I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE was first submitted to the Australian censors in June 1982 when Video Classics received an R-rating for a 97m videotape. Despite the classification, Video Classics never did release it on tape.
It was passed again with an R-rating in December 1982 when submitted by Blake Films. This version ran 101m and was described as the U.S. Modified Version.
The censor's listings for May 1983 contained the following news:
Note: Title of production shown as DAY OF A WOMAN (U.S.A Modified Version) (December 1982 List) has reverted to I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (July 1982 List).
Blake Films had the same 101m version confirmed with an R-rating in February 1984. It was again accompanied by the warning 'sexual violence'.
The first Australian tape release appeared on the Palace Explosive Video label around 1984. This print was uncut and ran 96:30.
Video Excellence re-released it in the mid-late 80s. Again the print was uncut and ran 96:30.
In 1987, an appeal to the Film Board of Review by the Attorney-General of Tasmania sought to challenge the Film Censorship Board's granting of an R-rating to I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE.
The Film Board of Review agreed with the Censorship Board and the R-rating was retained.
"I Spit On Your Grave was referred to the Films Board of Review by the Attorney-General pursuant to Section 30 of the Australian Capital Territory Classification of Publications Ordinance 1983, at the request of the Attorney-General of Tasmania. The basis of the requested review was to consider whether, having regard to possibly changed community standards since the decision of the Film Censorship Board in February 1984 to classify this title 'R', it may now not be contained in the 'R' classification but should rather be refused classification.
Five members of the Film Board of Review viewed I Spit On Your Grave.
A minority felt that the videotape should be refused classification owing to the length of the rape sequence, the prolonged physical and mental anguish suffered by the victim, and the degree of violence perpetrated in revenge.
The Film Board of Review was unanimously of the opinion that the video deals strongly with themes of sexual violence and aggression.
In the view of the majority, however, the video fitted into the 'R' classification in that the violence, was not explicitly shown; nor shown in excessive detail. The emphasis in the rape sequence was felt to b focused less towards a gratuitous display of violence than towards a revelation and questioning of adverse and demeaning attitudes and actions towards women. These attitudes are central to the act of gang rape and are indicated in the dialogue throughout the video, without being endorsed.
Overall it could be reasonably argued that the video condemns such actions and attitudes without advocating the kind of excessive revenge portrayed later the woman. Her violent acts of shooting, murder by hanging, axing in the back, castration, and disembowelling, while clearly adult viewing material, were, in the opinion of the majority, sufficiently visually discreet to warrant 'R' rather than refusal. It was felt that the major focus was from the woman's perspective, indicating the horror of rape, rather than the relished enjoyment of its display. Viewed in this way, it was the judgement of the majority of the Board that the rape and violence were not presented for exploitative purposes.
Accordingly, the Films Board of Review confirms the decision of the Censorship Board to classify I Spit On Your Grave 'R' 30 July 1987"
Geoff Gardner served as a member of the Films Board of Review that cleared I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE in 1987. He wrote about the case on his filmalert blog.
Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
filmalert.blogspot.com, April 18, 2010
For the record I myself was once a member of this Review body. I am pleased to advise that while I was frequently accused of worrying too much about what children might get frightened of, like that great space-age spider in something called An Ewok Adventure or some such, we never actually banned anything in my time.
In one special case that was tested when we faced considerable pressure to take action over a dire flick (in my view anyway) called I Spit on your Grave. The film had been referred to the Board, despite being in video circulation for years. Some cheapjack lawyer down in Tasmania had discovered his clients were getting a lot of sympathy from judges in that backwater when the lawyer mentioned that his clients’ criminal behaviour had resulted from a viewing of the aforementioned movie.
Banning it would apparently cause violence towards women to cease instantly down there among the apple pickers. A narrow majority thought the film didn’t deserve to be verballed in this way and wouldn’t play along. Nothing more was heard about any further outbreaks of serial criminal behaviour resulting from seeing the film. Or, if it was, nothing more was reported to we members.
