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Banned films

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La Règle du Jeu/The Rules of the Game (1939) - Jean Renoir [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

La Règle du Jeu (1939) was initially judged to be too gloomy and was greeted with derision by a Parisian crowd on its premiere. The French government duly banned it, but after the war it has come to be seen as one of the greatest films of all-time. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rules_of_the_Game [Sept 2004]

Ken Park (2002) - Larry Clark, Edward Lachman


For nearly the entire history of film and movie production, certain films have been either boycotted by political and religious groups or literally banned by a regime for political or moral reasons. Paradoxically, banning a movie often completely fails to achieve its intention of preventing a movie from being seen- the publicity given worldwide to banned movies often results in it being given attention it might not otherwise receive.

With the advent of the internet, the ability of groups or governments to ban a film is hindered. High-speed internet and better file compression give more people access to digital copies of movies that might not be available for viewing in theaters. Obvious problems with using the internet as a distribution system include the inability for a producer to profit from his or her film. Recently, Michael Moore stirred up controversy by encouraging people who were curious about but didn't want to financially support his film, Fahrenheit 9/11, to download it and watch it on their computers. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banned_films [Oct 2004]

Banning versus censoring

Many governments have commissions to censor and/or rate productions for film and telivision exhibition. For example, the United States has MPAA Ratings to protect children from questionable content. From 1930 to 1968, all films produced in the United States were subject to the Motion Picture Production Code. From a government standpoint, the censoring of films is more effective than banning, because it limits the scope of potentially dangerous or subversive cinema without overtly limiting freedom of speech. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banned_films [Oct 2004]

United Kingdom's BBFC

Great Britain has the strictest film censorship in Europe. According to David McGillvray, author of the history of softcore sex films 'Doing Rude Things', "Britain is one of only three countries in the world (the others are Germany and Egypt) enduring stricter censorship today than 25years ago". But if you think New Labour might mean new liberalism, think again. During the moral panic over Childs Play 3 Tony Blair, then leader of the Opposition, loudly supported David Alton's bill for harsher video censorship.

Historically the Board faced strong criticism for an over-zealous attitude in censoring film. The Board reached the height of its notority in the 1970s when it banned a series of films that were released uncut and were popular in other countries. Notable titles include The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Straw Dogs and The Last House on the Left. However under recent Presidents James Ferman and Andreas Whittam Smith and current incumbent Sir Quentin Thomas, more relaxed guidelines have been followed, allowing the release, usually uncut, of these previously banned films on video and in cinemas. Some films from the 1970s remain unreleased, (see [1] for a list) however many of these titles remain banned primarily because they are not as high profile as the above-mentioned films and thus their distributors have not chosen to re-submit the films to the BBFC - where they are likely to receive a more sympathetic hearing than 30 years ago. Only one film from the 70s, Love Camp 7 which contains substantial scenes of sexual violence, has remained completely banned following a re-submission during the 2000s.


Possibly the country with the most banned films. The Queensland Film Office, for example, has banned atleast 174 films since 1974. Australia's OFLC (Office of Film and Literature Classification, now also responsible for the banning of computer games) can be blamed for much of the censorship, however each state and territory is free to make additional legislation. See also Censorship In Australia.

  • 1907 Victorian Chief Secretary bans screenings of The Kelly Gang in Benalla and Wangarratta.
  • 1911 exhibition of The Kelly Gang film banned in Adelaide.
  • 1912 NSW police department banned the production of bushranger films.
  • 1928 to 1941: Chief Censor Creswell O'Reilly and his board ban many movies in this period, including Dawn, Klondike Annie (starring Mae West), Applause (it contained chorus girls), Compulsory Hands, Cape Forlorn, The Ladies Man (sexual overtones), White Cargo (interracial theme), The Five Year Plan (discussed communism), All Quiet on the Western Front, Gang Bullets, Each Dawn I Die, Hell's Kitchen (three US ganster films), The King and the Chorus Girl, The Brith of a Baby ("not in the public interest"), Green Pastures, Susan and God (blasphemy), Reefer Madness and Of Mice and Men (sex and violence in combination).
  • 1942 - The Monster and the Girl, The Man with two Lives, The Invisible Ghost, and King Kong, Frankenstein, Dracula plus their respective sequels.
  • 1964 to 1970: Mr. R. J. Prowse is appointed Chief Censor and Campbell goes into the Appeals Board. During the liberal 1960's many more films were being banned including The Miracle, Viridiana, La Dolce Vita, Satyricon, The Silence, Blow Up and Zabriskie Point.
  • 1971: Customs Minister Don Chip begins the development of a new classification system, which includes the much-needed R rating for adult content. Movies that were once banned are gradually released. The X rating is later introduced to cope with the upsurge in hardcore pornographic films.
  • 1976 Pasolini's Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma banned in Australia
  • 1984 (?): A governmental conference is held, resulting in the later abolition of X rated material in most Australian states. Ownership of hardcore porn remains legal.
  • 1990: Gail Malone and the Queensland Film Board of Review, which had banned 174 films since 1974 (including Dawn of the Dead, Near Dark, Prison, Day of the Dead, The Toxic Avenger, Re-Animator and the M rated A Nightmare on Elm Street III) are abolished when the new Labour State Premier Wayne Goss is outraged that the Board banned an already censored version of Bad Taste after a three-week run in cinemas.
  • 1992 The previously banned 1981 Chinese gore film Dr. Lamb is released with 11 minutes cut; it's poster is banned.
  • 1993 Australian ban on Pasolini's Salò lifted
  • 1995 Twelve queer films banned from Tasmania's Queer film festival, including Spikes and Heels (about the Gay Games in New York, broadcast on French, Swiss, Belgian and US TV), and Coming Out Under Fire (about the discrimination faced by US lesbian and gay personnel during World War II, which SBS has just bought to screen on SBS TV). Other titles include What a Lesbian Looks Like, Mad About the Boy, 21st Century Nuns and Sex Fish.
  • 1996 Pasolini's Salò again banned in Australia
  • 2000 Romance banned Nationally.
  • 2002 Baise Moi (french for "Kiss/Rape Me") banned in Australia
  • 2003 Ken Park film banned in NSW
  • Other films reportadly banned in Australia, but its unclear when: American Psycho, Final Exit, Cannibal Holocaust, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banned_films#Australia [Oct 2004]

