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Upon its release the BBFC has taken the unusual step of refusing outright toclassify the proposed this straight to DVD sequel on the basis that it was 'sexually violent and potentially obscene'. The ruling meant that the film could not be legally sold anywhere in the UK, effectively banning the film from landing on these shores. Justifying their decision the BBFC said that there was unacceptable material throughout the film and that no amount of cuts can remedy it for commercial release. They concluded that the thrust of the film was the 'sexual arousal of the central character at both the idea and the spectacle of the total degradation, humiliation, mutilation, torture and murder of his naked victims'. It was the first film to be banned outright for almost two years and sparked a media furore over the role of censorship in society.
Writer-director Srdjan Spasojevic's hideously lurid litany of vicious misogyny, graphic child rape and 'newborn porn' (think about it) was apparently a 'diary of our own molestation by the Serbian government.' Then why did it look like a tedious attempt to shock without even the grubby commercial honesty of torture porn such as Hostel? British censor the BBFC made 49 compulsory cuts, trimming 4 minutes 12 seconds off the original running time to give it an 18 certificate. The cuts were required 'to remove portrayals of children in a sexualised or abusive context.' Australia banned it completely. The movie was refused an 18 certificate in 2009 with BBFC director David Cook claiming 'Unlike other recent 'torture' themed horror works, such as the Saw and Hostel series, Grotesque features minimal narrative or character development and presents the audience with little more than an unrelenting and escalating scenario of humiliation, brutality and sadism.' In response the film's director and screenwriter Koji Shiraishi told reporters that he was 'delighted and flattered by this most expected reaction from the faraway country, since the film is an honest conscientious work, made sure to upset the so-called moralists.'
Lars von Trier is a diabolical provocateur, and Antichrist his most controversial movie. An already legendary Cannes press conference was more like an open assault on the director and stars Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg.
Issue was taken with the extreme imagery, that includes hardcore sex, bloody ejaculation, a clitorectomy, and a talking fox. The BBFC felt compelled to justify its uncut '18' certificate, stating that the sexual content is thematically justified and the movie is not a 'sex film', and that the self-mutilation is unlikely to 'encourage emulation or arousal'.
It may reacquaint some viewers with their lunch, however. Now that von Trier has so boldly pushed the envelope, what is next? The controversial fall-out from Borat ranged from resentful TV presenters blaming him for losing their jobs to allegations that Baron Cohen had fraudulently embroiled victims in a dishonest expose of prejudice.
The villagers of Romanian village Glod whinged that they were deceived and were portrayed as incestuous and ignorant. Two American fratboys also unsuccessfully sued. Banned all over the Arab world (except for Lebanon), the film was branded in Dubai 'vile, gross and extremely ridiculous.' The Kazak government branded it 'a concoction of bad taste and ill manners.' The Vatican - branding the film 'full of calumnies, offences, and historical and theological errors' - led the call for a global ban. Falling in behind the Holy Father were America ('deeply abhorrent'), Peru ('terrorism'), Philippines (Dan Brown compared to Hitler), Thailand (insisted on biblical quotes being inserted) and the Solomon Islands ('undermines the roots of Christianity'). Even Hanks was moved to comment the movie 'is loaded with all sorts of hooey and fun kind of scavenger-hunt-type nonsense.'
Unsurprisingly, the movie was banned in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain but the main criticism concerned its alleged anti-semitism. One key scene perceived as an example was in the dialogue of Caiaphas: 'His blood is on us and on our children!'
, a quote interpreted by some as a curse taken upon by the Jewish people. Even US Catholic bishops conceded 'it one of the most troublesome texts, relative to anti-Semitic potential, that any of us had seen in twenty-five years.' With regard to violence, although only one sentence in three of the Gospels mentions Jesus's flogging, and it is unmentioned in the fourth, the film lingers for ten minutes on Christ's flagellation. Gaspar Noe's I Stand Alone was controversial, but the director's follow-up truly stands alone in the cinema-to-annoy stakes. At the Edinburgh Film Festival Mark Kermode had to help escort out a woman who fainted during Irreversible's opening fire extinguisher to the head scene.
