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The Blagger's Guide to......Banned Films


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We all love films, we've all got that one film we can watch again and again. But what about films we can't watch? Not because we're too scared, but because we're not allowed to. The powers that be at the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) have the right to censor and even ban any film they see unfit for public consumption, and as such a number of films – primarily horror – have found infamy due to their notoriety.

  • Human Centipede 2Most recently The Human Centipede II was banned from release in the UK it being “sexually violent and potentially obscene”. The first film, which was released, sees a psychotic scientist joining three people together through their digestive system (anus to mouth, in case you wondered), to create the so-called ‘centipede’. The sequel takes it further by delving deeper into the darkest sexual fantasies of a 'loner' who has seen the first film and tries to recreate his own. Of course it's much more depraved and sickening – it even shows a rape scene with barbed wire wrapped around the male's penis.
  • Possibly the most infamous ‘video nasty’ is the 1980 Italian flick Cannibal Holocaust. Never released in the cinema, the film the film bypassed the BBFC's censorship by going straight to video. However, in 1983 it was banned by the BBFC after being added to the Video Nasties list which contained 74 films deemed too obscene for the general public.

    Not surprising when you consider the genuine animal cruelty scenes including a turtle being decapitated, a snake being killed with a machete and a squirrel monkey having the top of its skull chopped off. The film's director Ruggero Deodato has since declared he was “stupid to introduce animals”.

    In 2001 the film was re-released with many cuts being made to remove all animal cruelty footage and sexual violence. Surprisingly, though, in May this year the film was released again with an 18 certificate and only the slaying of the squirrel monkey had been removed.
  • It shows how times have changed. In 1932 Freaks was banned purely because of its cast. The horror movie was refused release for 30 years due to the deformed cast members shocking audiences of the time. Some of the conditions which were allegedly exploited include conjoined twins, a legless man (known as The Human Torso) and a bearded lady. Since its release in the 60s it has found cult status amongst horror fanatics throughout the world due to its groundbreaking images and at times genuinely disturbing scenes.
  • Some films, though, aren't banned by the censors but by the film-makers themselves. One of the biggest horror films of all time, The Exorcist, was not submitted for classification by Warner after the introduction of the Video Nasty list. It wasn't officially released until 1990 when it passed with an 18 certificate. A Clockwork Orange was banned from release by director Stanley Kubrick after he and his family received a number of death threats due to the film's glorification of psychotic violence. When Kubrick died in 1999 the film was officially released in the UK once more.

  • One of the most interesting, certainly most amusing, reasons for a film being held from release is the Rolling Stones documentary Cocksucker Blues. Filmed during the early 70s it shows the rock legends in their debauched, hedonistic heyday complete with gratuitous sex and drug taking. The Rolling Stones are, understandably, pretty embarrassed by the film and it isn’t allowed to be shown unless the director Robert Frank is physically present for the duration after the band received a court ruling.
Over the years there have been numerous films banned for their graphic content, their plot or even their potential embarrassment to those involved. Usually after a number of years the bans are lifted or the films are edited and then resubmitted for classification, but as the medium of film progresses audiences are becoming desensitised to blood and guts. The standard 15 rated film today would terrify audiences 30-40 years ago and there's no doubt what is being banned today will be vanilla by comparison to the horror films of the future.

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