The films that vexed the censor

The way films are censored can tell us much about changing attitudes in society to sex, violence and rebellion, writes Ben Southwell.

Enter the hidden world of the British Board of Film Classification's written archive and a hundred years of film censorship are laid bare.

It's possible to chart the changing concerns of the board as it has trodden a fine line between enforcing the standards of the day and recognising artistic endeavour.

The letters between censor and film-makers begin to take on a life of their own as the relationship develops from regulator to collaborator and beyond.

An examiner's report on Ken Russell's The Devils reveals a wry sense of humour often present in the censor's letters. "I have no personal knowledge as to the shape of nuns under their habits, but I doubt they all look like the 'Playmates' of this film."

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