But, it was the 10 minute rape scene that offended most cinema-goers: Newsweek reported it was the most walked out of film in the US that year, and in the UK the BBFC released a press statement defending their uncut '18', stating the rape was not eroticised - the video release was also uncut. But, Irreversible is a film to damage your health - the opening 30 minute's bass drone mixed at the frequency to inspire nausea, and the climactic strobing required warnings on the cinema poster and DVD box.
Ichi the Killer is a wild parade of murder, mutilation and sexual violence. The BBFC were unamused, demanding 3 minutes and 15 seconds of cuts before granting it an '18' in 2002, the most cuts to an 18 rated movie since 1994. The Board took umbrage with what they called 'erotically explicit violence' which 'could have a harmful effect on certain viewers'. They stated that the violence against women 'seemed to have no function other than the pleasure of the onlooker.' As with all censorship, these cuts are debatable, but Ichi the Killer is available uncut in Japan, America, France, Australia and elsewhere, and to date has not been cited as the inspiration for any violent crime. The brickbats and praise he's receiving for Antichrist must remind Lars von Trier of the response to The Idiots.
At Cannes Mark Kermode was ejected for declaring, 'Il est merde!' At a screening, while Empire's Kim Newman awarded the movie five stars. As well as criticism over what some saw as mockery of disability, hardcore sex in an orgy scene forced the BBFC to justify releasing the film uncut. They stated the shots were justified because the orgy represented the point where the group crossed a line and began to disintegrate. The two hardcore shots were pixellated when shown on FilmFour in 2000, but shown unaltered in 2005 on Channel 4, with warnings before the film and in a commercial break before the part containing the orgy.
Calling for the film to be denied an 18 certificate, Daily Mail film critic Chris Tookey attacked it for 'the attempt by the filmmakers to eroticise mutilations and fetishise orthopaedic appliances'. UK censors the BBFC, who consulted a QC to determine whether the film contravened the Obscene Publications Act, gave it an 18 although the film was banned by Westminster Council, meaning it could not be shown in any cinema in central London. It was also banned in Chester, Cardiff and Durham. In the US, the film was released in both NC-17 and R versions. In 1994 Natural Born Killers was regarded by the UK press as the end of civilisation.
Originally intended for a winter '94 release, this was pushed back to Spring '95 after the BBFC said they needed time to consider reports of copycat violence in other countries. John Grisham attempted to sue director Oliver Stone and Warner Bros after an acquaintance was shot and paralysed by two teens who took acid, watched the film, and claimed it inspired them.
In the UK the video release was scheduled for the same week as the Dunblane Massacre. Warner Bros ultimately held the video release back two years, making it one of those rare films to have a TV airing (on Channel 5) before being available on video. When the director of The Last House on the Left walks out of your film, you know you've struck a nerve. Wes Craven ditched a screening at a festival in Barcelona, and soon Reservoir Dogs was branded the most violent film of all time by moral guardians. It isn't, but the famous ear-slicing torture of a cop had audiences fleeing before they could see the film cleverly hides any extreme imagery.
Reservoir Dogs was also embroiled in the Jamie Bulger video nasties scare, finally being released in 1995 after a three year wait. When shown on TV in 1997, Channel 4 pushed it back from 10.30pm to 11pm at, fittingly, the eleventh hour following complaints they were showing it at all.
Righteous indignation centred on the fact Aladdin and Jasmine were always unveiled, the turbaned characters were bald and all the villainous characters were Arab caricatures. The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee also slammed the words of the opening song, which led to original lyric about the film's Arabian setting ('Where they cut off your ears if they don't like your face/It's barbaric, but, hey, it's home') being censored/dubbed out and changed to 'Where it's flat and immense and the heat is intense/It's barbaric, but, hey, it's home' for subsequent video releases. 'Dallas in Wonderland' shrieked one headline, and 'Dances with Facts' another. And that came from a leaked script, so JFK was generating controversy even before it hit cinemas.
