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All Things Film Censorship Related in Australia

HONDOHONDO Member, Wizard of Aus Posters Posts: 7,748 ✭✭✭✭✭ Elite Collector

The Wild One ( 1953 ) which was banned in both Britain and New Zealand was released in Australia in it's entirety rated only as Not Suitable For Children. Work that one out?

In Australia in 1948 all horror films of any kind were banned from import, and the ban lasted 20 years. !968 onward is when once banned horror films  such as The Werewolf, Creature With The Atom Brain, The Man Who Turned To Stone and Revenge Of Frankenstein were passed for public exhibition  years before the flood of horror titles being passed which started in November 1971 when the R certificate was introduced in Australia.

During the 20 year the ban on horror films was in place in Australia a very large undetermined number of horror films were banned in Australia and through my research it appears the majority, if not all, of the 1950s and 1960s titles involved received a release in New Zealand, either cut or released intact. Unlike his Australian counterpart the New Zealand censor apparently could tolerate them.

For Australian daybill collectors the sad thing is that the daybills that have surfaced for banned in Australia but released in New Zealand horror titles is that they are usually poorly designed duotone versions, which is a shame.

From an interview published in 1965 with the then Chief Australian Film censor Mr. Dick Prowse. Mr. Prowse was Chief Censor between 1964 and 1979.

Horror films of course had been banned for years, hadn't they?

''Yes we don't like them at all. I think the complete banning of them has taken place since about 1956. The then Chief Censor made inquiries from several people - including the heads of the various motion picture companies - and an agreement was drawn up between all concerned indicating that it would be better if this kind of thing were kept of the country.''

Under what regulation were the films banned?

''Undesirable in the public interest.''

There had , Mr. Prowse said, been no special clause inserted  into the regulations covering horror films.  ''The then Minister For Customs simply agreed to this banning being done''.




  • HONDOHONDO Member, Wizard of Aus Posters Posts: 7,748 ✭✭✭✭✭ Elite Collector
     1948 Australian newspaper advertisement. Though you would like to read of the then Chief Censors concern for Australian women's health.
  • CSM_2_Point_0CSM_2_Point_0 Member, Super Sleuth Posts: 985 ✭✭✭ Daybiller
    Horrific...think of all the wonderful daybill possibilities that were never to be

    There's a street of lights

    A long dark night
    Restaurant scenes
    And dark machines...

  • HONDOHONDO Member, Wizard of Aus Posters Posts: 7,748 ✭✭✭✭✭ Elite Collector

                                                               Some amazing statistics when our censors were being a little lazy. Although one film ( Jungle Captive ) was banned in 1945 compared to none in 1944 an interesting thing is in 1944  94.4% of films were passed by the censor in their entirety and this was the fewest number of films on record without cuts until then, but in 1945 98.3%, an even better result, was achieved for uncut and complete films. Prior to and after these two years of little censorship interference  bannings and cuts were more frequent and at times ran rampant.

  • HONDOHONDO Member, Wizard of Aus Posters Posts: 7,748 ✭✭✭✭✭ Elite Collector

    Printed in an  8th April, 1936 Australian newspaper. It has been said the British don't bath often but in this case of their films they were apparently bathing too much.

  • DavidDavid Member Posts: 10,181 admin
  • HONDOHONDO Member, Wizard of Aus Posters Posts: 7,748 ✭✭✭✭✭ Elite Collector

                             From a document originally located at the Australian Office of Film and Literature Classification ( OFLC ) website. Apparently the document was removed in 1999. Some information contained within the report is as follows -

    ''Extracts from ANNUAL REPORT 1925 to 1963.   


    FOR GENERAL EXHIBITION comes into being.


    Horror film complaints becoming prominent.  Publicity for such films to be endorsed SUITABLE ONLY FOR ADULTS. It has been observed that pictures of this kind big crowds,''

    It is my observation that 

    1)  Suitable only for adults was introduced for advertising of horror films, then at a later date used on all genre films deemed to fall into this category.

