American Western Films – Page 2

1990s American western movies that have been cut or banned in Australia.

Dead Man

Directed by Jim Jarmusch / 1995 / USA / IMDb

In November 1995, a 115-minute print of DEAD MAN was refused due to sexual violence’.

The sequence rakes place early in the film when William Blake (Johnny Depp) is walking through the town. As he passes an alleyway, he sees a man (Gibby Haynes from the Butthole Surfers) holding a gun to a woman’s head as she gives him oral sex. The man then lifts the gun and points it at Blake to move him along.

R-rated on appeal

The following month, United International Pictures successfully challenged the RC-rating and were awarded an R (Medium level violence) by the Classification Review Board.

December 22, 1995
5 Finding on material questions of fact

5.1 The plot

Young accountant William Blake expends all his savings to make a long train trip from his home to the town of Machine to take up a job offer. On his arrival he finds the town to be corrupt, degraded and in poverty, and there is no job. The major part of the film is occupied by Blake’s subsequent flight and pursuit after wrongly being accused of murder. He is accompanied and protected (and ultimately taken to a peaceful Indian village to die) by an Indian who believes he (Blake) is the reincarnation of poet William Blake.

The scene of sexual violence

5.2 The Board of Review considered the scene cited by the Censorship Board as in its opinion, taking the film out of the R category and causing it to warrant refusal under Customs (Cinematograph Films) Regulation 13(1)(a) and under the guideline proscribing ‘explicit or unjustifiable depictions of sexual violence against non-consenting persons’.

The scene, some 12 minutes into the film, takes place as Blake walks through the town of Machine on his arrival. Different facets of the town’s degradation are revealed as he walks. Down an alley he sees a man leaning against a wall with a woman kneeling in front of him, implicitly fellating him. A gun held loosely in the man’s hand is raised towards the horrified Blake as a warning to move on. The scene lasts approximately four seconds.

The Review Board found that the scene depicted implied sexual violence. The applicant’s submission conceded this and described the scene as one of ‘implicitly coerced oral sex’ and that ‘there is clear implication that she has been forced to do this’. The writer-director Jim Jarmusch says that ‘the implication is that the woman is being forcibly subjugated by some low-life resident of the town…..Without the gun there to represent force, the woman would merely be viewed as common, vulgar whore, and the scene would reflect on her character rather than, as is intended, on the character of the town itself. With the gun however, she is clearly the victim of the town’s obvious acceptance of coercion, violence and corruption on every level’.

Other scenes

5.3 The Review Board found that a scene at about 73 minutes of the squashing of a dead man’s head with a boot, with the brain spurting out, to be cruel and relished and likely to offend some sections of the adult community. It found similarly in regard to the scene of cannibalism of a human arm.

6 Reasons for the decision.

6.1 The Review Board based its decision not to confirm that Censorship Board’s decision to refuse registration on its consideration of the film as a whole and on the scene cited in 5.2 in particular.

6.2 The Review Board was of the opinion that the scene was a fleeting one of limited sexual violence. On this point it accepts the applicant’s written submission supporting its application for review.

However, it also found the scene to be necessary to the narrative. As Blake walks through the town, various aspects of the degradation are revealed. The brief scene of implied forced fellatio, apparently unremarkable to any of the town’s inhabitants but Blake, adds a further dimension of brutality and indifference to the picture. The walk is in strong contrast to the walk undertaken by Blake in the closing stages of the film through a peaceful and caring Indian village.

Further the Review Board found the scene, which is extremely brief and in midshot, not to be exploitative. The reaction of the viewer, as of Blake, is one of revulsion.

The Review Board therefore found the film to contain a scene of implied sexual violence, but one which was acceptable by being necessary to the narrative and not exploitative. The Review Board is mindful of community concern, reflected in the film and video classification guidelines, about portrayals of sexual violence, and in making its decision in relation to this particular film does not wish to convey the impression that its commitment to upholding the relevant guidelines have been diminished.

