Music Documentaries

Music documentaries, cut and banned before the November 1971 liberalisation of the Australian censorship system.

Gimme Shelter

Directed by Albert Maysles – David Maysle – Charlotte Zwerin / 1970 / USA / IMDb

October 1971 / Rated: A / Length: 8042 feet / Time: 89:21 / Censored by 00:17 / Reason: indecent language

Gimme Shelter (1970) - Australian daybill movie poster 1
Daybill via moviemem

Post-November 1971 rating

Resubmitted by Polygram Video and passed with an M (Low level coarse language) rating in July 1993. The tape ran 92-minutes.


aka Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace and Music

Directed by Michael Wadleigh / 1970 / USA / IMDb

August 1970 / Rated: A / Length: 16444 feet / Time: 182:43 / Censored by 03:55 / Reason: indecent language and drug use

Warner Brothers made their own modifications before submission to the Film Censorship Board. No doubt, their insistence on a ‘Not Suitable for Children’, rating rather than a ‘Suitable only for Adults’, contributed to the massive cuts.

Woodstock (1970) - Australian daybill movie poster 1
Daybill via moviemem

What was missing?

Michael Wadleigh came to Australia to promote his documentary.

August 12, 1970
Mr Wadleigh said he did not “want to make a big thing” out of the cuts made by the censor, but he was irritated by them. He considered withdrawing the film altogether but realised such a move would not get him anywhere. Scenes cut Involved nude bathing, pot smoking and profanity.

“People get more upset about profane words than a lot of people dying, a lot of blood. But everything had a point. We were editorialising with these scenes”.

He said he would see the “Minister for Culture [Don Chipp] or whatever” this week in Melbourne to discuss the cuts. “Australia has the dubious distinction of being the only country to cut the film, but America and Britain have censorship through the ratings system.

“Anyone under 18 in America must be accompanied by their mummy and daddy. In Britain anyone under 18 cannot see it at all. It’s ludicrous”.

– Pop, peace, pot and love
– Canberra Times via Trove

August 14, 1970
For 80 minutes in the privacy of his Melbourne office, the Minister for Customs, Mr Chipp, talked over cups of coffee today with film director Mr Mike Wadleigh and his attractive brunette wife, Rene.

Mr Chipp, who is trying to re-vamp Australia’s censorship system, and Mr Wadleigh, representing the anti-establishment, said they had enjoyed their talk immensely.

He said later that he thought the man whose censors cut four and a half-minutes of nude bathing and drug scenes from his film was “a great guy”.

Mr Chipp said he hoped to see the film within the next few days. He said he was “a little upset” that Warner Brother’s had by-passed the Australian censors and substituted 25 minutes of the original film to condition it for Australian markets.

– Chipp talks with film director
– Canberra Times via Trove

September 1, 1970
… the censor did not deem fit that the film should pass unscathed. Approximately five minutes have been cut from the Australian version, and another twenty minutes were modified by the distributors, Warner Bros. What we are seeing is an extremely watered down version of the film. Australia has the dubious distinction of having cut the most from the film; more, in fact, than the noted, liberal censors in South Africa.

More importantly, in this case is the material which has been cut. From the usual four-letter words such as the beginning F-U-C-K from Country Joe and the fish to the nude bathing scenes [replaced by nude bathing dogs] the censor’s scissors flew. They are all standard cuts but more distressing are the cuts made of the scenes with drugs or discussion of drugs. References to pot and acid are chopped. In particular a discussion [between two of the town’s people] not at the festival but in a nearby town, is filmed. One is pig headedly saying ‘They’re all high, young girls of fifteen sleeping in the grass, They’re all high, they’re all high….’ like a record. The other is trying to reason with him. It is a scene, where ideas are presented, an argument centred around pot, and nothing else. It is inexcusable that the censors are now destroying not just the nudity and profanity and violence but are now preventing this alcohol-soaked society from hearing rational arguments about pot. A similar scene in EASY RIDER is cut – indicating a disturbing trend.

Warner Bros, the distributers, have played an important part in the censorship. Not wishing that the public know the film is chopped by half an hour, they have embarked on a campaign to hoodwink the public into believing that the film is substantially the same as the American version, barring the five minutes. In this way they can capitalize on the aura of the censorship without letting the audiences lose faith. An interesting side-light is a reply to a letter sent by the ANU Film Club to Warner Bros. It stated that the students had misunderstood Wadleigh and in fact none of the film, except the exorcised five minutes, was different from the American version: a point which Wadleigh had emphasised again and again.

If distributors continue in their collusion, with the censor, it does not auger well for Australian film audiences. As an ironic footnote, it is noted that in Britain, WOODSTOCK, a film about youth and to a large extent for youth, was banned to audiences below eighteen years.

– The man who shot Woodstock
– Woroni Student Newspaper, Australian National University
– Via Trove

February 16, 1971
When Wadleigh was in Canberra last year he told of a multi-screen sequence featuring an interview with a police chief on one side of the screen while on the other, far away, a couple were making love, as indicated by the movement of the grass around them.

We may not see that, even though there is nudity in the film, treated beautifully by the camera and editor and displayed quite without self-consciousness by the people. The censor has also expunged that well-known word from the soundtrack wherever it occurs. Well, not quite, since there are times when Joan Baez uses it in close-up and, anyway, the expunging has been so clumsily done, apparently by simply scratching the emulsion off the film, that one would have to be deaf as well as blind not to run the risk of being corrupted, offended, whatever, by the realisation that the word has been used.

– Woodstock at the Central Cinema
– Canberra Times via Trove

Post-November 1971 rating

Resubmitted by Warner Home Video, and passed with an M-rating in November 1986. The 177-minute tape was submitted as WOODSTOCK: 3 DAYS OF PEACE AND MUSIC.

Warner Home Video had WOODSTOCK: 3 DAYS OF PEACE AND MUSIC – THE DIRECTORS CUT classified with an M (Medium level coarse language, Drug use) rating in August 1994. The tape ran 218-minutes.

Mad Dogs and Englishmen

aka Joe Cocker: Mad Dogs and Englishmen

Directed by Pierre Adidge / 1971 / USA / IMDb

May 1971 / Rated: G / Length: 10606 feet / Time: 117:51 / Censored by 00:10 / Reason: indecent language

Mad Dogs and Englishmen (1971) - Australian one sheet poster 1
One sheet via moviemem

Post-November 1971 rating

In August 1985, RCA/Columbia Pictures/Hoyts Video had a 119-minute tape passed with a PG-rating.

This was followed in October 1988, by an M-rating for another 119-minute tape. The applicant was Festival Records.

Both videos were submitted as JOE COCKER: MAD DOGS AND ENGLISHMEN.