5 Examples Of Transcendentally Stupid Movie Censorship
Movies are censored for all sorts of reasons, from legal problems to religious issues to an overabundance of butts. But occasionally, the circumstances in which a movie is re-edited are so transcendentally stupid that the censorship becomes an art form in itself. Such as when ...
Some Movies Are Released In Gay And Non-Gay Versions
A Very Cool Christmas (2004) is a Lifetime movie about a self-involved teenager who learns a magical lesson with help from Santa, her dad, and her mom. Too Cool For Christmas (2004), on the other hand, is about a self-involved teenager who learns a magical lesson with help from Santa, her dad, and her other dad. Who ripped off who? No one. It's the exact same movie, which exists in "gay" and "straight" versions, like a quantum physics representation of dad #1's bisexuality.
The director originally pitched the version with the two dads to Lifetime, who liked the idea but apparently thought their audience (90% grandparents who can't figure out how to change the channel) would be terrified by the concept of gay people existing in a movie without God coming down and smiting them at the end. But, the Lifetime execs were generous enough to let him make an alternate version retaining the gay characters and sell it to some less bigoted channel. That's how the crew ended up shooting two versions of every scene where the protagonist's parents show up, meaning that every time the mother is on camera, dad #2 is standing outside of frame, waiting for his turn.
The same director did the same thing again with a sci-fi movie called Deadly Skies, starring Antonio Sabato Jr., an actor best known for comparing being a Trump supporter in Hollywood to being Jewish during the Holocaust. Deadly Skies features two male astronomers/lovers trying to stop an asteroid from hitting Earth by shooting it with a giant laser, but the director also sold it as Force Of Impact, where the astronomers aren't horny for each other. This is pretty convenient for Sabato Jr., who can still show his friends the straight version after disavowing the gay one while running for Congress for the GOP.
And there's yet another movie where this happens: Tides Of War a.k.a. USS Poseidon a.k.a. Phantom Below, a submarine drama starring Highlander's Adrian Paul. In one version he loses his boyfriend in a submarine fight, while in the other it was just a good buddy. Given that the movie has three names, we're assuming there's a third version where the characters still have sex with each other but say "it's just submarine rules" afterwards, so it doesn't totally count.
Related: '30 Rock's Gay Bomb Was A Real Thing
Pulp Fiction's Lebanese Distributor Re-Edited It To Be In Chronological Order
Since no one in the Cracked staff was a Tarantino fan living in Lebanon in the '90s, we can't be 100% certain that this story happened, but all the best QT stories have an air of implausibility about them anyway. When Pulp Fiction came out in 1994, it was instantly praised by critics everywhere due to 1) John Travolta's sweet dance moves, and 2) its innovative non-linear storytelling. Except in Lebanon. Lebanon didn't care for that shit.
According to Variety, the country's censors were shocked and scandalized by the fact that the movie jumps back and forth in time like a drunken, N-word dropping Doctor Who. In order to, as Beirut-based writer Kaelen Wilson-Goldie put it, "protect the audience from the sinister fragmentation of time," the censors decided to re-edit the film so that the scenes were placed in strict chronological order.
Lebanese censors were so infamous for butting in and changing the whole narrative of a movie that a delegation from the Motion Picture Association of America traveled to the country and asked the authorities to do something about it. But were the censors really to blame in Pulp Fiction's case? A 2016 investigation into this important matter by The New Arab claims that it was all misunderstanding on the distributor's part. Seems they mistook Tarantino's artsy storytelling techniques for a defect in the reels, so they tried to fix it themselves. We're guessing half the company quit the day they got Memento.
More recently, the same distributor did intentionally censor Tarantino's The Hateful Eight because they felt 2 hours and 48 minutes was "a bit too long," but we're sure everyone with a bladder didn't mind that one too much.
