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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 25, No. 7. 1962.

The Big Knife — Part Two of a Survey of Film Censorship in New Zealand

page 8

The Big Knife

Part Two of a Survey of Film Censorship in New Zealand

It is a little frustrating, when one passes a cinema, to see a poster outside in which some pneumatically built starlet has had her exposed charms covered with a strategic daub of paint which doesn't quite match the background. Or to see a large-scale fiend's face with the maggots dripping from the putrefying half carefully obliterated. Then there are the numerous cases of slack jawed moronic teenagers threatening each other from a crouching position in which their clenched hands are out in front of them — hands that once held flick-knives but are now smeared with paint.

It is obvious that the Censor has been at work again and one's morbid regret at missing some possibly salacious detail is tempered by the thought that at least it could have been worse — the whole poster might have disappeared.

The censorship regulations gazetted in 1956 require the Censor to examine publicity material as well as the films themselves. Not only are posters and stills subject to excision or outright suppression (and newspaper blocks are included) but the majority of posters and all newspaper advertising must carry adequate notification of censorship gradings. Under these regulations however, only pictorial publicity (and any written comments thereon) is subject to censorship, while newspaper letterpress is exempt. In 1960, for example, material for 392 films was examined; that for 166 films required 314 alterations and 634 posters were rejected outright.

Coming To This Theatre...

When you see a film a week or so after having seen the trailer, you wonder at the brilliance of the job done by the man who made the trailer in his success at suggesting more than the parent film delivers. It is obvious that being blatant advertising rather than sober information, the trailer is going to inflate its effects to excess in its attempts to sell. Hence the use of out-of-context scenes of violence, sex and glamour to whet the viewer's jaded appetite.

When the trailer of a restricted feature is shown in a programme which may consist mostly of (G) certificate material, the short cannot be treated to the privilege of the same grading as its parent— obviously. Trailers are therefore cut down to the (G) level; though that is not to say that they may not be banned altogether.

In 1957 for example, 195 excisions were made in 122 trailers (compared with 127 cuts in 98 trailers in 1956) provoking the Censor to comment wryly at the time that these figures must constitute. .." almost certainly an all-time record." But the next year, 1958's total was 308 cuts in 171 trailers and prompted his remark that this was". . an all-time record." This record was untouched by the 1959 figures (266 cuts in 156 trailers) hut surpassed in I960—492 excisions in 212 trailers. The Censor's remarks this time are unrecorded.

If this trend continues, one sees the possibility of no trailers whatever getting through unscathed, for in the 1961 Annual Report occurs the remark, "Trailers, as usual, required the heaviest cutting to qualify for (G) certificates."

Rejections and Appeals

What happens if the distributors submit a film for inspection and disagree with the Censor's decision, on either publicity, trailer, excision or rejection?

In this case they may appeal to a special three-member board who will view the disputed film (or other material) and judge the case on its merits, starting right from scratch. They may then amend the Censor's original decision or uphold it. Usually there is little need for the distributors to appeal, for they get, on the whole, a pretty fair deal. Each year, however, there is a small handful of appeals which is heard by the board. The following notes may be found in the Censor's annual reports.


In 1957. no features were banned, the only films which were refused certificates in the period being three ten-minute propagandist productions from Australia. Appeals were lodged with the Cinematograph Films Appeal Board and the Censor's decision was upheld on the first film, whereupon the two remaining appeals were withdrawn before hearing. An appeal against the deletion of a passage of commentary from a short Soviet film was rejected and the Censor's decision upheld.

The only other appeal concerned the Censor's projected treatment of a British feature, which he had offered to approve either with a (G) certificate if certain excisions were made, or with a (Y) certificate if no cuts were made. The appellant asked for a (G) certificate without excisions. The board upheld the latter course in favour of the appellant.



Four new films, including one 16mm feature (Unashamed), were subject to outright refusal of certificates in 1958. No appeal was lodged in respect of the 16mm rejection, the other three films were reviewed by the Appeal Board. The rejection of The Wild Party and The Delinquents was upheld and Chained For Life was released with a restricted certificate after some cutting.

