56. Pranks (1982)
A tedious, sub-Friday The 13th slasher, Pranks was banned for a very simple reason: the cover shows a baseball bat with nails, the kind of implement that would’ve alarmed the DPP. Despite a high body count, with the killer using a different weapon each time, there’s absolutely nothing in this generic slasher that deserves anyone’s attention.
The film was released uncut in 2001, by which time co-director Stephen Carpenter had established himself as a mainstream filmmaker. After directing Soul Survivors (2001) starring Casey Affleck and Eliza Dushku, he later scripted The Man (2005) and co-created the TV series Grimm.
55. Devil Hunter (1980)*
Jess Franco returns to the banned list with another piece of Eurotrash, this time a hacked out cannibal movie made at the height of the genre’s success. From the laughably ridiculous villain (are those ping-pong balls across his eyes?) to the senseless script, you can tell Franco’s heart wasn’t in it.
In terms of sleaze, silliness and unintentional laughs, Devil Hunter is a better bet than Women Behind Bars, but don’t say we didn’t warn you.
54. Nightmares In A Damaged Brain (1981)*
Great title, shame about the film.
If nothing else, this story of a released psychiatric patient who starts to kill again resulted in one of the best anecdotes from the Video Nasties furore. During the picture’s successful prosecution for obscenity, critic Derek Malcolm was asked his opinion of the film, which he described as, “Not a classic, but well executed.” To which the judge replied, “So was the German invasion of Poland!”
Not content with banning the film, the judge also sent David Grant, who’d released an uncut version on video, to prison for eighteen months (later reduced to one year). The film finally saw release in a cut version in 2005, but it was another decade before the uncut version was unleashed in the UK.
53. Don’t Look In The Basement (1973)
Small world dept: Don’t Look In The Basement is the only writing credit for Tim Pope, who later directed The Crow: City Of Angels (1996).
There. That’s the most fun you’ll have with this dull story about lunatics that take over an asylum from S.F. Brownrigg, the man behind the equally stupefying Scum Of The Earth (1974) and Keep My Grave Open (1976). In 2015, Brownrigg’s son Tony directed a belated sequel but only insomniacs should watch them on a double bill.
52. Anthropophagous: The Beast (1980)*
Working under dozens of aliases, Joe D’Amato (born Aristide Massaccesi) directed at least 200 films before his death in 1999, and the fact that two of his productions were prosecuted for obscenity comes as something of a surprise – most of his pictures are unwatchable.
A group of tourists, stranded on a seemingly deserted Greek island, seek refuge in an old dark house with a surprise lurking in every corner. After meeting a blind girl (who rants about a man that reeks of blood) and a woman in black (who tells them to leave – what is this, Scooby Doo?), they encounter a cannibal (George Eastman), who’s been working his way through the villagers.
The film’s big set piece involves Eastman tearing a foetus (clearly a skinned rabbit) out of a pregnant woman’s womb and devouring it, which like the rest of the film’s gore isn’t particularly convincing.
That said, the scene caused British authorities to mistake Anthropophagus for a snuff movie, which was reported as “fact” on television news. It wasn’t long before the picture was withdrawn and successfully prosecuted, and when the film was reissued as The Grim Reaper in 2002, the sequence was missing in its entirety.
The movie was finally released uncut in 2015, but you’re better off seeking out Absurd, the sort-of-but-not-really sequel.
51. Axe (1974)*
An inoffensive, unremarkable thriller about a young girl who murders the escaped convicts that’ve invaded her home, Axe’s successful prosecution for obscenity remains something of a mystery. The Evil Dead, with its eye gouging and dismemberment, escaped prosecution but Axe was banned and remained unavailable in its uncut form until 2005.
Since most of the grisly violence in Frederick R Friedel’s is left offscreen, that might be due more to bad timing than anything else. Not only was the picture released in the same year as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, it played under the title California Axe Massacre to cash-in on Tobe Hooper’s film, and probably confused the censors.
50. Delirium (1979)
Directed by Peter Maris (Alien Species), Delirium is part slasher movie, part cop movie and part conspiracy movie, with a dose of vigilantism thrown in for good measure. On top of that, the trailer makes it look like a post-Vietnam thriller, with a veteran flipping out once he returns home.
You see, there’s this secret right-wing organization that employs returned veterans and has them hunt down the rapists and murderers that’ve eluded local law enforcement, which isn’t difficult because the cops mostly sit around drinking coffee. Unfortunately, one of the organization’s members (who we know is a veteran courtesy of some incredibly cheap flashbacks) is so unstable that he starts killing every woman he meets, and as the detectives follow the trail of corpses they eventually uncover the conspiracy.
Featuring death by spear, knife and pitchfork, Delirium’s casual misogyny earned it a place on the banned list in November 1983, though it later returned to video (in a heavily cut version) as Psycho Puppet. It’s not really worth seeking out.
49. Faces Of Death (1980)*
Hosted by “Dr Francis B Gross”, Faces Of Death purports to be a documentary about people who met their maker in particularly grisly ways, but while the film does feature some graphic file footage of fatal accidents, about 40% of the movie was staged.
In later years, director John Schwartz admitted adding specially shot inserts to spice up the stock footage and pointed out that one of the film’s most famous sequences – the death in the electric chair – was shot in a friend’s loft apartment. In truth, the staged footage isn’t particularly difficult for a modern viewer to spot, given the quality of the “acting” and make-up effects.
In those pre-YouTube days, though, viewers couldn’t get enough, and the movie grossed more than $30 million on a $450,000 budget, leading to several “sequels”. The film’s popularity must’ve come as a relief to Schwartz – his day job included writing TV scripts for Knight Rider and The Fall Guy.
Author Bio: When not working towards his Film Studies degree, Ethan Wilson writes about the joys of watching trash cinema. Under the name “Duane Bradley”, he wrote the bizarro novellas Sick In The Head and Second Coming, published by Comet Press.