Alas! Dutch director Tom Six’s The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) has been refused a certificate by the BBFC in the first outright ban handed down to a mainstream film since 2009.
The Board’s beef with Six’s horror sequel stems from the apparently staggering quantity of sexual violence in the piece, which the censor claims poses a “real risk” to cinemagoers. As this is a pre-watershed sort of site I can’t go into too much detail about Centipede II’s shock set pieces, but it’s enough to say that anyone who gets to see the film will come away from it looking at barbed wire, sandpaper and their own bottoms very differently indeed.
Indeed, the BBFC get to the heart of the matter in their press release announcing the ban, lamenting the “sexual arousal of the central character at both the idea and the spectacle of the total degradation, humiliation, mutilation, torture and murder of his naked victims”. Kung Fu Panda 2, this ain’t.
In fact, sexual violence seems to be the BBFC’s current bugbear. After all, the last non-porn film to face the wrath of their “rejected” stamp was the Japanese movie Grotesque, which consists of little more than 90 minutes of sexualised torture.
Where once films fell afoul of the censor owing to blasphemy laws or even too much effin’ and blindin’, these days linking extreme sex and violence on screen is the surest way to get the Board hot under the collar. It’s interesting to trace shifts in public morality through bans imposed on films and find out which other taboos have threatened to deprave and corrupt the public over the decades:
The Trip was a little ‘60s Roger Corman movie that featured Dennis Hopper initiating Peter Fonda into the weird and wonderful pastime of getting wrecked on acid. James Ferman, the former Director of the BBFC, is quoted as saying that The Trip was “in the wrong hands, a tremendous advert for LSD”, and one which the Board kept banned from 1967 to 2002.
Monty Python’s Biblical romp, Life of Brian, is regarded as a comedy classic these days but it attracted few laughs from local council and moralising busybodies back in 1979, who insisted that the life of Jesus Christ was nothing to giggle about and imposed localised bans on the film, some of which lasted decades. Reports of the Pythons being demonised as “very naughty boys” were probably just tabloid jokes, though…
Bumfights: Cause for Concern, a truly despicable film that caused a stink in the early years of this century, took cynical exploitation to new heights. Featuring a lot of snickering frat boy types convincing homeless and vulnerable people to fight each other for rocks of crack or bottles of booze in front of their cameras, the whole work is an exercise in cruelty. Thanks to a strong ad campaign on the internet before its release, the Board pounced on this when it was submitted and damned its makers for “taking pleasure in pain and humiliation”.
Faces of Death, Traces of Death, Banned from Television – over the decades there have been numerous “shock-doc” videos that consist of little more than grisly footage of real-life deaths, accidents and other gory scenes taken out of context and presented as nauseating morbid collages. Faces of Death is probably the best-known example, having been caught up in the video nasties scandal, and was kept out of British hands by the Board on the grounds that it and its imitators had no “respect for the dignity of real human life.”
Would you believe that Peter Cook and Dudley Moore made a film that the censor branded obscene? Yes, as hard as it is to believe, their 1979 comedy Derek and Clive Get the Horn was rejected by the BBFC in 1980 owing to the barrage of f***s and c***s uttered by Pete ‘n’ Dud. Tame by today’s post-Thick of It standards of bad language, the film is fondly remembered as the only surviving footage of the comedians in their Derek and Clive guise.
The Exorcist managed to spark off a lot of controversy by playing on some very ancient fears. As the BBFC pointed out in the 1990s before it was finally released on video, the film had resulted in “severe emotional problems” in some audiences “who believe in the reality of demonic possession and satanic practices.” Unlike a lot of banned films, the Exorcist did at least earn some praise from the Board, who claimed that it was all the more disturbing for being “so convincing and effective”.
1977’s Fight for Your Life holds the distinction of being the only film to have made the DPP’s video nasties list on the basis of language alone. William Sanderson plays a racist escaped convict who terrorises a turn-the-other-cheek Christian black family for about 80 minutes of screen time with every racial epithet under the sun before finally getting his comeuppance. It has never been rehabilitated and remains banned in the UK, and even from the trailer looks like a thoroughly depressing watch.
Most films that get banned end up rehabilitated years down the line as people get more blasé about on-screen offences to morality, which has been the case for most of the titles noted here. Will we look back at The Human Centipede II as a misunderstood classic in years to come? Will it be reappraised as metaphor, like the ultra-grim A Serbian Film? Or will it always remain just a trashy little straight-to-DVD shocker? Whatever the verdict of posterity, Human Centipede II’s now in an exclusive club: it mightn’t be up there with Citizen Kane, but it’s nestled in nicely next to Driller Killer and Cannibal Holocaust.