Film Censorship: O


 

 

 

 

The Oblong Box

Directed by Gordon Hessler / 1969 / UK / IMDb

In September 1972, a 2494.18-meter (90:55) 35mm print of THE OBLONG BOX was banned because of 'excessive violence'.

A censored 2467.68-meter (89:57) version was passed with an R-rating in February 1973.

 

 

THE OBLONG BOX on VHS and DVD

During the early 80s, there was no law that compelled distributors to have video tapes classified. For a period, the Censorship Board simply viewed the tapes and passed them as 'Special Condition', the definition of which was:

That the film/tape will not be exhibited in any State in contravention of that State's law relating to the exhibition of films.

In April 1983, PBL Video had a 90m tape of THE OBLONG BOX passed with such a warning.

 

In May 1985, Communications and Entertainment had a double-bill videotape of THE OBLONG BOX and CRY OF A BANSHEE passed with an R-rating. Playground Video released the tape. The running time of THE OBLONG BOX was 87:25 (PAL).

Shock/MGM released THE OBLONG BOX on DVD in March 2009. Minus the Orion Films title card, this version ran 95:41 (NTSC).

 

 

Director's Cut on DVD

Thanks to Matt for this review of the Shock/MGM DVD.

The Australian Shock DVD is the director's cut of THE OBLONG BOX that has remained unseen for many years. As you can see from the running times, it actually contains more footage than the version banned in Australian back in 1972.

In Video Watchdog #98 Tim Lucas has a great comparison between the various versions of film. He writes that AIP removed around ten minutes of footage from the U.S. theatrical version. I'm not sure what version was first submitted to the Australian censors in 1972 as that only seems to be around five minutes shorter.

If we presume all the violence present in the DVD was also in the 91:10 Australian version then here are the scenes that would have contributed to it being banned for excessive violence.

01:15 - A nail is hammered into Edward's hand.
33:30 - The body snatcher kills a guy with his shovel.
49:00 - Edward stabbing Mark.
65:00 - Edward cuts the throat of Heidi the prostitute.
78:30 - Edward cuts trench's throat.
85:45 - Edward cuts Dr. Newhartt's throat.
92:40 - Edward bites Sir Julian on the hand.

If Shock had resubmitted this DVD then I would guess in 2009 it would get an M or MA15+ tops.

 

 

CRY OF THE BANSHEE: AIP vs. Uncut

Gordon Hessler made CRY OF THE BANSHEE the year after THE OBLONG BOX.

In December 1972, a 2326.54-meter (85:02) 35mm print was passed with an R-rating. It was classified again in May 1985, on the above-mentioned double-bill, and was released on Playground Video. This version ran 83:01 (PAL).

In the U.S., AIP re-edited, and censored CRY OF THE BANSHEE. The IMDb contains a list of the differences.

Presumably, this was the version that was released in Australia.

Shock/MGM Australia released an uncut CRY OF THE BANSHEE on DVD in March 2009. Minus the MGM and Orion Films title cards, this version ran 90:38 (NTSC).

 

The Oblong Box - Playaround Video [au] VHSThe Oblong Box - Shock-MGM [au] DVD


 

 

 

 

Oh! Calcutta!

Directed by Jacques Levy / 1972 / USA / IMDb

In May 1973, a 2459.00-meter (89:38) print of OH! CALCUTTA! was censored by 42.97-meters (01:34) for an R-rating. The cuts were made to remove 'indecency'.

Roadshow Distributors were the applicant.

 

 

Trouble in South Australia

An Interview with the Chief Censor, Mr Prowse: The Censor Speaks
Cinema Papers issue 2, April 1974

CP: Is there any machinery in Government legislation for a person to stop a film, like that person in England who stopped the Warhol documentary being shown on television? I think there was one case in South Australia where OH CALCUTTA was taken off or not shown.

PROWSE: That’s where a community standards organisation took out an injunction against the screening of the film in South Australia and they were awarded a temporary injunction to stop the screening of the film and as far as I know to this date the distributor of the film has not taken any action towards having the injunction lifted.

Meantime I think the South Australian Government has changed this legislation though I don’t know whether it is through yet. It says that a decision made by the Film Censorship Board on matters arising from the Films Regulations overrides any other legislation relating to display or exhibition of material. So it possibly won’t arise here anymore.

CP: Is this purely State legislation?

PROWSE: Well I would imagine that any organisation in any State has the right to seek from the Courts an injunction if the law of a particular State allows it. The one in South Australia, from memory, was taken out under the Police Offences Act and had nothing to do with the legislation on film censorship.

 

 

Video releases

In September 1981, a 97m videotape was passed with an R-rating. It was awarded for sex, which was described as being:
Frequency: Frequent
Explicitness/Intensity: Medium
Purpose: Justified

Roadshow Distributors was the applicant.

