With the release of Terminator 2: Judgment Day in 1991, Canadian director James Cameron became the first person to make a $100 million movie. A massive success with critics and audiences alike, Terminator 2 won four Academy Awards and made
almost $520 million at the worldwide box office. Cameron had been forced by the BBFC to make cuts to his previous film The Abyss in 1989 and unfortunately, Terminator 2 would not escape unscathed either.
BBFC Advice: A future that didn't turn out as foretold
The distributors, Guild Film, supplied the BBFC with a rough cut version of Terminator 2 in 1991, and requested a 15 certificate for theatrical release. The BBFC viewed this rough cut in June, where examiners were positive about the film and its
moral messages. A few red flags were thrown up however, mainly with regard to the Terminator's kneecapping of innocent victims, but on the whole the first viewing report from one examiner recommended that the Board pass the film uncut:
Cameron is not into blood and gore. There are very brief visuals of... impacts - close shots, brief and in darkness, which to a degree blunts the viciousness.
I am forced to wonder the purpose of cutting. The film does not set out to dwell on the pain inflicted. It passes on quickly to the next piece of action. There is no breaking of precedence here for '15' [and] I would recommend '15' uncut -
though of course it will have to be seen again in final form, and others may think differently.
With regards to imitability, a final note on the report mentions Sarah Connor's picking of the lock on her cell door, although the examiner (wrongly) states that the technique does not work. They go on to remark that they doubt it requires
cutting on film .
BBFC Cinema Cuts
Somewhere along the line however, the BBFC felt that some cuts were, in fact, required to Terminator 2, and when the final cut of the film came in, the Board issued a list of proposed cuts to the distributors in June of 1991. The BBFC
acknowledged in its covering letter that it was happy to pass the film as a 15, but that some heavy and realistic violence in the middle of the film should be reduced. Perhaps in an attempt to soften the news to the distributor, the
Board's cuts list closed with:
Since none of these cuts will interfere with the stunning special effects, I'm sure there will be no difficulty.
As a result, the UK cinema release of Terminator 2 missed out on a small amount of footage.
Cut Scenes: Interfering with the future of Dougie
The changes requested by the BBFC are noted in their records thus:
When Sarah escapes from the hospital, reduce the process and intensity of her realistic violence to others at various stages of her escape.
The first of these reductions concerned Sarah's beating of Dougie, a guard who abuses her earlier in the film. After Sarah picks the lock to her cell door and escapes, she uses a broken mop handle as a makeshift weapon, exacting revenge upon
Dougie who is stood outside her cell. The scene was edited to reduce the number of impacts to him from four hits to one, with only the initial blow being retained. Footage of Dougie holding his bloodied nose and the repeated strikes which
bring him to the floor - causing him to fall unconscious - were all removed.
Cut Scenes: Interfering with the future of Dr Silberman
The sequence shortly afterwards where Sarah beats Doctor Silberman was also edited. Sarah's attack in the uncut version consists of her striking him on the arm, before hitting him on the back of the legs, but the UK cinema version removed the
blow to Silberman's legs; making it appear as though a single hit fells him.
BBFC Additional Video Cuts
In June 1992, the film was seen for video release following a submission by Guild Home Video. The version seen by the BBFC was the pre-cut UK cinema version, but the BBFC requested an additional 18 seconds of cuts before a 15 rating for home
viewing would be issued. With the cinema cuts included, the total amount of missing footage would amount to 26 seconds.
Cut Scenes: Bikers vs killing machine
The first of these alterations occurs during the bar scene at the beginning of the film, where the Terminator is looking for clothes. As he confronts a group of bikers inside, the first biker gets thrown through a window and lands on a hot
stove in the bar's kitchen. The BBFC requested this scene be toned down, stating:
Reduce the length of time man thrown through window is burned on griddle by removing two sections: the beginning of the shot where he lands on the stove and the link to the next shot before he rolls off.
Another cut occurs immediately afterwards, where another biker stabs the Terminator with a large knife before being overcome by the cyborg. The BBFC cuts list stated:
Reduce sight of Terminator pinning [biker] to billiard table by removing impact shot of him being stabbed through the back of shoulder, resuming on his face pressed against table with hilt just visible [at] top of screen.
The change is a subtle one; a change that one could argue as being unnecessary and unlikely to be noticed by most viewers.
Cut Scenes: Lock paperclipping
No cuts occur during the next 38 minutes or so, but as the BBFC was concerned about imitable techniques and the ability to replay those scenes out of context in the home, Sarah's lock picking scene - which was considered acceptable on film -
was cut for the UK video. The start of the shot that shows Sarah inserting two unfolded paperclip wires into her cell's lock was cut, totaling eight seconds of footage.
Cut Scenes: Caught off guard
A minute or so later, the T-1000 kills the security guard Lewis in order to gain access to Sarah at Pescadero State Hospital. Rising from the floor, the T-1000 stabs Lewis through the eye, resulting in his agonizing death. For this scene, the
BBFC requested to Guild to:
Replace frontal shot of victim with spear through eye with alternative take in which he is not juddering so vigorously as to be clearly still in pain.
