Australian movies that have been cut or banned by the Film Censorship Board.
Night of Fear
Directed by Terry Bourke / 1972 / Australia / IMDb
In October 1972, a 1417.32-meter (51:40) print of NIGHT OF FEAR was Refused Registration because of ‘indecency’.
An appeal to the Films Board of Review saw the ban overturned and an R-rating awarded in November 1972.
For unknown reasons it was resubmitted in March 1973, where it was again passed with an R-rating.
In each case, the director Terry Bourke and producer Rod Hay were the applicants.
The film they didn’t want you to see…
NIGHT OF FEAR opened at the Penthouse Theatre in Sydney’s King Cross in March 1973.
The promotional material played on the notoriety of it being banned.
In September 1974, the Censorship Board record a 35mm double–bill of INN OF THE DAMNED (1975) and NIGHT OF FEAR being passed with an M-rating.
The 129-minute running time indicates that this was only Terry Bourke’s follow-up film, INN OF THE DAMNED (1975).
Terryrod Productions were the applicant.
No show on video
In February 1984, Syme Home Video had a 113-minute double-bill tape of NIGHT OF FEAR and INN OF THE DAMNED (1975) passed with an M-rating.
Syme released only the latter film on video. The running time indicates that, despite being listed, NIGHT OF FEAR was never even classified.
Back after 32-years
In January 2005, the OFLC awarded a double-bill of NIGHT OF FEAR and INN OF THE DAMNED (1975) an M (Medium level violence, Horror theme, Low level sex scene) rating.
Umbrella Entertainment released the 50:49 film on DVD.
They rereleased it as part of a six-disc set, titled OZPLOITATION VOLUME 1.
Dealing with the Censorship Board
Umbrella Entertainment’s DVD of NIGHT OF FEAR is recommended as it provides important background into Australian film censorship only a year after the introduction of the R-rating.
The disc has several extras of interest, including a stills gallery that contains numerous newspaper clippings that cover the rating issues.
A commentary track, moderated by Mark Hartley, with the Producer, Rod Hay and actress Carla Hoogeveen, shines more light on the Censorship Board problems.
Producer, Rod Hay – But even looking at that relatively tame scene [Carla Hoogeveen’s sex scene at 15:30], that scene still provoked the censors to come back and say, right, sorry this film is banned.
We of course went up in arms, and we approached Stanley Hawes [Chairman, Films Board of Review], I think his name was, who was head of the censor board [Films Board of Review], and he said no, that film is banned for the following reasons, which included that particular scene. Which we could not even regard as being risqué quite frankly. I mean today you would get worse scenes in BUGS BUNNY and MICKEY MOUSE. But that scene, coupled with a couple of other scenes with rats which they regarded as being fairly confrontational and brutal. They said, sorry, that film is not going to play in an Australian cinema.
Mark Hartly – It was the overall mood though wasn’t it. It wasn’t like you could cut two scenes and it would be fine. It was the fact that it had a relentless kind of terror.
Producer, Rod Hay – Absolutely…when we went to compete against the censor, because people thought, Oh, once we got banned, that’s it, they’ll shut up. It’s too difficult anyway, cause they can’t get into cinemas, and we said, no. Especially me, because I’d put money into this program and I thought the only way I’m going to retrieve that money is to make sure that we not only make our point, but we do actually get a release which will allow us to get funds back in the kitty for the next film we were planning. So it meant we were part of a pioneering brigade that were out there to knock on independent doors, because we could not get into theatre chains like Hoyts or Greater Union or Roadshow, and we finished up going to the Penthouse Theatre in the Cross. And from then on we got, well before we did that of course, we then had to go to the Appeals Board to get the Appeals Board to look at what our reasoning was for why they should approve the screening of this film. And at that stage, we’d compiled a list of films which included films like, what was that film that Russell made now, Ken Russell?
Mark Hartley – THE DEVILS.
Producer, Rod Hay – THE DEVILS. Another was EL DIALBLO, a Mexican film which was very graphic. And there was another film on top of that which I forget now, but we used four or five of these. And we walked into the Censor Board based on the premise that shock is probably nine tenths of perception, and getting people to sort of fall over in support of you.
