The ludicrous censors at the Motion Picture Association of America and their precursors at the Production Code Office have always had counterparts in other countries. Whether for political, religious, social, economic, and/or moral reasons – and those tend to overlap – countless movies have been banned, cut, redubbed, and reedited around the world, courtesy of government-appointed censors, religious institutions, and pressure groups.
Among myriad such instances, Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory (1957) and Gillo Pontecorvo’s La Battaglia di Algeri /Battle of Algiers (1966) were banned in France; Costa-Gavras’ Z (1969) and State of Siege (1973) were banned in Brazil; Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up (1966) and John Waters’ Pink Flamingos (1972) were banned in Australia; and Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Last Tango in Paris (1972) was banned just about everywhere.
And just earlier this year, Louie Psihoyos’ Oscar-winning The Cove, about the indiscriminate slaughter of dolphins in the vicinity of a Japanese village, nearly went unseen in Japan.
The list includes the following:
Sam Wood’s For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943), which despite being a bowdlerized version of Ernest Hemingway’s novel, offended the powers-that-be in General Francisco Franco’s right-wing dictatorship. For Whom the Bell Tolls was finally released in Spain in 1978, three years after Franco’s death.
Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s The Barefoot Contessa (1954), which had many scenes redubbed for the Spanish market, so local moviegoers wouldn’t be able to listen to Ava Gardner discussing what she went through during the Spanish Civil War.
Pilar Miró’s El crimen de Cuenca / The Cuenca Crime (1980), which offended the sensibilities of the Spanish Civil Guard. Miró was even tried at a Military Tribunal before her film was finally released in late 1981 to become one of Spain’s biggest hits of the ’80s.
And of course, Luis Buñuel’s Palme d’Or winner Viridiana (1961), which left both the Franquistas and the Catholic clergy apoplectic with its anti-bourgeoisie, anti-government, anti-Church stance, in addition to the infamous “Last Supper” scene featuring crass, ruthless bums in place of Jesus and the apostles. Viridiana remained banned in Spain until 1977.