No alternative shot existed, however, so the distributors simply removed the beginning of the shot which showed Lewis contorting in pain and slowed down the rest of the same shot to cover the missing footage.
Three minutes later, another change occurs. As John and the Terminator arrive at the hospital, the Terminator shoots the guard at the security gate twice in the legs. In the uncut version, this is contained in a single camera shot but the UK
video version removes the Terminator's first gunshot, resulting in the guard being felled by only one bullet.
Cut Scenes: Caught flat faced
A few minutes later, the Terminator moves in to rescue Sarah from the hostile hospital wardens. The third warden who attacks the Terminator is thrown into a wall. In the uncut version, we see his face slam into the wall with a heavy (and
rather comical) impact sound, but the UK version removes this footage. After the Terminator successfully rescues Sarah and they make an attempt to escape with John from the hospital grounds, the team commandeers a police car in the underground
garage. After the Terminator pulls the policeman out of the car, the uncut version shows the policeman's face being slammed into a concrete pillar, again with another heavy impact sound. The UK video version reduces the sound of the impact, as
well as removing the visual details; retaining the reduced impact sound over the proceeding shot of the T-1000 dropping down into the elevator.
Cut Scenes: Caught legging it
The final change made to the film occurs as our heroes attempt to break out of the Cyberdyne building. This was the scene that the BBFC was concerned as being a borderline 15/18 issue when they first examined the rough cut, but which they
ultimately left untouched for the theatrical release. However, the scene was cut for the UK video version, the BBFC having instructed the distributors:
When Terminator emerges from lift to see S.W.A.T. team waiting in lobby, considerably reduce close impact shots as he shoots them in the legs to disable them.
A handful of separate impacts were cut from this sequence, resulting in a reduction of the infliction of pain and injury that Chief Censor James Ferman was so fond of cutting at the time.
Of course this reduction in pain and injury rather spoilt some 'be careful what you wish for' irony. The Terminator was painfully making a point of keeping his word to John to not kill people.
BBFC Uncut: Special Treatment for LaserDisc
Later in 1992, Pioneer submitted a widescreen print of the R-rated American version of Terminator 2 to the BBFC, which contained none of the edits they had made for the UK releases. BBFC policy at the time claimed to not allow cut- and
uncut versions of the same film to be available to British consumers at the same time, fearing that consumers would simply seek out the uncut version of a film and thus render a censored version superfluous. There were times that this rule was
randomly relaxed, however.
In August of 1992, the BBFC allowed the uncut version of Die Hard 2 to be released on VHS in widescreen with an 18 rating, despite only permitting the full screen VHS version to be released cut with a 15 rating two years before. The
reasons for this are unclear. With Terminator 2 , the BBFC passed the R-rated version uncut with an 18 rating, due to the fact that it was only appearing on LaserDisc; a niche format that most film viewers did not have access to at the
time. However, Guild Home Video also managed to sneak the film out uncut on VHS - in full screen - in November 1993, when they released it along with The Terminator on a special 2-On-1 extended play VHS. This version appears to have
not been classified officially by the BBFC.
BBFC Cuts Restored: No Special Treatment for the Special Edition
As with his 1986 film Aliens , James Cameron prepared a special edition of Terminator 2 for home video, which was released in widescreen on VHS by Polygram Filmed Entertainment in 1997 as the T-1000 Edition . The film was
submitted to the BBFC with previously cut footage reinstated, but the BBFC requested that the same cuts from the former VHS version be implemented, resulting in 17 seconds of footage being removed. A 22 second scene showing John Connor and Miles
Dyson in the Cyberdyne vault was also curiously omitted from the film, but not due to censorship reasons.
BBFC Cuts Terminated
Following James Ferman's departure from the Board in the late 1990s, his successor Robin Duval undertook a reshuffling of the BBFC's internal workings, including the abandoning of some antiquated policies and the overseeing of new classification
guidelines. During his time, Terminator 2 was resubmitted to the BBFC in 2001 by Momentum Pictures, who were releasing the special edition of the film on DVD in the UK. They submitted the T-1000 edition of the film to the BBFC with all of
the previous film and video cuts reinstated, including the aforementioned missing Cyberdyne vault scene. After ten years of various cut, uncut, full screen and widescreen versions of the film being available to UK buyers, the BBFC finally passed
Terminator 2 uncut with a 15 rating, with all of the previously censored material reinstated. As a result, the film has been available on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK in this uncut form since then, and is now the standard version available in
any British store.
Cutting Edge Episode 7: Terminator 2: The Video
In the latest episode of Cutting Edge, Gavin Salkeld passes judgement on the BBFC for their cuts to James Cameron's Terminator 2
All articles are original works compiled by Gavin Salkeld, with occasional help from a small team of researchers. Particular thanks are due to the BBFC for their diligent and helpful explanations of their interventions.