1990s American action movies that have been cut or banned in Australia.
Directed by John Stewart / 1990 / USA / IMDb
In 1991, the OFLC banned a videotape of CARTEL.
A censored version was passed with an R (Medium level violence) rating in January 1992.
Video Distribution Company were the applicant.
Both the cut and uncut versions were listed as running 105-minutes. The actual running time of the VHS released on the Hollywood Studios label was 91:22.
Details of censored footage
Hollywood Studios (au) – VHS – 91:22
Uncut version – VHS – 94:00 (minus Cobra Entertainment Group title card)
CARTEL was banned because of a scene where a gang of thugs raid a house containing the hero’s sister, nephew and girlfriend. There is only a brief moment of sexual violence, but several other scenes were also removed. The distributor probably over-cut the action because they did not want to resubmit it a third time.
Before – Donna (Crystal Carson) runs to the door with Tommy (Bradley Pierce). She opens it and screams.
Censored 29:58 to 30:18 – The lead thug at the door says ‘Hello Donna’. Another thug grabs Tommy. Donna struggles and shouts ‘Tommy, run’. The lead thug slaps her down to the couch, wipes his face and shuts the door.
After – Nancy (Suzee Slater) screams.
Before – Nancy knocks one of the thugs off the bonnet of the car.
Censored 30:29 to 31:20 – Nancy is chased and pulled to the ground. It then cuts to Donna struggling. The lead thug says, ‘I like it when you fight’ before cutting back to Nancy on the floor fighting with the thug. He slaps her around the face. She grabs a knife, stabs him in the side and escapes. She runs past Donna and the lead thug.
After – Nancy runs into the bathroom with her top ripped open.
Before – Donna smashes a vase on the lead thugs head and escapes. He gets up and chases after her.
Censored 31:55 to 31:56 – Brief shot of Nancy’s dress being ripped as she escapes through the door.
After – Continuation of Nancy escaping through the door.
Before – The lead thug shoots Donna in the back and says ‘Bitch’.
Censored 32:19 to 32:29 – Donna lying by the pool. One of the thugs holds Tommy by his feet over her. She grabs his hand as he is dragged away. She says ‘No’.
After – Thug plunges a knife into the door where Nancy is hiding.
Before – The thug is told to kill Tommy.
Censored 34:10 to 34:54 – Nancy rushes forward but is slapped down onto the bed. Tommy cries ‘Mommy’ as he is taken away. The door is closed and a gunshot is heard. The thug comes back into the room holding Tommy’s toy train. Nancy is hysterical as she is held down on the bed by two thugs.
After/Before – Donna is shown alive by the pool.
Censored 35:01 to 35:24 – Nancy is topless on the bed with the lead thug on top of her. He kisses her body and she spits in his face. Angered, he shouts ‘Fucking whore’.
This is the only censored scene that could be considered sexual violence.
After – The thugs walk over the body of Tommy, who opens and closes his eyes, as he pretends to be dead. We now understand that the thug had only made it look like he shot him.
Directed by Addison Randall / 1990 / USA / IMDb
In 1992, an 86-minute videotape of PAYBACK was Refused Classification by the OFLC.
A censored 82-minute version was awarded an M (Medium level violence, Coarse language) rating in February 1992.
The applicant in both cases was Video Distribution Company. It needs to be confirmed if this tape was released.
Gang rape scene behind refusal
85:27 – VHS – Uncut version
At approximately 47:00, the three members of Strikeforce enter the bar and attack Jason’s (Roger Rodd) friend Molly (Charla Driver). They hold her down over the pool table and proceed to take turns to rape her. The whole scene cuts back and forth between this and and a scene of Jason and Evelyn (Denise Dougherty) having sex. The rape ends at approximately 49:30. This would have been the main, and in my opinion, only scene that troubled the OFLC. Any depictions of rape seem to have routinely landed an RC-rating during this period.
