AN EXPERIMENTAL FILM
FOREWORD This book is a documentation of the film ‘Cut’ by experimental film maker James Pentland. The film is made up of found footage from UK banned films between 1926 to 2014 for a battle to compare and contrast the ideologies that these films possess. It explains detailed contextual analysis of both historical and contemporary practices which have heavily influenced the experimental film ‘Cut’. The book acts as a supporting document, describing the process which is spilt up into three different parts. These parts are all crucial to the argument put forward, allowing the viewer an in depth knowledge of the reasoning behind the film footage used and why they were banned.
CONTENTS PART ONE: 6-66 THE HISTORY OF BANNED FILMS IN THE UK FROM 1926-2014
PART TWO: 67-82 CUT - AN EXPERIMENTAL SHORT FILM
PART THREE: 83-93 CONTEMPORARY PRACTICE IN CENSORSHIP
THE HISTORY OF BANNED FILMS IN THE UK FROM 1926-2014 All films portrayed in this part have been involved in the experimental film â€˜Cutâ€™. Intended, as a way to catalogue the vast nature of banned films in the UK from 1926-2014 has been crucial to producing an effective experimental film that holds new meaning and justification. This part holds imagery stills of the existing films, a descriptive header that explains how long they were banned for and an in depth text that discusses the reasons behind it.
From the censoring of films to the censoring of audiences is but a short â€ step â€ The Bioscope, 1917
BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN (1926-1954)
DURATION, 75:00 MINUTES
Battleship Potemkin is a classic silent film, which pays homage to the Russian battleship Potemkin. The film portrayed a clear and powerful message that was defined as pro-Bolshevik propaganda. The BBFC rejected the film in 1926 due to the ‘political controversy’.
DURATION, 90:00 MINUTES
Freaks a 1930’s film, which was inspired by Browning’s reminiscence of social differences and prejudices also known as ‘freaks’ in circus life. The BBFC rejected this film in 1932 due to not being able to fit the film within its categories of U or A, as the film exploited individuals for their deformities.
ISLAND OF THE LOST SOULS (1932-1958)
DURATION, 70:00 MINUTES
Island of Lost Souls, was one of the first non-silent films which was adapted from ‘Island of Dr Moreau’. The BBFC rejected this film in 1933 and 1957 due to the portrayal of animal cruelty. The film was granted an X certificate after making cuts in 1958, but in 1966 these cuts were restored and granted a 12-certificate rating. However, in 2011 it was resubmitted for age certification and now holds a PG certificate rating.
THE WILD ONE (1953-1967)
DURATION, 79:00 MINUTES
The Wild One was controversial for its era due to the ever changing nature of popular culture during the 1950â€™s. The BBFC rejected this film in 1953 due to the fear of respect lacking for authority and juvenile negligence that could provoke teenagers after viewing this film.
GLEN OR GLENDA (1958-1995)
DURATION, 65:00 MINUTES
Glen or Glenda was banned by the BBFC due to the controversial subject of transsexuality. This was shown to become a taboo subject where Ed Wood who wrote, directed and starred in the film was a cross-dresser himself. Thus, utilising this film to find acceptance to allow this subject to be tolerable within todayâ€™s society.
BLACK SUNDAY (1960-1968)
DURATION, 65:00 MINUTES
Black Sunday was banned by the BBFC in 1961 because of the violent matter that the film possessed. However, in June 1968 the film was unbanned which allowed individuals to view a new style of horror movie to screen.
STRAW DOGS (1971-2002)
DURATION, 117:00 MINUTES
The BBFC firstly offered the film to be classified as the rating X, however campaigned by Mary Whitehouse the film was banned by local councils due to the violence it possessed. The film was then banned due to not reaching the VRA standards and was removed by BBFC due to the Hungerford massacre. The film is now an 18 due to new classification laws from 2002.
THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1971-2002)
DURATION, 91:00 MINUTES
The Last House on the left has a similar outcome to ‘Straw Dogs’, where the film was released in 1972 but banned by the BBFC due to the graphic nature and the violence it contained. The film was submitted for certification to the Greater London Council so the film could be screened in London, however they agreed with the BBFC to refuse licensing. The film was also put on the DPP also known as ‘video nasties’. The film received a classification age rating of 18 with 32 seconds of cuts. 24
A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971-1999)
DURATION, 136:00 MINUTES
A Clockwork Orange was submitted in 1971 to the BBFC, where the film was passed with the certificate of X with no cuts. However, disturbance of criminal and anti-social actions where questioned and subjected to be inspired by this film. In 1973, threats of violence towards Kurbickâ€™s family to pull the circulation of the film in the UK. The family agreed to re-release the film after the death of Kubrick, as it was resubmitted for a modern classification in 1999 and received an age rating of 18. 26
THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974-1999)
DURATION, 83:00 MINUTES
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was refused a certificate in 1975, as it was found offensive by local councils. The film was proved to focus on unsettling terrorisation of characters, which found the film remain banned till 1999. The film was then accepted as an 18-age certification due to the film containing no element of sexual violence.
SALÒ, OR THE 120 DAYS OF SODOM (1975-2000)
DURATION, 116:00 MINUTES
Salò was based on the 18th century novel ‘120 Days of Sodom’. The film refused its classification due to the grounds of gross obscenity portrayed within this film. However, the film was resubmitted by the BFI in October 2000 due to the new guidelines released in September of that year. The film is now certified as an 18.
IL PAESE DEL SESSO SELVAGIO (1975-2003)
DURATION, 93:00 MINUTES
Il Paese del Sesso Selvagio was banned by the BBFC in 1975 due to the animal cruelty and cannibal nature that the film possesses. The film remained to be featured on the ‘video nasties’ list until 1985, as to gain classification the film had to cut over 4 minutes of all animal cruelty scenes to pass as an 18 certificate.
DURATION, 112:00 MINUTES
Maîtresse was banned by the BBFC in 1976 due to the sexual pathology that involved the exploitation of fetishisms provided within this film. Many questioned the unexplained explicit nature of this film, however in 1981 the film was issued with five minutes of cuts which it established an X certificate.
THE NEW YORK RIPPER (1982-2002)
DURATION, 85:00 MINUTES
The New York Ripper was banned by the BBFC due to high levels of sexual violence towards women. The grotesque, slasher notions provided in the film allowed for the disturbance of this footage to be banned for over 20 years. Editing was then involved to censor certain scenes that have allowed its age classification of 18.
THE EVIL DEAD (1982-1990)
DURATION, 85:00 MINUTES
The Evil Dead was deemed as one of the ‘video nasties’ because of the violent and nauseating content it provided. The film was issued with cuts of nearly two minutes and released with an 18-age certificate in January 1990.
FACES OF DEATH (1984-2003)
DURATION, 105:00 MINUTES
Faces of Death was banned by the BBFC for the explicit nature of graphic violence, which guided the audience member through real life footage and illusory death settings. The film is now rated with an 18-age certification due to newer guidelines by the BBFC.
HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD (1984-2002)
DURATION, 101:00 MINUTES
Hell of the Living Dead was shown as one of the ‘video nasties’ and withdrawn from submission to the BBFC. The reasoning behind it was down to the James Bulger murder enquiry in 1993, though in later years the film passed as an 18 rating.
CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST (1980-2001)
DURATION, 95:00 MINUTES
Cannibal Holocaust was labelled as one of the ‘video nasties’ within the UK. The film originally was banned by the BBFC because of the allegations of it being a snuff film. Snuff films were also known as a motion picture that portrays scenes of murder, without the aid of technology. Thus, becoming an issue as the film now holds an age certification of 18.
THE EXORCIST (1973-1998)
DURATION, 122:00 MINUTES
The Exorcist was suitable for an X rating provided, as it had no threat to be refused certification, however uproar was caused when films such as ‘A Clockwork Orange’ and ‘Straw Dogs’ went through classification issues for content provided. Local groups pressured for this film to be banned, which happened and since 1999 the film has been rated at the age certification of an 18.
LEATHERFACE: THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE II (1990-2004)
DURATION, 85:00 MINUTES
Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III was banned by the BBFC due to the graphic and violent nature towards women. The film has since been unbanned in 2004 and is currently rated as an 18 due to new BBFC guidelines.