The Army Banned And Remade Its Own Documentary ... Without The Black Soldiers
Let There Be Light is a documentary that the U.S. Army commissioned in the 1940s, then blocked for almost 40 years. But don't worry, they made sure people could still see a lighter version of the same movie! And by "lighter," we mean "without any black people." Here's a moment from the original where the camera pans over a bunch of WWII soldiers in group therapy:
And here's a shot from the remake where the same happens, with similar dialogue but paler skin tones (and not just because it's in black and white):
The Army claimed that they only banned Let There Be Light to protect the privacy of the soldiers interviewed, all WWII veterans in treatment for PTSD -- but the director, John Huston, called bullshit on that. A couple of years later, the Army released a suspiciously similar "documentary" called Shades Of Gray, with actors hamming it up as traumatized WWII soldiers. Some sequences are lifted straight out of Let There Be Light, but they changed the whole message of the movie: instead of acknowledging the ways in which war can scar the human psyche, now the point is that some people are just weak and true American heroes will always get over this "shell shock" thing. In Huston's words:
Aaaaand then there's the race thing. Let There Be Light prominently featured several soldiers of color giving their testimony, while Shades Of Gray,ironically, had an almost completely white cast (we saw one Latino-looking guy in the background of one shot). We're sure it's a coincidence that Shades Of Gray's director was also involved in the 1915 "classic" Birth Of A Nation, a.k.a. The KKK Is Awesome.
Let There Be Light was finally released in 1980. As a curiosity, some of these scenes were remade yet again by ... Joaquin Phoenix? The Master (2012)copied several lines and visuals from the documentary,and even included the full movie as a Blu-ray extra. Joaq is way more disturbing to watch than real traumatized soldiers, though.
British Airways Erases Their Competitor From Casino Royale Out Of Spite
The James Bond movies feature a lot of seediness and subterfuge, but none of that compares to the real-life drama between English airline companies. While making Casino Royale, the studio was in negotiations with British Airways to show some of their planes in the film, but they fell through for unknown (but probably sexy) reasons. They ended up going with BA's arch-nemesis, Virgin Atlantic, and as a bonus they even included Virgin founder Richard Branson as a new Bond character called "passenger getting frisked by airport security."
British Airways handled this development exactly like a jilted ex on Facebook: by digitally erasing the offending parties to avoid looking at them. In a remarkable display of pettiness, BA airbrushed the Virgin logo from the in-flight version of the movie, AND cut out the moment showing Branson's face. Now he can only be seen from behind, so most people will probably assume he's Joe Exotic (who would make a fantastic Bond villain, if Bond lived in Oklahoma and drank Bud Light instead of martinis).
A BA spokesperson confirmed that Casino Royale had been edited, and claimed that they occasionally censor films to avoid "upsetting" passengers. Yeah, it's totally the passengers who are butthurt at Virgin for blowing the whistle on BA's price fixing, not BA itself.
Uganda's Dictator Forced A Documentarian To Censor His Film By Kidnapping 150 Frenchmen
In the '70s, French filmmaker Barbet Schroeder traveled to Uganda to make a documentary about dictator/notable crazy person Idi Amin, who enthusiastically welcomed the crew because he just assumed the movie would make him look like a total badass. Instead, he comes off like a deluded clown who happens to be responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths. Here's a clip of Amin proudly showing the "strength of [his] army" in training exercises taking place in a structure worthy of a kindergarten playground:
And here he is "winning" a swimming race against guys who very much don't want to get lined up in front of a firing squad:
When the movie came out, Amin was shocked to learn that audiences were laughing at him and demanded some cuts. Schroeder initially said no, so Amin decided to negotiate, dictator-style. That is, he rounded up around 150 French citizens living in Uganda, trapped them in a hotel with armed soldiers around it, and gave them the director's phone number.
That got Schroeder's attention, and he made the edits. But, Amin was so disconnected from reality that he didn't even ask for the most embarrassing stuff to be cut. His edits included references to political executions, as if everyone didn't already know that that's a thing evil dictators do, and the final line of the film: "After a century of colonization, let us not forget that it is partially a deformed image of our own selves that Idi Amin Dada reflects back to us." They were giving him an out! We're guessing he took issue with the "deformed" part.
After being forced to decide between changing his movie or possibly having 150 deaths on his conscience, the director said: "This has now become a film by Idi Amin Dada, with Barbet Schroeder as an assistant." A few years later, Amin tried to invade Tanzania, shat the bed, was deposed, and Schroeder was able to restore his movie. This explains why Amin is only listed as actor and composer, not director, in the movie's IMDb page.
Maxwell Yezpitelok lives in Chile and also on Twitter.
Top Image: Miramax Films