This film has never had problems with the Australian censors. It is included because it was a controversial title
In April 1986, a 2935.01-meter print of HAIL MARY was awarded an R-rating. A 105m videotape received the same classification in July 1986. In both cases, Pan American Productions were the applicant.
Although never banned in Australia, this title was the subject of legal action and an intense letter writing campaign by Christians. It went on to play theatrically with an R-rating.
The following are taken from the Censors 1986 Annual Report, and explains how the controversy evolved. We have included links to the original court hearings for the film.
The film 'Je Vous Salue Marie' ('Hail Mary'), by French director Jean-Luc Godard, was submitted for registration and classification and was screened by all Board Members in March 1986, The Board was aware that the release of the film overseas had caused controversy and that campaigns had been organised denouncing the film as blasphemous,
The Board was unanimously of the opinion that the film was not blasphemous, indecent or obscene and voted by a majority of six to classify it 'R', with five voting to classify it 'M',
In May 1986, the Board was advised by the President of a Catholic Marian group that a campaign and demonstration would be organised against the film and its forthcoming release in Australia.
The Board soon began receiving letters of protest - many identically worded and in roneoed form - which, by the end of August had totalled 39 816, It was clear that, with one or two exceptions, none of the correspondents had seen the film.
The campaign against the film also took other forms including petitions to Federal Parliament, media interviews and demonstrations outside the State Theatre where the film was first screened in Australia at the Sydney Film Festival early in June.
In July 1986, a Roman Catholic priest and an Anglican priest sought, in an action brought in the Federal Court, to have the Board's decision to register the film set aside on the grounds that the Board had failed to prohibit the importation of a blasphemous film as required by the Customs (Cinematograph Films) Regulations.
On 4 August 1986, in the Federal Court, Mr Justice Sheppard found that the two ministers of religion did not have standing as 'persons aggrieved' in terms of the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act and dismissed the application. In his judgment, Mr Justice Sheppard said: 'Notwithstanding their special position as ministers of religion, I do not think that they stand in any different position from countless other members of the community who, with varying degrees of commitment, profess the Christian faith.'
The applicants were granted leave to appeal to the Full Court on 24 October 1986 and on 13 February 1987, Justices Fisher, Lockhart and Wilcox handed down their decision that the ministers did have standing as 'persons aggrieved'.
The judges held that as ministers of religion the appellants were in
a special position compared with ordinary members of the public, 'in that it
was their duty and vocation to maintain the sanctity of the scriptures, to
spread the Gospel, to teach and foster Christian beliefs and to repel or
oppose blasphemy which was the denial of the basic tenets of their faith'.
The Film Censorship Board has not sought leave to appeal this decision and awaits any developments in relation to the substantive application.
Report of the Joint Select Committee on Video Material
The Film Censorship Board and the Films Board of Review
The Films Board of Review
(c) Access to Review
7.28 Under section 39 of the Customs (Cinematograph Films) Regulations application for review of a film for public exhibition is open to 'a person aggrieved by a decision of the Censorship Board', while section 30(1) of the ACT Classification of Publications Ordinance gives the right to apply for a review to the person who applied for the classification, the publisher of the film or the Attorney-General.
7.29 Until recently it was believed that 'a person aggrieved' restricted standing to appeal to the Films Board of Review under the Customs (Cinematograph Films) Regulations to the industry only. However a decision brought down on 13 February 1987 after an appeal to the Full Court of the Federal Court successfully challenged that belief. A Roman Catholic priest and an Anglican priest were held to have standing as 'persons aggrieved' in the case of the film Je Vous Salue Marie ('Hail Mary'). The judges held that as ministers of religion the appellants were in a special position compared with ordinary members of the public 'in that it is their duty and vocation to maintain the sanctity of the Scriptures, to spread the Gospel, to teach and foster Christian beliefs and to repel or oppose blasphemy'.
7.30 As a result of this case it now seems that standing under the Customs (Cinematograph Films) Regulations may be open to people who can demonstrate to the court's satisfaction that they have suffered special damage arising out of spiritual concern. However, getting to this point would be sufficiently costly to discourage many people.