6.3 The film included other scenes (described in 5.3 above) of skull squashing and cannibalism. The former was shown in a manner which was detailed and cruel but which lacked some realism. In combination with the scene described in 5.2, this film could be said to have content which could be offensive to some sections of the adult community and therefore is appropriately classified For Restricted Exhibition (R18+)

6.4 The Review Board’s direction that the consumer advice in relation to the film be ‘Medium level violence’ is made having regard to the findings in 5.2 and 5.3 above.

7 Summary

The Review Board’s decision is to set aside the decision of the Censorship Board in relation to the film DEAD MAN and to grant the permission sought by the applicant, The film is to be registered and classified R18+ with consumer advice ‘Medium level violence’. The decision was taken after full consideration of the applicant’s submission, and after assessing the film as a whole against relevant legislative criteria, and those contained in the current film classification guidelines endorsed by Censorship Ministers.

– Classification Review Board report
Dead Man (1995) - Australian one sheet poster 1
One sheet via Brett W.

DEAD MAN went on to open theatrically in late April 1996.

Home viewing

In late 1996, the uncut version of DEAD MAN was released on VHS by 21st Century Pictures.

This was followed by a DVD from Siren Entertainment.

In June 2005, Madman Entertainment resubmitted it for the first time in nearly ten-years. The R18+ remained, however, the consumer advice was increased by the OFLC from ‘Medium level violence’ to ‘High level violence’.

Dead Man (1995) - DVD cover 1
DVD – Madman

The following month they released it on DVD as a ’10th Anniversary Edition’ as part of their ‘Director’s Suite’ series. The film runs 116:06 (PAL), with the controversial scene shown from 11:27 to 11:34.

DEAD MAN has played several times on the SBS TV channel. It is unknown if every screening was complete. However, the one in May 2009 was fully uncut, with an MA15+ awarded by the station.

Madman Entertainment rereleased it, this time on Blu-ray, in May 2011.

Dead Man (1995) - Blu-ray cover 1
Blu-ray – Madman

Hard Bounty

Directed by Jim Wynorski / 1995 / USA / IMDb

In 1995, an 89-minute VHS of HARD BOUNTY was banned by the OFLC.

A censored 84:12 (PAL) version was passed with an M (Medium level sex scene, Nudity, Low level violence) in February 1996.

Presumably, the original submission was NTSC and the censored print PAL. 21st Century Pictures, the applicant, released it on video.

Hard Bounty (1995) - VHS videotape 1
VHS – 21st Century

Their cover lists it as MA (Medium level violence and Sex scenes), and on-screen before the film, as MA (Medium Level Violence). The National Classification Database does not record it receiving either rating.

The censored scene

Simon reports.
21st Century Pictures (au) – VHS -84:12 (PAL)
Uncut version – 88:33 (NTSC)
Neither time includes the ‘Sunset Films International’ title card.

In 1995, the OFLC was ultra-sensitive to any hint of sexual violence. This eventually led to them banning Jim Jarmusch’s DEAD MAN (1995) in November of that year. As was the case with that film, the problem footage in HARD BOUNTY is not especially explicit.

Martin rapes Donnie
Before – A cowboy watches as Martin enters the saloon.
He says, ‘Shows over, let’s go’ Martin walks up the stairs of the saloon.

Censored from 30:13 to 30:50 – Martin walks along the corridor, kicks open the door and finds Donnie with a client. He holds a gun to the client’s head and tells him to get lost. He then grabs Donnie by the throat and forces her onto the bed.

Hard Bounty (1995) - Martin's hands around Donnie's throat
Martin attacks Donnie

Donnie says ‘Stop it, Martin, you’re hurting me’.
Martin begins to unbuckle his belt.
Donnie says ‘What happened?’.
Martin replies ‘I was wrong, I was dead wrong’.
He begins to rape her, but only a very brief 00:05 is shown before the screen fades.

After: An outside shot of the saloon.
Martin stands in the room looking at the wall.
Donnie says ‘Your time’s up, put your money on the table’.