    2) in 1935 the censorship office admitted that horror films drew large crowds. In 1948 under a new chief censor announced that all  future horror films were to be banned from being shown in Australia. Apparently in 13 years from drawing large audiences we were then told in 1948 ''... their appeal extended only to a very limited section of the community.''        

    The Mammy daybill from 1930 appearing above features an early example of the newly introduced General Exhibition classification on posters and the Mark Of The Vampire from 1935 showing the boldly newly introduced Suitable Only For Adults rating.                                                   

  • PanchoPancho Member Posts: 580 ✭✭✭ Daybiller
    How was a 'horror' film defined? There are lots of daybills from that 20 year banned period that I would've classed as horror - '13 Ghosts' for example.
  • HONDOHONDO Member, Wizard of Aus Posters Posts: 7,748 ✭✭✭✭✭ Elite Collector

     Murders In The Rue Morgue  (1932)

    Oh how complicated was film censorship in Australia before  uniformed Australia wide censorship was introduced.

  • HONDOHONDO Member, Wizard of Aus Posters Posts: 7,748 ✭✭✭✭✭ Elite Collector
    Pancho said:
    How was a 'horror' film defined? There are lots of daybills from that 20 year banned period that I would've classed as horror - '13 Ghosts' for example.

    Not sure how the Australian censors defined a horror film or what their guidelines were but there were a lot of horror films released in the 20 year period that were definite horror films but the Australian censor removed the offending horror elements before they were released so they were no longer horror films ( ha ha ).
  • DavidDavid Member Posts: 10,181 admin

    First published in Severed Head #13.
    Written 10/1/1997 and reproduced here exactly as printed.
    Main Source: Shocking Cinema, Edited by Phil Edwards.

    What follows is a 'time-line' showing the main censorship-related events that have occurred in Australia over the last 100 years. Like the often-revised horror time-lines constructed by the Tabula Rasa crew, this one is merely as accurate as I can make it with the material currently at hand. A more complete and correct version may appear in the next Skintomb, but for now I hope that this first attempt provides a brief yet coherrant historical overview of censorship in this country.

    1908: The New South Wales government sets up Australia's first formal censorship guidelines under the Theatre and Public Halls Act. This was done in response to the perception that films were causing a rise in juvenile delinquency.

    1914: Following NSW's example, South Australia legislates its own censorship guidelines. Presumably the other states ran without formal censorship until 1917.

    1917: To counter-act variations between the guidelines in each state, a central body called the Commonwealth Film Censorship Board is established by the Federal government under the Customs Act. The details of this legislation and the make-up of the board are not known.

    1928: The government attempts to refine the censorship mechanism further by installing a three-person censorship board, led by a Chief Censor, and a three-person appeals board. After a mad scramble during which 1000 applications were evaluated, the role of Australia's Chief Censor went to Methodist lay-preacher Creswell O'Reilly. The establishment of governmental censorship in Australia contrasts strongly with the self-regulating US system, which was started in the late 1920's by the heads of ten major film studios. Their plan to control censorship from within the industry back-fired when the guy they hired, Will H. Haines, went on a 23-year self-righteous ego trip similar to Creswell's term. It is clear that the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) of today owes much of its prejudicies and rubber logic to Haines's outrageously moral restrictions. But that's another story.

    1928 to 1941: Chief Censor Creswell O'Reilly and his board go ape-shit and ban many movies, including DawnKlondike Annie (starring Mae West), Applause (it contained chourus girls), Compulsory Hands, Cape ForlornThe Ladies Man (sexual overtones), White Cargo (interracial theme), The Five Year Plan (discussed communism),All Quiet on the Western FrontGang BulletsEach Dawn I DieHell's Kitchen (three US ganster films), The King and the Chorus GirlThe Brith of a Baby ("not in the public interest"), Green PasturesSusan and God (blasphemy), Reefer Madness and Of Mice and Men (sex and violence in combination). O'Reilly was frequently criticised for his decisions.

