In Pictures: 20 Movies Censored For The Cinema

Published by Stickboy on November 14th, 2012

Censored cinema

No Orchids for Miss Blandish, 1948
Described by the Monthly Film Bulletin as “The most sickening display of brutality, perversion, sex and sadism ever to be shown on the screen”. This adaptation of James Hadley Chase’s pulp thriller was branded “D for Disgusting” by the film critic Dilys Powell. Having already demanded drastic revision to the original script, the BBFC found themselves apologising for having “failed to protect the public” from the potentially corrupting power of this homegrown potboiler

Censored cinema

Blackboard Jungle, 1955
Having wrestled with the “teenage rampage” issues of The Wild One, the BBFC passed this tale of an altruistic teacher attempting to reach his disillusioned students only after several minutes of cuts. Still, reports proliferated of Teddy Boy audiences being provoked into seat-slashing revelry by the sound of Rock Around the Clock. Initially viewed by the BBFC as “a most unpleasant film”, Blackboard Jungle has since become a recognised milestone in the evolution of the “teensploitation” genre

Censored cinema

Cape Fear, 1962
J Lee Thompson’s violent thriller – an early 1960s shocker which was far more groundbreaking than Martin Scorsese’s 1991 remake – put the board in the unusual position of being vilified by the tabloids for being too stringent: “161 Cuts In One Film’ declared a concerned and somewhat outraged headline in the Daily Express. But while Thompson complained and campaigned against the censor’s scissors, the then BBFC chief John Trevelyan later wrote that leading man Gregory Peck had personally approved all of his cuts

Censored cinema

Shock Corridor, 1963
Sam Fuller’s lurid tale of a sane man whose infiltration into a mental asylum drives him mad caused the BBFC’s John Trevelyan to worry that its ‘unjustified and alarmist’ tone might instigate imitative behaviour and frighten those with incarcerated relatives. Film history sometimes proves that one man’s exploitation knock-off is another man’s mouldbreaking classic: Fuller prefigures the 1960s anti-psychiatry movement as well as later films such as the Oscar-winning One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – though Shock Corridor itself was originally banned

Censored cinema

The Killing of Sister George, 1968
According to John Trevelyan, Robert Aldrich’s adaptation of Frank Marcus’s play contained “a most explicit lesbian love scene [which was] easily removable since there was no backing of dialogue or music, so we removed it”. Dissatisfied with the board’s response, the distributors took the film to individual councils, several of whom (including the GLC) chose to ignore the BBFC ban. A “modified version” was subsequently approved by the board who had “no wish to encourage film material of this kind”

Censored cinema

Trash, 1970
New York counter culture had received a sympathetic ear from the BBFC in the case of Flesh, but Paul Morrissey’s Trash fared less well, with concern about the imminent publication of the Longford report on pornography, ensuring that a film featuring scenes of transsexuals masturbating with beer bottles and attempted fellatio, all laced with a generally amoral stance on the drug scene, would never have easy passage through the BBFC. Certification for Trash was withheld until November 1972, and the film was still being cut as late as the 1990s

Censored cinema

Clockwork Orange, 1971
Stanley Kubrick’s most controversial film was adapted from Anthony Burgess’s bestselling dystopian novel about Alex, played by Malcolm McDowell, and his gang of violent “droogs” who get their thrills killing tramps and raping women. Given an X rating by the BBFC, Kubrick himself withdrew the film from British screens in 1973 and his widow has since revealed that he did so on police advice after threats were made to his family

Censored cinema

The Devils, 1971
John Whiting and Aldous Huxley provided the source material for Ken Russell’s incendiary masterpiece – a visceral account of the supposed mass possession of Ursuline nuns in 17th century France. Described by the director as “my most, indeed my only political film”, this breathtaking treatise upon “brainwashing” and the unholy marriage of church and state was cut by both the BBFC and Warner, the latter of whom still deems this rarely seen 2004 director’s cut too strong for general release

Censored cinema

Last Tango In Paris, 1972
The BBFC advised the removal of all scenes “spreading butter” in this Bernardo Bertolucci film, which starred Maria Schneider and Marlon Brando and chronicled the abusive affair between a young Parisian girl and a middle-aged US businessman. Talking to the New York Post five years ago, Schneider said: “I felt humiliated and, to be honest, I felt a little raped … I never use butter to cook any more – only olive oil.”

