Throughout the decade there were a number of films involving gangland characters. 1981 saw the release of Tom Clegg's McVicar, a criminal biopic passed 'X'; and John Mackenzie's The Long Good Friday, the story of a criminal determined to preserve his manor against incursions by the IRA, also passed 'X'. This has remained '18' on video since 1987, with the most recent classification in 2008. Neil Jordan's Mona Lisa, was passed '18' in 1986, with Bob Hoskins playing the role of chauffeur to a prostitute. David Green's Buster, passed '15' in 1988, told the story of Great Train Robber 'Buster' Edwards on the run from the law. The decade concluded with Peter Medak's tale of infamous twin gangland figures, The Krays, passed '18', after cuts to an horrific mutilation scene.
Another film based on real-life was Michael Caton-Jones' Scandal, an account of the Profumo affair, a political scandal of the 1960s. Although for some the events were considered too recent for comfort, the problem for the BBFC was of a different kind. An orgy scene revealed the presence of an erect penis in the backgound of the shot. The image was obscured by soft-focus lighting and the film released with an '18' certificate.
The first of the Rambo series, First Blood (Ted Kotcheff), was passed '15' uncut in 1982, and the second, George Pan Cosmatos' Rambo - First Blood Part II was passed '15' uncut in 1985. However, Rambo III was cut in 1988 to obtain an '18' certificate. In addition to a horse-fall removed under the terms of the Cinematograph Films (Animals) Act 1937, the violence was reduced by the excision of spatter shots, and cuts were made to counteract the glamorisation of weapons which constituted a significant classification issue.
John Milius' Conan The Barbarian required cuts to a sex scene between Conan and a serpent-woman, and to remove horse-falls, for an 'AA' category in 1982. The second Conan film, Richard Fleischer's Conan The Destroyer also required horse-fall and animal cruelty cuts in 1984.
The decade also saw the establishment of the 'stalk and slash' genre with the Friday 13th series of films, with parts I and II passed 'X' uncut on film in 1980 and 1981 respectively. Part III was also passed 'X' uncut on film in 1982, but with two cuts to violence/horror to obtain an '18' on video in 1987.
1981 saw the second in the Halloween series passed 'X' uncut on film, but a scene where a woman was scalded to death in a jacuzzi was reduced for an '18' video release in 1990.
The development of the video recorder created new anxieties about the home viewing of feature films. Legally, there was no requirement that videos should be classified, which meant that films that had not been approved by the BBFC or which were suitable for adults only, were falling into the hands of children. In particular the tabloid press led a campaign against so called 'video nasties'. This term was not always clearly defined, but there were 70 titles that had either been prosecuted by the DPP under the Obscene Publications Act, or were awaiting prosecution. Some of these were horror films that had never been submitted to the BBFC. Others had been cut for their cinema release, and the video versions sometimes included restored cuts. The outcome of this concern was new legislation, introduced as a private member’s Bill by Conservative MP, Graham Bright. The Video Recordings Act 1984, makes it an offence for a video work to be supplied if it has not been classified, or to supply a classified work to a person under the age specified in the certificate.
When former 'video nasties', they are examined under current Guidelines, and their legal history considered. It is usually possible to make cuts to ensure a modern release, although many of them continue to test the Guidelines for sexual violence.
1982 - Review of the category system
- 'A' was changed to 'PG'
- 'AA' was changed to '15' and
- X' became '18'.
Further changes to the category system in the 80s
In 1985: 'Uc' was introduced for video only, to identify works suitable for very young children to watch alone.
In 1989: '12' introduced on film, to bridge the huge gap between 'PG' and '15'. This was extended to video in 1994. The first film to be given a '12' rating was Batman