Two years after the original action, Christians continued to protest against HAIL MARY. The following is taken from the OFLC and Films Board of Review Report on Activities 1988 to 1989.
Having been accorded standing as "persons aggrieved" within the meaning of the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977 (see 1986 Report on Activities, page 16), Rev. Fr. Walter Ogle and Rev. Fr. John O'Neill initiated action in the Federal Court of Australia against the Film Censorship Board to have its decision to register Je Vous Salue Marie (Hail Mary) set aside and against Pan American Productions, importers of the film, to have the film exported or destroyed. When the action failed they sought to revive it early in 1988. However, it was discontinued upon receipt of evidence that the print of the film had been destroyed at the direction of the importer.
This final statement is rather odd. The film print may have been destroyed, after all, the theatrical run was well and truly over, however the videotape remained for rent.
Following its theatrical releases Video Excellence released HAIL MARY on VHS. The cover played on the controversy with the words:
SHOULD THIS FILM BE BANNED?
JUDGE FOR YOURSELF!
Umbrella Entertainment released the film on DVD in March 2006.
In his 2004 review of THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST (2004), Fred Nile had this to say about the film.
"I have condemned many anti-Christian, blasphemous, pornographic films during the years, such as Hail Mary and The Last Temptation of Christ, which I said were produced by the devil in the studios of hell"
To read about more Christian hysteria, see our separate entry for THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST (1988).
During debates in the NSW Legislative Council, Fred Nile has spoken of being sued by the Chief Censor.
Legal Profession Amendment (National Competition Policy
NSW Legislative Council
Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile
11 June 2002
On one occasion when a barrister represented me in a defamation case I reluctantly agreed to an expensive settlement. I had to pay out tens of thousands of dollars in a case in which I, as a layman, did not believe I was guilty, but I had to accept the legal advice of the barristers who were representing me.
...I had to pay the Chief Censor because I criticised its approval of the Hail Mary film. How can a person be found guilty of defamation when dealing with the Chief Censor? I thought those sorts of people were open to criticism from the Left and the Right. I criticised the Chief Censor for allowing the film to be shown. After the settlement the barrister sent me a bill for the following week when the case was to go before the Supreme Court. The case did not go before the Supreme Court but the barrister thought I should still pay his fees for that week.
I was particularly disappointed when I found out he had another important case—and I will not mention any names—which he must have known about some weeks prior to my case being listed. My barrister could have adjusted his calendar to fit in my case. I paid the barrister's fees because I was threatened. I did not know that other avenues were open to me. I was told, "If you do not pay these fees you will go on some sort of black list and no-one will represent you in the future." I reluctantly paid thousands of dollars for a court case that was never held. With that exception, in the main I have received good service from barristers and solicitors. I support the bill.
NSW Legislative Council
Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile
18 October 2005
...one case involved being sued by the Chief Censor for criticism of her actions in regard to the Hail Mary film.
In the chief censor case I sent out a request for prayer. It got into Janet Strickland's hands, and she then issued a second action against me for aggravation of defamation. I aggravated her by making it public that I was being sued. In some way one is supposed to be silent and suffer silently.
In July 1973, a 2492.96-meter (90:52) print of HAMMER was censored by 18.89-meters (00:42) for an R-rating. The cuts were made to remove 'excessive violence'.
United Artists Australasia was the applicant.
Thanks to Simon for this information.
The DVD that MGM released in the US runs 90:53, or 91:08 including the MGM lion that appears before and after the film. The 42s of 'excessive violence' would have come from one or more of these scenes.
Riley beating up one of the dock workers (04:00), Roughhouse being crushed to death by the car (20:30), the black guy who is chased by the cops being beaten by Brenner (41:00), Brenner beating the Professor (78:00), and Hammer killing Brenner by putting his head through a car window (88m).
The death of Roughhouse and Brenner are the most likely target for cuts, as at the end of the scene, they both show their dead, blood splattered faces.
In February 1972, a 7836-feet (87:18) print of HANDS OF THE RIPPER was banned because of 'excessive violence'. U.I.P censored it down to 2333.54-meters (85:17), and in December 1972 it was awarded an M-rating. This cut version played theatrically in Australia.
