Plea to curb Hollywood violence

Hollywood's obsession with macho action films, rather than lax censorship controls in Britain, is to blame for the high levels of big- screen violence, Home Secretary Michael Howard was told today.

The British Board of Film Classification was powerless to exert and influence on the money-spinning violence culture personified by the films of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, said director James Ferman.

The BBFC's report to Mr Howard follows National Heritage Secretary Virginia Bottomley's launch on Tuesday of an action plan against violence on television. Mr Ferman said that gratuitously violent scenes could be cut out of films and videos, but such cuts could not change the culture of the film if it was dedicated to violence.

"The BBFC has some of the toughest standards in the world," he said. "In the past three years alone, it has cut gratuitous acts of violence from some 369 videos and banned a further 14 from distribution in this country."

BBFC research showed that teenage boys' favourite films were not horror- filled video nasties it was most often pressed to ban, but macho adventure "films about strong men with the power to control the world."

Many of the most bankable superstars - Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Bruce Willis, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal and the late Bruce Lee - featured in the most gratuitously violent films.

"The problem is unique in cinema history," Mr Ferman said. Macho superheroes were role models for adults as well as teenagers.

"These are the films everyone wants to see - including British audiences," he said. It was a global problem whose solution beyond British law.

"The real solution is for Hollywood to wake up with a conscience. But I have my doubts. There's too much money at stake."

Better enforcement of age categories was needed in shops, but ultimately only parents could control what children watched at home, he said.

It is not the first time Mr Ferman has attacked the action movie stars. In November last year, he accused them of glamourising violence, after ordering a head-butt and clap around the ears should be cut from the Schwarzenegger film, True Lies.

The Home Office said Mr Howard was giving the report detailed consideration.