04 May, 2014

Franco In Oz – An overview of Jess Franco movies released theatrically and on VHS in Australia


By Michelle Alexander

   
*A guide to Australian classification ratings has been provided at the end of this article.
  
Back in the 1970’s and 1980’s when drive-ins, cinemas of a more ‘disreputable’ nature, and revolutionary video stores dotted the Australian landscape, it was not uncommon for willing (and unwilling) audiences to encounter a film by the one and only Jess Franco. Yes, Tio Jess’s movies made their way to the land Down Under, but typical of the conservative and unpredictable nature of the Australian censorship board, they would certainly not be welcomed with open arms. Some titles were heavily censored or outright banned, whilst others were surprisingly released uncut, considering their content (such as Linda, which features the then 14-year old Katja Bienert in several nude and sexual scenes). It’s surreal trying to imagine what the clientele of the local drive-in in Sunshine (a working-class, industrial suburb of Melbourne where I grew up) would have made of Barbed Wire Dolls which played there in a heavily cut version under the title Caged Women in 1981. The films of Jess Franco are an intriguing inclusion of Australia’s moviegoing history, advertised with often wonderfully lurid poster, newspaper and video cover art. During my research, I’ve attempted to list every Franco film which either screened theatrically or received a video release in Australia, along with running time, censorship information, and daybill/cover art.


Barbed Wire Dolls/Caged Women

In September 1976, an 82 minute print of Caged Women was banned for reasons of 'indecency’ and ‘excessive violence'. Despite an appeal to the Review Board in October 1976, the ban remained firmly in place. No doubt the Australian censors were unimpressed with the explicit scenes of female masturbation, sexualised violence and incest and rape themes (not to mention a lit cigarette used as a sex toy).
In November 1977, Blake Films were awarded an R-rating after whittling Caged Women down to 73 minutes. This print was released theatrically. Note the overzealous censor who took offense to Lina Romay’s and Martine Stedil’s bare breasts in the daybill poster, painting (clumsily rendered) white ‘bras’ over them!


Bloody Moon
Released on video (Video Classics, 82 minutes) with an R-rating in 1982. Believed to be uncut.
Cannibals
Released on video (Day Connection, 87 minutes) with an R-rating in 1985. Believed to be uncut.


The Sexcapades of Celestine
According to the Australian Classification database, an 103 minute (?!) print of The Sexcapades of Celestine, submitted by Jim Wilson Cinema was awarded an R-rating in March 1975. It was later released on video (K & C Video) in 1982, also rated R – I am unsure whether this tape is uncut.
Diary of a Nymphomaniac/Diary of a Nympho
A 91 minute print submitted by Seven Keys Films was awarded an R-rating in August 1974 and released theatrically.


Dracula Prisoner of Frankenstein
An 84 minute print submitted by Filmways was granted a now defunct ‘NRC’ (Not Recommended for Children) rating in 1974 and released theatrically; today this would be the equivalent of an M rating.

The Erotic Experiences of Frankenstein

A 73 minute print submitted by Natan Scheinwald Productions was censored by just over 1 minute to remove ‘excessive violence’. Judging by this print’s running time, it appears that it was the ‘unclothed/hot’ version of the film. It is most probable that the Australian censors objected to a scene where a man and woman are tied back to back naked and both whipped by Frankenstein’s monster. The man eventually collapses and is impaled on spikes.




Esmeralda Bay

Released on video (Video Box Office, 106 minutes ) with an M-rating in 1991. Believed to be uncut.



Eugenie... the Story of her Journey into Perversion

An 88 minute print submitted by Seven Keys Films was awarded an R-rating in April 1978 and released theatrically.


