Surviving the cut
IT’S almost unheard of for a mainstream film to be banned these days, or even substantially cut. Steve Mcqueen’s Shame is one of the few recent releases to be given an R-classification. Bonnie and Clyde (Sunday, 11.20pm, Gem), which set new standards of screen violence in its day, was lucky to escape censorship in 1967. The final scenes of carnage may seem fairly mild now, but Arthur Penn’s lyrical outlaw saga still packs a hefty punch, and Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway make a wonderful pair of fugitives. One poster campaign — objected to by moralists at the time — proclaimed, They are young, they are in love, they kill people.’’ Sadly true.
Rocco and His Brothers (Monday, 10.30pm, SBS Two), Luchino Visconti’s violent, operatic study of a family transplanted from rural Sicily to the fleshpots of Milan, was heavily cut for US audiences in 1960. In the original film a prostitute is stabbed to death in a frenzied attack, but the distributors cut the number of onscreen stabbings from 13 to three for US release and trimmed more than an hour from the film. Even so, it remains a stark and powerful film in the best Italian realist tradition.
Tennessee Williams’s familiar mix of southern gothic sexual neurosis and familial conflict gets watered-down treatment in Richard Brooks’s Sweet Bird of Youth (Saturday, 1.50am, Gem). Paul Newman plays a small-time hustler hoping to make it in Hollywood with the help of a fading movie star (Geraldine Page). A scene in the play in which Newman’s character is castrated was dropped from the film to comply with the old Production Code, along with references to gonorrhea. The film is saved by some great performances, including Ed Begley’s villainous Boss’’ Finlay.
Written and directed by Colin Nutley, The Queen of Sheba’s Pearls (Sunday, 11.15pm, SBS One) is an engaging mystery story that begins in England during World War II. Young Jack Bradley is being evacuated during the bombing and says goodbye to his mother at the railway station. Soon afterwards he learns she has been killed by a crashing plane. So who is this mysterious Nancy (Helena Bergstrom) who appears eight years later in the Bradley household? It’s a strange film, full of good intentions and uplifting moments — and none of it, to my knowledge, has been censored.