The movies of George A. Romero that have been cut or banned in Australia.
Dawn of the Dead
aka Zombie: Dawn of the Dead
Directed by George A. Romero / 1978 / USA – Italy / IMDb
In November 1978, Dario Argento’s 3252.00-meter (118:32) cut was Refused Registration due to excessive violence.
The applicant, Incamera Pty Ltd, submitted it as ZOMBIE: DAWN OF THE DEAD.
Replaced by Romero’s cut
In October 1979, Romero’s DAWN OF THE DEAD cut of the film was submitted. Despite being described as a 3368.50-meter (122:47) ‘soft version’, it too was banned for excessive violence. This American theatrical print should run approximately 127-minutes which indicates around four minutes of precuts.
United Artists made an unsuccessful appeal to the Films Board of Review in November 1979.
The following month saw them prepare a 3338.50-meter (121:41) ‘reconstructed soft version’. Again the Film Censorship Board refused to rate it because of ‘excessive violence’.
Fifteen months after its initial submission, in February 1980, it was finally passed with an R-rating.
This ‘second reconstructed soft version’ ran 3323.60-meters (121:09) but was further cut by 10.7-meters (00:23) to remove ‘excessive violence’. This now brought the level down to:
Purpose: Not indicated
The print that was eventually rated R ran 3312.90-meters (120:46), or 02:01 shorter than the October 1979 submission. Therefore, total cuts were in the region of six minutes.
The 1980 New Zealand release, as ZOMBIES: DAWN OF THE DEAD, used a modified version of the above poster. The word ZOMBIES covered the eyes of the corpse and the Australian R-rating was removed. The warning at the bottom was covered with the New Zealand R18 and ‘Censors note: Contains frequent episodes of violence’.
Argento vs. Romero
The various cuts of the film would lead to some confusion.
The cutting of DAWN OF THE DEAD, however, was much more complicated. There is some confusion in that a footnote in the October 1979 listings states the film was originally submitted for censorship in November 1978 under the title ZOMBIE: DAWN OF THE DEAD is credited to ‘D.Argento/A.Cuerno, Italy’ and at length 3252mtr.
DAWN OF THE DEAD in the October 1979 listing is credited to ‘R.Rubenstein/Laurel Group, U.S.’ and running 3368.50mtr. This would suggest the complier of the censorship lists has made an error:
(i) Why would an Italian film suddenly become an American?; and
(ii) If the film had been banned at 3252m, why would it be re-submitted at the longer length of 3368.50m?
Anyway, after being banned in October 1979, an appeal was lodged in November 1979; it was rejected. A new version at 3338.50m was re-submitted in December 1979, but rejected. Cut once more, and now only 3323.50m [3323.6m], the film was passed ‘R’ in February 1980, but only after an additional 10.7m was deleted. So the final version runs 3302.9m [3312.9m], or 2mins 20secs [2mins 01secs] shorter than the original [which was already precut by 4mins].– Cinema Papers No. 27
At the time, it is understandable why there was confusion. We now know that Dario Argento edited a shorter version for the European market and George A. Romero a longer one for North America. Australia was set to have Argento’s cut, only for it to be banned. A year then passed before the second submission was made, only this time with Romero’s cut.
Movie-Censorship has a comparison between both versions.
The missing violence
In 1980, Mark Savage had the misfortune of viewing the censored DAWN OF THE DEAD at Melbourne’s Palace cinema.
January 18, 2009
So, what was missing from the Australian cut of DAWN?
The exploding head.
The basement zombies enthusiastically ripping into flesh.
The helicopter zombie getting the top of his head lopped off.
Tom Savini burying a machete in a zombie’s head after saying: ‘Say goodbye, creep!’.
Flyboy being attacked and bitten in the elevator.
Zombies ripping intestines from a biker’s belly.
Shall I go on?
I sat in the mostly empty The Palace theatre on that Thursday afternoon feeling so angry and disappointed that I wanted to, quite literally, kill the Australian censors.– Dawn of the Dead: The Australian Cut
Gun store advertising
The Australian press sheet offered a promotion suggestion more suited to the American market.
April 1980– United Artists press sheet
Exploitation – Sporting Goods Store Window.
Many of the sequences in DAWN OF THE DEAD show the participants protecting themselves by staving off a group of zombies. They utilize paraphernalia they discovered in a sporting goods store in the shopping mall where they are surrounded. Arrange with local sporting goods shop to display some of the stills from the feature along with hunting rifles, survival kits, camping equipment. etc.
In March 1983, a 90-minute tape, under the title ZOMBIE: DAWN OF THE DEAD, was banned because of violence, which was described as being:
Risis Ethnic Video was the applicant. This would appear to be an imported tape.