RESERVOIR DOGS (1992-1995)
DURATION, 99:00 MINUTES
Reservoir Dogs was submitted to the BBFC but banned for video release due to strong violence and bloody references. The film was then granted an 18 age rating in 1995, which Tarantino issued a statement thanking the delay as it gave the film an extended cinema life in the UK.
DURATION, 90:00 MINUTES
Mikey was classified as an 18 in 1992 for the trailer, however due to the widely shown murder of James Bulger. The BBFC followed direction by child psychiatrists because ‘Mikey’ was a child who was known as a murderer, meaning it could influence children into the same scenario.
THE GOOD SON (1993-1994)
DURATION, 87:00 MINUTES
The Good Son was banned by the BBFC for age rating due to the James Bulger case, where the media controversy relayed that the characters could influence children at a young age. The film is now an 18 age certification.
NATURAL BORN KILLERS (1994)
DURATION, 118:00 MINUTES
Natural Born Killers was submitted to the BBFC in August 1994, however due to the controversy over the James Bulger case in 1993 delayed the process of how the film should be rated. However, the BBFC assured that the film was an acceptable age rating of 18 but had to wait for both America and France to investigate a reported number of killings until a final decision was made.
DURATION, 105:00 MINUTES
Murder-Set-Pieces was refused an 18 age rating by the BBFC because of the sexual gravitation, which broke certain UK laws. The film is currently banned and is law breaking to possess it.
THE TEXAS VIBRATOR MASSACRE (2008-PRESENT)
DURATION, 96:00 MINUTES
The Texas Vibrator Massacre has been banned due to the highly erotic nature that the film provides. The gratification of graphic and sexual violence provides the audience member with both incest between brother and sister. This film remains banned within the UK.
DURATION, 73:00 MINUTES
Grotesque is currently banned within the UK due to the high level of graphic, sexual torture that the film possesses. The film has been likened to films such as Saw as ‘torture films’ however the lacking of a context has issued its many reasons for the film to remain banned within the UK.
THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2 (2011)
DURATION, 88:00 MINUTES
The Human Centipede 2 was one of the most highly cut films, originally banned for its high sexual violence, graphic nature and obscenity the film had over 32 cuts made to it prior to its release. The film has been given an age classification of 18 in October 2011.
THE BUNNY GAME (2011-PRESENT)
DURATION, 76:00 MINUTES
The Bunny Game is banned in the UK by the BBFC due to the high sexual violence provided in this film. The humiliating abuse that the woman endures over the painstaking film allows for her to suffer through sexual gratification of the male.
CUT - AN EXPERIMENTAL FILM ‘Cut’ is a short experimental film using found footage to create a new juxtaposition, full of new meanings and ideas. This allows the film to act differently to what the original imagery was intended to show. The name ‘Cut’ is taken from the transition of choppy cuts involved in this film but also certain scenes which symbolise this. The film starts off more abstract in its nature, not emphasising the banned films with a pixelation filter which blurs the image, distorting the viewers perception. But, as the music slowly builds up so does the imagery which then becomes uncensored, stripped away of the filters to just show the imagery.
â€ Peter Halley, 1984
These pictures have the chances of looking real without any specific changes of â€ being real
CONTEMPORARY PRACTICE IN CENSORSHIP Reviewing contemporary practice in censorship allows for justification of the subject shown, in contemporary times. Using two re-appropriated texts and a written text by the film maker James Pentland allows for clarification into the subject of censorship but also offers parallel thoughts into the original subject.
You shouldn’t mess around with that sort of thing too † lightly
† David Cooke, 2004
ANTI CENSORSHIP A SHORT EXCERPT BY JAMES PENTLAND
Who are we to judge, what is censored, whom for and why? Thus, asking this trivial question are we yet confined by the restrictive nature relayed by the BBFC or is it yet distinctive in such a way of conformity. Are we yet to oppose of such decisions, the outrage given by the subject or even the establishment that restricts the viewer into perceiving the true extent to what is reality or what is just fan-fiction. These arguments come across as a way to transgress what is shown within establishments such as the mass-media, however one may add that once a film is banned does it become more watchable. The ability to watch something that you shouldnâ€™t see, excites a viewer and allows individuals to step out of the laws we are set by establishments such as the BBFC but also to judge the views in our own time. Judging should not be secluded by one establishment but it should be only the viewer who decides, it is yet there decision to follow the establishment or become anti-censorship and follow no boundaries.
