BOOK REVIEW: THE ART OF THE NASTY

The Art of the Nasty by Nigel Wingrove and Marc Morris

My horror addiction doesn’t just stop at DVDs and Blurays (and a very small quantity of laserdisc and VHS), I also have a far-too-large collection of horror related toys, novels, board games, video games and comics, but my favourite non-plastic disc collectables are my books ABOUT horror films especially of they take a specific aspect of horror cinema and completely dissect it. At the top of those books that sit amongst my favourites is the wonderful second edition of Nigel Wingrove and Marc Morris’s The Art of the Nasty.

The book looks at the ‘Video Nasty’ part of England’s VHS and cinema history. Honestly if you are a horror fan and don’t know about this or at the very least haven’t seen the documentary Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide perhaps you should go outside and shake yourself, and then look it up before reading any further, but here’s a quick recap anyway: in the late 70s/ early 80s in the UK, during the rise of VHS, the politicians and media got stuck into home cinema because of the sex and violence contained within, and this may have been due to the way they were advertised and their lurid, and occasionally misleading covers which singled them out and basically lead to massive cuts as the British Board of Film Censorship (known as the BBFC, and the latter letter eventually changed to mean Classification) flexed its muscles and went on a cut-fest.

That’s basically what happened but obviously there is a HELL of a lot more to it. The effects are felt still today, as some films that have been released in other parts of the world uncut are still edited in the UK; Shameless’s The New York Ripper being a standout.

Anyway, this book is a celebration of the VHS covers of the time and just how the sex and violence of the contents were used to sell the film, seeing as how the covers were the ONLY selling point back in the non-internet days. Wingrove speaks from a firsthand experience in a lot of this, seeing as how he founded Redemption Films and Salvation Group and created the online experience Satanic Sluts. He also had his film, Visions of Ecstasy, refused distribution on the grounds of blasphemy!! His co-author, Marc Morris is a historian and broadcaster who mainly writes books about the middle ages, but also assisted Francis Brewster and Harvey Fenton with the book ‘Shock! Horror!’ another book about the art of the Nasty VHS.

The books opens with 2 forwards, titled The Nasties: A Personal View by Wingrove, one from the original edition from 1998 and the other more recently in 2009. The two forewards are definitely necessary as post-millennium so many previously banned films have been released, mostly completely uncut, and Wingrove discusses the change opinions in the new one.

The book then breaks down into chapter relating to different aspects of the Nasties. The Official Nasties, which covers the 39 films deemed obscene by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Nasties On Parole, which are the ones the DPP couldn’t get a conviction, Nasties – The Ones That Got Away, which are ones that completely avoided the DPP’s eye, Nice and Sleazy Does It, which looks at covers from the pre-certification era of VHS and finally The Good, The Bad and the Vomit-Inducing which is described as the best of the rest, still sleazy, but not to the extent of some of the others. The book concludes with a Video Company Listing which lists VHS companies and the films they released: essential reading for UK VHS collectors.

The book is, as you would expect, lavishly illustrated with some of the most striking images of VHS releases of the time and really, even as a devout horror collector, I am surprised by some of the images on these VHS covers (I don’t object to them, I just am surprised that middle class shop owners of the less-permissive early 80s would have allowed these images on shelves in their shops!!). All the images have a small blurb which tells the Original Title of the film, its country of origin, the director, the year and time and the video label that released that particular version. There is also a supportive paragraph which describes what the film was about and any interesting situations in which the film may have been involved. If I am to pass any criticism of this book, it is in these paragraphs as mostly I wanted more… but then again, the book is about the images, and essentially I can research any film on which I wish to gain more knowledge.

Each page also has a contextual historical snippet to show what was happening in the world at the time, which whilst not entirely necessary, is an interesting idea as it shows, now and again, what was happening in politics and other areas of pop culture at the time. It is a nice garnish to the feast that is the images and their accompanying text.

On the whole, this book is a horror gem, as inadvertently becomes a GREAT support to the aforementioned Video Nasties doco. It is well written and the bold images are an absolute treat!

Rating: *****

BOOK REVIEW: SWEDISH SENSATIONSFILMS

SWEDISH SENSATIONSFILMS by Daniel

I am going to start this review with a warning. Did the documentaries Not Quite Hollywood, Machete Maidens Unleashed and Video Nasties turn your want list into something that would cause your own personal version of the national debt? Did your wife/ girlfriend/ significant other freak out when they saw your Bluray shopping list after you read Stephen Thrower’s Nightmare USA, or Jay Slater’s Eaten Alive? Then STEP AWAY from this book review NOW. It will cause you heart and wallet ache that will only be suppressed by the spending of thousands of bucks trying to collect the films that author Swedish author Daniel Ekeroth, who also wrote Swedish Death Metal and has performed with several bands such as Iron Lamb, Tyrant and Onkel Kankel, has presented in this brilliant book, Swedish Sensationsfilms.