Report of the Joint Select Committee on Video Material
The Film Censorship Board and the Films Board of Review
The Films Board of Review
7.19 The extent to which decisions of the Film Censorship Board are overturned by the Films Board of Review varies from year to year, but it has ranged over the years from 0 per cent to 69 per cent of appeals. In 1986 11 out of 16 appeals resulted in a decision of the Film Censorship Board being overturned. (Film Censorship Board and Films Board of Review, Reports on Activities 1986, p. 29) The total number of applications for appeal appear to have numbered between 12 and 20 each year. (SSCVM Evidence, p. 27 6; Evidence, p. 2905) The majority of appeals relate to R films that distributors want reduced from R to M. (Evidence, p. 2909)
7.20 One appeal that was aimed at a more restrictive classification was heard in August 1987. This was the only time an appeal has been initiated by the Commonwealth Attorney-General. It was done at the request of the Tasmanian Attorney-General who had asked the Commonwealth Attorney-General to call for an appeal against the R classification given by the Film Censorship Board to the film I Spit on Your Grave. It was felt in Tasmania that the level of violence in the film might have justified a complete ban. In fact under Tasmanian legislation the Tasmanian Attorney-General could himself have appealed directly to the Films Board of Review but he chose to work through the Commonwealth as an exercise in Commonwealth/State co-operation. The Films Board of Review dismissed the appeal and the film retained its R classification.
Report of the Joint Select Committee on Video Material
The Video Industry Retailers
9.35 The retailers have a number of concerns which cover the retailing aspect of the industry. One of their concerns is the anomaly in classification which has arisen with the tightening of the classification guidelines during 1984. The retailers claim that on occasions a film which is to be released on video has been refused a classification whereas the same film still has been available for viewing in theatres as the classification for theatre release was given prior to a change in the guidelines. Both the South Australian Video Retailers Association and the NSW Video Retailers' Association cited instances of this happening. SAVRA said:
Another thing that I did raise in the report was the anomaly in the situation. Taking 'Death Wish II' as an example, once it does get into the Gazette and is banned on video, it is still not banned in theatres. I believe there is a need to tie up that problem, so that once the Film Censorship Board bans a film from video use, then it should be banned simultaneously from theatre release. We have an anomaly here in that 'Bloodsucking Freaks', was banned as a video, but shown at the drive-in; just recently, 'I Spit On Your Grave' was banned as a video, but shown at a theatre in Hindley Street. (Evidence, P. 457)
9.36 The retailers believe that if material for video release is refused classification, such refusal should also apply to theatrical availability. With the various changes in the Film Censorship Board's guidelines films have been given a classification based on the guidelines operating at the time of the classification application. The progressive changes to the guidelines make it possible for films which would have attracted a rating earlier to be refused a classification rating now.
A third video release appeared in the mid-90s, this time on a cheap, Australian No-name label.
This particular release ran only 89:51, some seven minutes shorter than the previous tapes. We have no idea what was removed (and why) from this, only that the end credits have been shortened.
In keeping with the rising censorship of the late 90s, the Classification Board took one more look at the film. On December 15 1997 the 97m videotape was Refused Classification for the first time.
With the R-rating withdrawn, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE was effectively banned in Australia. Technically, any of the three previous video releases should have been withdrawn from rental. In practice, a search of any half-decent video store would usually come up with this title tucked away on the shelves somewhere.
In March 2004 Force Entertainment announced that they would be releasing the film on DVD on May 20th. On April 13th they issued the following press release.
POSTPONED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE
Dear Valued Client
The Australian Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) has been withheld classification on our intended May release of 'I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE'.
We are appealing their decision and as a matter of priority will keep you informed as to its re-scheduled release date.
Thankyou for your ongoing support and please accept our apologies for any inconvenience this may have caused.
On June 4, 2004 the OFLC listed the film as being passed with an R18+ (Strong Sexual Violence) rating.
The following was posted on the Force Entertainment website in July 2004.
I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE - UPDATE
At long last, Force Entertainment will have the pleasure of releasing the much anticipated and controversial film "I Spit on Your Grave" fully UNCUT in it's original, raw and uncompromising form.
After a 17-year ban from distribution in Australia, we have sourced a new 16 X 9 anamorphic telecine transfer complete with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound from Director Meir Zarchi, who has worked closely with Force to present the film as he intended it to be seen.
This will be the only UNCUT English PAL version available here at home and internationally, it'll be jam packed with never before seen extras and scheduled for a September release.
Now, finally, watch the film they didn't want you to see!
