Banned or not Banned?




Precuts information

During post-production, the distributor sought and was given advice on how to secure the desired classification. Following this advice, certain changes were made prior to submission



We don’t ban films in this country. Contrary to popular belief, ever since the British Board of Film Censorship became the British Board of Film CLASSIFICATION all we have ever done is classify films. When a film goes beyond the pale as I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE 2 does we simply refuse classification or, as with ISOYG 2 suggest the distributor makes certain ‘changes’ in order to gain that classification. Of course if the film is refused a certificate it cannot be released on DVD/BLU-RAY in this country as it’s illegal to sell films in this country that don’t have a BBFC certificate.



A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable

a. on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or a fine or both,


b. on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or a fine not exceeding £20,000 or both.”


It’s all a little Orwellian for me. But then its worth noting that the board are there mainly to defend British film distributors from British Law, primarily the obscene publications act.


For the purposes of this Act an article shall be deemed to be obscene if its effect or (where the article comprises two or more distinct items) the effect of any one of its items is, if taken as a whole, such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it.”


Basically if a book, Film or piece of music can be proven in court to ‘deprave and corrupt’ the person who is accessing said work it can be prosecuted under the British Law. The most earliest case of this act being used against a work was the prosecution of D.H. Lawrence’s LADY CHATTERLY’S LOVER when it was published in 1960. The book was famously acquitted and the prosecution was deemed out of touch with the times.’s_Lover


Various academic critics and experts of diverse kinds, including E. M. ForsterHelen GardnerRichard HoggartRaymond Williams and Norman St John-Stevas, were called as witnesses, and the verdict, delivered on 2 November 1960, was “not guilty”. This resulted in a far greater degree of freedom for publishing explicit material in the United Kingdom. The prosecution was ridiculed for being out of touch with changing social norms when the chief prosecutor, Mervyn Griffith-Jones, asked if it were the kind of book “you would wish your wife or servants to read”.”




When home video took off there was no legislation at all and many titles were released Free of classification. Often with Lurid and disturbing covers that were often far worse than the actual films on the tape. Naturally this attracted the wrath of the state and the Video recordings act was passed to move the video industry under the umbrella of the board of censors, re-dubbed the board of classification .


If you can pick it up, the SEDUCTION OF THE GULLIBLE is a worthy read. The Video Nasty scare of the eighties and the media hysteria surrounding it is one of the most embarrassing moments in our recent history. The video industry needed some form of regulation and brought some of the hysteria on themselves with the lurid video covers, but sane and sensible legislation is difficult when British Tabloids like the Mail and the SUN are driving the public into a frenzy in a bid to increase circulation of their papers. We seem to love a good moral panic once in a while, for the politician’s its a great way to make the public think your ‘doing something’ without actually having to tackle any real issues and scared people tend to read newspapers more…


But I digress….



So, the BBFC in actuality exist to protect the home video industry from court action. It’s their job to look at a work and judge whether it would fall foul of British law. With a certificate the distribution company can release their product free from the fear of prosecution. The BBFC age certificates also serve as great consumer advice on content, the U, PG, 12, 15 and 18 certificates are a good way to judge the content of a film before going in. For instance, if an elderly Aunt is in town and you decide to go to the pictures you might want to avoid the 18 cert film, unless of course auntie is in to that sort of thing.



When a film is cut a lot of film fans tend to direct their criticism towards the BBFC, however I would say that its not them that deserve the criticism rather that its the Law that is an ass…..



I should confess now that I’ve seen I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE 2. watched it online, uncut from the states. I’ve also seen the first one uncut, in spite of it being shortened to comply with British Law, after importing the Blu-ray from America. The series is fairly unpleasant, its a reworking of a notorious 70’s shocker directed by Meir Zachary that was banned in the video nasties scare of the eighties. The first film is about a young woman who heads off into the country for some peace and quiet only to be brutally raped by a gang of thugs. The woman then comes back and extracts a protracted and bloody revenge against her tormentors. The re-make follows the original fairly closely but ups the ante in regards to the revenge and offers some eye watering scenes of brutality against the men. It should be noted in neither film do the rape scenes come across as anything other than brutal, barbaric and stomach churning, the subsequent revenge is portrayed as entirely justified and the men are universally played as moronic beer-swilling scum bags who deserve everything that happens to them. In the sequel, its an entirely different scenario with a new character who goes to get photos done in order to become a model, the photographers assistant follows her back to her apartment and rapes her, killing a neighbour who tries to intervene. To cover the mess the assistants brothers smuggle the woman back to eastern Europe where her torment continues until she manages to escape and we get another bout of bloody revenge. Now, none of this films are ever likely to find mass appeal. In my years spent in film retail, the audience for this kind of material is fairly limited and as a result they tend to be low-budget affairs, That said they are actually well made, the narrative sympathy is always with the female character and the sequel even makes some good points about human trafficking, a very real and horrific crime that is going on as we speak. I would argue that an 18 certificate would be fine, and in fairness the cuts required are not dramatic either, but then I’m not here to defend the films as such.


The fact is that in spite of the cuts, the internet savvy film user can watch the film uncut any time they want to and there is little the state can do about it. In the age of the internet and globalisation the obscene publications act seems more dated than it ever has done before. It looked dated when it was used to prosecute Lady Chatterly’s Lover. When you live in an age that allows British people to stream their films online, download and even import films from foreign territories all the OPA seems to do is unfairly penalise British companies looking to make money by releasing films to the public. When their product is missing key moments that are included in a foreign import version a lot of fans will skip buying the British release and import. I would argue that its better if we remove this pointless act from British Law. It serves no purpose in the modern world, it fails to provide any clear guidelines as ‘tendency to deprave and corrupt’ is far to vague a term and relies on interpretation. Bring ten psychologists into a room and ask them if a person can be depraved or corrupted by a book or film and you will NEVER get a definite answer. Even with child porn, the one area you would imagine the act to be useful, there are plenty of other laws to prosecute the people who manufacture and distribute that filth. Government COULD try and go after the Internet Providers to block sites that allow access to these films but they couldn’t even take pirate bay for long. They could try and stop imports but that would involve opening every package that comes into the country and all it takes is one to get through and the process of duplicating that film hundreds and thousands of times is so easy most computer literate people could do it. Even in the hypothetical situation where all packages are monitored to stop violent films coming into the country it would be easy enough to bring a digital copy in on the micro SD card I have in my mobile phone, I could even watch the film on the journey back.



The real question is, will any of our politicians have the political will to remove this act from the law books?It’s almost guaranteed that the press will go after them for it. But I would argue that its a necessary step to protect British businesses and let people 18 and over decide for themselves what they want to watch.  


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