When The Temple Of Doom Tested The BBFC's Love Of Spielberg And Lucas

I don't know if the BBFC are supposed to go about their duties certificating movies with impartiality or not, but you might assume it would be for the best. Still, they're only human and they have their favourites, like the rest of us.

Seems that the board were rather into ET, Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark. But did they let this cloud their judgment of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom? Here are a couple of interesting excerpts from the BBFC's notes on the film, providing some justification for their suggested edits:

There can be few films to which members of the BBFc looked forward with more pleasure than the sequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark, one of the great masterpeices of kids' entertainment and possibly the most thrilling adventure film ever made. it is thus with real sadness, indeed bordering on despondency, that we  found ourselves, unanimously, confronted with the realistaion that Reels 4 and 5 of this sequel go so far beyond the limites of the British 'PG' category that the film cannot be considered for a junior audience without cuts.

To tamper in any way with a Spielberg-Lucas film seems a sacrilege, and I hope that our previous handling of their work is an indication of the respect and admiration we have for the them. The BBF gave a 'U' certificate to ET and to the Star Wars trilogy, while the MPAA made them all 'PG'. In this country, we could simply not bring ourselves to attach to any of these smashing movies the warning: "Some scenes may be unsuitable for young children." In the case of ET we overlooked a few mild, muttered expletives as well as the potential scariness white coated-technicians and the profound sadness of ET's death, because the overwhelming mood and message of the film was to recreate the wonder of childhood and to endorse all the hopes and dreams of children for a loving and benevolent world.

Specific reasoning from individual board members comes later. Here's a stand-out moment:

by the end of Reel 4, with its unrelenting emphasis on violence, blood and sheer noise, I was feeling very alarmed – and the violence of Reel 5 compounded my worries about the possible effect, not just on small kids but on 13 and 14-year olds. Kids like to be scared, sure – but not scared so much that they hide under their seats or have nightmares night after night about human sacrifice and men having their hearts torn out.

The report closes out with some conclusions by the board's then secretary, James Ferman. For those who remember the hysteria over so-called video nasties, this will place the decision into a cultural context for you:

In Britain, the violence in Reel 5 is as much a problem as the ritual terror in Reel 4, with the hero himself, having been first suborned by magic to the side of evil (and with the withering blow he strikes at Shortie must shatter the confidence of every trusting child in the audience), being able to once more to champion the cause of right only by becoming as brutally violent as his enemies. In England now, with a universal outcry against the increasing violence of American films and video, this glorification of violence for a junior audience is very worrying indeed.

I do like that the BBFC are being a little more open and sharing items from their archives. The better we can peer inside, the more closely we can read their machinery, I think.

A freshly uncut Temple of Doom has been passed with a 12 certificate for the new Blu-ray release, out in UK stores right now. The whole version of the film is to make its commercial big screen debut next month, as part of the BFI's Uncut season, curated by… Mark Kermode and his wife, Professor Linda Ruth Williams. Yeah, I should have seen that coming.

Tickets went on sale today for a program that also includes:

  • Pink Flamingos
  • Crash
  • Enter the Dragon
  • The Evil Dead
  • Sick
  • The Devils – Director's Cut
  • Maitresse
  • Shock Corridor
  • No Orchids For Miss Blandish
  • Cape Fear (1962)
  • Blackboard Jungle
  • Irreversible
  • This Is England
  • The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas
  • Island Of Lost Souls
  • The Killer Inside Me
  • Trash
  • The Killing Of Sister George

Note: no Exorcist, despite its interesting history with the BBFC. Was never really a case of 'cuts' though.

I would have liked to have seen Spoorloos included, I think, and A Serbian Film. Straw Dogs too. Any more?

I didn't see the uncut Temple of Doom until a few years ago. I too would have considered it a bit rich for a PG film. Of course, I wish Paramount would have bitten the bullet and released it as a 15 in the first place, at least as well as in a PG edit. With DLP projection, perhaps this is going to be more of an option these days. I'll be curious to see if this actually does effect release patterns at all.