Howard Lake explores the bottom rung of video excess in the 1980s.
…Heard about it first at Tescos, sometime in the 1980s. Well, folks get kinda jaded on the nightshift – all sorts of bizarre shit going through your head come 4 A.M. on a headful of Superbrew, speed and mushrooms… we’d discuss rank stuff over on our canteen table, discuss anything, the more insane the better to take the minds off bleeding gums while you racked up the dog food aisle. Well, Al had seen it, this fucken weird shit movie, name of Animal Farm and he was laying the tale down…“birds fucking pigs, man!”, all that sorta stuff, giving it the big sales pitch and, well shit, he had our interest peaking.
And so six months or so later Upside Mick was in the pub and we were talking movies in that dissolute erudite way scuzzballs do – blahblahChainsawblahblahRipper – and it came that he had a VHS dupe of, yeh, you know, and so that’s how I got mine and so I sat back and watched the damn thing.
Of course, what had happened was the movie makers dream cum true – the perfect word of mouth hype, the best you can buy – ask John Waters about his turds. And let’s face it, we’ve all been there: where the promise suddenly arises of coming into contact with something previously out of your dominion; something truly special, that breaks taboos you know to exist, however amoral you avow to be. And, c’mon and face it: you’re a jaded kind of person, aren’t you? You seen one gangbang-triple anal-SM-uraglia squalid emissionfest and you seen ’em all, ’cause as we all know the side effect of watching porn is to increase your appetite for the stuff like three joints make you want a pizza but four says it’s extra-large with garlic bread. Them buds are pricked…bestiality? Ahh, why not?
‘Course, once you’ve seen one guy fucking a cow, one woman blowing a shetland pony, you know all you’re ever going to know, right? Okay, cross that one off the list of taboos to view and move on to…umm, what’s this? Religious penitents licking a leper’s open sores? Ahh, why not? Somewhere along this line, you could come across some so-called snuff, if you’re real lucky. And then you can cross that off, too, sit on the couch, twiddle your thumbs and go on to something worthwhile and vital…like the acquiring of a heroin habit, or taking up a career as a dominatrix catering to the peccadillos of the judiciary.
Maybe it’s something you have to get out of your system – like bedwetting or NSU – before you can settle down and stop feeling so bloody curious about life and this supposed civilisation you’re inhabiting. After all, when you know there’s people having sex with animals, when you’ve seen it – unexpurgated, no sleight of hand, in full loving colour – then that’s a whole bundle of taboos that no longer hold any fear. Taboos and their attendant fears being in many ways the primary force of control in the human neighbourhood, exposing yourself directly to one immediately reduces your response to certain types of control. It’s the ‘getting away with it’ ethos; viewing something which controlling forces deem inappropriate for you to view is a kind of victory – a pathetic, insignificant and ultimately futile and degrading one, true, but there’s still one chalked up for your side. No, quick, no – none of this ‘the revolution starts on the VCR’ schtick, puh-lease; it’s about as revolutionary as filching jelly tots from the corner shop…what matters are taboos and how they operate on us, our character, and how come viewing this stuff is against the peace – we being deadbeat Brits with no useful contribution to make and too possessed by apathy to bother taking to the streets. And instead we sit at home, take drugs and watch Animal Farm – for a laff, y’understand; we ain’t into this shit…but we’ll happily watch someone else doing it for neither love nor money (unless you know different); we’re content to watch our taboos being busted by some ‘actress’ – a cheesy queasy sleazy smile slit on her face as she ducks down to do the deed on a dog that – surely! – is Lassie. We enjoy degradation, all of us – be honest – titslicing in The New York Ripper for the guys; dickslicing in Cannibal Ferox for the gals. Degradation appeals, sells movies – yeh, we’ll buy that sucker.
So what are you thinking, sleazefiend? What are you thinking as the washed-out nth generation videotape horse-gumming sequence flickers febrile before you? Some thoughts are going through that head of yours; some confusion, distaste maybe? Maybe, who knows. What are you thinking? – getting turned on, are you? Feeling horny? Trying to remember where you left your two-sizes-too-big wellingtons? Or are you conscious of the fact that inherited genetic taboo precludes your arousal; that your brain is telling you not to respond at any level other than cerebral – after all, you’re appalled by what you’re seeing; sickened to the guts…God knows, you could be concerned for the physical well-being of those performers – herpes is a bummer, but anthrax? There’s thoughts going through, but none of them connecting any, none of them telling you anything more than that you already knew prior to making yourself comfy and pulling the tab of your brew can. You’re hoping that Animal Farm will make some kind of impact – that it’ll jolt you in some way; that it’ll add to your knowledge of the hitherto unknown somehow. And it might change you – who knows? Some folks get off good on farmyard fun and it could well be you ‘cept you never knew before, never having witnessed the finished article, as it were – don’t bother telling us though. After some lowlife put us in a US B&D contact mag we’ve quite enough time sucked up with drooling amputee freaks from Wisconsin, thankyouverymuch.
