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1984 The Video Recording Act and How it Empowered a Generation!

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Posted 7th April 2009 at 02:51 PM by Sam@Cult Labs
Updated 7th April 2009 at 03:02 PM by Sam@Cult Labs

The Video Recording Act and How it Empowered a Generation!

Jaded horror fans like myself will sit through endless permutations of the genre, looking for new twists or artfully presented cliches. But why? Ever ask yourself what makes you seek out all this strange, sick stuff?

For me, a lifetime of cult viewing started in the early 80s when a vast and unwieldy top loading VCR landed like an alien presence in the family living room.

My Dad had brought two flicks back with him, a pirate copy of ET (transcribed with the word "Betty" on the side) and Beastmaster, still the greatest example of the Conan rip off ever shot.

This huge behemoth of a machine soon took on a massive importance in my life. I opened the large, spongy, already cracking, video case and removed the tape. I pressed eject and the room shook as the VCR made a noise like Optimus Prime transforming and the tape slot rose out of the machine on spindly arms.

Clunk, the tape was inserted, I closed the curtains, settled back on the settee and kissed much of my youth goodbye...



With unemployment at an all time high, the early 80s was a bleak time for many Britons, who, having received generous redundancy packages, invested in corner shop video libraries. This combined with the fact that many people rented their players, led to the UK having the highest proportion of VCRs per head of population in the world.

There was a lack of faith from major studios in the video as a means of distribution, allowing for a glut of nasty, uncut, exploitation filth to flood the UK market.

Now, mix in a tabloid newspaper frenzy, in which many articles about stemming the tide of depravity on tape where published. After a toxic cloud of hot air escaped from various interfering idiots, well meaning but clueless "Festival of Light" supporters and self-interested politicians, the pathetic, nannying system of video censorship was born.

How did this influence my tastes? Surely with such mental health endangering titles as The Beast in Heat safely pulled from video shop shelves, keeping the filth on the tapes from the grubby hands of "the kids", this cine-filth was neutered. Besides, with Michael J. Fox in the ascendent and the Brat Pack churning out Zeitgeist approved high school and college movies, what possible use was there for a bunch of hack directed Italian B-Flicks with dodgy reputations?

None of course, until you tell a bunch of teenagers they can't watch them. There's your answer. Why is there a huge audience among those in their late 20s to early 40s about the video nasties? Because someone told us we couldn't, that's why.

Thus, worthless Jess Franco movies like Devil Hunter are still getting reissued, because our government made them immortal with their stupidity.

Don't forget that it's kids who get to grips with technology before their parents. We were duping copies of Cannibal Holocaust at my friends house and passing them among friends. I even lent a copy to my CDT teacher. Tape trading networks sprung up, comic fares became the place to buy 8th generation copies of Last House on the Left and a lost generation bunked off school and induced headaches as they tried to watch animals getting slaughtered through the visual snow of a shoddy Cannibal Ferox bootleg.

My school was awash with banned goodies and the irony is that, had they let these titles pass with adult ratings, we wouldn't have cared. Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Ghostbusters were offering million dollar thrill rides in the local fleapit, but me and my friends were obsessed with bad Italio-Zombie flicks.

So, thank you Margaret Thatcher, The Daily Express, The Times and Mary Whitehouse for raising my awareness of these unique movies. I probably never would have seen them if you hadn't taken the sensible step of trying to shield my eyes...
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