Film Censorship: The Hills Have Eyes (1977) & (1985)





The Hills Have Eyes

Directed by Wes Craven / 1977 / USA / IMDb

In December 1977, a 2464.60-meter (89:50) print of THE HILLS HAVE EYES was banned because of 'indecent violence'.

A 2413.80-meter (87:59) 'reconstructed version' was refused for the same reason in April 1978.

In December 1978, an 83m 'modified version' videotape was passed with an R-rating. It is unclear why this censored print was not used as a guide to prepare a 35mm version.

In March 1979, the film was banned for a third time, now in the form of a 2322.50-meter (84:39) 'modified soft version'. The reason given was 'excessive violence'.

THE HILLS HAVE EYES was finally passed with an R-rating in August 1979. The 2072.20-meters (75:32) print was described as an 'American Television version'. The whole process had taken twenty months, and the film had lost nearly fifteen minutes of footage.

In all cases, Filmways was the applicant.



R-rated TV print

Thanks to Brendan for the following information regarding the original theatrical release.

The most censored R rated movie I saw was THE HILLS HAVE EYES. It was held up for ages with each edited down version getting refused a rating. Finally, a version censored for USA Syndicated TV release was passed with an R rating!! I'm serious in saying that the American TV version which had all horror deleted received an R rating! You literally could not work out what was going on. People would run in and out of the caravan without anything being shown, hinted at or referred to until there was no cast left. It was unbelievable. Kids could watch this version free on 70s American syndicated TV yet we had to be over 18 and pay for the rort.



Banned and Censored imported videos

In March 1983, a 90m tape of THE HILLS HAVE EYES was banned because of violence. It was described as being:
Frequency: Infrequent
Explicitness/Intensity: High
Purpose: Gratuitous

Risis Ethnic Video Pty Ltd was the applicant.


During the early 80s, there was no law that compelled distributors to have video tapes classified. For a period, the Censorship Board simply viewed the tapes and passed them as 'Special Condition', the definition of which was:

That the film/tape will not be exhibited in any State in contravention of that State's law relating to the exhibition of films.

In December 1983, a 90m 'modified version' of THE HILLS HAVE EYES was passed with such a warning.

M. Caggiano was the applicant.



Banned and Censored Thorn EMI Video release

In December 1984, a 90m tape of THE HILLS HAVE EYES was Refused Registration because of 'considerable violence and cruelty'.

An 88:33 'edited version' finally received an R-rating in February 1986. It was awarded for violence, which was said to be:
Frequency: Frequent
Explicitness/Intensity: Medium
Purpose: Gratuitous

Thorn-EMI Screen Entertainment released the tape with a cover that incorrectly claimed it ran 97m.


Thanks to Brett B for this detailed description of the cuts. The quoted times are the approximate points in the Thorn-EMI tape where the scenes begin.



Scene begins at 40:00 approx

Before - Jupiter's face is shown as we hear him hitting a nail into Big Bob's hand.

CENSORED - Jupiter is shown hitting a nail about ten times into Big Bob's other hand.

After - Shot of Bobby throwing wood onto the fire.



Scene begins at 49:30 approx

Before - The family runs up to Big Bob. We then see a shot of his screaming face, followed by the family looking on.

CENSORED - Several different shots have been removed. Bob's screaming face, Doug putting out the fire, Bobby and Lynne holding Ethel back, and Big Bob's burnt body.

After/Before - A shot of the family reacting.

CENSORED - Doug uses a blanket to extinguish the last of the flames.



Scene begins at approx 54:00

Before - Lynne hears the baby cry from inside the caravan. She says "Oh Katy!"

CENSORED - Lynne enters the caravan and sees Mars with the baby. She kicks him and they proceed to fight on the floor with the baby lying next to them. Brenda is shown crawling towards them as Mars tries to remove the gun from its holster.

After - Ethel is shown standing at the door followed by a shot of Lynne and Mars fighting on the floor.

This is a particularly clumsy cut. We see Lynne enter the caravan, then Ethel standing at the door, followed by a shot of Lynne now fighting with Mars.



Scene begins at 74:00 approx

Before - Beast attacks Pluto and knocks him to the ground; he then proceeds to bite his ankle.

CENSORED - A shot of Pluto's ankle after Beast attacked it.



Scene begins at 86:30 approx

Before - Ruby uses the rattlesnake to get Mars away from Doug. Mars then falls to the ground and Doug stabs him once.

CENSORED - Doug continues to stab Mars another nine times.

After - Ruby looking away, followed by Doug kicking the body of Mars.


The Hills Have Eyes (1977) - Thorn-EMI Video [au] VHSThe Hills Have Eyes (1977) - Thorn-EMI Video [au] Catalog



Censored TV screening

 In January 2000, a longer version of THE HILLS HAVE EYES premiered on Foxtel's Arena Channel. However, it was still missing some footage. Thanks to Lee N for the following.

