I've been intending to start a thread on this subject, as there are many film buffs here in the hallowed halls of Gaire. We've all heard of films that have been banned outright, heavily cut and/or have been highly controversial for the right (or wrong) reasons.
Usually, these films were banned because the authorities in the territories that banned them considered them too gruesome, sexually explicit, politically subversive, or blasphemous to religion (yes, that old chestnut).
Here's my list of top 10 banned and controversial films. 1. Cannibal Holocaust (1980)
Doubtlesss a gem in the movie collection of horror film buffs, Cannibal Holocaust
took the horror film genre, already energised at the time after a decade of classic work, to a whole new level. This film was so controversial that upon its release in Italy, the director was charged by the authorities for the murder of his actors becuase they could not be located a the time of the film's release.
Indeed, when Cannibal Holocaust
opened in 1980, even seasoned veterans of the horror genre were said to be nauseated and repulsed by the gory cannibalism depicted in the film. Cinemas supplied sick bags to movie goers who went to see the film. One image from the film that was particularly memorable and controversial was the shocking and sickingly graphic image of a teenage girl skewered on a wooden pole. The image is too shocking and graphic to post up here but here is a link if you really want to see: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_PKQeKlXcfhc/TJDbAhfODlI/AAAAAAAAAEM/NhB etc ...
The film is about four filmmakers from the USA who venture deep into the Amazon rain forest to film a documentary on indigenous tribes in the area who purportedly engage in cannibalism. They get way more then they bargained for and are eaten alive themselves. Their film footage is found 6 months later by an anthropologist and like the Blair Witch Project
, Cannibal Holocaust
was marketed as a "real life" story, which is how the Italian director got into so much trouble with the law at the outset. Cannibal Holocaust
remains banned in over 50 countries to this day. It was also one of the infamous "video nasties" banned by the UK Thatcher government in 1984. Needless to say, the film has developed a huge cult following with the bans only serving to increase its cult appeal.
Anthropologists were unhappy at the way the film exploits our Western fascination with primitive tribes and their supposed savagery and the film has a strong element of "voyeurism." Many critics also denounce the portrayal of the indigenous tribes as barbarian savages in the film as racist. Animal rights groups were angered at the killing of a number of live animals during the filming of Cannibal Holocaust
. 2. Salo - or The 120 Days of Sodom (1975)
Incredibly controversial when it was released in Italy, Salo (or The 120 Days of Sodom)
was instantly banned throughout the world and its director and producer faced criminal charges for gross obscenity in their home country. The film centres around the dying days of the Mussolini fascist society and four powerful men who decided to kidnap, incarcerate, torture, degrade and sexually abuse 18 teenagers, both girls and boys.
The film is notorious for depicting graphic sadism and masochism in action, but perhaps its most shocking element is the depiction of the forced eating of human excrement in a number of scenes. Salo (or the 120 Days of Sodom)
has passed into film folklore. This is not a film for the faint hearted. In fact, it's not a film that most people could watch as it is so graphic and disturbing. The director of Salo, Pier Paolo Passolini, was murdered shortly after the film's release. PS: This is the only film from this list that I have not seen. Some may question why I would put a film I have not yet seen on the list but I do think it's extremely controversial and I don't think I would ever want to see this film. 3. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
This film was banned in several countries, including the UK and Ireland, only to be unbanned in the 1990s. Compared to other banned films, it seems tame in content, particurlarly when compard to the recent Saw
horror film franchise.
It's the all-too familiar story of a group of happy, pretty and healthy All-American teenagers who find themselves in deepest redneck territory and then on the receiving end of a chainsaw wielding maniac, Leatherface. Like Cannibal Holocaust
and The Blair Witch Project
, on release The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
was marketed as a true story. 4. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Starring a young Malcolm McDowell as a violent youth delinquent Alex, A Clockwork Orange
is a perennial favourite of film critics and film lovers worldwide. Some see it as director Stanley Kubrick's finest work, and the film was revolutionary in the way it used striking visual imagery combined with a memorable musical score featuring classical Beethoven juxtaposed with the latest synthesizer wizardary at the time.
Seen as a harsh critique of modern society and the way in which society tries to control individuals who go "astray," the most controversial aspect of A Clockwork Orange
were the numerous violent scenes, particularly the rape scene of a young woman in her house whilst her husband is brutally assaulted by Alex and his gang of "droogs."
One common misconception was that A Clockwork Orange
was banned in the UK. This is untrue. What happened is that there were allegedly a series of "copycat" crimes taken from the ones depicted in the film, including the robbery of a house where the perpetrators pretended to be seeking urgent help in the middle of the night and the rape of a young woman whilst the rapist sang the Gene Kelly song Singin' In The Rain
. Director Stanley Kubrick immediately withdrew the film from circulation in the UK and it was only finally allowed to be released after his death in 1999.
