Ah, Sweet Nostalgia

This weekend, for various reasons, I'm mostly attempting to rationalise my extensive video collection. I'm making a big list of it all, and identifying titles I own twice (or more), which can then go up on eBay.

I have a longstanding love affair with what's known as the 'pre-cert' video tape, which is short for 'pre-certificate'. The terms refers to any tape released before the Video Recordings Act of 1984, which enforced the crazy notion that the films on Britain's video store shelves really ought to be certificated and controlled by a central censorship body. Until then, the world of video had been an untamed, maverick paradise (sorry, did I say 'paradise'? I meant 'shamefully immoral den of sin'), which clearly would not do for any right-thinking Daily Mail reader.

So when the new laws came in, literally thousands of titles vanished from UK shelves - in some cases forever, because smaller distributors couldn't afford the fee to have their films certificated. Almost overnight, a collector's market was formed. Tapes which had been commonplace were now forbidden gold.

Pre-1984, back when I was two years old (ahem, cough), I vividly remember going into my local library, which had a video rental department. I gazed up at the horror section and saw this very title blazing back down at me...


Don't Go In The House. On the cover: a woman reduced to a burnt husk, hanging from the ceiling, as someone in what looks like a bee-keeper's outfit reaches for her.

And look at the tag-line. Back then, films had killer tag-lines: "In a steel room built for revenge, they die burning... in chains". You've gotta love that ellipsis. As if dying burning isn't enough... imagine being in chains too. That would really put a crimp on the whole experience.

My jaw slackened. I'd never be allowed to watch a film like that. Not that my parents are puritans, you understand - they're very cool. But I was young, and Don't Go In The House wouldn't be entering our battleship-sized VCR any time soon. So right now, I had to be content with those lurid video sleeves. And I could always touch, imagine...

My trembling hand reached up for this horrendous charnel house of a motion picture. I studied the front cover up close, marvelling at its horrific squalor. Then turned it over and saw...


Dear mother of God - it's a woman with her hair on fire! Those hair straighteners really can be a caution. I then absorbed the blurb on the back - oh, the blurb you used to get on videos. Blurb-reading Blu-Ray buyers don't know they're born. The blurb here begins: "Danny Kohler is sick. Very sick." No kidding.

A couple of years after I gazed with unrequited bloodlust at that forbidden video box, its contents became even more out of bounds. The video nasties furore began (read an article I wrote about that here - originally printed in an SFX magazine horror special) and Don't Go In The House was no longer allowed to be seen by anyone in the UK. An over-reaction which struck freedom-loving film fans as sick. Very sick. Yet, like the Video Recordings Act which followed, it made these banned flicks all the more juicy. All the more must-see. All the more collectable. Some of them have still yet to resurface on these shores... included, I believe, Don't Go In The House.

So decades on, I take writer/director Joseph Ellison's film down from my very own shelf and love the very sight of it so much, that I have to write a whole blog-post about it. Even though I really don't have time, and most people won't be vaguely interested. You've got to have passions in life - even if it's for utterly ludicrous, low-budget obscurities like this. I've long since bought Don't Go In The House on Region 1 DVD, but the iconic video nasty will remain on my shelf. Forever a foundation block of my life.              

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13 comments:

rob said...

I only have one pre-cert video. It is a doozy though; Fulci's Zombie - otherwise known as Zombie Flesh Eaters amongst other titles.

Stop inspiring me to raid the 'bay for pre-cert horror vids you bad, bad man.

Kevin said...

Great article. Yeah, article. That was too good to be just your bog standard blog standard.

Kevin said...

*Your used in the plural sense, as in all the rest of the bloggers out there ... you know what I mean.

John Soanes said...

A chap I knew at college had (if memory serves) a pre-cert of The Exorcist, and even though we didn't have a video player in the house, he brought it with him because he didn't want to leave it at home where his parents might find it and freak out.
Thinking about it, having it this close but unattainable may have been why he asked me to join him at a midnight screening of the film at the local Odeon...
J

DavidM said...

Zombie Mary Whitehouse is going to rise from the grave and hack your fricking head off for this outrage.
Hack your head off or possibly set fire to you... in chains!

Lucy said...

Burning to death IN CHAINS is clearly worse than *merely* burning to death, you fool. I had several pre-cert vids, I put 'em on eBay, I got £25 for one. It was something about hardcore scary worms that came out the shower. Not sure what exactly cos it wasn't mine, it was a mad ex who left it behind at my place and I didn't fancy it.

Jason Arnopp said...

That, madam, will be Squirm. On the Rank/Orion label.

Lucy said...

Yes, that rings a bell. So is it rare or something? And more importantly, could I have got more than 25 smackeroonies for it?

Jason Arnopp said...

It's rare in the sense that it still doesn't seem to have come out on DVD. Despite that, though, you'd probably get about a fiver for it. So you did well.

Lucy said...

Niiiice! Someone must've really wanted it. I wonder why? the worms on the cover looked like those ones primary school kids make out of those french sausage-knitting wotsits.

Jason Arnopp said...

You mean, these worms, at the link below? They look pretty good to me.

http://www.jasonarnopp.com/images/squirm.jpg

Lucy said...

Ah, you see you think they're alright because you are a child of the pre-CGI age, being as ancient as you are ; )

What I particularly love about this pic however is the "jeering skull in slime" and the "tortured writhing". Forgot about that. Happy dayz.

Word verification: chips. I keep getting words that exist at the moment, what's up with that???

Matthew said...

I'm betting whoever bought Squirm! knows it from Mystery Science Theater 3000. If they paid that much for it instead of checking second-hand venues until they found a copy for a fiver, I'm sure they aren't exactly video nasty aficionados.