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Robbie Parry
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Posted: 29 March 2018 at 8:51am | IP Logged | 1 post reply

I don't agree with film censorship. I don't agree because it will always be down to one person's viewpoint. I believe adults should be free to watch fictional depictions of violence, sex, etc.

A film magazine I buy had an article on British censorship of horror films in the 1930s. Founded in 1912, the British Board of Film Censors (BBFC) refused certificates for many US horror films.*

Between 1912 and 1932, there were only two certificates in the UK: "U" for Universal, suitable for all; and "A" for adult, only to be seen by those 16 and over.

There were films, such as METROPOLIS, which were edited. But the likes of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1925) and NOSFERATU (1922) were refused certification, altogether. FRANKENSTEIN (1931) arrived over here, but UK distributors cut the scene where the Monster throws the girl into the lake. DRACULA (1931) was released here, but only when it cut seven minutes of footage. 

In 2018, it's hard to imagine such things. The above films are tame by modern standards, but as someone who tries to "see into the past", I appreciate a 1925 viewer may indeed have found THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA horrifying. But should it really have been down to the opinion of ONE censor as to whether people go to see that film or not? I don't think it should have been.

Other examples in the article were bizarre. ISLAND OF LOST SOULS (1932) was banned due to blasphemous dialogue ("Do you know what it means to feel like God?"). Even Disney's 1933 seven-minute cartoon THE MAD DOCTOR was banned due to its 'horror atmosphere'.

From what I read, I believe the BBFC were very anti-horror. It seemed that way based on the historical evidence. This did concern US studio moguls. Of course, society does evolve and grow up. More certificates were added over time such as "H" for horror. Today, we have certificates such as U, 12, 15 and 18 (to name a few). And all sorts of things are released nowadays.

I smile when I think of a film being refused certification due to 'blasphemous dialogue'. Today, we hear all sorts of 'blasphemous dialogue'. And modern movies can be incredibly violent. Some may be cut or refused certification, but they seem to be the exception to the rule.

I guess, like I stated, you have to appreciate the era. I don't think any fiction should be banned unless there is an absolutely compelling reason. A CLOCKWORK ORANGE was banned from UK cinemas after some copycat violence. It was shown here in 1999, 27 years after its release. But I do like to think that adults should be able to choose what fiction they watch.

I know nothing about the MPAA, but I certainly hope their censors weren't as "scissor-happy" as us Brits were in the 1930s!


*The British Board of Film Censors exist today, but are called the British Board of Film Classification.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 29 March 2018 at 9:08am | IP Logged | 2 post reply

FRANKENSTEIN (1931) arrived over here, but UK distributors cut the scene where the Monster throws the girl into the lake.

That scene has been clipped many times over the years. But as was pointed out in one article I read, leaving it all in the minds of audience members actually made the scene WORSE. Hollywood could never have shown the horrors conjured by the imagination.

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Eric Sofer
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Posted: 29 March 2018 at 9:14am | IP Logged | 3 post reply

We are all the scariest movie makers and book writers that we could imagine. We know what scares us... we know which buttons press on which nerves most deeply... and we will terrify ourselves far more than anyone else will.

That's why "suspense" movies are much stronger than "gorefest" movies, as far as I'm concerned. When that door clicks shut in a dim, moonlit attic room, followed by a moment of silence, and then a scream... we'll horrify ourselves just plenty enough.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 29 March 2018 at 9:20am | IP Logged | 4 post reply

Hammer learned early on not to show the guy in the rubber suit until as close to the end as possible. Even the first ALIEN played to this, not letting audiences get a good look at the title monster until the finale -- where it appeared as very much a man in a rubber suit.
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Robbie Parry
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Posted: 29 March 2018 at 9:26am | IP Logged | 5 post reply

It does make sense. 

I read an interview with Gunnar Hansen, who played Leatherface in THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. He talked about how they never showed Leatherface's true face because it would never have lived up to audience expectations.

Although not the same as the Hammer and ALIEN example, you rarely see much of Michael Myers in the first HALLOWEEN. You feel the film more than you see it. Of course, later movies upped the gore content and showed us much of Myers.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 29 March 2018 at 9:45am | IP Logged | 6 post reply

I remember an interview with the directors of JAWS II, in which they boasted their film would have (paraphrasing) "more shark and more gore."

Point missed!

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Peter Martin
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Posted: 29 March 2018 at 12:04pm | IP Logged | 7 post reply

It's common misconception/misdescription that A Clockwork Orange was banned in the UK, but it was not (or at least in the sense of being banned by the censors -- the film was never refused a certificate by the BBFC or banned by some third party).

Anglophile Stanley Kubrick requested that the film be withdrawn from UK distribution (after a number of attacks in the UK were alleged to be linked to the film) and Warners acquiesced. Some have described this as a 'self-imposed ban', but it's not what I would call a ban.

Kubrick died in 1999. A few years later, the studio started talking with the Kubrick family about putting the film back out there. It was submitted for home video cerification and the BBFC gave it an 18, just as they had previously okayed it without cuts for cinema release back in 1971.

I think, in my lifetime, the BBFC have been very sensible. James Ferman used to have very little tolerance for nunchakus, because he thought they could easily be imitated in playgrounds, and for sexual violence. And I had no problem with that stance. Since Ferman, the BBFC pretty much cuts nothing.

The 1930s cuts that you mention are interesting. For the makers of Nosferatu, the British censor was the least of their problems though. Bram Stoker's widow succesfully sued for copyright infringement, closing the studio down -- and the judge involved ordered all prints to be destroyed! Which they were... apart from one, which got to the states, where the Stoker estate had somehow failed to properly register their copyright of the book (which seems very shady; since 1886 most countries have accepted that an author's work is automatically copyrighted on publication). Reportedly, all extant versions of the film stem from this single print.
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Jack Bohn
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Posted: 03 April 2018 at 7:46am | IP Logged | 8 post reply

At the beginning of March, TCM ran a morning of MGM '30s horrors, let me check:
WHITE ZOMBIE
MASK OF FU MANCHU
FREAKS
DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE

MARK OF THE VAMPIRE
DEVIL DOLL
MAD LOVE

The first four were from 1932, the last three from 1935; in between, the Motion Picture Production Code went into effect, essentially cutting offensive scenes before the studios went to the expense of filming them. When the MPAA rating system started, all films from the late '30s up were grandfathered in as "G."

(How Peter Lorre got away with what he did in Mad Love under the Code, I don't know.)


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John Popa
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Posted: 03 April 2018 at 10:06am | IP Logged | 9 post reply

Even by today's standards "Freaks" is an unnerving and powerful movie. I've always wondered how it got made all those years ago.
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Matt Hawes
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Posted: 03 April 2018 at 12:09pm | IP Logged | 10 post reply

 Peter Martin wrote:
...Reportedly, all extant versions of the film stem from this single print...

I have pointed out the case with Bram Stoker's widow's copyright battle against NOSFERATU as an example where the law to protect one work over another based on infringement went too far. I recognize and appreciate the need for copyrights,  but the world nearly lost a film classic for all time due to how strict and frankly ridiculous things can get when it comes to enforcing infringements.


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