By Paul Mason
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Extra info for Criminal Visions : Media Representations of Crime and Justice
In 1999, in supposedly less hysterical times, Last House was submitted to the BBFC by the Feature Film Company for classification as a cinema release. On 19 May that year, BBFC Director Robin Duval wrote to the company explaining that the film ‘contains a number of sequences involving gross violence committed against women, often in a context with clear sexual overtones. ’ The Board thus required cuts totalling some 85 seconds. However, although the first sentence is an uncontroversial statement of fact, the second is a highly questionable judgement and is a matter of opinion – one which, as we shall see, was continually to bedevil the film’s progress through the hands of the BBFC and subsequently the VAC.
However, in certain parts of the country, matters will undoubtedly not have changed substantially since the days described by the Labour MP Leo Abse, when the fate of works prosecuted under the OPA were frequently determined by people: 36 Video violence: how far can you go? Who often have been selected, quite deliberately, not because they enjoy a ribald story or have a Rabelaisian temperament, but precisely because they have a certain rigidity and rectitude about them which, although it may equip them in certain respects to deal with many laws, makes them, perhaps, peculiarly unsuitable and unacceptable to deal with the question of what is or is not likely to corrupt.
Even in the murky photocopy I am looking at, even after more than half a century, the child’s pitiful, anguished face cries out for comfort. The story is the main home news of the day. The rest of the front page is taken up by news of the war, and a brief note about the actor Cary Grant’s separation from his wife. One paragraph in the leading story details the poor girl’s injuries: black eye, bruises, ‘red weal marks extended over her temple and across her cheeks’. Beyond 26 From law and order to lynch mobs this clinical detail there is no attempt to spell out the trauma and suffering of the victim, or the evil of the assault.