Region 4 Magazine #38 (July 2004)
According to Force Video's Andrew Parisi, their initial submission was refused classification on the grounds that it was the same version (duration) submitted in 1998 which according to the Board, "deals with matters of sex and violence in such a way that it offends against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent it should be classified RC".
However, one Force re-submitted the film with DVD extras (directors commentary etc) but no edits, the film was re-considered, and eventually granted an R classification. "It is important to note that the DVD version is a modified version from the versions that have been refused classification in the past," reveals Clark. "The decision was R with consumer advice 'Strong Sexual Violence' for the DVD release.
According to the Board report, "In making this decision to classify the modified version of the film R, the Board considered a range of issues, including the age of the film (1978), the community's tolerance of similar films that examine sexual violence within a non-exploitative context, and the contextual information supplied through such additional material as the directors commentary (which examines the film in a serious context)".
This was the first time we have seen the OFLC use this type of reasoning to pass a film. It is this type of explanation that the British censors are masters of. It throws up a question that really needs to be answered.
If the original submission was Refused Classification then this must have meant that all the old VHS releases remained banned as none of them contained any extras. Whatever the answer was, credit must be given to the OFLC for passing the film once more.
If you wondered why the excellent Joe Bob Briggs commentary track contained the following out of date comment about the film.
"It's still banned in Australia to this day"
It's because it was originally recorded for the U.S. Elite Entertainment Millennium Edition DVD at a time when it was still banned in Australia.
Thanks to Force Entertainment for providing us the following explanation that helps to clarify the I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE rating issue.
Note that the original April submission does not appear in the OFLC database.
When we originally applied for re-classification earlier this year we released the full blown movie without the cuts and reframing Elite had to make for their Millennium Edition. It was the title only with no supporting commentaries, trailers or documentation.
The OFLC, after delaying our application past the 21 working days on a verbal message by some 2 weeks, issued a lame statement saying they were convinced the submitted title was the same cut as was submitted some years previous and that it's RC rating still applied. This was, I am sure, a device to bury the title again.
What convinced us to re-apply was the Joe Bob Briggs commentary where he spells out the definition of rape as a violent act remote from any sexual involvement. If the censors were to deem the content "sexual", one would have to seriously question the ethics of those "guardians of morality" at the OFLC. This was suggested in our application and reference drawn to the intellectual arguments raised by Zarchi, Briggs et al. in the documentation.
The uncut DVD was released on September 13, 2004, and had a running time of 96:57.
The following is the Force Entertainment press release that accompanied the disc.
Although they claim it has been banned for seventeen years by the OFLC,
this is not true. It was R-rated from June 1982 until December 1997.
The RC-rating lasted from December 1997, until it was once again R-rated in
I SPIT on your GRAVE
A Meir Zarchi Film
An unflinching portrayal of violence and horror as a rape victim seeks the ultimate justice.
Long before Baise-Moi and Irreversible, I Spit On Your Grave changed the face of cinema.
“A tough film to recommend but one that certainly deserves to be seen.” – efilmcritic.com
“Shocking, sickening and disturbing… It may not be pleasing to look at, but the effect of the film isunquestionably strong.” – Monsters At Play
“One of the most uncompromising and uncomfortable representations of the violence of rape in screen history.” – Horrowview
When I Spit On Your Grave debuted in America, conservative critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert launched a campaign against the film that resulted in it being pulled from distribution only a week after it had opened. Shocked by Meir Zarchi’s harrowing images of degradation and revenge, they dubbed it “the most disgusting movie ever made”, and spearheaded what became a global campaign to bury the film and its Director.
This storm of controversy had two significant effects:
I Spit on Your Grave was banned in many countries, including Australia, and it became a cinematic legend.
Banned for 17 years by the Office of Film and Literature Classification, the original, uncut version of I Spit On Your Grave has long been called too ugly, too violent and too terrifying to watch. Others have called it a powerful and suburb cinema.
Is this a misogynistic film or a truly feminist one?
Are women empowered or exploited by the revenge fantasy?
Does this film still have the power to disturb and divide audiences?
NOW YOU CAN JUDGE FOR YOURSELF.
