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December   Maniac at the BBFC

Based upon an article by Dave Gregory  in issue 69 of Samhain

Our freedom as adults to choose whether or not we want to watch Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Straw Dogs has been denied us for some time now and the chances of seeing the most mainstream mature entertainment uncut seem to diminish by the year. But the full frightening extent of the dictatorship to which we must submit only became apparent to me when I started dealing with the BBFC on a business level.

Maniac posterDave Gregory acquired Maniac, the 1980 US film directed by William Lustig, in summer of 1997. He selected it for the Exploited label as the video had not been recently released in the UK and had just been remastered in a widescreen director's cut. Although associated with the video nasties it was never actually put on   the video nasties list. He realised that it was unlikely to get through the BBFC uncut but may still be more attractive than the abominable version from Intervision in the 80's.  Another risk limitation was that a phone inquiry to the BBFC in 1993 with respect to the possible submission of Texas Chainsaw Massacre suggested that the classification fee would be returned if the video were to be rejected. (He very diplomatically referred to this untruth as conflicting information).

The initial cost quoted for the classification of Maniac was £941+VAT. This was based on a search of BBFC records revealing that the film had never been classified by the BBFC in any other format. Gregory states that this price precludes several of his other videos from distribution as the high break even figure makes it too much of a risk. The final invoice came to £535+VAT on the grounds that it had in fact been previously submitted. (A cinema certificate was refused in 1981).

I was obviously curious to know how long the classification process would take so I could plan my release schedules around it. The BBFC themselves were unwilling to commit to any length of time, not even a ball park figure. In any other business paying anything like that for a service would get you all kinds of feedback, certainly including a delivery date. But what I was starting to realise was that the BBFC do not consider their work a service, it is a privilege.

The British Video Association reckoned on a turn round of 8 to 16 days but this proved a massive under-estimate. The video was submitted toward the end of November 1997 but on the 12th January 1998, Gregory received a letter saying that the video had been examined but had been referred for further consideration. Further information was promised within five working days. Of course nothing was forthcoming after that week and Gregory had to spend another week hassling the BBFC before he got through to Ferman.

Ferman said that although the BBFC do not like rejecting films but in cases where sexual violence is glorified they have no choice. (Gregory rightfully retorted that there is nothing glorious about Maniac, the violence is brutal, ugly and disturbing). Three of the four examiners who saw it opted for rejection precluding any option for cuts. Ferman claimed that Maniac was one of the original banned videos prior to the Video Recordings Act. This is not the case, the video version available at that time was massively cut and never appeared on the DPP's video nasty list. Ferman suggested that Gregory should in future do his homework before submitting such a film as he would have found that the film had already been refused a cinema certificate. Of course Gregory had enquired about the film's history and had received the information that it had never been submitted. The conversation ended with the statement that the matter is now in the hands of Whittam Smith who is busy and no further information is likely for a month.

After a further month and then a few days of unfulfilled promises to return calls, Gregory finally got confirmation from Ferman that Maniac was to be rejected. This was on March 20th. An announcement was appended to the press release about the certification of Lolita. Gregory was sent this along with a covering letter:

This is to let you know that the BBFC has decided to reject your video Maniac. A full letter setting out our reasons will follow, on the basis of which you will of course have the right to appeal to the Video Appeals Committee.

The follow up letter hadn't turned up by July but Gregory had already decided that the appeal fee of 2/3 the submission fee was unjustifiable. He also incorrectly thought that the appeal would have been heard by the Board themselves. This is not the case, the Video Appeals Committee are an independent group of people who have proved themselves to be genuinely open minded.

Gregory rightfully felt aggrieved about his treatment by the BBFC: The "conditions of business" small print on the back of the BBFC submission form includes the clause, "this is a business transaction to which the normal rules of business apply". It may just be me, but I have never paid any business a large sum of money in advance for a service, not been told when the service will be complete, not had my many calls returned, been kept waiting indefinitely for the smallest piece of information, then had the service refused several months later, and, in the ultimate insult, not had my fee returned.

The appending of the Maniac decision to the Lolita press release provoked further annoyance. For a major film such as Lolita, the Board consulted child psychiatrists, child sex abuse experts and the police. Subjective artistic appraisal of the film was taken into account. No such consultation was initiated for Maniac of course,  just the boys and their opinions.

The final insult was a story from the grapevine whereby it seems that the film was examined by three men and one woman. The men rejected the film on the grounds of potential harm to society's women and the female examiner thought that the film could be passed with cuts.

 

31st December   Intimate Details

Good to see that Patrice Chereau's Intimacy has been passed uncut on video with an 18 certificate. The BBFC have left Kerry Foxes explicit blow job intact.

24th December   Behind Enemy Lines

Thanks to Marc for the following observation:

According to the BBFC website, looks like money greedy distributors have been up to their usual tricks, with the Gene Hackman war movie Behind Enemy Lines being doctored to fit the 12 rating. Seems it has had dialogue substituted to get the rating. Very poor.

(One has to take a pragmatic stance on such voluntary censorship. If the distributors figure that more 12-15 year old customers will be gained than those lost due to the butchery then they will surely take the above decision. Our job is to make people aware of the cuts so that they know to buy from a .com rather than a .co.uk If enough people do this then the distributors will soon change their policy).

16th December   Last House on Robo Street

Thanks to Gavin, David, Adrian &   Floyd

The UK release of The Last House on the Left is being delayed by an appeal against BBFC cuts. In the meantime the forthcoming US release is becoming ever more attractive. Wes Craven and Sean Cunningham recorded a commentary track this week to be included on MGM's special uncut edition DVD in 2002. Perhaps the UK distributors, Exploited, could add value by adding a commentary track detailing the censorship hassles. The Americans just wouldn't be able to compete.

Update from David Gregory of Exploited: just to let you know the UK release will feature the same commentary track as the US release. We are also producing an in-depth doco about the making of the film. I've already shot interviews with Wes and Sean, David Hess, Fred Lincoln and Marc Sheffler and will be shooting more in the coming weeks. Beyond this we have an enormous array of other extras in store too.

The Region 2 Special Edition of Robocop will be released by MGM on Feb 11th 2002. This will be the fully uncut version (about an extra minute of footage has been passed by the BBFC), presented in Anamorphic Widescreen with a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack.

The commentary track on the R2 disc is *not* the same as the Criterion R0 release. From DVDDebate: The [commentary] track was specially recorded for this disc [Robocop] earlier in 2001 and features Paul Verhoeven, writer Ed Neumeier and producer Jon Davison together discussing the film scene by scene.

29th November   Massive Attack

Thanks to Jamie

Last month the Bristol Trip-Hoppers, Massive Attack, released all their music videos onto DVD. It was interesting to note that the BBFC passed this with no cuts for a 12 certificate. The song Karmacoma contains sexually explicit lyrics, and the video to Be Thankful For What You've Got is probably the most explicit video ever  made (The Prodigy's Smack My Bitch Up loses out in the nudity stakes here)!

It was filmed in Raymond's Revue Bar, and basically portrayed a stripper  doing her stuff along to the song. It contains full nudity, and several open-legged shots - the kind of sexual  imagery that you would normally only find on Adult Television Channels.

I have only ever seen the video once before on a late night X-Rated MTV Show. Now, I'm not complaining about the content, as I'm a huge Massive Attack fan, but I do wonder if the BBFC made an oversight when classifying this release, as this sort of sexual imagery would normally warrant an 18 certificate.

Maybe it's just another example of the BBFC finally relaxing it's standard?

Thanks to Sergio though for pointing out that only the DVD menu had been passed and not the DVD itself

21st November   I Spit on Your Nasties

Some of the nastier nasties have been passing through the censors office. Some pretty hefty cuts but they are the probably most notorious of the genre.

  • I Spit on your Grave passed 18 on video with 7:02s of cuts.  All cuts are to the gang rape scenes - no cuts in the 'revenge' section. The film was first submitted for classification in 1998 and then again in 2001. According to the BBFC: Compulsory cuts were required to remove several sequences of sexual violence and humiliating depictions of female nudity in line with published Sexual Violence Guidelines.
  • New York Ripper. The censors have asked for 22s to be cut from the breast/stomach slicing episode. Otherwise will be passed 18. A relatively easy passage. Especially as the previous censor James Ferman not only banned the film but reportedly ordered all prints out of the country.
  • The Last House on the Left. The censors have asked for 4 cuts totalling 16s (remove two shots of chest carving, one shot of entrails pulling and close up of urine stained jeans). However Exploited, the distributors, are somewhat aggrieved and have decided to appeal the decision. The Video Appeals Committee will probably hear the appeal next year.
  • A Blade in the Dark has been passed 18 uncut with all previous cuts waived.
11th November   Sight & Sound On Robin Duval

The December issue of Sight & Sound carries an interesting interview with Robin Duval on the subject of the recent movement towards a more liberal attitude. Julian Petley gets some good answers but it is clear that the BBFC still feel the need to tread carefully.

