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

August 13, 1970
The Minister’ for Customs, Mr D. L. Chipp, will meet young American producer, Michael Wadleigh in Melbourne tomorrow to discuss cuts made to his film WOODSTOCK.

The Film Censorship Board has cut four minutes from and amended another 25 minutes of the 3 ½ hour film which opens in Sydney next week.

Mr Wadleigh said here today he was irritated by the cuts. “But I don’t want to make a big thing out of them,” he said.

“Australia has the dubious distinction of being the only country to cut the film.”

“People get more upset about profane words than about a lot of people dying, a lot of blood?”

Mr Wadleigh said he had considered withdrawing the film from Australia altogether but realised such a move would be pointless.

– Talk on film cuts

September 1, 1970
In the past year two American films have been released in Australia, that have not been churned out by the tinsel and paper mache Hollywood, production machine. One was EASY RIDER and the other is one yet to be released in Canberra, WOODSTOCK. Both have been made cheaply, both have made a lot of money, and both have shaken Hollywood to its hollow core.

Michael Wadleigh, the director WOODSTOCK was recently in Canberra, to promote his film. Since the film was shot in 16mm, Wadleigh decided, in order to fill a widescreen, he would use a multiple images effect. Bearing this in mind, he set out for the Woodstock rock festival with a dozen or so friends and cameramen from the non commercial network, NET [National Education Television]. All the filming was done on the spot, 20 hours a day, as the performers were carried away by the 400,000 people in the audience that they played until they dropped, using a conservative close-up with handheld cameras, he tried to strip away the flashing psychedelia from the musos and present the uncommunicating with the audience. His themes can thus unfold in a seemingly casual manner.

Unfortunately, though 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

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.