    Forbidden Films: Censorship Histories of 125 Motion Pictures - Dawn B. Sova, Marjorie Heins

    1. Forbidden Films: Censorship Histories of 125 Motion Pictures - Dawn B. Sova, Marjorie Heins [Amazon.com]
      Even though this book brings important items out to light, the work itself is lacking and at times incomplete. It also has a strong sense of sensasionalism to it, think of watching NBC on daily news. The mention of films like The Great Dictator as items under censorship and controversy is in itself sensasionalistic, as opposed to Citizen Kane which is not mentioned at all, gives a better idea of how subtle and hyped this work is, besides, the constant reference to the De Grazia book by title Banned Films: Movies, Censors and the First Amendment, makes it look like it is a copy of such book and no actual research was ever done to actualize, itemize or distinguish one text from the other. In short this book could be helpful on legal matters and cross reference from one legal case to another,since it does provide the actual case numbers and states where cases where trialed (picture yourself battling the Supreme court and having this book as a resource for enlightment on appeals, injunctions and motions), as far as film is concerned, I personally know of at least 125 more banned films within one decade alone and after the Hays Production Code or the Christian Legion of Decency to write a book on. Sova deserves credit for sticking it out with the female stars and the sex/erotic/porn oriented genre, but I for one think of film as a much broader medium in which the powers that be relish to exert their power to limit the means of expression whether this be of religious, sexual or political nature. Recommended for the high school reader with a strong suggestion to do further reading --An Amazon.com Customer from Los Angeles, CA USA

    2. Sin in Soft Focus: Pre-Code Hollywood - Mark A. Vieira [Amazon.com]
      Prudes and the faint-of-heart shield your eyes! The stunning Sin in Soft Focus contains some of the most breathtaking black-and-white stills ever taken, all from the debaucherous decade before the Hollywood production code was established. With chapters devoted to "The Warners Grit," "The MGM Gloss," and "The Paramount Glow," and to horror films, gangster movies, and the sexy scandal of Mae West, Mark A. Vieira illustrates the story of classic Hollywood's most delightfully lascivious period--brought to a stop when Joseph Breen began enforcing the puritanical production code of 1934.

      The text of this book is fascinating even for those familiar with the films of the era, but the mesmerizing photographs are what will keep readers glued to the pages. Oversized and abundant stills capture stars like Clara Bow, Marlene Dietrich, Joan Crawford, William Powell, Mae West, Joan Blondell, James Cagney, and Greta Garbo in striking clarity, dashing poses, and of course, shockingly revealing outfits. Voyeurs seeking more on this naughty era will also want to read Thomas Doherty's Pre-Code Hollywood. --Raphael Shargel --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

    3. Flesh and Blood : The National Society of Film Critics on Sex, Violence, and Censorship - Peter Keough (Editor) [Amazon.com]
      When it comes to films such as Reservoir Dogs and Blue Velvet, we've all heard the opinions of politicians eager for easy publicity. But what, asks this entertaining fifth collection from the National Society of Film Critics, do the medium's experts have to say? Editor and critic Keough includes everyone from Judith Crist to Roger Ebert commenting on films that touch upon controversy or censorship. Interpreting the art instead of counting the bodies, Morris Dickstein reads passion into the blood spatters of Raging Bull and Dave Kehr gracefully dissects George Romero's quest for the human soul. Many question the priorities of a rating board that finds films containing complex depictions of sexuality and violence, for example Henry and June and Bad Lieutenant, more censurable than blatantly exploitive ones such as Basic Instinct. Peter Travers and Andy Klein each explain the problematic politics of Motion Pictures Association of America and of the self-censoring production code, while Stuart Klawans identifies the economic motivations behind these cyclical campaigns for moral decency. Well intentioned but poorly executed, Keough's scattershot approach results in too much padding between direct hits. Articles on Orlando and The Piano are, strangely, grouped with reviews of woman-as-killer films in a section titled "Women on Top." Most effective are the longer pieces that reassess such milestones in the art/free speech debate as A Clockwork Orange, Midnight Cowboy and The Wild Bunch. --Reed Business Information, Inc.

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