In January 1979, BROTHERHOOD was Refused Registration for reasons of 'excessive violence'.
JS & WC International Film was the applicant for this 100m Shaw Brothers production.
Thanks to Matt for this review.
The Hong Kong DVD from Intercontinental Video runs 94:35 and looks to be uncut. I can kind of understand how the Australian censors came to ban it back in 1979. The violence is indeed quite brutal with lots of vicious gang fights, ear slicing, and stabbings. It is kind of understandable that is was not resubmitted. Censoring it down would have been quite difficult, as it would have made for some very choppy fight scenes. However, in 2009 an uncut version would easily get an R18+.
Mandarin Films had an 84m print of BROTHER OF DARKNESS banned in 1994. An appeal to the Board of Review produced this response.
Review Board Report
21 July 1994
5 Findings on Material Questions of Fact
5.1 The plot revolves around a controversial murder case in Hong Kong. Tol is accused of murdering his very violent and ill-tempered drug addicted, criminal adopted brother, Wah. On each release from prison over several years, Wah terrorises the family, which includes his elderly mother and father, his wife, brother Tol and his girlfriend Jenny. Tol finally snaps and kills Wah.
5.2 The board of review considered the 'rape' scene in reel 1 at approximately 14-17 minutes cited by the Censorship Board as, in its opinion, taking the film out of the R category. The scene depicts Wah, arriving home after being released from prison, and forcing his wife into the bedroom to have sex with him, with the appalled family in earshot. She protests strongly, but he exerts physical force to achieve penetration. She ultimately appears consenting. The Review Board found that the lengthy scene constituted one of sexual violence. However in the opinion of the Board, the scene was illustrative of the violence component in the sexual relationship between Wah and his wife (a previous encounter also depicted initial protests followed by enjoyment). It was necessary to the narrative in that it contributed to the developing picture of Wah's character, as one who had no regard for the sensibilities of others.
5.3 Other scenes which contributed to the consumer advice line of 'medium level violence', including the burning of Wah's small son with a cigarette butt (which followed the scene described in 5.2) and the prolonged murder of Wah by Tol near the end of the film.
5.4 Other scenes which contributed to the consumer advice lines 'high level sex scenes' and 'nudity' included two scenes of intercourse between Wah and his wife, and several scenes between Tol and Jenny.
6 Reasons for Decision
6.1 The Review Board based its decision not to confirm the Censorship Board's decision to refuse registration on its consideration of the film as a whole, and on the scene cited in 5.2 in particular.
6.2 The Review Board was of the opinion that the scene was one of sexual violence but was acceptable by virtue of it being necessary to the narrative.
6.3 The film included many scenes of sexual activity and one of drug abuse (but in an advocatory manner). These, and the scene referred to in 5.2, in the opinion of the Review Board. placed the film in the For Restricted Exhibition category.
6.4 The Review Board's direction that the Consumer Advice in relation to the film be 'High level sex scenes, medium level violence, nudity' as made having regard to the scenes referred to in 5.2,5.3,5.4 above.
The Review Board's decision is to set aside the decision of the Censorship Board in relation to the film Brother of Darkness, and to grant the permission sought by the applicant. The film is to be classified R with consumer advice High level sex scenes, medium level violence, nudity' . This decision was taken after full consideration of the applicant's submission, and after assessing the film a whole against relevant legislative criteria and those contained in the current film classification guidelines endorsed by the Censorship Ministers.
With the appeal a success, BROTHER OF DARKNESS went on to an R-rated Chinese Language cinema run.
In 1989, the OFLC banned BROTHERS IN ARMS because of sexual violence. In March 1989, Roadshow failed in an appeal to the Review Board.
Review Board Report
31 March 1989
The Board of Review found this film gratuitously violent, and was especially concerned by two scenes of sexual assault. In the view of the Board the violence was not justified by any serious purpose or message (as it was, for example, in The Accused, and appeared to be wholly exploitative in intention. The Board took into account the ready availability of video materials and the difficulty of enforcing 'R' classifications in some cases. The decision to refuse classification was confirmed.
In July 1989, a censored 91:11 (NTSC) tape was passed with an R18+ (Frequent violence) rating. The tape was released on Roadshow's Premiere Home Video label.
Thanks to Simon for this review.
Premiere Home Video [au] – 91:11 (NTSC)
Republic Pictures Home Video [us] – 94:27 (NTSC)
I noticed three cut scenes in Premiere’s (PHV) release of BROTHERS IN ARMS. This is not a side-by-side comparison, so there is a chance I may have missed something. It does identify the two scenes of sexual assault that the OFLC mentioned. All times refer to the uncut Republic Pictures (RP) tape. Both were NTSC, so time comparisons were easy.