There is another scene at 55:30 where Jason comes across a group of thugs pushing a girl around. She is slapped in the face before he proceeds to kick their assess with some very lame martial arts. I cannot believe that the OFLC would have had any problems with this scene.
The producers behind this are Richard Pepin and Joseph Merhi. They were responsible for L.A. CRACKDOWN 2 (1988), and NIGHT OF THE WILDING (1990), two other films that were banned in Australia.
Australian DVD release
In 2005, PAYBACK was released by Flashback Home Entertainment as part of a ten-pack DVD called MOVIE MARATHON TWO.
They later re-released it on a triple pack, along with PRIME TARGET (1991) and THE OUTSIDER (1994).
Despite the cover stating that the disc was R-rated, all three films were previously classified M. It needs to be confirmed if PAYBACK was the uncut version.
Directed by Craig R. Baxley / 1991 / USA / IMDb
In July 1991, a 91-minute 35mm print of STONE COLD received an R (Medium level violence, Coarse language).
With the introduction of the MA still two years away, Hoyts Fox Columbia Tristar Films censored it down to 88-minutes in pursuit of an M-rating. Unfortunately, it again passed with an R-rating. The cuts resulted in the ‘Coarse language’ warning being removed from the consumer advice.
In all cases, Hoyts Fox Columbia Tristar Films was the applicant.
September 2, 1992
With the unedited version of STONE COLD, in which a rogue cop is sent under cover to investigate and entrap a biker gang, the Board considered the film’s overall tone together with the cumulative impact of frequent violence and sometimes assaultive use of ‘fuck’ language, and its derivatives, made restricted classification appropriate. On viewing the reconstructed version, however. the Board remained of the view that it would be difficult to modify the film’s pervasive violent tone and concluded:
“…despite cuts made to some areas of violence, the film still warranted a Restricted Classification for the ongoing, unrelenting volume of violence combined with frequent assaultive coarse language and an anti-social and violent tone…while individual depictions in isolation may well warrant a lesser classification, the film as a package of both visuals and concepts, and particularly the emphasis on violence and its glamorous use both by police and criminals, make this a package best restricted to an adult audience.”– Office of Film and Literature Classification
– Reports on Activities, 1991 to 1992
Following the unsuccessful censorship, the uncut version was released theatrically.
In March 1992, an uncut 88:17 (PAL) VHS received an R (Medium level violence, Coarse language).
The applicant, RCA/Columbia Pictures/Hoyts Video, released it on their Video Box Office label.
Australis Media Ltd submitted a 91-minute VHS in October 1995. Despite the running time and availability of an MA15+, it received only an M (Medium level violence). It is unknown if this tape was released.
Two ‘no name label’ DVDs have appeared since 2005.
One has it as M-rated and lacks consumer advice, while the other labels it R18+ (Medium level violence, Coarse language).
Fugitive X: Innocent Target
Directed by David Heavener / 1996 / USA / IMDb
In July 1996, a 98-minute VHS of FUGITIVE X: INNOCENT TARGET was Refused Classification by the OFLC.
The applicant was Peacock Films.
No clues to why this was banned
The print of FUGITIVE X: INNOCENT TARGET that I viewed came from a US cable TV screening and ran only 94:17. I have no idea why the OFLC banned it is just a cheap action flick with a ‘most dangerous game’ plot.
This version should be MA15+. However, the running time was around four minutes shorter than the print the OFLC banned in 1996. I can only presume this was missing scenes of sexual violence.
At 13:15, Eddie the pimp (Kevin Christopher Lokey) slaps Alicia (Jennifer Moe) and threatens her. This plot point turns out to be a set-up to trap Adam (David Heavener). I cannot believe this scene would have been the issue.
Directed by George Saunders / 1996 / USA / IMDb
In June 1996, an 88-minute VHS of VENDETTA was Refused Classification by the OFLC.
The applicant was Peacock Films.
