Just what the censor ordered: Elastoplast

review

This is television schedulers new maxim: if it's a bank holiday, it must be theme night. And, true to form, BBC2 served up Forbidden Weekend promising 48 hours of rudery, Sellotaped together from the cutting-room floor. Sadly for those of us sitting on the edge of our expectation in a darkened room wearing the dirty mac only just returned to the wardrobe after Channel 4's Red Light Zone, the opening spurt of the weekend turned out be a sore disappointment. Empire of the Censors (BBC2, Sunday), a history of British film snippery, was as thorough, serious and thought- provoking a piece of documentary-making as you could wish to find. Worse, the nipple count barely reached double figures. And several of those were covered in Elastoplast.

The film began with Roman Polanski - a man whose face would blend easily into the back row of a Soho cinema club - suggesting what we have all long suspected: "Censors always looked kinky to me, I always imagined them gathering the bits they had cut from films and running them together for their own pleasure at home." These censors, they certainly have a bit of front, telling us what we can or can't watch but only after they have watched it themselves.

The first British film to fall under the snippers did so for commercial reasons. A scientific piece called Cheese Mites, showing microscopic creepies blown up to the size of labradors crawling all over the cheddar, was leant on by the British cheese-making lobby as early as 1911. But after the British Board of Film Censorship was created in 1913, the censorship became more pervasive: according to the critic Philip French, censoring was done by the middle class on behalf of the working class and reflected fears of working class sexuality and violence. Indeed the consensus among the glittering array of directors interviewed was that what the censors were really protecting the public from was art.

Not that all of them were philistines. John Trevelyan, the most high- profile censor of the Sixties - physiologically equipped for the role, with his penile nose and anarchistic eyebrows - emerged almost as the programme's hero: a watch-dog who defended film-making against a more general, Whitehousian, prurience. He made it his business to befriend directors, to discover their motives. "You got the feeling that if Trevelyan appreciated you as an artist," said Roman Polanski, "he would be more lenient." Which didn't explain why he was so kind to Ken Russell.

We should be careful, as the programme admirably pointed out, however, not to laugh too loud at the censors making Lesley Caron put Elastoplast on her nipples during Room at the Top or Trevelyan, in a nice piece of double-edged syntax, telling Donald Cammell, apropos of the sex scene in Performance, that "you can cut that out". The point about censorship is that it always looks ridiculous in retrospect. What appears now to be little more than silly snobbery delivered in cut-glass Pathe news accents was, in the Fifties and Sixties, in a different moral climate, defining that moral climate as it went along. As Richard E Grant, the narrator, hinted at the end of this first part - when he trailed tonight's second part as taking up the story in 1974, the year of The Exorcist, A Clockwork Orange and Straw Dogs - the world of the censor begins to look somewhat more complex the closer it gets to your own time and sensibilities. For the fear that "Rock Around the Clock" might inflame Teddy boys read terror that gangsta rappers might turn young black boys into police killers; for worries that the working classes couldn't cope with visions of the nether regions of British society in Performance, read widespread belief that horror videos are turning our children into monsters. And then try suggesting that censorship is merely anti-art.

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished

TV reviewGrace Dent: Jimmy McGovern's new drama sheds light on sex slavery in the colonies

Arts and Entertainment
Australia's Eurovision contestant and former Australian Idol winner Guy Sebastian

Eurovision 2015Australian Idol winner unveiled as representative Down Under

Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl
filmFirst look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month
TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel
film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

    Paul Scholes column

    I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable