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Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Once Legal, Now Banned!

Oh dear,

You have to feel sorry for followers of extreme cinema, over in Australia. Not only do they have to contend with differing censorship standards in different territories of the country, but what may be legal to own or purchase one day, can suddenly become illegal and obscene the next! Anyone who can collect controversial cinema in that country, deserves a medal, for keeping-up with these ever evolving censorship decisions!

Controversial shocker THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE II (FULL SEQUENCE) (2010, Tom Six) was originally passed uncut - a first for any legal censorship organisation anywhere around the globe - on 5th September 2011 - only for the meddling fingers of the New South Wales District Attorney, Greg Smith, and Australia's Justice Minister Mr Brendan O'Connor, to ask the Australian Classification Review Board (ACRB) to ban the film.

As of Monday 28th November 2011, the ACRB officially withdrew the R18+ adults only certificate, and replaced it with an RC "Refused Classification" on the grounds that the film's violence levels were intolerably high in impact, gratuitous, exploitative and offensive, as well as being "cruel". (An interesting choice of words!)

Outside of the Melbourne International Film Festival, most cinemas have refused to play the film, concerned over how their business may be affected on a both a local level, and nationally too. Adverse reaction from local people, politicians and media outlets, has caused many cinemas to simply refuse to programme the film, in case a backlash occurs, that could cripple them financially, or result in pariah status. In such economically-challenging times, this is the last thing that cinema managers are wanting to deal with!)

As such, the only country that had allowed HC2 to play uncut in theatres, has now reneged on that, and forced the film underground, in a decision that reeks of political matchmaking!

Even here, in little old England, although a few papers printed largely negative articles about the film, the director and the content, the film has largely remained under-the-radar. HMV - an international chain of high-street music and film retailers, sold the film in their stores, from 31st October 2011, without any major issues, and the film has now been made available from all other outlets, including as of last week. Again, without substantial problems or complaints.

I suspect that by the New Year, the film's notoriety will have predominantly faded away, and will have been replaced by another cinematic bete-noire.

It's a real shame that Australia has a certification system, that is both incredibly backwards and a logistical nightmare. Passing a film one day, and then banning it the next, makes it impossible for fans to collect anything vaguely controversial, for fear they will be caught out as owners of "banned" materials - something that can command nasty repurcussions in terms of hefty fines, and/or prison sentences. It also means that film distributors will prepare theatrical prints or large volumes of DVD's and/or Blu-Rays, only to find that a previously legal title, suddenly becomes a legal no-go.

Previously controversial films like CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST and SALO, have both had a yo-yo effect through the Australian Censorship system, over the years, being legal, then banned, then cut, then banned once more. For a country that has such a similar censorship system to the UK, it's a shame they don't model it on ours a little more closely. Over here, a film is either legal, or it isn't. Once a certificate has been issued, it cannot be repealed except under extremely major circumstances.

Even collecting so-called "Video Nasties" or banned titles is generally considered acceptable, as long as your collection is for your own, private and personal viewing. If you import controversial films, then whilst there is a small risk attached to that, for the vast majority of the time, you will be perfectly safe. Only if you start to sell these films, breach copyright by uploading them, or pass them onto minors, will the legal system have its wicked way with you. But view such material as passive entertainment, as a mature, adult, and you'll be left alone.

There's no regional censorship laws to be concerned with: a film is legal in any part of the UK, under the British Board of Film Classification, providing it has a BBFC certificate attached to it. And even if it doesn't, then - once more - as long as the material is not legally "obscene", nor of a "sexually violent" nature, then you won't be bothered by the police or the legal system.

I have been collecting banned and controversial films, since 1997, or thereabouts. I do own material that would - to an outsider - be considered sick or depraved. Morally-reprehensible? Probably. (SNUFF 102 anyone?) But, as a law-abiding, and quiet individual, who only enjoys watching these films on his own, as a responsible, respectable adult, then there's no real problems that I need concern myself with, and certainly nothing that any one else need be concerned with either.

Many people would complain about the BBFC in years past, but since James Ferman's reign ended some 15 years ago, the BBFC have matured, and for the most part, do stick to their rule of "classifiying" rather than "censoring" films for adults. There are still many people who feel that the BBFC is more censorial, simply because they do occasionally ban or cut films, and as a collector of extreme cinema - and purveyor of this very blog - I do get frustrated at times. Yet, with that all said and done, at least if I keep my proverbial nose clean, and don't break the laws by committing illegal acts and subsequently blaming such crimes on violent cinema, then the law leaves me well alone, and I can continue to enjoy controversial cinema.

I know where I stand when I import a controversial movie. I know what my legal rights are. I know what is legal to own, what isn't, and what the repurcussions could be for me, if the worst did happen. (Technically, someone sending me a Region 1 edition of the "GUINEA PIG" series on DVD through the UK postal system, is a breach of law, but like I say, it's what you do with that DVD upon receipt that matters more, than the content.) As such, I do not fear the law, and I know that I am safe to collect the kinds of films I do.

If only that same kind of assurance, could be given to Australian movie fans...

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

A Word Of Advice To Lazy UK Journalists!


I just wanted to Thank Dave and all of the staff over at the  Melon Farmers  site, for their link to my "Uncoiling The Human Centipede II" article! It was greatly appreciated! I urge all of my blog fans, to go visit their site, which has many great stories about all aspects of censorship, post-haste!

Right, politeness-cap off, and rant-mode on!

Now, there are a few websites that are posting negative, jokey - actually more like snidey - stories about HUMAN CENTIPEDE II's poor performance at UK cinemas, and I felt it was sensible and important to put this so-called "news" into some sort of context.The original report can be seen  here  but those of you following HC2's UK release, will know it's been heavily cut, and has pretty much gone straight to DVD, with only a tiny cinema release.

Playing on just ten screens across the entire country, and predominantly at once-off, late-night festival screenings, the film has taken just £942 ($1500 approx) at the UK Box Office, over its opening weekend. That's just in ten, individual showings, not ten screens playing the film three or four times a day, over the three day opening weekend!

Now, I don't doubt that that is abysmal, when most films take in millions of pounds/dollars, but what this "report" has failed to bother to state, is that in the USA, THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE II has been doing very well, thank you very much! So far, the film has taken some $49,456 (US) in its Opening Weekend, playing on just 18 screens, and up until the end of last month, had taken in a rather healthy $118,471 (US) in total. Which is not actually that bad for a film that has barely been shown anywhere around the world.

Journalists of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland: If you are going to write a story, based on substandard evidence, to tell a one-sided and totally misguided article, that your readers can joke about, whilst sipping their frappacino's or caffe latte's, then please - do us all a huge favour - stop writing immediately! There are people out there, like me, that will find you out, disprove your so-called evidence, with just a few clicks of a mouse, and not only will you end up with egg on your face, you'll also look a bit of a twit at the same time!

I despair, I truly do!

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Uncoiling "The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence)"!

Tom Six’s original horror classic went down in history, as one of the most shocking and original films seen in the genre. It caused a lot of complaints, especially from the “Daily Mail” brigade, and ruffled many a feather, but the BBFC granted the film full and uncut status. It become a cult hit, and made Six a career-defining name.

Now, we have the sequel. And this time, it’s even more grotesque!

Back in 2010, Six had warned critics, censors and fans, that the sequel would not be an easy ride. When the finished film was then submitted to the BBFC in June 2011, the BBFC looked at it, and Rejected it soon after. At the time, they said:

“Unlike the first film, the sequel presents graphic images... and the viewer is invited to witness events from the perspective of the protagonist. The principal focus... is the sexual arousal of the central character... the spectacle of the total degradation, humiliation, mutilation, torture, and murder of his naked victims. It is the Board’s conclusion that (the film) poses a real, as opposed to a fanciful, risk that harm is likely to be caused to potential viewers. It is the Board’s view that there is a genuine risk that this video work may be considered obscene within the terms of the Obscene Publications Act...”

As soon as this Press Report was made public, fans were aghast and shocked that the BBFC really believed that a film could be considered so depraved, as to genuinely be obscene (under the legal definition of the word). Six himself, was also very angry at the way the PR release made public large amounts of detail about the film’s content, when it was not going to be released in the UK at all. Eureka Films, more famous in the UK for their “Masters Of Cinema” releases, suddenly found themselves corralled into a gigantic furore: they had their hands on a film that could not now be shown in the UK, under any circumstances! (At the time, the film had only been submitted for home viewing, and not theatrical showings.) Worse still, Eureka was one of many small, niche distributors who had already suffered severe financial hardship, after the London Riots over the summer had destroyed the Sony DADC distribution plant in Enfield, destroying millions of pounds worth of independent label stock. A crisis was now in full force!

Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe, the Office of Film And Literature Classification (OFLC) in Australia – their equivalent of the BBFC – had, rather shockingly, passed THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE II completely uncut and uncensored for theatrical distribution! This was a double surprise, as Australia is a fairly censorious nation, and normally the OFLC are far stricter than the BBFC, and rarely pass material that the BBFC wouldn’t. An infamous teaser trailer was quickly leaked online, which went global, promoting the UK banning, and the insidious and depraved nature of the film, whilst simultaneously gloating that Australia would be the first country to see the film in its complete form.

Roll forward exactly four-months-to-the-day, and with the film not making an appearance in Australia, due to fear of fallout from the film’s notoriety, the BBFC announced that they had agreed a version of the film that Eureka could release, both theatrically and for home viewing. The cost came at a high price: 32 separate cuts, across eight particular scenes, with 2m 37s worth of material being excised! At last, the film could now be shown and released in the UK.

Back in Australia, the film still hadn’t premiered, but a date was eventually announced for it as the 5th November 2011 at the Brisbane International Film Festival. Here in the UK, a theatrical release was pretty much cancelled, other than a couple of late-night festival showings in London, and the public at large finally got to see what all the fuss was about on the 31st October, when the film was given a release on DVD and Blu-Ray as an HMV Exclusive. (It will then be launched elsewhere, and be available online at Amazon, from the 21st November!)

So, with all of that said and done, what have we been left with? Is this film actually any good?

The film follows Martin, a socially and mentally-challenged man in his mid-forties, who works as a security guard at a Central London car park. It is here that during his shifts, he watches the original THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE movie endlessly on DVD, whilst secretly fantasising about creating his own deviant “centipede”, with which to sexually satisfy himself. When not watching the film, he has his personal scrapbook to indulge in, containing photos and plans of his unholy creation, as well as explicit details of how he intends to create it, much of which has been duplicated from Dr Heiter’s own work in the first film.

At home, living in a squalid council flat, with his mum, we learn that Martin’s a little unhinged, as he was sexually abused by his father. Father is now serving life in prison, but his mum has never forgiven Martin for her husband being taken away from the family nest. In the lounge, he keeps a centipede as a pet, which he feeds live bugs too, and which he obtains a sexual frisson from, when he does so. The film follows Martin as he goes about finding victims – of both genders – to collate and eventually stitch together, to form the 12-person centipede.

By now, you’re all wondering if the film is worth it. How badly have the cuts affected the film. Well, having watched the cut version on DVD, I can now say that if you enjoyed the original, you will probably get a kick out of the sequel.

Unfortunately, the cuts are very noticeable. There are at least two major censorship moments in which the scene builds-up to a murder, only for the living victim to suddenly turn up dead, without any explanation. (The viewer is thus forced to fill-in the blanks for themselves.) And there are times, when the cuts are less obvious, but are extensive. Due to this, you have to judge the film on what remains, not on what might have been there originally. Thus many people will feel it wrong for me to recommend a cut version of a film. However, if there is no alternative, (and there isn’t at this time, despite many claims on the Internet to the contrary), we have to deal with being the only nation in the whole world to have the film on DVD legally, albeit not the complete version.

The cuts are bad. Yet, what remains still makes sense, for the most part, and still makes a very interesting film.

The first thing that will shock and surprise many, is the gorgeous, hi-def digital monochrome cinematography, which is absolutely divine. If you watch this movie on Blu-Ray, then you will certainly gain a lot more of an appreciation for the film. It may be an unusual choice, but it does add a very fetishistic and mechanised gleam to it, not unlike the blue-sheen tint that Shinya Tsukamoto gave to A SNAKE OF JUNE back in 2002. The close-ups of Martin’s pet centipede, really gives you the creeps, especially with the added foley effects. You’ll never look at a centipede in quite the same manner.