 
Exorcism
In October 1975, Global Film Distributors submitted a 95 minute print of Exorcism to the Board, however it was banned for ‘indecency’ and ‘excessive violence’.
In February 1976, it was censored down to 91 minutes and awarded an R-rating. This version was released theatrically in Australia. The scenes most likely omitted or toned down for this release would have been those featuring sexualised/sadomasochistic violence towards a number of nude women, as well as the endless Black Mass orgy sequence.is



Faceless

Released on video (Virgin Vision, 95 minutes) with an R-rating in 1989. Believed to be uncut.  The video cover has ‘Banned in Queensland’ emblazoned on it, however this was most likely not banned there and just used as a sales tactic.


Female Vampire

In March 1980, Cosmopolitan Motion Pictures received an R-rating for a censored 80 minute print under the title The Bare Breasted Countess. To achieve this 2 minutes were removed for reasons of 'indecency’ and ‘excessive violence'.

Syme Home Video attempted to have a 90 minute tape released but this was banned. In September 1985, Platinum Video received an X-rating for an 88 minute tape. However it appears that this tape was never released for sale/hire.

Siren Entertainment were hoping to see a 98 minute tape of Female Vampire released, but unsurprisingly, with its combination of semi-hardcore sex and sexualised violence, was again refused classification. The sequence where Lina Romay’s character is whipped by a woman under instruction from a dominatrix caused the most objection from the censors. The dominatrix is then attacked by the two women and Romay performs oral sex on her, leading to her death. Excerpt from the OFLC upon viewing the film for classification in 1995: “This scene could be accommodated in an R classification, in the Board's opinion, but because it is included in a film that contains X rated visuals and 'no depiction of sexual violence, coercion or non-consent of any kind is permitted in this classification', the scene actually warrants Refuse classification.”


Ilsa, The Wicked Warden/Greta, The Mad Butcher

In October 1977, Blake Films had a 90 minute print of Greta, The Mad Butcher banned for reasons of 'indecency’ and ‘indecent violence'.

No doubt the censors would have heard of its more well-known alternative title Ilsa, The Wicked Warden and immediately frowned upon Greta, as the connected-by-star-only film Ilsa – She Wolf of the SS had already been point blank refused classification in 1975 and 1976 (and later in 1983). The smorgasbord of sleaze also wouldn’t have helped matters, notably the infamous “lick my culo” scene; Dyanne Thorne sticking pins into Lina Romay’s chest to create a ‘human pin cushion’; and the sadistic murder via plastic bag over head.


Jack the Ripper

In November 1977, 2 minutes was cut from a 91 minute print of Jack the Ripper submitted by Blake Films to achieve an R-rating. This 89 minute version was released theatrically.

In July 2004, Big Sky Video submitted an uncut DVD of Jack the Ripper to the OFLC. After not viewing the film since 1977, the OFLC decided to release the disc uncut with an R rating (for ‘high level violence’ and ‘sexual violence’.


Kiss Me Monster

Released on video (Siren Entertainment, 76 minutes) with an M-rating in 1995. Believed to be uncut.



Linda

Filmways omitted 2 seconds of medium level sex from Linda in order to obtain an R-rating in June 1982. An 85 minute theatrical release followed.

Subsequently, Filmways Home Video issued Linda on videotape in a print that ran 81 minutes. This was released in February 1984 with an R-rating. According to the now closed Mondo Erotico website, this was the longest print available worldwide on tape. However, Robert Monell has confirmed that both the Spanish and U.S. VHS releases (the latter titled Captive Women) are both uncut.

It is worth noting that the Board appeared to have been unaware that one of Linda’s leading actresses, Katja Bienert, was 14 years old at the time of filming and appears in a few full-frontal nude as well as sexual scenes. Usually in these circumstances, the film would be outright banned due to a minor being involved in such scenes.


Love Camp

After removing over 2 minutes of footage (due to ‘frequent, high and gratuitous violence’), Filmways had a 78 minute print of Love Camp passed with an R-rating in June 1981. A 70 minute, further censored version was later released by Filmways Home Video.

In October 1986, during the height of ‘Banned in Queensland’ mania, the Queensland Police successfully applied to have a 71 minute tape of Love Camp banned on the grounds of 'gratuitous sexual violence'.



