American Horror Films of the 1980s – Page 1

1980s American horror movies that have been cut or banned in Australia.

Don’t Answer the Phone

Directed by Robert Hammer / 1980 / USA / IMDb

In April 1981, a 2593.60-meter (94:32) print of DON’T ANSWER THE PHONE was banned because of violence. It was said to be:
Frequency: Frequent
Explicitness/Intensity: High
Purpose: Gratuitous

A 2363.30-meter (86:09) ‘reconstructed version’ was also banned in September 1981. The violence was now described as being:
Frequency: Frequent
Explicitness/Intensity: Medium
Purpose: Gratuitous

It was also refused because of ‘sexual violence’.

The Greater Union Organisation (GUO) was the applicant.

Banned on video

In March and December 1983, 94-minute tapes of DON’T ANSWER THE PHONE were banned because of violence, which was described as being:
Frequency: Frequent
Explicitness/Intensity: High
Purpose: Gratuitous

In both cases, Video Classics was the applicant.

Copies of the film on the Media Home Entertainment label could be found in some video stores. Video Classics were responsible for Media’s Australian tapes, however, in this case, they appear to have been imports of the New Zealand release.

Unclassified DVD

In 2004, Payless Entertainment released an Australian DVD of DON’T ANSWER THE PHONE with a fake R-rating.

Don't Answer the Phone (1980) - DVD cover 1
DVD – Payless

This overly dark print is the same heavily cut version that appeared on the American Rhino label. Despite a 94-minute cover time, it runs only 85:20. This does not include the opening ‘Crown International Pictures’, and closing ‘Crown International Television’ cards.

Movie-Censorship documents the nine minutes of missing footage.

Refused for sexual violence

Matt reports
BCI Eclipse (us) – 2006 DVD- 94:40 (minus MPAA R-rating card)

Some or all of these would have contributed to the Australian refusal.

03:30 to 04:15 – The opening murder where Kirk (Nicholas Worth) strangles the topless women.

17:30 to 19:30 – Kirk breaks into Carol’s (Paula Warner) bedroom, rips her top off and drops candle wax on her.

29:00 to 29:30 – Sue-Ellen (Pamela Jean Bryant) is stripped of her top and strangled. Kirk is shown placing a coin into a stocking before wrapping it around her neck.

43:00 to 43:30 – The hooker is strangled while on the phone with Dr Gale (Flo Lawrence). This is the only murder where the victim is not topless. Again Kirk is shown placing a coin into a stocking before wrapping it around her neck.

69:15 to 70:45 – Kirk visits the home of a model claiming that her agent sent him. He rips off her gown so she is topless and strangles her. Her, also topless, roommate walks in to see what has happened, before Kirk grabs and strangles her.


Directed by William Lustig / 1980 / USA / IMDb

In May 1981, a 2397.10-meter (87:23) print of MANIAC was banned because of violence, which was said to be:
Frequency: Frequent
Explicitness/Intensity: High
Purpose: Gratuitous

This decision was upheld by the Films Board of Review in July 1981.

A 2370.1-meter (84:06) ‘reconstructed version’ was submitted in November 1981, but this too was banned. The description of the violence remained unchanged.

In April 1982, a ‘second reconstructed version’ running 2346.90-meters (85:33) was passed with an R-rating. The violence was now said to be:
Frequency: Frequent
Explicitness/Intensity: Medium
Purpose: Gratuitous

The whole process took eleven months, in which time it lost 01:50 of footage.

In all cases, House of Dare was the applicant.

Censored poster

House of Dare’s theatrical poster for MANIAC was also modified.

Maniac (1980) - Australian daybill movie poster 1
Daybill via moviemem

Frank’s bulging crotch and the woman’s scalp was blacked out by the ‘I warned you not to go out tonight’ line.

The full image was later used on the covers of various home viewing releases.

Video Classics Gold cuts

In October 1983, Video Classics released MANIAC as part of their Gold range.

Maniac (1980) - Advertisement 1
Ad – Video Classics

The tape ran 82:11 (PAL) and was heavily censored.