David Bowie saw the film upon its original UK release and he is said to have been inspired by the film to create his Ziggy Stardust persona. A Clockwork Orange
is a film that will be discussed and talked about for as long as there ARE films. 5. From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
This film, directed by Robert Rodriguez and written by the director du jour
, Quentin Tarantino, is interesting and makes this banned list. Why? Becuase for some inexplicable reason, along with 1995's Nautral Born Killers
, the Irish film censor at the time of its release decided that it was not fit for viewing by the Irish film goer. As to why, I do not fully understand.
Of course, Ireland was a country that banned an incredible amount of film and literature in its early days, including work by James Joyce but it seemed that the country had finally grown up in the 1990s. Or had it really? Yes, there's violence and gore aplenty in From Dusk Till Dawn
but nothing out of the ordinary for a 1990s flick. George Clooney hams it up a a vampire slaying hero - it's all a bit OTT and the critics gave it a big thumbs down.
Makes this list because the Irish film censor banned it. 6. Man Bites Dog (1992)
This independent Belgian film follows the adventures of a sadistic serial killer as he goes on his daily spree of torturing elderly ladies in their homes sand murdering people left, right and centre.
Very controversial at the time of its release, it makes Reservoir Dogs
look like a nice Sunday matinee you could enjoy by the fire with your grand aunt Esme. Banned in a number of countries a the time of its release, it has since been unbanned with substantial cuts. 7. Last Tango In Paris (1972)
Starring a 48 year old Marlon Brando and a then unknown 19 year old Maria Schneider, Last Tango In Paris
is one of those films whose controversy and infamy precedes it but when you actually watch it, you wonder what all the fuss was really about.
Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci was charged with obscenity the minute it was released in Italy and - what is it with Italian fim directors? - he was given a supended sentence of obscenity. Last Tango in Paris
was immediately banned in Italy and was only permitted for release in 1987, 15 years after its original release.
Compared to Salo
, Last Tango in Paris
seems very tame indeed. The story is about a recently widowed and depressed Marlon Brando who travels to Paris and meets a young woman in an apartment they are both interested in renting. They both have immediate, anonymous sex and proceed to maintain their torrid relationship in anonymity of each other's names. The sex scenes are very restrained and the only really controversial part IMO is the infamous "butter" scene, where Brando anally rapes Schneider. However, thanks to THAT scene, the film has been deemed to be "controversial." Last Tango in Paris
is very much a film of its time - the heady days of the early 1970s sexual revolution and new found freedom of expression in art, music and cinema. 8. The Life Of Brian (1979) The Life Of Brian
was one of a number of films made by the Monty Python comedy crew who had huge success in the 1970s. I find this film to be very funny and endearing in parts and it is very different to some of the earlier gruesome and violent offerings further up on this list. Why so controversial, then?
Well, basically because Christian denominatons (the Catholic church and basically all the Protestant faiths) and Jews were outraged at the way in which the story of Jesus Christ and God was made into a comedy. The film was denounced as blasphemous and sacreligious. That was over 30 years ago. Many detractors of The Life Of Brian
did not even watch the film and mistakengly believed Monty Python actor Graham Chapman to be playing Jesus when in fact he played the role of a man mistaken for Christ. Reaction to The Life of Brian
today is much more muted and restrained. However, it remains banned in a number of US States, basically much of the Bible belt.
Graham Chapman, one of the Monty Python crew (and one of the first openly gay actors too) played the role of Brian Cohen, who is mistaken for Christ. Chapman was very forthright about his gay sexuality back in the 1970s when it was still a hugely taboo subject. There is also a frontal nude scene of Chapman in the film after he spends a night with his girlfriend that has been censored in many countries. The Life Of Brian
has gone on to become a firm favourite of millions. 9. Lolita (1962)
In a way, it is astounding that Lolita
was ever made into a full-length commerical film almost 50 years ago. The subject matter - the obsession, infatuation and desire of a middle aged man for a barely pubsecent 14 year old girl - was and still is highly controversial.
Perhaps the issue of a much older man being attracted to a young girl barely in her teens is even more so taboo today, with the heightened awareness of peadophelia and sexual abuse and exploitation of children. Stanley Kubrick directed the original Lolita
and subsequently complained that in order to pass the censors, he made the film very "tame" and didn't explore the sexual aspects of Humbert's desire for Lolita. Lolita
was re-made in the 1990s, starring Jeremy Irons as Humbert Humbert but in the 49 years the film has been around the subject matter has lost none of its controversy. The actress who portrayed Lolita in the 1962 original was herself only 14 at the time of screening, which added to the controversy of the film. 10. The Last Temptation Of Christ (1988)
This Martin Scorcese film portrayed the final days of Jesus Christ's life, during his trial and subsequent crucifiction. In many ways, visually it is far, far tamer than the Mel Gibson directed The Passion of The Christ
which never lets up on graphic suffering, blood and gore.
However, where The Passsion of The Christ is praised by many religious adherents as a faithful re-telling of the Crucifiction and resurrection of Jesus, the Last Temptation
has been condemned as deeply blasphemous because of Jesus's fansatising of a sexual relationship with Mary Magdalene. This was the "last temptation" part. The film was banned in many countries, particularly Roman Catholic countries in South America, and to this day remains banned in Singapore and The Phillipines.