Censorship of The Exterminator (1980-84) series

Both THE EXTERMINATOR (1980) and EXTERMINATOR 2 (1984) were either cut or banned in Australia.

The Exterminator

Directed by James Glickenhaus / 1980 / USA / IMDb

In December 1980, a 2787.40-meter (101:36) print of THE EXTERMINATOR was banned because of violence, which was found to be:
Frequency: Infrequent
Explicitness/Intensity: High
Purpose: Gratuitous

An appeal to the Films Board Review in January 1981 saw the ban overturned and an R-rating awarded.

Warner Bros. went on to release it theatrically.

Banned in Western Australia

In 1981, the state Liberal government prohibited the exhibition of both THE EXTERMINATOR and CALIGULA (1979).

April 14, 1981
Mr BLAIKIE, to the Chief Secretary:

(1) Is the film THE EXTERMINATOR under consideration for possible ban or restriction in this State?

( 2) What is the position in other States?

(3) Why is there concern about this Film?

Mr HASSELL replied:

(1) The Film THE EXTERMINATOR is under consideration for restriction or ban in Western Australia. The situation arises because the Commonwealth Censorship Board, composed of four people, unanimously held it should not be shown in this State. The decision was appealed to the Film Board of Review which, by a majority, allowed the film.

(2) The film has been banned in South Australia already by the Attorney General of that State. I understand it is under consideration in Queensland and Victoria, and I understand also it is to be permitted to be shown in New South Wales.

(3) I viewed the film last Friday morning. I must say this sort of matter causes me great difficulty because of my real concern not to rush into banning things; and I have not yet reached a conclusion about it. I sought the assistance of members of the advisory committee on publications in a purely informal manner, because they have no statutory role in this matter. They attended the viewing and tendered certain advice to me. No matter what my decision, I do not intend to release the advice of members of the committee because they responded to a request from me and it would be unfair to do so.

The reason for the concern about the film relates to the level of violence depicted graphically in it. This includes-

The slow motion cutting of a person’s throat.

The decapitation of a person, which was shown in full detail.


The hefty beating of a person plus a extra close-up shot of a grappling hook being ripped along a man’s back.

The off-screen implied killing of a dog with an electric knife.

The implied feeding of a man into a giant mincing machine; he was lowered into it and one does not actually see the details, but it was clear enough.

The implied burning of the breasts of a prostitute with a soldering iron.

References to male perverts being provided with young boys, and a scene of a naked young man bound and gagged on a bed. That was in a brothel situation.

A vicious attack on an old lady by three youths.

A bloody shoot-out.

Mr Davies: Why do you hesitate?

There is not the slightest doubt about it.

Mr HASSELL: The film must be considered in its context. I am doing that, and I will reach a conclusion as soon as I can.

– The Exterminator Film – Ban or Restriction
– Barry Blaikie (Liberal), Bill Hassell (Liberal)
– WA Legislative Assembly

April 15, 1981
Mr BLAIKIE, to the Chief Secretary:

Following the bizarre information given by the Minister to the House last night regarding the film THE EXTERMINATOR, has a decision been made yet to ban the film?

Mr HASSELL replied:

A decision has been made and the distributors of the film have been advised that the film will not be given a classification to permit it to be shown in Western Australia. There are a number of reasons for this and I have explained them in a statement which I issued today.

– The Exterminator Film – Ban or Restriction
– Barry Blaikie (Liberal), Bill Hassell (Liberal)
– WA Legislative Assembly

April 15, 1981
Censorship of Films Act 1947-1979.

Th is to certify that the Minister charged with the administration of the Censorship of Films Act 1947- 1979, acting pursuant to section 12B of that Act has directed that the classification “For Restricted Exhibition” (R) assigned to the film THE EXTERMINATOR pursuant to section 12 of that Act shall be ineffective in the State and that the Minister has refrained from assigning to the film any classification in lieu, the film thereby being deemed to be an unapproved film under that Act.