Maniac (1980) - VHS videotape 1
VHS – Video Classics

The following is a comparison of the Video Classics (VC) VHS and the uncut Umbrella Entertainment DVD. It is not an exact check, so there may be some more small cuts that have been missed. The times quoted refer to the point in the DVD where the footage was censored from the VC VHS.

Death on the beach
1:30 approx. – The girl (Linda Lee Walter) having her throat cut and a shot of her bloody hand.
2:30 approx. – The boy (James L. Brewster) having a metal cord pulled tight around his throat until blood appears.

Scalping of the prostitute
16:00 approx. – In the VC tape we see the start of the scalping but it cuts before showing the full thing.

Head explosion
29:15 approx. – Tom Savini’s head explosion is intact. However, the lingering shots of the aftermath, between images of the girl’s bloody face, are missing.

Stabbing of the nurse
47:15 approx. – Shot of the knife exiting her chest.

Death of Rita
67:30 approx. – Missing from the VC tape are the shots of Frank (Joe Spinell) moving the knife over her bare chest, pressing it down and finally stabbing her.

Frank’s death
82:00 approx. – Frank’s arm being chopped off. Shot of the decapitated corpse with blood coming from the neck and Frank having his head torn off.

Customs VHS confiscation

In 1983, customs seized a Betamax of the uncut American Media Home Entertainment release.

Maniac (1980) - VHS videotape 2
VHS – Media

They deemed it to be a prohibited import.

Porn & violence in West Australia

MANIAC was discussed during a censorship debate in the Parliament of Western Australia

April 12, 1984
Hon. LYLA ELLIOTT, to the Minister for Administrative Services:
I have a further question to the previous one.

Will the Government give some attention to the question of the protection of children who may be affected as a result of the ‘X” and “R” classifications of video films-even though the law provides that they may be distributed from the outlets only to people over 18 years of age-by consulting with child welfare authorities?

Hon. D. K. DANS replied:
I am prepared to give an undertaking that we will consult with child welfare authorities on this matter. In our very complex society today, I still believe that the family unit is the mainstay of society. It might sound old-fashioned, but I firmly believe it. Parents must become involved. I have some unofficial figures which show that 70 per cent of all videos taken from outlets are “X” or-R rated. The figures go further to state that the majority of those taken out-approximately 70 per vent-are taken by married couples mostly in the 40 to 50 years age group. The young people apparently prefer violent films. I should add that this is not a qualified report and I do not have the information written down; but the people who know about these things are always ready with the information.

I am aware of films showing in Sydney such as SCARFACE and THE DEERHUNTER, and these are extremely violent films. When the Commonwealth Government gets into classifying all the material I hope it will take cognisance of the effect these are likely to have on people.

I heard the Leader of the Opposition talking on this subject and it is not often we agree. However, I have yet to be convinced, irrespective of what the learned psychiatrists and psychologists may say, that some of these things do not have an effect on people who may be a little unbalanced. I have seen excerpts from films entitled MANIAC and BLOODSUCKING FREAKS. I could not look at them.

However, I feel we need to take stock of ourselves. No amount of legislation, policing, or penalty can clean up these things unless one has the maximum amount of public co-operation. It has been mentioned that Sweden, which has no censorship laws, has reached the stage where it has run its race and one could not sell such a film there. However, I do not think we want to go through a period of 10 to 1 5 years to reach that stage. I hope the new legislation will go part of the way and that the public, and parents in particular, will accept their responsibilities to society and to their children.

– Pornography and Violence, Video Films: Access by Children
– Des Dans (Labor), Lyla Elliott (Labor)
– WA Legislative Council

Video finally rated

In July 1984, the Film Censorship Board finally classified the censored Video Classics Gold release. It was passed with an R-rating for the same reasons as the 1982 submission.

They document it as running 85-minutes; however. the true time was 82:11 (PAL).

Consistent? No!

In April 1986, SCREAM GREATS VOLUME 1: TOM SAVINI (1985) was passed with an R-rating. The Film Censorship Board did not have any issue with the out of context uncut clips from MANIAC. It includes previously censored scenes such as:

14:25- The scalping of the prostitute. This is followed by the death scene of the boy on the beach.