Censored cinema

Pink Flamingos, 1972
“Who are these people? Where do they go when the sun goes down? Isn’t there a law or something?” Trash maestro John Waters revelled in the outrageous notoriety of his midnight movies such as Female Trouble, Desperate Living and this ode to pantomime filth, which includes chicken sex and the ingestion of dog faeces. Debate still rages about the merits (or otherwise) of Pink Flamingos, which presented problems for the BBFC in relation to both possible obscenity charges and infringements of the Cinematograph Films (Animals) Act, 1937

Censored cinema

The Exorcist, 1973
Described by some as the scariest movie of all time, this William Friedkin film also became one of the highest-grossing, making $441m (£277m) worldwide. Telling the story of a girl’s demonic possession, it was banned in many parts of America and at some cinemas paramedics were reportedly called when people fainted. In Britain it was unavailable on video for 11 years from 1988 until a re-release prompted reconsideration

Censored cinema

Enter the Dragon, 1973
This mainstream martial arts hit starring Bruce Lee fell foul of the BBFC’s anxieties about violence and martial arts weaponry. After reading in Time Out magazine about the ready availability of flying stars and rice flails (nunchaku), chief censor James Ferman effectively banned such instruments from UK screens until the turn of the century, arguing that – unlike guns – these weapons could be legally purchased in the UK. Today, the film stands as testament to Lee’s extraordinary star power, and the balletic skill of his physical feats

Censored cinema

The Evil Dead, 1981
Spider-Man director Sam Raimi describes his legendary first feature as “The Three Stooges with blood and guts for custard pies”. Cut for both cinema and video release, the film nevertheless became a cause celebre during the so-called “video nasties” witch-hunt. In the wake of several successful prosecutions (and despite a couple of high-profile acquittals) The Evil Dead was effectively outlawed on video for years. This screening presents the original uncut version in all its limb-lopping gory glory

Censored cinema

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, 1984
Indie teams up with nightclub singer Willie Scott and 12-year-old sidekick Shortround to solve the mysterious disappearance of children from an Indian village. In the US, this follow-up to Spielberg’s hugely popular Raiders of the Lost Ark was credited as one of several titles which fell between the PG and R ratings, leading to the creation of the PG-13. In the UK, Temple of Doom was cut by distributors in order to achieve a family friendly certificate

Censored cinema

Crash, 1996
In the wake of sensationalist stories in the Evening Standard and Daily Mail following the comments of ill-informed politicians, the BBFC was duty bound to investigate claims that David Cronenberg’s adaptation of JG Ballard’s novel was obscene. Despite being granted a clean bill of health by the board, this extraordinary tale of modern alienation was banned by Westminster council and became the focus of a (failed) press campaign to boycott Sony

Censored cinema

Sick – The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist, 1997Three and a half minutes were cut from “two scenes showing strong sadomasochistic activity… which would be highly dangerous if copied”

Censored cinema

Irreversible, 2002
Gaspar Noé’s harrowing time-reverse shocker was reviled in some circles for its almost unwatchable rape sequence which raised complex questions about the depiction of sexual violence. Concluding that the scene was deliberately repugnant and avoided eroticisation, the BBFC passed the movie uncut, sparking now traditional press calls for the resignation of the board’s key decision makers

Censored cinema

This Is England, 2006
Shane Meadows’s brilliant coming-of-age tale follows the rites of passage of a young boy who becomes seduced by the bigotry of a racist skinhead mentor. Rated 18 by the BBFC for both profanity and racial insults, the film made headlines when director Meadows insisted that its target audience was 15 year olds who would be more than familiar with the language and situations presented

Censored cinema

The Boy In Striped Pyjamas, 2008
Based on John Boyne’s bestselling novel about the forbidden friendship between the eight-year-old son of a concentration camp commandant and a young Jewish prisoner, this bold second world war drama attempts to address an extremely disturbing real-life issue in a manner that will be acceptable to younger audiences. Rated 12A “for scenes of Holocaust threat and horror”, the film raises important questions about the classification of upsetting images for children, and the parental responsibility of advisory classification

Censored cinema

The Killer Inside Me, 2010
Despite some Crash-style calls for a ban, the BBFC passed Michael Winterbottom’s adaptation of Jim Thompson’s pulp noir novel uncut, concluding that its “portrayals of strong sexual and sadistic violence and sadomasochistic sexual behaviour … do not eroticise or endorse sexual assault or pose a credible harm risk to viewers over 18″. In the 21st century, and in the light of extensive public consultation, the BBFC now prides itself on “the principle that adults should be free to choose their own entertainment within the law”



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