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'Strong Uncut Version': Censorship and Blame in VIPCO's Reissues of the "Video Nasties"

MCKENNA, Mark (2014) 'Strong Uncut Version': Censorship and Blame in VIPCO's Reissues of the "Video Nasties". In: International Film Studies Spring School, 9 April 2014, Gorizia, Italy. (Unpublished)

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Abstract or description

In the United Kingdom in the early part of the 1980s a disparate collection of films released on video cassette and imported largely from Italy and the United States were targeted in what is the most visible display of government sanctioned censorship the United Kingdom has ever witnessed. These films, that would collectively be known as the ‘Video Nasties’, were banned and their respective distributors prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act (1959) in events that lead to the introduction of the Video Recordings Act (VRA) in 1984. The new legislation governing home video demanded that all distributors submit their entire back-catalogue to be classified at their own expense, a prospect which signalled the end for many of the independent distribution companies, who were most closely associated with the ‘Video Nasties’, and were unprepared or unable to pay fees associated with the classificatory process. In the years that followed the prohibition of these films many distributors attempted to reissue the titles with varying degrees of success. By the early 1990s, national concerns over media effects and suspect media forms had instead focused on more contemporaneous releases. Attitudes surrounding the original ‘Video Nasties’ appeared to have relaxed sufficiently that the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), the organisation charged with classifying, certificating and in many cases censoring of film, were prepared to classify many of the original 72 ‘Video Nasties’, albeit in censored form. For VIPCO, the company most closely identified with the ‘Video Nasties’, this relaxation in attitude presented an opportunity as they re-released many titles from their own back catalogue and other titles that had previously been demarcated as ‘nasty’. Adopting marketing techniques established in the advertising of exploitation cinema, VIPCO traded on the illicit quality of the content of their films, selling their product labelled as ‘Previously Banned’ and ‘Strong Uncut Version’ despite still being heavily regulated by the BBFC. As video technology was superseded by DVD, audience concern regarding the presentation of the films lead to a displacement of culpability over the censorship process, shifting blame from the BBFC directly to VIPCO. This paper will historicise the marketing practices of VIPCO whilst documenting a perceived shift in audience expectation around the presentation of cult cinema. By examining the link between the companies’ claims of the illicit nature of their products and analysing debates over product presentation such as the addition of the primarily paratexual, supplementary materials such as DVD extras, the paper will discuss how ideas of authenticity relate to the ‘Video Nasties’, examining how this may have impacted on VIPCO as a company and contributed to a negative response to their products.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Faculty: School of Computing and Digital Technologies > Film, Media and Journalism
Event Title: International Film Studies Spring School
Event Location: Gorizia, Italy
Event Dates: 9 April 2014
Depositing User: Mark MCKENNA
Date Deposited: 15 Feb 2019 15:05
Last Modified: 24 Feb 2023 13:54

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