The Panic Of ’83
The Daily Mail started it, of course – an article in 1983 called for the banning of videos which brought undesirable images into the home for the first time. Home entertainment was a new concept, and the Mail feared it would break up the nuclear family structure it was so desperate to cling onto.
On TV and in the press, the mentally bereft Mary Whitehouse (who censored any public arguments against her) appeared daily to champion her peculiar concept of Christian values, while the slug-like Graham Bright, a Conservative MP and publicity moth, introduced a Private Member’s Bill that was passed as the Video Recordings Act. It gave statutory powers to the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) and made it illegal to sell or supply a video that the board hadn’t examined and classified. As it cost money to get the film ‘classified’ (censored) many stopped even trying to get their films released.
The result was the wholesale banning of films in what was then the most censored country in Europe, and naturally a thriving black market for films developed. At the same time, the tragic murder of the toddler Jamie Bulger was spuriously (and ultimately, wrongly) claimed to have been inspired by the film ‘Child’s Play 3’. It was later discovered that his killers did not even own a video player.
I lived through the whole lunatic period of panic, working to comply to the BBFC rulings while I was at my film company. Some examples of the extremes of this censorship are outlined in my book ‘Film Freak’. Looking back, it was as bizarre as the ‘Satanic Child Abuse’ and ‘Paedophile’ panics that later swept the nation, when the country’s dimmest residents got hold of the wrong end of the stick and started snatching children away from innocent carers and tutors.
My mate Jake West, together with Marc Morris, have made two definitive films about this time of fear and retribution, ‘Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide 1 & 2’ should be seen by anyone interested in what happens when power is placed in the wrong hands. The second volume was released to tie in with the 30th Anniversary of the Video Recordings Act, July 1984 and limited to 6,666 individually numbered sets. Each comes with postcards featuring the DPP Section 3 cover art and Graham Humphrey’s original cover art. Actually, I’m surprised he didn’t interview me for these – I could have told him some real horror stories about what was going on…