Kevin Costner and Oliver Stone are to be congratulated for getting the film made, and weathering the storm of critical protest that came from all directions. Even Jack Valenti, the head of the MPAA (the US version of the BBFC), muscled in, likening the film to Triumph of the Will as dangerous propaganda. Stone eventually released an anotated screenplay, listing all his research sources and providing counter-arguments to his critics. The judge in the case of two 10-year-old boys convicted of the murder of Liverpool toddler Jamie Bulger in 1993 speculated about a link with violent videos. The press applied his comment to the movie (among others), claiming one of the boy's fathers had rented the video and the two killers copied a scene from the film where the victim is splashed with blue paint. Despite no evidence the boys had seen the film, a moral panic ensued with The Sun demanding copies be burned and new legislation, The Amendment to the Video Recordings Act, being included in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act. A police officer was later quoted as saying: 'if you are going to link this murder to a film, you might as well link it to the Railway Children.'
'Cutting would not have made it mass appeal. Cutting it would have been the equivalent of what members of the United States government and military leaders said about the Vietnam War.
They said, 'We have to destroy Vietnam in order to save it,' and that's what I would have done to Killer Joe. To get an R rating, I would have had to destroy it in order to save it and I wasn't interested in doing that.' William Friedkin on why he refused to censor his film.
In the United States, the film received an NC-17 rating from the MPAA for 'graphic disturbing content involving violence and sexuality, and a scene of brutality.' After an unsuccessful appeal, LD Entertainment announced plans to release the film uncut with the NC-17 on July 27, 2012. On October 23, 2012, the MPAA rating was surrendered, and thus the film was released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc with the unrated version in the United States.
An edited R-rated version was also released on DVD. In the United Kingdom, the film received an 18 certificate from the BBFC, for its 'strong bloody and sadistic violence and sexual threat'. Avoiding the video nasties list solely because it wasn't released in time, The New York Ripper was for many years the bete-noir of horror films at the BBFC. Director James Ferman ordered the print escorted out of the country by Her Majesty's constabulary, at no small expense to the distributor who were expecting heavy cuts but at least something to show for it. While the violence is extreme (including eyeball and breast slicing) the effects are cheapo even by Italian exploitation standards, although for such a notorious movie, the current UK DVD release is missing a surprisingly low 19 seconds of violence. Director Lucio Fulci had two films on the Video Nasties list, The House By The Cemetery and The Beyond, now both available uncut. Perhaps the only film to be banned in Italy using a law against cruelty to guinea pigs, Cannibal Holocaust is notorious for its extreme animal cruelty (view the turtle sequence at your peril).
An influence on The Blair Witch Project, the movie is two-thirds exploitation nastiness, one-third critique on 'documentary objectivity', and is often mistaken for a real snuff film. Branded a Video Nasty in the early 80s video panic alongside classics (The Evil Dead, The Driller Killer), duffers (Terror Eyes, Evilspeak), shockers (SS Experiment Camp) and arties (Possession) on a list of 74 titles, it was finally passed in 2001 with animal cruelty and eroticised sexual violence excised. Phew, what a scorcher!
This tale of obsessive love, filled with hardcore imagery, is even more disturbing than David Cronenberg's Crash. Director Nagisa Oshima had to list the film as a French production to sneak filming under the radar, and then send the footage to France to be processed.
In Japan all prints were optically blurred as detailed depiction of naughty bits is forbidden. In Blighty it was only shown in cinema clubs until 1991, when the BBFC passed it uncut but optically altered one shot to remove the sight of a boy have his penis pulled as punishment. The film also drew flak for a staged, but still eye-watering, castration. More tea, vicar? A by-word for onscreen excess, Salo is a study of power's corrupting effects, but for many the message is lost amidst the rape, mutilation, and excrement feasting.