There is also an article by Toby Young in this weeks Spectator on the subject of porn on TV. It talks about the liberalisation of porn but does not quite make the point that hardcore is now readily available in the UK.

11th November   Young Sister

The BBFC have just issued the following press release:

The BBFC has passed the French film A Ma Soeur '18' uncut after taking legal advice about whether some scenes might be in contravention of the Protection of Children Act 1978. Under the Act it is illegal to show indecent photographs of a child under the age of 16. The Board was concerned about the appearance of a 13 year old actress in some scenes in the film where sexual activity was inferred. A leading QC experienced in the interpretation of the Protection of Children Act watched the film and advised that it was not indecent.

There is no statutory definition of indecency and no defence is available on the basis of the merits of the film as a whole. However, leading counsel concluded that there is nothing in the film which offends the Act.

15th October   Ban the Board of Film Censors

Check out a major new anti BBFC campaign at www.bbfc.org.uk

14th October   The Story of an Uncut Ricky

I have just heard that Story of Ricky has been passed uncut for a video certificate. This notably violent Hong Kong prison drama has always been something of a censorship icon. It is scheduled for release in September 2002 on the Hong Kong Legends Label.

13th October   The Piano Teacher

A few notable titles have just passed through the BBFC uncut at 18 for the cinema:

  • The Piano Teacher features a few brief hardcore images being watched by Isabelle Huppert in a sex shop video booth. It also features a little S/M
  • Larry 'Kids' Clark's new film Bully
  • Todd 'Happiness' Solondz's new film Storytelling
4th October   Sick of Censorship

Some pretty painful sounding cutting going on at the BBFC. 3:42s of cuts have been inflicted on Kirby Dick's Sick: The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist.

The BBFC explained as follows: Cuts required to two scenes showing strong sado-masochistic activity (asphyxiation, the piercing of the skin of the penis, the insertion of a large metal ball into the rectum, the hammering of a nail through the tip of the penis) which would be highly dangerous if copied and which are likely to encourage imitation in viewers with an existing interest in sado-masochistic activity.

At least it is less cut than when it was shown on Channel 4 when it was missing 11 minutes of footage. It has been shown uncut at the London Film Festival and at London's ICA cinema.

1st October   BBFC Frenzy

As late as 1989, James Ferman insisted on 19s of cuts to Alfred Hitchcock's 1972 film Frenzy. Ferman took a dislike to a tactfully handled rape scene. Even the BBC and ITV have OK'd this scene on several screenings.

The BBFC have now finally put this to rest and waived the cuts.

20th September   Boy Meets Girl

More good news from the BBFC. Ray Brady's Boy Meets Girl has just received an uncut 18 video certificate. It is a landmark in that it was probably one of the most effectively banned videos of the era. Although it has a cinema certificate it was refused a UK video release and proved a little too arty for a foreign release, hence hardly any copies are in circulation.

13th September   Carry on Cutting

Just noticed that a whole series of Carry On films has recently been passed at the BBFC. It is interesting to note that:

  • Carry On Cowboy
  • Carry On Cruising
  • Carry On Jack

have all been released in their cut cinema versions. I don't suppose that the BBFC would now cut these films so Warner Home Video must have submitted cut versions. Maybe the original versions have been lost.

Also spotted 1:12s of cuts to an R18 video Initiations 3 the BBFC required that the distributors remove sight of man throttling a woman during sex - a dangerous sexual activity.

As we have come to expect there is also better news from the BBFC. The following have all been re-released with all previous BBFC cuts waived.

  • Emmanuelle 4 (Momentum Pictures) (10s restored)
  • Lucio Fulci's City of the Living Dead (Protected) (1:29s restored)
  • The Unholy (Columbia/Tri-Star)
  • Class of 1999 (Columbia/Tri-Star) (15s restored)
22nd August   Cohersion to Piss on a Public Gangbang

Three R18 videos have been causing problems at the BBFC this week.

The Gangbang Girl 25 suffered 1:23s of cuts justified by the BBFC as follows: Compulsory cut required to suggestion of coercion in lead in to explicit sex scene , removing all sight of two women being verbally abused, physically abducted from the street and apparently forced to have sex with a group of men in a locker room. Further compulsory cut required to sight of a man gripping a woman tightly around the throat during a scene of unsimulated sexual activity, as this is a scene of potential harm in a sexual context during which time the woman's breathing and blood supply to the brain are being obstructed.

Ben Dover: End Games! was cut by 1:14s for the following reason: Cuts required to two sequences involving urolagnia (in this case urine soaked fingers being sucked, urine soaked underwear being sucked, and urine soaked underwear being used for masturbation), cuts made in accordance with current interpretation of the Obscene Publications Act 1959.

However, most interesting of all is Ben Dover: Cumming of Age 2. Here, 1:20s of cuts were required to sex in public places for "R18" on the grounds of public indecency.

Thanks to Shaun for prompting a further response from the BBFC:

As you know, we can't ignore the law. Public indecency is an offence under UK law and the BBFC cannot classify material if an offence occurred during its production (as with depictions of gay group sex). When nudity (or sexual acts) are portrayed outdoors in the UK we always seek - and usually receive - an assurance from the filmmakers that the public indecency laws have not been infringed (i.e. that members of the public could not have and did not witness the filming). However, in this case - where sex was filmed taking place on a train and in a car - Ben Dover was unable to present us with such an assurance and so we had no alternative but to cut. Our policy on public indecency within the UK is based upon clear legal advice, which was clarified - and confirmed - for us last year by our lawyers.

(I have posted part of the debate Shaun had with the BBFC in the opinions section. Whilst I don't share Shaun's expectations that the BBFC should weigh up   contradictory law, I do believe that the open debate with the BBFC helps to highlight unnecessarily repressive aspects of British sex law which in turns contributes to change).

22nd August   Evil Dead 2 Reborn

This has now been resubmitted and passed '18' uncut.  The admittedly minor cuts (to remove two kicks to the head from both film and video in 1987) have been waived.  This now means that all three Evil Dead films are now uncut for the first time.

19th August   Risky Frisky Summer

An R18 video by George Duroy has suffered some interesting cuts. 16s were cut with the following justification: Company required to remove scenes of children playing with dog intercut into explicit sexual activity in order to remove any potential harm from the association of children and sexual activity.

Not one for the appeals procedure I think.

12th August   Censorship Terminated

Pasolini's films have been well treated at the BBFC in their recent classification. The Decameron had previously suffered a cut to remove an erection but this has now been passed uncut at 18. Canterbury Tales appears with a video certificate for the first time, multiple cinema cuts have been restored and the video has been passed 15 uncut. Finally Arabian Nights has also restored cinema cuts that are now waived for an uncut 18 certificate.

After the recent uncut video certificate for Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, the BBFC have now also given it an uncut cinema certificate. Should make a neat double bill.

James Cameron's Terminator 2 has now been passed uncut with a 15 rating. An uncut but shorter edit had previously been passed 18 for laserdisc but I guess that Momentum Pictures' release must now be considered the definitive version.

Thanks to Gavin for his observation:

The consumer advice states some strong, once coarse for language. As you might know, "motherfucker" (a coarse word which could easily be overdubbed by melonfarmer), is used twice in the film, so it seems they can't even get simple things like this right. This kinda thing has happened before. I can list countless films with incorrect consumer advice.

5th August   Slaying the Censorship Dragon

The uncut version of Enter the Dragon has now been posted on the BBFC website with the following informative history:

Enter the Dragon has been passed '18' uncut. All previous film and video cuts have been waived.

The film was originally passed 'X' with cuts for cinema release in 1973. A total of 5 cuts were made to scenes of violence. In 1979, the film was recalled so that a brief sequence in which Bruce Lee twirls and uses nunchaku could be deleted, along with another sequence in which nunchaku were briefly seen being carried. The decision was taken to make these further cuts because of the spread of nunchakus among youths in the London area. Concern had been expressed that the nunchakus demonstrated in martial arts films were being easily constructed and used by some violent individuals. As a result of concern on the part of the police and judiciary it was decided that this weapon, which has no legal use in this country outside the martial arts class, should be removed from violent films in order to discourage its spread. The weapon was subsequently proscribed by the Home Office so that it is now illegal to carry nunchakus unless en route to a bona fide martial arts school.

