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History of censorship - 1967


Men and women not allowed to sit together to watch the film Ulysses.

The novel of Ulysses by James Joyce was controversial when it was published and was the subject of a famous trial in the US which helped define obscenity standards in that country. The film was equally controversial. This was partly because of its sexual references but mainly because the film contained one use of the word 'fuck'. This had been enough to ban it in Australia where films could not be restricted by age (eg, R18) like they could in New Zealand.

In 1967 the film Ulysses reached the New Zealand film censor. Douglas McIntosh, the Chief Film Censor, screened it to two test audiences, one made up of church representatives (all men) and the other made up of married couples. While the first group recommended an R18 or Restricted to Film Societies classification, the second felt it could only be shown to segregated (split) audiences aged 18 years and over.

The Film Censor followed the second group's recommendation and men and women were separated during screenings. He stated that some of the dialogue in the film would cause embarrassment in 'mixed company'. In smaller theatres this meant a rope was put down the middle of the cinema. In larger theatres the aisle separated men and women, or one group sat upstairs and the other downstairs.

In 1972 the classification was changed to R18. Today the DVD of Ulysses is rated 'M: contains sex scenes'.

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Men and women separated at a screening of Ulysses
Segregated audience at screening of Ulysses in the Memorial Theatre, Victoria University, Wellington. Note the rope down the centre of the audience 'separating' the men from the women. 19 July 1972. Image used with the permission of The Dominion Post Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library