1970s to 1990s American comedy movies that have been cut or banned in Australia.
Directed by Jacques Levy / 1972 / USA / IMDb
In May 1973, a 2459.00-meter (89:38) print of OH! CALCUTTA! was censored by 42.97-meters (01:34) for an R-rating. The cuts were made to remove ‘indecency’.
Roadshow Distributors were the applicant.
Trouble in South Australia
CP: Is there any machinery in Government legislation for a person to stop a film, like that person [Ross McWhirter] in England who stopped the Warhol documentary [WARHOL (1973)] being shown on television? I think there was one case in South Australia where OH CALCUTTA was taken off or not shown.
PROWSE: That’s where a community standards organisation took out an injunction against the screening of the film in South Australia and they were awarded a temporary injunction to stop the screening of the film and as far as I know to this date the distributor of the film has not taken any action towards having the injunction lifted.
Meantime I think the South Australian Government has changed this legislation though I don’t know whether it is through yet. It says that a decision made by the Film Censorship Board on matters arising from the Films Regulations overrides any other legislation relating to display or exhibition of material. So it possibly won’t arise here anymore.
CP: Is this purely State legislation?
PROWSE: Well I would imagine that any organisation in any State has the right to seek from the Courts an injunction if the law of a particular State allows it. The one in South Australia, from memory, was taken out under the Police Offences Act and had nothing to do with the legislation on film censorship.– The Censor Speaks, Richard Prowse, Chief Censor
– Cinema Papers No. 2
Home viewing options
Video Classics issued OH! CALCUTTA! on tape in the early 1980s.
The National Classification Database does not contain a record of them having it rated.
In September 1981, a 97-minute videotape was passed with an R-rating. It was awarded for sex, which was described as being:
The submission was made by L & M Imports. The Censorship Board described the tape as an ‘overseas modified version’. This was may have been an import of the UK pre-cert on the Hokushin label.
Australia’s police state
In October 1986, the Queensland Police had a 97-minute tape passed with an R-rating. It was awarded for sex, which was found to be:
Directed by Paul Bartel / 1972 / USA / IMDb
In October 1972, a 2440.00-meters (88:56) print of PRIVATE PARTS was banned because of ‘indecency’.
The decision was confirmed by the Films Board of Review in December 1972.
Both submissions were made by MGM/BEF Film Distributors.
aka Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels
Directed by Tony Palmer – Frank Zappa / 1971 / USA / IMDb
In February 1972, an 8894-feet (98:49) version of 200 MOTELS was banned because of ‘indecency’.
United Artists made an unsuccessful appeal to the Films Board of Review in March 1972.
In August 1981, Valhalla Films had a 1053.12-meter (95:58) 16mm print passed with an R-rating. It was awarded for language, which was described as being:
This and all subsequent submissions were made under the title FRANK ZAPPA’S 200 MOTELS.
In September 1988, Corporate Video had a 95-minute tape passed with an R-rating. The reason was the same as the Valhalla Films submission.
This was released by Warner Home Video with an incorrect M-rating on the cover.
A 96-minute tape, resubmitted by Warner Home Video, received an R (Sexual references) rating in February 1998.
Directed by Jim McBride / 1974 / USA / IMDb
In June 1981, a 2210:00-meter (80:33) print of HOT TIMES was banned due to sex, which was described as being:
An In R-rating was awarded in March 1982 following 8.70-meter (00:19) of cuts. In this version, the sex was now described as being:
In both cases, Blake Films was the applicant.
In June 1985, CBS/Fox Video had an 81-minute videotape of HOT TIMES passed with an R-rating. It was awarded for sex, which was described as being:
The actual running time of the CBS/Fox tape was 77:17 (PAL).
Australian vs. USA & UK VHS
Monterey Home Video (us) – VHS – 80:35 NTSC (≈ 77:22 PAL)
CBS/Fox (au) – VHS – 77:17 (PAL)
Mountain (uk) – VHS – 77:41 (PAL)
I could not see any obvious differences between the American and Australian tapes. Both feature the same cuckoo sound that masks every utterance of ‘fuck’ and ‘cunt’. Maybe this audio censored version is the only version that exists.
