Suffering from the censor’s scissors

Recently I was flicking the television channels only to find Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was on. At one particular point an entirely new scene to me appears, involving the Sheriff of Nottingham (Alan Rickman) in a large hall, walking along a table surrounded by pagan worshippers and him throwing bags of gold across a pseudo battle strategy map of Britain.

WTF! Where on earth did that come from?!

In 26 years of life I have never seen that scene before! I had to research it online to ensure that I wasn’t crazy!

Turns out the film had suffered in the edit room quite drastically, many scenes involving Rickman’s sheriff were took out of the final cut, due to Kevin Costner (Robin Hood) and the film’s producers fearing that Rickman was stealing the show! Well, yes, he was stealing the show, because a) He’s a better actor than Costner, b) The Sheriff of Nottingham is more entertaining than Robin Hood, and c) He’s an Englishman, playing an Englishman, not a Californian playing an Englishman!

But that didn’t necessarily bother me, what bothered me more was that later on during the film is a scene involving a hanging. Just prior to the third act showdown, in which amongst others, Little John’s son, Wolf, is to be hung in the grounds of Nottingham castle. The scenes begins normally enough, but at the point where those captured are to be hung, the editing become quick, jumpy and overly amateurish. Any shot showing those in the noose actually being hung were cut out and all I saw on my television were shaking ropes and wiggling feet.

Once again, the TV editors had struck!

It is a bane and a real thorn in my side which I seem to come up against time and time again whilst watching a film on the television.

One of the worst broadcasters for this is ITV, especially when it decides to place Jurassic Park in to the schedule. It has become almost a joke to me the amount of times I have watched Jurassic Park on an ITV’s channel only for scenes to have been edited out due to them being unacceptable for that time of day.

The issue of editing a film to make it ‘acceptable’ for television isn’t just a slight annoyance. For me it runs deeper.

Firstly, films are for the most part, released how the director wanted them to be seen (let us put aside examples of films that *clearly* were not how the director intended them to be released, Alien3, being just one example) they are the combined efforts of hundreds, sometimes thousands of people’s talents and the director has chosen for the film to be presented in a specific way, with the intention of it being received and enjoyed as entertainingly as possible. For a television executive to then take that piece of art, which is what a film is, and then edit it to make it ‘acceptable’ to be broadcast is equivalent to putting a pair of boxer-shorts over Michelangelo’s ‘David’ to make it ‘acceptable’!

It is an insult to film, filmmaker and everyone involved in the production and finally, me the viewer.

Secondly, an amateurish and half assed hack job to ‘edit’ out the unacceptable scenes equates almost universally, to a film which suddenly and for no apparent reason, jumps from scene to scene with little to no regard for the continuity of storytelling or for the film’s audience. The television audience sit there confused and annoyed by the changes taking place right in front of their eyes, to a film they may hold very dear to their hearts.

Again Jurassic Park serves as a prime example. As the character Dr Sattler finally manages to reset the power grids across Jurassic Park, thus allowing it to reboot the systems to secure visitor safety, a Velociraptor explodes through to piping in an attempt to attack her. Sattler jumps back in horror and fear, and the arm of Samuel L. Jackson’s character, Ray Arnold, drops down from behind her. The arm rests as though it’s comforting and protecting her. As Sattler turns to face Arnold the arm comes with her, it has been dismembered, clearly Arnold is not there, he is more than likely dead, attacked and eaten by the Velociraptor that is now climbing through the piping on its way to attack Sattler.

When ITV show this film on their channels, that scene is cut up more than Edward Scissorhands toilet paper! Ray Arnold’s dismembered arm is completely removed from the film. Now that may seem like a small point to concede to ensure the film can be broadcast on television, but without those scenes the character arc of Ray Arnold is left unfinished and confusing.

See, Jackson’s character is the first to attempt to turn on the power, clearly when we see his arm we become aware that he never got close to turning the power back on. Clearly he was attacked, killed and possibly eaten. By amputating (pardon the pun) the scenes involving his arm from the film, the television executives and editors are essentially saying ‘you don’t need to know about this character, it’s not important, he’s not important, just pretend he didn’t exist’.

Clearly he did exist, clearly he is important, and clearly we DO need to know what happened to him for the rest of the film to make sense!

Which brings me to my final point, put simply; messing with a film to make it ‘acceptable’ for television ruins the film and ruins an audience’s enjoyment of the film. It’s a simple rule to follow and I am surprised schedulers are still unable to, if a broadcaster is concerned a film they wish to show features scenes they fear are not suitable to be seen at 7pm on a Sunday evening then do not show it at 7pm on a Sunday evening. It’s a blindingly simple concept, show the film when it can be seen without being edited or interfered with. I would rather watch a film an hour later in the day, all 100% of it, rather than watch it slightly earlier and see only 95% of the film.

That 5% matters!

Words: Fuzz Caminski.

Tell me which films you have noticed that have been sliced up more than Sweeney Todd’s clientèle when they’re broadcast on television?

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