By the time you read this [unless you are a devoted fan who logs on to the site ten times a day, in which case a) your appreciation is appreciated, and b) get a life], I will have waved goodbye to the other inhabitants here at TC Towers, and be on my way to parts foreign. This is largely an attempt to use up my holiday allowance before the looming Millennium Bug Thing causes the company to outlaw all time off, as a precursor to physically nailing employees to their seats from now until January 2000.
Things are therefore accelerating, in a typically pre-holiday style, with the number of things left to do increasing inversely to the amount of time left to do them. This editorial is one of those things, and you will never know how close you came to getting a page on the current foibles of my video recorder (I’ve preserved the title as a warning of your narrow escape). However, God decided to take his foot off my head for once, and threw me the inspirational equivalent of a slow long-hop, in the shape of the recent BBFC decision to allow the release of ‘The Exorcist’.
“And about bloody time too”, may be your first reaction, seeing how it’s been 25 years since it came out at the cinema, and we’re about the only country in the world who banned it (save Afghanistan, where they objected to Linda Blair not having a beard). On the BBFC website, you’ll find their press release, which is a beautiful masterpiece of double-think. In it, they burble on merrily, and completely fail to explain why it was unreleasable last year, yet is now apparently entirely appropriate for home viewing.
The reason is blindingly obvious to anyone who is even slightly aware of the BBFC’s mechanism and recent history. Has Britain suddenly become an atheist country which can tolerate blasphemy? No. Are teenage girls no longer at risk from this evil film? You’re getting warm; they never were to start with. Has James Ferman, defender of said teenage girls, and about the only man in Britain who gave a damn about the film, recently resigned from his position as head censor? Ah…could be…
It will be interesting to see whether we are now treated to the sight of the youth of Britain levitating over the beds, heads rotating like spin dryers, while they find novel uses for crucifixes [crucifii? crucifes?]. But I think what you’ll find is that, just as after ‘Crash’, just as after ‘Lolita’, and just as after any other “controversial” film, nothing much will change. Films just don’t affect society that way.
I’ve little doubt it’ll do very well on video, simply because of the notoriety banned films inevitably attract. However, it’s not a film I find shocking – perhaps it’s my non-religious upbringing, but while there were a couple of chilling moments, too much of it now seems derisory. On the plus side, it should at least stop people asking me if I can get them copies of the damn film, and Mark Kermode will now be able to sleep at nights after succeeding in his long-running campaign to remove the ban.
However, the lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away. And so do the BBFC. To follow up their removal of one title from the banned list, they added two more titles to it, a mondo documentary and Lucio Fulci’s ‘Cat in the Brain’. I’ve not seen the former, but the latter is precisely what you’d expect from a B-grade Italian horror movie: bad acting, a ludicrous plot and copious gore — as ever, it’s the violence against women which has raised the ire of the BBFC. Somehow, I doubt this one will achieve anywhere near the same level of notoriety outwith horror fandom.
So we still live in one of the most heavily-censored countries in Western Europe, which partly brings me back to the opening paragraph. The great thing about the BBFC can be summed up in two words: “personal importation”. They can ban films all they like, but unlike drugs, it remains totally legal to possess them. And rest assured, that I’ll be doing plenty of possessing on my return — just as soon as I can sit down after going through Customs… 🙂