Around 2001, Flashback Home Entertainment released VENDETTA on DVD in Australia.
This disc ran 85:11, three minutes shorter than the tape that was banned in 1996.
This print does not appear to contain anything that would trouble the censors. This is just as well because the R-rating on the cover would appear to be fake.
Directed by Michael Caton-Jones / 1997 / USA / IMDb
In January 1998, a 124-minute 35mm print of THE JACKAL received an M (Medium level violence, Medium level coarse language).
The applicant, United International Pictures, precensored it to avoid an MA. This version was released theatrically in Australia.
What was censored?
According to the IMDb, two scenes were modified.
07:15 – Ghazzi Murad (Ravil Isyanov) yells ‘Fuck you! Fuck you, you scar-faced cunt!’ at Valentina Koslova (Diane Venora).
60:30 – The Jackal (Bruce Willis) shoots off Lamont’s (Jack Black) arm.
In April 1998, the cut 124-minute THE JACKAL again received an M (Medium level violence, Medium level coarse language), this time for sale/hire.
For rental VHS, CIC Video instead opted to release it uncut, without resubmission. They instead increased it to MA and combined it with the consumer advice of the M-rating.
This trick was repeated in February 1999 for Universal’s sell-through VHS.
Officially rated MA15+
In August 2001, the uncut version was classified for the first time and received an MA (High level violence, Medium level coarse language).
The applicant was Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. It was released on DVD by Universal. They went on to issue it on Blu-ray in 2010.
The Netflix Classification Tool awarded it an MA15+ (Strong Themes, Strong Violence, Strong Blood and Gore) in December 2019.
The classification matrix described,
Strong impact: themes, violence
Moderate impact: language
None: drug use, nudity, sex
In 2020, it was reissued on DVD and Blu-ray by Shock with incorrect consumer advice of ‘Medium level violence’.
Lethal Weapon 4
Directed by Richard Donner / 1998 / USA / IMDb
A 127-minute 35mm print of LETHAL WEAPON 4 received an MA (Medium level violence) on 17 August 1998.
It was followed on 26 August by a 126-minute M (Medium level violence, Medium level coarse language) rated version.
Roadshow Film Distributors released the modified print theatrically.
Warner Home Video issued the trimmed version on rental VHS in 1999.
What was censored?
GnC Films has a YouTube video detailing the edits made to the UK and Australian releases. They note three cut scenes in the OFLC M-rated version.
Wah Sing Ku (Jet Li) garrotting the ship captain (James Lew).
Wah Sing Ku breaking the neck of Hong (Eddy Ko).
A spike emerging from Wah Sing Ku’s back, and Riggs (Mel Gibson) spinning him around.
Uncut VHS, DVD & Blu-ray
The complete LETHAL WEAPON 4 was issued by Warner Home Video on sell-through VHS. The cover promised it ‘includes unseen footage’.
The following LETHAL WEAPON: THE LEGACY VHS box set labelled all four films as Director’s Cuts.
The 2001 Region 4 DVD and 2010 Blu-ray from Warners were similarly uncut.
Directed by David O. Russell / 1999 / USA / IMDb
In December 1999, a 115-minute 35mm print of THREE KINGS received an R (Medium level violence).
A modified version, still listed as 115-minutes, was dropped to MA15+ (High level violence, Adult themes) in February 2000.
It was this print that Roadshow Films released theatrically.
What was censored?
114:57 – Uncut
I did not view the MA15+ version, but reports mention cuts to one scene.
39:00 – Amir’s Wife (Marsha Horan) is executed by a shot to the head by one of Saddam’s Republican Guard.
It is the film’s most shocking scene of violence, but I would guess only minor cuts to remove the blood spray.
Roadshow Entertainment released the R (Medium level violence) version on DVD.
In April 2006, the consumer advice was increased to R18+ (High level violence) after Roadshow Entertainment submitted a DVD rerelease.