16:01 – The stabbing of the nurse.

49:08 – Tom Savini’s shotgun head explosion.

51:20 – Frank’s death scene.

The classification of this title is covered in more depth in the ROSEMARY’S KILLER (1981) entry.

Customs seize 40 films

There is one report of a customs confiscation of MANIAC from the early 1990s.

1991 October – VHS.

See also NEKROMANTIK (1987) in the Film Censorship Database No. 1 for more information regarding this case.

Unclassified import

In 2003, a company called DVD Australia began distributing Anchor Bay’s American DVDs.

MANIAC was one of the titles that they picked up. This release was never submitted to the OFLC.

Uncut after 23-years

In June 2004, Umbrella Entertainment submitted MANIAC to the OFLC. It was passed with an R (Strong violence) rating and released on DVD in March 2005.

Maniac (1980) - DVD cover 1
DVD – Umbrella

This was the theatrical version, with a running time of 87:51 (NTSC).

Maniac (1980) - DVD cover 2
DVD – Umbrella

They rereleased it in February 2008 as part of a VIDEO NASTIES box set. This also included BASKET CASE (1982), and THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972).

Now in high definition

A Blu-ray of MANIAC was released in November 2013 as part of Shock Entertainment’s Cinema Cult range.

Maniac (1980) - Blu-ray cover
Blu-ray – Shock

Apart from the international trailer, it contains no extras.

Motel Hell

Directed by Kevin Connor / 1980 / USA / IMDb

In October 1980, a 2700.23-meter (98:26) print of MOTEL HELL was submitted to the Censorship Board by United Artists Australasia.

It was passed only after 6.2 meters (00:14) of footage was removed. The reason for the deletions was violence, which was described as being:
Frequency: Infrequent
Explicitness/Intensity: High
Purpose: Gratuitous

The R-rating was awarded for violence and horror. The violence was described as:
Frequency: Frequent
Explicitness/Intensity: Medium
Purpose: Gratuitous

Motel Hell (1980) - Australian daybill movie poster 1
Daybill via moviemem

This slightly censored print went on to have a theatrical release.

Shane reports.
The cut in MOTEL HELL was the close up of the three heads screaming as the tractor drives away strangling them. The tractor starts and the rope tightens around their necks before it cuts to it stopping revving.

Three video releases

Warner Brothers released MOTEL HELL to video in 1983. The running time was 96:49 and it appears to be uncut.

Motel Hell (1980) - VHS videotape 1
VHS – Warner

In January 1985, a 98-minute tape was passed with an R-rating. It was awarded for violence, which was said to be:
Frequency: Infrequent
Explicitness/Intensity: Medium
Purpose: Justified
…and also for ‘horror’

Motel Hell (1980) - VHS videotape 2
VHS – Warner

Warner Home Video was the applicant. This was issued as part of their Video Gems range.

Motel Hell (1980) - VHS videotape 3
VHS – Warner

In 1991, it was released for a third time on tape by Warner Home Video.

DVD releases

MGM issued MOTEL HELL on DVD in 2003.

Motel Hell (1980) - DVD cover 1

Again, the running time was 96:49.

Motel Hell (1980) - DVD cover 2
DVD – Shock

In July 2009, Shock rereleased the MGM DVD with new packaging.

Mother’s Day

Directed by Charles Kaufman / 1980 / USA / IMDb

In August 1983, an uncut 91-minute print of MOTHER’S DAY passed with an R-rating.

Roadshow Distributors was the applicant.

Video release & refusal

In mid-1984, Roadshow Home Video released MOTHER’S DAY on tape in an uncut 86:41 (PAL) version.

Mother's Day (1980) - VHS videotape 1
VHS – Roadshow

This was reviewed in March 1985 and banned by the Film Censorship Board because of ‘excessive violence and gratuitous sexual violence’.

Despite the refusal, copies of the Roadshow release remained relatively easy to find in stores.