Sometimes the movie you see at the cinema may be missing some bits. But you can count on the home entertainment release to deliver the complete uncut version.

Those ubiquitous classification labels adorning disc sleeves might be an eyesore that blemishes the cover artwork to some, but to most they provide important consumer information on a film’s content and age requirements.

Before we press on, it’s important to understand how the Australian Classification system actually works.

Films, video games and certain publications are legally required to be classified prior to public consumption. This process is carried out by a group of people our government believes best represents what the average Australian would think. Picture them sitting in a darkened screening room ticking off boxes according to the levels of impact of violence, sex, coarse language, drug use, nudity et al in a film, as outlined in the Classification Act.

Although bound by the Classification guidelines, the ratings granted can often seem wildly inconsistent, as is the case with two recent horror films. Nazi zombie movie Overlord received an R18+ rating (more on that later) despite not being overtly graphic (IMO), while gruesome arthouse shocker Suspiria was passed with an MA15+. Go figure.

Arthouse and foreign language films do get away with a lot more (including depictions of real sex) on the grounds of artistic merit and serious intent, and ultimately, it’s all about the context.

It’s not uncommon for distributors to disagree with the rating awarded, too, albeit usually for commercial reasons – an M will sell more tickets than an age-restrictive MA15+ or R18+. Consequently, they will sometimes resubmit a censored version of the film to receive a lower rating. The Classification Board doesn’t play censor – it’s entirely the distributor’s choice to make the trims, which can sometimes be detrimental to the film.

George Romero’s classic Dawn of the Dead was gutted of its gore for the local theatrical release in 1978, which kind of defeats the purpose.

Oh how times have changed – you can see far worse in an episode of The Walking Dead!

Another great example of this kind of modification was the local theatrical release of RoboCop in 1987 – an M-rated version prepared for US network TV, sans bloodshed and profanity. Fortunately, the cuts made to films nowadays are far less damaging.

Which brings us back to Overlord, granted an R for ‘High Impact Violence’ before being downgraded to an MA following a second submission by Paramount. Horror fans quickly vented their anger on social media and the backlash appeared to work – Overlord hit cinemas in its original uncut R version. Whether or not this will set a precedent remains to be seen, but it’s definitely a positive step towards not alienating the target audience.

Very mild impactMild impactModerate impactStrong impactHigh impact
ThemesY
ViolenceY
LanguageY
Drug Use
Nudity
Sex

This practice isn’t confined to violent films, however. Who would have thunk that the kid-friendly Smallfoot, rom-com Crazy Rich Asiansand Mark Wahlberg comedy Instant Family would all be resubmitted and released in a modified version that toned down the levels of coarse language (see below).

MIND YOUR LANGUAGE

  • Smallfoot(PG) – Mild impact: language. Very mild: themes, violence
    (G) – Very mild: themes, violence, language
  • Crazy Rich Asians (M) – Moderate impact: language. Mild impact: themes, sex. Very mild: violence, drug use
    (PG) – Mild impact: themes, language, sex. Very mild: violence, drug use
  • Instant Family (M) – Moderate impact: language. Mild impact: themes, violence, drug use. Very mild: sex
    (PG) – Mild impact: themes, language, sex. Very mild: violence, drug use

While the general public are usually none the wiser to any changes made, these unkind cuts in the pursuit of extra box office dollars can be infuriating for movie buffs. But the good news is that while cinemas sometimes wind up screening a modified version, we can always depend on the home entertainment release to deliver the original uncut goods.

The complete R-rated version of Overlord is out on DVD, Blu-ray & 4K UHD on March 13. Pre-order your copy now.