In 1988 the video version was submitted and passed '18' with cuts (1 minute 45 seconds cut). Three of the five violence cuts made in 1973 were waived but two were maintained and the cuts to sight and use of nunchaku implemented in 1979 were repeated for video.

In 1991 the Board modified its policy on nunchaku to some extent so that the weapon was no longer removed on sight. Essentially it was the glamorous use of the weapon in a violent film that was of most concern, and the modified policy reflected that. After 1991 a number of representations of nunchaku were passed but only when they were not actually in use or were displayed in non violent demonstrations of skill or served to establish the nature of a character. The video of Enter the Dragon was resubmitted again in 1993 for widescreen release. This time the two remaining violence cuts were waived, as was the brief sight of nunchaku being carried, in accordance with the new policy. The only cut made this time was to sight of Bruce Lee twirling and briefly using the nunchaku (21 seconds cut). Even under revised policy this scene was still not acceptable. A full screen version was passed in the same form in 1996 and a special edition, featuring some non-contentious extra footage was passed in 1998, again with only the brief nunchaku sequence deleted prior to submission.

Throughout its history the Board has periodically reviewed its policies and adjusted them as the situation demanded. A review of the weapons policy was undertaken in June 1999 . The review concluded that the depiction of weapons in films and other media, and the nature of the 'weapons culture' in the real world was currently such that a firm distinction between different types of offensive weapon was no longer appropriate, and the policy has been rationalised so that knives, nunchakus, knuckle-dusters, ninja stars, and other easily obtainable weapons are now judged on exactly the same basis. Depictions of offensive weapons continue to be liable to cuts if they are considered likely to encourage violent behaviour in the real world.

Enter the Dragon was resubmitted in its uncut form this year and, in accordance with the Board's revised policy, has now been passed '18' without cuts. The 21 second cut made to the brief use of nunchaku in 1993 has been waived.

5th August   Well Fuck Me Sideways with a Barge Pole

The BBFC have cut Satanic Sex, a recent R18  video by Kovi.

The BBFC justified 5:07s of cuts as follows:

Cut required to sight of woman being penetrated by a dildo on the end of a long pole which has the potential to cause harm.

Satanic Sex was dealt with according to the criteria set out in our Classification Guidelines. Among the content which is clearly identified as unacceptable in an R18 sex video is: Penetration by any object likely to cause harm..."

This criteria is a response to concerns about imitation, harm to performers, and the need to ensure that material passed R18 would not be subject to prosecution under the Obscene Publications Act. The Board is aware that the Crown Prosecution Services does authorise prosecutions if videos include potentially harmful penetration and we have taken expert medical advice regarding types of object we should be most concerned about. This advice identified, among other things, objects which are very long and which do not have a natural safe stopping point (or a significant thickening in diameter to restrict penetration at a safe point). This clearly applies to the dildo on a pole in this title. The use of such objects is particularly problematic if the penetration is being controlled by a third party who would not necessarily be able to judge a safe stopping point, as in this case

In the light of the guideline and the particular details of this case, the Board came to the conclusion that cutting was the correct response and that the addition of a warning caption (which has been done in other circumstances) would not be sufficient.

3rd August   Numb Nut Distributors

A couple of weeks ago I reported on the cuts to More of What Men Want:

To obtain this category cuts of 0m 38s were required. The cuts were Compulsory. Cut required to sight of pieces of ice being inserted into the vagina prior to intercourse on the grounds that repetition of such activity could cause harm, in accordance with BBFC guidelines. The BBFC stated later that this decision was taken on medical advice.

As is often the case, the story of these cuts were a bit more complicated than was at first apparent. The video More of What Men Want was in fact submitted to the BBFC with a request for an '18' certificate on the grounds that it was 'sex education'. Certainly it was constructed as an instructional video, rather than a normal 'R18' porn tape, with the obligatory 'white coat' giving couples some rather unimaginative ideas about how to spice up their love life. However, the combination of very lengthy and explicit sex scenes (beyond what was necessary to make the point), and the extremely brief comments from the doctor suggested to the BBFC that the video would be better suited to an R18. This view was further supported by a complete lack of advice on safe sex (all scenes were without condoms) and a focus on 'trying out' group sex.

Nonetheless, when it came to the ice sequence the nature of the video as 'sex education' (at least in construction) was very relevant to the Board's decision to cut. The video was specifically inviting viewers to 'try this at home' (the clip showed the inserting of several ice cubes into the vagina and then the insertion of a penis immediately afterwards) but with absolutely no explanation or advice about safety. When the clip was shown to the BBFC medical advisor, her opinion was that, whilst inserting ice into a vagina would not necessarily cause harm, there was a risk of people copying this action (specifically because this was being sold as 'sex ed'). This carried a risk - if the ice were not allowed to melt slowly before insertion - that trauma could occur to the vagina through cold burns. In other words, if the clip had responsibly shown (with demonstration or voice over) the need to allow the ice to melt a little and to insert it with care there may not have been a problem. Sadly, however, it didn't tell you anything except what a good idea it is to put lots of ice in the vagina. Rather than attempt to remedy the problem by inserting extra safety advice (by voice over or on-screen caption) it was, of course, far easier, to simply cut what amounted to a slightly irresponsible recommendation.

2nd August   The Truth about True Lies

The film version of James Cameron's True Lies was cut by 1s. A further 9s were required for the 15 rated video. So how come that the DVD version suffers 20s of cuts plus an additional 18s of substitutions? The BBFC details these cuts as follows:

To obtain this category cuts of 0m 20s were required., some or all of these cuts were substitutions. The cuts were Compulsory. Cuts required to detailed scenes of violence in order to allow the work to pass at the same category as previous versions of the same feature, in accordance with BBFC policy

In fact the BBFC ordered the same cuts as for the video version originally distributed by CIC/Universal. The DVD distributors however implemented the cuts in a different way to the Universal/CIC cuts, removing a lot more footage around the edges than on the video version. The total cuts have therefore jumped from 10 seconds to 20 seconds on the DVD (including the film cut). In addition to the removal of 20 seconds, they have also added some rather clumsy substitutions, totalling 18 seconds to 'cover up the gaps' left by the cuts. The film ends up looking  a lot choppier than before.

18th July  Cannibals Massacred

Cannibal Holocaust has now been passed 18 by the BBFC. It certainly hasn't had an easy ride though as it has lost an enormous 5:44s of cuts. Fours scenes of animal cruelty have been removed along with three scenes cut for 'sexual violence'.

18th July   BBFC in need of Re-Animation(Updated)

Those headless corpses at the BBFC are in dire need of a shot of green gunk. They have decided to persist with their cuts to Stuart Gordon's classy horror, Re-animator (seemingly now retitled H P Lovecraft's Re-Animator).

I must apologise for previously suggesting that the BBFC have asked for more cuts than ever. In fact the BBFC cuts required are the least of all versions so far. The confusion arouse because the distributors have in fact been cutting more than they need.

15th July   Numb Nuts at the BBFC

I guess it must be holiday season at the BBFC. All the staff are on leave leaving only the monkey in charge. This is the only explanation I can think of for the truly ludicrous decision concerning the R18 certificate for More of What Men Want:

To obtain this category cuts of 0m 38s were required. The cuts were Compulsory. Cut required to sight of pieces of ice being inserted into the vagina prior to intercourse on the grounds that repetition of such activity could cause harm, in accordance with BBFC guidelines. The BBFC stated later that this decision was taken on medical advice.

In the generality of risk associated with sex, ice seems to be pretty minor. As to why the BBFC think that people would watch and repeat to the point of harm beggars belief. We are all equipped with a healthy dislike of too much cold and the sensation of pain serves us well.

The BBFC would also bear in mind legal issues. The refusal to classify a film with such activities has knock on consequences to other enforcement agencies such as Customs and Trading Standards. Customs etc could now seize and prosecute such material.

And thanks to Shaun for his idea to keep the Daily Telegraph's Freedom Campaign well informed.

