Crouse reconstructs The Devils in meticulous detail, from Russell's arduous shoot to the hysteria surrounding its X-rated release. Arguing for the film's place at the cutting edge of 70s cinema, he notes that censors treated The Exorcist with
kid gloves just two years later. What's different is The Devils potent mix of sex and religion---and its vision of a corrupt Church that uses possession as a tool to intimidate and manipulate the innocent. History, in the hands of an
unflinching filmmaker, can be more graphic than fiction.
Summary Review: Worthy
This is a worthy examination of this powerful and unforgettable British masterpiece.
If there are any small caveats, they would be a brief dismay at the lack of photographs, posters or set designs to illustrate the incredible story of the film, and a little more about a couple of details on the cuts imposed
by Russell himself, as well as the censors.
Ken Russell's true cut of The Devils has been screened sporadically at festivals since 2004. A rare viewing of the director's approved print was an intriguing prospect, and it was far from disappointing.
Uncut Film Season
1st to 30th November 2012
To mark the centenary of the BBFC in 2012, BFI Southbank is presenting a season of films which have been either banned or censored in the last century of cinema.
The season has been curated by film critic Mark Kermode and Professor in Film Studies at Southampton University Linda Ruth Williams.
The season will give film fans a chance to see some of the most contentious films ever made in their complete version on the big screen and will aim to illustrate how the BBFC's attitudes to confrontational material have changed over the years.
While some films in the season have remained as shocking as the first time they were seen by UK audiences, the impact of some has lessened with time.
Each of the films in the season will present a case-study in the BBFC's negotiation of UK law, public opinion, political pressure, and principles of public protection and free speech.
The films being shown are:
Enter the Dragon
The Evil Dead
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Sick: The Life & Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist
The Devils (Director’s Cut)
Timeshift: Dear Censor... The secret archive of the British Board of Film Classification
Audiences will be able to engage in discussions on censorship during special events in the season, beginning with What the Silent Censor Saw -- 100 Years of the BBFC. This illustrated talk by Bryony Dixon (BFI) and Lucy Brett (BBFC) will explore
the earliest days of the BBFC as it wrestled with such controversial issues as sex, drugs, birth control, animal cruelty and the modus operandi of criminals in film. Season curator Mark Kermode will be joined on the Southbank Stage by David
Cooke (BBFC), Dr Julian Petley (Brunel University) and Dr Clarissa Smith (University of Sunderland) for Screens as Battle Grounds: Debating the BBFC and Media Regulation Today. This panel of expert will examine the BBFC's colourful past, debate
its role today and suggest its possible future evolution. Finally Timeshift: Dear Censor... The secret archive of the British Board of Film Classification is a frank documentary that charts the BBFC's history through examination of some of its
most infamous cases. Following the screening there will be a Q&A with David Cooke, Lucy Brett and Craig Lapper from the BBFC moderated by Dr Julian Petley.
SEXUAL VIOLENCE AND PUBLIC OUTRAGE!
A subject which has continued to prove divisive in the popular press is the cinematic portrayal of sexual violence, however, the BBFC has not always followed the political and press consensus in their reaction to these kinds of films. In the
wake of sensationalist stories and comments from ill-informed politicians, the BBFC was duty bound to investigate claims that Crash (Dir. David Cronenberg, 1996) was obscene. Despite being cleared by the Board this extraordinary tale of
alienation and sexual sub-cultures was still banned by Westminster Council. Gaspar Noe's harrowing Irreversible (2002) was reviled in some circles for having a rape scene which was almost unwatchable, but the BBFC decided to pass the film uncut
because they concluded that the scene was deliberately repugnant and avoided eroticisation. Similarly, Michael Winterbottoms's adaptation of the Jim Thompson pulp noir novel The Killer Inside Me (2010) was passed uncut when the BBFC deemed that
the portrayals of sadistic violence and sadomasochistic behaviour were not eroticised and did not endorse the kind of violence being seen on screen.
SEXUAL DEPRAVITY THROUGHOUT THE CENTURY!
Sexual imagery is something that the BBFC has dealt with a great deal over the past century. The Board's attitude towards images of a sexual nature has certainly adapted over the years: for instance No Orchids for Miss Blandish (Dir. St John L
Clowes, 1948) was initially described by the Monthly Film Bulletin as 'the most sickening display of brutality, perversion, sex and sadism ever to be shown on the screen' and banned by the Board, but it went on to be passed uncut with a PG on
video in 2006. The Killing of Sister George (Dir. Robert Aldrich, 1968) provoked a similar reaction for a lesbian love scene, with a modified version eventually being approved by the Board. Also screening will be Sick -- The Life and Death of
Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist (Dir. Kirby Dick, 1997), which documents the proud life of cystic fibrosis sufferer Bob Flanagan, who remained a staunch supporting of the liberating power of consensual S&M throughout his terminal illness. With
scenes of transsexuals masturbating (Trash, Dir. Paul Morrissey, 1970), frank depictions of S&M (Maitresse, Dir. Barbet Schroeder, 1975), ingestion of dog faeces (Pink Flamingos, Dir. John Waters, 1972) and mass orgies (The Devils, Dir. Ken
Russell, 1971), the 1970s proved a particularly busy time for the Board and the season will see screenings of all these controversial films in their entirety. In a time when Fifty Shades of Grey is the literature of choice for millions around
the country, it is clear that the British public has had a change in attitudes to sexual imagery since the days of outcry over No Orchids for Miss Blandish.
