Splitting Hairs: Censoring 007

From the moment Bond blasted onto the world film scene, he has proven to be a rich target of censorship for those who weren`t quite prepared for his attitudes on sex, violence, nudity and race relations. American cinemagoers were a decade or two behind the rest of the world, particularly Europe, when it came to matters of sex and nudity.

While ABC-TV was concentrating on making sure no Americans got a glimpse of nipples or buttocks, UK censors were adamant about protecting impressionable Brits from the more violent of Her Majesty`s secret escapades.

Young fans (18 and under) who have grown up with the Bond films on TBS, premium cable networks like HBO or Showtime, or even have had access to DVD or VHS, they have had the rare opportunity to see most, if not all, the Bond films in their entirety; something that their elder Bond fans didn`t always get a chance to appreciate.

Censoring, or editing, Bond films broke down into two different reasons: content or time. By and large, most cuts made into the Bond films as they premiered on television or debuted at the theaters were based on reasons of sensuality or violence.

DR.NO November 1974 marked the first broadcast of Dr. No on ABC-TV. Only a few shots were cut but they included the Three Blind Mice shooting Strangeways (you see them shoot but you do not see Strangeways slump violently into his car) and Bond shooting Professor Dent, cold-blooded, in the back.

FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE In early 1974, From Russia, with Love made it`s premier [on ABC-TV] with the pre-credit sequence cut out and reedited after the belly dancer credits. This would begin the often cruel and incompetent censoring of the Bond films as shown on ABC. Other scenes such as the gypsy camp and the Orient Express fight between Bond and Grant were trimmed relentlessly.

Fan Ryan Harvey comments: “Of all the changes made to the Bond series for network broadcasting, the most obnoxious must be the network version of From Russia, With Love. The gypsy camp sequence was cut and there was no shooting of Krilencu. This entire sub-plot and central action scene is completely excised. The movie jumps from the scene where Bond and Kerim Bey are spying on the Russian embassy using the periscope. Bey introduces Krilencu; Bond takes a look at Tania`s legs, and then Kerim bay folds up the periscope to conclude the session. ABC cut it for time and violence (the girl on girl action was deemed to violent and fraught with sexual overtones) but without it, a very crucial piece of ambience vanishes. For a brief moment in this spirited adventure, even James Bond is shocked by the violence–it`s a powerful moment, especially to non Bond fans who often think of the series as just “goofy cartoon violence. Cut to a commercial.

When we come back, Bond is walking into his hotel room to discover Tania is lying there. Nearly 15 minutes of intense Bondian action and character, gone! It`s unconscionable.”

GOLDFINGER It was September 17, 1972 when ABC presented the world premier of Goldfinger on the Sunday night movie beginning at 9pm. The movie went off without a hitch except the gun-barrel icon scene was eliminated totally. A few shots were cut out to tone down the sex and violence. The scene with Oddjob enveloped in a shower of sparks at Fort Knox was cut. Only showing him touching his hat and falling to the floor. ABC was very sensitive in those days.

The spring of `74 had ABC reprising Goldfinger, except this time the entire pre-credit sequence was cut out completely and would never be seen again until HBO presented the movie on cable in 1980. Censors felt Bond allowing a woman to be knocked unconscious was unconscionable and the electrocution of his would be assailant too violent. Many fans that were first initiated into the world of Bondage came into it via the airings of the Bond films on ABC and were completely unaware that a pre-credit sequence existed until watching it on VHS or TBS.

THUNDERBALL The fall of `74 brought Thunderball to ABC-TV. In September, the showing of Thunderball came with all scenes in their respective order but just a few shots cut out or muted, such as: Bond giving Patricia Fearing a mink backrub and the scene where he says to Domino at the pool side, “Wait until you get to my teeth.”

Future airings of the movie would “up” the censorship quotient. For example, ABC objected to Bond pressing Nurse Fearing`s nude body up against the steam room window. The network also completely cut out Fiona Volpe`s bedroom encounter with Bond. Many a fan`s heads were being scratched when Volpe remarked about their sexual encounter, despite the fact that none had been shown. Their scene, with her arms intertwined with the steel bars on the bed, gave a hint of bondage that censors could not tolerate.

YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE In October 1975, ABC presented You Only Live Twice. This time ABC literally ruined the pre-credit sequence. The movie begins with the space capsule but twelve seconds into the scene the shot cuts to Bond already dead in his bed and the credits begin to roll. When the credits end the scene segues to Hong Kong harbour. We see and hear the boats passing in the channel and then the scene cuts back to the space capsule with the astronaut just beginning his space walk. The rest of the pre-credit sequence continues without any abrupt interruptions but when we get to Bond dead in his bed the scene cuts to Hong Kong harbour again. This sequence was probably the most confusing of all the Bond films that ABC presented – until On Her Majesty`s Secret Service came on for the first time.

ON HER MAJESTY`S SECRET SERVICE It was February 1976 and it was sweeps month for the big three networks. ABC was doing very well in the ratings with it`s mini series “Rich Man, Poor Man”, but during the last two Mondays of February, ABC presented On Her Majesty`s Secret Service in two parts. The first part, after the gun-barrel icon, opens with a close-up of Bond`s foot as it is being placed in a ski. A British voice (not Lazenby`s) begins by saying, “Bond, James Bond here. Agent OO7, on her majesty`s secret service.” The scene continues with Bond skiing down a moonlit mountain pursued by Blofeld`s men. Practically the entire ski chase is introduced as part of the pre-credit sequence with this inane voice-over. Even the part where Bond meets Tracy at the ice rink is there as part of a segue into the opening beach scene. But the scene with M and Q at Universal Exports is missing entirely. ABC had done the worst possible thing to a Bond film. They added narration. Throughout the first half of OHMSS, the audience had to endure this blasphemy. To the people who have never seen this film before, they thought the producers at EON were to blame. Whatever the case, this movie did not recover for years to come.

DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER In September of 1975, Diamonds Are Forever came on the ABC Friday Night Movie. Dialogue such as Bond saying “Welcome to hell, Blofeld,” Willard Whyte saying “Bond, get the hell off that rig” and of course Shady Tree`s comments to Bond as he saves him from a fiery death all ended on the cutting room floor. Also, the waterbed scene with Bond and Tiffany is missing. After the Las Vegas car chase ends, ABC went to a commercial, when they came back from the commercial break we see Felix Leiter and his men looking for the bridal suite where Bond and Tiffany are staying.

The film also proved to be too much and too far ahead of its time with the gay humor as far as ABC was concerned. The network cut scenes of Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd holding hands after blowing up a helicopter, Kidd commenting to Wint that Miss Case was quite attractive `for a lady`, and Wint clearly enjoying having the tails of his tux wedged up his buttocks by Bond. These are scenes that are standard and taken for granted as they air on TBS. ABC-TV also cut a significant percent of Bond`s fight with Bambi and Thumper in order to dodge any suggestion that the two girls may be lesbians.

TBS did some editing of its own as well. At one time TBS cut the scene where Bond pulls off Marie`s top and twists it around her neck, yet ironically, aired the same footage for during a promotion of the film. During their “15 Days of Cyber-Bond”, TBS muted Tiffany`s remark to 007: “For God`s sake, come up with something original.”

LIVE AND LET DIE The fall of 1976 came the television premier of Live and Let Die with minor scenes trimmed out for broadcast, such as Mrs. Bell saying “Holy s***” as Bond cuts off the wings of the Cessna, the explosion of Adam`s boat was cut down and the part where Tee Hee is pushed into the bathroom wall of the train by Bond and a handy upper berth ladder.

ABC cut the scene of Banes actually being bitten by the snake in the pre-credits sequence. Viewers who had no prior knowledge of the film would be led to believe that Banes simply died of exhaustion and fear.

During Apartheid, South Africa completely cut out any reference to Bond and Rosie Carver having sex (and presumably cut scenes of Kananga slapping Solitaire and Solitaire getting undressed in front of several black men). The image of Rosie Carver/Gloria Hendry in the poster artwork for Live and Let Die was taken out and replaced with the picture of an anonymous, busty blonde. The changes can be seen on the special edition dvd of LIVE AND LET DIE. Gloria Hendry spoke on how she felt to see this poster change and her replaced as one the Bond leads at our Bond Weekend III.

THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN February 1977, The Man with the Golden Gun made its TV debut. This time the credits were retouched to cover up any partial nudity. Visible pubic hair in the title sequence, despite being in the form of silhouette, proved too hot to handle. Maurice Binder commented: “For instance, there was a dancer in The Man with the Golden Gun and she was nude. I used some rippling water, which covered her body, so we got away with that, but when she danced around sideways, some inappropriate hair stuck out. She wouldn`t shave.” Binder eventually resolved the situation by moving the title text to cover the appropriate area and using Vaseline or Brylcream to smooth down the pubic hair. Talk about splitting hairs.

Other scenes such as Bond saying to Lazar “Speak now, or forever hold your piece,” Chew Me, the girl in Hi Fats pool and some of J.W Pepper`s profanity were eliminated. When `Gun` debuted on American television, it marked the first time a Bond movie came on two years after it`s theatrical debut. It also marked the first time all the Bond movies had been shown on TV before the next one came out at the theaters.

THE SPY WHO LOVED ME Anya`s shower aboard the American submarine was completely cut as was Bond kicking Anya`s men in the groin at the Pyramids.

British censors wouldn`t allow footage of Bond electrocuting Jaws in the teeth to show in trailers for The Spy Who Loved Me. It was deemed too violent for children who may have also seen the trailer in the film. The sub that is captured in the pre-credits sequence had a wallfull of centerfolds pinned up along the wall that can be seen on the wide screen versions of the film, but were cut out of American broadcasts.

MOONRAKER Holly`s request to be `taken around the world one more time` was cut, as was Bond`s reference to the `69 bottle of champagne in her suite. (!)

ABC cut Bond kicking Jaws in his groin, only to find out that he literally had balls of steel. The shot of the gorgeous Drax Girl turning towards Bond as she was about to pass through the entrance of the Mayan ruin was trimmed to avoid showing too much cleavage.

FOR YOUR EYES ONLY British censors wouldn`t allow Maurice Binder to use the shot of Bond kicking Locque`s car off a cliff for the film trailer. British censors considered that to be in cold blood. ABC cut Locque`s body falling out of the car as it crashes to the ground. ABC also used slightly alternate titles for FYEO. In Binder`s original conception, the last woman in the title sequence is behind a thin veil of water, but her breasts are clearly visible and well defined. ABC`s version of that sequence completely blurs out her breasts so that no nipple can be seen. A shot of Erich Kreigler tumbling out of the monastery window and free falling to earth were eliminated.

OCTOPUSSY ABC darkened out much of the titles for the film, rendering them almost pointless. Apparently shots of thigh or breast would cause teenagers heads to explode. ABC also cut the shot of one of Kamal`s men having his faced sucked by a writhing Octopus. Bond`s reaction shot to Magda`s request for “refilling” was cut so that the in joke would not be picked up by the audience. Bond`s jab at Q about `having trouble keeping it up `was completely cut. Shots of Kamal plucking the eyeballs of the sheep and eating them were eliminated. Bond making an obscene gesture to a bunch of German teenagers was cut, despite the fact that it was hilarious under the circumstances. Octopussy emerging from a moonlight skinny dip was cut to avoid showing nudity.

THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS Bond ripping off Rubavitch`s clothes was completely cut, as were shots of showering Russian soldiers overtaken by a bulldozer. Shots of 009`s body hitting the Rock of Gibraltar as it tumbled towards the ground were cut out.

LICENSE TO KILL British censors forced deep cuts into this film. The ratings board objected to shots of Sanchez enjoying his revenge on Leiter. Michael G. Wilson has commented that “…The British will accept a certain amount of nudity, sex or violence, but “sadism” is out of bounds.”

GOLDENEYE British censors also didn`t care for Xenia`s head butt of Natalya in GOLDENEYE. That was completely cut out for U.K. viewers, as well as the line “Wait for your turn.”

Stuart Basinger, Pimp Daddy and Ryan Harvey all contributed to this report.

The full text of the article, The ABCs of the Bond Films, can be found at: http://www.geocities.com/shatterhand01/ABCArticle/TheABCsoftheOO7Films.html

On Her Majesty`s Secret Service: The 1976 “Narrated” Version details, complete with sound files of this rare movie airing is available at: http://www.geocities.com/Hollywood/Mansion/2512/

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