This month sees an increase in censorship of R18 videos , perhaps as the distributors get a little bolder in the strength of films that they are submitting. But recent cuts are as follows:

  • More of What Men Want, insertion of ice in vagina
  • More of What Women Want - cut of 5s required to sight of urolagnia (in this case urination during masturbation),
  • ROCCO RAVISHES PRAGUE 3 - repeated, aggressive, deep thrusting into mouth causing gagging; head forced into urinal during aggressive fellatio, sexual violence
  • ANAL SERVICE - degrading title changed from Animal Service, asphixia
  • PLEASE 12 - MORE SEXUAL SUPERSTARS -forcibly restrained in a sexual scenario
  • ROCCO'S SEXUAL SUPERSTARS - 'strong abuse, and violence' ?
  • MANEUVERS AGONY OF VICTORY - licking urine and cigar close to penis?
  • BARELY LEGAL #3 - urolagnia
  • NAUGHTY YOUNG LESBIANS - title change

The frequent appearance of Rocco films in the list is not surprising as he does like to get a little rough. However it is fascinating to cast ones eyes over the pay-per-view schedules of the European equivalents to Sky TV. Rocco's films, including the above titles all feature in the French/Spanish/Italian channel listings that I looked at. Rocco's films are incredibly popular and if this issue is not resolved we may return to the bad old days when standard porn fare that one imports is likely  to breach 'acceptable' guidelines. It is already likely that a large proportion of European made porn is likely to be outside of BBFC guidelines.

12th July   BBFC Taking the Piss

Thanks to Sergio for pointing out that the BBFC are taking the piss somewhat in their dislike of urolagnia.

22s have been cut from the R18 video, Maneuvers: Agony of Victory. They gave the following justification:

The cuts were Compulsory. Cut required to sight of urolagnia (in this case a man licking urine from his hand) in accordance with BBFC guidelines and in line with current interpretation of the Obscene Publications Act 1959. A second cut was required to sight of a lit cigar being held very close to a man's penis on the grounds of potential harm.

'potential harm'...if the bloke smoked the cigar would it be cut? Has smoking got 'potential harm'. How far away from a penis does a cigar have to be before it can be passed?

When questioned, the BBFC sorted out the mis-interpretation of their comments:

As you have noted, this tape was cut on the grounds that the activity referred to might suggest that some pleasure was to be obtained from burning of the genitals. For this reason a cautionary cut was made. The smoking per se was not the issue, which concerned potential harm. I do hope this is now clear.

8th July   Reporting the Report

I was planning to review this years BBFC annual report but Xan Brooks beat me to it in the Guardian. A review of the highest calibre (particularly as it provided a link to the Melon Farmers)

So what is this? Another brochure full of enticing movie stills? Far from it. The glossy document that arrived in offices last week is the annual report from the typically secretive British Board of Film Classification. Aiming to explain the board's actions for 2000, it opens with photo-bylined introductions from president Andreas Whittam Smith (affecting the frown of a kindly headmaster) and director Robin Duval (smiley chap in glasses). The tone is chatty, nitpicking and eminently reasonable, with constant reference to surveys, focus groups and letters sent in by the great British public. At times, it reads like the transcript from a Tony Blair conference speech.

The main surprise about the report is how damn liberal the BBFC has become. It transpires that only one 18-certificate cinema release received cuts in 2000 (Sacred Flesh, an obscure yarn about lusty nuns). Elsewhere, the year's list of banned scenes looks as chaste as the screen kisses outlawed by the starchy priest in Cinema Paradiso: a butting sequence from a wrestling video; a naturist documentary from Canada; a scene from Buffy the Vampire Slayer in which a character hotwires a car. Such are the depravities that the modern-day censor deems unfit for public consumption.

Sex? Violence? By and large, these are yesterday's bugbears. So American Psycho and Requiem for a Dream, both potential troublemakers, escaped unmolested by the censor. Previously outlawed films such as 120 Days of Sodom and The Story of "O" were finally passed for distribution. New, more lenient guidelines were introduced for 18-certificate pictures. "The public today is less worried than it used to be about portrayals of sexual activity, particularly in a loving or responsible context," explains Duval (and he has the surveys to prove it). "By contrast, it is concerned about levels of violence in the lower classification categories."

It's in this area - policing U, PG, 12 and 15 certificates - that the BBFC comes into its own. And comic-book violence is clearly a no-no. "Head-butts accounted for cuts in seven features," the report says, "and double ear-claps for cuts in six." More recently the board cut three seconds of flick-knife action from the 12-certificate Tomb Raider.

Ranking a close second to ear-claps on the board's hate list is cruelty to animals. Tumbling horses, burning snakes, "scenes of a monkey bound to a crucifix and an attack on a rabbit": all summarily banned last year. Even then, they may not have gone far enough: one viewer took issue with the mistreatment of the Plasticine poultry in Chicken Run.

The annual report serves up several such comic anecdotes. That said, there's some curious pretzel logic in there too. Take the reasoning over a recent Spike Lee film: "The Original Kings of Comedy, liberally sprinkled with swear words, was given a 15 rather than an 18 rating because it was felt the language was mitigated by its context of working-class black comedians. It was not likely to cause offence to its intended audience." What are they saying here? That working-class blacks swear more than their white counterparts? Or that white viewers (surely the bulk of Lee's audience these days) accept that black folk talk dirty? In exposing its machinations, the BBFC runs the risk of damning itself as a subjective house of cards determined by the mores and prejudices of its (predominantly white, middle-class) censors.

The report offers a fascinating glimpse into an arena previously shrouded in secrecy. Its airy justifications highlight the imperatives and pitfalls of censorship in modern-day Britain. Its surveys and forums take the temperature of a culture that seems to be loosening up on sex but still blanches at an expletive.

In order to survive, the BBFC has had to move with the public mood. In doing so, it has cast itself in a bizarre new role. Once regarded as a draconian law-giver, the British censor is now more akin to a bustling child-minder. These days his duties involve shielding the kids from unsavoury sights and ensuring that the animals are well looked after. Increasingly, the adults of Britain are being left to their own devices.

  • Billy Elliot The BBFC felt that the film's "natural audience" merited a PG or 12 certificate. But more than 50 uses of the dreaded F-word cranked it up to a 15. Producers later hatched plans for a cleaned-up PG version to play during school holidays.
  • Xena: Warrior Princess Fretting that impressionable souls might copy the warrior princess, the censor trimmed a "potentially harmful and imitable double ear-clap". Thus pruned, the camp action show was passed 12 on video.
  • The Story of "O"  Just Jaeckin's softcore S&M fancy was rejected outright by a scandalised BBFC in 1975. Resubmitted last year, it was waved through with a weary disdain. "The lack of strong sadistic or sexual detail, the evident consent of the female character and the dated style led to the judgment that it was no longer necessary to deny adults seeing this film."
  • O, Christmas Tree The makers of this innocuous children's cartoon inadvertently stirred the board's fear of copycatting with a slapstick scene in which a character cuts through the tree's electric cable with a pair of scissors.
  • Lolita The DVD version of Adrian Lyne's adaptation contained two deleted scenes featuring Humbert romping with his nymphet." The board was concerned that these sequences might invite feelings of arousal towards a child." A certificate was duly refused.
  • Gone in 60 Seconds Fearing the Nic Cage action flick might serve as an instruction manual for would-be car thieves, the BBFC ran the film by a panel of police experts. The cops felt otherwise, proving that this bovine farrago was of absolutely no use to anyone.
1st July   Annual Report

The BBFC have published their Annual Report for 2000. I have only had a brief read but it gives a generally positive view of their recent liberal tendencies. Various advisory committees seem to be going along with the flow and the BBFC seem at ease with the positive feedback to their changes. The significant reduction in cuts being required is justifiably highlighted (and may be reduced further in the future when distributors sort out what they can get away with in 18 rated softcore as opposed to R18 rated hardcore).

The Board have also taken the opportunity to outline their proposed consultation on the idea of a PG-12 as opposed to a mandatory 12.

In addition they discuss several of the more contentious decisions of the year. As always, well worth a read.

1st July   Less Lara

The BBFC have cut Lara Croft: Tomb Raider by 3s with the following justification:

The company chose to significantly reduce sight of a flick knife in several scenes, removing in particular material which appeared to glamorise the weapon , in order to achieve a 12. An uncut 15 was available to the distributor. The distributor also sought and was given advice during post-production which resulted in a reduction in violence in the final fight sequence (including the complete removal of a head butt) prior to formal submission.

The BBFC have also issued a press release on the subject:

Concern about the violence and in particular the glamorisation of knives in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider has resulted in cuts to the film. In order to achieve a '12' rating the distributor has agreed to remove a number of elements which are unacceptable under the BBFC Guidelines for that category. The Guidelines in turn reflect the standards of acceptability set by the British public in the course of the major consultation exercise culminating in their publication in September 2000.