I guess a description of WHAT Swedish Sensationsfilms are is the immediate question in everyone’s minds. Obviously, as the name suggests, they are films from Sweden (obviously) that sit comfortably next to exploitation films of the US; they are full of nudity, violence, drugs and other lowbrow exercises that make your more refined film fan cringe, but make you and I stand on our lounge chairs with ours fists in the air, beer in our bellies and pants around our ankles.

This tome introduces us to the Sensationsfilm first with an essay telling of their origins by Ekeroth, and then with a piece titled ‘Christina Lindberg, Exposed’ where the lovely Lindberg tells the tale of her introduction to the world of movies before jumping into reviews and information about films that for the most part, quite frankly, I had never heard of before, but am now dying to see.

Obviously films like Jungfrukallan, aka The Virgin Spring which influenced The Last House on the Left, Anita – Ur En Tonarsflickas Dagbok, aka Anita and Thriller: En Grym Film, aka Thriller: A Cruel Picture or They Call Her One Eye, are present here but others as well which will ring true in the minds of exploitation fans worldwide. My personal immediate NEEDS, not wants, list from this film now contain Blood Tracks, about a rock band being picked off by a murderous family, Exponerad, a Lindberg film about a 17 year old girl who is forced into sexual servitude while her parents are away for a few weeks, and Kyrkoherden aka The Vicar, where a young vicar is cursed by a witch to have an unstoppable erection, which even the local sluts who quite happily pork him often can’t make go away.

The inclusion of Jungfrukallen proves that not all sensationsfilms are to be discounted as trash but honestly, most of them sound like loose scripts used for the sole purpose of getting as many boobs on screen as possible.

Nothing wrong with that!

With this book, Ekeroth has provided a great introduction to this dark side of the Swedish film industry. In addition to his series of reviews and the aforementioned essays, Ekeroth also gives a glossary of Swedish culture, a rogues gallery of Swedish film ‘heroes’, a look at  sensationsfilms via the National Board of Film Classification and gives the 20 sensationsfilms one must see before leaves this mortal coil.

Even though it has given me reason to spend even MORE money on DVDs and blurays, this book is spectacular. It is well written and easy to read, with a great selection of pictures courtesy of Klubb Super 8 (who look like a decent source of these films… if you read Swedish!!) and a fantastic cover by artist Wes Benscoter. Ekeroth clearly loves these films and any film collector looking for something different would be remiss not to have this book.

Book: *****

Book Review: Portable Grindhouse by Jacques Boyreau

Portable Grindhouse: The Lost Art of The VHS Box

It has been said that I live in the past. That my obsession with my childhood heroes, comics and pop music from the eighties shows a lack of maturity, and an inability to grow up…

… but enough about my wife’s opinions of me.

I have to say though that I agree with her 100%: I love nostalgia. I am easily swayed by a bad movie if it has a character or situation that had something to do with my younger days… in other words, I am the guy who likes Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Crystal Skull, the ‘new’ Star Wars films and George Romero’s new dead trilogy. Some of the best books I have bought in the last 24 months have been ‘The Best of Smash Hits by Mark Frith (all about the legendary pop music mag of the eighties), Not Quite Hollywood by Paul Harris (a solid, if somewhat thin accompaniment to the hit film), Just Can’t Get Enough by Mathew Robinson and Jensen Karp ( a look at some of the coolest toys from the eighties) and this book: Portable Grindhouse by Jacques Boyreau, a look at the lost art of the VHS box.

Immediately, before I go into the contents of the book, I must state my utter admiration for the design of the book. Remember those old cardboard video boxes that sell through video cassettes came in? My movie collection actually started with a copy of Bloodbath at the House of Death, and I cherished that cardboard boxed film until I watched it so many times that I completely wore the bastard out. This book actually comes packaged in a slightly larger version of one of those boxes, and for those of us who haven’t seen one in a while; you will be wiped out by the wave of reminiscence that will wash over you.

So why is this book designed in such a fashion? Well, as the name may suggest it is a celebration of the VHS box, and its artwork, which was occasionally (usually?) of dubious quality. The introduction gives us both a look at the author’s discovery of the VHS, and then actually goes into the history of the format, and why so many people still love it.