Attention is drawn to the provision of subsection (3) of section 12B of the Censorship of Films Act 1947-1979 in that the direction in relation to the film entitled THE EXTERMINATOR extends to trailer films or reproductions of the film, and any part of the film.

– W. R. B. Hassell (Liberal), Chief Secretary
– Western Australian Government

Banned in South Australia & Queensland

April 19, 1981
A new film which began in Sydney last week has been banned in other Australian States because of excessive violence.

The film, THE EXTERMINATOR, was given an R rating by the Commonwealth Film Censorship Board but was banned by the South Australian Attorney-General, Mr Griffin, who said it transgressed acceptable standards.

The film contains scenes of explicit violence including a slow motion sequence of a man’s head being sliced off, a mobster being fed into a giant meat mincer and a vicious attack on an old woman by three youth.

– Violent film outed

June 1981
An independent American production, THE EXTERMINATOR was refused registration by the Commonwealth Censor in December 1980 for excessive violence. An appeal was launched by its distributor, Roadshow, and the Film Board of Review registered the film R uncut in January.

A few days before its Adelaide release, however, President Reagan was shot with an exploding bullet. As the film showed the making of a similar type of bullet, various groups in South Australia asked the Attorney General, K.T Griffith, to ban the film; this he did. Then Western Australia joined the fray and banned the film, followed by Queensland which took the unusual step of banning it from drive-ins but not hard tops. The film is now in release in New South Wales and Victoria.

– Cinema Papers No. 32

Film industry concerned about WA ban

In October 1981, CALIGULA (1979) joined THE EXTERMINATOR in being banned in Western Australia. This was despite the R-rated print having already been cut by the Commonwealth Censorship Board. With two films refused in six months, the industry began to get nervous.

October 12, 1981
Following concerns from the film industry that the Chief Secretary was “effectively re-introducing a continuing system of State censorship of films,” the Chief Secretary informed Cabinet of his view that this was not the case, nor his intention.

The Chief Secretary informed Cabinet that the power to prohibit the exhibition of the two films (THE EXTERMINATOR and CALIGULA) was only exercised “after careful consideration of the particular circumstances” and after receiving unanimous advice “that the films in question add nothing to the artistic or cultural life of the State.”

– Censorship of Films
– State Cabinet Records, The State Records Office of Western Australia
– Government of Western Australia

Australian video

In October 1983, an uncut 97-minute tape of THE EXTERMINATOR was released by Thorn EMI Video.

The Exterminator (1980) - VHS videotape 1
VHS – Thorn EMI

Video classification in Western Australia

Bill Hassell (Liberal) referred to the banning of THE EXTERMINATOR during a censorship debate.

November 22, 1983
Debate resumed from 17 November.

MR HASSELL (Cottesloe-Deputy Leader of the Opposition) [9.42 p.m.]: This is an important Bill and it is appropriate that I should say a few words in support of it. Some couple of weeks ago, the Opposition gave notice of a motion to be considered by the House. It is in the following terms-

This House urges the State Government to take immediate action to restrain and control the-
(a) ready availability of pornographic and extremely violent video material; and
(b) sale or hire of such material and the viewing of such material by minors.

On the same day the motion was moved in the House, the Minister dashed into print with a Press release saying that the Government intended to take action. I am not suggesting the Minister was solely motivated by the fact of our having moved a motion, but he was at least galvanised into action by our having so moved.

Mr Parker: Cabinet made a decision some days before that.

Mr HASSELL: But it had not been announced.

The reality is that we have in Australia a system of film censorship which is basically uniform, and that uniformity derives from the acceptance by the States, in large part, of the determinations of classifications by the Commonwealth film censor. The State delegates authority to the Commonwealth censor and then-at least in our own State-under the legislation we have, we accept his exercise of that authority, although as the Minister says, under the Act we retain an overriding power to exercise our own authority if we are not satisfied with his decisions. On rare occasions that power has been used.