In 1977, BBFC head James Ferman declared the film fit for uncut and uncertifcated showings at licensed film clubs. Following a raid on an Old Compton St club, he then removed six minutes. In 1991, Sky TV submitted an uncut print to the BBFC for permission to play on-air, but were told it would never be suitable for TV showings. Following an uncut re-release by the BFI in 2000, it was screened by Film Four in 2001.
Pasolini was murdered shortly before the film's original release, and, fact fans, the excrement is chocolate, marmalade, and broken biscuits. Contrary to popular myth, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was never an official video nasty, although quite how it managed to stay off the randomly chosen list with that title is a miracle.
BBFC Director James Ferman's dislike for chain saws in movies had seen the Board reject the film for a cinema certificate in 1975, and he refused to pass it again on video in the 80s, although the film was available briefly before the video nasties panic. After Ferman retired in 1999 the film was granted an uncut '18' for home video and cinema, and at last British audiences could watch one of the most well-crafted (and surprisingly gore free) fright flicks of all time. Although the North Korean regime had been lampooned before (most notably in Team America), they didn't take kindly to the parody and threatened 'merciless' action against the USA if the film's distributor - Columbia Pictures - went ahead with the release. Soon after, computer systems of parent company Sony Pictures Entertainment were hacked by the 'Guardians of Peace', a group the FBI believes has ties to North Korea and a number of US cinema chains cancelled screenings on safety ground. However, Sony went on to make the film available on the internet and it became their most successful online movie despite mixed reviews. Michael Winner is not known for subtlety (or quality filmmaking) and Death Wish was hammered by the sophisticated press for endorsing 'anything goes' punishment on criminals. But, audiences were firmly on Bronson's side, his Paul Kersey drawing applause when gunning down various 'creeps'.
A masterpiece of considered argument next to its vicious sequel, and Jeff Goldblum's film debut (as one of the sickos invading Kersey's home), it was long unavailable on UK video. A DVD release in 2000 saw 29 seconds of cuts, but the film was awarded an uncut clean bill of health in 2006.
In 1993 Michael Winner attempted to do a 'female Death Wish' with Dirty Weekend - we wish he hadn't. William Friedkin's horror masterpiece simultaneously legitimised horror with its brilliant script, acting, and direction, and proved how powerful and divisive the genre could be. Certain British councils banned the film, leading to Exorcist Bus Trips to neighbouring counties, and Mary Whitehouse's Festival of Light handed out leaflets with a number to call if spiritually distressed after seeing the film.
BBFC head James Ferman was so adamant a video release would damage adolescent girls, the film only received a release in 1999, five months after Ferman retired. Rumours of the shoot being cursed are false, but the film did destroy Linda Blair's film career, ruinously typecasting her forever as 'The Exorcist girl'. Though frank in its sexuality and nudity, The Last Tango in Paris may have slipped past censors intact if not for the Utterly Butterly scene in which Marlon Brando's character makes love to Maria Schneider's willowy French filly in an 'unusual' manner. Brando, Schneider, Bertolucci, and other crew members were indicted on pornography charges in Italy, although acquited. In the UK, Edward Shackleton of the Salvation Army and Mary Whitehouse's Festival of Light brought a private prosecution against studio United Artists, despite the BBFC cutting the 'butter scene'. His case was dropped when it transpired that, at the time, films couldn't be prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act.
The film was passed uncut in the UK in 2000. Before Scream and Freddy Krueger, Wes Craven shocked the world with this grunge-fest, branded a video nasty in the UK. But, TLHOTL's reputation exceeds its worth - amateur acting and ill-advised comic asides destroy any tension the film generates, although the central woodland rape does chill the bone, David Hess (pictured with knife) is terrifying as Krug, and a climactic oral castration was too strong for the 2009 remake. In 2002 UK distributor Blue Underground called in Mark Kermode to argue that 16 seconds of required cuts were unjust.