…let me tell you what we did when we walked through the door of the Censor Board. We concocted this idea that we would bring in there, a four foot board, which was about two feet long, and about four feet high. And we had on it the prejudice that was now being made against Australian films, and these other films had been allowed censorship clearance, and they had all the elements in them, and how could they allow a film, or disallow a film that has not a tenth of what these films have. So by the time we got in there we had Caroline Jones, who we demanded replaced Stanley Hawes as the Chairman of the Appeals Board. They looked at it, and they said, well, we can see the commitment you’ve made. We’ll look at the film. And within a minute of having seen the film, they said okay, film approved, and we’re out and running.– DVD commentary track
– Umbrella Entertainment
Two problem scenes
The Film Censorship Board took issue with the following footage.
14:00 – the woman (Carla Hoogeveen) is shown having sex.
44:00 – the woman is attacked by rats.
These are the most explicit and graphic images from two very tame sequences.
In November 2022, Umbrella Entertainment issued a double-bill of NIGHT OF FEAR and INN OF THE DAMNED (1975) on Blu-ray.
It contained new extras that were not on their DVD.
aka Pure S
Directed by Bert Deling / 1975 / Australia / IMDb
A 954.00-meter (86:56) 16mm print of PURE SHIT was initially registered under ‘Festival Conditions’ without eliminations.
August 1975– Film Censorship Board
For showing no more than twice at Sydney and/or Melbourne/Adelaide/Brisbane/Perth Film Festival and then exported.
Passed subject to the condition that the word ‘Shit’ (including the word SHIT in the title) is not used in any advertising.
At the time, one of the functions of the Censorship Board was to examine advertising concerning imported and Australian films as required by both Commonwealth and State legislations.
November 1975– Cinema Papers No. 7
The other film at the Perth Festival to strike trouble was Bert Deling’s PURE SHIT — a fictional film written and acted by Melbourne drug addicts. An appeal was lodged against the Censor’s refusal to classify it on the grounds of its title, and the film was finally passed for festival screening. Its position regarding general release, however, is still unresolved.
The appeal failed and the title was changed to PURE S for festival screenings.
It was under the new title that the uncut print was passed with an R-rating in November 1975.
A. Pelling and Apogee Films was the applicant.
The original PURE SHIT poster was abandoned due to censorship issues.
A modified version was designed by the Australian Film Commission for the Sydney release.
Fighting the censor
Over the years, Bert Deling, has spoken a number of times about his dealings with the Film Censorship Board.
CP – We understand that you have run into censorship problems with PURE SHIT.
BD – Yes. Most people have the idea that censorship is less of a problem in Australia than it’s ever been, which is just not true. The problem is in the nature of censorship itself, since nobody can write legislation which specifically states what is going to be censored and what is not. So much of it comes down to the taste of the person who is the censor, and interpretations of what censorship should be and how it should function vary astoundingly, depending on the personality of the man in that job.
Now, we have a person who sits in that position in Australia — Mr Richard Prowse [Chief Censor] — whose concept of prevailing public standards varies drastically from my own, so that over the past few years I have been in confrontation with him on many occasions and have had more than a taste of how censorship functions in this country.
I have had a lot of problems with him over PURE SHIT, to the degree that he has insisted that all advertising matter be presented to him for approval. We got into a situation where we had a poster designed in Melbourne, and knew we had to present it to him, but the artwork was running late, and we looked at the poster and thought well, there’s nothing on that that anyone could take exception to, and had it printed. He objected to a line on the poster — ‘the next best thing to dying’ — so all the posters had to be scrapped. We were summoned, and the director of the Australian Film Institute and I spent four hours in D-24 making statements to the Vice Squad! They haven’t yet proceeded with those, so we don’t know what is going to happen about it.
Anyway, in my opinion, dying is the worst thing that can happen to anybody, and the next one is being addicted to smack.
When we went to Sydney, I went on 2JJ and talked about the problems that I had had with censorship. I didn’t say anything that hadn’t actually happened. I described the situation exactly as I just described it to you, and our censor freaked out. He told the AFC that I was not to make any more statements about him anywhere.
I didn’t think he could make that stick, because there is no legislation that says that a critic of the film censor is not allowed to speak in public, but he said that he would not give television clearance to clips of PURE SHIT if the agreement wasn’t entered into. These particular clips had run on the 6.30 news on four television channels in Adelaide General Exhibition time, but Mr Prowse was going to say that they were not suitable for screening at any time in Sydney.
My response to that was to say, ‘Let’s go him — this is not something that he has power to do’, but the AFC decided we would agree to it. The other stipulation that we were supposed to agree to was that I wasn’t going to talk about the film itself at all on air. I was allowed to talk about drugs, but not about the film. We gave those two undertakings to Mr Prowse to get those clips through. That was not what I wanted to do, but it was the decision that the AFC made, because they have to live with Mr Prowse for the next 20 years. But his exercise of power is absolutely arbitrary.
