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Video Nasties


GordonCole
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I won't go into a discussion about my topic line though those in the UK probably know about them and they do warrant a discussion for horror buffs, but just noticed a film playing tonight on TCM that has been classified as such. Namely...Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker from 1981.

Normally any film starring Jimmy McNichol would not be on my nightly list to view, but it just so happened I was reading about this film just last night in a horror periodical and it gave it a good review. Basically the implication was that it was worth seeing just for the performance of Susan Tyrell, who I will admit is always a good show and I really admired her performance in Fat City.

Wondering if anyone has already seen this film and I plan to view it since it seems to be known in UK circles as being a worthy horror extrapolation for cinema enthusiasts.

In addendum, for those not familiar with the term VN, these were films deemed too violent or gory that the UK boards did not want to fall into the hands of children so their production on video was questioned. Some were quite famous, even if only amongst horror aficianados, like Hershell Gordon Lewis' Blood Feast, Abel Ferrara's Driller Killer, and things like Faces of Death, I Spit on Your Grave, Raimi's The Evil Dead, Craven's Last House on the Left and so on. Films by directors like Andy Milligan, Jesus Franco, Umberto Lenzi, Lucio Fulci, and even things like Tobe Hooper's Eaten Alive were listed, as were Argento's Tenebrae. One film I always wanted to see but haven't, Killer Nun also made the list as did one I have seen called...naturally, Snuff.

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I've never seen this one on tonight but it sounds interesting so I'll give it a look. Unfortunately there is no content advisory on IMDB so I can't see what type of murders or nudity/ explicit scenes to expect. :( 

As for the video nasties, I'd say Cannibal Holocaust is the most famous and with good reason. Such a wonderful film.

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24 minutes ago, Gershwin fan said:

I've never seen this one on tonight but it sounds interesting so I'll give it a look. Unfortunately there is no content advisory on IMDB so I can't see what type of murders or nudity/ explicit scenes to expect. :( 

As for the video nasties, I'd say Cannibal Holocaust is the most famous and with good reason. Such a wonderful film.

Well, here's a write-up on why BBNM might have ended up a Video Nasty, and serious SPOILERS AHEAD!

 

Bo Svenson and Susan Tyrell square off in the most incredible cinematic portrait of lunacy you've probably never seen.

By JACOB KNIGHT Jun. 08, 2015

 

 
 
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Sometimes a performance blurs the line between acting and pure psychosis; a hazy gray area that is so intense in its insanity that the viewer begins to question whether or not it’s morally acceptable to witness such a filmic distillation of madness. No longer a mere feat of acting, the “character” feels more like a captured breakdown; the director knows that their camera is rolling on something straddling the chasm between genius and lunacy and refuses to yell “cut!” Isabelle Adjani in Andrzej Żuławski’s Possession comes to mind – a turn so emotionally devastating that (legend has it) the actress attempted suicide following the production’s completion. Perhaps besting them all is Susan Tyrell in Night Warning; the Fat City player erupting in a frenzy of carnal repression and bug-eyed murder as the incestuously lusting aunt at the center of William Asher’s psychosexual nightmare.

Alfred Hitchcock probably had the greatest explanation for how to create cinematic tension with his famous “bomb” speech. To paraphrase, Hitchcock differentiates between “surprise” and “suspense” by defining the audience’s knowledge of impending doom. Should a bomb that was completely unbeknownst to the viewer explode in the middle of an innocuous conversation, it’s simply a surprise – a cheap, unearned shock. If the audience witnesses this same discussion, aware that the explosive is set to go off while the oblivious Chatty Kathys babble on, it creates an unbearable sensation. We hang on every word, knowing these people are going to die, desperately wanting to alert them to the fact that dynamite is strapped to their lunch table.

Like Taxi Driver and Rolling Thunder before it, Night Warning takes this very simplistic yet effective storytelling principle to the next level and creates a bomb out of a human being. From the moment Aunt Cheryl (Tyrell) bids baby Billy’s parents adieu whilst hugging the boy tight to her breast, we know for a fact that something sinister is simmering in this seemingly bland stew. Moments later, Billy’s mother and father are completely obliterated once the brakes on their car go out, causing the vehicle to careen into the back of a construction flatbed. One of the poles being hauled smashes through the windshield and decapitates Billy’s father before the car, now attached to the back of the truck, is tossed over the side of a cliff and left to detonate. Not for a second do we doubt that Cheryl is behind this impressive feat of low budget pyrotechnics. The question is: why the hell would she want to kill the kid’s mom and dad?