HANDS OF THE RIPPER was one of three Hammer films that were banned by the Australian Censorship Board during the first year of the R-rating. The other titles were DEMONS OF THE MIND (1972) and VAMPIRE CIRCUS (1972).
In February 1984 and April 1985, Pioneer Electronic twice had 85m tapes passed with an M-rating.
Thorn EMI Screen Entertainment had an 85m tape passed with an M-rating in October 1985.
All three were awarded for violence, which were described as being:
We do not believe either of these tapes were released in Australia.
In 2005, MRA Entertainment released an 81:38 (PAL) version of HANDS OF THE RIPPER on DVD. The film was part of a HAMMER HORROR COLLECTION box set that also included VAMPIRE CIRCUS (1972) and TWINS OF EVIL (1971).
Thanks to Simon for this information.
The scenes of ‘excessive violence’ that caused HANDS OF THE RIPPER to be banned in 1972 would be:
14m: The aftermath shot of Mrs Golding pinned to the door with a pole.
36m approx: Anna slashes the throat of Dolly, and then stabs her in the neck. This is a very graphic murder for a Hammer film.
53m approx: Anna stabs Long Liz in the eye with hatpins. A short time later, we see her staggering through the street with the pins protruding from her eye.
These are the most graphic scenes in the film. However, at the time, distributors often targeted an M-rating for horror films. The two minutes of cuts may have been made with the aim of securing this lower rating.
The MRA Entertainment DVD runs 81:38, which despite the few seconds difference, I would guess is the same as the UK release from Network.
DVD Compare has some interesting information about the international censorship of HANDS OF THE RIPPER, including claims that the murder of Dolly exists in a longer version.
In August 2012, a 90m DVD of HANGER was banned because of sexual violence, high impact sexualised violence, and prolonged depictions of offensive and/or very high impact violence.
Bounty Films was the applicant.
Thanks to Monster Pictures for the Classification Board report.
Reason For Decision:
In making this decision, the Classification Board has applied the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 (the Classification Act), the National Classification Code (the Code) and the Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Computer Games 2005 (the Guidelines).
In the Board’s view this film warrants an ‘RC’ classification in accordance with item 1(a) of the films table of the National Classification Code:
“1. Films that:
(a) depict, express or otherwise deal with matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena in such a way that they offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that they should not be classified;” will be Refused Classification.
The Guidelines state that sexual violence may be implied if justified by context within the R18+ classification; films will therefore be refused classification if they contain explicit depictions of sexual violence. The Guidelines also state that films will be refused classification if they contain gratuitous, exploitative or offensive depictions of violence with a very high degree of impact or which are excessively frequent, prolonged or detailed.
The film contains depictions of explicit sexual violence and sexualised violence that are very high in impact, as well as prolonged depictions of violence which are offensive and/or have a very high degree of impact. Depictions of violence include detailed mutilation and disfigurement, viscera and shattered bone as well as blood gushes, splatter and spray. A male character is tortured with a blow torch while two others are choked to death - one with excrement and the other with a used tampon. Sexual themes underpin the depictions of violence with pornographic footage and still images featuring full frontal nudity with genital detail and explicit sexual intercourse frequently viewed in the background. Other scenes of violence are cut with depictions of sexual activity and/or sexualised nudity. The sexual content and sexualised context both serve to heighten the overall impact of the violence viewed throughout the film. This content exceeds what can be accommodated within the R18+ classification and, as such, is Refused Classification.
Please note that the examples described below do not represent an exhaustive list of the content that caused the film to be Refused Classification.
