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The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Tony O’Neill presents … A SALUTE TO VIDEO NASTIES *

* (restored)

England was a tough place to grow up if you were a fan of cult movies in the 1980’s and 90’s. The scene was still reeling from the early 80’s “Video Nasties” scandal, a tabloid fueled frenzy in which the then ruling Conservative Party started banning movies, and toughening up the UK censorship body, The British Board Of Film Classification. Rather like a ministry of mental health in some shadowy Soviet state, the BBFC was an unelected body with power of life and death over filmmakers. Uncertified films were un-releasable and the guidelines were prone to the whims of individual censors. High profile films which remained illegal until the loosening up of these laws in the late 90’s included The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (allegedly because no film with the word “chainsaw” in it’s title could pass the BBFC) and “A Clockwork Orange”.

There were ways around the laws though. Pre-BBFC videos, on long gone labels like “VIPCO” and the original “PALACE VIDEO” still circulated, were copied many times and traded among fans, and sometimes showed up at markets and car boot sales (the UK equivalent of flea markets were people literally get together in car parks, open up the trunks of their cars and sell their old shit out of them). Finding an original X-certificate movie was like finding a lump of gold in the dirt for the true horror aficionado.

But what I am remembering, a honoring here is the network of film pirates who advertised covertly in the classified sections of specialist horror mags like THE DARK SIDE (still a going concern in the UK). The deal was that you would receive a list of available movies, rated by picture quality (some were 2nd or 3rd generation VHS dubs – this was pre-DVD remember – often from grainy Dutch or Spanish sources). It would be a mix of the ridiculous and the sublime, from campy 50’s movies that had simply fallen out of print, to stuff like SALO, which was never likely to gain a release in the UK under the current laws.

Here is a pretty random selection of 10 movies that should hopefully give you an impression of what I for one was watching in the 80’s and 90’s as an impressionable young boy. And as you can see, it didn’t do me any harm at all (cue demonic, horror movie laugh…)

 

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BLOOD FREAK is an ultra low budget B-movie from the early 70’s, supposedly funded by Christians to promote an anti-drug message. In the movie good-hearted drifter, who looks an awful lot like an Elvis Presley impersonator, takes a job at a turkey farm. He falls in with a bad crowd and starts to smoke marijuana. Soon he is hopelessly addicted to weed, and suffers cold turkey (no pun intended) when he cant get hold of any. Yes, the filmmakers seem to have gotten the effects of heroin and marijuana mixed up here. In a subplot, the turkey farm is using an experimental growth hormone to produce bigger, plumper turkeys. Our hero eats some of the chemically enhanced turkey while under the effects of marijuana and a horrifying transformation takes place. He becomes the BLOOD FREAK! A turkey headed monstrosity with a monkey on its back (not literally). The rest of the movie features the blood freak stalking local drug addicts, and drinking their blood to stave of the withdrawal sickness.

Ironically, this movie is only really watchable while under the influence of some pretty heavy intoxicants.


Trailer


The first ten minutes


The entirety (dubbed into French)

 

 

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NIGHTMARE IN A DAMAGED BRAIN

NIGHTMARE IN A DAMAGED BRAIN is your pretty standard slasher fare. It is the story of George Tatum a paranoid schizophrenic who is released from the asylum and presumed cured. Walking around the porno shops and strip clubs of Time Square, he has sudden violent flashbacks to his childhood and embarks on a bloody rampage. George foams at the mouth, and calls for him mommy, before dismembering hookers in glorious Technicolor. This movie earned a huge degree of notoriety in the UK when one video storeowner got himself a 6-month prison sentence for selling an uncut copy! The special effects guy on this flick, Ed French, went on to work on Terminator 2. Tom Savani actually sued the film company to have his name removed from the credits. This is up there with the infamous 80’s flick MANIAC for relentless action, and bloody violence. And what is the childhood trauma that set George off? Well, he walks into his parent’s room while they are having a bondage session and… well… take a look at the trailer – IF – YOU – DARE!


