For years, the was no Exorcist or Evil Dead in England. Likewise, The Shining and Scream were no-nos in South Korea.
It's a testament to the power of the moving image that a country, or at least a bureaucratic agency working on its behalf, can deem a movie so distasteful, so conflicting with the status quo that screenings will not be allowed. And yet it happens, often to movies of considerable quality. Below is a list of movies that have, for one reason or another, at one time or another, been banned - and there's not a loser in the lot:
SALT OF THE EARTH (1954): Made by actors and filmmakers blacklisted by the House Un-American Activities Committee, this union-funded film about a miners' strike in New Mexico was never officially banned. During the Red Scare climate of the McCarthy hearings, however, it was effectively buried under the daunting label of Communist and remained mostly unseen until the late 1960s.
A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971): Early in its English run, incidents of copycat violence forced this indictment of institutional thinking out of cinemas. Director Stanley Kubrick, enraged that his adopted country would not embrace his movie, responded by stating that Clockwork would never again be shown in Britain. It was an ultimatum that remained true until 2000, a year after Mr. Kubrick's death, when the film was re-released.
STRAW DOGS (1971): Having established his reputation as an uncompromising filmmaker with a violent eye with The Wild Bunch, Sam Peckinpah upped the ante with this small-scale melodrama about an American mathematician and his English wife terrorized by bullies. The film, which paints a not-too-idyllic picture of English country life, was banned in the UK.
MAN BITES DOG (1992): This darkly comic French mockumentary, about a serial killer blithely going about his business, was criticized for its unrepentant nature and banned in Ireland for its lighthearted approach to senseless homicide. While it's true that Man might not be suitable for small children and the faint-of-heart, its blistering wit and uncommon visual approach make it a movie worthy of merit.
SONG OF THE SOUTH (1946): Widely acknowledged as a technical masterpiece from Disney's Golden Age, this movie, set in the mythical United States of Georgia sometime after the Civil War, was roundly criticized, not for bear-on-bunny violence, but for soft-selling the relationship between slaves and slave owners.
In response, Disney pulled the movie and has steadfastly refused to air, screen or release it in the United States. Of course, that did not preclude the company from using the movie as the basis for its popular log flume theme-park ride.
Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or firstname.lastname@example.org.