At 03:12 a nail is shown being driven into a wrist, this is followed by a second shot of the hammer hitting the nail. The PHV tape removes this, and masks the cuts by repeating a long shot of the group, so the times remain the same. This is an unnecessary cut, as a few seconds later, the far more graphic shot of the guy breaking free by pulling his hand over the nail is shown in full.
STEVIE AND JOEY
Before – Joey tackles Stevie, and looks up at her.
Censored by 01:15 – In the RP tape, this scene runs from 23:42 to 26:50. The PHV tape shows parts of this. The hillbillies taunt and beat Stevie and Joey. They remove Stevie’s trousers, and force Joey to have sex with her.
After – Dallas arrives and points a gun at one of the brothers.
At 34:30, there is around 00:01 missing when Dallas slashes the throat of one of the brothers. The uncut version lingers on the wound slightly longer.
STEVIE AND CALEB
Before – Caleb pushes Stevie into the barn
Censored by 02:32 – In the RP tape, this scene runs from 55:58 to 60:56. The PHV tape shows parts of this. Caleb threatens Stevie with a knife and makes her say that she want his babies as he kisses her. Eventually he pushes her to the ground and hits her in the face. Finally, he cuts off her top and underwear and rapes her.
After – Dallas comes to the rescue by crashing through the roof.
STEVIE STABS CALEB
At 62:05 there is around 00:01 missing when Stevie stabs Caleb in the hand. The PHV does not show the knife sticking out of the hand.
Interestingly, the PHV tapes ends slightly differently to the uncut RP. The film finishes with only Joey, Stevie and the Father alive. They load the body of Caleb on the horse and the Father rides away. Stevie and Joey then turn and walk away. The RP tape then goes to the end credits. However, the PHV tape includes an extra 00:34 freeze frame which explains what happened next.
"Two months later, based on information provided by Joey, local authorities apprehended FATHER who is currently being held in jail, without bail, pending trial…"
Presumably, this was added to show that you cannot get away with murder. However, it rather ruins the original ending that has Father riding away after all his sons have been killed. I do not know if this was added just for the PHV tape, or if it appears in any other releases.
This film has never had problems with the Australian censors. It is included because it was a controversial title.
In July 2005, Sony Picture Releasing had a 93m (DVD for 35mm) of THE BROWN BUNNY passed with an R18+ (Sexual Activity, High Level Themes) rating. A second DVD was passed with the same rating and consumer warning in September 2005.
The 89:21 DVD was released in December 2005. The controversial scene where Chloe Sevigny performs real oral sex on Vincent Gallo runs from 78:30 to 81:00.
In 2006, Dennis Hood from the South Australian Family First party pushed the SA Attorney-General Michael Atkinson to call for a review of the film. Previously, Mr. Atkinson has been very accommodating to groups from the Religious Right.
In 2003, he supported the Australian Family Association against IRREVERSIBLE (2002), in 2004 against ANATOMY OF HELL (2004), and in 2005 against MYSTERIOUS SKIN (2004).
All three banning attempts failed. This time, perhaps finally sensing the futility of it all, he did not to come to the aid of Christian wowsers.
What Dennis Hood was trying to do with THE BROWN BUNNY was to have the rating increased up to X18+. This would have made it illegal to sell/rent within South Australia.
This is what happened to Michael Winterbottom's 9 SONGS (2004), when the Classification Board gave it an overly restrictive X18+ rating. The distributor appealed, and in 2005, it was dropped down to R18+ for theatrical release. In August 2005, the South Australian Classification Council increased it back up to X18+, effectively banning it for sale/hire within the South Australia.
Sex movie 'should be X-rated
Adelaide Advertiser, May 4, 2006
Family First MLC Dennis Hood said the view of fellatio involving a
fully erect penis "was pornographic".
"If that's not pornography, then what is? Any depiction of actual sex is clearly X-rated," Mr Hood said.
SA is the only Australian state with the power to ban movies within its borders. However, Mr Hood does not want to go that far.
He called on the Attorney-General Michael Atkinson to order a review of the film's classification status.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Katie Hull, said the movie had
"done quite well as a rental title".
"The R-rating is almost mainstream now," Ms Hull said.
"We had no problems with distributing it."
"There is a very good case for reclassification," Mr Hood said.
Young Media Australia president Elizabeth Handsley said R-rated movies should be separated from general-release titles in rental stores.
Mr Atkinson yesterday said it was too late to reclassify The Brown
"This film was released in 2003 and was classified by the Classification Board last year and it is now not possible for its classification to be reviewed by the Classification Review Board," Mr Atkinson said.
This film has never had problems with the Australian censors. It is included because the distributor chose to censor it to achieve a more commercial rating.
On June 4th 2009, BRUNO, Sacha Baron Cohen's follow up to BORAT, was surprisingly hit with an R18+ (Sexual activity and nudity) rating by the Classification Board. There was no way that Universal would settle for anything more than an MA15+, and on June 18th, they got what they wanted. This was not the result of an appeal to the Review Board. Instead the film was censored and re-edited, with the 81m MA15+ (Strong sex scenes and nudity, crude humour and coarse language) rating actually running longer than the 80m R18+ version.
On July 1st 2009, BRUNO was rated for a third time; again it was awarded an MA15+ (Strong sex scenes and nudity, crude humour and coarse language). However, the running time had now been reduced from 81 to 80m.
Australia gets censored cut of Bruno!
blog.quickflix.com.au, June 30, 2009
A representative from Universal has stated that only seconds worth of material has been snipped from the Australian cut. In my research I have discovered that the cuts were made from an early sequence between Bruno and his pygmy boyfriend (which already features a particularly shocking moment involving a bottle of champagne).
A 90m DVD of BRUNO was rated MA15+ (Strong sex scenes, nudity, crude humour and coarse language) on September 15th 2009.
A 264m Blu-ray version was passed with an R18+ (Sexual activity and nudity) rating on September 18th 2009. This was released in November 2009 and was being advertised as:
UN-CUT EDITION, BULGING WITH UNSEEN EXTRAS, RESTRICTED The version you couldn't see in Australian cinemas
Universal's R18+ DVD of BRUNO ran 78:00.
Here is Donald McDonald, the Director of the Classification Board during the May 2009 Senate Estimates in which he comments on the large number of complaints received regarding BRUNO.
LEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL LEGISLATION COMMITTEE
Classification Review Board
Mr D McDonald —The board received many complaints about the classification of the film Bruno at the MA 15+ level. This was despite the fact that the consumer advice for the film left little to the imagination. It was ‘strong sex scenes and nudity, crude humour and course language’. Virtually all of the complaints evidenced an unfamiliarity with the advice in question.
Many of the complaints again demonstrated that the complainant was not aware of this additional guidance about the film’s content. The board is working with the Attorney-General’s Department to examine what more can be done to provide better access to consumer advice prior to the purchase of tickets for a film as well as at the point of sale itself. I will update senators about this matter at the next estimates hearing.
Here are some details from the censor's annual report where they explain the reasons for the two ratings.
MA15+ and R18+
Annual Report 2008-2009
A modified version of Brüno was classified MA 15+ with consumer advice for ‘Strong sex scenes and nudity, crude humour and coarse language’. The film contained sex scenes and nudity which were infrequent and strong in impact. Sexual activity in the film was entirely obscured and no actual or explicit sexual activity was depicted. Coarse language was infrequent and strong in impact. The Classification Board also noted that themes in the form of crude humour were frequent and strong in impact. The original version of Brüno was classified R 18+
The Classification Board classified the original version of the film Brüno R 18+ with consumer advice for ‘Sexual activity and nudity’. In the opinion of the Classification Board, the impact of sexual activity in the film, although obscured was high. The Classification Board also noted that the film contained nudity, which could be accommodated within a lower classification but warranted flagging in consumer advice. A modified version of Brüno was classified MA 15+ during the reporting period
Film – Public exhibition
Classification Board Annual Report 2009-2010
There were 33 complaints about the film Bruno. Complainants were concerned that the sexual references and nudity were too explicit and coarse language too strong for the classification. Many suggested it should have been classified R 18+. The public exhibition version of Bruno was classified MA 15+ with consumer advice of ‘Strong sex scenes and nudity, crude humour and coarse language’. It should be noted that an application for another version of the film, not for public exhibition, was received with additional content. This version was classified R 18+ with consumer advice of ‘Sexual activity and nudity’.
There is one report of customs confiscating a DVD of BUMFIGHTS: A CAUSE FOR CONCERN in 2005.
Filmways presented a 90m pre-cut 35mm print of THE BURNING to the censors in December 1981. It was rated R, with no further cuts.
The cut Thorn EMI video release was reviewed in 1984, and confirmed as an R at 89m. The actual running time was 87:14, which compares with 87:26 for the uncut British release, which was also on Thorn EMI. This indicates that the Australian VHS was slightly censored.