VIDEO NASTY MAYHEM: THE INSIDE STORY OF VIPCO / AUTHOR: JAMES SIMPSON / PUBLISHER: DARK RIVER / RELEASE DATE: NOVEMBER 18TH
The darkest time in modern British censorship history - the video nasty panic - is now fortunately remembered fondly. It was hell at the time trying to get hold of the films you wanted to see, and if they weren’t banned outright, they were often only found in heavily cut versions. Video labels sprung up everywhere, releasing anything they could get the rights for, and this book takes a look at one of the most prolific - and latterly notorious - labels, VIPCO. It’s a name every horror fan of a certain vintage will remember, and not always for the right reasons.
James Simpson has taken his love of horror films and the video age and given us the most complete history of the VIPCO label we’ve had so far. Split into various chapters chronicling the ups and downs of label boss Michael Lee’s venture, interspersed with info about the key releases. Not every film is covered, however, but the majority that were left out are not as important. The lack of Sergio Martino’s Island of Mutations (aka Island of the Fishmen, Screamers), other than a brief mention, is an obvious oversight from a personal point of view, though. Likewise, The Groove Tube is referenced in regards to its cover - if you’ve seen the offending article, you’ll know what we mean - but not given any more space. In fairness, these are nitpicking as the rest of the book is incredibly informative and entertaining.
The label’s story is told through vintage interviews and new chats the author has had with people who worked for VIPCO, and doesn’t hold back on the complaints many horror fans had about how they handled the transition to DVD (basically, the VHS versions were just transferred to disc with no enhancement or rescanning of the film elements). It’s a fair and balanced overview of the time, not bogged down with the usual hyperbole that rose-tinted glasses can often provide.
The images used are not of the highest grade, but since the majority are just video covers seen a million times before, it’s not a big deal. What shines, though, is the author’s enthusiasm and dedication to get the story of VIPCO out there. It’s a story well worth telling, and puts a new angle on the turbulent times of the early eighties compared to the countless other books and documentaries out there.
Want to know the connection between VIPCO and John Carpenter’s Halloween? How Zombie Flesh Eaters became the biggest seller? Buy the book and find out.