The Video Nasties #152 – G.B.H (1983, David Kent-Watson)

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‘Bleedin’ women. No wonder there’s so many queers!’

G.B.H. is the sort of film that assumes the audience doesn’t know what GBH stands for, and so helpfully explains it underneath the title card using state of the art video graphics.

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Ah, Grievous Bodily Harm! Thanks guys.

The film itself is a vanity project for star, writer, producer and composer Cliff Twemlow. If that isn’t enough to set alarm bells ringing, what if I told you it was one of the first British films shot on videotape?

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But wait!

There’s more to G.B.H. than meets the eye. Actually, that’s not really true, but it is a genuinely heartfelt and surprisingly sincere gangster film that is full of enjoyable performances and amusing dialogue.

It starts off with some exotic shots of, ummm, Manchester. Here’s the one skyscraper!

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Here’s a piece of wasteland and a roundabout!

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If that’s too glamorous for you, then take a look at our hero, Donovan.

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Donovan is released from prison and immediately becomes a bouncer for a nightclub called The Zoo. Initially I hated Donovan, because he looks like a thug and says things like, ‘Bleedin’ women. No wonder there’s so many queers!’

He also struggles to remember his lines, which is odd because he wrote the damn film.

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But things play out unexpectedly. Instead of being one of those boring ‘hardman’ characters so common to British gangster movies, Donovan is a pretty nice guy with a sensitive side. So sensitive, in fact, that he falls in love within 24 hours of meeting Tracy.

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He’s also prone to delivering lines like, ‘This is my favourite time to become sentimental; between darkness and light,’ which makes no sense because there is no time between darkness and light. It’s one or t’other, Don.

One bizarre but very welcome character quirk is that he sleeps next to a giant teddy bear, which is the sort of mind-melting detail that separates a great movie from a The Killing Hour.

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Donovan also enjoys donning ghastly track suits that make him look like an extra from Jeeves and Wooster and going jogging in the park.

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But the best thing is that Cliff Twemlow is fully aware that he is an unlikely leading man, and has most of the characters make jokes about his age (he was fifty at the time), weight and looks.

‘You look old…too old,’ says one young lady, prompting Donovan to push her into the toilet stall and fuck her, the old romantic. When it’s over, he walks back into the bar where his friend asks what he’s been up to.

‘Just getting the feel of the place,’ replies our burly lothario, as if James Bond had failed the MI6 entry exam and become a bouncer instead.

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The Bond connection is solidified by the music, which veers wildly between your high school band playing the Bond theme and acres of jazz-funk-lounge music, all of which is objectively fantastic, and written by none other than ol’ Cliff himself.

Music was obviously a real passion for Twemlow, and barely a second of the 70 minute film goes by without one of his songs playing in the background. In fact, about half the movie is leering upskirt shots of disco dancers, giving Prom Night a run for its money in the ‘pointless disco dancing’ stakes.

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There are a million problems with the film – the editing, particularly in the last 20 minutes, is about on par with your parents’ home movies and they only seem to have one ‘punch’ sound effect, a big problem for a film where everyone is punching each other when they’re not disco dancing.

But then Cliff and Tracy fall in love, and there’s a romantic ‘walking by a fountain’ montage. Lying in bed, Cliff leans in close to Tracy and says, ‘I feel like saying something really romantic.’

‘Go ahead,’ she coos.

‘You’ve got a lovely arse.’

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It’s perfection.

Perhaps best enjoyed as a pretend docu-drama about club life in early 80s Manchester, G.B.H. never bores, never overstays its welcome and has a sense of humour about itself missing from almost every other Video Nasty.

And, if you’ll permit me to say something romantic, its got a lovely arse.

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The Video Nasties #151 – Xtro (1982, Harry Bromley Davenport)

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‘Think of that foot as your face and smile.’

It’s our first British Nasty since Inseminoid back in 1981, and guess what – it’s an Alien rip-off with weird extraterrestrial rape scenes. What was with the Brits in the early 80s that made them think that Alien was good, but needed more sexual assaults?