CENSORSHIP AND REGULATION † It is perhaps a tribute (though a backhanded one) to the power of the moving image that it should be subject to far greater censorship than any other artistic medium. Current technology makes it effectively impossible to censor the written word, theatre censorship was abolished in 1968, and there has never been any systematic regulation of other art forms - anyone seeking to clamp down on such events must mount a private prosecution, a lengthy and expensive process. However, film and video releases in Britain are amongst the most tightly-regulated in the Western world. With only a few exceptions, every commercially-released film both in cinemas and on video will have been vetted by the British Board of Film Classification (originally founded in 1912 as the British Board of Film Censors), which applies age-restrictive classifications and, in some cases, recommends cutting or otherwise altering the film in order to conform to their guidelines. These guidelines are based on two main factors: legal requirements (for instance, unstimulated animal cruelty, indecent images of children) and the BBFC’s own policies. The latter have changed enormously over the last century, ranging from rigidly applied lists of forbidden topics to the current context-based system where artistic merit is a key factor in assessing individual films. Though this approach has undoubtedly led to a number of important films being passed either uncut or with a milder age restriction than one would expect, it is also controversial, due to the inevitable inconsistency. Some films are treated much more leniently than others with very similar content, as a result of largely subjective judgements by a handful of people. Contrary to popular belief, the BBFC is not a government organisation. In fact, central government has no direct involvement in film censorship beyond passing legislation affecting the BBFC’s activities. Local authorities have considerably more power, including the final say in whether or not certain films can be shown, though in the vast majority of cases they are happy to accept the BBFC’s verdict. Indeed, this is why the BBFC was created by the film industry in the first place.
The history of British film censorship is as much social as cultural: the reasons films were banned in the 1920s (revolutionary politics) and 1950s (nudity) say as much about the society of the time as anything in the films. It is also revealing that in an era of far greater equality the BBFC is noticeably tougher on sexual violence today than it was thirty years ago, though correspondingly much more relaxed about most other issues. As technology develops, the BBFCâ€™s role may well become less and less significant.
â€ AN EXCERPT BY THE BFI SCREENONLINE
A side-effect of its stated commitment to greater openness is that it is now easy to find out if films have been cut in their British versions and current technology makes it equally simple to order uncut and unclassified videos and DVDs from elsewhere (such material cannot be legally sold within the UK, but there are no barriers to importation). If this practice becomes widespread enough to affect the British film industry economically, it is likely that pressure will be applied on the BBFC to reflect this.
FILM AND CENSORSHIP † INSTITUTIONS: BBFC AND THE HAYES CODE From an institutional perspective it is important to note the difference between censorship and classification. While censorship implies state intervention to prevent the public exhibition of a cinematic work, classification is about empowering the audience to make appropriate consumer choice. Consequently, while the British Board of Film Classification has clear guidelines that denote the content of forthcoming releases the power to ban the screening of a film in cinema rests with individual town councils. The duality of this system has resulted in some notable inconsistencies.
FORMS AND CONVENTIONS: MIMETIC STYLES
† AN EXCERPT BY STEPHEN HILL
Clearly, the forms and conventions of a particular directors style are central to the arguments for and against the censorship of their work. In the case of Kubrick it could be said that the highly stylised quality of A Clockwork Orange neutralises the impact of the most violent scenes. By the same token, however, the heavily choreographed nature of the piece creates a certain mimetic quality that could potentially induce ‘copy cat’ behaviour. Likewise, while the messages and values encoded in Freaks may have resonated with the counter-culture sensibility of Hippy era in America, the dated quality of Browning’s Freaks distracts from the film’s ability to shock a modern audience; today Freaks seems more noteworthy for its exploration of physical disability than issues of law and order. By contrast central to the ability of a contemporary film like Borat (2006) to shock is the way that its pseudo-documentary format blurs the distinction between the real and the simulated; the forms and conventions rework the forms and conventions of other texts, generating discomfort for an audience undecided whether it is permissible to laugh. The films ironic sensibility challenges both engrained prejudice and political correctness. While such playfulness is characteristic of many post-modern texts, the problem for censors is the ambiguity of meaning it creates for the audience. 92