Following Tim Burton's departure as director of the Batman series after the release of Batman Returns, Joel Schumacher took over the role of director for the next instalment, Batman Forever. Released in 1995, the third
film in the series moved away from the darker, gloomier tones of the Burton films and instead focussed on a more colourful, comic book style, with a greater emphasis on camp humour and over-the-top villains. Despite these production changes --
which arguably made Batman Forever more appealing to young children in comparison to the previous two films -- the BBFC in the UK considered the film to be too violent, menacing and sadistic for British children, and in this episode of Cutting
Edge we'll be taking a look at the rather extensive changes that were made to Batman Forever for its original British release.
Tommy Lee Jones
BBFC cuts for a PG rating
The BBFC initially viewed an incomplete cut of the film earlier in 1995, and the Board informed the filmmakers that the film would require cuts if their desired PG rating was to be granted. Warner Bros, the distributors, completed work on the
film and submitted it to the MPAA in the United States, who also demanded cuts before a PG-13 rating could be granted. The PG-13 rating allows children of any age to attend, whereas the 12 rating in the UK at that time was legally restricted to
children 12 and over, which was the reason that Warner Bros. wanted an unrestricted PG rating for Batman Forever's British release. The PG-13 version (which we'll be referring to as the 'uncut version' for ease) was then submitted to the BBFC,
but the Board stated to Warner Bros. that an uncut PG rating was still not possible. As the BBFC stated in a note at the time of their second examination of the film:
The American 'PG-13' version is too violent for the British 'PG', although cuts have been made since the unfinished print was submitted. Since the atmosphere of violence and sadistic menace is at issue as well as the moments of overt violence,
the Board leaves it to the distributors to submit a 'PG' version for consideration.
Instead of supplying the filmmakers with a detailed breakdown of the cuts needed, the BBFC drew up a list of key issues that they felt needed addressing. We'll be referencing this list throughout the following discussion, as well as pointing out
the other changes that the filmmakers made in order to achieve a PG rating in the UK.
Cut Scenes: Bat Torch
The first cuts made occurred in reel 1, at the very start of the film. A shot of Batman's hand picking up what appears to be a knife (always a bone of contention in junior category films for the BBFC) was removed for the UK version. However,
in actuality the item in question appears to be a cutting torch, which Batman later uses to save a security guard around 10 minutes into the film.
The blowtorch 'knife' in action
Cut Scenes: Bat Trap
The next cuts occurred a minute or so later, as Two-Face threatens a bank security guard. The majority of changes made to the UK cinema version concerned the "sadistic menace" that the BBFC noted, and the cuts made in this sequence
addressed this issue. For the PG version, the filmmakers made the following changes:
After the security guard asks Two-Face if he is going to be killed, Two-Face's reply was shortened to remove the dialogue: Maybe, maybe not. You could say we're of two minds on the subject. Are you a gambling man?
A big close-up of the guard's terrified face was also cut.
The initial sight of Two-Face's hideous form was shortened to lessen the shock value of its reveal. As a result, his dialogue was shortened to accommodate the visual changes, with Two-Face's line, The random toss
being lost in the process.
After Two-Face flips his coin, his maniacal laughter was removed.
Following the guard's line, You said you'd let me live! Two-Face's proceeding dialogue was once again shortened, removing the words, Nothing better than live bait to trap a bat!
Cut Scenes: Bat Kick
A couple of minutes later as Batman arrives to save the security guard, more cuts were made. For the UK version, the BBFC suggested some general changes here, citing the following as needing to be edited down:
Machine guns firing at elevator door... Batman's first fight, particularly his kicks to opponent's heads.
These issues were addressed, but the filmmakers also made their own alterations. Together, the following changes were effected for the UK cinema version:
Two-Face's command to his thugs of, Kill the bat! was removed from the soundtrack, with only the music and the sounds of the thugs running to the elevator being retained in the mix.
A shot of Two-Face running up to the camera and laughing was removed.
Two-Face shouting, Blast him! with evident glee was removed immediately before his men start shooting at the elevator doors.
The lingering focus on the firing of the thugs' machine guns was shortened.
A few frames were removed from the start of the shot showing Two-Face running away in order to reduce the sight of his scarred face.
Batman kneeing a thug in the stomach was cut, as was the sight of Batman flipping over the same thug and delivering a loud drop kick onto his torso.
A brief struggle between Batman and another enemy was shortened to remove the sight of Batman being grabbed around the neck and pulled upwards. Due to the visual cuts made here, a random punch is now heard during the remaining footage of
the struggle, which sounds rather out of place.
A reverse head-butt by Batman to the same enemy was also removed, in which it appears that the enemy's teeth are knocked clean out of his mouth.
Batman delivering a kick to one thug's stomach was cut, as was Batman kicking another thug in the face. The sound effects are once again out of sync during this section of the fight in the cut version.
Cut Scenes: Bat Chopper
A few brief cuts made by the filmmakers occur a few minutes later, as Two-Face escapes in the helicopter. For the UK cinema version, the following changes were made by the filmmakers:
Two-Face's long laugh over the radio as he first speaks to the residents of Gotham was shortened rather abruptly.
Threatening and sadistic dialogue spoken by Two-Face about the acid was removed entirely.