Trailer


Excerpt


Excerpt

 

 

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THE BEAST IN HEAT / SS HELL CAMP

THE BEAST IN HEAT took some tracking down. It was out for maybe 2 weeks in the UK before being pulled from the shelves. People were particularly offended by the glut of Italian made SS themes horror and sex movies coming out on the new VHS format. Others that caused controversy included SS EXPERIMENT CAMP; LOVE CAMP 69, and the infamous ILSA movies. THE BEAST IN HEAT went one further; by having the Nazi’s create a kind of troglodyte monster who raped the women prisoners to death, and in one stunning scene actually chewed the pubic hair straight off of one of its victims. Mix this in with some of the funniest lines, worst dubbing and shakiest sets in B-movie history and you have a classic, of sorts. Available in the US under the title: SS HELL CAMP.


Trailer


the entirety

 

 

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The “godfather of gore” kicked off the whole genre in 1963 when he release BLOOD FEAST, the story of Egyptian caterer Fuad Ramses and his violent attempts to revive to cult of the goddess Shiva. It was the first time that tongue rippings, breast slicings and brain extractions were shown is such bloody detail on screen. He carved out a niche for himself, churning out dozens of titles with names like SHE DEVILS ON WHEELS, COLOR ME BLOOD RED, THE GORE GORE GIRLS and this minor classic THE GRUESOME TWOSOME. A psychotic man and his aging mother run a wig shop and motel. Only when young women check into the motel they just seem to… disappear. And boy, do those wigs look realistic…. The film originally ran less than an hour, so Lewis cleverly inserted a 10-minute static shot of 2 wigs, and dubbed over improvisational dialogue in one of the strangest, longest and just plain weirdest opening sequences ever.


Trailer


DVD Extra short film
—-

 

 

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ZOMBIE CREEPING FLESH / HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD

Ah zombies, my first true horror movie love. Through the bootleg networks I of course saw the classics, uncut – DAWN OF THE DEAD, DAY OF THE DEAD, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS… but this obscure Bruno Mattaei movie really left a mark on me. Set in Papa New Guinea, the trouble begins when a chemical plant accidentally releases a toxic cloud that causes the living to turn into cannibalistic zombies. We later learn that this is a plan to end world hunger – the 1st world nations want the poor to eat themselves (hey, don’t say it too loud. Bush might get ideas…) This film followed the DAWN OF THE DEAD formula so close that it even lifted the Goblin score from that movie, and virtually recreated the famous “army storms the housing projects” scene, although with little of Romero’s style or finesse. What gives the film its power is the stock footage that Mattaei liberally peppered the film with, giving it a surreal, disjointed tone. And a scene where a SWAT team member suddenly decides to down his weapons, dress up in women’s clothes, and dance around a zombie infested house (he gets eaten, surprise surprise) kind of defies belief.


Trailer


Excerpts

 

 

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German director Jorg Buttgereit deserves a day all of his very own. His movies include the art house suicide epic DER TEODESKING, the beyond belief serial killing necrophile epic SCHRAMM, and his best-known movies NEKROMATIK 1 and 2. For those who don’t know, NEKROMATIK is Jorg’s tribute to the world of necrophilia. Part one is about a guy who works cleaning up bodies on bloody autobahn pile-ups. He collects the body parts, and takes them home to his girlfriend. They keep them in jars, and use them for sex. When he manages to steal an entire corpse – a decaying, slimy looking thing – they have a threesome, which includes a gross eyeball-sucking scene. But when his girlfriend takes the corpse and leaves, our hero sinks into a dark pit of alcoholic despair. He can’t get hard for living girls any more. He winds up strangling a hooker in a graveyard while they have sex. He them does the decent thing, and kills himself. How? With a kitchen knife to the belly and with a huge hard on sticking out of his pants which cums great gouts of semen followed by a literal eruption of blood from his penis, which is the final image in the movie. In part 2 a female necrophile digs up our hero’s body, and keep his penis in the fridge wrapped in cling film. If anything, it has an even more visually arresting finale than the first movie…


Little look


the entirety

 

 

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STREET TRASH was a glorious mess of a movie. The plot revolves around a gang of homeless people in some nameless, urban wasteland. A lot of the action takes place in a scrap yard, where a gang of hobos run by a burly psycho called Bronson hang out. A local liquor store finds a box of old booze called “Viper” and starts selling it to the street people for a dollar a bottle. Only when they drink this stuff they have the tendency to explode or – in the films key scene – melt. The film also features a necrophilia scene that is played for laughs, gang rape, Viet Nam flashbacks, a game of football played with a amputated penis, and a comedic subplot involving the mafia. It even ends with a musical number. The director, Jim Muro, made this film look a lot better than it should have, and later went on to work the stedicam for movies such as Terminator 2, The Doors, and Titanic.


