« ZurückWeiter »
brutality or violence. The code staff indicated that many scenes which were passed in the silent stage when viewed later in a theater had been greatly changed by the addition of sound. For example, viewing the scene in Crashout, wherein the gang leader instructs another criminal to return to the cave to murder the doctor that had been bound and left there, minus the sound the scene would have either no meaning or could not be construed as a scene containing brutality or violence. However, when the sound is “dubbed” in, while the camera is being played on the gang leader standing at the mouth of the cave, from within the cave ostensibly we hear the sound of a rock being smashed on the head of the bound and gagged doctor. On viewing a section of a motion picture in the Code Administration's viewing room, the subcommittee staff saw an extremely violent fight, motorboat chase, and subsequent crash and explosion. Without the sound, however, the total effect of the scene was comparatively tranquil.
Mr. Shurlock told the subcommittee staff that this was one of the reasons why some of the violence passed through the code is viewed on motion-picture screens. The obvious answer is, of course, that the Production Code Administration require the producers of films to submit the finished film with the entire sound track “dubbed” in for its final viewing. This seems logical and, of course, would reduce the possibility of an excessively violent type of film being shown on the motion-picture screens of the United States. It is, of course, difficult for movies to be adequately viewed with regard to the provisions of the motion-picture code without being able to hear what is going on in the film. Quite naturally, much of the impact of brutal, violent, sadistic, or horrible scenes may be due to the combined visual-auditory manifestations emanating from the screen.
MOVIE VIOLENCE AND THE MOTION-PICTURE PRODUCTION CODE
The overwhelming evidence gathered by the subcommittee indicates that the mass media, including the movies, definitely shape attitudes and, therefore, in varying degrees, the behavior of youth. While the Motion Picture Production Code was developed on this assumption, the code administrators seem to be giving it up in favor of so-called "realism." This surrender to "realism" involves not only the actual provisions of the code, but the spirit of the code. Any regulatory body other than it is, with flimsy half-successful attempts at covering up the main theme of the story, is indeed violating the very code they are supposed to be enforcing.
Reasons advanced for the increase in motion-picture violence were as follows:
(1) With the increased threat of encroachment on box-office receipts by television, the movie people feel that their presentations must be on a par or superior to television and therefore they take greater license in their efforts to meet the competition;
(2) The feeling on the part of many motion-picture people that these types of presentations are indeed what the public desires to see. This may have, in part, been supported by the box-office successes of certain foreign films which dealt with the intimate or sensational or sordid type of content;
(3) The increasing resistance on the part of certain Hollywood producers and directors against what they feel to be unfair restrictions and limitations as put forth by the Motion Picture Production Code; and
(4) The feeling that television today appeals to more of the
very young people who used to dedicate themselves to movies. Therefore, the same kind of responsibility to safeguard this very young audience, as existed heretofore, has been relaxed. The more mature audience is given consideration.
The type of film content under consideration has been outlawed since the beginning under the prevailing provisions of the Motion Picture Production Code. The subcommittee feels that the laxness on the part of the code and the loose interpretations placed on many obvious violations were a result of a genuine feeling of appreciation for the stiff competition faced by motion-picture producers from television and the feeling on the part of code administrators that these were not indeed violations, but a more or less facing of reality in keeping with television productions. The subcommittee further feels that the Motion Picture Production Code staff has relinquished the necessity for strict adherence to the code by producers in the name of artistic liberalism, because they no longer feel a responsibility toward children.
Another reason, and perhaps the most important, for increased violence is that the code staff
' can only suggest script or scene changes to producers. The producers are not bound by the decision of the code staff. Any letters regarding changes are phrased in the form of a recommendation. The code staff does not" (and cannot) demand the softened treatment of violence as a mandate from the code; nothing of that nature appears in it. A good deal of the work of the Production Code Administration is of an advisory nature, pointing out sources of trouble with censor boards or pressure groups or possible audience reactions. The producers are free to disregard such advice at any time.
Increased objections on the part of concerned individuals throughout the United States and abroad are apparently going to put a stop to the trend toward more violence and, indeed, à reversal seems to be forthcoming. The real motivation underlying this reversal of form, however, cannot be placed at the level of a sudden social awareness of public resentment on the part of the motion-picture producers, but at the level of monetary remuneration. That is, there is fear on the part of the motion picture producers that their box oflice will be hurt as a result of the recent trends in motion picture producing and the resulting criticism. The desire for a return to the code restrictions seems to be inspired by fear rather than by any growth of professional consciousness or sense of responsibility for the public interest on the part of a few who control the industry.
