The BBFC files: Trash

Scenes of intravenous drug use, performed by the stars of Warhol’s Factory, caused a headache for the 1970s censor board. The BBFC’s senior archivist Jen Evans rumages through the Trash file.

Jen Evans
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Trash (1971)

Trash (1971)

When Stephen Murphy replaced John Trevelyan as Secretary of the BBFC in 1971, one of the first films he considered was Trash. Murphy advised the distributor of the film, Jimmy Vaughan, that Trash would require cuts at best, and at worst may be denied a certificate altogether.

When the film was formally submitted to the BBFC in August 1971 it was rejected. Stephen Murphy’s response to a query from the public, published here, explains the reasoning behind the Board’s decision.

When Vaughan asked the BBFC to reconsider the rejection the following year the Board conceded that it may be possible to pass the film if the most offensive moments were toned down. After negotiations with the director of the film, Paul Morrissey, the BBFC passed a cut down version of Trash ‘X’ in November 1972.

Subsequent submissions of the film to the BBFC during the 1990s, when James Ferman was Director of the BBFC, led to further cuts to scenes of drug use. The Board’s position on the matter was strengthened by amendments to the Video Recordings Act (in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994), which required the BBFC to consider any harm that may be caused to viewers or, through their actions, to society by a video’s portrayal of illegal drugs.

The uncut version of Trash was submitted for DVD release in 2004. The BBFC had taken fresh advice from experts working in the field of drugs and concluded that the type of material shown in the film was not in fact likely to be instructional. Trash was finally passed ‘18’ uncut for DVD release in 2005, 35 years after the film was made.

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