The submission was made by L and M Imports. The Censorship Board described the tape as an "overseas modified version". Presumably, the footage previously censored in 1973 was now okay for an R-rating.

 

Video Classics released OH! CALCUTTA! on tape in the early 80s.

 

In October 1986, the Queensland Police had a 97m tape passed with an R-rating. It was awarded for sex, which was found to be:
Frequency: Frequent
Explicitness/Intensity: Medium
Purpose: Justified

Daybill mage courtesy of moviemem.com

 

Oh! Calcutta! (1972) - Roadshow Distributors [au] Daybill     Oh! Calcutta! (1972) - Video Classics [au] VHSOh! Calcutta! (1972) - Video Classics [au] VHS 2


 

 

 

 

One Last Score

aka Pure Taste of Joy

Directed by Robert Gold / 1978 / USA / IMDb 

Note: We assume this is the correct IMDb entry. The Classification Board only lists the Producer, J. Endler.

In February 1981, a 1506.00-meter (54:53) print of ONE LAST SCORE was censored by 8.50-meters (00:19) for an R-rating. The cuts were made to remove sex, which was said to be:
Frequency: Infrequent
Explicitness/Intensity: High
Purpose: Gratuitous

In the censored R-rated version, it was found to be:
Frequency: Frequent
Explicitness/Intensity: Medium
Purpose: Gratuitous

14th Mandolin released it theatrically, and on their King of Video label.

 

The X-rating was introduced in February 1984. In July of that year, a 64-minute version of ONE LAST SCORE was retitled PURE TASTE OF JOY and passed with this new classification. It was awarded for sex, which was found to be:
Frequency: Frequent
Explicitness/Intensity: High
Purpose: Gratuitous

14th Mandolin released it on their Pink Video label.

 

One Last Score (1978) - Pink Video [au] VHS


 

 

 

 

Only For You

Directed by Tiu Hon - Fan Dan / 1986 / Hong Kong / IMDb

In May 1986, a 2715.57-meter (98:59) print of ONLY FOR YOU was censored by 375-meters (13:40) for an R-rating.

The cuts were made to remove sex, which was said to be:
Frequency: Infrequent
Explicitness/Intensity: High
Purpose: Gratuitous

The R-rating was awarded for sex and language, which was now found to be:
Frequency: Infrequent
Explicitness/Intensity: Medium
Purpose: Gratuitous

It was released in Chinese language cinemas by Golden Reel Films.


 

 

 

 

 

The Opening of Misty Beethoven 

Directed by Radley Metzger / 1976 / USA / IMDb

In January 1977, a 2208.70-meter (80:30) print of THE OPENING OF MISTY BEETHOVEN was banned because of 'indecency'. A failed appeal was made to the Films Board of Review in March 1977.

In both cases, Seven Keys was the applicant.

 

In October 1978, a 1751.20-meter (63:50) 'reconstructed version' was banned because of 'indecency'.

New Star Manufacturing and Investment Pty Ltd was the applicant.

 

THE OPENING OF MISTY BEETHOVEN was passed with an R-rating in September 1983 and again in August 1985. It was awarded for sex, which was found to be:
Frequency: Frequent
Explicitness/Intensity: Medium
Purpose: Gratuitous

In both cases, Seven Keys Video was the applicant. It was they who released the 81m film on tape.

 

Capital Duplicators had an 84m tape passed with an X18+ (Contains sexually explicit material) rating in May 1990.

The same classification was awarded to an 81m tape in September 1997. This time, the Axis Group (Aust) Pty Ltd was the applicant.

 

The Opening of Misty Beethoven (1976) - Seven Keys Video [au] VHS


 

 

 

 

Opera

aka Terror at the Opera

Directed by Dario Argento / 1987 / Italy / IMDb

In April 1989, RCA Columbia / Hoyts Video had a 92m videotape of TERROR AT THE OPERA passed with an R18+ rating. The VHS was issued on the First Release label.

This did not stop customs from targeting this title when a DVD was confiscated in 2002. The reason given was:

One DVD titled OPERA depicting extreme violence.

 

Confessions of an Australian Cult Movie Journalist
cinemadrome.yuku.com, April 25, 2016

Q: Did you get caught up in the local video censorship seizures there? Were any of your videos or things you ordered grabbed by customs, which ones?

A; In early 2002 I’d ordered DVDs of Cannibal Holocaust and Opera from the U.S. based Shocking Images. A few weeks later, instead of my discs I received a letter from Customs stating that they’d seized both my discs for the following reasons: "sexual violence" for Cannibal Holocaust and "extreme violence" for Opera.