So we have films and video materials covered under the Indecent Publications and Articles Act through a system under which publishers are given the right to notify their publications to the Government machinery body and to have those publications classified so that when the classifications are made under the system, the retailers will know where they stand I understand that publishers are not obliged to have the material classified, but the incentive to do so is that if they do, the retailers will not be subject to prosecution should a publication be classified as unsuitable for publication Or if the retailers comply with the rules relating to the respective classifications in dealing with publications.

In relation to books and films, there is the general law of obscenity under which the police can act against obscene material in any form. So we have the following situation: There is the classification system for films, which controls them; there is the classification system for printed material,’ which controls that; there is the general law relating to obscenity, which covers the whole field; but we have no classification system in relation to video films, and we have no real control over them. Of course, it is open to the police to act against obscene videos, although not violent ones, as I understand the law

Mr Parker: The most extreme violent ones I have seen are obscene in their violence.

Mr HASSELL: In some cases, obscenity can be separated from violence. The film I acted against was not obscene at all, but it was extremely violent.

Mr Parker: It was THE EXTERMINATOR or something like that.

Mr HASSELL: I do not recall any obscenity in it. The film was about Vietnam, and the violence was of a graphic and extreme kind.

There has emerged in the community a major problem resulting from the availability of extremely violent and pornographic material on video, and the problem simply is that these videos have become freely and generally available from what might be described as corner stores. There is no doubt that children gain access to this material, and in many cases do so without the knowledge or consent of their parents. No general obligation is imposed on shopkeepers to exercise constraint in their making the material available to minors who unfortunately get this material.

The problem was first brought to notice graphically a few months ago by Mrs Grewar, the schoolteacher in Esperance who is the wife of a former member of this place. She was naturally concerned about what she had seen going on. Interestingly, the problem is at least as great in the country if not greater than it is in the city for the simple reason that in country and other remote areas where television reception is not available or poor, a video market explosion has occurred. A great deal of entertainment is obtained by people in remote and poor television reception areas through videos. One can find videos at the most surprising places. At first thought, it is amazing they are available at these places, but big business in the sale and hire of video films is being done at these places.

It is in just those establishments that are now common in the country and metropolitan areas that children of all ages obtain access to pornographic and violent video material upon which there is no effective control. Although I repeat that the pornographic films at least are subject to the general law of obscenity, and the police can act against whoever makes the films available publicly. But the shopkeepers do not know where they stand. No identification system is available and the shopkeepers do not know they are at risk or may be going over the edge.

Mr Parker: The criminal law says they are obscene, but they are still available to the children.

Mr HASSELL: What the Minister says is right. By introducing a classification system, the person hiring out the video will know where he stands legally and can be protected. At the same time, he will be obliged to deal with this material in a way which allows material which would not be banned under the system to be made available to adults, but not to children. As the Minister said when introducing the Bill, it is an interim measure pending the development of an Australia- wide uniform system of classification for videos. That system will be welcomed, provided it does not lower standards and make more freely available material which should not be made available. We will come to deal with that in due course.

I asked the Minister some questions some months ago about this system, and he said the people involved were not far enough down the line to know what would be in legislation covering such a system. He was not able to answer the questions, but said that eventually the system will be presented. In the meantime, it is appropriate the Government has acted to fill the gap, and, in doing so, it has our support.

MR PARKER (Fremantle-Minister for Employment and Administrative Services) [9.52 p.m.]: I thank the Opposition for its support of the measure. I indicate particularly to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that ‘it is true the relevant Press statement was issued on the day he gave notice of his motion; but it is true also that the Government had been indicating its intention in similar terms for some time. Indeed, in the recent weeks before that time, I had indicated that the race to introduce the broadly-based legislation had been lost because or the inability to get the hoped for uniformity throughout the country. I indicated that in the meantime we would introduce interim legislation, and Cabinet approved that course some time before the Deputy Leader of the Opposition gave notice of his motion. Cabinet’s approval was then announced.

