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History of censorship - 1954

The Wild One

The Wild One gets banned five times before being passed.

The film The Wild One, starring Marlon Brando, was rejected by the Film Censor and Appeal Board five times between 1954 and 1959. The film was banned because of concerns about teenage motorbike gangs and teenage behaviour in general.

It was finally passed with an R16 certificate in November 1977, and from 1987 the video/DVD version of the film was labelled 'PG: contains violence'.

The film was classified 'PG: violence' in 2016 for screening as part of the commemorations of 100 years of film censorship in New Zealand. This is the current classification.

The 'Comics Scare'

Part of the background to these concerns was the moral panic after the discovery by police of a "gang" of teenagers meeting for sex in Lower Hutt. A number of members of the gang were arrested for underage sex. The Government immediately set up a Special Committee on Moral Delinquency in Children and Adolescents - later known as the Mazengarb Enquiry.

Another result of the panic over teenage 'delinquency' was the banning of a number of comics and 'pulp' literature aimed at teenagers, and which were 'so harmful to children and adolescents that their sale should not be permitted'.

In July 1954, newspapers reported the breaking up by police of a large gang of Lower Hutt teenagers who met frequently for illicit sex... Within days, stories appeared detailing similar, if less startling, happenings elsewhere in the country. The Prime Minister lost little time in announcing the establishment of a Special Committee on Moral Delinquency in Children and Adolescents. It became known as the Mazengarb Committee after its chairperson.

...The Mazengarb Report was published little more than two months after the Hutt Valley revelations. Its recommendations included extending the definition of 'obscene' in the Indecent Publications Act to 'all productions which are harmful in that they place undue emphasis on sex, crime, or horror' ...The only evidence cited in support of these recommendations was that the committee had been deluged with magazines, paperbacks and comics 'considered by their respective senders to be so harmful to children and adolescents that their sale should not be permitted'.

Evidence or no, there was clearly a widespread belief both in Parliament and in the community at large that comics helped cause juvenile immorality.

...By October 1 three new Acts were in place to combat the spectre of juvenile delinquency. None were opposed in Parliament. One of the Acts amended the Indecent Publications Act 1910 along the lines recommended by the Mazengarb Committee, resulting in the banning of hundreds of comics.

Christoffel, P. (1989) Censored: A Short History of Censorship in New Zealand, pp. 20-21

To add to public concern, 1954 was also the year of the Parker-Hulme murder in Christchurch, where teenagers Pauline Parker and Janet Hulme battered Pauline's mother to death. The story of the murder was later made into a film by Peter Jackson called Heavenly Creatures.

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Marlon Brando as The Wild One
Marlon Brando as The Wild One