Reliability, quality, and a reputation for great entertainment: the promotional strategies of Britain’s early video distributors, beyond the video nasties

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Abstract

By diverting attention from the video nasties, this article seeks to redress the balance, granting Britain’s first independent video distributors more scrutiny than they have yet been afforded in academic and popular writing. The article wishes neither to underplay the historical importance of the video nasties panic or the VRA nor the impact they continue to exert on Britain’s legal and cultural landscape. Instead, while recognizing that “video nasty” continues to resonate as an era-defining “cultural concept” within and beyond academia, I maintain that such a concentrated focus on this area fails to account for the wider business practices of contemporaneous video distributors, or the ways that their managing directors sought to present themselves to the new VCR-owning public in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Whereas violent horror films were widely available and were popular with British audiences, this article, by closely analyzing original advertisements, catalogues, and articles in the trade and consumer press, shows how Britain’s earliest video distributors, many of which are now solely remembered for their “highly infamous” video nasty marketing campaigns, were most often concerned with targeting a broader audience than otherwise suggested. Consequently, most would often present less reputable genres such as horror and sex films as peripheral to more palatable fare such as comedies, action movies, Hollywood classics, and family films. It was in fact commonplace for these independent companies to affect the statuses of their major competitors through the adoption of promotional strategies designed to present themselves as professional, legitimate, and catering to all tastes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-47
Number of pages15
JournalPost Script: Essays in Film and the Humanities
Volume35
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2017

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