Love Letters of a Portuguese Nun

In June 1980, an 88 minute print of Love Letters of a Portuguese Nun, submitted under the German title of Die Liebesbriefe Einer Protugieschen Nonne, was banned by the Censorship Board due to ‘sexual violence’ (this would refer to the numerous tortures and rapes lead actress Susan Hemingway’s character endures).

Blake Films cut the print down to 85 minutes and re-submitted it. Following the removal of a further 25 seconds of footage, the film was awarded an R-rating in September 1980 and released theatrically.

As with the Australian releases of Linda and that film’s underage star, Katja Bienert, the Board seemed to be unaware that Susan Hemingway was a 15-year-old minor (normally circumstances which would result in an immediate ban).


99 Women

Released on video (K & C Video, 80 minutes) with an R-rating in the early 1980’s. Some nudity and sex has been cut. Interestingly, this tape contains a brief establishing shot at the 42 minute mark that was not on the U.S. tape.

In 2007, Umbrella Entertainment released 99 Women on DVD with an MA rating for ‘strong sexual violence’, ‘strong sex scenes and sexual references’ and ‘nudity’.

Sadisterotica


Released on video (Siren Entertainment, 76 minutes) with an M-rating in 1995. Believed to be uncut.



Succubus

An 80 minute print submitted by Studio Films was awarded an R-rating in January 1973 and released theatrically.
It was released on video (IFM, 77 minutes) with an R-rating.



Swedish Nympho Slaves

According to the Australian Classification database , an apparently 86 minute print submitted by Filmways was awarded an R-rating in April 1981 and released theatrically.
Tender and Perverse Emanuelle
In September 1981, Tender and Perverse Emanuelle was passed with an R-rating and released theatrically by Filmways. In order to win the censors’ approval, almost 2 minutes of footage had to be removed.
The cuts were made to remove sex, which was described as being ‘infrequent, highly explicit and gratuitous’. Following the censorship, the sex was described as being ‘infrequent, medium-level explicit and gratuitous’. It’s pretty easy to guess what the main offending scene would have been – the title character masturbating a man’s erect penis.
Venus in Furs
An 86 minute print was banned in July 1970 due to ‘indecency’.
In 2005, Umbrella Entertainment released Venus in Furs uncut on DVD which was rated R for ‘adult themes’.
 

Virgin Among the Living Dead

In April 1995, the OFLC banned a 77 minute videotape of Virgin Among the Living Dead submitted by Siren Entertainment. An excerpt from the OFLC upon viewing the film for classification in 1995:

“In the board's opinion the film warrants refused for one scene of gratuitous sexual violence. At 65 minutes Christiana is attacked by her relatives, a woman and two men. They strip her and hold her down, standing on her arms and legs. One of the men pulls his trousers down with visuals of his naked buttocks as he lays on top of her naked body. He implicitly rapes her, thrusting for a prolonged period while she cries out "No, no ,no" shown in medium range with close up visuals of her hands clenching and unclenching. There is in the board's opinion no contextual justification for this scene. It is prolonged and detailed and as such warrants Refusal”.

Subsequently, Siren Entertainment cut Virgin Among the Living Dead down to 75 minutes and were awarded an R-rating in August 1995.

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Several Jess Franco films have been released in Australia on DVD, all presumably uncut (unfortunately I could not obtain the running time for most titles). These are:   
Blood of Fu Manchu (Stomp Visual). Rated M in October 2005 for ‘moderate violence, nudity and incidental coarse language’.
The Bloody Judge (Stomp Visual). Rated MA in October 2005 for  ‘strong violence and nudity’.
The Castle of Fu Manchu (Stomp Visual). Rated M in October 2005 for ‘moderate violence’.
Eugenie De Sade (Force Entertainment, 87 minutes). Rated R in November 2003 for ‘strong sexual violence’.  
The Girl from Rio (Umbrella Entertainment, 108 minutes). Rated M in May 2010 for ‘sexualised nudity’.
Jack the Ripper (Big Sky Video). Rated R in July 2004 for ‘high level violence and sexual violence’.
99 Women (Umbrella Entertainment, 90 minutes). Rated MA in June 2007 for ‘‘strong sexual violence, strong sex scenes and sexual references and nudity’.
Vampyros Lesbos (Umbrella Entertainment). Rated R in April 2004 for ‘sexual references and nudity’.
At the time of writing there has been no local Blu-Ray releases of Jess Franco titles.

