embodied Lewis’ feast of fun, it all falls a little flat. That’s not to say that it doesn’t have its place. I could well imagine watching this on the grindhouse circuit and, whilst the gore is repetitive in its use (the local butchers shop must have done a roaring trade during filming!), it is what it is…a straight shooting, very simple hybrid slasher movie that sets itself up for a sequel that never arrived.

Undeniably one of the lesser nasties, it does have something of a cult following and is still banned in the UK, though that’s most likely got nothing to do with any censorship issue and more to do with a distinct lack of interest. In terms of its release history, it saw a very brief VHS run in the UK on the Goldstar label but was courted and sacrificed to the goddess of moral panic in November 1983 and, just like any thoughts of a sequel, has never rematerialised. In terms of cuts, despite falling foul of the authorities, there has never been a censored version so if you can track it down online or on a shiny disc somewhere, it will be the full version.

Current Status: Still banned in the UK, available uncut on region free Code Red in the US.

Title: Nightmares in a Damaged Brain (1981)

Director: Romano Scavolini
Uncut Running Time: 97 minutes
Alternative Titles: ‘Nightmare’, ‘Schizo’, ‘Blood Splash’

One of the more notorious video nasties, the censorship history is just as entertaining as the film itself. Something of a ‘Halloween’ cash in with elements of ‘A Clockwork Orange’ (that basic description probably makes it sound more artistic than it is) the story revolves around deviant George who undergoes a new form of psychotherapy to ‘correct’ his insanity following the brutal, sexually violent murder of his family. With his brain ‘reprogrammed’, it doesn’t stop the graphic nightmares and flashbacks, prompting him to seek out his ex-wife and family where the cycle of violence begins all over again.

As sleazy as it is nasty, there is a very unpleasant tone throughout the film that focusses on George’s sexual deviance as much as it revels in gruesome violence in glorious close up. Children are both the aggressors and the victims and there is something genuinely disturbing about seeing a child wielding an axe with hyper-violent consequences, arguably more so than seeing them as victims. We experience graphic evisceration, impalings, slicing and general destruction of bodies with lots of nudity…not surprising given that Scavolini’s history was in hardcore pornography; say no more! For fans of intense gore, his film truly delivers and it certainly stays in your (damaged?) brain for a while after the end credits, during which you will probably notice the name of a certain Tom Savini. The living legend has always denied working on the film, despite photographs and on set testimonies suggesting otherwise, some believing this could have been due to an issue over pay rather than any commentary on the quality of the film.

Moving onto censorship and the film takes on a life of its own. It’s the only one on the list that resulted in a personal prosecution with distributor David Hamilton Grant jailed for six months for the crime of releasing a version that was a whole minute longer than the BBFC-approved cut! What a time that must have been to be alive!!! Around three minutes was removed for the 1981 cinema release which led to the offending Oppidan VHS release that restored a minute of those cuts against the wishes of the authorities. Not helped by a publicity campaign that included vomit bag distribution and ‘guess the weight of the human brain in the jar’ competition (!), it wound up on the dependable DPP list in July 1983. An ‘uncut’ version was released in the UK in 2005 in Anchor Bay’s ‘Box of the Banned’, however this was another of those misleading incidents where it was simply not cut any further than the original cinema version. A shorter yet, paradoxically, more complete version was finally released by 88 Films in 2015, trimmed of non-offensive material only. Even that experienced problems and was withdrawn, likely due to paperwork not being filed correctly as it was eventually released with no incident later that year. In short…who knows what the full uncut version looks like!

Current Status: ‘Uncut’ version available on 88 Film in the UK, available in the US through Code Red missing 1’17” of material.

Title: Night of the Bloody Apes (1972)

Director: Rene Cardona
Uncut Running Time: 81 minutes
Alternative Titles: ‘The Horrible Human Beast’, ‘Horror and Sex’, ‘Gomar the Human Gorilla’

A man has open heart surgery to cure his leukaemia, turns into a man beast, goes on a kill crazy rampage and is brought to justice by a female wrestler…how many times have we heard that story? Well, in Mexico, at least once before because, believe it or not, this is a remake of the director’s earlier 1969 offering ‘La Horripilante Bestia Humana’. In fact it becomes apparent that, at the time, there was an appetite in the region for monsters and wrestlers to go toe to toe on the big screen so why not throw a bit of nudity, gore and violence into the mix. To be fair, this is fairly entertaining stuff and far too inoffensive to have wound up on the banned list, but there seems to have been a distinct lack of humour present in the appreciation of exploitation in the early 80s!

Glossing over the fact that the title promises apes in the plural (to be fair it’s not even an ape), it takes place over a period of days rather than a single night and that the most likely side effect of putting a gorilla heart into a human is tissue rejection, you can have some fun here. Some decent gore effects and nudity are present but the real highlight, and probably the reason for its inclusion on the list, was the appearance of genuine open heart surgery footage. It’s graphic, it’s far from brief and it’s the only thing about the film that is anything approaching realistic. One to watch with a beer and nachos!

The original cinema release was missing a minute, although this wasn’t the open heart surgery, instead removing much of the bedroom rape and murder as well as a stabbing. Iver released a very short lived, uncut VHS version in 1983 which was prosecuted by the end of the year, although even this version was missing two uncontentious scenes of just over a minute that was present in the 1993 Redemption DVD. Then comes a very odd 1993 VIPCO VHS release…it seems they accidentally unleashed an uncut version that was available for all of a few days before being withdrawn. Nobody seems to have seen this version but it was well documented at the time…if you have one then keep hold of it, it’s most likely highly collectible! This planned, cut version was never released until 1999 when Sovereign put it out, it was missing nearly three minutes of footage including a lot of the surgery, a beheading, scalping, eye gouging…there wasn’t much of interest left! Nucleus Films finally did the decent thing and put out the uncut version in 2012.

Current Status: Available Uncut in the UK on Nucleus Films and US via Something Weird.

This post first appeared on The Horror Video, please read the originial post: here

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The DPP 39: Video Nasties List - Part 11


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