The body of the book is a joy to behold: each double page features a look at the front and spine of a video box on one page (in a ¾ view), and a close up of the back, which gives either a synopsis of the film, or a look at other films released by the same company. For those of VHS age, or new collectors of the format, the distribution names will be familiar: All Seasons Entertainment, Media, Trans World Entertainment… the list goes on.

The films celebrated are mainly genre stuff, like My Bloody Valentine, Stunt Rock or The Tool Box Murders, and some more obscure titles like The Porno Killer, Midnight Intruders or Alien Massacre. There are some non genre stuff as well, all weird in their own way, like Roger Raglin Best Kept Secrets (a video bow-hunting manual), Gary Coleman: For Safety’s Sake (a guide to being safe in your home, hosted by Gary Coleman, with his assistants Jack and Jill Example, and Nurse Helpquick) and Barbie and the Rockers: Out of this World (an animated feature which steals directly from Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space.

This book is the paper version of those trailer mix-tapes you used to be able to get, and are occasionally available on DVD (like All Monsters Attack). It’s not essential for your collection, but you will find yourself revisiting it often, and showing anyone who remembers these types of VHS Boxes.

My only problem with this book is that it feels as though the spine could crack if it is not treated with some degree of care: this is NOT a book you can open up on a flat surface without doing exactly that. Love this book, but be VERY careful with it. I will admit that this book would have gotten 5 stars if I could be confident of its resilience against repeated readings.

This tome is published by Fantagraphics Books, a company of whom I am a great fan as they have published some fantastic comic collections in the past. While it is not the be all and end all of VHS covers collections, it is a wonderful look at the cardboard box art of yesteryear. Let’s hope Boyreau can find his way clear to do more books of this type!

This really is the perfect book for the movie fan: light on text, heavy on image.

Verdict: ****

Reform School Girls (1986)

One from the re-watch pile…

Reform School Girls (1986)

Film: The Women In Prison (WIP) subgenre of exploitation films has been around for a long time, the first really of note being 1933’s Ladies They Talk About which starred Barbara Stanwick and Lillian Roth. The genre continued not just in films but also in the men’s pulp magazine like Argosy and even still continues to this day with stuff like 2009’s Sugar Boxx, though the post 60s films were slightly saucier than the ones previous to that decade.

Reform School Girls was a 1980s entry in the subgenre, written by Jack Cummins (co-writer of another WIP film The Concrete Jungle) and directed by Tom DiSimone who also directed The Concrete Jungle as well as other exploitation classics like Savage Streets and Hell Night.

Reform School Girls tells of the ‘fresh meat’ being delivered to a girl’s reform school for rehabilitation. Jenny (Linda Carol) decides to be a ‘protector’ of sorts to psychologically damaged Lisa (Sherri Stoner) and it’s something she desperately needs in this particular reform school as it’s run by the vicious warden Sutter (Sybil Danning), her fearful second-in-command Edna (Pat Ast) and a group of lecherous cruel guards.

Problem is though, the guards aren’t the only ingredients in this prison that are potentially deadly. The dorm bully is Charlie (Wendy O. Williams) who is constantly causing trouble for our heroes. Thankfully, there is relief in the form of the school psychologist Dr Norton (Charlotte McGinnis) but that doesn’t matter to Jenny, because she is slowly formulating a plan to escape…

From an exploitation point of view, this film has some epic exploitation pedigree, from the director’s previous output, the appearances from the They’re Playing With Fire and The Howling 2’s Sybil Danning, Friday the 13th: A New Beginning’s Tiffany Helm, Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Loves Darcy DeMoss, Heat’s Pat Ast and most importantly, The Plasmatic’s singer Wendy O. Williams.

Does that make it a good example of the genre though?

Well, no.

At it’s best, Reform School Girls is a parody of WIP films, and really doesn’t stretch itself beyond the generic tropes it’s type: naked shower scenes, delousing, food hall fights, initiations, fire hose torture etc, and it does all seem to be done quite tongue in cheek… especially when you consider the uniforms for Pridemore doesn’t include pants, and the bed clothing consists of everything from g-strings and bras, to aerobic fitness tights rejected from the Olivia Newton-John ‘Physical’ filmclip.

Unfortunately for the film, it’s so badly acted that it fails to execute the timing of any comedy it attempts, and any times it attempts to take itself seriously, it fails miserably. Also, for a ‘reform school’, there isn’t an inmate less than 25 years old!

When this came out, I am sure for a young man that the amount of female nudity would have been a great reason to watch it, but with the level of nudity available on the internet I’m sure it’s not so appealing now. It does, however, have an amazing soundtrack… mainly featuring Wendy O. Williams… which kicks arse.