The subcommittee feels that Mr. Shurlock is a man of integrity and intelligence who is making every effort to bring the minority of producers making objectionable films toward the goal of more strict adherence to not only the provisions, but the spirit of the Motion Picture Production Code. The subcommittee also feels that Mr. Shurlock has been honest and forthright in performing his job. He has,
, lowever, himself stated that the Production Code Administration's responsibility toward children has lessened, and there the subcommit
tee disagrees.60 Aside from this, the subcommittee appreciates some of the difficulties faced by Mr. Shurlock. He is, after all, employed by the people whose product he passes on and is under continual pressure. His efforts to remove movie violence, as is attested to by the correspondence between his office and the various film producers, is to be commended. The recent efforts on the part of the Code Administration, the public indignation, and the insistence of various interested groups have been steps in the right direction toward a return to the tenets of the code.
Although there have been several recalcitrant producers who are defying the Code Administration, they represent a fraction of the total number of producers who keep their productions within the limitations of the code.
What the argumentative producers, writers, and directors fail to realize is that the Production Code is actually a buffer between them and the large group of zealots who would impose censorship on their endeavors. Rather than restrict their artistic proclivities, the code allows them certain freedoms, albeit within bounds, that they may otherwise be deprived of if controls of their own design and application were not present.
Whether or not this group of producers will impair the effectiveness of the code remains to be seen. It is felt that Mr. Shurlock's latest efforts would tend to bring these people into line and reaffirm the desire to adhere on the part of the remaining producers. Because the mechanics of moviemaking preclude any immediate manifestations of a trend toward less movie
violence, it is too early to form a judgment as to the efficacy of this latest attempt on the part of the Production Code Administration to remove these major criticisms. The subcommittee intends to watch with great interest the activities of the association and will report at a later date on this effort of the movie industry to eliminate objectionable content from their films.
The subcommittee was given a memorandum written by Delmar L. Daves, a free-lance director and writer who attended the 1955 film festival in Uruguay, which reflects his opinion of foreign films where the self-regulatory process is nonexistent. He wrote:
NOTE.—After seeing all the countries' handling of sex scenes, I'm in favor of our code. The liberty to shoot such scenes cannot compensate for the liberties that would be taken with the liberty if the bars were let down *
* * and are taken in various scenes in most stories of this nature. It got to be a cliché that the lover pulled the dress off his girl's shoulder and just before it bares her breast the camera pans away to trees, waves, lake, birds, you name it. This got to be amusing, seeing one picture after another, and one shoulder bared after another, in France, Portugal, Spain, Finland, etc., etc.
In another section, Mr. Daves wrote: However, what concerns us most in regard to worldwide influence at work in films is the brutal, even disgusting realism in evidence in this film. As if to harden the audience for what was to follow, the director had the girl's mother Fomit into camera (!) early in the first reel-real vomit. This is realism. Later, other breaches of taste for the sake of realism occurred-the camera panning an actor to a man who is obviously urinating below screen. Another time, after a gross rape scene wherein the 13-year-old is assaulted by a drunk, the man comes out of the bedroom buttoning bis pants. It is after seeing atrocious and purposeless breaches of taste of this kind that an American director is apt to cheer rather than curse the code, for here is evidence of directorial aberration uncontrolled.
Shurlock, Geoffrey, see statements in article. "How Hollywood las Dropped Its Taboos,” People Today. vol. 10, No. 7, April 6, 1955, pp. 2–6; and, People Today, vol. 10, No. 8, April 20, 1955, pp. 2, 64.
One of the most disturbing aspects of the hearings was the type of movie advertising that is allowed to reach the public. While it is realized that the Advertising Code Administration has a difficult time reviewing all of the advertisements sent to it and a difficult time proying to some people that a new approach to selling their product should be used. It is not easy to give a story of a picture in advertising. Some of the advertising, however, has definitely gone too far and is not excusable. Mr. Gordon White, who is in charge of this part of the code, impressed the subcommittee as a sincere, earnest, conscientious man, who has been under severe difficulties in carrying out the administration of the code just as he would like for it to be carried out. It is hoped that as a result of the hearings, both the Motion Picture Production Code and the Advertising Code, with the support of the industry, will continue more vigorously attempts to correct what, to say the least, is poor selling taste in many instances.