The film, which received a 'PG-13' rating in the United States, is the latest big Hollywood action film aimed at children but containing scenes which are too violent for younger viewers. Mission Impossible II and Charlie's Angels were similar recent examples of 'PG-13' films appealing to the young whose violent content was, nevertheless, unacceptable in the UK at '12'. In their case, the distributors opted for the more restricted category of '15' rather than the cuts necessary for '12'.

Robin Duval, Director of the BBFC said: The natural audience for Lara Croft is the 12 to 15 age group, but the Board's Classification Guidelines make it clear that at '12' the glamorisation of weapons such as knives and the graphic illustration of dangerous techniques such as head-butts and throat chops are unacceptable. The film company has responded positively to the BBFC's concerns with cuts to those elements and to other violent content at several points in the film.

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider remains an exciting action-filled experience whose content should not now surprise audiences familiar with '12' rated material from the Bond films onwards. As with the Bond films, the combat, gunplay etc is mitigated by the absence of graphic or bloody detail and by the generally fantastical setting of the story. The Board's concern about knives, however, reflects the fact that they are much more readily accessible in the UK than the other more unfamiliar equipment characteristic of these films.

24th June   A Piss Poor Feast

Herschell Gordon's landmark film, Blood Feast, has had a bit of a rough ride at the BBFC and has suffered 23s of cuts.

The BBFC comments on their website: Four cuts required to sight of woman being lashed for 18. Cautionary cuts required as a result of successful OPA prosecution in 1994.

Barely Legal 3 also attracted cuts to the order of 24s. The BBFC explain: Cut required to sight of urolagnia (in this case urination while performing fellatio) in accordance with BBFC guidelines and in line with current interpretation of the Obscene Publications Act 1959, to obtain an R18.

Cannibal Holocaust is still working through the process at the Board. It has been given a cuts list requiring cuts for animal cruelty and sexual violence.

Another at the BBFC that I have not yet heard news of is I Spit On Your Grave. And there are plenty more iconic titles being resubmitted over the coming weeks too.

17th June   Junior Roadshows

From the Independent on Sunday

Robin Duval on the Junior Roadshows

Before I took over as director of the BBFC two years ago, we had never exposed our guidelines to a public and industry consultation before, writes Robert Duval. As far as I was concerned, I felt that we had to do that to re-establish our credibility.

You do have to renew that link with the public from time to time, so we started out by consulting with adults and we are now extending that to children.

I don't think we should make any assumptions about the outcomes of our junior roadshows at this stage. The only precedent we have is one or two one-off screenings we have done for films that we had concerns about. When Jurassic Park first came out we showed it to some 12-year-olds, and that was very interesting because the reactions weren't necessarily what you would have expected. Most of them said it didn't particularly scare them, but they were very protective about the idea of their younger brothers and sisters seeing it. We asked them if the PG certificate we had given it was correct, and in the end we kept it at that level.

We have also held one or two citizens' juries with adults and, as part of that, we brought children in at the end to debate certain points about film in general, but without showing them clips. But what we haven't done before is carry out a controlled exercise involving getting children to watch film clips, and observing how they receive this kind of thing. If the findings tell us that we are being over-protective and the children are signalling as much, then we need to think about that for when we next review the guidelines. But if, by some remote chance, the kids said they resented legally not being able to have access to extreme violence, then obviously there's no way we would act on that.

We are now beginning to think seriously about planning public research to find out whether people are happy with the idea of a 12-PG rating, backed by strict guidelines and advisory information. We haven't yet decided exactly what form the research will take, but it will probably involve discussions with various advisory bodies. We are hoping to start this process towards the end of this year.

As part of the junior roadshow, it will be interesting to find out what kids feel about that too. I think that they might prove to be a bit more authoritarian about that than we might think. Whatever comes out of all this, though, I can't see us going back to changing the guidelines straightaway. The views of the children are only part of the mix in an exercise in which the views of the parents are still arguably more important.

Thousands of schoolchildren are to be shown film clips featuring violence, drug abuse and sexually explicit language in an experimental programme that could pave the way for a further relaxation of the UK's censorship rules.

The BBFC is inviting children from around the UK to special screenings designed to judge the success of its decisions, and to help it to decide whether to go even further. By gauging their reaction to scenes involving such "adult" behaviour as sex and drug-taking from films already available to them, it hopes to make up its mind whether to make the current 12 category advisory, as with the PG rating.

 

The Roadshows

Around 250 children aged 15 to 18 will attend the first screening, which is to be held next month in east London. The excerpts to be shown include scenes from movies that narrowly missed out on 18 certificates. In one sequence, taken from horror movie Valentine, a scantily clad young woman is murdered by a maniac wielding a power drill, while another, from the gothic fantasy Sleepy Hollow, depicts a small boy hiding beneath the floorboards of a house while his family is slain by a headless horseman.

The screening will also include strong scenes cut from TV broadcasts such as teen horror Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Simpsons. While these scenes are not shown on British TV they are available on videos of the show. Each clip will be preceded by a brief warning and an explanation of the context in which it appears in the film from which it is taken.

Ros Bates, the senior BBFC examiner behind the new initiative, said it was introduced to give children direct say in film regulation which, until now, has been reserved for adults. Before we issued our revised guidelines last year, we held our first proper public consultation, but we talked only to adults at that stage. The guidelines aren't set in stone, and from now on we are planning periodic reviews. With this in mind it was suggested that we should really be asking for the views of the biggest audience for films and videos: adolescents. We want to find out what 15- to 18-year-olds think about our classification decisions and whether they believe we're getting them right. After they have seen the clips we will be asking them to fill in questionnaires. We obviously won't be showing the children anything from an 18 film, but we have deliberately chosen clips that address more adult themes, some of them from films that were borderline when it came to deciding which certificate they should be given. Taking material out of context is always problematic, but we will do our best to warn the children of anything scary or risqué and to set the context for them.

Ros Bates said that, as well as expressing their own views on the excerpts, it was hoped that the children would be able to comment on how their younger siblings might be affected. Over the coming months a further nine screenings, or "junior roadshows", would be held nationwide, some of them aimed at younger children.

News of the screenings has drawn a mixed response from parents and child protection groups. Arthur Cornell, chairman of the Family Education Trust, a charity which promotes traditional family values, said: I think it's quite difficult to sit children down and ask them to assess what is and what isn't good for them. No youngster watching one of these clips is going to say, 'oh, that frightened me dreadfully', because it's not cool to say that.

Eileen Hayes, parenting adviser for the NSPCC, which opposes the prospective changes to the 12 classification, added: Parents increasingly have less influence over their children's lives, especially when it comes to screen violence. Although research on the links between film violence and behaviour is inconclusive, parents feel the need to be cautious. The BBFC excuses the relaxation of certificates by saying that children are growing up faster, but the reality is that we are forcing them to do so by exposing them to more adult images. Parents who want control over their children's viewing will find this proposal undermining.

 

Films to be discussed

Next month, students on the BTEC National Diploma media course at Newham Sixth Form College, Plaistow, will form part of the first of 10 pioneering children's viewing panels being organised by the BBFC. In order to give them a sneak preview of the event, The Independent on Sunday arranged to show them some of the excerpts they will be asked to judge.

While many of the chosen scenes prompted mild amusement from the students, some provoked far stronger reactions. Several people were particularly critical of the scene from Sleepy Hollow in which a small boy cowers in horror as a headless horseman massacres his entire family, before turning his axe towards him.

A brief scene from 12-rated action adventure The Mummy in which a man's tongue is pulled out by red hot tongs also drew a mixed reaction. While some students said that they the idea was too disturbing for a film aimed at children younger than 12, others praised the careful editing that left most of the incident to the viewer's imagination.

A scene from coming-of-age comedy American Pie in which a suburban father gives his son a pep talk on the birds and the bees drew laughter for its mixture of lewd references and more subtle innuendo. Scenes of sustained but non-bloody violence in 15-rated martial arts movie Romeo Must Die drew a similarly measured response.

However, there were conflicting views on the question of censorship in general, and moves to relax the criteria for 12 films in particular. While there was a consensus that violence and psychological horror should be limited in movies aimed at younger age groups, a more relaxed attitude was taken to sex, nudity and drug use.