Score: **

Format: This movie was reviewed on the Umbrella Entertainment DVD release, presented in a decent 1.77:1 image with a 2.0 Mono soundtrack that does the job well enough.

Score: ***

Extras: Not a sausage. Not even a disc menu.

Score: 0

WISIA: I saw thins when it was first released on VHS back in the 80s and this is the first time I’ve watched it since. The next time I watch it will probably be in two new formats time, for whatever the future of the internet looks like, but not before that.

Roger Corman: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel (2011)

One from the re watch pile…

Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel (2011)

Film: I sometimes wonder if when the Lumière brothers stood on the shoulders of Thomas Edison and William Dickson and created their wonderful Cinématographe machine if they ever sat down and discussed the wonders of what their creation may hold in the future.

‘I imagine one day a man will make a film about an Island of Fishmen!’

‘I imagine one day someone will make a film called ‘ Dinoshark’!’

‘I imagine one day someone will adapt the work of Edgar Allen Poe into a series of films!’

‘I imagine one day a man will make a film with a spaceship in it that has boobs on it!’

‘I imagine one day a man will make all those films, and write/ produce/ star in many many more!’

‘Oh Auguste, don’t be ridiculous: one man could never do all that in one lifetime!!’

Well, one man did, and continues to do so! Roger Corman would have to be the most important man in the history of cinema. He is certainly a rebel before his time who has not only nurtured such talents as Ron Howard, Jonathon Demme, Joe Dante, Jack Nicolson, Martian Scorsese, Peter Bogdanovich and many others, he’s also been at the forefront of effects development, expediency of production (both time and money wise) and just the ability to show that any story, if made cheap enough, can be a financial success… and DAMN the critics. Audiences and critics want different things from cinema!

I believe that B movie fans like myself are generally Corman fans before they realise that Corman exists. I know my youth was spent looking at Famous Monsters and watching late night creature features, a lot which have probably disappeared from my memory through the eons I’ve been alive, so I must have really experienced his work around this time. For certain though, I definitely know I watched Battle Beyond the Stars, and even as a kid knew it was a cheap seats version of Star Wars, but Sybil Danning…. sigh!

It wasn’t until my Fangoria years in the 80s that I really realised what a spectacular output Corman was responsible for, and here, with the documentary Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel, we get to see just why his influence on the movie industry is a unique and important one.

Written and directed by Alex Stapleton, who reviewed two important nominations for this film, one the Golden Camera at Cannes and the other a Rondo Hatten Classic Horror Award, this film looks at Corman’s history, the amazing successes he’s had over the years, and the daring steps he took into all different areas of production, direction, distribution and even sociological ideals which may not have always been wholly acceptable by the moral majority.

This film is a concise look at an amazing career, that still continues today, and with the absolute catalogue of talent interviewed here, we get a look at what Corman did for so many people in Hollywood, even if that just meant them finding out exactly what they WOULDN’T want to do as far as production is concerned.

Highly recommended.

Score: *****

Format: This film was reviewed on the UK Bluray release which runs for approximately 90 minutes. For the most part, the image is excellent and presented in 1.78:1 but that occasionally changes depending on the historical footage shown. The audio is a matching quality DTS-HD 5.1.

Score: ****1/2

Extras: There is a pretty cool bunch of extras on this disc:

Extended Interviews takes all the stuff that didn’t make the cut to the film but still had interesting stories to tell.

Special Messages to Roger is a nice collection of tributes to Corman from his contemporaries, acolytes, apprentices and dilettantes. Some are heartfelt, some funny, but all seem to be genuine!

There is also a trailer for the film. Nicholson’s comment from the film,’ by mistake, he made a good picture every once in a while’ should have been the Tagline to the whole thing, and it’s quoted here.

Score: ***1/2

WISIA: I actually love film documentaries almost as much as I love movies, and this is one I watch regularly.

Supervixens (1975) 

One from the re watch pile…
Supervixens (1975)

The cover of the UK DVD release


Film: I had read about soft-core porn filmmaker Russ Meyer long before I had ever seen any of his films. I remember seeing the image of a gigantic pair of boobs hanging from out the front of a cinema in Sydney in a magazine called Shocking Cinema which contained that particular image, with a small write up, within a ‘sealed’ section.

Just through magazine I read, and shops I frequented, like Land Beyond Beyond in Sydney, I became a little obsessed with Meyer though the opportunity to see any of his stuff didn’t become available to me until I managed to get my hands on a few releases Madman in Australia did on DVD a few years ago, and since then I’ve grabbed everything that Arrow Films in the UK have available, and have accumulated several books on the subject of Mr Meyer, including his experiences documenting WWII , as well as a photographer for Playboy in the early days.

