In October 1972, a 1417.32-meter (51:39) print of NIGHT OF FEAR was Refused Registration because of 'indecency'.
An appeal to the Films Board of Review in November 1972 saw the ban overturned and an R-rating awarded. For unknown reasons it was resubmitted in March 1973, where it was again passed with an R-rating.
The Director, Terry Bourke, and Producer, Rod Hay were the applicant in each case.
NIGHT OF FEAR went on to open at the Penthouse Theatre in King Cross in March 1973.
In February 1984, Syme Home Video had a 113m double-bill videotape of NIGHT OF FEAR and INN OF THE DAMNED passed with an M-rating. The short 113m running time indicates that only INN OF THE DAMNED was rated. We believe that NIGHT OF FEAR was never released on video in Australia.
In January 1985, the Classification Board awarded NIGHT OF FEAR, and the companion feature INN OF THE DAMNED, an M (Medium level violence, Horror theme, Low level sex scene) rating. Umbrella Entertainment released the 50:49 film on DVD soon after.
We highly recommend that you track down Umbrella Entertainment's DVD of NIGHT OF FEAR. It contains an important example of the state of Australian film censorship just after the November 1971 introduction of the R-rating.
The DVD has a number of extras of interest, including a stills gallery that contains numerous newspaper clippings that cover the censorship problems.
A commentary track moderated by Mark Hartley, with the Producer Rod Hay, and actress Carla Hoogeveen shines some light on the problems that the film had with the censors.
At 15:30 (in reference to Carla Hoogeveen's sex scene)
Producer Rod Hay: But even looking at that relatively tame scene, that scene still provoked the censors to come back and say, right, sorry this film is banned.
We of course went up in arms, and we approached Stanley Hawes, I think his name was, who was head of the censor board, and he said no, that film is banned for the following reasons, which included that particular scene. Which we could not even regard as being risqué quiet frankly. I mean today you would get worse scenes in Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse. But that scene, coupled with a couple of other scenes with rats which they regarded as being fairly confrontational and brutal. They said, sorry, that film is not going to play in an Australian cinema.
Mark Hartly: It was the overall mood though wasn't it? It wasn't like you could cut two scenes and it would be fine. It was the fact that it had a relentless kind of terror.
Producer Rod Hay: Absolutely.
...when we went to compete against the censor, because people thought, Oh, once we got banned, that's it, they'll shut up. It's too difficult anyway, cause they can't get into cinemas, and we said, no. Especially me, because I'd put money into this program and I thought the only way I'm going to retrieve that money is to make sure that we not only make our point, but we do actually get a release which will allow us to get funds back in the kitty for the next film we were planning. So it meant we were part of a pioneering brigade that were out there to knock on independent doors, because we could not get into theatre chains like Hoyts or Greater Union or Roadshow, and we finished up going to the Penthouse Theatre in the Cross. And from then on we got, well before we did that of course, we then had to go to the Appeals Board to get the Appeals Board to look at what our reasoning was for why they should approve the screening of this film. And at that stage we'd compiled a list of films which included films like, what was that film that Russell made now, Ken Russell?
Mark Hartley: THE DEVILS.
Producer Rod Hay: THE DEVILS. Another was EL DIALBLO, a Mexican film which was very graphic. And there was another film on top of that which I forget now, but we used four or five of these. And we walked into the Censor Board based on the premise that shock is probably nine tenths of perception, and getting people to sort of fall over in support of you.
.......let me tell you what we did when we walked through the door of the Censor Board. We concocted this idea that we would bring in there, a four foot board, which was about two feet long, and about four feet high. And we had on it the prejudice that was now being made against Australian films, and these other films had been allowed censorship clearance, and they had all the elements in them, and how could they allow a film, or disallow a film that has not a tenth of what these films have. So by the time we got in there we had Caroline Jones, who we demanded replaced Stanley Hawes as the Chairman of the Appeals Board. They looked at it, and they said, well, we can see the commitment you've made. We'll look at the film. And within a minute of having seen the film, they said okay, film approved, and we're out and running.
The following two scenes caused problems for the Censorship Board.
Carla Hoogeveen's Sex Scene
At 14m, the woman (Carla Hoogeveen) is shown having sex. This is a very mild scene, and the most graphic shots are reproduced below.
The Rat Attack
At 44m, the woman (Carla Hoogeveen) is attacked by rats. The most graphic images are reproduced below.