Melon Farmers Original Version

Mrs. Doubtfire

Detailed BBFC cuts


Cutting Edge Season 5 Episode 60: Mrs. Doubtfire...

Cunning linguistics cut for a BBFC PG rating

Link Here 30th November 2019

Mrs. Doubtfire

By Gavin Salkeld


Anne Fine's 1987 novel, Madame Doubtfire was famously turned into the 1993 film Mrs. Doubtfire , which was directed by Chris Columbus and starred the late Robin Williams. Williams plays Daniel Hillard, who assumes the identity of a female Scottish housekeeper in order to spend time with his children following a divorce from his wife. The Oscar-winning film was a huge financial success, making $441 million against its $25 million budget. It was released in the United States on November 24th, 1993 with a PG-13 rating for:

"Some sexual references."  


Using a personal jackhammer to propose cuts for PG

The film was submitted to the BBFC in the UK in 1993 with a request for a PG rating, but the Board went on to issue the film with a 12 for its sexual references. The film's distributors, 20th Century Fox, were unhappy with the BBFC's decision, and discussions ensued with a view to editing the film down for a more commercial PG rating, which would allow under-12s to attend.


Cut Scenes: Cunning linguistics: Proposed cuts for PG

After a period of discussion between the BBFC and the filmmakers, it was decreed that the sole section of the film that pushed it into 12 territory was the scene where Daniel (in the guise of Mrs. Doubtfire) speaks to his ex-wife's boyfriend Stu in a restaurant towards the end of the film. The BBFC's director at the time, the infamous James Ferman, suggested three cuts in this scene that would remove all but the tamest of sexual innuendo, which the Board felt went beyond public expectations of the British PG rating. Here is a rough transcript of the dialogue in the uncut version of the scene as it was presented to the BBFC:  

Mrs. Doubtfire: That's a pretty impressive bauble you got her.

Stu: Oh, thank you, thank you.

Mrs. Doubtfire: A fella gives a gift like that, he wants more than a piece of her heart, eh? A bit of a going-down payment, huh?

Stu: Excuse me?

Mrs. Doubtfire: You know, dear. Sink the sub. Hide the weasel, park the porpoise? A bit of the old humpty dumpty? Little Jack Horny? The horizontal mambo? Hmmm?

Stu: Mrs Doubtfire--

Mrs. Doubtfire: The bone dance, eh? Rumpleforeskin? Baloney bop? A bit of the old cunning linguistics? Hmmm?

Stu: Mrs Doubtfire, please!

Mrs. Doubtfire: Oh dear, no, I'm sorry, am I being a little graphic? Sorry. I hope you're up for a little competition.

Stu: I beg your pardon?

Mrs. Doubtfire: She's got a power tool in the bedroom, dear. It's her personal jackhammer, she could break a sidewalk with that thing. She uses it and the lights dim, it's like a prison movie. Amazed she hasn't chipped her teeth. I hope you bring cocktail sauce. She's got the crabs, dear, and I don't mean Dungeness. I'm being blunt as a spoon, aren't I? Forgive me.

For the filmmakers to get a PG rating in Britain, Ferman demanded:

"In scene in restaurant when Mrs Doubtfire is left with man, reduce her references to his sexual intentions and the sexual appetite of his intended by removing lines as follows:

a) after reference to "humpty dumpty" remove further descriptions of sex, "Little Jacky Horny, the horizontal mambo .... the old cunnilinguistics";

b) shortly after, remove "I hope you are up to a little competition - she's got a power tool in the bedroom ... it's amazing she hasn't chipped her teeth";

c) soon after, remove "She's got the crabs and I don't mean Dungeness"."


In the end, Fox did not want to make the necessary cuts and James Ferman maintained that a 12 rating was more appropriate for the film. As a result, Fox reluctantly accepted the higher rating without cuts and Mrs. Doubtfire was released in UK cinemas in early 1994 with a 12 rating, where it played for around five months. But then events took an interesting turn.


Crabby in Dungeness: They're not happy with the 12 rated release...

As we have previously discussed, the BBFC in the UK classifies films (that is, movies for exhibition in cinemas) on behalf of local authorities, which grant licenses to cinemas in their respective areas. Although such an occurrence is rare, these local authorities are free to overrule the BBFC's decisions on film; either by changing the BBFC's rating or by banning a film from exhibition. More information on this legislation can be found on the BBFC's website and is worth reading.

After the initial theatrical release of Mrs. Doubtfire, the BBFC received several letters from members of the British cinema-going public and cinema owners that questioned the BBFC's decision to grant the film a 12 rating, with various parties arguing that the 12 was too restrictive. As the BBFC's annual report for 1994-95 revealed:

"The American colloquialisms had not only gone over the heads of children, but of many adults as well. [The distributors] conceded that [the sexual references] had been inserted solely to achieve a 'PG-13' in America, where it was considered a more commercial rating than the blander 'PG'."

A letter from a cinema in Scunthorpe informed the BBFC that it had requested its local authority to watch the film with a view to downgrading it to PG; a request that was later approved without issue. The leader of the viewing panel was quoted as saying that the panel:

"...found the film humorous, entertaining, sentimental and wholesome family fun."  


Similar decisions were reached around the UK, with 38 local authorities that covered 66 cinemas granting an uncut PG rating for Mrs. Doubtfire.


So the rumpled foreskin had to be removed for PG

20th Century Fox took note of these events and requested that the BBFC reconsider its decision to classify the film with a 12 rating.


