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Sunderland Repository records the research produced by the University of Sunderland including practice-based research and theses.


McKenna, Mark (2017) RETHINKING THE ‘VIDEO NASTIES’: ECONOMICS, MARKETING, AND DISTRIBUTION. Doctoral thesis, University of Sunderland.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)


There are two things that most people know about the ‘video nasties.’ The first is that prior to 1984 the video industry was completely unregulated and the absence of any regulation allowed a space for immoral and disreputable elements of the businesses to thrive. The second is that a series of public complaints about the advertising used to promote the ‘video nasties’ triggered a moral panic that led to introduction of the Video Recordings Act in 1984. Neither of these statements is entirely true, but both have allowed a popular history to persist that continues to hold the independent distributor directly accountable for the events that led to a scheme of government sanctioned censorship that continues to this day. Through exploring the marketing and distribution of the ‘video nasties’, this thesis will challenge this established history and will contextualise the ‘video nasties’ within the emerging landscape of the wider home video industry. Moving beyond the explicitly social readings that have dominated these histories and that have positioned them as an explicitly British concern, this study offers a reading that considers the ‘video nasties’ as part of, and not separate from, a broader global film industry and wider industrial practice.
This will be accomplished over three sections. In the first section I will detail the established social history before reconsidering the accuracy of this narrative when it is considered alongside a previously neglected economic and technological history. This context will provide the foundation for the rest of the thesis, providing a basis that reconceptualises the ‘video nasties’ both historically and as part of wider film markets. In the second section I will return to the claims made against the promotional strategies of the early distributors and historicise this type of promotion, tracing a lineage to the ballyhoo of William Castle and the early promotions of P.T Barnum. This will provide context for a study that considers the marketing and branding of both the films and the companies that produced them, following the market through Video, DVD and Blu-ray. The final section documents the evolution of both the product and the marketplace, considering how theoretical constructs arising from film studies can help us understand the marketplace of the ‘video nasties’. The thesis is a revisionist history that reconsiders the birth of the independent video industry in the United Kingdom through the films and distributors that were marginalised and castigated.

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Depositing User: Barry Hall


Item ID: 8710

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Catalogue record

Date Deposited: 30 Jan 2018 08:37
Last Modified: 20 May 2019 12:18


Author: Mark McKenna

University Divisions

Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries


Media > Cinema and Film

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