The Bill is as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has described it. Certainly it is true that the classifications concerned are subject to the general law, but I think that general law is problematical– certainly, it is problematical for retailers.

The police have taken strong action, and have been supported in that action by me, by the Minister for Police and Emergency Services, and by the Government as a whole. The activities the police have undertaken have resulted in agreement being reached with the second major distributor of pornographic material in Western Australia, He will submit his material for approval before publication. The major distributor is Gordon & Gotch Ltd. and as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said, that Firm has for some time submitted its publications on a voluntary basis. The second major distributor is Mr Hennessy of Barbarella’s Book Shops who, as a result of police activity with Government backing, has also agreed to submit all his publications, which means the vast bulk of these publications will be submitted.

Mr Old: He keeps them on the mezzanine floor, doesn’t he?

Mr PARKER: I have never been to one of his shops. He certainly has changed his position drastically as a result of the police activities against him.

Another problem is that parents are in the habit of sending their children to the local video shop to pick up a video, instead of perhaps sending their children to a library to pick up a book. That is unfortunate, although it is my personal view. Even if parents do not want their children to have access to this material, it is available because it is adjacent to other material. These days when one sees the title SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS, one has no idea whether it is a video of the fairy tale, or an obscene film.

For all those reasons, I commend the Bill to the House.
Question put and passed.
Bill read a second time.

– Indecent Publications And Articles Amendment Bill (No. 2)
– Bill Hassell (Liberal), David Parker (Labor), Dick Old (National Country)
– WA Legislative Assembly

More video classification in WA

The censorship continued following the election of a state Labor government in February 1983.

April 12, 1984
Hon. MARK NEVILL, to the Minister for Administrative Services:
In view of the meeting that he had in Sydney last Friday with other State Minister and the Federal Attorney General on censorship, would the Minister outline the present situation with regard to the censorship of pornography.

Hon. D. K. DANS replied:
The present situation in Western Australia is that arising from a meeting last year some guidelines were set down and the State Governments were asked to adopt a voluntary scheme of classification of video films and publications. Prior to that meeting no classification was required and for the benefit of members who do not know, the Commonwealth Government handled the classification of films and gave them their rating.

The Government passed through this House an interim Bill that made it possible for its advisory committee to view video films, examine publications, and give them one of two ratings-either “R” or “X”. If films were given those classifications they were required to be placed in a certain section of the outlet and no-one under the age of 18 years was allowed to look at or purchase them. The ludicrous situation was that prior to the implementation of that Act, if a film had an “R” rating, by law no-one under the age of 18 could view that film. However, prior to the interim legislation the situation was that anyone could enter a video store and purchase an “R” rated video. Therefore, to some extent the voluntary scheme which had been operating in an ad hoc and illegal manner in many areas became controlled.

In other words, a video Film could receive a “X” or “R” rating. When the advisory committee wrote on its report to the Minister the word “prosecute” it did not mean the person in possession of the film would be prosecuted immediately. It meant that the Minister of the day would view a clipping of that film and confirm what the board members said-in other words, prosecute. If that film was found on the shelf of a video store or was found in any person’s possession, the person responsible would be prosecuted. The same thing applied in regard to publications.

Since February, 400 videos and 600 publications have been classified in this State, and this was undertaken under difficult circumstances. The committee was unable to sit through the filming of the 400 videos and, as a result, individual members have been paid to view them and give them a classification. This scheme has had the blessing of the Premier’s women’s adviser. A meeting of a group of people from the Catholic Church, including Mrs Ryan and Mr Hogan, advised it was happy with the way the classifications were being undertaken. However, I have some misgivings about it.