Cut Scenes: Cunning linguistics: Actual cuts for PG

As a result, on March 16th, 1994, BBFC director James Ferman decreed that only one of the three cuts that had originally been proposed for a PG rating needed to be made. This suggestion was sent to director Chris Columbus (pictured above) for his approval, and in April an agreement was made to make this one cut for a PG rating. For the UK theatrical PG version, James Ferman demanded:  

"In restaurant scene, when 'Mrs Doubtfire' describes his wife's sexual habits to her new boyfriend, reduce detailed references to sex by cutting away after the phrase "rumpty humpty" to remove the series of rude slang expressions: "Little Jack Horny, the horizontal mambo, baloney bop, rumpled foreskin ...a bit of the old cunning linguistics," resuming on man's astonished face before his line 'Mrs Doubtfire, please!'"

Following the BBFC granting a PG rating to the cut version, the 12-rated version was withdrawn from all British cinemas and replaced with the censored version, which had been classified on May 6th , 1994 after 13 seconds of cuts. At the time we went to print, the BBFC website contained no record of the original 12-rated cinema version having ever been classified.


Doing the Baloney Bop on VHS and DVD

Mrs Doubtfire VHS

From here onwards, the UK home video situation becomes a little less than straightforward. To begin with, the pre-cut UK cinema version was submitted for a UK VHS release where it was passed PG without further cuts on July 8th, 1994 and again on January 15th, 1997. Sometime in 2000, Mrs. Doubtfire was seen by the BBFC again for its initial widescreen DVD release, after being submitted without a specific request for a rating. Perhaps surprisingly, the BBFC decreed that the film could receive an uncut PG rating. However, Fox formally withdrew this submission because they had already begun proceeding with the assumption of having to master and author the cut version for a DVD release in the UK.  


A slightly different cut was released on DVD by Fox in the UK. This same cut master was also released in Australia.


A pre-cut version of the film was later resubmitted and passed by the BBFC with a PG rating on June 18th, 2001 and was released on DVD that summer in the UK. Although this version of Mrs. Doubtfire was censored, the cuts did not exactly match those decreed by James Ferman for the censored UK cinema version. A comparison of the subtle differences between the original UK cinema version and the recut DVD can be seen in the video below. In any case, the cut UK DVD of Mrs. Doubtfire was also released in Australia, much to the annoyance of cinephiles in Region 4 who had been able to enjoy the film uncut since its first release.


Cuts restored in 2003: Viewers could once again enjoy cunning linguistics

In 2003, Fox submitted a widescreen print of Mrs. Doubtfire to the BBFC once again for another DVD release, only this time in its uncut version. The company did not request a desired rating, but the BBFC maintained that the film could be passed uncut at PG as they had decreed in 2000. Although the BBFC had a policy at the time that would not allow cut- and uncut versions to be released at the same time in the UK, that policy applied only to films being released with differing ratings. Since both the cut and uncut versions of Mrs. Doubtfire would now both be passed at PG, this policy did not apply, and as a result the uncut version was passed with a PG rating on November 5th, 2003, with the BBFC noting that the film:  

"Contains mild language and sex references."

Mrs Doubtfire Family Fun Edition

A new special edition DVD of Mrs. Doubtfire came out in the UK in late 2007, which was entitled the Family Fun Edition. This was effectively a retitled version of the special edition released in the States, where it was known as the Behind the Seams Edition. This version of the film was also uncut.

Numerous versions of Mrs. Doubtfire surfaced on optical media in the UK in the following years, including a UMD release for the PSP in the spring of 2009. In 2011, the film was released as part of a triple film set containing Big and Dr. Dolittle, with the set sporting a PG rating. Presumably, this set contained the uncut version of Mrs. Doubtfire, given its release date.


A selection of some of the later releases of the film in various guises.


Yet another DVD set featuring Mrs. Doubtfire arrived in late 2014 as part of the PG-rated Robin Williams Family Film Collection , which also contained Toys, Night at the Museum and its sequel. Again, the version of Mrs. Doubtfire that was included was likely to have been the same as the uncut 2003 PG DVD. At the time this episode was made, however, Cutting Edge was not immediately able to confirm the cuts status of the films contained in these two sets.

Mrs. Doubtfire was resubmitted to the BBFC for a Blu-ray classification in November 2012 with a request for a PG rating. The BBFC informed the film company that the sexual references were now too strong for PG when tested against their most recent guidelines (which had changed since the film's 2003 submission), and as a result the BBFC recommended an uncut 12 rating. The film company judged this to be acceptable, and Mrs. Doubtfire was passed without cuts on Christmas Eve, with the Board stating that the film:

"Contains moderate sex references."


Am I being a little too graphic for a modern PG?

To date, the most recent time Mrs. Doubtfire was seen by the BBFC was when it submitted for a UK cinema classification in the autumn of 2014 in its uncut version. The film was passed without cuts on September 25th with a 12A rating, with the Board noting that the film contained:

"Moderate sex references, rude gestures."  

So, after the many different releases of Mrs. Doubtfire on home video, where do you, the British viewer, go to obtain the uncut version? In short, the best release to get is the UK Blu-ray release, which is fully uncut with a 12 rating. Whilst one or two of the DVD releases may be uncut for one reason or another, the Blu-ray disc's video quality, audio quality and special features improve upon the DVD versions in every respect, although the original DVD releases contain an audio commentary that is omitted from the Blu-ray releases. British fans looking for this extra may wish to import the uncut Region 1 DVD for completion's sake.


Cutting Edge Video, Season 5, Episode 60: Mrs. Doubtfire

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