Jan 25, 2015

Contraband - Italian Video memories in Norway

Growing up in Norway through the 90s was a trying time for us horror and exploitation geeks. Being interested in movies from an early age, me and a friend spent our weekends and afternoons watching action movies from Steven Segal epics to the ultra violent HK cinema of John Woo. Unknown to us at that time was that Norwegian film distributors usually cut the prints of these films, so we saw many of them in butchered versions.
Norway had the annoying habit of cutting, censoring and banning films all the way up to 2004, when all films rated 18 were allowed to be shown uncut.

We were lucky enough to have parents who would let us rent or purchase films that was rated 18 at the time, encouraging our love for action films and cinema in general. Having seen a couple of Stephen King films at the time (Pet Cemetery, It, The Shining) we knew we liked horror movies, but the turn of the tide got serious when we found a used copy of John Carpenter's Halloween at the thrift store we used to buy movies at. My mother actively tried to hinder us in watching the film, as we were only about 13 years old, but to no use of course.The film scared the living shit out of us, I remember having trouble sleeping after seeing it! Powerful stuff. After seeing Halloween we started searching out more and more horror films, we even got one of my mom's co workers to buy Texas Chainsaw Massacre for us on a business trip to London, as the film was banned in Norway at the time. Wow that was insane to watch the first time, knowing it was illegal in Norway!

Around 98-99 we started lurking about this so called internet my friend had on his computer, discovering more and more horror films, checking out small soundclips from the films and still images. We read about the terrors of Italian cinema and got somewhat depressed about being unable to get our hands on the films.

Just when we thought all hope was lost we stumbled across a film we've been reading a lot about; Lucio Fulci's The Beyond, at our thrift store. The VHS proclaimed it was the full uncut version of the Italian masterpiece. In an extreme fit of joy we had to argue with the guy behind the counter for 15 minutes to let us purchase the damn thing. He told us how extreme the film was, “not you typical horror fare” and basically illegal in Norway. He relented at long last, threatening to kick our asses if he got our angry parents down in the store for selling us the film.
And it was expensive too! It cost us around 60 USD, witch was basically all the money both of us had. At least the tape was brand new!

That night we had a ton of candy, chips and soda, dimmed the lights and fried up the VCR. We were MINDBLOWN! Neither of us had ever seen anything so gory, violent or weird, the soundtrack sounded so strange from the stuff we were used to see, the plot was fleeting, the thing was dubbed and holy crap it was sooo violent. The opening scene with Schweick being crucified and has acid poured over his face was the culmination in our minds of everything we'd been wanting to see! We were hooked, we watched it over and over again, pausing to study the insane effects of Gianneto De Rossi and marvel at the bloodshed.

We both joined a local filmclub at the time, trying to expand our horizons and hoping to find likeminded people but to no avail, only midthirties arthouse freaks and opinionated fans of modern film lurked the club. We were the youngest members of the club, 14 years old, and the club had a strict 18 policy, have to thank my mom again for letting us do all this crazy shit haha. Our greatest moment in the club was during a two day filmclass, when we asked the speaker to include horror and gore in his lecture on film history, he agreed and asked us to find a scene he could use to illustrate the point. We chose the final feeding scene from Romero's Day of the Dead. Most of the adult members of the club actually left the auditorium during our little presentation of what we loved most in cinema history.

As if fate wanted it, or some unknown force willing it, the thrift we used to hang out in got in more and more Fulci films on VHS. Bigboxes and Uncut too, we were in gore heaven! The lady working at the store used to let us come behind the counter where she had a shelf of horror films she refused to put out in the store, deeming the to gory or nasty (and she still does!). Me and my friend had first pick of these films and found masterpieces like House by the Cemetery, City of the Living Dead, New York Ripper and Cannibal Ferox! Holy crap, the VHS cover of New York Ripper from Cosa Nostra featured a full cover image of one of the helpless victims getting her face shredded with a razor blade! Who wouldn't want to see that film?

I remember my friend being besides himself  when he found Zombie Flesh Eaters on VHS from the shitty UK label Vipco, we were so insanley stoked on watching this film since we'd seen the infamous wooden splinter in the eye scene online, only to find out the VHS was missing nearly 17 minutes of gore! No eye splinter, no throat munching, no nothing... Damn we were disappointed that night...

My friend remodeled his whole room, printing out poor quality pictures of Fulci himself along with his favorite scenes from the movies, and we'd spend every weekend together pouring over the films again and again.My VHS copy of House by the Cemetery is permanently blurred during the scene were Freudstein decapitates the helpless babysitter with his butcher knife. I can't remember how many times we saw that scene, an slowing down the tape to study the insane special effects.

This was it it! It was now on to the films of Umberto Lenzi, Ruggero Deodato and Dario Argento, to find more and more insane Italian gore.
Both of us remain close friends to this day, still collecting films on both DVD and VHS, but the best part of my collection is when I pull out all those bigbox Fulci films, remembering our babysteps as collector and gorehounds!
Special thanks to Michael Haugaard for all the memories!

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