The sex is purely softcore, so it is difficult to see which scene would have lost 00:19 for the 1982 theatrical release.
According to Pre-Cert Video, HOT TIMES was issued three times on tape in the UK. Two of these had running times similar to our CBS/Fox version. The third, on the Mountain label, ran 00:22 longer. According to the IMDb, it included a hardcore insert towards the end. Maybe this was the footage trimmed for the March 1982 R-rating.
Mr. Mike’s Mondo Video
Directed by Michael O’Donoghue / 1979 / USA / IMDb
In August 1981, a 2203.15-meter (80:18) print of MR. MIKE’S MONDO VIDEO was censored by 134-meters (04:53) to remove ‘animal cruelty’.
An M-rating was then awarded for ‘black humour and animal cruelty’.
Valhalla Films was the applicant.
Elusive Video Classics
A 75-minute tape passed with an M-rating in February 1984. We have yet to see any evidence that this submission by Video Classics was ever released.
Uncut after 29 + years
In February 2010, an uncut 152-minute DVD of MR. MIKE’S MONDO VIDEO was passed with an M (Mature themes, sexual references, drug references and coarse language) rating.
Beyond Home Entertainment released the DVD later that year.
The censored animal cruelty
Beyond Home Entertainment (au) – 2010 DVD – 79:44 (NTSC)
Same as 2009 Shout Factory (us) DVD. Has all the extras, including the commentary with co-writer Mitch Glazer.
The 04:53 of ‘animal cruelty’ removed from the original theatrical release refers to the sequence showing Amsterdam’s cat swimming school. It features numerous pet cats being thrown into a pool and then swimming out.
The commentary track with Mitch Glazer has some interesting background about how it was filmed. Guards from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) watched as forty cats were tossed into the pool. He admits that they were not too pleased with their treatment, but none was harmed.
This is followed by the Royal Dutch hand gliding school for cats, which plays out over a ‘deleted by network’ sign.
Combined, they both run from 03:43 to 08:37, or a total of 04:54. This indicates the entire sequence was censored in the Australian theatrical version. The actual ‘animal cruelty’ of cats in the pool runs from 04:17 to 07:50, a total of 03:33.
The intro to the film at 01:11 also shows a very brief snippet of the cat tossing.
Directed by Alan Myerson / 1981 / USA / IMDb
In August 1981, an 86-minute tape of PRIVATE LESSONS was banned because of the ‘sexual exploitation of a minor’.
Star Video was the applicant.
10+ minutes cut for R
In November 1981, a 2370.60-meter (86:25) print was once more banned because of the ‘sexual exploitation of a minor’.
The Films Board of Review upheld the decision in December 1981.
Following the refusal, PRIVATE LESSONS was censored down to 2323-meters (84:40) and resubmitted. This proved to be to no avail, as this ‘reduced version’ was Refused Registration in May 1982. Again, the reason was the ‘sexual exploitation of a minor’.
It was finally passed in July 1982. The R-rating was awarded for ‘adult concepts’. This third submission ran 2112.11-meters (76:59) and was described as the ‘producer’s reduced version’. This heavily censored print did not prevent the Film Censorship Board from insisting on a further 0.5-meters (00:02) of cuts before awarding the R-rating. This final modification was once more for the ‘sexual exploitation of a minor’.
It was this censored version, missing over ten minutes of footage, that went on to be released theatrically in Australia.
In all cases, Sunn Classic Productions was the applicant.
Cut & banned videos
Rigby-CIC Video released a heavily censored 77:12 version on tape in the early 1980s.
In August 1983, PRIVATE LESSONS was again banned because of the ‘sexual exploitation of a minor’. The 86-minute tape was submitted by Howard Smith Industries.
In February 1984, it became law for all videotapes to be classified. The Film Censorship Board began the slow task of reviewing all the titles that had been released up until that time. The Rigby-CIC Video release of PRIVATE LESSONS was classified in November 1984. It was confirmed with an R-rating, which was awarded for ‘sexual allusions’.
Umbrella play it safe
It would be over twenty years before PRIVATE LESSONS was again classified in Australia. In September 2005, the OFLC passed Umbrella Entertainment’s VHS with an R18+ (Adult themes) rating. They released it on DVD in January 2006.
