It’s never been definitively proved, but it’s a fairly safe assumption that a lot of the so-called “video nasties” ended up on the Department of Public Prosecutions’ radar for no other reason than their titles or their packaging. The process was probably as arbitrary as this:
SCENE: the back office of a government building. Several SELF-RIGHTEOUS OLD FARTS sit around a table drinking weak tea, smoking cigarettes from long silver holders and flicking ash off the arms of their tweed jackets.
SROF 1: Well, chaps, we’ve had another haul of those new-fangled video cassette thingies and I supposed we’d better decide if they’re fit for the hoi-polloi, what?
SROF 2: Watched any of them, old boy?
SROF 1: Oh, heavens no. Can’t even work the Beta-what’s-its-name machine. Don’t think I’d want to either. Not my cup of tea at all.
SROF 3: You can tell a lot by what they’re called.
SROF 1: Quite. And by the, ahem, “art work”. Right then, we’ve got quite a few with the word ‘Cannibal’ in them. Any thoughts.
SROF 3: Filth. Ban the lot of it.
SROF 1: Good show. Add the ‘Cannibal’ ones to the list, Miss Carruthers.
MISS CARRUTHERS: Very good, sir.
SROF 1: Something called ‘The Beast in Heat’ next.
SROF 2: Wildlife documentary, is it?
SROF 1: Hardly think so, old chap. Picture of a concentration camp and a young lady in a state of undress on the cover.
SROF 3: Bad show! Thought we’d seen the last of that kind of thing when we beat the Hun. I say we ban it.
SROF 1: Quite right, too. Pop it on the list, Miss Carruthers.
MISS CARRUTHERS: Very good, sir.
SROF 1: Hmm. Something called ‘Mardi Gras Massacre’. Looks a bit bloody unpalatable this one, excusing my language, Miss Carruthers.
SROF 3: Not keen on the sound of ‘Massacre’, what?
SROF 1: Not at all. But we might have a slight problem here, chaps.
SROF 2: How so?
SROF 1: Those BBFC wallahs gave the nod to something called ‘The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’. American drivel, don’t you know? Don’t think we can ban ‘Mardi Gras Massacre’ just on the title. Damned shame, really.
SROF 3: I say, pass around the box, would you? I rather think the cover illustration pushes the boundaries somewhat.
SROF 1: Ladies present, old chap. I shall have to ask Miss Carruthers to wait outside a moment. Don’t mind at all, do you, my dear?
MISS CARRUTHERS: Not at all, sir. Thank you very much, sir. God bless you for preserving my delicate English sensibilities.
(Exeunt MISS CARRUTHERS. The video case is passed around eagerly.)
SROF 3: Oh really. Just look at this. Young woman, very revealing costume, kneeling on a bed. Kneeling, I say. Sexual pose, don’t you know? Submissiveness, what? Hands bound behind her back, terrified look on the poor dear’s face. Then we have this hooded chappie in the background, bloody great knife in his hands. Damn it, man, this is filth of the highest order. We need every copy of this seized and pulped! Bloody disgraceful, begging no-one’s pardon, no ladies present and all that.
(There is a knock at the door. TARQUIN, the junior clerk, enters.)
TARQUIN: Sorry I’m late, gents. Delayed on the Tube.
SROF 1: Apology accepted, young man. Do take a seat. We were just debating the merits of this insalubrious piece of work.
TARQUIN: ‘Mardi Gras Massacre’, eh? Watched it with some university chums last night. Pretty shoddy affair, all told. Quite laughable, really.
SROF 3: Laughable?
TARQUIN: Wooden acting, murky photography, the story’s tedious and even at less than an hour and a half it’s got more padding than a feather cushion. The effects work is just appalling. The murder scenes are tired and repetitive. You’ll spend more time with your finger on the fast-forward control than you will being outraged. If I may take the liberty, gents, the only outrage this film will cause is that you paid good money to rent it.
SROF 3: But damn it, Tarquin, look at the cover! Filth, pure filth.
TARQUIN: Oh, there’s nothing like that in the movie. True, the antagonist kills young women, but none of it is remotely believable. Really, fellows, this presents no moral danger to the masses. None whatsoever.
SROF 1: Eloquently said, Tarquin. Good show. About time we had some common sense and objectivity on this committee.
TARQUIN: Thank you, sir.
SROF 1: Now, what say we ban this piece of rancid pabulum anyway?
SROF 3: I second that!
SROF 1: Carried. Add it to the list, Miss Carruthers. (Pause) Miss Carruthers? … Miss Carruthers?