Yes, Holocaust was banned here until late 2005, BUT Opera was NEVER banned here, which I was especially pissed off about. I believe when Opera was initially released on VHS here, some copies had 'Banned in Queensland' stickers slapped on them as a marketing strategy to boost rentals, but as far as I know it was NEVER banned in Queensland nor anywhere else in Australia. Just some overzealous Customs person who didn’t have a fucking clue about what they were doing. I could have fought the decision, but honestly I really couldn’t be bothered with the trouble and stress.

 

Opera - First Release [au] VHS


 

 

 

 

Organ

Directed by Kei Fujiwara / 1996 / Japan / IMDb

There is one report of a VHS of ORGAN being confiscated in 1998. It was sent to the OFLC who confirmed its status as:

"...prohibited and subject to regulation 4A(1A)(A) of the customs (Prohibited Imports) regulations 1956"


 

 

 

 

The Other Side of Julie

Directed by Anthony Riverton / 1978 / USA / IMDb

In September 1978, a 2122.40-meter (77:22) print of THE OTHER SIDE OF JULIE was banned because of 'indecency'.

G.H. Photography was the applicant.

 

 

In October 1981, an 83m tape was banned because of sex, which was said to be:

Frequency: Frequent
Explicitness/Intensity: High
Purpose: Gratuitous

Videolink was the applicant.


 

 

 

 

The Outlaw Brothers

Directed by Frankie Chan / 1990 / Hong Kong / IMDb

In May 1990, Chinatown Cinema had a 100m 35mm print of THE OUTLAW BROTHERS Refused Registration by the OFLC. The reason for the ban was a scene where a car drives through a group of chickens.

 

 

Failed Review Board appeal

Following the ban, Chinatown Cinema took THE OUTLAW BROTHERS to the Review Board who confirmed it as Refused Registration.

Here is what they had to say.

The Outlaw Bothers is a Cantonese language film about policemen and car thieves in Hong Kong; it is well supplied with kung-fu fight sequences and would be unremarkable but for a scene near the end in which a container filled with chickens is broken open and the birds slaughtered with machine guns. Men are seen firing at the chickens on the floor of a warehouse; mutilated birds are shown writhing and twitching in close-up; finally a car is driven into a mass of live birds at high speed. A majority of the Film Censorship Board refused to register the film on the grounds that it depicted cruelty to animals.

The offending scenes are brief. The exact injuries inflicted on the animals are not easy to discern, and in the shot of the car are obscured by the vehicle itself. The film has apparently been leniently classified in some Asian countries, where somewhat different historical traditions prevail, and one can accept the comment of the distributors that they were 'mystified' by the films treatment in Australia. One can also accept their assurance that the birds seen falling en masse from the container at the beginning of the sequence are already dead (though one wonders how they were killed); and it is possible that the writhing of the mutilated birds was simulated (though this has not been claimed).

It must be said that the violence depicted is by no means extreme compared with the sorts of atrocities apparently inflicted on human beings in films readily accorded registration in this country. It was for this reason, no doubt, that a minority of the Censorship Board was prepared to register The Outlaw Brothers with an R or even an M classification.

To an extent, therefore, the issues raised by this appeal can be said to turn not so much on what is actually shown on the screen, but on assumptions or conclusions about the manner in which certain scenes were filmed and the attitude of the filmmakers to the creatures in their charge. This raises novel questions. The film classification guidelines make no reference to cruelty to animals, and innumerable films can be cited in which animals are seen to be mistreated or abused. (in the recent successful comedy A Fish Called Wanda, live goldfish are eaten whole.) Most people, however, would probably agree that scenes of simulated violence to animals, like scenes of simulated violence to humans, are acceptable if contextually justified and do not fall within the guidelines general prohibition of violence which is 'unduly detailed, relished or cruel'. In the opinion of the Board of Review , the violence to the chickens in The Outlaw Brothers, however tasteless or bizarre, and however offensive the assumption that audiences would find it amusing, would not warrant prohibition if it was simulated. It becomes unacceptable only when it is clear that it is real, or (no less decisively) when it is clear that audiences are meant to take it as real.

One hopes these distinctions are not obscure. There is an obvious difference in principal between killing animals (including those comparatively low on the evolutionary scale, like birds and fish) and simulating their killing In assessing scenes of this kind, however, it is necessary to consider not only what meets the eye, but the nature of the response invited; not only 'animal rights', however these may be defined , but the effects on audiences of scenes unnecessary and degrading cruelty.

It seems to us overwhelmingly probable that in the making of The Outlaw Brothers birds were recklessly killed and injured. Nor were we left in any doubt that we were meant to enjoy the spectacle. We agreed with the majority of the Censorship Board that the maiming or killing of animals for entertainment could not be condoned in a humane and civilised society, and that films containing such scenes (even though worse examples than the ones in The Outlaw Brothers could easily be imagined) should not be registered for exhibition. We therefore dismissed the appeal.

