Save UK cult video distributors from BBFC regulation changes

As my fledgling blog may have suggested, I’m a big fan of Arrow Video. They have gained a worldwide reputation for releasing fantastic editions of otherwise near-impossible to find obscure horror, video nasties and other forgotten gems, all complete with hours of exclusive, in-depth features on the making or the wider impact of these films. There are a number of other labels with similar reputations based in the UK (BFI, Masters of Cinema, Shameless Entertainment, etc) that altogether make this country a great base for fans around the world to get hold of these films in the highest quality possible, without having to resort to buying poorly transferred, cheaply made releases or piracy.

One of Arrow’s most popular recent releases; The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2

However.

These filled-to-the-brim releases are possible because the BBFC exempts documentaries from being classified; thus it is usually only the films themselves that need to be examined by them on their by-the-minute fees which, as you can see on their fees calculator, means a 90 minute film costs £615+ VAT. Meanwhile, various pop acts have been making naughty music videos and performing on TV wearing less clothes than seems appropriate for the British climate. These seemingly innocuous events have summoned Mary Whitehouse from the grave who has instructed the Department of Culture, Media & Sport that these antics are going to ruin the lives of the children of the country, and also that parents are physically incapable of turning the channel if their fragile-minded cherubs are in the room. Therefore, the only suitable option that remains is to change the legislation allowing this disgusting material to be distributed without censorship; that the BBFC’s government-supplied regulations must now apply to material classified as ‘documentary’.

Literally the devil*

Back to the original point, this new legislation will mean that the likes of Arrow Video will have to submit and pay for classification of every one of the extra features, tallying up a bill probably 3 or more times that of the current guidelines. The much-publicised example comes from Nucleus Films who released an incredible 3 DVD set of Jake West’s equally brilliant documentary Video Nasties: The Definite Guide. Containing original trailers for every ‘Video Nasty’, these alone were submitted & classified as an 18 by the BBFC, but the hours of documentary content all passed as exempt. Under the new regulations, Nucleus Films’ Marc Morris has explicitly stated that they couldn’t re-release this set as the classification would cost them around £7,000. These specialist labels don’t work on great profit margins, so multiplying their classification costs in this way will mean they may find themselves left with three options;

1) Close the doors and give up.

2) Massively increase the price of the packages and probably go out of business when no-one buys them.

3) Forego the extra features that made them famous in the first place.

Meanwhile, the TV shows and pop artists this change is supposed to be clamping down on will continue their risqué broadcasts because the incurred fees will be a drop in the ocean for the companies involved, and I personally think there are barely any performances or videos that would warrant more than a 12A, probably rarely above a PG, meaning they ultimately wouldn’t be restricted at all. I don’t think that these labels are being directly targeted, more being completely ignored and so accidentally crushed by the clomping boots of the department that ought to be championing them for making the UK such a force in the independent home video scene.

Naturally this article has a point. There’s a formal petition online to add your name to the fast-growing list of people who disagree with these changes. I really think it is trying to fix an issue with the music and TV industries that doesn’t actually exist, not fixing it anyway, and causing massive repercussions to the home video industry in the process.

*Disclaimer: I actually like Lady Gaga for the record

Advertisements

Hell Comes to Frogtown (1988) Blu-Ray – Review

HELL_CT_FROGTOWN_3D_DUAL

Arrow Video are a label that release various horror and cult movies that would otherwise be thrown out on poorly made, heavily cut cheap releases or even never released at all, ranging from true classics like Dario Argento’s Deep Red through to bizarre, trashy 80’s fever dreams like Street Trash, with plenty of non-horror oddities inbetween such as the incomprehensible yet brilliant Forbidden Zone. They always strive to provide the best picture & sound quality available in Blu-Ray packages that are stuffed with alterate cover art, posters, booklets, behind-the-scenes archive & interview footage, giving these movies a new lease of life when other distributors could so easily have consigned them to bargain-bin releases.

Plug over, one of Arrow’s new releases is Hell Comes to Frogtown, a movie set in post-apocalyptic America where the majority of the small population is infertile, prompting a medical company to be formed with the intention of rebuilding the population. This apocalypse has for some reason lead to a largely female population, so many of the positions of power in this film are held by women. With this, the film seems to be playing with gender roles in action movies when said women aren’t throwing their clothes off for reasons barely associated with plot. It certainly feels like there’s an element of satire in these scenes though, alongside the script that has moments so hilariously atrocious it can’t be an accident in a film that is, on the whole, pretty well made. Wrestler Roddy Piper stars as Sam Hell, who is found to be a fertile prompting the medical company to take control of his genitals, whom he must accompany to rescue a group of similarly fertile women from the eponymous Frogtown, lest the chastity belt they’ve fitted him with explode. This may sound like the setup to a horrific porn movie but it is surprisingly inexplicit and a lot of fun, being much more an action movie than anything over seedy. The setup is used to showcase Roddy Piper’s ability to magnify the cheesiness of the script’s one-liners and to look cheekily at everything.

He spends 80% of his screen time with this face

He spends 80% of his screen time making this face

When we finally make it to Frogtown, the radioactive humanoid frogs are incredibly well done – it’s like Jim Henson and Martin Scorcese got extremely drunk. I read that last sentence as a compliment, but it’s up to you to take what you will from that. During the second half of the movie, the sense of deliberate ridiculousness continues with some completely out-of-place mystical babble that never comes to have any purpose, a rather unpleasant ritual mysteriously titled ‘the dance of the three snakes’ and an ever-incresing number of ‘final’ fights with a number of villains that have popped up, even for the briefest moment, earlier on. This is not a film for everyone, as from an objective point of view it is undeniably bad, but from my own personal view it is a brilliant example of a film being purely enjoyable. At it’s core the main plot points are fairly standard for an 80’s action movie but there’s enough bizarre originality to make it at least feel different and the campiness that can often make these films unbearable is used here to great effect. After everything I’ve said, it may be accidental, but even so it remains a very entertaining lesser-known 80’s action flick.

There is no image more awesome than this

There is no image more awesome than this

Arrow’s treatment here lives up to their reputation. Having never seen the film before I can’t compare it to previous transfers but I can’t imagine it has looked and sounded this good since it’s original release (low-res screenshots in this review are not taken from the Blu-Ray so don’t use them as a reference!). As always, there’s a number of in-depth extras, one looking at the brilliant creature design plus interviews and footage looking back at the general making of the film alongside essays on the film in the booklet. Sure it a smaller package than some of their more extravagant bundles (Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2) but nonetheless I’m sure this is far beyond what any previous fans of the movie could have ever hoped for. Limited to only 1000 copies, this probably won’t be available for long, so if you’re into campy, nonsensical 80’s action this is definitely worth ordering before it’s release on Monday 27th!

Film: 7/10

Blu-Ray: 8/10