Film Censorship: Dawn of the Dead (1978)-Day of the Dead (1985)


 

 

 

 

Dawn of the Dead

Directed by George Romero / 1978 / USA / IMDb

In November 1978, Dario Argento’s cut was submitted under the title ZOMBIE: DAWN OF THE DEAD. This 3252.00-meter (118:32) print was Refused Registration due to excessive violence.

Incamera Pty Ltd was the applicant.

 

In October 1979, George Romero’s DAWN OF THE DEAD cut of the film was submitted. Despite being described as a 3368.50-meter (122:47) 'soft version', it too was banned for excessive violence.

United Artists made an unsuccessful appeal to the Films Board of Review in November 1979.

The following month saw them prepare a 3338.50-meter (121:41) 'reconstructed soft version'. Again the Censorship Board refused to rate it because of 'excessive violence'.

Finally, fifteen months after its initial submission, in February 1980 it was passed with an R-rating. The classification was awarded for violence, which was described as being both frequent and high. This 'second reconstructed soft version', ran 3323.60-meters (121:09), but was further cut by 10.7-meters (00:23) to remove 'excessive violence'. This means the print that was eventually rated R ran 3312.90-meters (120:45), or 02:02 shorter than its October 1979 submission.

 

 

Here is how Cinema Papers magazine reported on the eventual R-rating. Note that they seem to have made an error in their final calculation of the cuts.

The cutting of Dawn of the Dead, however, was much more complicated. There is some confusion in that a footnote in the October 1979 listings states the film was originally submitted for censorship in November 1978 under the title Zombie - Dawn of the Dead is credited to "D.Argento/A.Cuerno, Italy" and at length 3252mtr.

Dawn of the Dead in the October 1979 listing is credited to "R.Rubenstein/Laurel Group, U.S." and running 3368.50mtr. This would suggest the complier of the censorship lists has made an error:

(i) Why would an Italian film suddenly become an American?; and
(ii) If the film had been banned at 3252m, why would it be re-submitted at the longer length of 3368.50m?

Anyway, after being banned in October 1979, an appeal was lodged in November 1979; it was rejected. A new version at 3338.50m was re-submitted in December 1979, but rejected. Cut once more, and now only 3323.50m, the film was passed "R" in February 1980, but only after an additional 10.7m was deleted. So the final version runs 3302.9m, or 2mins 20secs shorter than the original.

 

In retrospect, this is not as confusing as it looks. We now know that Dario Argento edited a shorter version for the European market, while George Romero produced a longer one for the U.S. It looks like Australia was set to have Argento's cut, only for it to be later replaced by Romero's.

Movie-Censorship has a comparison between Argento's European cut and Romero's US theatrical version.

 

 

DAWN OF THE DEAD: Censored theatrical version

Mark Savage had the misfortune of viewing the cut version of DAWN OF THE DEAD at Melbourne's Palace cinema. Here he remembers some of the missing scenes.

So, what was missing from the Australian cut of "Dawn"?

* The exploding head
* The basement zombies enthusiastically ripping into flesh
* The helicopter zombie getting the top of his head lopped off
* Tom Savini burying a machete in a zombie's head after saying: "Say goodbye, creep!"
* "Flyboy" being attacked and bitten in the elevator
* Zombies ripping intestines from a biker's belly

Shall I go on?

I sat in the mostly empty The Palace theatre on that Thursday afternoon feeling so angry and disappointed that I wanted to, quite literally, kill the Australian censors.

Image courtesy of moviemem.com

 

Dawn of the Dead (1978) - United Artists [au] One sheet posterDawn of the Dead (1978) - United Artists [au] Press sheet 1Dawn of the Dead (1978) - United Artists [au] Press sheet 2

 

The Australian press sheet offers an unlikely promotion suggestion.

EXPLOITATION
SPORTING GOODS STORE WINDOW
Many of the sequences in DAWN OF THE DEAD show the participants protecting themselves by staving off a group of zombies. They utilize paraphernalia they discovered in a sporting goods store in the shopping mall where they are surrounded. Arrange with local sporting goods shop to display some of the stills from the feature along with hunting rifles, survival kits, camping equipment. etc.

 

 

Australian video releases

In March 1983, a 90-minute tape under the title ZOMBIE: DAWN OF THE DEAD was banned because of violence, which was described as being:

Frequency: Frequent
Explicitness/Intensity: High
Purpose: Gratuitous

Risis Ethnic Video was the applicant. It would appear that this was an imported tape.

 

 

An uncut version of DAWN OF THE DEAD finally received an R-rating in June 1985. It was awarded for violence, which was said to be:
Frequency: Frequent
Explicitness/Intensity: Medium
Purpose: Gratuitous

CBS/Fox Video released the 125-minute tape with two different covers, one of which drew attention to the fact that it was the 'Uncut Version'. Both are now highly sought after by Australian video collectors.

 

Dawn of the Dead (1978) - CBS/Fox Video [au] VHS 1Dawn of the Dead (1978) - CBS/Fox Video [au] VHS 2

 

 

DAWN OF THE DEAD became one of the many tapes that were 'Banned in Queensland' during the mid to late 1980s. Both CBS/Fox releases are very rare, however their value would no doubt increase if you were to find one with an intact sticker.  

