MIDNIGHT EXCESS: Getting films reclassified by local authorities

In advance of the next MIDNIGHT EXCESS (11 MAY 2019), Rebecca Nicole Williams aka The Celluloid Sorceress explains how both parts of the Vanity double feature – BERRY GORDY’S THE LAST DRAGON (1985) & NEVER TOO YOUNG TO DIE (1986) – were reclassified for their late night screenings.

MIDNIGHT EXCESS - VANITY Double Feature

By Rebecca Nicole Williams

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When setting up a public screening in a theatrical venue there are many things to consider.  Once your venue and rights clearance are locked you may also have to deal with the local authority regarding the film’s classification. The rules, generally speaking, are that in order to screen a film it has to have been certified by the BBFC or by the local authority for theatrical exhibition in their area. If you’re screening a new film then you make your case from scratch, but such issues also apply to films from every era, in particular those that were released under the old BBFC system prior to 1982 (U, A, AA and X) or films that were cut by the BBFC on UK release and have never been reclassified theatrically in their uncut version.

For its release in UK cinemas in 1985, nearly two minutes of THE LAST DRAGON were cut by the BBFC involving martial arts weaponry which the BBFC director of the time, James Ferman, was particularly concerned about. NEVER TOO YOUNG TO DIE was only released in the UK on VHS, and therefore does not have a theatrical classification.  It was also cut on VHS for similar reasons to THE LAST DRAGON, so an application to the local authority is needed for this as well.

I’ve often heard that the application process is complicated but have never personally found it to be.  Each local authority works differently. Some will accept a current BBFC classification for home media. This is an easy win but you must be sure the version of the film being screened is the same as one that has received a BBFC certification (theatrical and video classifications are considered separate and a film can easily be cut or uncut by the time it hits the Blu-ray shelves).

Whether screening a new film, or an old one, the best approach is to be methodical, laying out the classification history and finding as many comparables as possible where the BBFC has re-instated cuts or allowed through similar material. In the context of having cuts reinstated it is helpful if you can identify those cuts using various internet sites.  Some even have a side-by-side comparison of different versions.

Keep in mind that Local Authority licensing teams are not film specialists and make your application as self-explanatory as possible. Remember there is a cost implication too.  Some authorities will charge you a flat rate, some per minute of film.  Some will charge you both, so you should consider this when budgeting your show.

Ranjit (aka SUPAKINO) and I are very excited to be screening THE LAST DRAGON and NEVER TOO YOUNG TO DIE uncut in the UK for the first time. Here – as a guide to making such applications – is the case I presented to the London Borough of Hackney regarding our Vanity double feature.

BERRY GORDY’S THE LAST DRAGON (1985)

MIDNIGHT EXCESS - VANITY Double Feature - THE LAST DRAGON

THE LAST DRAGON was released in the US in 1985 uncut with an MPAA rating of PG13, which it retained for the 2018 re-issue. However, in the UK, the BBFC policy in 1985 dictated the removal of all sight of nunchucks. 1 minute and 38 seconds were cut by the BBFC for its theatrical classification at 15 (14/05/1985). Cuts of 1 minute and 59 seconds were made to THE LAST DRAGON for its VHS certification at 15 (29/01/1986).

THE LAST DRAGON has never been resubmitted to the BBFC and is currently unavailable on UK DVD/Blu-ray, although an uncut Blu-ray is available for import via Amazon and other sellers.  In the intervening years, many films with footage of nunchucks have been reclassified by the BBFC and passed uncut with all nunchuck scenes reinstated. These include: ENTER THE DRAGON (theatrical cuts reinstated for 1996 home video release at 18), TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (cuts to theatrical release reinstated for PG video classification in 1991) and THE MATRIX (cuts to theatrical release re-instated for 1999 home video release at 15).

Conclusion & suggested classification

Based on this evidence we would anticipate that a resubmission to the BBFC would see THE LAST DRAGON reclassified uncut at 15. Using the mentioned titles for comparison, the violence in THE LAST DRAGON is comedic, without detail, blood or dwelling upon injury, and without instruction on how to use or glorification of nunchucks. It is more in line with the comedic tone of TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (PG) than with either the stylised, serious violence of THE MATRIX (15) or the strong violence of ENTER THE DRAGON (18). In fact, the action is arguably less violent than all three.

We would therefore ask Hackney to issue classification of THE LAST DRAGON at 15 uncut for theatrical exhibition in the borough but would accept an 18 as the event is a midnight screening.

NEVER TOO YOUNG TO DIE (1986)

MIDNIGHT EXCESS - VANITY Double Feature - NEVER TOO YOUNG TO DIE Gene Simmons

NEVER TOO YOUNG TO DIE was classified 18 by the BBFC for VHS release on 30/04/1987 with 16 seconds of cuts. The film has never been rereleased in the UK or resubmitted to the BBFC but is available uncut on blu-ray in the US with an MPAA rating of R.

Without access to the BBFC examiners report it is difficult to know the exact cuts the BBFC made.  Upon viewing the film, however, the only scenes that may have caused concern in 1987 involve fleeting moments of nunchucks and butterfly knives.

With regards to nunchucks we would cite the same examples of reinstated BBFC cuts as apply to THE LAST DRAGON. With regard to reinstating cuts to scenes featuring butterfly knives there is also precedent within the BBFC. For example, THE MUMMY (1999) was originally classified 12 with a shot of a butterfly knife removed but was upgraded to 15 for an uncut DVD release.

Conclusion & suggested classification

As with BERRY GORDY’S THE LAST DRAGON, the action and violence in NEVER TOO YOUNG TO DIE is brief, often comedic and does not dwell on injury detail or pain. The tone of the action is more realistic than TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (PG) but lighter than that of either THE MATRIX (15) or ENTER THE DRAGON (18).

While we would ask for application of a 15 rating to this title, we would happily accept confirmation of the film’s VHS 18 certificate applied to its uncut version.

MIDNIGHT EXCESS #2

MIDNIGHT EXCESS: Interview with Ben Turner about Vanity & VHS.

THE LAST DRAGON shows uncut at the Rio Cinema, Dalston in a MIDNIGHT EXCESS double feature with NEVER TOO YOUNG TO DIE on 11 MAY 2019, rated 15 and 18 respectively for theatrical exhibition in the London Borough of Hackney.

  • Box office: now open
  • Rio Cinema, 107 Kingsland High St, London, E8
  • 11 MAY 2019, 23:00 until 03:30am

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