Flash forward fourteen years and the answer is readily apparent: Cheryl is incestuously smitten with her nephew (now played by Jimmy McNichol), who has grown up to become quite the heartthrob high school basketball star. Via a combination of inappropriate strokes, longing gazes and Betty Boop intoning, Tyrell is all but wearing a neon sign that screams, “I wanna **** this baby boy.” It’s unnerving and icky, quickly escalating as Aunt Cheryl discovers that Billy wants the same things most archetypical jocks do: to play ball, go to college and jump into bed with his pretty, photographer girlfriend (Julia Duffy). The dynamite detonates at the end of the first act when Cheryl, rejected and beyond consolation, stabs a handyman to death after he rebuffs her advances. The scene is graphic and gut-wrenching, as Asher slows the shutter speed on his camera down to the point that we can actually see the butcher’s knife puncture the poor victim’s body. Had Peckinpah ever made an out and out slasher picture, this is probably what it would look like.

Where most movies would be content to create a rather routine mystery with Cheryl’s act of mindless violence as the jumping off point, Asher (along with screenwriters Steve Briemer, Alan Jay Glueckman and Boon Collins) instead opts to use the murder as a means to explore societal malady: namely intense homophobia. In a stroke of genius, Asher cast Buford T. Pusser himself, Bo Svenson, as the lawman tasked with investigating this heinous crime. Only Svenson’s Detective Joe Carlson isn’t buying Cheryl’s plea of self-defense against a would-be rapist for a second. All it takes is a tiny bit of digging to discover that the man she massacred was gay and secretly married to Billy’s basketball coach (Steve Eastin). In a leap of logic that can only be explained through absolute, unabashed hatred, Carlson then romantically links Billy with his newly widowed mentor. He’s uncovered a **** conspiracy that’s threatening to destroy the moral sanctimony of his peaceful town, and Carlson’s not going to quit until he outs the men as the deviant sex criminals he believes them to be.

If there’s a performance that comes close to matching Tyrell in terms of sheer concentration of crazy, it’s Svenson’s. The Swedish lug takes his usual Southern authority figure stereotype and inverts it, highlighting the ugly flipside of good ol’ boy law and order. Where Pusser Province is governed by righteousness, the iron fist of intolerance reigns o’er Carlson Country. Svenson wields the word “****” like the verbal billy club it is, creating an oral armament that deafeningly punctuates silence better than the massive revolver he carriers ever could. Carlson is a towering tyrant; a walking avatar for bigotry, and the lifetime exploitation character actor relishes every evil onscreen moment. The actor’s got ice-cold hate running through his veins, and Night Warning pulses whenever Svenson enters a scene.

There’s a distinctly intimate feel to Night Warning that’s apparent from the get go. Asher was a longtime television producer/writer/director most known for Bewitched and Beach Blanket Bingo '60s camp pictures that paired pop stars like Frankie Avalon with Disney starlets like Annette Funicello. The filmmaker peddled infinitesimal pop art, not widescreen epics. So while Night Warning is most certainly shot in 16:9, there’s a boxy claustrophobia to his frame that at first feels inept, but later reveals itself to be purposefully intrusive. Asher wants to trap you in this cramped, California abode with a maniac and the blossoming man she covets, often letting you think that there’s no chance of escape. In essence, we become one with Billy, absolutely terrified as our once loving aunt descends into the depths of psychosis, threatening to butcher everyone and everything we hold sacred. It’s an odd pairing of filmmaker and material that, on paper, probably shouldn’t work at all, but ends up playing to the longtime I Love Lucy co-conspirator’s visual comfort zone.

Yet for all of Svenson’s quippy odium and Asher’s workmanlike approach, Night Warning still belongs to Tyrell. Her insanity is almost elemental in how overblown it becomes, the actress never once going for anything resembling naturalism. This is the work of a madcap goddess who once graced the screen with the likes of Steve McQueen – channeling her inner demonic Bette Davis. Histrionics and hysterics combine into a perfect maelstrom of malevolence, hurled at both the audience and every other performer who is forced to share the frame with her. At times, you can almost sense the other actors’ awe, as this is simply an artist unleashed, working on a primal wavelength fit to smolder on Hell’s drive-in screens. In the end, Billy finds himself in the eye of a psychotic hurricane; two diseased minds meeting in the middle to create a stormfront of batshit. How Night Warning isn’t considered a classic in all horror circles remains a mystery, as it’s one of the greatest acting showcases the genre has ever produced.