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A few Franco films have also screened on Australian television. In the late 1990’s/early 2000’s, a dubbed, fullscreen 97 minute print of Count Dracula was aired regularly on Foxtel (Australia’s Pay-TV network). It was rated either M or MA.
The free-to-air SBS channel screened some titles on their ‘Cult Movie’ nights during the mid 1990s-early 2000s. These were all screened with English subtitles:

The Awful Dr Orloff 

Premiere screening circa 1995, rated  either M or MA.
Dr Jekyll’s Mistresses

Premiere screening circa 1995, rated M for ‘violence, nudity and drug use’.
She Killed in Ecstasy

Premiere screening circa 2001, rated MA.
Vampyros Lesbos

Premiere screening circa 2001, rated MA.
Virgin Among the Living Dead

Premiere screening 1997, rated MA. This print contained the Jean Rollin zombie footage as well as optical censoring of nudity.

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Classification guide for films in Australia
G – General. The content is very mild in impact. The G classification is suitable for everyone. G products may contain classifiable elements such as language and themes that are very mild in impact

PG – Parental Guidance. The content is mild in impact. The impact of PG classified films should be no higher than mild, but they may contain content that children find confusing or upsetting and may require the guidance of parents and guardians, such as language and themes that are mild in impact. It is not recommended for viewing by persons under 15 without guidance from parents or guardians.
M – Mature. The content is moderate in impact. Films classified M contain content of a moderate impact and are recommended for teenagers aged 15 years and over. Children under 15 may legally access this material because it is an advisory category. However, M classified films may include elements such as violence and nudity of moderate impact.
MA 15+ - Mature Accompanied.  The content is strong in impact. MA 15+ classified material contains strong content and is legally restricted to persons 15 years and over. It may contain classifiable elements such as sex scenes and drug use that are strong in impact. A person may be asked to show proof of their age before hiring or purchasing an MA 15+ film. Cinema staff may also request that the person show proof of their age before allowing them to watch an MA 15+ film. Children under the age of 15 may not legally watch, buy or hire MA 15+ classified material unless they are in the company of a parent or adult guardian. Children under 15 who go to the cinema to see an MA 15+ film must be accompanied by a parent or adult guardian for the duration of the film. The parent or adult guardian must also purchase the movie ticket for the child.
R 18+ - Restricted. The content is high in impact R 18+ material is restricted to adults. Such material may contain classifiable elements such as sex scenes and drug use that are high in impact. Some material classified R18+ may be offensive to sections of the adult community. A person may be asked for proof of their age before purchasing, hiring or viewing R18+ films at a retail store or cinema.

X 18+ - Restricted. X 18+ films are restricted to adults. This classification is a special and legally restricted category which contains only sexually explicit content. That is, material which shows actual sexual intercourse and other sexual activity between consenting adults. X18+ films are only available for sale or hire in the ACT and the NT.
RC – Refused Classification.  Material that is Refused Classification is commonly referred to as being ‘banned’. Films that are classified RC cannot be sold, hired, advertised or legally imported in Australia. Material that is classified RC contains content that is very high in impact and falls outside generally accepted community standards

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References

Australian Classification Database  http://www.classification.gov.au/
CAARP Database http://caarp.flinders.edu.au

Internet Movie Database  http://www.imdb.com/
Pre-Cert Video  http://www.pre-cert.co.uk/
Refused-Classification.com  http://www.refused-classification.com/



1 comment:

Robert Monell said...

Great article Michelle. Thanks!