When days were Draconian

More times than anything else, I will watch a documentary because I want to learn about a subject I dont know much about. For me its a way to learn an overview of a subject over a couple of hours rather than days or weeks reading a book on the same subject.

However last week (and again this week) I watched (and rewatched) a documentary on a subject about a time that I very clearly remember living through and events that are still very clear to me as i type this.

The years were 1982-1999 and the documentary was Video Nasties:Draconian Days (the second documentary in the Video Nasties series, the first being Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship and Videotape) by Jake West and Marc Morris.

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I was born in 1971, and for various reasons that I dont need to go into in this particular article when I was around the age of ten upwards video stores (and cinemas) became my ‘church’ of choice. My escape.

I would spend hours and hours browsing the cover art of films, reading the back of the boxes to learn what stories were contained within these wonderful plastic boxes. After school and at weekends I would finish my paper round and spend an hour or more wandering around, looking at the films I wanted to watch and the films I knew I couldnt watch.

Being a child of 11 years old, my eyes headed to the horror section (which was pretty much 80% of the video store it seemed, other than titles like Condorman, and The Spaceman and King Arthur of course). The covers for Driller Killer, The Boogyeman, The Burning, Spawn (At least I think it was called Spawn)  and so many more.

Not the video store, I used to inhabit, but similar

Not the video store, I used to inhabit, but similar

Horror films held and am sure still hold such a sense of fascination for children. They want to see what they know they arent allowed to see. They want to do what they know they arent allowed to do and I was no different.

Nowadays, with the likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime, Illegal Streaming of films on the internet and most of the TV channels, children today can watch things that as a child of the 70s and early 80s, we could never have dreamed of. But as a child in my time. All we had was the cinema, the three TV channels (BBC1, BBC2 and ITV) and this new fangled thing. The Video Recorder.

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Ah the video recorder. The light of my life, yet this huge lump of electronics with its cabled remote control (yes they had a wire) caused no amount of chaos to certain members of the British Government and certain people who thought they knew what was best for us and what we should be able to see.  The so called powers that be were convinced that children were sneaking round watching violence and porn (although they were more concerned about the violence) whereas the truth be told. As a child I was more interested in a pirated VHS of E.T than I was about being able to see Zombie Flesh Eaters. But I digress.

Without going into too much detail. I just point you to the documentary Video Nasties:Draconian Days which hits public release July 14th 2014 in a wonderful 3 DVD set.

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Disc 1 contains : “Video Nasties: Draconian Days”  the 97 minute documentary.

Discs 2 and 3: contains “The Section 3 List”
and presents the official additional 82 titles that were officially designated under “Section 3” of the Obscene Publications Act. These were the titles liable for seizure by the police, removed from sale or hire and then destroyed (burned) ; although they were not ultimately prosecuted.

With a total running time of 840 minutes, this will most certainly keep you quiet for many hours.

But is the documentary any good?

Hell yes! (you see. watching films all these years hasnt corrupted me into become a foul mouthed person)

Watching Draconian Days brought back so many moments that had me saying ‘Oh I remember that’ , and so watching it from the point of view of having lived through the craziness of ‘Burn Childs Play 3’ or ‘Ban Rambo’ it was one of the best trips down memory lane I have had for years.

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But also Annette (my partner) watched this with me and even though she recalls some of the events, she didn’t live through it as much as I did, watching it from her point of view provoked many comments of ‘really??? they did that..thats insane” from her.

Watch Draconian Days if you remember the Video Nasties, and watch Draconian Days if you don’t remember Video Nasties. You don’t even need to have seen any of the films to find this documentary one of the best ones of recent years. Out of the huge list of ‘nasties’ Im lucky if I have seen 5 or 6.

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Jake West and Marc Morris have done a fantastic job at putting this documentary together and along with great insight from filmmakers such as Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers, The Descent), Christopher Smith (Severance, Creep), with some wonderful archival clips from many other filmmakers, politicians, and even the crazy woman herself Mary Whitehouse showing up making herself look stupid (even though her heart was in perhaps the right place, its a shame her brain wasnt)

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I cant rate this documentary high enough. I enjoyed it to much I have so far watched it 3 times in the past week. Yes some of that is in preparation for an up and coming podcast episode on censorship but trust me. Im never short of films to watch.

A huge round of applause to Jake and Marc and Nucleus films for not only putting together Draconian Days, but also the previous documentary. Both of which are amazing DVD packages and both will proudly sit on my own DVD collection for many years to come.

I could rattle on about the world of the Video Nasties and how much I loved Draconian Days all day long, but this article is meant to be in place to let you know how good the documentary is, and to get you to go and see if for yourself. But let me tell you one story to end this piece.

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In Draconian Days there is a section which focuses on the media (and a stupid judge) attacking Childs Play 3 in relation to a true life killing. The media then freaked out and stories about Ban Chucky were rampant. Bonfires were lit, large diggers smashed the plastic of VHS.

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I was working in a video store at the time. The boss of the video store at the time came under so much pressure from customers, not just in the store that I worked in, but most of the others in the chain. Before long our store received a phone call from him TELLING us to remove all copies of Childs Play video tapes from the shelves, box them up and he will collect them later in the week. It was me who took the phone call from him and over the next 15 minutes or so I battled with him (with words) about why it was the wrong move to take the films off display. Sadly because I was merely a shop assistant at that time and when you battle with your Boss, he usually ends up winning. The Childs Play films (1, 2 and 3) were removed from the shelves and boxed up as ordered.

For years, video stores didnt stock Chucky films, they were never BANNED as the newspapers stated. No victory was had and nothing changed.

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Whats the point of that story?

Well in 1999, when I took over full ownership of one of my Bosses video stores. I located several copies of Childs Play 3 (and 2 & 1) and they were among the first films I placed back on the shelves. Not because I knew they would make a chunk of money from people who wanted to watch them.

But because it was a way for me to put right a major wrong.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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