BOOK REVIEW / Film censorship in Britain

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The Independent Culture
CENSORED: What They Didn't Allow You To See, and Why - The Story of Film Censorship in Britain by Tom Dewe Mathews, Chatto pounds 14.99. In stark contrast to the squeaky-clean image of Hepburn (above), the rape scene from Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs (right) provides one of the many fascinating and often rather horrifying tales elaborated in this endlessly interesting book: here, apparently, the censor's intervention 'turned a drama into a crisis'. It's easy just to laugh at the absurdities of the past (the first film to be withdrawn on the grounds of taste, in 1898, featured the view through a microscope of a blue-veined cheese: the bacteria were too squirmy), but as Tom Dewe Mathews brings his authoritative account up to the present, to encompass debates about violence, sex education and the power of video, the dilemmas become more urgent. We can all find the limits of our tolerance, and of our disgust: you may not care about four-letter words, but what about the beheading and rape of American Indians, in Soldier Blue (1970)?

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