    1942: For the first time horror films suffer heavy censorship at the hands of the new Chief Censor, Mr. J. O. Alexander. His bias against horror films, which were usually (and amazingly) passed by O'Reilly, caused several old classics to be outlawed: The Monster and the GirlThe Man with two LivesThe Invisible Ghost, and King KongFrankenstein,Dracula plus their sequeals were banned when they were resubmitted under the new classification system. The same fate befell all subsequently released horror movies.

    1956: The censorship board is increased in number from three to five members to cope with TV programmes. Adult shows such as Sunset StripWagon Train and 77 Sunset Stripare pruned and santitised for our television audience's consumption, as was The Outer Limits and Boris Karloff's Thriller.

    1957: Mr. Alexander is appointed Appeal Censor and Mr. C.J. Campbell from Customs becomes Chief Censor. The tight restrictions remain.

    1964 to 1970: Mr. R. J. Prowse is appointed Chief Censor and Campbell goes into the Appeals Board. During the liberal 1960's, the public realised that many high-quality films were being banned: The MiracleViridianaLa Dolce VitaSatyricon, The Silence,Blow Up and Zabriskie Point for example. PenthousePlayboy and Mayfair are declared prohibited imports and books by Harold Robbins and Ian Flemming were cut.

    1971: Customs Minister Don Chip kicks-off the development of a new classification system, which includes the much-needed R rating for adult content. Movies that were once banned, including the 1930's moster classics, are gradually released. The X rating is later introduced to cope with the upsurge in hardcore porn. Janet Strickland is one of the new censors appointed by Don Chip.

    1974: Janet Strickland becomes Deputy Chief Censor and remains in that position for three years before moving on to the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal.

    1980: Janet Strickland is appointed Chief Censor. It is said, even by Strickland herself, that under her control Australia experienced its greatest period of freedom.

    1984 (?): A governmental conference is held, resulting in the later abolition of X rated material in most Australian states. Ownership of hardcore porn remains legal.

    1986: Janet Strickland resigns as Chief Censor. It is not know who took her place.

    1988: Former journalist John Joseph Dickie, born 4th January 1941 becomes Chief Censor after working in the Attorney-Gerneral's department for 14 years. 1st February 1997 marked his nineth year in the top spot. Strickland has since been reported in the press as being critical of the Board's decisions under Dickie's leadership.

    1989: Consumer Advice comments are placed beside ratings symbols on every non-G classified item. Horror films are most often accompanied by "Horror Effects" or simply "Horror" as opposed to "Low/Medium/High Level Violence". The number of complaints about classification ratings from the public drops.

    1990: Gail Malone and the Queensland Film Board of Review, which had banned 174 films since 1974, for instance Dawn of the DeadNear DarkPrisonDay of the DeadThe Toxic AvengerRe-Animator and the M rated A Nightmare on Elm Street III, are abolished when the new Labour State Premier Wayne Goss is outraged that the Board banned an already censored version of Bad Taste after a three-week run in cinemas. Isolated cases of State censorship still occur from time to time. The Federal government's Committee on Violence, staffed by professionals such as Duncan Campbell (then Director of the Australian Insitute of Criminology) and Kim Dwyer of the SA Health and Welfare Child Protection Agency concluded in a report called Violence: Directions for Australia, "At the present time no direct causal link has been established between television violence and aggressive behaviour."

    Tripple-J FM are criticised for airing the song '#$*^%*! tha Police' by US rap band Niggers with Attitude (NWA), and 1960's rebel-turned-wowser Richard Neville slams The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover and Blue Velvet saying, "Who needs it?"

    1991: Customs officials raid the homes of a number of horror fans who are alledged to have banned films and publications. It is suspected that Customs were hunting down child and bestiality porn, not horror, but at least two people were prosecuted and fined for owning prohibited horror videos. American PsychoFinal Exit and Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (banned twice) cause problems for the censors.

