I love combing through the archives of the local newspapers to see the ads used for my favourite films as they were released in Yorkshire.
If one of these films is controversial enough, it will find itself the centre of attention, wherever it is released.
One such film was, of course, The Exorcist. The film being released in Leeds (in May 1974) didn’t go unnoticed by the local bureaucratic busybodies as they hadn’t even seen the film yet. What happened gives a glimpse into the censorship process that held more sway in the 70’s when a film was to be released.
The film came to Leeds without a press screening.
The above article is very telling. In those days, films would have to go through a two stage process regarding whether it was shown in a locality by a certain council or not rather than today’s process in which the decision of the British Board of Film Classification (or the BBFC for short) is the ‘be all and end all’. A local council could decide whether a film passed (or indeed, rejected) by the BBFC could still be shown or banned locally. Hence, The Warriors could be banned by Leeds City Council after it was passed with an X certificate by the BBFC. Conversely, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre could be banned by the BBFC but local councils could still decide to show the film in their area. This actually happened with 3 councils deciding to show it including the GLC and Leeds.
In the above article, Coun. Lund asks for further screenings to be stopped until the Licensing Sub-committee have seen the film in a private screening to ascertain if it is suitable to be shown locally. I’m gobsmacked that the film had already been banned in Bradford and Wakefield.
Of course, local religious figures piled on to set pressure to get the film banned. Tellingly, Mr Holy Roller hadn’t actually seen the film. I wonder if he knew Mary Whitehouse.
And after all of that broohaha, the film is actually passed as safe to be shown. But not until Coun. Rose Lund, who caused all of this stink, dismisses it as ‘rubbish’. Thanks for your opinion. I actually disagree wholeheartedly though.
The Exorcist went on to play for many weeks in Leeds, went on to become one of the highest grossing films of all-time and is generally regarded as one of the best horror films ever made.
Again, thanks Coun. Lund.