In a time when films lived or died at the hands of the censors, home video offered a loophole. VHS releases gave certain movies a second life. This was particularly true in the United Kingdom, where the BBFC was infamously rigid with its code of conduct. If a film was refused a cinema certificate even after rigorous edits, it was never to see the light of day.
With the advent of home video a marketplace boomed. UK retailers found access to a wealth of less censored cuts of notoriously gruesome films. Thus, video nasties were born. For a brief spell in the United Kingdom, video prints were not policed as rigidly as their cinematic counterparts. This led to films previously denied a cinema release, or heavily censored, being readily available via importing.
Movies were beamed into people's living rooms in all their uncut glory. Outrage soon followed with a rise in crime being blamed on the "sadist videos." Equally rigid legislation was introduced in 1984 which led to the recall, re-editing and outright banning of films considered "obscene." Distributors of such films faced up to 5 years in jail.
So, with that history lesson out of the way, here are 10 Infamous Video Nasties that caused moral outrage.
10. Don't Answer The Phone (1980)
Starting our list is a film that was never actually prosecuted. Don't Answer The Phone was one of several "DON'T" titled movies seized in the panic.
The film tells the story of a violent thug murdering women around Hollywood enraged by his sexual inadequacy. Whilst the police are baffled, he chooses to taunt a local radio host with the details of his crimes.
To say this film is an uncomfortable watch is an understatement. It is seedy, unflinching and grim. With long, explicit sequences of violence against women it's little wonder why it was targeted.
Whilst not denied a cinema release by the BBFC like others on this list, Don't Answer the Phone was pre-cut by around a minute. Even with these censorship measures VHS copies were seized from shelves and confiscated in the resultant Nasties panic.
Don't Answer the Phone wouldn't see another UK release until 2004 when Anchor Bay acquired the property for its first official DVD release. This remains the only available cut of Don't Answer the Phone in the United Kingdom and given the film's censorship history the release is trimmed by an incredible 8 minutes.
If one feels brave enough to want to seek out an uncut print, American home media releases have been readily available for years. Although not an easy watch, Nicholas Worth delivers a truly chilling performance as "The Killer."