With regard to the meeting that was held in Sydney last Friday between State Ministers in my capacity and Attorneys General, it was decided that if and when the Commonwealth Government passes legislation through the Senate- I believe it will go through the Senate-it will become responsible for the classification of not only films but also all video films and literature. They will be classified “X”, “R”, “parental guidance”, “M”, or whatever. I said that this Government would agree with the proposal along with other States, subject to the proviso that this Government retains its own advisory committee. The Government will adopt similar legislation to that which it uses in respect of the classification of films-I2B. Therefore, irrespective of what the Commonwealth classification is, if the advisory committee feels it is necessary to change the classification it will have the final say as to what category should be placed on it, or indeed if it goes into a video outlet at all

Hon. G. E. Masters: You can override them.

Hon. D. K. DANS: Yes, because people have different opinions and artistic bents. I might add that in Sydney we viewed a film on violence, not just sexual violence, and I had to shut my eyes. I have not led a sheltered life; but what some people may call “artistic” appears revolting to me. The unfortunate thing, of course, is that the Customs Department cannot cope with the influx or videos into this country. One person may bring in a video from which hundreds can be taped. The whole matter comes down to parental control. Once a video leaves a store or once a periodical leaves a store they can end up anywhere; and there must be some parental control over this.

I saw a clip from the film THE EXTERMINATOR which Mr Hassell banned in Western Australia when he held this portfolio. He has my wholehearted support; and for as long as I am in the position in which I now find myself that film will never be shown in Western Australia.

That is the situation in which we find ourselves. The Commonwealth Government will become responsible for all materials. I cannot say what the guidelines will be until they have been approved by the Senate. However, I will be asking Parliament to give the Government the final say in a similar situation to that which we have with regard to films.

– Pornography and Violence, Video Films – Censorship
– Mark Nevill (Labor), Des Dans (Labor), Gordon Masters (Liberal)
– WA Legislative Council

Refused Registration on video

In April 1985, the Censorship Board banned Thorn EMI’s tape of THE EXTERMINATOR was because of ‘excessive violence’. This 97-minute uncut version had been available since October 1983.

The following month Pioneer Electronics also had a 97-minute tape refused.

BBFC censored version gets MA15+

In June 2005, THE EXTERMINATOR was submitted for the first time in twenty years. This time the OFLC rated it MA15+ (Strong violence, Coarse language).

The DVD was released by Paramount/Rialto Home Entertainment in October 2005.

October 2005
Finally witness the Director’s cut, featuring never before seen footage from one of the most cold blooded tales of revenge ever to hit the screen.

– Paramount – Rialto Home Entertainment
The Exterminator (1980) - DVD cover 1
DVD – Paramount – Rialto

Unfortunately, this proved not to be true as it was sourced from a censored British print. It was missing nearly four minutes of footage, all of which could be found in the old Thorn EMI tape. The claim of it being a ‘Director’s Cut’ was blatant false advertising.

The running time of the DVD was 94:00 and the censorship was the same as the UK Starvision VHS release. Movie-Censorship has details of the cut footage.

Exterminator 2

Directed by Mark Buntzman / 1984 / USA / IMDb

In November 1984, a 2441.00-meter (88:59) print of EXTERMINATOR 2 was banned because of ‘excessive violence’, which was described as being:
Frequency: Frequent
Explicitness/Intensity: High
Purpose: Gratuitous

A 2480.00-meter (90:24) version was refused for the same reason in February 1985. Despite running longer than the original submission, this print was described as an ‘overseas modified version’.

This was followed in May 1985 by an 88-minute tape that was banned for the same reason. RCA/Columbia Pictures/Hoyts Video was the applicant.

Finally, in July 1985, a censored 2276.69-meter (82:59) version of EXTERMINATOR 2 was passed with an R-rating. It was awarded for violence, which was described as:
Frequency: Infrequent
Explicitness/Intensity: Medium
Purpose: Gratuitous

..and for language, which was described as being:
Frequency: Frequent
Explicitness/Intensity: Medium
Purpose: Gratuitous

Hoyts Distribution went on to release it theatrically.

Exterminator 2 (1984) - Australian daybill movie poster 1
Daybill via moviemem

In November 1985, an 83-minute video was passed with an R-rating. It was awarded for the same reasons as the censored theatrical version, so presumably, it was identical. This RCA/Columbia Home Video tape ran 79:15 (PAL).

