Monday, June 26, 2006

The BBFC: cutting down on cuts

Whilst trawling the BBFC website for the previous post on film advisory notes I came across their stats area which details the number of films they have cut every year since 1914. I've charted the percentage figures (click on the above image for a larger version) which makes for fairly interesting reading/viewing (assuming you're a film geek, that is).

That the early-mid '50s should come out top in terms of raw numbers (1,770 films were cut between 1950-55) is perhaps unsurprising, especially when you consider that almost 1,500 films a year were being classified (almost three-times the current volume). More surprising, to my mind, is the year with the highest proportion of cut films: 1974, when over a third of all films released in the UK fell foul of the censor's knife (although bizarrely some of the year's most notorious releases escaped the chop; Badlands, The Exorcist and Chinatown were all passed uncut in 1974, albeit with X certificates).

While you wouldn't necessarily guess it from the hysterical rantings of the red-tops (actually, maybe you would), BBFC cuts have been on the decline ever since '74 (with a couple of modest spikes in the early and mid '80s) and now stand at their lowest level since 1930. Just 7 films were cut last year and 5 the year before.

To what extent this decrease is attributable to an active change in the BBFC's approach (artistic merit and context started entering the equation in the late '70s) or simply a reflection of UK society's shifting moral compass is ultimately impossible to determine, although the Student BBFC site has a rather splendid history of UK film classification which pin-points some of the landmark decisions over the years.

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