Alas, the acting is universally dire! The only person who comes out of this film with any kind of positivity, is Laurence R. Harvey, who as Martin, gives a sickeningly repellent performance of the disturbed loner. At times, you feel utter pity for him. At others, you will be incensed by his actions, but his performance is outstanding, and for a character who is largely mute throughout the films running time, his physicality is what makes him so memorable. (His dance, during the “Making Of” documentary, brings to mind Malcolm McDowell’s “Singing In The Rain” scene from A CLOCKWORK ORANGE: a twisted homage, if ever I saw one!)

Even original “Centipede” cast member, Ashlynn Yennie, who appears in this film as herself, comes across even dumber than her character already is. Some stupefyingly crass dialogue and character plot points, that are big enough for the 12-person-long centipede to crawl through, with ample room for manoeuvere, make her presence almost unwarranted. You have to wonder if Tom Six really needed the original star to return, or whether it just gave the sequel more bankability with the financiers. This is a real shame, as in the “Behind The Scenes” featurette, she comes across as quite a likeable young actress.

Only Martin’s mum, and his psychologist, who hams it up for all its worth, and turns him into a figure of fun, rather than a figure of fear, really have any other notable screen-time. The next door neighbour, a neo-nazi skinhead psychobilly Cockney geezer of a whack-job has no redeeming points at all, and the actor who plays him is one of the most untalented actors I’ve ever seen! Tom Six needed his head examining for employing this guy alone! Terrible!

With that all said, though, the film is good, and does work. It is definitely far more disturbing than the original, even with all of the flaws and issues I’ve described above. The final 15 minutes are unbearably sick, and I’m still surprised that what is shown, was still passed at an 18 certificate level, without more extensive cuts. There are moments that will test even some of the stronger-stomached amongst you, and there is one scene that is going to cause many genuinely serious offence, because of its content. Just as there was major controversy over the whole “newborn porn” scene in 2010’s A SERBIAN FILM, the finale of “HC2” has another explicitly violent scene involving the killing of a newborn infant, that – whilst aiming to be a sick and twisted piece of humour – is definitely going to make many feel that the rule of censorship needs re-examining! I won’t say any further, but even in the cut UK DVD edition, you know what happens, even without seeing it, and when you realise what it is, it leaves a very sick feeling in your stomach!

Ironically, with all of the censorship that the film has endured, the extras are another issue. If  you watch the “Foley Recording Session” and the “Making Of” featurette, both feature some of the material that was cut from the UK release. The material is in the background, on monitors and suchlike, but the BBFC has quite obviously not examined them closely enough, as some of the banned material is now there for everyone to view! This makes a mockery of both the BBFC and their decision to cut the film in the first place. Still, they are interesting extras to watch, and it’s blatantly clear that the cast and crew had a thoroughly enjoyable time filming this movie in Central London, (Westminster and Battersea to be exact), despite its content. Short and sweet they maybe, but don’t watch the extras, before the film, as they contain major spoilers. And if you want to see just how you make and film a “Human Centipede”, then all will be revealed. The interview with Six himself, is nice enough, but it is clear that the positive discussion was filmed during the making of the movie, and not after the fall-out when it was first passing through the BBFC’s hallowed halls. Admittedly, though, he does impart a few interesting tidbits, but not enough overall. There’s one Deleted Scene, that is pointless in its content and shouldn’t even really qualify as a “deleted scene” at all, in my view, but it’s been included for completion’s sake.

Lastly, if you buy the DVD from HMV, you will find four postcard-sized artcards, with scenes from the film. These are limited to the initial run of the DVD sets only.

I should state that no other official uncut release has yet been announced, anywhere. I hope that either NjutaFilms or Another World Entertainment will produce a decent quality release soon, (hopefully without burnt-in subtitles), for those who want to own the full and uncut version. Early information from across the pond, however, is that the eventual US release will still be cut, as even they didn’t want to incur any legal and moral fallout from an uncut release of “A Serbian Film”.

Bizarrely, the UK DVD release runs for 87m 52s, yet the BBFC site claims it runs for 84m 19s, with the uncut version running to 86m 50s. This is highly irregular, and I wonder if there has been some extra material inserted into the cut version to pad it out a bit? Overall then, not the best sequel in the world, but an interestingly twisted and very nasty second part to the (eventual) trilogy, that has and will always get some people’s backs up, due to its sickening and divisive content! Recommended, if you approach it with an open mind, and a cast-iron stomach, even in this censored form!