Exterminator 2 (1984) - VHS videotape 1
VHS – RCA/Columbia

What is censored in Australia?

Simon reports.
MGM/UA Home Video (us) – VHS – 89:19 (NTSC) ≈ 85:45 (PAL)
RCA/Columbia Home Video (au) – VHS – 79:15 (PAL)
Times do not include the Cannon title card.

The RCA/Columbia tape of EXTERMINATOR 2 is missing around 06:30 from five scenes.

Convenience store hold up
Before – Gang member says to old woman ‘I don’t remember giving you no appointment’.
Censored at 02:22 by 00:52 – The gang taunts, then hits the old woman and shoots her husband. The old woman is eventually shot dead as she cries over the body.
After/Before – The four gang members run from the store and are confronted by John (Robert Ginty). They shoot, but he retaliates with his flamethrower.
Censored at 03:24 by 00:32 – Two of the gang members burning and running around in agony, followed by a brief shot of the dead store owners. The smouldering corpses of the two gang members are shown as the police arrive on the scene.
After – A newsreader is shown on the TV saying ‘Recent events around the city…’.

Burning pilots
Before – A gang member hits a security guard with a chain.
Censored at 13:08 by 00:19 – The gang member looking inside the helicopter as the pilot burns.
After – Be Gee (Frankie Faison) arrives in his truck.

Death of security guard & the burning tree
Before – The security guard has been crucified and is taken to the entrance of the subway station.
Censored at 15:05 by 03:25 – They take him into the subway, put him on the line and wait for the train to run over him. This is the longest, and most unnecessary cut, as it mainly consists of the gang walking through the subway tunnel. Presumably, it was removed entirely because the security guard is constantly heard pleading for his life.
After/Before – A gang member is up a tree, keeping a lookout over the entrance to the subway. John arrives and the gang member says ‘Oh no’, as he opens fire with his flamethrower.
Censored at 18:52 by 00:19 – The gang member is burnt alive in the tree.
After – Garbage trucks pulling out of their depot.

Caroline is attacked
Before – Caroline (Deborah Geffner) is chased out of the toilet block by the gang.
Censored at 43:55 by 00:45 – The gang chases her through the park, before bringing her to the ground and beating her. John and a cop on horseback give chase. The gang scatters when the cop fires a warning shot.
After – Caroline lies still on the ground.

Attack on the factory
Before – The gang members shoot up at John who responds with his flamethrower.
Censored at 75:05 by 00:24 – The gang members in agony as they are burnt alive.
After – John walks down the stairs.

The death of X
Before – The burning body of X (Mario Van Peebles) falls from the platform. This is followed by a shot of the ‘Safety First’ sign.
Censored at 82:30 by 00:05 – John removes his mask and looks down on the charred corpse of X that is impaled on a spike. There are several quick-fire cuts between John and the body.
After – John turns and walks away.

The true uncut version

Simon reports.
The MPAA insisted on cuts if EXTERMINATOR 2 wanted to avoid an X-rating. It appears that all versions of the film are taken from this modified American R-rated version. The cuts were reportedly to tone down the violence and remove a rape. One scene that does seem to be censored is the death of Caroline which is missing from the MPAA R-rated version.

51:00 – Caroline is shown in the hospital recovering from the beating she received at the hands of X’s gang. She does not appear again until 66:00 when John attempts to call her following the death of Be Gee. The phone rings in her apartment and her naked body is shown face down on the bed. John senses something is wrong and races over to find a red X painted on the door. Her naked body is once again shown face down on the bed.

I have yet to see any proof that a complete version exists, so anyone advertising an uncut EXTERMINATOR 2 almost definitely has the MPAA R-rated cut. Both the Australian and UK videos began with this censored print and then further trimmed the violence.

Foxtel screening

In November 2002, EXTERMINATOR 2 premiered on Foxtel’s Encore channel. It had a running time of 84:29.