Night Warning is currently hard to find, but is sometimes available via a pretty solid edition on the Code Red website, whenever Bill Olsen feels like having a few for sale.

 

 

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15 minutes ago, GordonCole said:

Well, here's a write-up on why BBNM might have ended up a Video Nasty, and serious SPOILERS AHEAD!

 

J.C. Maçek III...   Video Nasty Critic!
J.C. Maçek III
The World's Greatest Critic!!!







Nightmare Maker is one of a series of the secondary video nasties that popped on and off the list after the main original DPP list of 39. However, like many of the secondaries, Nightmare Maker (or, as it was originally known, Night Warning) has a few distinctions that make it noteworthy beyond merely its banning. For one thing, this one has been nominated, and actually won, some awards. We're not talking about an Oscar here or anything, but most film makers (or nightmare makers as the case may be) wouldn't kick a Saturn Award for best Horror Film 1982 out of bed for eating crackers (note: the film was released to theatres in early '83, though the award was granted for '82).

Another interesting thing about this film is its cast. I'm not sure how surprising it is to find a name like Bill "Game Over, man!" Paxton on the Video Nasty List, because that guy freaks out all over the map! It's also not the biggest surprise since the red sea parted to find Bo Svenson on the list, not because of any genre frequency but because the guy is so prolific, he was bound to show up somewhere. However, to find Newhart's Julia Duffynot only in one of these films, but naked in one of these films is a bit of a (pleasant) surprise. How about Kristi's brother Jimmy "Jimmy James" McNichol, Broadway Star and Academy Award Nominee Susan Tyrrell? Hell, the director (William Asher) was a multiple Emmy award nominee (and winner of one), who was married for a time to Bewitched's Elizabeth Montgomery and is currently Jenny McCarthy's Father in Law.

Video Newhart!
Another Phobic Part of...
FALL... In Love with a VIDEO NASTY!
VideoNasty!!!

  
  
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MORE Video Nasties!

Lastly, unlike many of the "Secondary" entries on the Video Nasty List (quite a few of which have been looked upon as temporary mistakes), Nightmare Makeris another one of the 14 films that are still Banned in the UK to this day!

Aside from that, Night Warning is a pretty standard slasher/ horror exploitation flick from the early 1980s with mostly mediocre acting and a standard set of themes that go back to Psycho, Carrie and all kinds of films that have imitated the like.

Years ago a young woman named Cheryl Roberts(Tyrrell) agrees to take care of her three year old nephew Billy while his parents (Gary Baxley and Kay Kimler) make a quick visit to his grandmother. Thanks to a faulty brake line (and a long crash sequence) they never make it there. Suddenly, Cheryl's care for Billy goes from temporary babysitting to raising him to adulthood.

Luckily Billy Lynch(McNichol) grows up cared for and well adjusted against a few odds, like the screws his aunt has loose. He's a basketball hero at the school and a favorite of Coach Tom Landers(Steve Eastin), much to the chagrin of rival player (and bully) Eddie (Paxton). He's even got a really hot girlfriend in Julie Linden(Duffy) and the prospect of a full scholarship to college if the rumored scout likes his playing.

It's right around this point in his life that the world is opening up before him... which is exactly where Aunt Cheryl starts to have her problems. It seems that she's taken on a much more than maternal position over Billy (whether he realizes it or not) and doesn't take at all kindly to the concept of Billy going off to college or dating or... living.

The depths of Cheryl's insanity have yet to be plumbed, but the lady still has needs. After all, her last boyfriend has been gone since... well, not too far removed from Billy's parents died. To this end, Aunt Cheryl sets her sight on the fine tuning abilities of the local TV Repairman Phil Brody (Caskey Swaim). Brody being disinterested (even with Tyrrell's naked breasts in his face), Cheryl decides to do something far nastier than sleep with the man.

Soon Detective Joe Carlson (Svenson) and Sgt. Cook (Britt Leach) are investigating Brody's murder and aren't buying Cheryl's "attempted rape" defense, even though Billy is substantiating it for her. Actually, especially because Billy is substantiating it for her. In a case of connect the character dots, we learn that TV Repairman Brody was actually sleeping with Coach Landers, which makes Billy's jealous third point on a Gay Love Triangle a more likely theory for Brody's untimely demise.

Talk about pressure. A crazy aunt, a jealous bully, a hot-seat coach, a murder mystery, a college scout on the way and everybody thinks you're gay in 1982. With all this scrutiny coming at Billy and Cheryl, you'd think it might actually slow down her insanity. Somehow the craziness soon becomes, much, much more pronounced.