The full list of excerpts to be shown at the first screening on 10 July is as follows:

Romeo Must Die (15) ­ fight sequence

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (15) ­ uncut video scene censored for early evening TV

The Simpsons (PG) ­ uncut video sequence

Josh (12) ­ fight sequence in Hindi film

American Pie (15) ­ scene in which dad talks to son about sex

Picture Perfect (PG) ­ spoken references to sexual activity

The Mummy (12) ­ punishment scene in which the victim's tongue is cut out

Vertical Limit (12) ­ father offering to sacrifice himself for his two teenage sons as all three hang from cliff edge

Valentine (15) ­ a girl in a swimming suit being killed by power drill-wielding murderer

Sleepy Hollow (15) ­ a young boy hides under floorboards as headless horseman kills his family

Forces of Nature (12) ­ teenagers smoking cannabis

Dude Where's My Car? (15) ­ a dog smoking cannabis

17th June   Bird Brained Censorship

Censorship of animal issues is one that I choose not to get too involved with. It is hardly a common occurrence and I feel that a too purist approach may kick up a  disproportionate fuss. An issue best left to those skilled in diplomacy.

The BBFC have issued the following press release on the subject:

The BBFC has required a cut to the cinema film Before Night Falls under the Cinematograph Films (Animals) Act 1937 which makes it illegal to show any scene...organised or directed in such a way as to involve the cruel infliction of pain and terror on any animal or the cruel goading to terror of any animal to fury.

Before Night Falls is a drama about the life of the Cuban poet Reinaldo Arena. The scene which has been cut takes place in prison and involves the capture of a bird by one of the inmates. The bird seems to have been lassoed round the neck with a rope tied to the end of a stick. As it flaps, appearing to fight frantically for escape, it is pulled through a hole in the roof of the cellblock. The bird is evidently distressed.

The BBFC contacted the American Humane Association for further information about the film and the AHA expressed concern about that particular scene. The assurances from the trainer/handler of the bird about the way the scene had been filmed were not consistent with what appears on screen. The BBFC, therefore, concluded that the scene should be cut before awarding the film a '15' certificate.

The BBFC takes its responsibilities under the Cinematograph Films (Animals) Act 1937 seriously and required cuts to twelve video works in 2000. These did, however, include some archive material being submitted on video for the first time. It has been several years since a feature film contained material which the Board considered to be in breach of the Act.

6th June   A Complete Massacre at the Board

As previously reported, Tobe Hooper's Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 was recently submitted to the BBFC. It has now been passed 18 uncut. It will be a little while yet before this good news makes the BBFC website as the video packaging has yet to go through the process.

The previous generation of censors were asked about the possibility of a video release but they suggested that 20 minutes would probably have to be cut and the release proceeded no further. At last we can get to see Dennis Hopper's classic chainsaw duel.

Another notable film passing through the BBFC is Tokyo Decadence, a 1992 Japanese film by Ryu Murakami. This is an art-house films with some explicit sex. However, it appears that the version submitted is the softer of the two available versions. Anyway the BBFC have passed it 18 for a cinema release by Blue Light

Another former nasty has finally been passed uncut. The Slayer, a 1981 US video by JS Cardone, has had 14s of previous cuts waived.

A few years ago the BBFC embarrassed themselves by cutting Doctor Who: Enemy Within. At the time, they claimed that the American TV spin-off  contained scenes of irrelevant violence which would have been unacceptable in Britain for any category lower than 15, so for the sake of the youngsters, it was cut for a 12 by 1:06s. The current administration has come out from behind the sofa and has waived all of the previous cuts for a new 12 certificate release.

21st May   Massacre at the Board

Good to see more Bruce Lee videos sailing uncut through the BBFC. The latest is Way of the Dragon that had 1:11s worth of cuts restored for an uncut 18 certificate.

Dario Argento's Phantom of the Opera is another that has been passed unscathed.

I have also heard that Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 has been submitted. It is one of my favourite jokey horrors so I will be interested to see how Dennis Hopper and his chainsaw duel get by.

14th May   Squirming Over Squirting

Ben Dover's Squirt Queens has finally passed the BBFC shorn of 6 minutes & 12 seconds. The video feature several segments all climaxing in a rather wet female orgasm. The BBFC have decided that this is in fact urolagnia and as such is obscene and to be banned. They justified this decision as follows: Cut required to sight of urolagnia, in accordance with current interpretation of the Obscene Publications Act 1959.

Deprived of its reason d'etre, the video has apparently been retitled Ben Dover's British Cum Queens.

If anyone feels deprived at UK restriction of this particular interest may be interested to know that SexView, a new digital satellite sex channel on Hotbird, is literally awash with high quality films featuring golden showers. Fisting is another British no-no that becomes a yes-yes on SexView.

9th May   Passing Water at the BBFC

I noticed this week another video cut due to urination. Slumber Party 11 was cut by 32s for an R18 with the following justification: Company required to make cuts to female urination during sex in line with BBFC guidelines in order to achieve an R18.

However the BBFC have been consulting with various enforcement agencies and have now decided that urination is acceptable as long as it does not take place during sex. In fact Barely Legal 1 & 2 have already been passed R18 and contain scenes of urination prior to the sex scenes.

9th May   Sex & Lies at the BBFC

Following up the news item: Japan: Hardcore Artcore it appears that Jang Sun Woo's Lies (Gojitmal) has in fact already been seen and approved by the BBFC.

Lies was first shown at the London Film Festival in 1999 and has subsequently appeared for limited runs at the ICA and at a few
festivals, including Bradford earlier this year. The film's UK distributors, Momentum Pictures didn't submit Lies for a cinema certificate, presumably because of its limited appeal. However, they did submit the film for video classification last year and the Board approved it '18' uncut for video release.

The distributors haven't yet got their act together for the video packaging approval and so it has not yet received it's final certificate.

Contrary to the reports in the Japan Times the sex in the film, whilst undeniably protracted and fairly explicit, does not actually include any 'hardcore' material.   The most troublesome thing about the film is its extended - and escalating - S/M beatings. However, there's no aroused genitalia or penetration.

25th April   Longer Good Fridays

(Not so sure about the good though)

More good news from the BBFC. Friday the 13th part III and Friday the 13th The Final Chapter have been passed uncut with previous cuts waived.

Not so good news about Henry though

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer has been cut by 48s. The BBFC report on their site: Some previous film cuts waived and all additional 1993 video cuts waived. The BBFC required only 27 seconds of cuts for this submission. However, the company made 21 seconds of cuts in addition to those formally requested. Cuts were required to remove images of sexual violence on the grounds of Board Policy and under the terms of the Video Recordings Act 1984 (harm to society through the depiction of violent behaviour and human sexual activity).

If you don't want to be messed about by the censors don't forget that Henry is widely available internationally on both video and DVD. There are uncut European versions and US versions available.

22nd April   Cutting Through the Statistics

The BBFC have helpfully added a statistics section to their website outlining the amount of films/videos submitted and the amount that are cut etc. An initial inspection of these statistics suggest that if anything the amount of cuts is going up rather than down as expected. ie in 2000 the BBFC cut 173 out of 6328 (2.7%) videos certificated. This year so far they have cut 115 videos (5.8% of the videos submitted).

However, thanks to Shaun Hollingworth who wrote to the BBFC, we now have a good explanation for this apparent increase in cuts. He received the following reply from the BBFC:

You are quite right in stating that the number of videos cut so far in 2001 has risen significantly compared to 2000. However, this apparently huge rise in cuts is in fact misleading. The rise in cuts is actually explained by the submission of a number of series' of sex videos for '18' classification (Class Action, Medieval Mischief, Star Whores, Banged Up, Department Sex, Randy and Stan, Sam Gets Her Girl), but which contained material only acceptable at 'R18'. What we have in effect had is entire series' of sex tapes submitted, with up to 13 instalments in each, requiring cuts to be made in virtually every episode for an '18' rather than an 'R18'. All of these series could have been passed fully uncut at 'R18' and - had the distributor chosen to accept this category - the number of cuts made in 2001 would in fact be significantly lower. So far, 62 of the videos cut this year have comprised episodes of the above mentioned sex series', all of which could have been passed uncut at 'R18'.

I hope this reassures you that 'censorship' per se has not drastically increased in 2001. All that has changed is that the companies submitting works for '18' have unfortunately been less careful in pre-cutting their product in line with our '18' guidelines.

