Book Review: BEHIND THE SCENES AT THE BBFC

PrintE-mail Written by Martin Unsworth

Review: Behind the Scenes at the BBFC - Film Classification from the Silver Screen to the Digital Age / Editor: Edward Lamberti / Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan / Release Date: Out Now

Throughout 2012, the BBFC, those bastions of UK censorship, sorry classification, have been celebrating their centenary. Several events have been held to commemorate this, culminating in the release of this book, which looks back through the history of the Board.

It's written by a series of people from outside the walls of the Soho House - academics and film historians – who each tackle a different period of their history. This approach allows objective analysis of both the climate of the times and the Board's decisions, and shows how, over the years, standards have changed.

Each chapter is accompanied by a case study, written by a BBFC member, of a film that had caused considerable trouble during the era in question. These include titles as diverse as 1932's Island of Lost Souls (which over the years has gone from being banned completely to being recently released with a PG rating), David Cronenberg's Shivers (the controversy over Crash is covered too), Bond film Licence to Kill and even Lilo and Stitch! Hammer's long-running battles with the Board are also covered, although not in very much detail, and there are many interesting sections for genre fans, as you would expect since horror films so often fall foul of the censors' scissors. There is much more to enjoy in the coverage here, however, as facts and figures supplement the fascinating story of the progression of an institution whose role has changed over its 100 years in existence, especially in the post Video Recordings Act era, with the introduction of mandatory certificates on all home entertainment, even video games.

If you have an interest in film, or have ever been frustrated by the BBFC in the past, then this is a reasoned and impartial introduction to what goes on behind the scenes, with many an enlightening insight into the politics of deciding what we get to see.


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