Trailer


the entirety

 

 

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LIQUID SKY is a kind of gender bending, Warhol inspired, post-punk, new wavy alien movie. That’s the best way I can put it. I have to say I had little clue of what was going on, but I found myself obsessed with it, and nearly wore the tape out re-watching it. Aliens lands on Manhattan’s lower east side, attracted to the high serotonin levels in the brains of heroin addicts after they shoot up. Somebody performs a mad electro song called “Me and My Rhythm Box” in one scene that I later covered in an early band of mine (“It never sleeps… it never shits… me and my rhythm box…”


Trailer


the entirety

 

 

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Another slasher movie set in New York, this one helmed by the ever-reliable Lucio Fulci. It is as Italian as they get, with a twisting, bind bending plot, incredibly bloody violence against women (nipples are sliced, eyeballs gouged, and broken bottles inserted into vaginas) and a ludicrous villain who speaks in a weird Donald Duck voice which kills every supposedly scary scene dead, and succeeds in making the whole thing seem incredibly silly. I watched it again recently, and in the 10 years since I last saw it the gore seems to have aged badly – the whole thing is pretty hokey, and sounds a lot more horrendous when you write about it than when you see it.


A piece


the entirety

 

 

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BRAIN DAMAGE was one of those movies that I held little expectation for, but which just blew me away. It comes from director Frank Hennenlotter (BASKET CASE, FRANKENHOOKER) and is the story of an alien parasite called Elmer, who attaches himself onto our hero, Brian. He starts to feed Brian an intense psychedelic drug that produces extreme euphoria but also causes painful withdrawal. And all that Elmer wants, in exchange for not withholding the drug is food. Unfortunately for Brian, Elmer’s favorite food is human brains… The film is shot beautifully, had a better script and special effects than most of its contemporaries, and had a knowing sense of humor. Unfortunately it is currently out of print. But all of Hennenlotter’s movies are pretty good, so if you haven’t seen any yet I’d urge you to reorder your Netflix queue….!


Trailer


Excerpt


Excerpt

 

Anyway that’s it… I hope I helped some people find their new favorite cult movie, or maybe it was just a trip down memory lane for the trash aficionado’s out there… enjoy!

 

 