A laugh by Two-Face just before he says, This'll fix him was shortened.
Another laugh by Two-Face is slightly shortened, just before his helicopter crashes through the Ocu-Wash sign.
Even with these cuts, the affected footage in the UK cinema version played with arguably little difference in the overall tone of the remaining material.
Moments later, another problematic scene is cited in the BBFC's file as needing to be cut:
Two-Face's repeated shooting at Batman through helicopter windscreen, which kills the pilot after riddling him with bullets.
The cut UK version of this scene heavily shortens shots of the pilot jerking as he is killed.
Cut Scenes: Bat Drop
The next cuts occurred in reel 2 of the film, where Edward Nygma kills his boss, Fred. The BBFC once again cited this scene as needing to be cut, so for the UK cinema version the overt sadism was reduced through the removal of around 20
seconds of film. The material that was removed included:
Fred falling fully out of the window and left dangling as the cord he is attached to tightens.
Fred looking down in terror at the raging waters below him.
Nygma's sadistic dialogue about firing Fred before dropping him to his death
In effect, the implication in the PG version is that Nygma simply pushes Fred out of the window in order to kill him.
The filmmakers obviously took the BBFC's notes about sadism and menace quite seriously, as a short while later a subtle cut occurred that most likely went unnoticed by the majority of viewers. A scene in Nygma's apartment has him listening to
the rather aptly-titled song Bad Days by The Flaming Lips.
For the UK cinema version, the words in the song referring to blowing the boss's head off were removed, with an instrumental section of the song looped in their place to fill in the gap left by the missing
lyrics (the picture below shows a shot of the footage that plays during the affected section of the audio track).
Cut Scenes: Bat Circus
Towards the end of reel 2, the next BBFC note makes a general reference to the next part of Batman Forever that needed addressing:
Violence and menace in circus scene (continued in next reel)... with neck break by Batman.
For the UK's PG rating, the following cuts made included:
A brief shot of two armed thugs entering the circus was eliminated.
Two-Face's line, Our new act for your personal amazement; we call it - Massacre Under The Big Top! was removed, along with a shot of Nygma laughing in response.
When the Mayor asks Two-Face what he wants, his reply was shortened from Batman. Bruised, broken, bleeding. In a word, dead! to simply, Batman.
Bruce Wayne killing the thug next to the big drum by breaking his neck and smacking him in the face as he falls was removed.
After Two-Face flips his coin, his line, Our kind of day was cut.
Bruce flipping a henchman over and kicking him hard in the gut was removed.
Cut Scenes: Bat Car
The next cuts occurred around 10 minutes later, when Two-Face accidentally kills two of his own men.
Two brief cuts were made here for the British cinema version. Firstly, the sight of the two men in the car screaming and looking terrified right before they are killed was removed, and the sight of Two-Face laughing after he gets into the car
was also censored. However, the sound of his laughter was retained and played over other, non-contentious footage.
Cut Scenes: Bat Nut
No other BBFC cuts occurred in the UK cinema version until reel 6, where another specific change was cited for deletion by the Board:
Head-butt by Robin to Two-Face.
For the UK's PG-rated version, the removal of the head-butt was accommodated by both shortening and rearranging the footage in the uncut version, resulting in a difference in running time of around 7 seconds. In essence, the punch that Robin
throws after he mentions his father was lifted from its original place in the fight, and reinserted in place of the head-butt as the fight's finishing move.
Batman Forever on UK Home Video
After Warner Bros. had produced a pre-cut, UK-specific version of Batman Forever that they felt was acceptable for the UK's PG rating in 1995, the film was submitted to the BBFC for a formal UK theatrical classification and passed PG on July 18th
1995 after 98 seconds of cuts had been made. Pre-cut versions of the film were also submitted for VHS classifications by Warner Home Video in the September of 1995 and the July of 1997, and Batman Forever was again passed PG without further cuts,
with the Board noting that the film:
Contains moderate violence and mild language and sex references.
Comparing the UK VHS release of Batman Forever against the UK DVD shows some minor differences in cuts (The Flaming Lips song is intact on DVD, for example) and the fight scenes on VHS appear to have slightly less impactful sound effects. This
anomaly could just be due to the inherent limitations of the VHS format, however. Nevertheless, the UK only had access to a cut version of Batman Forever for 10 years, until a Batman DVD box set was released in 2005 that contained all four of the
Batman movies directed by Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher between 1989 and 1997. With new BBFC policies in place, Warner Home Video submitted the uncut version of Batman Forever for a contemporary video certificate, and the film was passed with
all of its previous cuts waived with a 12 rating on November 9th 2005, with the BBFC noting that the film:
Contains moderate violence.
This uncut version of the film has since become the standard edition available on DVD and Blu-ray to UK buyers, with the censored PG version having never received a Blu-ray release. Fans of the film in Britain can pick up either the Special
Edition DVD or the Blu-ray release; confident in the knowledge that they are getting the uncut version of Batman Forever without any BBFC- or filmmaker cuts.
Cutting Edge Video Episode 29: Batman Forever
All articles are original works compiled by Gavin Salkeld, with occasional help from a small team of researchers. Particular thanks are due to the BBFC for their diligent and helpful explanations of their interventions.