British horror movies that were cut or banned in Australia.
The Oblong Box
Directed by Gordon Hessler / 1969 / UK / IMDb
In September 1972, a 2494.18-meter (90:55) print of THE OBLONG BOX was banned because of ‘excessive violence’.
A censored 2467.68-meter (89:57) version was passed with an R-rating in February 1973.
Roadshow Distributors was the applicant.
The excessive violence
The Australian Shock/MGM DVD is the director’s cut that has remained unseen for many years. As you can see from the running time, it contains more footage than the version banned in Australian back in 1972.
In Video Watchdog No. 98, Tim Lucas has a comparison between the various versions of the film. He writes that AIP removed around ten-minutes of footage from the US theatrical version. I am not sure what version was first submitted to the Australian Censorship Board in 1972, as that only appears to be five-minutes shorter.
These scenes would have contributed to it being banned for ‘excessive violence’. This presumes all the violence present in the DVD was also in the initial September 1972 submission.
01:15 – A nail is hammered into Edward’s (Alister Williamson) hand.
33:30 – The body snatcher kills a man with his shovel.
49:00 – Edward stabbing Mark.
65:00 – Edward cuts the throat of Heidi (Uta Levka) the prostitute.
78:30 – Edward cuts Trench’s (Peter Arne) throat.
85:45 – Edward cuts Dr Newhartt’s (Christopher Lee) throat.
92:40 – Edward bites Sir Julian (Vincent Price) on the hand.
Video & DVD releases
In April 1983, PBL Video had a 90-minute tape of THE OBLONG BOX passed with the Special Condition ‘that this film/tape will not be exhibited in any State in contravention of State’s law relating to the exhibition of films’.
In May 1985, it was passed with an R-rating as part of a double-bill VHS with CRY OF A BANSHEE (1970).
The applicant, Communications and Entertainment, released it on their Playaround Video label. The running time was 87:25 (PAL).
Shock/MGM released THE OBLONG BOX on DVD in March 2009.
Minus the Orion Films title card, this version ran 95:41 (NTSC).
For more Gordon Hessler, see CRY OF THE BANSHEE (1970) and SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN (1970) in the Film Censorship Database No. 2.
Blood on Satan’s Claw
Directed by Piers Haggard / 1971 / UK / IMDb
In February 1972, an 8235-feet (91:30) print of BLOOD ON SATAN’S CLAW was censored by 162-feet (01:48) for an M-rating. The cuts were made to remove violence and indecency.
These times indicate a precut version was submitted, with over six-minutes of footage missing from the final M-rated print.
Roadshow Distributors was the applicant.
Shane Harrison reports.
Odeon Entertainment (uk) – Blu-ray – 96:10 (NTSC)
The following scenes were edited from the M-rated cinema print.
Censored at 28:24 by 00:12 – Close-up of Peter (Simon Williams) stabbing at the devil’s claw, but actually, severing his own hand.
Censored at 28:47 by 00:10 – Pulling the bedclothes back to reveal Peter’s severed hand.
Censored at 41:20 by 00:01.5 – Angel Blake (Linda Hayden) opening her nightdress to seduce Reverend Fallowfield (Anthony Ainley) was cut the moment her pubic hair became visible.
Censored at 41:41 by 00:04 – Angel walking full frontal towards the camera.
Censored at 56:38 by 02:00 approx. – The ritualistic stripping, rape and murder of Cathy (Wendy Padbury) was heavily reduced to some quick flashes and close-ups of her friends watching. Their crescendo of sexual excitement was heavily reduced.
Censored at 58:46 by 00:08 – Angel repeatedly stabbing Cathy then licking the bloodied blade in a sexual frenzy.
In November 1982, a 93-minute tape was passed with an R-rating. It was awarded for violence, which was said to be:
G.L. Film Enterprises was the applicant. It was released on their Golden Lion Video label.
The front cover image was a modified version of the 1980 British pre-cert from Guild Home Video.
In June 1984, a 93-minute tape was again passed with an R-rating due to violence. The level was the same as the November 1982 classification.
The applicant, TAG Video, issued it as part of their rerelease of Golden Lion’s horror titles.
In 2005, Umbrella Entertainment released BLOOD ON SATAN’S CLAW on DVD.
The disc was missing consumer advice as it carried the 1984 R-rating.
Directed by Ken Russell / 1971 / UK / IMDb
In January 1972, a 9979-feet (110:52) print of THE DEVILS was passed with an R-rating. Warner Bros. was the applicant.
It was registered, subject to the special conditions that:
(i) All advertising clearly indicates that this film is classified as shown on the Certificate of Registration,
(ii) All advertising (including any trailers) shall carry the following word: – ‘THE DEVILS is not a film for everyone. It tells of hideous events which allegedly occurred in France in 1634. Because the film is explicit and highly graphic in depicting those events, some-people will find it visually shocking and deeply disturbing’.
