It’s amazing what you find when you go trawling through the microfiche archives for your local newspaper.
When browsing through the back issues of The Yorkshire Evening Post for 1979 I noticed that The Warriors, Walter Hill’s gritty, comic book style New York action flick was actually shown at a ‘members only’ cinema called The Tatler here in Leeds rather than the bigger Odeon and ABC cinemas where I’d expect a big studio film (The Warriors was made by Paramount) to play. Why was this?
With a bit more research I discovered why. Local authorities here in the UK can view any film that the BBFC has rated 18, or when The Warriors was released, X certificate. They can then go further than the BBFC and ban a film outright if they wish to do. These are exceptional cases but in the past, this has happened. The Life of Brian was notoriously banned in Hull until 2008.
This can also happen in reverse- a local authority can show a film in cinemas in its threshold that the BBFC has banned. This occurred in 1999 when Camden Council awarded The Texas Chain Saw Massacre a special ‘C for Camden’ certificate to show the film even though it was still banned by the BBFC. I was lucky enough to see the film during this run. It was reclassified as an 18 and no longer banned by the BBFC shortly after this.
In the case of The Warriors, the local authority here in Leeds chose to ban the film even though the BBFC has classified it as an X. This was due to the violent content of the film.
However, you can’t keep a great piece of art down for too long. There was a loophole that meant that any banned film can be shown uncut in a licensed ‘members only’ cinema even if it’s been banned by the BBFC or a local authority.
And that’s just what happened in Leeds. The Warriors was shown at The Tatler Cinema- a ‘members only’ cinema that at that time was showing ‘erotic’ (or as we’d say here in Leeds- ‘mucky’) films.
This must have been a massive two fingers up to the Leeds local authority who thought that no one would be able to see this film that they thought would corrupt and inspire a whole slew of really nicely choreographed gang violence here in Leeds as The Armley Baseball Furies fight for their turf against The Gipton Riffs.
This loophole was amended by the BBFC decades later to prevent uncut films (specifically with pornography in mind) being shown in members cinemas if the BBFC had banned them or not certified them R18.
Strange bedfellows- The Warriors, a film made by huge studio Paramount Pictures being shown at a cinema that primarily showed porn. Overzealous censorship makes great comedy.