"...there were a couple of seconds missing when Mars pushes a gun into Brenda's mouth after the raid on the camper van; the scene is cut when he slowly squeezes the trigger and almost orgasms as the hammer clicks but the gun chamber turns out to be empty.

...shots of Jupiter munching on Big Bob's hand also appeared to be cut as he hurls abuse at Bob's charred body."



Uncut VHS release

An Australian 'No-Name' label tape appeared around 2000. It was reportedly uncut, with a running time of 89:41. The R18+ (High level violence, Adult concepts, Coarse language, Sexual references) rating was fake, as the film was not re-submitted to the OFLC.

Image courtesy of John C.


The Hills Have Eyes (1977) - No name label [au] VHS



Australian Uncut DVD

In March 2004, 26 years after it was first banned, the Australian censorship of THE HILLS HAVE EYES finally ended. Big Sky Video submitted a DVD to the OFLC, who passed it with an R18+ (Medium Level Violence, Adult Themes) rating. Despite the R18+ rating, Big Sky Video failed to release the film.


In August 2005, THE HILLS HAVE EYES was back before the OFLC, again it was classified R18+. The consumer advice was now 'High Level Violence, Horror Themes', compared to the 'Medium Level Violence, Adult Themes' awarded in March 2004. Umbrella Entertainment gave the film its most complete (89:35) Australian release when they released the DVD in November 2005.


The Hills Have Eyes (1977) - Umbrella Entertainment [au] DVD 1The Hills Have Eyes (1977) - Umbrella Entertainment [au] DVD 2The Hills Have Eyes (1977) - Umbrella Entertainment [au] DVD 3




The Umbrella DVD contains a commentary with Director Wes Craven, and Producer Peter Locke in which they discuss the censorship problems that the film had in the US. The full-uncut version was originally rated X by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). They then had to make significant cuts in order to gain an (American) R-rating. Here are their comments as they appear on the Umbrella DVD.


32:00 Approx
Fred is beaten to death by Jupiter.
Peter Locke: "We had a lot more of it and we had to cut it back, way back"

This is then followed by Big Bob finding Fred's body hanging on the back of the door.
Wes Craven: "This shot had to be cut short as I remember"


55:30 Approx
Mars and Pluto kidnap the baby.
Peter Locke: "This sequence got edited down, and edited down, and edited down for us to get an R"


67:00 Approx
Jupiter eats Big Bob's arm and taunts his charred body.
Wes Craven: "Yeah, there was a shot where he is gesturing, sticking Bob's own fingers in his face, holding his arm"

Peter Locke: "He's eating his forearm while he's speaking"
"This scene, really, I remember it so differently. With him thrusting Bob's arm into his face, and finger into his eye"

(Jupiter is shown taking a bite from Bob's arm)

"There's the one bite we have, but you don't see that"

Wes Craven: "I think they never allowed us to show the arm as severed"


83:30 Approx
Katy hits Jupiter in the back with an axe.
Peter Locke: "This got edited down to get an R"


88:00 Approx
Doug stabs Mars to death.
Wes Craven: "I remember they made us cut this, the amount of stabs, but we somehow snuck them back in"


The above comments suggest that some, or all, of the above edits had not been reinstated into the film. The IMDb claims states that this original Directors cut is no longer in existence. It still often remains the case that when a US film gets cut by the MPAA, it is this print that also has overseas distribution. It is likely that the version that had Australian censorship problems was the already cut MPAA R-rated print.





The Hills Have Eyes Part 2

Directed by Wes Craven / 1985 / USA / IMDb

In February 1985, Greater Union Film Distributors submitted a 2413.84 meter print of THE HILLS HAVE EYES PART 2 to the Censorship Board. It was passed with an R-rating, but only after the deletion of 6-meters of violent footage.



The Censored Cannon Video VHS

In July 1985, Thorn-EMI had an 87m videotape Refused Registration. In May 1986, an 86m 'edited version' was passed with an R-rating. This 86:18 censored tape was issued by Cannon Video.

Despite containing flashback footage to the first film, none of this caused any problems. The only scene missing from the Cannon Video was a shot of the girl having her throat cut.


The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 (1985) - Thorn EMI Video [au] VHS


The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 (1985) - Australian Censored Scene #1The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 (1985) - Australian Censored Scene #2
The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 (1985) - Australian Censored Scene #3The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 (1985) - Australian Censored Scene #4



Uncut Umbrella Entertainment DVD

Twenty years after the ban, THE HILLS HAVE EYES PART 2 was back before the censors. In August 2005, the OFLC rated it R18+ (High Level Violence). In November 2005, Umbrella Entertainment gave the film its first uncut Australian release when they released it on DVD.


The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 (1985) - Umbrella Entertainment [au] DVD 1The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 (1985) - Umbrella Entertainment [au] DVD 2



Next Films: Holy Virgins (2001)  or  A to Z Listing