    1992: X and R rated movies and programmes are banned from pay-TV by changes to the Broadcasting Services Act, despite an 82% approval result from a government-commissioned public survey. A special senate committee decide to ignore this advice in favour of imposing the additional restrictions. Deregulation of the pay-TV industry in July 1997 may overturn these decisions, or at least loosen them up a fraction. Pasolini's Salo: The 120 Days of Sodom is passed by the Board of Review after 17 years of prohibition. It is still unofficially banned from video release. WA and SA place restrictions on its distribution, and major cinema chains such as Birch Carrol & Coyle in Queensland refuse to show it in any of their multiplexes. The 1981 Chinese gore film Dr. Lamb is released with 11 minutes cut; even it's poster is banned.

    1994: A new rating, MA 15+, is introduced largely because of a push by Prime Minister Paul Keating, who was outraged that Crocodile Dundee and Cape Fear received the same classification (M). He also managed to bring the TV rating system in-line with the cinema/video system, imposing a 9:30pm start time for MA rated programmes.

    1995: X and R rated computer games are banned from general release under the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act. G, G8+, M, MA are the only legal ratings. X rated games are still easily available.

    Spore Whores #1, a horror comic by Steve Carter and Antoinette Rydyr, was seized by Customs and banned by the censors. Femosaur World, nabbed at the same time, was passed. A shipment containing Spore Whores #2 and #3 was recently intercepted by Customs; bans for both issues are expected.

    Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter is released on sell-thru video by the CIC Horror House label totally uncut. Initially banned, this film was cut heavily for its original release. The sell-thru print of Friday 13th Part 1 is a cut version, even though it was originally rated R uncut.

    The Office of Film and Literature Classification set up a web page to allow free access to classification decisions for the last 12 to 18 months. Previously this information was available in the Telecom Discovery network and before that in the Government Gazette and Cinema Papers.

    1996: Martin Bryant massacres 35 tourists at Port Arthur in Tasmania. The media blames the 2000 violent videos found at his residence, a claim that is later withdrawn, albeit with far less sensation. Another little-mentioned fact involved one of the illegal rifles Bryant used: it had been handed to VIC police a year earlier during one of their amnesties, and from there somehow found its way onto the black market. Nevertheless, advisory panels have been proposed by the Liberal Communications Minister Richard Alston that would represent the community's attitudes more accurately than the board members, who are said to have fallen out of touch with current trends. The board would still have final say on decisions, after consulting the panels. The Labour opposition spokesman Nick Bolkus responded to this move by saying, "I don't want John Howard selecting culture cops telling me what to read and watch."

    Penalties for downloading and distributing pornography on the Internet are hastily set at $10,000 and $20,000 (unsubstantiated) by Queensland and NSW. Other states have followed suit. Ironically, the Encyclopedia Brittanica contains a recipie for the same pipe-bomb that snuffed two people at the Atlanta Olympic Games. October: in Queensland, a man arrested for obtaining pornographic material through the Internet is aquitted on the grounds that the laws did not apply to that medium.

    David Cronenberg's Crash, based on J. G. Ballard's controversial novel, is passed uncut with an R rating. The same movie met with problems in the UK. Music CDs are assigned "18+ restricted" or "unrestricted" labels following a long debate that started with the confiscation of several death metal CDs in 1994.

    1997 and beyond: Under the Liberal (ha ha) government, tighter controls are bound to be imposed for the Internet, movies and literature.