(iii) A notice bearing the words: – ‘THE DEVILS is not a film-for everyone. It tells of hideous events which allegedly occurred in France in 1634. Because the film is explicit and highly graphic in depicting those events, some people will find it visually shocking and deeply disturbing’ shall be displayed outside all places where the film is being or is to be exhibited.
(iv) All advertising, whether- imported or locally-produced (or combination of imported and local- produced) shall be submitted to the Chief Film, Censor and. shall be approved by him before release.– Film Censorship Board
Regulation 40, special conditions & warnings
It was very rare for a film to have a warning attached to the classification. In this case, it was done on the insistence of Don Chipp, the Minister who had been instrumental in introducing the R-rating.
February 17, 1972
The Commonwealth Film Censorship Board has imposed unprecedented advertising demands on a British film, THE DEVILS, directed by Ken Russell.
THE DEVILS, produced by Russo Productions Ltd, has been registered ‘restricted’ uncut on condition that all advertising be cleared by the chief film censor and carry a notice about the nature of the film.
THE DEVILS has had made a condition of its registration that all advertising for the film, including any trailers, carry the notice.
This notice is also to be displayed outside all places where the film is shown. All advertising, whether imported or Australian produced, or a combination of the two, has to be cleared by the chief film censor.
These conditions are imposed under the general power to put whatever conditions are thought appropriate upon the registration of any film.– Advertising ruling on ‘Devils’ film
– Canberra Times
CP – How effective are the warnings on films like THE DEVILS, LANGUAGE OF LOVE and MAN FROM DEEP RIVER?
RP – Well I don’t think we put a warning on [MAN FROM] DEEP RIVER, it must have been an importer’s warning. We put a warning on THE DEVILS following a specific direction from the then Minister, and we put a warning on LANGUAGE OF LOVE following a specific direction by the Attorney-General.
As to whether we should use warnings over and above the classification is a quite thorny problem and we are currently exploring it. As I see it, it would need an amendment to State legislation to give some force to the warnings. If we just start putting warnings on films nobody would know whether it was our warning or the importer’s warning and the importer might use a warning as a gimmick to boost the sales of his film.– The Censor Speaks, Richard Prowse, Chief Censor
– Cinema Papers No. 2
The only higher appeal [than the Films Board of Review] is that direct to the Minister (the Attorney-General of Australia) —and he may intervene under Regulation 40 of the Customs (Cinematograph Films) Regulations.
Since January 1971, there have been four [PERCY (1971), THE DEVILS (1971), SKYJACKED (1972), and LANGUAGE OF LOVE (1969)] Ministerial interventions under this regulation:
(b) THE DEVILS January 4, 1972: The Minister (Mr D. L. Chipp) insists that all advertising which accompanies the film must carry in plain, bold type a suitable note warning people of what they might expect in the film.– How Australian Film Censorship Works
– Janet Strickland, Deputy-Chief Censor
– Cinema Papers No. 11
Sick film not for NSW
To conservatives, the classification of THE DEVILS was a controversial decision and questions were soon being asked in the NSW Parliament. Here the speakers are Tim Bruxner (Country Party, Tenterfield) and Eric Willis (Liberal Party, Earlwood).
February 29, 1972
Mr BRUXNER – I address my question without notice to the Chief Secretary and Minister for Tourism and Sport.
Has the Chief Secretary’s attention been called to a press report that appeared yesterday concerning the exhibition in Sydney of a film called THE DEVILS?
Is the Minister aware that one well known film critic has described this film as the sickest film that he has ever seen displayed on the screen?
Will the Minister agree that the entertainment needs of our community can be met quite adequately without the exhibition of such a film?
Will he agree, also, that it was not the intention of the legislation dealing with the R’ certificate classification to allow the public to view a film that has also been described in the press as disgusting, revolting and horrifying?
Accordingly, will the Minister undertake an investigation into the decision to permit this film to be released to the public?
Mr WILLIS – My attention has been invited to press reports concerning the film referred to by the honourable member for Tenterfield. They are probably the same press reports.
I am afraid that I cannot express my opinion on the film, as I have not seen it. Having seen only the press reports, I am unable to say anything more about it.
However, I assure him that when the ‘R’ certificate system for classifying films was introduced, assurances were given by me in this legislature and by the Commonwealth Minister for Customs and Excise in the federal parliament-he being the Minister primarily responsible for the censorship of films-that it would not lead to an opening of the flood gates for the display of obscene or pornographic films, or films obsessed with horror or other distasteful features.
I have not heard of any change in policy by the Commonwealth film censors or by the Commonwealth Government, but in the light of the honourable member’s request I shall certainly have inquiries made. Moreover, I shall take this matter up with my federal colleague so that, if necessary, these matters can be remedied or otherwise.– Exhibition of film ‘The Devils’
– NSW Legislative Assembly
What version did Australia get?