After his testimony the Video Appeals Committee doubled the amount of cuts required! The film was finally passed uncut in 2008. There are troubled films, and then there is Straw Dogs. Wild man Sam Peckinpah was frequently found at the bottom of a bottle, Susan George battled with Sam over the infamous rape scene, and Dustin Hoffman claimed to have done the film for the money. Released in the same period as The Devils and A Clockwork Orange, the press lambasted it, BBFC cuts to the rape scene made it now seem like buggery, and after a brief appearance on pre-certificated video it was unavailable from 1984 to 2002. Now on shelves uncut, it can be recognised for the classic it is.
Upon release director Stanley Kubrick declared A Clockwork Orange his best made film. In the UK it was cited as the catalyst for two assaults and one gang rape, and the furore resulted in Kubrick withdrawing the film from UK distribution, citing death threats against his family as the reason. He ruthlessly enforced the unprecedented ban throughout his life, suing the London Scala cinema into bankruptcy in the early 90s when they screened it.
A large part of its controversy is due to Malcolm McDowell's charismatic performance as the psychotic Alex - what would the film have looked like if original rights owner Mick Jagger had played the part? In 2001 the film had its uncut UK TV premiere on Sky Box Office. In the late 1960s, the Hays Code, a piece of legislation dictating what American movies could and could not show, teetered on the verge of collapse.
Delivering a fatal body blow was Arthur Penn's crime epic Bonnie and Clyde, which presented hitherto unseen levels of screen violence and refused to codemn it's oh-so attractive leads. This was the first time audiences saw a gun being fired and the bullet hitting someone in the same shot, and the squibs used in the famous climax depicted the terrible effects of hot lead on human flesh. All of which made the film a smash-hit with young audiences craving a film that would sicken their parents.
In the UK it received a 'X' without any cuts. It is now a '15'.
Reaction to the film was so intense that the studio was forced to cut it from a length of about ninety minutes to just over an hour, losing classic footage - including the castration of Hercules by the freaks - forever. Such was public revulsion (the creatures cut Cleopatra's tongue out, gouged an eye and hacked her leg off reducing her to a sideshow attraction as the squawking 'human chicken') it was banned in Britain for thirty years. Apparently, it's still technically banned in certain US states. A quaint, but still enjoyable PG-rated silent movie, Pandora's Box was a scandal in its day. The story of a prostitute making a fine living moving from one benefactor to another, it shocked audiences, including the BBFC. They went so far as to remove an entire character - the lesbian Countess Geschwitz (pictured) who is enthralled by Lulu. An alternate ending also had to be shot for the British release, in which Lulu is saved by the Salvation Army rather than succumbing to Jack the Ripper's phallic blade.
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In real life Brooks was wilder than her character, admitting to a threesome with Charlie Chaplin in her autobiography. The Birth of a Nation established the feature film, cemented cinema language still being used today, and is an epic artistic achievement. It also glorifies the Ku Klux Klan as guardian angels bringing order to the South and had blacked up white actors portraying freed slaves as lustful criminals unable to resist the lure of white women. When premiered, riots broke out and civil rights groups attempted to have the film banned, blasting the view that the film only seems racist to modern eyes. Director D.W. Griffith was so hurt by the criticism, he followed the film with Intolerance, a movie intended to bring about world peace. After trailers for the film were released a social uproar occurred in Cambodia over the use of upside down Khmer lettering on the police shields.
The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts has since prohibited the film from being shown in Cambodia. Sin Chanchaya, director of the Department of Film said that the decision to ban the film had come solely based on the trailer. Chanchaya said that the Ministry had approached the film producers to edit the lettering out of the film but they had not replied by the time of the decision.
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