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The good news is that Xtro is one of the craziest, fastest paced and just plain mental movies on the Nasties. It feels for all the world like director Harry Bromley Davenport thought he would never get to make another film, and so threw literally every idea he’d ever had into this one.

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Don’t believe me? Within the first 20 minutes, we have an alien abduction, a child waking up covered up in blood, an alien landing on Earth, killing three people and impregnating a woman who then gives birth to a fully grown man.

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That’s the first twenty out the way. The alien itself looks absolutely terrific, even though it’s just someone in makeup doing a crab walk.

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It’s wisely kept in the shadows, but looks freaky in the quick shots we get of it. Things slow for a few minutes as we move to a miserable, rainy British city to follow our protagonists, the wife of the abducted man, their son and her new lover.

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The return of the husband threatens to tear the family apart, and we get some kitchen sink British drama of the sort you’d expect to see on Eastenders, only with added homicidal clowns.

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Presumably influenced by Poltergeist, toys play a big part in the film, my favourite being when the kid (who has developed alien powers – don’t ask) turns his GI Joe figure into a life size killing machine, to take revenge on the old lady who killed his snake. Are you keeping up?

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Xtro is a truly unexpected surprise, particularly as we hurtle towards the end of the Video Nasties. I’m glad I haven’t totally lost the will to live by now, and it’s all thanks to films like this, where a woman is attacked in a lift by a clown with a rubber hammer and then hung up in the bathroom to incubate alien eggs.

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The best British Nasty? Well, we still have one to go, but somehow I doubt G.B.H is going to offer up much competition…

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The Video Nasties #150 – Visiting Hours (1982, Jean-Claude Lord)

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‘Christ, you really blast them all, don’t you?

Blacks, Jews, Mexicans. You want the whole 

goddamn world to yourself?’

Say what you like about the Video Nasties, but they have it all – sex, horror and William Shatner. It’s true, Visiting Hours features The Shat in a small role as the boyfriend of tv anchor Lee Grant, a crusader for women’s rights. Her attempt to get a retrial for a battered wife draws her unwanted attention from the creepy Michael Ironside, a racist, misogynist piece of shit.

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The action starts pretty quickly, which is unfortunately the high point of the movie. Grant returns home and finds herself menaced by Ironside. Naked and covered in more gold jewellery than Mr. T, his first appearance is a real shocker, leading to a thrilling chase throughout her house. The set piece in the dumbwaiter has the sort of nightmarish intensity most slasher movies would kill for (ahhh, sorry folks), so it’s a shame that nothing else in the film even comes close to it.

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Ironside fully commits to the performance, oozing hate with such unbridled fury it’s a wonder so many women seem to fancy him, particularly when he’s decked out in that horrendous leather vest.

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But fancy him they do, leading to the nastiest scene in the movie where he makes a girl strip to her undies then runs a knife up and down her body. Of course, this being a Canadian film and not an Italian one, the filmmakers cut away just as things are about to get really unpleasant.

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Despite the presence of Hollywood stars like Shatner and Grant, the real star of the movie is the hugely likeable Linda Purl as Grant’s nurse. With Grant stuck in hospital for the bulk of the film, it’s up to Purl to carry the movie. I couldn’t figure out if she was in a lesbian relationship or not – she’s getting ready for bed and another woman flops down next to her wearing only a towel, and later she’s lying in bed nude when Purl comes home, but I think she’s meant to just be the babysitter.

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Shame, as a lesbian couple with kids would not only have been quite a progressive move for a 1982 slasher movie, but it would have added a bit more weight to the feminist themes that the movie constantly fumbles.

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Unlike more fun slashers (Halloween II, Hospital Massacre), Visiting Hours doesn’t use its setting particularly well, and by the third time that Ironside manages to sneak in past all the security (wearing more disguises than Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible) it all starts to get a bit ridiculous, culminating in a moment where Grant recognises her stalker by the sound of the bell on his gold necklace. Hey dumbass, maybe a good idea not to basically wear an alarm while you’re out stalking people.

Just a thought.

