VIPCO: The Untold Story – 2018

Vipco the untold story

If you’re a horror film collector from the UK you’ve probably not unfamiliar with Vipco. In the untold story, you might learn something new about the time of the video nasties though. Or maybe not. I’m not from the UK myself and I think I had most of it covered in my knowledge bank already. Of course, there are always details to learn and it’s interesting to see the man himself Michael Lee talk about the heyday and about the history of the company, how it came to be and what thoughts went through his mind at the time.

I, of course, know about the video nasties era. But I’m not that closely involved in it that I have a personal relationship with it. We did have a similar time here in Sweden though and I guess that’s relatable to a great extent. The government thinks they need to censor what is “harmful for the audience” and takes on itself to act in the interest of the greater good. I think we in Sweden had the oldest movie censorship organization in the world. But it came so obsolete that the head of the department actually work to abolish it. I’m not sure how it was in the UK. But at least we don’t have any censorship in movies over here anymore.

Vipco was an early actor in the British market. Michael Lee seems to have had a great eye for what the audience really wanted. And he provided it to them. At first, as I understand it, he distributed uncensored films in VHS format. Then the Video Nasty debate came along and the movies needed to be cut. Sometimes heavily cut. But the film kept on selling. Party because of the titles themselves and the graphic cover art associated with them. It was a genius movie really and it’s debated in the documentary that Michael Lee wasn’t really interested in the movies themselves, he was interested in what was selling and what he could make money on.

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Hearing his own thoughts and memories of the past times it seems like this is a correct assumption. At least I make the same assumption when I hear what he has to say. I won’t say there’s anything wrong with that approach, we all need to make our living. But it’s kinda incredible that he could find so many titles that are regarded as classic and cult films today and release them successfully. There are many collectors to this day that seek Vipco releases for their collections. Regardless if they’re cut or not. There’s something special with this label. As I understand it, the print we’re not great and Michael Lee didn’t really understand the concept of extras when it came to the DVD market.

I’m not a big fan of extras either but at least I know that is what many collectors want. Many people god for the more expensive editions these days. The better quality and the extras make the difference. And of course, the correct screen ratio, which in the Vipco days might just be horrible pan and scan prints. We have come a long way but there’s no doubt that Vipco made history and that they’re imported part of the path that led us here.

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Tommy Snöberg Söderberg

Autodidact film scholar and music-loving thinker who reads the occasional book.

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