What we have is a situation where somebody has been given reasonably limitless powers to interpret as best he can, and Mr Prowse is doing that within his perception of the role. The problem is that he is doing it secretly, with no real check on how he is interpreting the legislation under which he is given power, and, at least for people like me, the experience of the exercise of that power has been fairly disturbing.
I don’t want this to sound like a specific attack on an individual. That individual is in a position where he is being employed to exert his taste, and that is a situation which shouldn’t be allowed to occur, because even in the best of circumstances we all have blind spots.
We are getting situations where the distributors don’t bring certain films into this country because they know they won’t get through, and other films that come in are having certain parts of them removed. We are being isolated from types of information which are readily accessible in other western capitalist countries. So the rest of the world moves on, while we tend to wallow in this comfortable 1950s kind of space.– Bert Deling interview
– Cinema Papers No. 12
May 10, 2009
BD – And to my total, genuine amazement, the film got banned. No certificate allowed. It was going to be screened at the Perth Film Festival, that was its first big appearance, and we’d just got some media going about it, not a lot but some. They said ‘just one screening, and then…’ The frustrating thing about the censorship issue is, as soon as you shine the light on the fucker – his name was Proust, Martin – what he did was scuttle back into the darkness and let the film go! It wasn’t like a passionate commitment to the thought that this film should not be shown; it was that he had a mild dislike of the film so he thought he’d ban it!
MS – And assumed you’d roll over in the process!
BD – Precisely. So we shined the light. We got an R certificate. Every piece of media and advertising had to go over his desk. He had to personally sign off on everything. That’s what he wanted. So the first night of screenings in Melbourne, the Vice Squad turns up and rips down our posters.– Bert Deling interview
– article @ mondostumpo.blogspot.com
June 5, 2009
C – Audiences are much more liberal in many ways nowadays, but when you’re watching the sort of footage in PURE SHIT of people injecting, it’s still very hard hitting, no doubt about that. I wonder how bloody hard hitting it must have been for people watching it in the 70s.
BD – This guy [Richard Prowse] had been sitting there very quietly as the censor for many years. He was a one-armed person, I presume a war person. In other countries they give blokes like that the job of driving lifts. Well this guy got to be the censor. He’d just be quietly working away in his little cave, you know.
It (the film) was banned out of hand. We figured that the only way to deal with this was to actually shine a light into this organised cave and have him come blinking into the light. So we did. And the minute he had to come out to defend what he’d done, he un-banned it! Now let’s think about that for a second. He banned a film that was supposedly so damaging to the whole human cosmos that no one should see it, but then when he had to stand up and defend it he immediately went ‘ok you can have it.’ It was done on a whim because one way or another it makes no sense.
C – The title is very provocative. Would you have considered giving it a much tamer title?
BD – Yeah. We were stirring. That was the whole point – the free publicity. Ultimately what he (the censor) said to us was ‘call it PURE S and we’ll give it an R.’ We went ‘fine.’ We thought we might have to change the title completely. We had no money. We couldn’t get publicity. We couldn’t pay for ads and stuff, so we thought we’ve have a little stir.– Bert Deling interview
– article @ crikey.com.au
Back after 34-years
In May 2009, the Classification Board awarded it an R18+ (High impact drug themes) rating. It was resubmitted as PURE SHIT.
Beyond Home Entertainment released it as a three-disc DVD box set.
Their promotional material used its notoriety as a selling point.
They Banned It…
They Slammed It…
Finally, after more than 30 years lost in the wilderness, Bert Deling’s 70s masterpiece, PURE SHIT, is released for the first time on DVD. In 1976 the Australian underground spewed out the most controversial film ever made about the heroin subculture. Four junkies desperate to score in a world with too many rules and death lurking only a cubicle away. PURE SHIT speaks truths never mentioned in polite society. Its tools are speed, rock ‘n’ roll, humour and kaleidoscopic colour.
Originally the Commonwealth censor deemed PURE SHIT unclassifiable. The Australian public was denied access to one of the funniest, most beautifully written, and masterfully performed portrayals of drug addiction ever committed to celluloid.
Suppressed as it was, it was hardly enough to stifle the film’s energy. For several years a deteriorating 16mm print toured festivals and underground screenings leaving an indelible mark on those lucky enough to view it.– DVD promotion
– Beyond Home Entertainment