With startling new commentary from Director Meir Zarchi, the Australian DVD release is the richest and most complete edition of this film to date, featuring a new anamorphic telecine transfer, trailers, tv spots, photographs, posters, filmographies, reviews and articles, an Australian and New Zealand Special Supplement, and much more!
A complaint (we sense the hand of Michael Atkinson) in October 2004 resulted in a meeting of the South Australian Classification Council (SACC) to review the R-rating awarded to the Force Entertainment DVD.
The SACC is a most unnecessary organisation that has the power to review ratings awarded by the Classification Board. In 2005, following complaints by the Religious Right, they increased the rating of 9 SONGS from R18+ to X18+, and left the R18+ rating of MYSTERIOUS SKIN, and the MA15+ of BIRTH unchanged.
In this case sense prevailed and the R-rating was retained.
ANNUAL REPORT OF THE SOUTH AUSTRALIAN CLASSIFICATION COUNCIL
For the Year Ended 30 June 2005
Consideration of film I Spit on Your Grave
The Council received a complaint that this film should be classified RC because it condones sexual violence against men. The complainants also made a complaint in similar terms to the Attorney-General, who asked that the Council consider it.
The film was classified R18+ by the national Classification Board on 4 June 2004 with consumer advice indicating strong sexual violence. This was a majority decision. Some members of the national Classification Board would have classified it RC. Before this date, an earlier version of the film had been classified RC.
The Council met to consider the film on 7 October 2004. The Council viewed the film and read various reviews as well as the reasons for decision of the Classification Board.
The film, made in 1978, is the story of the rape of a young woman by four men and her subsequent revenge on them. The first part of the film establishes her arrival in the area, the interest taken in her by the four men, and the rape scenes. The rape sequence is protracted, with the men first attacking her repeatedly in a public place and later appearing in her home to continue the attacks. The second part of the film depicts the victim carrying out revenge by killing each of the four men in turn. The killings in two cases involve seduction for the purpose of murder.
Applicable law and guidelines
The Classification (Publications Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 sets out the matters to be taken into account in classification:
19. The matters to be taken into account by the Council or the Minister in making a decision on the classification of a publication, film or computer game include-
(a) the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults; and
(b) the literary, artistic or educational merit (if any) of the publication, film or game; and
(c) the general character of the publication, film or game, including whether it is of a medical, legal or scientific character; and
(d) the persons or class of persons to or amongst whom it is published or is intended or likely to be published.
The national Classification Code requires that:
Classification decisions are to give effect, as far as possible, to the following principles:
(a) adults should be able to read, hear and see what they want;
(b) minors should be protected from material likely to harm or disturb them;
(c) everyone should be protected from unsolicited material that they find offensive;
(d) the need to take account of community concerns about:
(i) depictions that condone or incite violence, particularly sexual violence; and
(ii) the portrayal of a person in a demeaning manner.
The Code further states as to the category RC, that this contains 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 or propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that they should not be classified; or
(c) promote, incite or instruct in matters of crime or violence.
The category R contains 'films (except RC films and X films) that are unsuitable for a minor to see'.
The classification guidelines provide that films will be refused classification if they contain any of the following:
Detailed instruction or promotion in matters of crime or violence.
Gratuitous, exploitative or offensive depictions of:
(i) violence with a very high degree of impact or which are excessively frequent, prolonged or detailed;
(ii) cruelty or real violence which are very detailed or which have a high impact;
(iii) sexual violence.
Films classified R include those the impact of which does not exceed high. They can include violence and sexual violence if justified by context.
The Council noted that the film depicts sexual violence both against men and against a woman, and indeed that this is a substantial part of its content. A majority of the Council thought that the film could be accommodated within the R category. A minority of the Council believed it should be classified RC.
The majority noted that although the impact of the film was high, it did not exceed high because:
· although depicting strong violence, the film does not appear to promote or incite violence. The presentation of events is matter-of-fact. The film does not espouse any moral position or try to persuade the viewer to a particular stance. The victim of the rape is, during the first half of the film, presented sympathetically. In the second half of the film, the viewer observes her revenge but with little sense of sympathy or triumph. The film does not condone the rape. The interpretation is open that the film condones the revenge, but equally it can be read as showing that violence breeds violence, or that the rape has entirely altered the character of an otherwise peaceful person.
