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Cannibal Error

Anti-Film Propaganda and the 'Video Nasties' Panic of the 1980s

A social history of the ‘video nasty’. By David Kerekes and David Slater.

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A social history of the ‘video nasty’.

In the early 1980s, video technology forever changed the face of home entertainment. The videocassette – a handy-sized cartridge of magnetic tape inside a plastic shell – domesticated cinema as families across Britain began to consume films in an entirely new way. Demand was high and the result was a video gold rush, with video rental outlets appearing on every high street almost overnight. Without moderation their shelves filled with all manner of films depicting unbridled sex and violence. A backlash was inevitable. Video was soon perceived as a threat to society, a view neatly summed up in the term ‘video nasties’.

CANNIBAL ERROR chronicles the phenomenal rise of video culture through a tumultuous decade, its impact and its aftermath. Based on extensive research and interviews, the authors provide a first-hand account of Britain in the 1980s, when video became a scapegoat for a variety of social ills. It examines the confusion spawned by the Video Recordings Act 1984, the subsequent witch hunt that culminated in police raids and arrests, and offers insightful commentary on many contentious and ‘banned’ films that were cited by the media as influential factors in several murder cases. It also investigates the cottage industry in illicit films that developed as a direct result of the ‘video nasty’ clampdown.

CANNIBAL ERROR, a revised and reworked edition of SEE NO EVIL (2000), is an exhaustive and startling overview of Britain’s ‘video nasty’ panic, the ramifications of which are still felt today.

THIS BOOK ISN’T an encyclopaedia of contentious films or an attempt to discuss every video that has had a run-in with the law or the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC). Cannibal Error is primarily a chronicle of video culture in Britain, and of political anti-film propaganda from the late seventies through to the end of the millennium. A substantial part deals with the Video Recordings Act 1984 and the so-called ‘video nasties’. It was during this turbulent era — to paraphrase the little boy in one ‘banned’ film, Shogun Assassin — that everything changed forever.

The original edition was published as See No Evil: Banned Films and Video Controversy (Headpress, 2000). It concluded with the retirement of BBFC director James Ferman, a figure unpopular with filmmakers (he kept cutting their films) and later out of sorts with members of the British government and arguably the Board itself. In revising the book, the authors have stuck with the original framework and not diffused what, in hindsight, is a solid time-capsule of a key period of film and socio-political culture in Britain. Without Ferman the narrative changes and the ‘video nasties’ become another story. However, the inclusion of new material, notably the appendix, offers an insight into the Board today and a timely reflection on attitudes towards this volatile era. […]

PREFACE
A Note on Film Titles | Acknowledgements | Why ‘Cannibal Error’?

BEGINNINGS: ‘TIME MARCHES ON!’

UNEASE: ‘AN ORGY OF COMMERCIALISM’

CLAMPDOWN: ‘PRIVATELY FUNDED BY INDIVIDUALS AND CHURCHES’

SIEGE: ‘DRAINING THE BLOOD OF THE INNOCENT!’

BLACK MARKET & PIRATES: ‘HARD TO FIND RARITIES’

THE BIG INFLUENCE: ‘WHO SUPPORTS VIOLENT FILMS NOW?’

SEX & WRECKS: ‘AT THE LEAST PROVOCATION’

THE DPP39: ‘SCENES OF EXTREME AND EXPLICIT VIOLENCE’

APPENDIX
A miscellany of rejected video works, 1990–Present
Two interviews with independent video distributors
Two interviews with the B B F C
Anatomy of a raid
The ‘video nasties’ — Where are they now?
“You can’t run all these machines off the standard mains”
Black market mailing list

Sources: Bibliography | Periodicals | Websites
Notes
Index

  • The original, critically acclaimed edition has long been out of print;
  • Draws on the authors’ first-hand experience during the ‘video nasties’ panic;
  • Thorough examination of video controversy in Great Britain, from 1980s to the present;
  • Analysis of titles on the notorious ‘video nasties’ list, providing cast and credit details;
  • Chronicle of media reaction and press hypocrisy with regard to feature films on video;
  • Investigates supposed links between film and true crime;
  • Outrageous instances of video piracy and bootlegging;
  • Exclusive interviews, including new conversations with the BBFC for this edition; 
  • Profusely illustrated.

Title: CANNIBAL ERROR
Subtitle: Anti-Film Propaganda and the ‘Video Nasties’ Panic of the 1980s
Author: David Kerekes & David Slater
ISBN: 978-1-909394-95-7
Street Date: March 7, 2024
Category: Film / Popular Culture / Social Studies
Retail Price: UK £25.99 / US $32.95
Binding: Paperback
Size: 240mm x 171mm
Pages: 596
Illos: 450+ B&W stills and ads

As the trade paperback, except this special NO-ISBN hardback is exclusive to this website. Because it carries No ISBN number, this edition of the book is off the grid in as much as it doesn’t appear on any database, in any library, cannot be ordered through mainstream bookshops or online retailers. 

 

Reviews
Adam GrovesThe Bedlam Files
“One of the key textual resources on the “video nasties” scare that swept England in the 1980s […] The go-the-extra-mile spirit of the early pages is continued in the later ones. Included are downright jaw-dropping quotes and personal recollections by various individuals caught up in the nasties panic.”
Mike SegrettoPsychobabble
“This mammoth book must be the definitive word on the history of Video Nasties [and] might be one of the most relevant books for 2024.”
Keith StuartAuthor and Video Games Correspondant, The Guardian
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“Just received my copy of this book and it is immense! An in-depth study of early video culture and 80s horror, superbly updating one of my favourite ever books on film, See No Evil. A masterwork of video/horror history.”
Film Review
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“Brilliant overview… A superbly argued book which presents all the facts… will intrigue fans of horror movies as well as social historians.”
Kerrang!
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“Exhaustive and very, very cool”
Shivers
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“Comprehensive and informed… the authors deserve high praise.”
Fortean Times
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“Particularly interesting and relevant!”
Video Watchdog
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“Impressively researched and highly readable... a compelling piece of social history.”
The Dark Side
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“Absorbing, excellently written and researched… definitive.”
SFX
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“A disturbing and fascinating look at the peculiarity of Little England and the knee-jerk idiocy of our moral guardians.”
Psychotronic
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“Several books have been devoted to this phenomenon, but this is the most intelligent, thoroughly researched and longest.”
Empire
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“Intelligently and clearly written… likely to stand as the last word on the nasties brouhaha” [Empire pick of the books of the last three months]
BBC Radio
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“A ‘turn the page fast’ slice of history that must nestle on any film watchers shelf.”
Dutch Courier
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“A fascinating read… Excellent.”
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David Kerekes

DAVID KEREKES co-founded Headpress and its imprint Oil On Water Press. He is author of Mezzogiorno (2012) and Sex Murder Art: The Films of Jörg Buttgereit (1994), co-author of Killing for Culture: An Illustrated History of Death Film from Mondo to Snuff (1994 & 2012) and See No Evil: Banned Films and Video Controversy (2001) and has written extensively on popular culture.

David Slater

DAVID SLATER co-founded Headpress. He has worked as a technician in the electronics and engineering industries, co-authored Killing for Culture (1994 & 2016) and See No Evil: Banned Films and Video Controversy (2000) and has written several articles. His interests include movies, books, open country and forteana.

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