*

p.s. Hey. ** Bill, Hi, B. Thanks. The early ones are the best ones. Up through ‘Luna’. Then his work drops way off, for me. Ha, thanks. Stark raving madness does have its place. I know, Frieze LA charged ‘average citizens’ big bucks too. What a scam. Imagine if Nieman Marcus charged an entrance fee. You were first! ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. Yeah, I felt like he was maybe starting to get his artistic mojo back there at the end. My favorites are ‘The Conformist’, ‘Spider Stratagem’, ‘1900’, and ‘Luna’. ** Nik, Hi, Nik! Mm, I would probably start with ‘The Conformist’. Definitely an earlier one. I think his later films starting with ‘Last Emperor’ are much, much weaker. The TV script is moving along at a swifter pace than I had feared. It’s still no fun, and having to put in tension and plot stuff is like pulling teeth, but I think the script is surviving with most of what we want intact or at least semi-intact. Oh, for the curated screenings, I’m a voracious pursuer of experimental films, so finding them was easy. It was the culling and mixing and matching that was the tricky part. Your vampire film sounds fantastic, I must say. Lautreamont meets Smithson … wow. Fascinating. Really good, inspired idea. Very cool. That’s exciting! How has the shoot begun? I only barely know Ty Segall’s stuff. Just an oversight. But, yes, I read a review of the new live album somewhere and thought that I really have to get on his stuff. So I will, starting there, I guess. Good to know. I’ve been listening to … actually, there’s a gig post coming up in a couple of days, so you can see what has been pleasing my ears ‘in person’. Fine day to you, sir. ** Corey Heiferman, Hi, man. Oh, shit, about the dead link. I’ll insert your replacement and hope it doesn’t get killed pronto. Thank you. Wow, great about your vagabond star. Have you sussed what the film will be? When do you think you’ll start filming? How cool. Wait, and also about your Rowlands-like friend. Stuff is cooking. No, I don’t think I’ve done a Gena Rowlands Day. What a good idea. I’ll get on making one as straight away as time allows. Thanks a lot for that too, buddy. ** Dominik, Hey, D!!!!! Yeah, addictive and fucking hard work: meet my blog, ha ha. I’m glad you’re giving it the old college try. Feeding people good stuff is rewarding. Can be. No, no news on the rating yet. At least to Zac and me. I’ll check with our producer. Gulp. The Sunn0))) listening event was great. Basically, Stephen introduced the album, and then everyone just sat and listened to it on the venue’s incredible sound system. The new album is really fantastic. Their most serious, complicated, demanding album yet. Very them, but quite a tough album. No Atila. Only very low-in-the-mix vocals on one track. Possibly their best album yet, I think. I’ve never heard of Garth Risk Hallberg. I don’t know that name at all. Everyone, Dominik asks if anyone reading this knows (about) the writer Garth Risk Hallberg. If so, pipe up, please. Thanks. Huh, if you read that book, let me know how it is. Have a fantastic week, pal, and see you very soon! ** Steve Erickson, Great! Everyone, Here is Mr. Erickson’s interview with Iranian director Kamran Heidari, and, if you’re in Brookyln, NYC, and those parts, he has curated a four film retrospective of Heidari’s films at Spectacle starting April 7th, and you are very highly encouraged to attend. All the info you need is here. ** _Black_Acrylic, ‘The Conformist’ is an excellent place to start. ** Misanthrope, I think you might really like ‘Luna’, but all bets are off. Agree about the comments. Of course it makes assembling those posts even more drudge work, but that’s entertainment. ** Alistair, Hi, Alistair! I’m good, I’m good, busy, the usual. Oh, yeah, it’s too bad you couldn’t make it to the PGL screening, but totally understood, of course. I think it’ll be available on DVD and streaming starting on May 7th, last I heard, so you can see it that way. I”m so happy those posts were inspiring. Yeah, Scott Walker’s death was a real kick in the head. I never met him, but he and Gisele Vienne and Zac and I were working together on an opera project for a couple of years. It got pretty far along, but then Scott pulled out of the project last year. We didn’t fully understand why, but perhaps it was health related. Big hug back! ** liquoredgoat, Hi. I’d go for ‘The Conformist’ next, I think. Ron Padgett is a dream of a poet, yeah, Big fave of mine since I was a wee aspiring poet lad. So happy you reading and liking him. I’m fairly awesome, and how about you? ** Okay. Someone … wait, Jeff Jackson recently asked me to restore an old guest post about dub by the fine writer, former blog d.l., and recently very mysterious Tony O’Neill. I couldn’t find it for the life of me, so I restored another post that Tony made for us years ago instead, and there it is, right up there. See you tomorrow.

8 Comments

  1. Hello DC! I’m trying to get in touch with you about an upcoming book project on behalf of Kunsthalle Wien and Sternberg Press, we’d like to invite you as a contributor! Are you interested? (…apologies I wasn’t able to find your email contact online @ http://www.dennis-cooper.net/ … it mentions to reach you via your blog:) Hope it’s ok to post here and may I ask whether you could respond to my email?! Many thanks, ET (extra terrestrial)

  2. I’m surprised Derek Jarman’s “Jubilee” was left out of this
    “Video Nasties” round-up. It was widely attacked by the Thatcherites back in the day.

    It’s Bill Reed’s birthday. He was born in 1941. A HREF=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=04cqco321wo”>Happy Birthday My Heart and Soul

  3. Reportedly, ICHI THE KILLER is the film made in the past 20 years that the BBFC has demanded the most cuts from in order to be released.

    Do you know how Tony O’Neill is these days? He suddenly stopped commenting on here. I just googled his website and Twitter feed, and they suggest he’s as busy as ever.