Another film (No Orchids For Miss Blandish), the rejection of which had been upheld by the board early in 1949, was again submitted to the Censor. On re-examination he again rejected it and no further appeal was lodged against this decision. In another case, a feature (Cell 2455 Death Row) previously banned on appeal in 1955 was, after virtual re-editing by the company concerned, submitted to the Censor in its new form. After some further cutting it was approved with an (A) certificate.

Re-Editing and Resubmission

In 1959, seven new feature films, one 16mm feature and two trailers were refused certificates of approval. No appeal was made in respect of four of the features, viz., Blood of Dracula, Motor Cycle Gang, The Party Crashers, and Karamoja. The film Blood of Dracula after substantial re-editing was re-submitted as Blood Is My Heritage, and after further cutting was approved for exhibition with an R:16 certificate. The 16mm feature, Karamoja had been refused a certificate previously in 35mm.

Appeals were lodged in respect of the other four of the rejected features. The Board upheld the Censor's rejections of I was a Teenage Werewolf, Tictaban and High School Confidential. The appeal in respect of the fourth, Naked Paradise, was allowed and the film approved with an (A) certificate after substantial cutting.

In another film, Cry Terror, the Censor issued a certificate restricting screenings to persons 16 and over, required certain cuts to be made and rejected the trailer. An appeal was lodged and the board upheld the Censor's decision in respect of the restricted certificate, rejected the trailer, but allowed fewer excisions than the Censor had required.

The trailer for the film Portland Expose was rejected and no appeal lodged. An appeal lodged in respect of Jet Pilot was withdrawn by the appellant. No appeals were received regarding publicity material rejected.

A Vintage Year

The following year, 1960, fourteen films, nineteen trailers and one advertising short were refused certificates of approval. No appeal was lodged in respect of the following five features and twelve trailers:

I Was A Teenage Frankenstein (feature)

Return Of The Fly (trailer)

The Cool And The Crazy (feature and trailer)

The Fantastic Disappearing Man (trailer)

I Mobster (trailer)

The Screaming Skull (trailer)

Riot In A Juvenile Prison (trailer)

The Shameless Sex (trailer)

It, The Terror From Beyond Space (trailer)

Teenage Doll (feature and trailer)

Elysia (feature and trailer)

Teenage Monster (feature)

Passport To Shame (trailer)

Macabre (trailer)

The following two features and three trailers and the advertising short were later resubmitted, after substantial re-editing, and approved in the amended form:

Dragstrip Riot (feature and trailer)

High School Hellcats (feature and trailer)

Adam And Eve (trailer)

Seven features and two trailers were subject to appeal. The appeals were allowed in the following two cases both in respect of features and trailers.

I Want To Live: Approved for exhibition to persons 16 and over after certain excisions.

Call Girls: Approved for exhibition to persons 16 and over after certain excisions.

The Board of Appeal upheld the Censor's decisions in respect of the following five features and two trailers:

Beat Generation (feature and trailer)

How To Make A Monster (feature and trailer)

Teenage Wolfpack (feature)

The Last Mile(feature)

The Wild One (feature)

Horrible, isn'T it?

Horrible, isn'T it?

A still from the British film Circus of Horrors—a scene not in the film.

The last-named film, The Wild One, was submitted to and rejected by both Censor and Appeal Board for the third time. No appeals were received regarding publicity material rejected.

More Rejections And Appeals

Last year, thirteen feature films, sixteen trailers two 16mm features and one short and nine television films were refused certificates of approval. Appeals were lodged in respect of four feature films and one television film. Two of the feature films rejected were later resubmitted after substantial re-editing and were approved in their amended form.

Appeals against the Censor's classification of the feature film Dark At The Top Of The Stairs and the short Polygamous Polonius were allowed while one against excisions required by the Censor in the feature My World Dies Screaming was dismissed. Appeals against his rejection of Girl's Town. The Pusher, This Rebel Breed and Peeping Tom were dismissed. The appeal against the rejection of the television film Jockey Underwear was allowed.

Appeals against the rejection of certain posters for the films Doctor In Love, Make Mine Mink and Hell To Eternity were allowed in whole or in part.

(The final article in this series will appear in the next issue.)