VIOLENCE AND OVER ZEALOUS CUTS!
The mainstream martial arts hit Enter the Dragon (Dir. Robert Clouse, 1973) fell foul of the BBFC's anxieties about violence upon its release in 1973. The censors effectively banned the appearance of flying stars and nunchucks from UK screens,
arguing that -- unlike guns -- these weapons could be legally purchased in the UK. Another violent film which gave the Board some concerns was Cape Fear (Dir. J Lee Thompson, 1962). However, on this occasion the BBFC found itself in the unusual
position of being vilified by the tabloids for being too stringent: '161 Cuts In One Film' declared a concerned and somewhat outraged centre-page spread in the Daily Express.
FEAR AND HORROR!
Based on The Island of Doctor Moreau by HG Wells, the notorious 30s horror film Island of Lost Souls (Dir. Erle C Kenton, 1932) tells the tale of an obsessed scientist who performs experiments on animals on a remote island. The film was banned
outright when it was first submitted to the (then) British Board of Film Censors in 1933, and then rejected a further two times. Co-starring the legendary horror actor Bela Lugosi, Island of Lost Souls was eventually passed uncut with a PG in
2011. Another film which censors feared might be too frightening for audiences was Shock Corridor (Dir. Samuel Fuller, 1963). This tale of a sane man whose infiltration into a mental asylum drives him mad caused the BBFC to worry that its
'unjustified and alarmist' tone might frighten those with incarcerated relatives. Sam Raimi's now legendary first feature The Evil Dead (1981) starred cult hero Bruce Campbell as possessed chainsaw wielding Ash, and was one of the films at the
centre of the so-called 'video nasties' witch-hunt. The Evil Dead was effectively outlawed on video for years in the wake of several successful prosecutions, and this screening presents the original uncut version in all its gory glory.
NOT SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN!
Providing a stark contrast to Raimi's horror are two films which could be viewed as more family friendly, the first of which is The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (Dir. Mark Herman, 2008). This film provided a difficulty for the BBFC in that it
attempts to boldly address the Holocaust in manner that will be acceptable to younger audiences. Rated 12A, the film raises important questions about the classification of upsetting images for children, and the parental responsibility of
'advisory' classifications. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (Dir. Steven Spielberg, 1984) was cut by distributors in the UK in order to achieve a family friendly PG certificate. The season will give audiences a chance to see the 12 rated
and uncut Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom for the first time in a UK cinema.
Having wrestled with the 'teenage rampage' issues of The Wild One, the BBFC passed Blackboard Jungle (Dir. Richard Brooks, 1955) only after several minutes of cuts. This tale of an altruistic teacher attempting to 'reach' his disillusioned
students prompted reports of Teddy Boy audiences being provoked into seat-slashing revelry. This Is England (Dir. Shane Meadows, 2010) is a more recent example of a film which provoked discussions of certification for teenagers. This brilliant
coming-of-age tale follows a young boy who becomes seduced by the bigotry of a racist skinhead mentor. Rated 18 by the BBFC for strong racist violence and language, the film made headlines when Meadows insisted that its target audience was 15
year olds. Take this opportunity to decide for yourself whether or not our censors and classifiers have got it right or wrong over the years with this varied programme of potentially cut-able classics.
The season also ties in with an exhibition about the history of the BBFC and a centenary book mapping 100 years of film classification and controversy. Available from November, the book, Behind the Scenes at the BBFC: Film Classification from
the Silver Screen to the Digital Age , invites a range of writers from both inside and outside the BBFC's walls to help form a picture of what the BBFC is all about. The BBFC exhibition, at the BFI Southbank Atrium throughout November, uses
images and documents from the BBFC archives to bring to life the development of film classification over the past 100 years.
David Cooke, Director of the BBFC, said:
The BBFC's centenary gives us a double opportunity: to showcase our initiatives for making the BBFC a still more trusted and up to date guide to the public in the internet age; and to celebrate the sometimes controversial, sometimes quirky, but
always absorbing history of film classification in the UK. I am grateful to those who have made this film season possible, and especially to our industry partners and to the BFI. I am also grateful to the BFI for other collaborative work
including on the centenary book and exhibition. This will be a really fascinating film season, showcasing films which, as well as being important films in their own right, raised classification issues which in many cases go to the heart of the
balance between freedom of expression and the grounds for intervention. It also adds up to an unmissable slice of British culture and social history.