Trash (aka Andy Warhol’s Trash) is a 1970 US drama by Paul Morrissey. See IMDb
Banned by the BBFC for:
See article from sbbfc.co.uk: Bad Timing
The drugs theme was nominally the justification for the ban, but in fact timing was also an issue. Stephen Murphy was coming in for nutter pressure at the time. A series of controversial films such as The Devils put the BBFC under nutter scrutiny from the likes of Mary Whitehouse’s Festival of Light.
According to the only surviving examiner report, the BBFC was concerned by its effect upon those young people who are not intimately involved in the hard stuff. We think that any cautionary message it might have is outweighed by the undoubted degradation and its destructive effect upon those who are not intimately involved in the drug scene, or even upon the fringes of it. In considering whether cuts, as Stephen Murphy had initially suggested, might provide a remedy, the examiners concluded that We do not think that cutting would be a good solution as we would still incur the rage of many ordinary cinema goers without satisfying the progressives.
Banned by the Greater London Council (GLC) for:
- UK 1971 London cinema release
Possibly the GLC were also coming under nutter pressure for passing controversial films for exhibition in London.
Passed X (18) after 2:48s of BBFC cuts for:
The BBFC required 2:48s cuts to:
- the opening fellatio scene [in fact masked fellatio]
- the first heroin injection scene
- Holly’s masturbation with a beer bottle.
The distributor then cut an additional 8 minutes without BBFC permission. The additional cuts were to remove non controversial material the distributor thought was boring!
The same cut version was released for:
The submitted running time was noted as 109:41s = 105:18s
See article from sbbfc.co.uk: Discussing Cuts
Denied a London release, the next opportunity to gauge public and critical opinion would be at the London Film Festival, where the film was shown to critics first and then to a public audience on 19th November 1971 at the National Film Theatre. Questionnaires were issued to the audience by the film’s distributor asking whether or not they thought the film should be classified and the critics were also encouraged to review the film. Of those members of the public who filled in the questionnaire, only seven were opposed to the classification of the film.
Although the reaction to the Festival screening had gone some way towards reassuring the Board that the film was not regarded as a glamorisation of drugs, there was still a serious concern over its potential offensiveness and therefore its unacceptability to local authorities.
BBFC Director Stephen Murphy felt that the self selecting nature of the NFT Festival audience ruled it out as an indicator of general public opinion and therefore decided to commission some research of his own from the University of Leicester’s Centre for Mass Communication. This research, undertaken at the end of 1971, involved showing the film to a group of 86 individuals and asking for their reactions. In addition to a number of university students, the researchers also bussed in a group of middle aged housewives to seek their views. The results, presented to the Board in February 1972, showed that the majority (58%) were in favour of passing the film as it was and did not think that it promoted drugs (only six people expressed concerns in this regard). However, there were substantial reservations about the offensiveness of certain scenes (which perhaps not coincidentally included two of the sequences that would later be cut when the film was finally classified).
In June 1972 the distributor again asked the BBFC to reconsider the ban. Unsurprisingly, the BBFC simply restated its view that, in its full version, the film was not acceptable. However, Murphy conceded that it might now be possible to pass the film if its most offensive moments (as singled out in the Board’s own research) were toned down.
Sensing that there was little alternative but to go along with the Board the distributor accepted cuts as an option but stated that he could not make changes without the permission of the director. Accordingly Paul Morrissey flew to London on 15th July and cuts were discussed. An edited version was prepared and presented to the BBFC with 1:08s cut from three scenes. However, the cuts were still considered insufficient by Murphy and the board upped the cuts to 2:48s
In a further twist, it was brought to Murphy’s attention in 1973 that the version of Trash playing in cinemas might not be the same as the version he had passed. Murphy received a highly defensive letter admitting that the film had in fact been subject to further cuts after it had been passed by the BBFC. Distributor Jimmy Vaughan explained that During the re-editing of Trash to meet the requirements of your Board, I felt I might as well make certain cuts of my own [...] I would also like to mention that I myself removed two scenes of blood going into the syringe and several other cuts which I felt myself were either boring or possibly distasteful.
Even More Cuts
The extensively cut cinema version was passed 18 after a further 1:48s of BBFC cuts for:
The BBFC explained their additional cuts:
- Two scenes in this film are problematic. the scenes at 19 minutes and 55 minutes contain so much detail that they are both instructive and also seductive in immersing the viewer in the ritualistic process of fixing heroin, mixing it in a spoon, using a tourniquet, finding a vein and actually puncturing it and injecting it
The complete film was submitted and passed 18 after 2:20s of BBFC cuts for:
- 1996 First Independent VHS
The BBFC cuts info:
- The BBFC waived their previous cuts to fellatio and masturbation with a beer bottle
- The original cinema cuts for drug taking were retained
- The original cinema distributor cuts to drug taking scenes were retained
- The 1991 video cuts to drug taking were also retained
The full version was passed 18 uncut with previous cuts waived for:
The BBFC commented about the waived cuts in an article from sbbfc.co.uk: Not Instructional
The only consideration this time was whether or not the two famous injection scenes could be released intact.
Since James Ferman’s departure from the Board in 1998 fresh advice had been taken from experts working in the field of drugs. Having viewed other films previously cut by Ferman they concluded that the type of material shown in Trash was not in fact likely to be instructional. The fact that heroin is injected is widely known and no genuinely useful information (eg how to dissolve the heroin, what quantities to use, etc) could be gained from the film.
The US release is uncut and MPAA R Rated for:
Summary Review: Trash is a classic
It is a film that could only have been made in the early ’70′s. It captures people, locations and scenarios that existed then. This type of guerilla filmmaking is less about a script and more about capturing a moment. I can’t imagine these actors sitting around rehearsing scripted lines.
We will never see the likes of this type of filmmaking again. It is an era unto itself. See this film. At times it can be banal and boring and insane but so is life.