This was an exhibition of video cassette covers and promotional posters from the early 1980's. Many of them had been included on the Video Nasties list.
Killer Covers is a killer of an exhibition that illuminates a dark and forgotten corner of the art world. The eye-popping, stomach-churning and lurid covers of the early Video Nasties deserve an urgent exhumation and reappraisal before they all disappear.
This marvelous blood-spattered showcase provides an excellent opportunity to view some of the rarest and most infamous video covers for the first time since their arrival twenty years ago.
More! More! More!
Paul Connolly. February 2001.
Due to the controversial nature of the video covers and posters on display, we had prepared pages of text to add context to the material. We didn't want to appear to be dumping a pile of outrageous imagery in the centre of Newcastle for the sake of it. The intention was to entertain and inform rather than to shock. We included quotes from texts by several female horror film writers to distance the exhibition from the overt maleness often associated with the films represented. Newcastle Central Library was more used to displays of photographs of old Newcastle, collections of corn-dollies or amusing hats. Now it was the time to celebrate the forbidden world of the pre-certificate video and it's lurid promotional artwork. The publication of the book Art of the Nasty had elevated the pre-certificate video cover to a position worthy of further study.
We attracted the attention of several curious libary-staff as we unloaded our questionable paraphenalia. As I was positioning the poster for LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (d. Wes Craven, USA 1972), two policemen appeared, on a routine visit. I instinctively froze - flashbacks to the Dark Ages of the 1980's. A decade or so ago this would have been unthinkable. A public display of banned videos would have led to our arrest, and possible execution. But we live in a more liberal era. Some of the titles on display have since been re-released on video cassette and DVD.
As the library staff seemed interested in what was going on. We asked them to look around and see if there was anything that they thought could be problematic. They advised us to remove the cover for CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST(d. Ruggero Deodato, Italy 1980). This advice was not based on the content of the artwork nor on the nature of cannibal films. A potential problem lay with the word "holocaust". It just happened to be the run-up to Holocaust Remembrance week. To err on the side of caution I also removed the cover for ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST(d. Marino Girolami, Italy 1980).
They warned us that there was a high "old-lady" presence amongst the library's clientele. To be safe - I obscured a bare nipple on the cover of the book, Art of the Nasty . One last check revealed nothing that would upset any particular group of people. We stood back to admire our work, then retreated to the pub. Two hours later we were well into a Carlsberg session at the Free Trade. To our horror, we remembered that we had left the video cover for NIGHT OF THE ZOMBIES (d. Joel M Reed, USA 1981) in a prime position at the centre of the exhibition. A zombie in SS regalia on display in the Central Library during Holocaust week! The library was now shut - and we were dead men. Our first venture into the public gaze was going to result in a court appearance. To make matter worse, neither of us owned a suit. By coincidence, I was due a day off work two days later, and I managed to sneak in to remove the offending article - before it fell under the gaze of the eagle-eyed Mrs. Outraged of Jesmond .
At the end of the two weeks we were kind of disappointed that there had been no negative feedback. I wanted the exhibition to be entertaining and informative, but part of me also expected a small percentage of complaints due to the history of the material. All feedback was positive, or at least inquisitive. I had considered drafting a letter of complaint to the Evening Chronicle. I could have ranted about the nature of the graphics on display. In retrospect this would have been a good idea. Maybe the covers for ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST and CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST should have remained in place. Shortly after we took down the exhibition, ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST was released uncut on UK Region 2 DVD.
We had been considering a Return of the Killer Covers at some stage, but the library has recently undergone some restructuring. The front display area that we used has disappeared. Maybe a different venue, who knows? Watch this space.