THE DEVILS has had a long and complicated censorship history that continues to the present day. In the UK, the BBFC demanded cuts to several scenes, including the bone masturbation and the so-called ‘rape of Christ’ sequence. Warner Brothers have never allowed this footage to be reinstated, so the 111-minute version has become the longest available. Movie-Censorship details the uncut/extended version.
The Australian theatrical print would appear to be the same as the British. However, there may have been a minor difference.
Shane Harrison reports.
The export print of THE DEVILS was slightly different to the UK release. When an insane Sister Jeanne (Vanessa Redgrave) is asked what form the incubus takes she shouts out, at 51:03, the word ‘cunt’. In Britain, this was overdubbed with the word ‘cock’.
The original Australian theatrical release lacked the overdub, as did the official Warner German VHS from the 1990s. The official DVD release is of the British version.
Controversial British cinema & the R-rating
The Chief Censor, Richard Prowse, discussed pre-censorship in a mid-1970s interview with Cinema Papers magazine. We believe the claims may be incorrect regarding the Australian versions of CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971) and STRAW DOGS (1971) being released in censored versions.
CP – What about [films] being reconstructed before you ever see them?
RP – Oh, yes, this is quite a common occurrence. We know that there are often a couple of versions of a particular sequence and apparently in some important films the importers know they are going to run into a problem somewhere in the world so they have the second sequence available.
CP – Take STRAW DOGS which was a different version here to the one shown in England. Would the decision to import this revised version have been made by the importers or the importers in discussion with you?
RP – No. STRAW DOGS was passed uncut in Australia. Now I know that the British Board of Film Censors made cuts in STRAW DOGS.
CP – Yes, but they had a different version.
RP – Well, I don’t know whether they did or not, I can’t remember now, that’s a few years back. But as far as I know the version that we saw here was the version that was released overseas.
CP – It was the same with CLOCKWORK ORANGE and THE DEVILS. The English film companies have a habit of making different prints for different countries and the CLOCKWORK ORANGE and STRAW DOGS which were seen here were the cut prints.
RP – I wouldn’t know. I can check it out for you on our files if you like, because from memory both those films came here complete and unabridged.
CP – In STRAW DOGS there are two areas where the versions differed. One is the rape of the girl, where in the Australian print we don’t see the forced anal intercourse. Secondly the flashbacks during the church party are severely shortened.
In CLOCKWORK ORANGE the rape of Andrienne Corri is largely missing.
RP – STRAW DOGS may be quite different because I think that is one of the areas where the British Board of Film Censors cut the film. We might have had the complete one and they had the abridged one. They also cut LAST TANGO which was uncut here too.– The Censor Speaks, Richard Prowse, Chief Censor
– Cinema Papers No. 2
American R-rated version in Australia
In 1980, THE DEVILS was re-released on a double-bill with THE EXORCIST (1973). Unfortunately, the print had been replaced by the heavily cut American R-rated version. This re-issue was not submitted for re-classification and all advertising still identified it with the Australian R-rating.
According to Mark Kermode, Warner Brothers in America hated the film and are responsible for this becoming the default version and the current suppression of the uncut print.
Movie-Censorship has details of what was missing.
American R-rated, Australian M-rated
In July 1987, a 103:38 tape of THE DEVILS was passed with an M-rating.
It was awarded for violence, which was described as being:
It was also awarded for ‘adult themes’.
The applicant was Corporate Video, and the tape was issued by Warner Home Video. The shorter running time and the M-rating was an indication that this VHS was the American R-rated version.
Despite being modified, the cover still bore the same warning that the censor had insisted on in 1972. This was presumably not done at the Board’s request, but instead was used as a tool to promote the release.
In 2000, Warner Home Video re-released THE DEVILS on VHS. It was not re-submitted for classification and was listed with the 1972 R-rating.
Presumably, this was again the American R-rated version.
Directed by Clive Barker / 1987 / UK / IMDb
In September 1987, a 91-minute tape of HELLRAISER was passed with an R-rating. It was awarded for violence, which was described as being:
It was also awarded for ‘horror’.
In November 1987, a 2496.13-meter (90:59) print of HELLRAISER was passed with an R-rating. Unbelievably, Village Roadshow Corporation decided to cut it for a more commercial M-rating.
It was this heavily censored 88-minute version that played theatrically in Australia.
Uncut VHS, DVD & Blu-ray
In 1988, Roadshow Home Video released the R-rated version on tape. The cover promoted it as the ‘Graphic Uncut Version – Not seen in Australian cinemas’.
In October 2011, Umbrella Entertainment released the uncut HELLRAISER on DVD and Blu-ray. The initial DVD release incorrectly had an M-rating on the cover.
As this was the uncut version, it was later fixed, and replaced with the correct R-rating.