In supervising advertising and publicity at its source, the Advertising Code Administration uses the most practical but not the most effective means of control. Although the exhibitor usually relies upon what is furnished by the studio, he may change the material or use his own. The exhibitor's own copy may contravene the Advertising Code. In order that the public may not confuse the advertising of the "sex-circuit” theaters with that of the members of the association, this point is brought up because a good number of the complaints sent to the subcommittee were about advertising of this nature. Many people feel that all of the advertising in the daily newspaper has been subject to the code, when it actually has not.
RESPONSIBILITY OF THE MOTION-PICTURE INDUSTRY
The responsibility of the movie industry is a tremendous one.
Our investigations have highlighted the potential and real impact that movies have upon our young people. It is not sufficient that the movie industry do a fairly good job, a mediocre job, or even a good job_they must do an outstanding one. Our study of the movie code was both penetrating and revealing. The industry is to be commended for applying a code of morals to itself and, generally, both of these codes are considered good codes. It is this type of regulation that prevents censorship, a word that is repugnant to most people and certainly to members of the subcommittee. In attempting to focus public opinion on the code as the subcommittee has done to bring about iinprovement, this is felt to be the surest guaranty that exists against the increase in demand for some kind of censorship. Unless the industry continues to improve the quality of its pictures and gives full awareness to what the public needs in the field of children's pictures particularly, there may be an increasing demand for censorship.
While the advertising and motion-picture codes are in the main effective, there have been many instances of violations of both of these codes. The fault does not lie entirely with the men who are called upon to administer the codes. Theirs is a difficult problem; one which is complicated by many factors. It is evident that there is a good deal of influence and sometimes pressure to make them see things a certain way in close cases, maybe to approve something that they have some question or some misgivings about. Much of the fault seems to be in à rather loose interpretation of responsibility by some of the movie producers. Judging by their testimony before the subcommittee, the feeling generated was that this was a situation which the code administrators are attempting to rectify and one in which they are making headway:
The subcommittee would once again like to state that our investigation and subsequent report are not for the purpose of condemning; it would like to recognize the good with the bad. The purpose of the subcommittee is to work with the movie industry to try to see that it is better from the viewpoint of its influence upon the child and it is sincerely hoped that the people in the industry will understand that and will give their fullest cooperation and confidence.
REGULATION OF THE MOTION-PICTURE INDUSTRY
Traditionally, three solutions have been developed for the problem of keeping motion pictures within their proper function : Censorship, penal sanctions, and self-regulation. Censorship, though its status is still unsettled, appears to have spent its force. Complete freedom for motion pictures within the limits of the penal laws is impossible to achieve, for organized interest groups are unlikely to give up their review boards, and they will see that the Production Code is perpetuated. Self-regulation through the Production Code has the advantage of being a method of control integrated with the production process, and the cost is borne by the industry. However, there are important defects. The interests of motion-picture producers do not always coincide with those of the public, and the public can exercise no direct control over the procedure established to administer the code. There is also the possibility that producers with unacceptable productions will increasingly simply issue those films without the Production Code seal. It must be concluded that none of these methods will produce any universal solution.
The primary argument for censorship is usually the necessity for protecting young minds from contact with sights or ideas unsuited to their tender years. But many feel it is unthinkable that a medium designed for entertainment should be permanently hobbled by the mental and moral requirements of the immature. A realistic approach is taken by the British and Canadians who meet the situation by classifying some pictures as unfit for juvenile patronage.
Conceivably States could forbid the exhibition of unacceptable films to minors, in accord with the practice now followed with respect to liquor, tobacco, and firearms. In this connection, it might be profitable for State legislatures to examine the British system of film regulation. In Great Britain, there is no statutory provision for censorship of films. There is a board of film censors, but they are without statutory powers. They classify films into four categories: A (adult and children under 16 if accompanied by adults); H (horror films); U (universal exhibition); and 'x (unsuitable for children under 16 even if accompanied by adults). Obviously the only purpose of this classification is to indicate films which are suitable for children. Exhibition of films not passed by the board is not an offense as such, but such classifications are given legal effect under the Cinematograph Act,