 

Dawn of the Dead (1978) - CBS/Fox Video [au] VHS 1 with 'Banned in Queensland' sticker 'Banned in Queensland' sticker on Dawn of the Dead (1978) - CBS/Fox Video [au] VHS 1

 

 

A 'no name' label VHS of DAWN OF THE DEAD was released around 1999/2000. Thanks to Craig P. for confirming that it actually ran 139m, and not the 126m listed on the cover. This indicates that it was a dub of the US DVD or laser disc. The R18+ (High level violence, Adult themes, Frequent coarse language) rating on the cover is fake.

 

Dawn of the Dead (1978) - No Name Label [au] VHS


 

Australian DVD releases

DAWN OF THE DEAD made its Australian DVD debut in August 2004, on the Umbrella Entertainment label. This particular release ran 126:59, and was classified R18+ (Medium level violence) in July 2004.

In May 2006, Umbrella Entertainment released the film once more as part of a box set titled TRILOGY OF THE DEAD. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and DAY OF THE DEAD were also included.

In October 2008, Umbrella Entertainment released DAWN OF THE DEAD as part of a box set called THE GEORGE A. ROMERO COLLECTION. It included THE CRAZIES and MARTIN.

DAWN OF THE DEAD: EXTENDED VERSION was rated R18+ (Blood and gore, High impact horror violence) in June 2009. Umbrella Entertainment released this 328m DVD in August 2009 as the ULTIMATE EDITION. As well as Romero's 128m and 139m versions, it also contains Argento's shorter cut. This was the version that was first banned by the Australian censors back in November 1978 under the title ZOMBIE: DAWN OF THE DEAD.

In September 2010, Umbrella Entertainment released DAWN OF THE DEAD on Blu-ray.

 

Dawn of the Dead (1978) - Umbrella Entertainment [au] DVD 1Dawn of the Dead (1978) - Umbrella Entertainment [au] DVD 2Dawn of the Dead (1978) - Umbrella Entertainment [au] DVD 3Dawn of the Dead (1978) - Umbrella Entertainment [au] DVD 4Dawn of the Dead (1978) - Umbrella Entertainment [au] DVD 5Dawn of the Dead (1978) - Umbrella Entertainment [au] Blu-ray


 

 

 

 

Day of the Dead

Directed by George Romero / 1985 / USA / IMDb

Like its predecessor, Romero's DAY OF THE DEAD also ran into problems with our censors.

February 1986 saw Hoyts Distribution have a 102m 35mm print Refused Registration. The reason given was violence, which was described as:
Frequency: Frequent
Explicitness/Intensity: High
Purpose: Gratuitous.

There does not seem to be any record of this having been censored, so presumably a theatrical release never took place.

 

April 1986 saw the censors pass the documentary SCREAM GREATS VOLUME 1: TOM SAVINI with an R-rating. This contained just about all of the most graphic violence from DAY OF THE DEAD. See our separate database entry for more information.

 

June 1986 saw DAY OF THE DEAD banned again. CBS/Fox Video had the 102m 35mm print again Refused Registration for violence, which was again described as:
Frequency: Frequent
Explicitness/Intensity: High
Purpose: Gratuitous.

 

 

1988: Finally R-rated

A fully uncut 97m videotape was finally passed with an R18+ rating in November 1988. Now the violence was described as being:
Frequency: Frequent
Explicitness/Intensity: Medium
Purpose: Gratuitous
Other: Graphic Horror.

Roadshow Home Video released DAY OF THE DEAD soon after on tape on their Premiere Video label with a cover that utilised an image from the 1985 film RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD. It also proudly states 'Banned in Queensland'. This would have been one of the last titles to sport such advertising. The Goss Labor Government came to power in late 1989, and Queensland's Films Board of Review (in place since 1974), was soon abandoned.

 

According to Rod Williams at the CHOPPING LIST site.

The Australian OFLC had intended a cut version to be released, according to a letter John Dickie sent to me in the 1990s. However, the full uncut version was put out on VHS rental by the Premier label, much to the delight of horror fans.

 

Day of the Dead (1985) - Premiere Home Video [au] VHS

 

 

Sell-through release

During the late 90s, DAY OF THE DEAD was re-released on VHS by a 'no name' label. The new consumer advice of 'High level violence, coarse language, Adult themes' was incorrect as the tape was not resubmitted to the OFLC.

 

Day of the Dead (1985) - No Name Label [au] VHS

 

 

Australian DVD Releases

Force Video gave DAY OF THE DEAD a DVD release in 2001. Despite the R18+ (High level violence) rating on the cover, it does not look as though it had been re-submitted to the Classification Board.

 

A second disc appeared in 2006 as part of Umbrella Entertainment's TRILOGY OF THE DEAD box set. It also included NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978).

 

Umbrella Entertainment had a DVD of DAY OF THE DEAD passed with an R18+ (High Level Horror Violence, Blood and Gore) rating in March 2007. It was released the following month.

In September 2010, Umbrella Entertainment released DAY OF THE DEAD on Blu-ray.

 

 

Day of the Dead (1985) - Force Video [au] DVDDay of the Dead (1985) - Umbrella Entertainment [au] DVD 1Day of the Dead (1985) - Umbrella Entertainment [au] DVD 2Day of the Dead (1985) - Umbrella Entertainment [au] DVD 3Day of the Dead (1985) - Umbrella Entertainment [au] Blu-ray


 

 

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