· the film, although naturalistic in style, was unconvincing in its portrayal of the experience of a rape victim. For example, the victim did not have difficulty continuing to reside in the house where the rape had occurred and did not show anxiety when alone in places where she might expect to encounter the attackers. She did not show any fear of approaching them again but rather invited two of them to her home. She behaved seductively toward two of the attackers, including having sexual intercourse with one and taking a bath with the other, without apparent difficulty. This, together with the rudimentary character development and inadequate motivation for the behaviour of the characters, made the film seem unbelievable. This tended to distance with viewer from the events depicted and so reduced impact.
· inasmuch as the film seeks to portray the experience of a rape victim and her subsequent revenge, the portrayal of violence is integral to the story rather than gratuitous or exploitative. Strong-impact depictions of violence are found in films classified MA, for example, in Saving Private Ryan and The Passion of the Christ. High-impact depictions of sexual violence, including rape, are found in some R films, for instance, The Accused and Irreversible, often in the context of a revenge theme. The majority thought that the violence in this film was of no greater impact than the violence in some other classified films.
· a present-day viewer of the film would be conscious of its lack of sophistication. Only one story is told, events occur in a linear time-sequence, dialogue is minimal, characters are clichéd and flat, there is no musical score, development of the story is slow and the relations between events in the film are simple and obvious. These factors work against the viewer becoming emotionally engaged in the film.
Although depicting sexual violence against both sexes, therefore, the film's impact did not exceed high. Having regard to the general principle that adults should be able to see what they want, the majority judged that this film did not violate public standards of morality, decency and propriety to the extent that it should be refused classification. The film is clearly unsuitable for minors, who should be protected through an R classification. The public can be protected from unwanted exposure to the content by the consumer warning 'Strong sexual violence'.
The minority considered that the film consists largely of depictions of sexual violence that are exploitative or offensive, and of violence with a very high degree of impact. The scenes of violence are excessively prolonged and detailed. The film lacked any artistic merit that could outweigh these concerns. The film violates public standards of morality in its portrayal of sexual violence and in its apparent acceptance of murderous revenge, to the point that it should be refused classification.
By majority, the Council decided not to alter the existing R18+ classification.
In 2006, Force Entertainment re-released I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE on a double-bill DVD with Meir Zarchi's DON'T MESS WITH MY SISTER.
This was soon followed by a third DVD release, on the Beyond Home Entertainment label.
In March 2011, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE was again submitted to the Classification Board. It was awarded an R18+ (High impact sexual violence) rating. In 2004, the consumer advice had been 'strong sexual violence'.
In March 2011, Anchor Bay Entertainment released the film on DVD and Blu-ray. This was done to coincide with the release of I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (2010). The remake had been awarded an R18+ (Graphic violence and high impact sexual violence) rating in August 2010.
Anchor Bay Entertainment
February 2, 2011
ANCHOR BAY PRESENTS A DOUBLE DOSE OF VENGANCE
I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE
In 1978, Meir Zarchi’s I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE shocked audiences all over the world with its horrifyingly grisly tale of vengeance. Now, over thirty years later, Anchor Bay announces the release of a 2010 remake of the cult classic, bringing an entirely new level of revenge.
The 2010 remake of I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE has been directed by Steven R. Monroe and stars Sarah Butler, Jeff Branson, Daniel Franzese (MEAN GIRLS), Rodney Eastman (A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3 & 4), Chad Lindberg (THE LAST SAMURAI), Tracey Walter (THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS) and Andrew Howard (REVOLVER). The original 1978 film’s writer/director Meir Zarchi lends his talents as executive producer.
In I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE a beautiful woman from the city, rents an isolated cabin in the country to write her latest novel. Soon, a group of local lowlifes subject her to a nightmare of degradation, rape and violence. Left for dead, she returns for vengeance. Trapping her male attackers one-by-one, she inflicts acts of physical torment upon them with a ferocity that surpasses her own ordeal. When the carnage clears, victim has become victor.
To support the release of 2010’s I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, Anchor Bay Entertainment has also announced the re-release of the digitally remastered original cult 1978 film on Blu-ray and DVD.
The 2010 remake of I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE and the original 1978 version will be available to own on DVD and Blu-ray from March 16, 2011.