Examples include but are not limited to the following:
At approximately 10 minutes, a heavily pregnant prostitute, Rose, is implicitly struck across the face with the hook of a metal coat hanger. A deep, raw and bloody gash is viewed in close-up across the left side of her face. Her pimp, Leroy, forces her back on a bed, spreads her legs as he straddles her and implies that he is going to abort her foetus. When Rose pleads with him to convince him not to harm her baby, Leroy implicitly punches her with force, knocking her out. A close-up of Rose’s belly is viewed followed by an extreme close-up depicting the hook of the wire hanger being run across Rose’s genitals before Leroy explicitly inserts the hook between her labia and then implicitly through the birth canal and into her uterus – again viewed in extreme close-up. Rose screams and writhes in pain before a squelching sound effect is heard and Leroy implicitly forces the implement deeper into her womb below screen. He continues to manipulate the wire hook below screen before, in another extreme close-up, blood streams from between Rose’s labia as Leroy manipulates her belly. The camera cuts to a close-up of Rose’s face, contorted in pain, before it cuts back to another extreme close-up of blood flowing from between Rose’s labia. Leroy exclaims “Got cha!” and Rose cries out in pain before the blood-smeared head of the infant is viewed exiting the birth canal. Leroy drags the baby from Rose’s body with the umbilical cord still attached and, with wide blood stains viewed on the bed linen, tosses the infant to the floor. An extreme close-up of the blood-covered infant is viewed before the scene ends at approximately 14 minutes.
At approximately 31 minutes, when Russell tells a woman that she is “butt ugly” and looks pregnant, Hanger appears mesmerised by the woman’s protruding belly. He pushes the woman back on the couch saying “Give me baby”, then claws at the now screaming woman’s clothes and nuzzles at her breast while Russell, jumping up and down in excitement, looks on. At approximately 32 minutes, in an extreme close-up, Hanger lifts his head revealing a wide, open and bloody wound on the woman’s breast where he has implicitly bitten off her nipple and the surrounding flesh. Blood splatters over the screaming woman before the bitten section is dropped back onto her upper chest. The now blood-drenched woman continues to scream as Hanger savages her chest and body; gnawing and chewing on what appears to be bloodied viscera, entrails and flesh. The camera cuts to a front on close-up of the now silent woman and Hanger, both completely drenched in blood, then back to a close-up of Hanger as he continues to feed on and tear through the woman’s flesh and organs while repeating “give me baby”. The scene ends at approximately 35 minutes.
At approximately 63 minutes, Phil, dressed as Santa Claus, having swallowed a handful of tablets in order to achieve “the hard-on of the century” and having rendered Russell and Hanger unconscious with GBH, exposes his erect penis before, thrusting vigorously, he implicitly anally rapes Russell. The scene cuts to a close-up of a female character’s genitals as she masturbates with a small implement, then to John, tied up and having been tortured with a blow torch, now having his face forced into the genitals of a semi-naked prostitute. The camera cuts back to Phil as he crosses to Hanger, lying unconscious on the couch, his colostomy bag having been pulled from the stoma in his abdomen. In an extreme close-up, Phil explicitly inserts his penis into the stoma and thrusts repeatedly as copious amounts of thick brown fluid ooze from the hole in Hanger’s belly.
In the opinion of the Board, this film contains depictions of violence, sexual violence and sexualised violence that are very high in impact and exceed what can be accommodated within the R18+ classification. As such, this film is Refused Classification pursuant to item 1(a) of the films table of the Code.
This film is Refused Classification in accordance with item 1(a) of the films table of the National Classification Code.
Itsonlyatshirt.com designed the cover art that was intended for the Monster Pictures DVD.
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.
Roadshow Films had a 99m version of THE HANGOVER rated MA15+ (Strong sexual references, Coarse language and nudity) in May 2009.
It was later discovered that Roadshow had submitted a pre-censored version to avoid an R18+ rating.
The Hangover censorship controversy answered!
blog.quickflix.com.au, June 19, 2009
The risqué shot occurs during the end credits, but was blurred out when it appeared on screen. I won't reveal the contents of the shot, but if I tell you it involves an elevator and a prosthetic penis, you can probably put two and two together.
A representative at Roadshow Films (with a sense of humour, thank God) informed me that it was the studio's decision to cut the shot. Keeping the image would have increased the film's MA15+ rating to an R18+.
In America (where the shot remains fully visible), the picture is rated R. This means anyone under the age of 17 must be accompanied by a parent or adult guardian.