One thing your query does underline, however, is the usefulness of our new websites 'statistics' section and it is gratifying to see that this is already proving useful and of interest. In fact, you can see on the website what proportion in which category is being cut. Simply click on the year you want and the statistics will be displayed by category on the right. As you will see, so far in 2001, 28.5% of '18' videos have been cut as opposed to 11.2% overall in 2000. This is for the reasons stated above. However, seeing as these '18' sex video series' now seem to have come to an end it is entirely possible that the overall '18' statistics for the year 2001 will level out. As you will see, intervention at the levels below '18' has not in fact increased ('12' and '15' are so far the same, 'PG' has dropped and only 'U' has increased). Furthermore, of the 163 'R18's classified so far this year, only six have required cuts.

7th April   Of Cannibals & Cemeteries

The Mountains of the Cannibal God

To obtain an 18, cuts of 2m 6s were required.  Cuts required to sight of animal cruelty, including animals being goaded to fight each other, in accordance with BBFC policy.

House by the Cemetery

Thanks to Boyd

The BBFC have recently classified this video with cuts of 33s. The BBFC have explained that the cuts weren't really required but were forced on them due to legal advise. They explained this as follows

House by the Cemetery was last convicted under the Obscene Publications Act in 1994. It received this conviction as a result of its content, not simply because it was unclassified. In accordance with current BBFC policy, which is based on our latest legal advice, it was therefore necessary to make cuts to the video before classification. This is exactly the same situation as applies to Zombie Flesh Eaters and it is likely in the case of both films that no cuts would have been required had there been no recent convictions. With regard to the cuts requested, two scenes were cut which appeared to the Board to contain the strongest violence in the film, and therefore the most likely scenes to play a part in any decision to find the film obscene. Whether the violence was against women or men was in this case irrelevant. If the worst violence in the film had featured men it would be these parts that the Board would feel compelled to cut. We were simply required to seek out any material in the film that might result in a conviction and whose removal would render the film acceptable. That said, the BBFC has attempted to keep the cuts to a reasonable minimum, as opposed to the 5 minutes 57 seconds of cuts for the previous video version.

Bridget Jones's Diary

The distributors (UIP) chose to remove the word 'cunt' from the dialogue line 'ham fisted cunt' in order the achieve a 15. An uncut 18 was available to the distributor.

Nightmare on Elm Street 4: Dream Master

Has been passed uncut with all previous cuts waived with a 15 certificate.

14th March   More on Squirting

I recently ran a story on the strife at the BBFC caused by Bend Dover's Squirt Queens. Those good people at www.world-sex-news.com did more diligent research than I and obtained the following response from the BBFC.

The Melon Farmers article is in fact inaccurate in several respects.

The BBFC's guidelines for 'R18' clearly prohibit 'urolagnia' on the basis that it is an example of a 'degrading and dehumanising' activity. Furthermore, our advice (taken when the new Guidelines were drawn up last year) is that such depictions are still likely to be found obscene in UK courts under the Obscene Publications Act 1959.

In 2000, the BBFC classified a tape for Ben Dover showing a few brief instances of fluid being ejected from the vagina which we did not at the time consider to be 'urolagnia'. However, subsequent expert medical advice informed us that there is no such thing as 'female ejaculation' and that the fluid present in Squirt Queens (and the earlier tape) was in fact urine. This advice was taken from a medical adviser rather than from the Police, as was incorrectly reported in Melon Farmers. Nonetheless, subsequent Police advice also suggested that any such depictions of 'squirting' were also likely to be found against by Courts. The Melon Farmer's story that the Police said such material 'would be prosecuted' is a distortion of events and so we have no 'official correspondence' to offer. All the Police provided was verbal advice, as we may ask them to do from time to time, that such material, were it to be put before a Jury, would be likely to be found against. They did not say, as the story suggests, that they intended a crusade against such material, nor did they threaten that the BBFC would be prosecuted. The Police simply and factually stated that Juries would be likely to convict such material were this tape to find its way into a courtroom. In the light of this information and our medical advice, the BBFC asked for the 'squirting' sequences in Squirt Queens to be cut. These sequences in fact form only a small part of the work in question and, once removed, would still leave a viable hardcore sex tape. Squirt Queens was not refused classification, as suggested by Melon Farmers. The Board simply asked for cuts to what our latest advice suggested was a potentially legally actionable depiction of urolagnia. We are currently awaiting resubmission of the cut version. Ben Dover was in fact invited to supply evidence that our medical advice was incorrect and that the scenes shown were in fact 'female ejaculation'. Although he initially undertook to do this, he was ultimately unable to provide any such evidence or any medical opinion that would back up his position.

When making decisions the BBFC is required to consider what kind of material is likely to be found against by the Courts. We are not able to classify obscene, or otherwise illegal, material. In order to establish what is currently legally acceptable we need to regularly consult the Police and CPS to keep abreast of what material is being found against. This does not mean, as implied by Melon Farmers, that the Police are making decisions on our behalf. It simply means that the BBFC is seeking to avoid classifying obscene material based on current standards of acceptability, something we have always done.

14th March   Holocaust at the BBFC

Still waiting on news about how Cannibal Holocaust is faring at the BBFC but at least the trailer has now been passed.

4th March   Evil Dead Re-Enbranched

Another landmark has been passed this week with the BBFC passing an uncut video version of The Evil Dead. And before anyone asks, the tree rape scene has been left intact.

The video was submitted by FilmFour but the UK rights belong to Anchor Bay who are currently deciding upon their release plans.

More excellent work from the BBFC who are surely deserving of promotion from The Hall of Shame to the Hall of Fame.

1st March   BBFC Shock

Thanks to Brian

I have just learnt that the BBFC that  have passed Michael Ninn's Shock (hardcore version) uncut R18. This film involves a mild pussy-whipping scene and a "pony girl" scene in which some kind of gag may have been used.

26th February   Fuck Me Less

Baise-Moi is probably the strongest of the porn/mainstream cross over films, so an 18 cinema certificate is welcome news.  However it has been cut by 9.5s. A single shot has been removed showing a close up image of the rapist's erect penis going in and out of the victim's vagina during the rape scene in Reel 1.  The rest of the rape scene was left untouched and all the hardcore sex scenes throughout the rest of the film (including the close up fellatio etc) have been left intact.

The BBFC justified their classification in the following press release.

The BBFC has classified Baise Moi '18' for adults only. A cut, however, was required to the scene of violent rape early in the film.

The Board's policy on sexual violence (published in its Classification Guidelines in September 2000) warns that, where the portrayal eroticises sexual assault, cuts are likely to be required at any classification level. Additionally, any association of sex with non-consensual restraint, pain or humiliation may be cut. This policy is in part informed by the evidence of media effects research that violent pornography may excite aggressive responses from some male viewers. But the Board also recognises that the graphic presentation of violent non-consensual sex is unlikely to be acceptable to the British public at any level. For these reasons, the Board concluded that one particular shot was unacceptable. Its extreme sexual imagery is unmatched elsewhere in the rape scene. Without it, the sequence remains a compelling portrayal of the ugliness and horror of rape. With it, the scene takes on a more explicitly pornographic dimension and is a matter of serious concern. As a matter of policy, even the Guidelines set by the BBFC for R18 sex videos (pornography which is available only through licensed sex shops) prohibit such explicit sexual violence.

There are graphic sexual images elsewhere in the film. The important difference, however, is that none of them occur in a context of rape or violence. It is also relevant that the two female protagonists remain in control of events: the most serious concern identified by effects research, which is male sexual aggression, is not an issue in the rest of the film. Furthermore, the explicit shots which remain in the latter part of the film are in line with the precedents already established by the Board in passing films such as The Idiots, Ai No Corrida and Romance. These have been generally accepted by the public. It should also be acknowledged that Baise Moi, contrary perhaps to early reports of its reception in France, is a serious and well-made film. It concerns the reaction of two young women to the violence and humiliation habitually visited upon them by men. It represents an important viewpoint. The explicit images illustrate the theme which is bleak and, for many viewers, profoundly unpleasant. It would be less effectively rendered if cuts were made to the later scenes to reduce its angry frankness.

The context (and therefore explanation) for these images is not the same as in pornographic works where the purpose of the images and of the work as a whole is to excite the male (or, possibly, the female) viewer. In contrast to pornographic works, the explicit images in the latter part of Baise Moi are brief, very occasional - they in fact only occupy a small part of the film's time - and clearly do not have the primary purpose of providing sexual satisfaction to the viewer.