The focus of Meyer’s movies are the female form, and the bustier the better! There are certain male attributes that are generally enhanced too when the opportunity arises for a peek though. His films are no doubt soft core porn, but there’s no ‘I’ve come to clean ze pool’ stuff in his work: no, these are articulate, rural black comedies that if you don’t just fast forward to the nudity, or turn them of when you have… um… ‘finished’, you’ll get a lot out of them

His movies are spectacularly weird too and he has been called the ‘Rural Fellini’, insomuch that his films merge fantasy, not just sexual but metaphysical and supernatural within the rural environments, like farming communities and small towns.

Supervixens is no variation on that.

Clint Ramsey (Charles Pitt) getting down and dirty


Poor Clint Ramsey (Charles Pitts) has a problem: his woman, Superangel (Shari Eubanks) is a suspicious, high-maintenance, voluptuous woman whose sexual appetite and penchant for violence is making his life a living Hell, even though she is a gorgeous.

After a particularly horrible argument, Supervixen calls the police, who send police officer Harry Sledge (Charles Napier). He quickly proves to be her undoing when he murders her after she tries similar shenanigans on him when he fails to satisfy her her in bed.

The titular Supervixen.


Sledge murders her and places the blame square in Clint’s lap, which puts him on a trip across country, evading the law and somehow ending up pursued by every horny, busty woman he …ahem… comes across, but will Sledge catch up with him?

This movie is heaps of fun and has some bizarre scenes that somehow make plenty of sense within Meyer’s eye. He has this amazing sense of cinematic style with the camera that once you see past the statuesque figures on screen, you really see a man who is totally in control of his craft. His previous occupation as a photographer is clear in the amazing way he frames his scenes.

The women in this film aren’t the only amazing thing within the camera’s eye: the locations are desolate and the heat of the desert is almost palpable.

I really love this movie, and though you probably should start any Meyer adventure with either Vixen or Faster Pussycat! Kill! KILL!, you really can’t pass this up.

Score: ****

The UK DVD menu screen


Format: Supervixens was reviewed using the U.K. Arrow Films DVD release which is presented in an ok 4:3 image with a pretty clear 2.0 audio. The image is a little artefacty at times but not to the detriment of the entire image.

Score: ****

Extras: Only two extras on this disc, but both are as entertaining as hell.

First there is an amazing commentary with director Russ Meyer where he doesn’t just tell amusing stories about the making of this film, but also interesting reflections of his life. 
Next, we have a trailer reel of Meyer’s films: Faster Pussycat! Kill! KILL!, Blacksnake, Mudhoney, Vixen, Wild Gals of the Naked West, Supervixens, Beneath the Valley of the Ultravixens, Cherry, Harry & Raquel and Common-Law Cabin.

Honestly Meyer’s trailers are the best ever made, not just because of the beautiful stars, but also due to the absolute Sideshow Huckster, P.T. Barnham styled voiceovers which deliver the hard sell like never before.

Score: ***

WISIA: It’s a funny, sometimes silly and occasionally violent piece of classic Meyer cheese: not for family viewing but I watch it when I can.

Harry Sledge (Charles Napier) looks back at future victims.

R. I. P. Herschell Gordon Lewis

It’s one of those days when you know as soon as you wake up that the rest of the day is going to suck.
The first thing on all of my various news feeds today was that of the passing of filmmaker, Herschell Gordon (H. G.) Lewis, aged 87.

H. G. Lewis


H.G. Lewis started in cinema producing exploitation and nudie cuties, like Goldilocks and the Three Bares and The Adventures of Lucky Pierre, soon turning to horror, making violent and bloody films like Blood Feast and The Wizard of Gore; films which earned him the title of The Godfather of Gore.
His first film career went from 1961 to1972, after which he started a new career in advertising in which he wrote many books on the subject.

In 2002 he returned to filmmaking with Blood Feast 2: All You Can Eat and worked in and around the production of films until his death.

My first exposure to Lewis was with novelisations of 2,000 Maniacs and Blood Feast, but I didn’t actually get to see any of his films until the early 2000s when I first picked up DVD releases from Something Weird Video and I was immediately hooked. His films have an odd innocence that films of the 60s feel like they have mixed with a touch of nudity and a bucket of blood and guts.
Something Weird Video also have an excellent documentary about him that I can’t recommend enough. This, and his other films are available here!

H. G. Lewis documentary


R. I. P. Mr. Lewis, thanks for making us gorehounds!