This is a transcript of Darrell Buxton’s introduction to Friday’s Fright Club screening of NEKROMANTIK, screening as part of the Scalarama festival.
Tonight we’re delving into new territory, even for Fright Club. The tainted QUAD screen will never be the same after this. Our presentation this evening is disturbing and shocking, perhaps more than any other film we’ve brought before you during the past five or six years. It is of course Jorg Buttgereit’s NEKROMANTIK, which on the momentous day of June 3rd 2014 had all 71 minutes and 9 seconds of its sick, gory glory passed uncut by the British Board of Film Classification. Now we all know the BBFC has made some crazy decisions over the decades, but this one, in our favour, takes some swallowing. Fans all over Britain found it hard to actually believe the news when it was announced, and now we’ve got the previously offending, now apparently acceptable, article itself for you to watch tonight.
As the title suggests, it’s all about the n-word. One n-word anyway, and a subject every bit as taboo. Horror films have been surprisingly reluctant to, erm, embrace the concept of necrophilia – morbid 1930s classics like Universal’s THE BLACK CAT, with Boris Karloff keeping beautifully preserved female corpses on display in glass cabinets, hint at such depravity, but it is mainly in non-horror films like 1965’s THE PARTY’S OVER or 1996’s KISSED that this sickest of themes is addressed, and even then sometimes rather tangentially and ambiguously. Weirdly, countries without a major cinematic tradition have offered up key works in the necro subgenre, such as Belgium’s 1986 LUCKER and the Swiss shocker BLOODLUST aka MOSQUITO THE RAPIST from a decade earlier.
1972’s LOVE ME DEADLY was a rare overt attempt to examine the world of the necrophile – a really odd little film, very glossy and shot with all the slick production values of a typical American made for television movie, but no way was this baby getting anywhere near to a TV channel. The U.S. networks would never have stood for the content of this offering, taking a look at a beautiful woman with strange desires who actively gets involved with a hidden cult dabbling in this sordid practice. Even Britain had a go at necro, with the Sun newspaper’s regular Page 3 model Katie Orgill playing the deceased object of a young pervert’s fevered lusts in the 1989 movie LIVING DOLL – I’ll do my plug now and casually mention that LIVING DOLL is just one of the many titles that will be included in my forthcoming book, ‘Dead or Alive: British Horror Films 1980-1989’. Keep any eye out on the Fright Club Facebook page for more news on that early next year.
In the mid 80s, with horror videos causing controversy in the U.K. and sometimes further afield, oppressed viewers with access to new handheld video equipment took to making their own movies, seemingly partly in frustration that the authorities wouldn’t allow fully uncut product on to the video rental shelves and into your living room. Here in Britain a few stray amateurs picked up cameras and had a go – but in Germany during this period, there was an explosion of home movie horror. Outrageous films like Olaf Ittenbach’s THE BURNING MOON, with teeth being drilled out and severed legs tumbling from torsos, Andreas Schnass’ VIOLENT SHIT with its central psycho character Karl The Butcher Shitter, and Christoph Schlingensief’s THE GERMAN CHAINSAW MASSACRE, which features the great Udo Kier and has a plot about East Germans crossing the border, only to be turned into bratwurst and frankfurters. Many of these were amateur in the extreme, but, loaded with bloody special effects and newly unrepressed attitude, these titles became familiar on the VHS bootleg collectors market. Horror fanzines, most notably Samhain, for which I was a regular writer and contributor, carried pages of small ads in which tape traders made their wares available – if you had two video recorders linked up, a pile of blank tapes and some Jiffy bags to post them in, you were part of the scene. As well as being able to locate copies of banned and severely cut films, the keen gorehound could also dip their toes into the murky world of home-made production.
As often happens within an underground movement, amongst all the dross some startling, genuine talent emerged. Step forward, Jorg Buttgereit. Buttgereit hails from West Berlin and has been fascinated by cinema for his whole life. He made a handful of short movies while in his teens in the early 80s, and in recent years has worked on horror themed documentaries. He also directed an episode of the cult science fiction TV show Lexx in 1999. But he’s best known for four extraordinary works made between 1987 and 1993, NEKROMANTIK, DER TODESKING, SCHRAMM, and NEKROMANTIK 2. The title of his accompanying documentary all about the making of these films was entitled CORPSE-FUCKING ART, which says it all really. NEKROMANTIK caused a mini-sensation amongst us VHS bootleg fanboys when shady copies began arriving in the U.K., and at a time when the horror film in general had been neutered by the censors, what a surprise it was to see a filmmaker really go for it, intent on upsetting and disturbing even the most hardened fans. But don’t just listen to me – here’s what one of Britain’s finest newspapers, the Sunday Sport, had to say recently: “the plot of NEKROMANTIK centres around street sweeper Rob who brings home a cadaver for both he and his wife to bonk. It has never been available in the UK, being too extreme for even the ‘Video Nasties’ releases of the 1980s”. The Sport also says the film, and I quote, “was axed by censors on its release in 1987 over its corpse shagging scenes”!
I’ve not seen NEKROMANTIK for over twenty years. I do remember it vividly – it’s one of those movies that is hard to shake off once experienced – so it’ll be interesting to find out how it holds up and whether the BBFC decision to grant it a certificate is a reasonable one. That could be a talking point on our way out tonight. Who knows, maybe some enterprising distributor or DVD label will chance their arm on getting the equally out-there NEKROMANTIK 2 released and we can all come back and watch that. I’m the proud owner of a strikingly beautiful NEKROMANTIK 2 poster as well as the soundtrack CD. It would be so wonderful to see that poster hanging in the QUAD lobby and hearing the strident soundtrack pumping out one day. But for now, brace yourselves. If you’ve brought along a date tonight – living or dead – put your arm around them, snuggle up close, and prepare to enter a charnel house world that only a select few are truly aware of.
Well, I managed to get through the whole intro without mentioning Jimmy Savile once…
Our next Fright Club screening is the excellent Piers Haggard film THE BLOOD ON SATAN’S CLAW (1971). Tickets on sale soon. Keep an eye on the Facebook Page or Group for more details.