  • HONDOHONDO Member, Wizard of Aus Posters Posts: 7,748 ✭✭✭✭✭ Elite Collector
     In addition to this information  the complete banning of horror films was introduced in 1948. The article also leaves out information regarding the easing of  censorship on horror films in around 1968, three years before the introduction of the R certificate in late 1971. In this three year period many films, that prior to this time would have been banned, were allowed into the country including Dracula has Risen From The Grave and also some previously banned horror films from the 1950's that were resubmitted and passed this time with the minor Not Suitable For Children classification, including The Werewolf, the Man Who Turned To Stone and Creature With The Atom Brain.
  • HONDOHONDO Member, Wizard of Aus Posters Posts: 7,748 ✭✭✭✭✭ Elite Collector

     The two scenes at the top are what we almost didn't get to view in the 1940 film Forty Thousand Horsemen. Thank goodness for the Minister of Custom's common sense in  overruling the appeal Censor's decision in what must have been a tough call for him to do.

  • HONDOHONDO Member, Wizard of Aus Posters Posts: 7,748 ✭✭✭✭✭ Elite Collector
    edited December 2016
                                                                                                                             Published in the Australian Women's Weekly  Wednesday 22 October 1958.
    Post edited by HONDO on
  • DavidDavid Member Posts: 10,181 admin
    Lawrence, Tip if the Day: You'll make it easier for everyone to read your comments if you start a new line after the image rather than beside it just press enter once you've added the image, then write your comment.
  • HONDOHONDO Member, Wizard of Aus Posters Posts: 7,748 ✭✭✭✭✭ Elite Collector

    Original Australian first release Censorship advice appearing in newspaper advertisement in 1933.

  • DavidDavid Member Posts: 10,181 admin
  • HONDOHONDO Member, Wizard of Aus Posters Posts: 7,748 ✭✭✭✭✭ Elite Collector
                                                                                                                                                                                              I found this editorial interesting so I thought others may enjoy reading it as well.
  • HONDOHONDO Member, Wizard of Aus Posters Posts: 7,748 ✭✭✭✭✭ Elite Collector
                                                                                                                                                                                     Sydney Sun newspaper  from Tuesday 20 January 1948.
  • HONDOHONDO Member, Wizard of Aus Posters Posts: 7,748 ✭✭✭✭✭ Elite Collector
    edited July 2017
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       May 8 1948, Argus newspaper Melbourne, Victoria. Note some content not relevant missing from the bottom of the story.
  • HONDOHONDO Member, Wizard of Aus Posters Posts: 7,748 ✭✭✭✭✭ Elite Collector

    Damaged Goods is a U.S. sexploitation film from 1937. The top colour poster on the top left side is how the film was advertised in the U.S.A. The Australian film Censor in 1939, the year the film was released, apparently decided the general public needed to be informed about the content of the film. The Censor's classification was "A story film emphasising  the seriousness of Venereal Disease. Not suitable for children under 14 years''. The remaining material above is from Australian newspaper advertisements from the release in 1939 and an Australian press sheet. There were even some ''For women only'' special sessions that were programmed at least for one cinema in Australia.

  • HONDOHONDO Member, Wizard of Aus Posters Posts: 7,748 ✭✭✭✭✭ Elite Collector

    D. Jekyll And  Mr. Hyde ( 1941 ). Rare Australian censorship rating printed on this poster.

  • HONDOHONDO Member, Wizard of Aus Posters Posts: 7,748 ✭✭✭✭✭ Elite Collector

     Canberra, A,C.T.

    Blackboard Jungle ( 1955 ). Note the double up of the censorship rating on the Australian daybill poster. There was advertising placed within Australian theatres screening Blackboard Jungle stating that children under 16 were not admitted to the screening, and a censorship snipe was applied to a U.S. lobby card used in Australia.

    For anyone interested, the changes made to allow viewing in Australia included the shortening the shot of a ''lady teacher's legs as she ascends steps to the auditorium stage'' and the scene of a ''lady school teacher lifting dress and adjusting suspenders on both stockings.'' Australian censors also abridged scenes including a #$*^%*!, an alley fight, and a classroom fight. A total of 165 feet of objectionable footage was excised from the film before being passed for screening in Australia.

     An offending scene the Australian censors applied their scissors to.

    And finally just to mention the Canadians apparently has some issues with the film as well,

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