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The Video Nasties #149 – Unhinged (1982, Don Gronquist)

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‘What is the proper wine for a public execution?’

Unhinged is the cinematic equivalent of taking ketamine and then falling down a well.

It begins as it means to carry on – with a vast chasm of nothingness. After the director’s credit, the screen remains pitch black for a full fifty seconds before the movie properly starts. Seeing as how the film barely scrapes 80 minutes, I can only assume that this is a desperate ploy to boost Unhinged to a feature length running time. Oh, but I wish they hadn’t bothered.

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Unhinged follows the boring misadventures of three girls on their way to a music festival. It’s unclear what festival they’re going to, but judging from the awful psychedelic rock they play in the car, I’d venture they’re on their way back in time to Woodstock. Luckily for everyone, the car crashes (well, rolls off the road) and they wake up to find themselves in a creepy old house. I say creepy, but it’s really more of a nice stately home that you would visit whilst on holiday with your parents.

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The build up to the crash is one of the best parts of the film, as the girls drive for several minutes through attractive woodland scenery, with occasional cutaways to a helicopter shot(!). In the background, ominous rhythmic synthesiser music plays, aping John Carpenter to a respectable degree.

Then everything turns to shit.

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We get our first awkward dinner scene, and our first lengthy monologue from Marion, who lives in the mansion with her domineering mother. It’s almost impossible to pay attention during this scene, and when it ends and one of the characters says ‘The more time I spend in this joint, the less I like it,’ I find myself nodding vigorously in agreement.

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This is followed by a girl wandering in the dark for a while, then another dinner scene, another monologue and another wandering in the dark scene. The repetition is mind numbing, as time itself seems to erode around you. How long have you been watching the film? An hour? Three days? Can this really be another monologue? It’s like Mardi Gras Massacre, without the gore, boobs and propulsive disco music.

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The actresses sound like English is their second language and they’re reading the lines phonetically. Nothing makes any sense. The village doctor claims that some women have recently ‘turned up missing,’ a phrase that makes absolutely zero sense. Marion talks the girls out of walking to the village because it’s so far away. Three miles! That’s an hours walk, tops. And my goodness, turn some fucking lights on, please! Even on the DVD I watched, it’s impossible to see what’s happening most of the time.

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Eventually, the film reveals itself as a Psycho wannabe, with a voyeuristic cross dresser murdering the girls. Of course, this being the early 80s, he spies on two women showering together. Isn’t progress a wonderful thing? It’s almost worth sticking with for a great moment of herky-jerky slo mo near the end as our bland lead discovers a gruesome charnel house of body parts in the shed, but by then it’s too late.

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Instead of watching Unhinged, I would suggest the following – invite an old person round to your house, make them dinner and then switch off all the lights. At least then, while sitting in the dark in a confused and bewildered state, you’ll be able to enjoy the hearty meal you’ve made rather than simply looking at your watch and wondering what you’re doing with your life, as I did throughout Unhinged.

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The Video Nasties #148 – The Thing (1982, John Carpenter)

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‘I know you gentlemen have been through a lot, but when you find the time, I’d rather not spend the rest of this winter TIED TO THIS FUCKING COUCH!’

We’re getting near the end now, with only a few Nasties to go. 147 movies watched and reviewed, and now I’m expected to come up with some new, hot take on one of the most famous and well respected horror movies ever made?

Fuck.

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No need to. If you’re reading a blog about the Video Nasties and you’ve never seen The Thing, then you’ve been doing it all wrong. John Carpenter’s The Thing is one of the finest horror films ever made. Most people will focus on the extraordinary special effects, which still hold up to this day.

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But there’s also the masterful script and Carpenter’s direction, which expertly juggles multiple characters and maintaining a mystery as to who exactly is The Thing.

Then there’s the excellent performances, and the nerve jangling score from Ennio Morricone and Carpenter himself (along with collaborator Alan Howarth).

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So sorry gang, no new insights here. The Thing is a flat out masterpiece, and one of the darkest studio films ever made.

But then, you already knew that, didn’t you?

 

 

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