With the recent senseless banning of ‘Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence’, the topic of banned films is inevitably about to pop up from ‘neath the carpet once again. And why not? Banning films is not a way to stop people seeing them, as I have previously mentioned with regard to Video Nasties in the 1980’s, directors love to flaunt ‘The film that was BANNED in ‘__’ Countries!’ or ‘The film THEY didn’t want YOU to see!!’ on the front of their DVD cover. So the only conclusion I can reach is, the BBFC is a bunch of perverts who loves egging people on to watch disturbing films. The stigma of ‘banned film’ has been a desirable one since the early 70’s, when banning and censoring films helped drive their popularity underground to a devoted cult following, ala ‘Evil Dead’, ‘Don’t Look Now’, or the (now) pathetically dated ‘Faces of Death!’ series. I am obviously very anti-censorship, as should anyone be who values freedom of expression and speech, and as  the banning of films doesn’t look to stop anytime soon in either the U.K., or the U.S., for now, let us celebrate 10 banned films that really pissed off the censorship boards.

[All of the films featured were either banned nationwide, or in a few districts or boroughs which didn’t want the film playing where they slept.]

 

#10: The Wild One (1953)

The earliest of the banned films in this list (but by no means, the earliest of all), ‘The Wild One’ stars Marlon Brando as a leather clad motorcycle riding youth, the very idea of which seemed to really get up the nose of the BBFC, who promptly banned it for 14 years. The film doesn’t seem as shocking today as it probably did in 1953, with it’s images of rebellious youths in gangs mounting huge motorbikes and tormenting and degrading a working class town in America seeming tame, it was no doubt a terrifying and very real experience nearly 60 years ago.

 

#9: Crash (1996)

‘Crash’ is a bizarre sadistic love story from bizarre sadist David Cronenberg, that details the enhancement of a couple’s sexuality by the danger of fatal car crashes and the raw adrenaline they produce. Based on a futuristic (and of itself, extremely controversial) novel (of the same name) by J.G. Ballard, Crash simultaneously manages to shock and discomfort the viewer with ease, as perverted characters are turned on by life threatening acts which make them feel alive. The film was banned for it’s obscene and graphic sexual content, but also just as likely for it’s unflinchingly weird and claustrophobic philosophy that in the face of death life is at it’s fullest and most erotic. The film was banned in Westminster council, which meant that it could not be seen in any cinema in Westminster.

 

#8: The Devils (1971) 

There is absolutely no surer way to get your film banned (or at least, heavily censored) than to have sexual defilement of religious iconography. That is a fact, and ‘The Devils’ is a film which has more than it’s fair share of that. Though not outright in it’s capacity to shock, visceral director Ken Russell’s film tells a tale of demonic possessions of Nuns, and their foul exploits while under Satan’s influence. The film was so harshly received, censored, banned and derived that it has remained unreleased in it’s uncensored form to this very day, with 17 councils in Britain alone banning the film on the grounds of it’s sexual perversions and blasphemy.

 

#7: Derek & Clive Get The Horn (1979)

Absolutely unbelievably, the BBFC rejected to even classify Derek & Clive (comedians, Peter Cook & Dudley Moore, respectively, and pictured above) Get The Horn, a documentary on the making of their classic comedy album ‘…Ad Nauseum’, on the grounds that the film contained just about as much swearing as anybody had heard in any film up until that point. The film is indeed absolutely chocked full of foul language, but so are the albums the pair released, the banning of the film raised many questions about profanity and the negative effects it had on society. Watching today, in it’s unbanned form, the documentary is massively ground breaking, showing the nihilism and self deprecating black humour of the 90’s over a full decade before it was ushered in by Bill Hicks, et al,.

 

#6: Last House on the Left (1972)

Even by today’s standards, Last House on the Left is an unnecessary edition to the horror catalogue. A senselessly graphic, needlessly off colour and utterly nihilistic piece of film making. And it was made by ‘Horror Master: Wes Craven’. Just goes to show what bad publicity does for some directors, as this film is truly a piece of trash – have I made it clear enough how shitty this film is? Anyway, the plot is so excruciatingly predictable and simple it is almost patronising to explain it, a group of hairy brutish bikers kidnap, rape, torture and finally murder two young women, and break into their parent’s house to crash the night. The parents suspect the hairy dudes to be their daughter’s killers and proceed to exact their own, possibly more disgusting and inventive wrath on the bikers. The film was banned in it’s uncut form for 34 years, and is not really worth wasting the electricity that powers your laptop or DVD player to play it, in all honesty.