    I’m glad to be reviewing JUST DON’T THINK I’LL SCREAM for the Brooklyn Rail. I saw it last night and was very impressed, although perhaps the most unusual thing about it is how literary it feels considering that all of its images are very brief fragments of other movies.

    Here’s my review of Billie Eilish’s album: https://steeveecom.wordpress.com/the-industry-plant-grows-taller/

  4. Trash aficionado here obvs. There’s a great new UK company called Shameless that I’ve been sourcing a lot of such films from lately. Plenty of this material has actual artistic merit too, even.

    I was at the DCA print studio today to work on The Call zine which now has a newly expanded list of contributors and it’s all going quite well. I’m back in there on Friday for further Risograph action, while the website action will begin from Sunday.

  5. Corey Heiferman

    April 3, 2019 at 12:10 am

    Thank you, Tony. Those “Brain Damage” clips were enchanting. It’s the re-make “Little Shop of Horrors” actually deserved. I don’t understand how “Brain Damage” could’ve possibly been censored. It’s practically a “Just Say No” ad packaged perfectly for the target audience. I found what looks like the whole thing but I wonder what could possibly be better than those excerpts:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8blOSTg_yZY

    In related news Caleb broke Twitter with an unexpected appendage gaping out of his fly:

    https://twitter.com/CalebGrayXXX/status/1112534303102169088

    My vagabond friend will only be in town for a week or two but while he’s here he’ll have lots of free time. As of now the plan is to walk talk and watch him make his art in various places and then take it from there. I have a decent camera and good sound equipment. He himself said he might be able to find me lights (how’s that for an interview subject!).

    He also referred me to a maker/hacker space that’ll be able to help me and my Gena Rowlands-like friend decode the info on the floppy disk that (she claims) has a 30 year old newspaper article on it that will give us the info we need to start searching for a family teased by fate. Glad you took well to the Gena Rowlands Day idea.

    Speaking of Gena Rowlands and speaking to Dominik’s Garth Risk Hallberg inquiry, I’ve never read a word he wrote but I saw him introduce Cassavetes’ “Gloria” a few years back. I remember not being particularly impressed by his stage presence or what he had to say, but good writers need not be good talkers and tbh I’m probly just jealous.

    https://www.filmlinc.org/events/print-screen-garth-risk-hallberg-and-cassavetes-gloria/

  6. Dennis….ENTERTAIN US! Damn it! I’m joking. They are more enjoyable, I’ll tell you that.

    I’ve watched a clip or two of Luna in the past and liked them. I think it’s right up my alley. 😀

    I think I’ll order it on my next Amazon order. I got 10 items a couple weeks ago…and then realized I’d forgotten a whole bunch I wanted to order, like Negrophobia. Ugh. I’m a dunce sometimes. But I’ll get to them.

  7. Ah, I remember Tony, though not this post. Wonder what he’s up to these days?

    I’ve seen a smattering of these. Street Trash is not easy to forget, haha. Liquid Sky was revived in SF recently. I think I mentioned it didn’t date well…

    Didn’t realize Hennenlotter also made Basket Case. Pretty enjoyable, but it’s bothered me for years that the idea was basically the same as Tom Reamy’s lovely story The Detweiler Boy, which predates the movie by 10 years. Dennis, did you know Reamy back in your LA days?

    Bill

  8. KeatonandToast

    April 3, 2019 at 6:48 am

    Guess whos birthday it is…

    Big Booty Bitches Thats Wearing Guess

    What about my legs, Eddie Murphy…

    Pocahontas, MARLON BRANDO, and me…

    Alec Baldwin

    I’m sorry Ms. Jackson

    Fuck ’em all, it’s Keaton’s birthday

    Hey D., hows it going? Tony O’ wow good stuff. I really had fun with his book it was punk fast. Some of the old movies looked freaky, like “That’s from NY.”, “That’s from 197_”. The Unnamed was fearful and the Scanners cover. Mother told me today there were no issues with my birth other than being born hanged, lol! Back in my castle, Castle Keatonstein. Looking forward to a cover of blonds and starting this year off right. “I love you all but youre all mad.”

    “I delcare, Im real glad to see you. I’ve been alone all day… I thought of coming over to your house this afternoon, but I couldn’t bring my sewing very well. I’m putting ruffles on my new black dress shirt.”

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