The Art of Nasty (2009 Second Edition)
By: J.R. McNamara on June 3, 2014 | Comments
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My horror addiction doesn't just stop at DVDs and Blu-rays (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. My favourite non-plastic disc collectables however are my books about horror films, especially those that 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' The Art of the Nasty.

The Art of the Nasty looks at the 'Video Nasty' era of England's VHS history. In the late 70s/early 80s, 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 in part to the way they were advertised with their lurid, and occasionally misleading covers that singled them out and basically lead to massive cuts and bannings 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.

This book is a celebration of the VHS covers of the time, and shows 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 first-hand 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!

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

The book then breaks down into chapters 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 listing of British 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 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 am just surprised that middle class shop owners of the less-permissive early 80s would have allowed these images on shelves! All the images have a small blurb which tells the Original Title of the film, its country of origin, the director, the year, 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 I wanted even 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 show what was happening in politics and other areas of pop culture during the video nasties era. 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, and inadvertently adds great support to the aforementioned Video Nasties doco. It is well written and the bold images are an absolute treat!
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