Nigel Wingrove and Marc Morris
2nd Edition, 11/15/2009
Fab Press’ 2nd edition of Marc Morris and Nigel Wingrove’s The Art Of The Nasty is a video collector’s dream come true. This lavish, full color 166 page hardcover book compiles hundreds of pieces of cover art from long out of print British issue VHS tapes, many of which came under scrutiny during the ‘Video Nasty Era’ – almost 450 images, to be exact (which is over a hundred more than the 1st edition of the book contained).
While the book may be of more interest to British cult film fans simply because of the history behind the controversial titles covered, anyone even remotely interested in how films were marketed in the eighties through their often times shocking covers would do well to pick this up. Part coffee table book, part history lesson, this weighty tome starts off with thirteen pages of introductory text that explains what’s happened in regards to censorship issues in the British film industry since the first edition of the book was published ten years ago before giving us a solid overview of the era in which the video nasty was a cause for concern among moral crusaders and their ilk. The mood is set politically, socially and commercially and once we’re all up to speed on how and why this all came to be, we move on to the covers themselves.
The first chapter covers the ‘Official Nasties’ which were written up on a list comprised of thirty-nine feature films deemed obscene by The Director Of Public Prosecutions. Seriously disturbing titles such as Cannibal Holocaust, Faces Of Death and I Spit On Your Grave are featured here alongside more questionable selections such as Don’t Go In The Woods… Alone and The Werewolf And The Yeti. The Book doesn’t stop with just the official thirty-nine film, however, as the second chapter, Nasties On Parole, gives us a look at the often times very sensationalist cover art used on the video releases for the thirty-three films that were tried but not convicted. Stand outs here include Cannibal Terror (it’s hard to believe that anyone ever took this picture seriously enough to deem it a social threat!), Death Trap (better known elsewhere as Tobe Hooper’s Eaten Alive), The Living Dead At The Manchester Morgue, Prisoner Of The Cannibal God (or, if you prefer, Mountain Of The Cannibal God), and Jess Franco’s Women Behind Bars among others.
The third chapter, ‘Nasties – The Ones That Got Away,’ covers films that somehow managed to evade prosecution attempts despite dubious cover art and questionable morality. Look for sleeves exhibiting the merits of pictures like Schoolgirls In Chains, City Of The Living Dead, Brutes And Savages, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Ilsa – Harem Keeper Of The Oil Sheiks (which was released with Arabic subtitles presumably to throw off officials looking to prosecute British companies by making the tape look like an import) to artsier fare such as In The Realm Of Senses and Waters’ Pink Flamingos to more action oriented films like Shogun Assassin, Death Wish, and Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs.
Chapter four, simply titled Nice And Sleazy Does It, is an interesting collection of artwork from the pre-cert days. Those with an interest in early adult video releases should relish cover art from interesting releases like De Renzy’s Babyface and Pretty Peaches, and Bethel Buckalew’s The Dirty Mind Of Young Sally alongside more expected offerings such as some of D’Amato’s Black Emmanuelle films, Fanny Hill, Double Agent 73, Electric Blue and some oddball British sex films such as Girls Come First and Keep It Up, Jack. There’s no shortage of horror movie material in this chapter either, so be on the lookout for plenty of great titles like The House Of Whipcord, Killer’s Moon, Scream Bloody Murder, and Torso as well as plenty of Nazisploitation pictures like SS Girls.
The fifth and final chapter, The Good, The Bad And The Vomit Inducing, is simply a selection of other titles of interest. There’s a lot of really odd cover art in here as well as some fairly strong images promoting titles like Astro Zombies, The Amazing Mr. No Legs (when is this going to get a DVD release?), The Black Gestapo, Bava’s Black Sunday, a garish piece from The Corpse Grinders and a surprisingly gory sleeves from Drive-in Massacre and The Executioner (better known as Massacre Mafia Style) to sexier stuff like Devils In The Convent, Primitive London, Queens Of Evil and Truck Stop Women. While there’s a nice mix in here made up of sex films, kung fu movies and general exploitation the focus is certainly on horror films, which make up roughly eighty percent of the images shown. An appendix listing the video companies and their catalogues closes the book out nicely.
Morris and Wingrove should be commended for the massive collection of images they’ve compiled for this book while FAB Press definitely deserves credit for making it available in such an attractive edition. The paper stock used is thick and it reproduces all of the tacky, garish and crazy covers quite well, while the hardcover binding ensures that you don’t have to worry about the pages ever falling out of the book. It’s a really well put together package in pretty much every regard and it’s hard to imagine any regular reader of this website not finding a whole lot to love here. VHS may be gone as a popular format but its fan base lives on (don’t believe me? Click here!) and books like this ensure that the often times unique and exclusive artwork used for these releases is preserved. Here’s hoping someday we’ll see similar volumes in the future.
For more information on The Art Of The Nasty, check out the FAB Press homepage by clicking here!