15 June 1990

 

 

Banned again, and cut to an M-rating

Following the decision of the Review Board, THE OUTLAW BROTHERS was censored down to 98m. The cuts proved to be too little, and in July 1990, it was again banned.

Further censorship eventually saw a 97m version passed with an M (Frequent violence, Drug use) rating on July 23, 1990.

A Chinese language cinema run followed.

 

 

THE OUTLAW BROTHERS Review

Thanks to Matt for this review of the film.

Having just viewed a 96:30 VHS of the uncut version of this film I don't think you can argue that chickens were killed and injured during its making. The scene in question starts at 81:42 when a container load of chickens fall to the floor of a warehouse and are machine gunned. The actual fall is very fast and it is difficult to see if the birds are alive or dead. Similarly I doubt the filmmakers actually got a machine gun and shot the birds. What is beyond doubt are the shots from 81:53 to 82:01 and 82:19 to 82:21 where mutilated dead and dying chickens are shown on the ground. There is no way that an early 90s Hong Kong film is going to go to the trouble of building fake chickens when it can be achieved for a couple of dollars with the real thing.

The film then plays out in the warehouse until the credits with various fight scenes taking place as all the while live chickens walk around on the floor. Between 91:29 and 91:33 a car is driven into the warehouse scattering the chickens. It looks like several birds disappear under the car as it does so.

Over the years the film has been cut by varying degrees by the British censors. These have involved the removal of the chicken cruelty, butterfly knife scene, and shots of cars and houses getting broken into. The 2005 18-rated Hong Kong Legends DVD escapes with the least cuts. It was submitted in a 96:48 print and lost only 10s of the chicken cruelty. Having never seen this version I would hazard a guess that the cuts remove the shots where mutilated dead and dying chickens are shown on the ground. These are the only scenes where you can say conclusively that birds were hurt or killed.

I really do not understand why the Australian censors required 2-3 minutes of footage to be removed back in 1990. As I have mentioned there is only around ten seconds of footage where you could say that chickens are definitely being mistreated.

I seriously doubt that the Australian censors would now ban an uncut version as these days they seem happy to simply warn the public. Witness the R18+ (High Level Sexual Violence, High Level Violence, Animal Cruelty) awarded to CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST back in 2005. This would now fit nicely into an MA15+ rating, an option which was not open back in 1990.


 

 

 

 

Out of Control

Directed by Allan Hollzman / 1985 / USA - Yugoslavia / IMDb

In March 1985, Communications and Entertainment had a censored version of OUT OF CONTROL passed with an R-rating.

It was originally submitted in a 2413.00-meter (88:12) print, but lost 32-meters (70s) of sexual violence.

The R-rating was awarded for sex and violence, which were both described as:
Frequency: Infrequent
Explicitness/Intensity: Medium
Purpose: Gratuitous

This censored version went on to have a theatrical release.

 

Communications and Entertainment had an 83:44 videotape passed in September 1986. The R-rating was awarded for sex, which was described as:
Frequency: Infrequent
Explicitness/Intensity: Medium
Purpose: Gratuitous

Thanks to Konrad for the cover scan.

 

 

OUT OF CONTROL: The censored scene

Thanks to Matt for this review.

 

Video Entertainment (Holland) – 73:16
CEL Video (Australia) – 83:46

The CEL tape is censored in the scene where Tina is raped by the bandits.

Before: Tina is dragged from below deck of the boat and one of the bandits holds her face.

Censored at 52:36 – (approximately 90s missing) Tina being beaten unconscious by the drug smugglers before one gets on top of her. As he kisses her, she comes around and begins to fight back. Also missing is a shot of Cowboy preparing the spear fishing gun, diving in the water, and swimming towards the boat. It is hard to see why this scene was censored as there is no nudity and it is not that graphic.

After: Tina being held from behind around the waist and kicking out before Cowboy shoots the drug smuggler with a spear fishing gun.

 

Despite missing around 90s, the CEL tape still runs over ten minutes longer than the Dutch Video Entertainment (VE) release. The cut scene appears around the 43m point in the VE tape, and should appear around 53m in the CEL tape. This would indicate that there is a large amount of plot missing from the VE tape before this point.

The opening and end credits are different in both versions.

CEL: Opens with shots of the characters, and ends with the credits running over the plane flying into the sunset.

Video Entertainment: Opens with Elliot talking over footage of the characters, and ends with the credits running over scenes from the film.

 

Out of Control - CEL Video [au] VHS


 

 

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