But I digress and return to that diseased VCR image; some onscreen fuck scene – boy meets girl with all the panache and verve of a Harry Novak limp-schlong special – ho-hum, seen it all before…so fast-scan to the blonde blowing the porker. Ahh, another infamous scene – remember Al expressly mentioning this bit. And you watch and maybe you find yourself vaguely weirded-out by the corkscrew wang of the hog (unless you were brought up on a farm; then you might have different feelings ’bout the whole deal); or maybe musing absent-mindedly on the human performer being dressed in the grand fuck-film heels and nylons manner – to screw a pig??? But really it ain’t such a big deal – be honest – you’d take Ilsa over this anytime wouldn’t you…at least that hasn’t got a pirated Morricone score repeated over and over endlessly alongside the whiprounds and firecracker-tampons. On you go – like Everest, “because it’s there” – and before you know it there’s that bit with the mice…
The tape I had, a VIDEORAMA release, has this scene inserted into the body of A.F. at about the threequarter point. That accursed music still plays, though from the style of the vignette it was obviously shot independent of the rest – for some reason a short called Bizarre Life comes to mind, tho’ I’m probably wrong. Anyway, this is the mice sequence and if you’ve seen it, you’ll know what transpires. I’d describe it, but already this piece is getting a tad close to site suspension, so I’ll gloss over the finer details and come back to where we’re sat watching this bewildering bondage scene focussing on degradation of a kind that would be intense were not the performers so obviously performing – again the rigorously-observed code of ‘erotic’ clothing serve to distance us from the immediacy and reality of the acts performed…that or the fact that this tape had good ol’ Needles and Pins/Slave Sex trailers upfront. Be honest – only the 100% jaded muthas sat through this bit without once feeling a jolt of something…whether it made you feel guilty afterwards is neither here nor there…and so, yes, the movie got you where it was you wanted to go in the first place. It made you react, you with the glazed-over eyes and the slack jaw; it made you shiver just a little bit. Yes, you’ll most likely be wowing ’em down at the Scum & Chancre with the full ninety-minute rundown, ’cause, well, you gotta tell someone, haven’t you? Simply must let ’em know that you, amongst all your peers, have successfully endured a close encounter with taboo and come through it sound of mind and body, confirming in yourself that through your belief that everything those in control have ordained is so much garbage; I saw it and it didn’t warp me, pal!
And, of course, it didn’t warp you, no more than you’re already warped by mutilated Lebanese corpses on CNN; a blithely smug hideously-truth-twisting press; a repressed, pleasure denying societal psyche and the other detritus in which you’re given a daily hosedown. Animal Farm, you recognise, is just another facet of everything else – two-page spread in the NOTW: “STOP THIS ANIMAL PORN FILTH”…two pages; your curiosity aroused to watch this movie as much as by this article? Anyone that eager to eliminate perversion doesn’t promote its enemy with such zeal, surely? Again, I digress and come back to you, dear viewer, just as you eject the thing from the VCR deck and hold it in your hand like some sacred relic. It is taboo and proscribed; it therefore has some kind of power as all such objects possess. But do you want it? Do you? A taboo to view, over and over again, to keep with you forever, should you so desire; a taboo-breaking artefact you’ll want to cherish forever, as long as the cops don’t call round. You’re holding moral dynamite; it could go off and corrupt and deprave at a moments notice…but you can handle it; you say: “If society treats me like a child, then possessing this makes me an adult” – how many junkies, I wonder, came from overly-strict upbringings?
But at the end of it all comes reality again. Here I am, typing this piece with the cat asleep on the ream of A4, a Wednesday afternoon…and I’VE SEEN ANIMAL FARM! Yep, that’s right, and after I finish this there’s no bovine bimbo strapped to the waterbed with sixty denier-seamed on all four legs. No, reckon I’ll go do something honestly disturbing: buy me some cigs, make a cup of tea, read the local paper, switch on the TV, watch The Wombles.
And jerk off.
After all, that’s what I’m supposed to do, isn’t it?