Night Warning isn't a film one can easily call "predictable", even though there is no question that it's derivative. One thing that makes Night Warning surprising in places is that Aunt Cheryl is soon so crazy that there no longer really is any kind of logical flow to her actions. Writers Stephen Breimer, Alan Jay Glueckman and Boon Collins (credited on the VHS Box as "Boom Collins") push the limits of Aunt Cheryl's insanity with each passing scene, sort of like Mrs. Bates, still in her own body. This can, of course, be interesting, especially because, as a slasher villain, Susan Tyrrell does succeed in getting extremely creepy/ scary, shooting from doting sweet lady to wide-eyed complete maniac in no time at all.

This brings us to the very violent and bloody aspects of Night Warning that managed to get the damned thing banned in England! There are plenty of blood geysers here, some of which splash on naked body parts. The underlying suggestion of incest doesn't help matters either, nor does Aunt Cheryl's creative methods for keeping Billy under her control. The unsettling thing here, if one allows oneself to get that interested in this film, is the fact that just about everyone is potentially a rotten human being. Cheryl does everything she can to be that nice cookies-and-milk mom, but is really a crazy person from way, way back (and we learn that in a pretty good deal of detail). The cop that should be saving the day can't get his own bigoted prejudices against gay people out of the way long enough for a fair investigation. Even Billy himself might just have a dark side.

The only person you can be sure is trustworthy is sweet, sweet Julie/ Julia. The Ditzy Blonde role that Julia Duffy was so associated with doesn't rear her head here. Instead you've got a smart (very attractive) young woman who is nothing if not devoted to Billy and his well-being. And then she has to deal with crazy old Aunt Cheryl. Lucky her.

It's hard to really dislike this film completely, though it's not what I would call a Classic of the Genre in any way. The acting sounds like it's straight out of the rejected audition tapes bin (with a few exceptions), the blood and gore effects are fairly obvious and the scares are primarily based in Shock Value. In short, it's not all that bad, but it's most certainly not all that good either.

One of the taglines for this film was "They didn't go looking for trouble. They were just too curious. Now... They know too much to live." That has just about as much to do with the actual plot of Night Warning/ Nightmare Maker as does "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away..." It seems that just about nobody knew what to make of this film. Two Stars out of Five for Night Warning. It's not the worst thing ever made, but it's convoluted, flawed and forgettable. If not for its notorious BANNING as a UK Video Nasty, it might be forgotten indeed. As it stands it's only available on battered VHS copies that most often mispell the writers' names. But then again, there's the Julia Duffy factor. When this thing is finally released on DVD (reportedly by Code Red), I'll probably actually get it... if for no other reason than for the freeze frame feature. There are images here you can't find on the Newhart DVDs!

For some reason this post looks really weird on my screen but I assume this is the link you intended to post?

http://www.worldsgreatestcritic.com/nightmaremaker.html

Edit: Never mind. Your post looks readable for me now.

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I like both Susan Tyrell and Bo Svenson quite a bit. Tyrell is in Walter Hill's 'The Driver' with Ryan O'Neal. Very expressive face.

Bo Svenson is good in 'North Dallas Forty', (sports drama) 'Virus' (end-of-the-world Japanese epic) 'Breaking Point' (crime flick set in Toronto), and 'Portrait of a Hit Man' (with Palance and Steiger). I never particularly thought of him as 'just an exploitation star'. With his huge size, what roles should he have been cast in?

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42 minutes ago, Gershwin fan said:

For some reason this post looks really weird on my screen but I assume this is the link you intended to post?

http://www.worldsgreatestcritic.com/nightmaremaker.html

Edit: Never mind. Your post looks readable for me now.

Actually it looked normal when I first posted it but thanks for mentioning its evolution into indistinct gibberish.

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28 minutes ago, Sgt_Markoff said:

I like both Susan Tyrell and Bo Svenson quite a bit. Tyrell is in Walter Hill's 'The Driver' with Ryan O'Neal. Very expressive face.

Bo Svenson is good in 'North Dallas Forty', (sports drama) 'Virus' (end-of-the-world Japanese epic) 'Breaking Point' (crime flick set in Toronto), and 'Portrait of a Hit Man' (with Palance and Steiger). I never particularly thought of him as 'just an exploitation star'. With his huge size, what roles should he have been cast in?

Roles for Swenson? I would have cast him in films with Inger Stevens only.

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