There will be many different views about the merits of this film. Indeed, media comment in this country has so far been largely critical. The Board's view, nonetheless, is that the film has a serious cultural purpose and offers an important perspective. We regret, however, the necessity to censor part of a film directed at a mature adult audience who may reasonably expect to make up their own minds about it.

26th February   Good Dog

Good news from the BBFC regarding Amores Perros which has been passed uncut. Lets hope it doesn't kick up a stink. They have justified their decision via the following press release:

The BBFC has passed Amores Perros '18' uncut for an adult audience. The Board is satisfied with the evidence that no animals were harmed during the making of the film. Assurances were received from the film distributors and the principal animal trainer that the dog fighting scenes in the film were achieved through training and cinematic illusion and that no dogs were hurt. The Board's own detailed technical scrutiny of the fighting scenes supports that conclusion. Most significantly, the American Humane Association, which brings particular film expertise to these issues, has looked at the work critically. It has subsequently gone on record "appreciat[ing] the voluntary efforts of the Mexican trainers and handlers who have demonstrated a deep concern for the welfare of the animals in their care during production." It concludes that the dogs were unharmed.

The BBFC has spoken to the RSPCA and SSPCA who were concerned about some scenes where goading appears to take place. The Cinematograph Films (Animals) Act 1937 specifically refers to "cruel goading of an animal to fury", but the Board is satisfied that what is seen on the screen provides no actual evidence of such cruelty. The BBFC regards dog-fighting as an unacceptable sport and would not hesitate to take action against a film where dogs had been treated in this way. It has during the past year cut 12 films and videos for scenes of actual cruelty to animals, ranging from horse falls to snakes being burned alive.

25th February   Intimate Mainstream Hardcore

Intimacy has been passed 18 uncut for cinema release (Pathe). This is the new film based on some stories by Hanif Kureishi   (My Beautiful Launderette). The film caused some controversy at the Sundance and Berlin Film Festivals as it is the first English-language film to be passed by the Board that contains explicit unsimulated sex of the Romance variety. (The film is set in London but it has a French director).

Interestingly, the players performing the sex are 'known' actors - eg in an early scene Kerry Fox (of Shallow Grave) performs fellatio on one of her fellow cast members!

21st February   Dogged by the Censors

From the Guardian by Fiachra Gibbons

A "crazy and outdated" law may stop one of the most feted foreign films in years being released in Britain.

Amores Perros, roughly translated as Love's A Bitch, has made the first-time Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu the hottest property since Quentin Tarantino. The film has won plaudits and prizes all over the world - 24 in all since it cleared the board at the Critics' Week at Cannes last May. Last week it won an Oscar nomination for best foreign film.

But despite predictions that it could match its Oscar rival Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as a mainstream hit here, it is highly unlikely to be passed uncut by the censor because one of its three intertwining stories involves dog fighting. An obscure British law dating from the 1930s has put the British board of film classification in the "impossible position" of having to decide whether the film's pivotal scene can be legally shown.

Stephen Frears, the British director of The Grifters and High Fidelity, who was bowled over by the film at last year's San Sebastian film festival, where he chaired the jury, claimed it would be a "national disgrace" if it is not released here. This is freshest, most forceful film I have seen in ages. This is what film-making is all about, he said. The very short scene which I believe may cause problems in Britain, which really is crucial to the film, is nothing to the sort of violence we see inflicted on human beings routinely without a word of protest. This is a very humane film. "If a British law says we cannot see it, then it is crazy and outdated and should be changed."

The film has been snapped up by the major US distributor Lions Gate and is being shown in the rest of Europe without cuts. But the strict provisions of the Cinematograph Films (Animals) Act, 1937, means British distributors have been very slow about picking it up despite its triumph at the Edinburgh and London film festivals.

What worries them is 21 seconds of footage in the first and most powerful story, which revolves around an illegal dog-fighting den in Mexico City.

Pit bull terriers, Alsatians and rottweilers appear to fight to the death in a graphic demonstration of what the director calls the "bestial values" that have infected their owners. The dog that is the tragic anti-hero of the film is a pet who fights for his owner out of love for him but which itself turns into a killer, he said, just as his owner becomes a killer out of a thwarted love for his brother's wife. I am really worried about the film becoming known as a 'dog fighting film' because it is not. I think that without that scene, the film loses its impact on the soul. People say we should cut it, but without this moment the film has no meaning.

Mr Gonzalez Inarritu said that although the fight scene appeared to be bloody and barbarous, "the camera lies" and he went to great lengths to ensure the dogs did not do anything they did not want to do. We used hand-held cameras to make it look a lot more dramatic. The dogs were just playing, he said. Sue Clarke, of the BBFC, said the film put them in an impossible position. We are looking at the film very carefully. Our only problem is with one very short scene and the reason we are taking so long to decide is that we can see its importance to the film. Let's be very clear, it is not the board that is the obstacle here, it is the law, and the law says animals should not be goaded or in any way incited to fight."

(The issue of animal cruelty is difficult. Whereas a lot of censorship is based upon  a totally reprehensible holier than thou attitude, animal issues are at least based on a passionate wish to avoid suffering. The level of passion that this may inflame leaves me hoping for a quiet compromise. There seems little point in jeopardising recent advances in UK censorship for the sake of a single film that we can all quietly obtain on import anyway).

18th February   Pissed Off with Ben Dover

Last year the UK establishment got together and decided that explicit consensual porn was OK with the exception of fisting, golden showers and violent/degrading material. As expected, the police have stepped in to take an unnecessarily hard line on the boundaries of this compromise. The likes of the police and customs like clear cut, black & white guidelines so as to avoid having to think about issues such as harm, justification and justice.

In September last year a Ben Dover video was submitted for an R18 certificate. It was called British Housewives Fantasies Vol 1. Two of the ladies in the film 'squirted' on orgasm. The film was duly passed at R18, and is currently on sale in licensed sex shops. Recently another title called Squirt Queens was submitted, a tape in which all the female performers 'squirted'. A certificate was refused. The grounds for this according to the BBFC was that the police had recently told them that it is impossible for a woman to ejaculate, and that the liquid issued is in fact urine, and that, according to the police, contravenes the Obscene Publications Act.

To be fair to the BBFC they have absolutely no problem with female ejaculation, but the police have said that any tapes passed R18 containing 'squirting' will be prosecuted, and understandably the BBFC are not keen to be dragged into a prosecution, which would have the Daily Mail et al up in arms.

I have seen a review copy of Squirt Queens and can confirm that whilst being very erotic, it is  ludicrous to suggest that it is any more obscene than any other R18 video. The police are talking out of their arse. This matter raises a couple of important points; Firstly, what are the police doing putting pressure on the BBFC, effectively using the "you'll end up in court too" threat. The police say that they have had female ejaculate tested and it is in fact urine. Non-police research reports that while it is true, female ejaculate does contain urine it is by no means only urine. The point is, are the BBFC making the decisions on certificates or not? If the police have now started throwing their weight around over this, what could be next? Secondly, this appears to be a  blatant case of sex discrimination. If we are now allowed to see men ejaculating, why not women?  I wonder what the women's groups have to say about this.

11th February   Beyond the BBFC

I noticed last week that Lucio Fulci's The Beyond has been passed uncut by the BBFC. Previous cuts have been waived. For a reason I have never really fathomed, The Beyond generates more requests about cuts and bans than any other film in my lists. A bit of a landmark then to see it pass unscathed.

Another notable waiving of cuts occurred as Lo Wei's Fist of Fury passed through uncut with a running time of 101:54s.

On a less happy note, Urotsukidoji IV: Episode 3 Quests End did suffer the loss of 2:31s. Better than a ban I suppose. However, I did appreciate the new found clarity of BBFC justification comments, in this case: Cuts required to remove sight of tentacular rape and breast groping in accordance with BBFC policy to obtain an '18' classification

1st February   Explicit Reasoning

I just noticed one of the most heavily cut R18s that have passed through the BBFC for some time. However the site does at least give a little more information than usual as to why.

Dirty Anal Kelly in Rome 2 (Harmony) has been cut by 7:17s to 119:11s. The BBFC justified their decision as follows:

Cuts required to explicit sex scenes in which women and men are hit, spat at, appear to be in pain, or have their head forced into a toilet bowl. Cuts are in accordance with BBFC guidelines on R18 material.

3rd January   Waiving Goodbye to Cuts

Wu Chin's Bruce Lee, the Man, the Legend has joined the list of uncut re-releases. The BBFC has passed the video with 2:38s of cuts waived. About 5 mins of additional material has also been added. The video however has been upgraded from a 15 to an 18.