Uncut after 7-years
The full American theatrical version of DAWN OF THE DEAD finally received an R-rating in June 1985. It was awarded for violence, which was said to be:
CBS/Fox Video released the 125-minute tape with two different covers. The first shows the poster image and lists it as being the ‘Uncut Version’.
The second shows Stephen (David Emge) after he has risen from the dead.
Banned in Queensland
On 19 July 1985, the 125-minute CBS/Fox Video of DAWN OF THE DEAD was prohibited by the Queensland Films Board of Review.
The first ‘Uncut Version’ cover can sometimes be found with a sticker attached.
Both tapes are very collectable, but expect to pay extra for the first release with an intact sticker.
Extended version VHS
A ‘no name’ label VHS of DAWN OF THE DEAD was released around 1999/2000.
Craig P. reports that it runs 139-minutes and not the 126 listed on the cover. This indicates that it was a dub of the American DVD or laserdisc. The ‘High level violence, Adult themes, Frequent coarse language’ consumer advice is fake.
Umbrella’s DVDs & Blu-rays
DAWN OF THE DEAD made its Australian DVD debut in August 2004 courtesy of Umbrella Entertainment.
In July 2004, the OFLC passed the 126:59 disc with an R (Medium level violence) rating.
They rereleased it in May 2006 as part of a box set titled TRILOGY OF THE DEAD.
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968) and DAY OF THE DEAD (1985) were also included.
In October 2008, they issued it again, this time as part of a box set titles THE GEORGE A. ROMERO COLLECTION. It included THE CRAZIES (1973) and MARTIN (1977).
DAWN OF THE DEAD: EXTENDED VERSION was rated R18+ (Blood and gore, High impact horror violence) in June 2009. Umbrella released this 328-minute DVD in August 2009 as the ‘Ultimate Edition’.
As well as Romero’s 128-minute and 139-minute versions, it also contains Argento’s shorter cut. This was the Australian premiere of the print that was first banned back in November 1978.
In September 2010, they issued it on Blu-ray. The cover was the same as the June 2009 DVD.
Day of the Dead
Directed by George A. Romero / 1985 / USA / IMDb
In February 1986, a 102-minute 35mm print of DAY OF THE DEAD was Refused Registration. The reason given was violence, which was described as being:
Hoyts Distribution was the applicant.
Violent highlights okay
Two months later, SCREAM GREATS VOLUME 1: TOM SAVINI (1985) was passed with an R-rating. In this case, the Film Censorship Board did not have any issues with the numerous out of context violence from DAY OF THE DEAD.
The classification of this title is covered in more depth in the ROSEMARY’S KILLER (1981) entry.
Banned on VHS
In June 1986, CBS/Fox Video had the 102-minute 35mm print again Refused Registration for violence. Once more, it was described as being:
No cuts were listed, so it is unclear how this differed from the February 1986 submission.
An uncut version of DAY OF DEAD was eventually passed with an R-rating in November 1988. Now the violence was described as being:
Other: Graphic Horror
Roadshow Home Video issued the 97-minute PAL tape on their Premiere Video label. The cover utilised an image from Dan O’Bannon’s THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD (1985).
This was one of the first VHS releases to have the new uniform rating information at bottom of the cover. However, it did not yet include any consumer warning of the likely content.
2004– Rod Williams
The Australian OFLC had intended a cut version to be released, according to a letter John Dickie [OFLC Director] sent to me in the 1990s. However, the full uncut version was put out on VHS rental by the Premier label, much to the delight of horror fans.
– The Chopping List
If this is correct, then it makes sense why a film that was banned 33-months before was now uncut. However, it does not explain why it was not recalled and replaced with the correct version. This is what happened when THE TOXIC AVENGER (1984) and COMBAT SHOCK (1986) were incorrectly released.
Banned in Queensland
On 28 November 1988, the 97-minute Roadshow Home Video of DAY OF THE DEAD was prohibited by the Queensland Films Board of Review.
The cover of the VHS advertises it as being ‘Banned in Queensland’.
In the late 1990s, DAY OF THE DEAD was rereleased on VHS by a ‘no name’ label.
The consumer advice of ‘High level violence, coarse language, Adult themes’ was fake.
DVDs & Blu-rays
Force Video gave DAY OF THE DEAD a DVD release in 2001.
The disc was not submitted to the OFLC, so the consumer advice of ‘High level violence’ is fake.
A second disc appeared in 2006 as part of Umbrella Entertainment’s TRILOGY OF THE DEAD box set.
It also included NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968) and DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978).
Umbrella had a DVD of DAY OF THE DEAD passed with an R18+ (High level horror violence, Blood and gore) rating in March 2007. It was released the following month.
In September 2010, they issued it on Blu-ray. The cover was the same as the April 2007 DVD.
It was again released on Blu-ray and DVD by Umbrella in November 2018.
This time it was titled the ‘Ultimate Edition’ and included a reversible cover.