The running time of the full-screen DVD was 77:12, which was the same as the Rigby-CIC Video. It appears Umbrella decided to be cautious, perhaps sensing that the intervening years had not made it any easier for the subject matter to be classified.
The censored scenes
Despite being cut by nearly ten minutes, it is still not easy to identify what was removed. This may have something to do with the print being the ‘producer’s reduced version’, meaning the cuts were more professionally done.
Here is a rundown of the scenes that may have been a problem and subjected to cuts.
22:00 approx. – Ms Mallow (Sylvia Kristel) undresses in front of Philly (Howard Hesseman). This scene does not seem cut, but it is the most obvious place for the often-mentioned full-frontal nudity.
30:00 approx. – Philly shares a bath with Ms Mallow. There is possibly a brief cut (the missing 00:02?) after Ms Mallow says, ‘I’ll wash your shoulders’. Philly then smiles nervously. It seems slightly cut between this and the next frontal shot where Ms Mallow kisses Philly on the cheek.
39:00 approx. – Philly and Ms Mallow arrive home and are going to have sex for the first time. The scene ends after Philly leaves the room when he senses Ms Mallow does not love him. Nothing seems cut here.
48:00 approx. – Ms Mallow and Philly have sex for the first time. This scene has been modified as none of the sex is shown. Philly shouting, ‘Ms Mallow, are you okay’ plays out over a slow-motion pan over the bedroom floor. The footage seems to have been deliberately slowed to mask a cut.
73:00 approx. – Ms Mallow and Philly say goodbye. The scene ends with them collapsing on the bed together. Nothing seems cut here.
The IMDb makes a mention of a TV version that removes the opening credits scene of the couple in the car and of Philly sharing a bath with Ms Mallow. This is not the version we have on DVD and VHS.
In February 2006, Artisan in the US released a 25th Anniversary DVD. Reviews mention that a couple of scenes of full-frontal nudity have been optically fogged. Note that our version contains no full-frontal nudity at all.
In February 2006, the Cinema Club label in the UK released PRIVATE LESSONS on DVD. The film has always had problems with the BBFC, so it was not surprising it was censored. According to Melon Farmers, ‘Cuts were made in several scenes under the Protection of Children Act. Basically every shot where you could see Kristel’s nudity and the boy in the same shot was removed. The scenes affected were the striptease, the bath scene and the two sex scenes. In the storyline the boy was meant to be 15 years old’.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High
Directed by Amy Heckerling / 1982 / USA / IMDb
In October 1982, United International Pictures had a 2413.84-meters (87:59) print of FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH passed with an R-rating. The rating was given because of language, which was described as:
It was also awarded for ‘sexual concepts’.
Despite the harsh classification, the Australian censors still demanded 0.7 meters (00:02) of cuts. The reason given for the deletions was ‘sexual activity involving a minor’.
March 1983– Cinema Papers No. 42
Amy Heckerling’s FAST TIMES (FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH in the US): cut by two seconds for showing ‘sexual activity involving a minor’. It is hard to know what the Commonwealth Film Censor expects a filmaker to do when making films about teenage sexuality; pretending it doesn’t exist is no answer.
Presumably, the cuts were made to one, or both of Stacey’s (Jennifer Jason Leigh) two sex scenes. These are with Ron (D.W. Brown) at 19:00 and Mike (Robert Romanus) at 58:00.
FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH was issued on tape by CIC-TAFT Video. This 89-minute version was rated R in July 1984 for reasons of:
It is unknown if this is the same censored print as the theatrical version.
Dropped to M-rated
In May 1995, FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH was reclassified M (Adult themes, Low level coarse language).
The 91-minute VHS was submitted by Australia Media.
New consumer advice
It was back before the Classification Board in January 2002 when Sony Pictures Home Entertainment had a DVD awarded an M-rating. This time, the consumer warning was revised to ‘Medium level sex scenes, Low level course language, Drug use’.
This DVD was released on the Universal-Columbia Tristar label. The longer running time of 89:30 indicates it was an NTSC to PAL conversion. Presumably, this version restores the above-mentioned cuts.