#5: Straw Dogs (1971)

The early 70’s (71, in particular!) were heady days for the BBFC, they went around chopping up, banning and outright rejecting a lot of films as cinema fell into the hands of the experimental independent auteur. Straw Dogs is a brilliant psychological thriller in the vein of Don’t Look Now, and has still retained a lot of it’s bite 40 years on. Dustin Hoffman plays a shy retiring professor from the U.S. who takes an idyllic vacation in the British countryside, only to find himself and his wife set upon by savage locals who lust for his and his wife’s blood. The film contains a fairly graphic rape scene, which was the source of much controversy upon it’s release; a scene that still hasn’t lost any of it’s impact to this day. Straw Dogs though, unlike a lot of the banned films from the UK, is an intelligent, well paced and ultimately enjoyable thriller that was well ahead of it’s time.

#4: A Clockwork Orange (1971)

And the award for “film that keeps constantly rearing it’s wonderful head in my blogs” goes to…Yes, it’s that time again, another blog post, and another entry on A Clockwork Orange! And yet ANOTHER film from 1971! What did I tell you?! A Clockwork Orange is a violent, sadistic and darkly humorous take on a future gone mad with compassion for the youth. Scenes of brutal violence are almost glorified and rape is viewed through an almost impassive and slightly wry eye. A film that still has the power to shock? Yes, most definitely. And a film that was banned, NOT by the BBFC, but by director Stanley Kubrick himself, who had been worried by reports of copycat violence linked to the film, and decided to pull it from circulation due to death threats made against him and his family. The film was made available uncut upon Kubrick’s death, and is still a fascinating, literary, clever and above all, unbelievably violent portrayal of a world gone utterly insane.

#3: The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)

Scorsese must have known that a near biopic of the human side of Christ would cause it’s share of controversy, but he couldn’t have imaging the extent to which it pissed pretty much everyone off. It’s obviously a fictional (no jokes, please!) account of the life of Jesus, which details his struggles as a man, his affairs and his downfalls. Christians presumably didn’t like to see the man they think of as infallible as having any weaknesses, but Scorsese’s version of events is unflinchingly honest, tragic, and more than anything, a lot more believable than the Bible’s, which tells Jesus as being a saintly figure with absolutely no bad qualities. I am not religious in the slightest, but it is easier to accept that having lived as a man, and therefore amongst men, Jesus would have undoubtedly took on qualities of his fellow mortals – be they good, or bad. It was banned  on account of some brutally violent scenes, but more for it’s supposedly extremely blasphemous views.

#2: The Exorcist (1973)

For me, The Exorcist ranks up with The Shining as one of the all time top horror films. It’s subtle blend of human psychology, religious paranoia and superstition, foul language, and at times graphic and completely gripping scenes of possession lend a completely timeless and brilliant feel to the whole picture. As could be expected, the thought of a teenage girl having to act like the devil (vomiting, spitting, swearing) was a concept that really unnerved some people, and it’s true, Linda Blair’s performance as a 13 year old posessed girl is so believable and terrifying that it has never been matched. The film was not banned officially, but officials at distribution company Warner decided to exempt it from rating with the ‘video nasties’ hysteria of the early 80’s. Anyone who has seen any video nasty and The Exorcist knows the comparison is a joke, it’s like comparing a kid’s drawing of a house to a Rembrandt original: the gulf of class, quality, plot and even acting between the two is so great that the idea it would be classed a ‘video nasty’ is literally laughable.

#1: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Hey-oh, if it isn’t another film that I have previously stated my undying love for! The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is about the most unforgiving, creepy and utterly hopeless  film of all time. A constant air of toxic shit hangs over the picture, a sense of something being completely twisted, a generally ‘not right’ feeling to every single wretched event in the film. It is for this reason the film is one of the most memorable of all time, with the final ‘dinner’ scene being one of the most excruciatingly terrifying and utterly mesmerising sequences ever filmed. Though the film is very real and utterly immersive in it’s own horribly visceral way, it does it’s absolute best to maintain a dreamlike nether-world throughout – a semi-conscious state of awareness and repulsion, whilst most definitely being real. The soundtrack of deranged pots and pans smashing together and atonal feedback and unnerving buzzing cement this in the film, and while it is most definitely a very very violent one, there are only a few scenes of actual violence, and there is little, to no ‘splatter’ or gore, which makes it all the more insanely brilliant – it’s not that ‘violent’ by content, but in context, it is so supremely horrific, so absolute and so crushingly realistic, that watching it becomes almost torturous in it’s voyeurism. The film was banned for all of the above reasons, and gained a cult status due to it’s banning. Nearly 40 years on and it’s pure gripping horror has never been matched, in it’s uncensored version, we see the true depths of human insanity and human fear.

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