32. The Toolbox Murders (1978)
Mistaken listed by the DPP as The Tallbox Murders, Dennis Donnelly’s film is some sort of sleaze classic for its first twenty minutes as a masked maniac kills the residents of a Los Angeles apartment complex with a hammer, a drill, a chisel and, most graphically, a nail gun. Then Donnelly unsuccessfully attempts to juggle a second plot strand and the film comes to a grinding halt
The first hint that the movie wouldn’t find favour among feminists came when 60 Minutes mentioned it in a piece on misogyny in the popular culture. Released in UK cinemas with two minutes of cuts to the scene where the killer cuts porn star Kelly Nichols’ bathtub masturbation short, the film appeared on video in the same BBFC sanctioned version and was banned in November 1983.
The same cut version was re-released in 2000.
31. Night Train Murders (1975)
This Italian version of Last House On The Left adheres pretty closely to the story, focusing on two young girls (including Irene Miracle, in her film debut) attacked by a trio of thugs during a train ride to Italy. The thugs are then met by the parents of one of the girls at the station, and you know what that means.
For a cheaply made imitation, the picture at least remains true to the spirit of its inspiration, juxtaposing the scummy villains (first seen assaulting a man dressed as Santa Claus) with the more sophisticated parents, who discuss totalitarianism with their intellectual friends when they’re not skirting the topic of divorce. It’s probably not as effective as Wes Craven’s movie, but it’s still a world away from House On The Edge Of The Park, another Italian imitation that made the banned list.
Alas, such sincerity failed to win over the BBFC. After being rejected for theatrical exhibition in 1976, Aldo Lado’s film appeared as an uncertified video in November 1981 and was added to the banned list in July 1983, finally receiving an uncut release in 2008.
30. Night Warning (1983)
Often mistaken for a routine slasher in the Night School tradition, this psychological thriller has more in common with Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? and doesn’t deserve to be on a list with titles like Unhinged or The Toolbox Murders.
Susan Tyrell gets the Batty Old Dame role, playing a single woman who stabs a repairman to death and forces her nephew to cover up the crime by claiming it was an attempted rape. When the police are eventually involved, a homophobic cop (Bo Svenson) uncovers evidence of a homosexual affair between the nephew and his basketball coach and becomes determined to pin the murder on one of them. All told, the movie has more depth than you’d expect from the director of How To Stuff A Wild Bikini.
There are some gory moments in the film’s second half, but nothing worthy of the two-and-a-half years this film spent on the banned list. After being dropped from the list in December 1985, the film had to wait another three decades before it became available again.
29. Evilspeak (1981)*
Clint “Brother of Ron” Howard plays Stanley Coopersmith, a bullied military cadet who discovers the diary of an excommunicated Spanish monk. Using his Apple PC to translate the diary, he unleashes a malevolent spirit that starts taking revenge on his enemies.
Evilspeak is a very silly film, never more so than when a woman is attacked by killer boars while bathing. The BBFC were unimpressed and in March 1984 (the same month that Brother Ron’s Splash was released in the US) the picture was banned as a Video Nasty.
As well as the boar attack, the censors were concerned that the devouring of entrails, a neck snapping and the numerous decapitations would somehow deprave and corrupt the audience, so when the picture was re-released in 1987, it was with nearly 4 minutes of cuts. The film wasn’t available again in its uncut form until 2004.
28. The Burning (1981)*
The Burning is a fast-and-cheap Friday The 13th rip-off, but there’s plenty of talent in the movie: the effects are by Tom Savini, which ensures gore galore, while the supporting cast includes Jason Alexander (Seinfeld), Fisher Stevens (Short Circuit) and, in her debut, The Piano’s Holly Hunter. The editor is Jack Sholder, who later directed The Hidden, and the producers are Brad Grey (The Sopranos), plus Bob and Harvey Weinstein.
Once again, a bunch of meddling kids get theirs courtesy of a barely seen psycho, this time a garden shears-wielding caretaker named Cropsey who takes revenge after being burned in a prank gone awry. Whenever Cropsey’s offscreen, though, the movie strays into Porky’s territory: the nerd watches showering starlets, jocks discuss masturbation while reading Hustler and the bully gets his comeuppance when he’s shot in the ass.
The film’s most notorious sequence is the “raft massacre”, where Cropsey takes his revenge on five teenagers with his weapon of choice – a pair of garden shears. In about a minute of screen time, throats are slit and fingers are hacked off, which led to copies of the film being confiscated under the Obscene Publications Act.
A decade later, Vipco released the film on home video but due to a previous conviction for obscenity were obliged to remove 30 seconds of footage. The film was finally released uncut in 2001.
27. The Living Dead At The Manchester Morgue (1974)
Filmed on location in England, this Spanish/Italian co-production (also known as The Living Dead, Let Sleeping Corpses Lie and Don’t Open The Window) sought to cash in Night Of The Living Dead but it’s better made than most other George Romero imitations.
The plot involves experiments with ultra-sonic radiation that cause the dead to rise and go on their usual rampage, in one sequence tearing off a nurse’s breasts and gorging themselves on her entrails. Director Jorge Grau doesn’t quite match the apocalyptic feel of George Romero’s films, though: no more than half a dozen zombies are seen throughout the film.
Withdrawn from distribution in October 1983, the film spent eighteen months on the banned list before being re-released in a version that edited out most of the gore scenes, including the attack on the nurse, an axe murder and a police officer’s mutilation. The cuts weren’t waived until the film was released on DVD in 2002.
26. Island Of Death (1975)*
Mindful of the profits being made by cheap exploitation films such as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), first time director Nico Mastorakis set out to make the most shocking film imaginable (and in the process turn a tidy profit). After completing a script in one week, he took a crew out to the Greek island of Mykonos and filmed a bizarre tale of a duo on a killing spree.
The first hint that Celia (Jane Ryall) and her brother Christopher (Robert Behling) might not playing with a full deck comes when they enjoy a moment of passion inside a phone booth – during a call to their mother, no less. Claiming to be doing the Lord’s work, they proceed to rid the island of its homosexuals, hippies and nymphomaniacs, dispatching each victim in a brutal and gory fashion.
For reasons known only to the filmmakers, Christopher also enjoys a moment of passion with a goat, after which he slays the animal and returns to his holy quest. This scene comes out of leftfield, lasts a few moments, and then is never referred to ever again, making you question its importance to the narrative.
In the UK, the theatrical print was shorn of eight minutes, and when the film appeared on video in November 1982, it wasn’t long before moral watchdogs called for it to be banned and prosecuted. The film eventually reappeared in its uncut form in 2010.
25. Cannibal Ferox (1981)*
Also known as Make Them Die Slowly, Cannibal Ferox is director Umberto Lenzi’s answer to Cannibal Holocaust as well as his attempt to claw back some credit for pioneering the cannibal subgenre with Deep River Savages (1972).
In fact, it’s pretty much Holocaust all over again with another excursion into the jungle, another native cannibal tribe and several actual animal killings performed on camera.
“They raped and killed his sister while he watched helplessly!” claimed the original US tagline. “Now it’s his turn to make them die slowly!” Nothing like this happens in the film, but that doesn’t mean that Lenzi lets his actors off lightly.
Proudly proclaiming itself “The Most Violent Film Ever Made”, Ferox features castrations, hooks being driven into a woman’s breasts and a head being sliced open, all of which resulted in a successful prosecution for obscenity. The film wasn’t reissued until 2000, when it appeared in a version minus a scene of animal cruelty.
In case you missed part I, here’s the link.
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.