The Australian R rating restricts anyone from under the age of 18 from entering the cinema. Meanwhile, an Australian MA rating means anyone under the age of 15 must be accompanied by an adult or parent guardian. Confused yet?
BASICALLY, the Office of Literature and Classification must have informed Roadshow that The Hangover would be rated R18+ if that particular shot remained in the picture. Considering a large portion of the film's audience would most likely be boys aged 15-21, it would have been a massive blow to the grosses to restrict those under the age of 18. Therefore, the shot was cut and an MA rating was approved.
In the UK, THE HANGOVER had the exact same problems. Here is what the BBFC had to say.
Classified 15 May, 2009
The BBFC advised the company that the film was likely to receive an '18' classification but that the requested '15' certificate could be achieved by making one change to visuals in the closing credits. The BBFC suggested that brief shots in which a man is being fellated by a woman, with clear sight of an apparent erect penis in the woman's mouth, be removed. When the finished version of the film was submitted, the shots had been removed and the film was classified '15'.
On October 16, 2009, a 128m DVD of the extended version of was passed with an R18+ (High impact sexual images) rating.
October 23, 2009, saw a DVD of the 124m theatrical cut rated MA15+ (Coarse language and nudity; Strong sexual references).
On November 2, 2009, a 127m version received an MA15+ (Coarse language and nudity; Strong sexual references) rating. In all cases, Warner Bros Entertainment was the applicant.
An 89m video of HARD BOUNTY was Refused Classification in 1995. 21st Century Pictures censored it down to 84m (84:23), and in February 1996 were awarded an M (Medium Level Violence and Sex Scenes) rating. The tape that was eventually released incorrectly claimed the rating to be MA15+ (Medium Level Violence and Sex Scenes).
There does not appear to be any obvious instances of censorship in the 21st Century Pictures VHS. However, the large amount of footage that has been removed would seem to indicate that a whole scene has been deleted. On-line descriptions of this title mention a rape, while the Australian release contains no such scene.
This second volume of short film films from New York filmmaker Richard Kern was banned by the Classification Board in May 2006. It was submitted by the Victorian Police following a raid on a Melbourne bookstore. HARDCORE: VOLUME 1 was also taken (and not returned), but does not appear in the censor's database.
The VHS tape is listed as running 99m. It is difficult to pin identify exactly which films were on this volume, though one on-line source lists it as:
Another volume of unpredictable and aggressive short films from notorious New York realist Richard Kern. Starring an assortment of underground musicians and performance artists- most notably Lydia Lunch. Described as "violent" and "offensive" by some, embraced by others as perversion at its most cinematic. Not for the young, impressionable or easily offended! Contains five short films: Fingered ('86), Submit To Me Now ('87), My Nightmare ('93), Horoscope ('91), X is Y ('90).
This does appear to be the likely line up of films as FINGERED is one of Kern's most notorious titles and would definitely have problems with the Classification Board.
In December 1983, an 87m videotape of HARD SENSATION was banned because
of sex. It was described as being:
The same version of HARD SENSATION was passed with an X-rating in February 1984. This made it one of the first titles to receive this newly introduced classification. The X-rating was awarded for exactly the same reasons as it was banned for only two months earlier. Consolidated Exhibitors was the applicant.
HARD SENSATION was released on Video Classics short-lived Xtra Hard Video label. This tape is now very rare.
Thanks to Simon for this review of HARD SENSATION.
The Video Classics/Xtra Hard Video release of Joe D’Amato’s HARD SENSATION runs 86:19. It is understandable that it was banned in 1983, as the hardcore sex would have had to be removed.
The following are the scenes that would have caused the problems. The graphic female masturbation scene (7m), the incestuous lesbian sex scene between the three sisters (21m), Bobo forcing the girls to give him a blowjob (37m, 39m, 53m, 81m), Bobo having hardcore sex with one of the girls (70m). In addition, at 66m, Bobo forces Clyde to rape one of the girls, although nothing is explicitly shown.
There is no way that HARD SENSATION could have achieved an X-rating in 2012, or even in the late 80s, as all of the hardcore sex scenes with Bobo are essentially non-consensual.