To coincide with a cinema re-release of Mad Max and Mad Max 2, and the release of Mad Max: Fury Road, we take a look at the BBFC file for Mad Max (1979) and its subsequent video releases in 1984 and 1992.
Mad Max is set in Australia in the near future, and follows a cop who embarks on a mission of vengeance against a lawless biker gang and its sadistic leader. The film arrived at the BBFC for classification in June 1979. One Examiner described it as a "very tough film", yet for the most part visually discreet, with the majority of damage being done to objects, rather than to people. The scenes that do involve violence against people in the film, did however require the adult X category. One scene in particular, in which a gang terrorises a young couple in their car, required cuts. The film was ultimately passed X after 49 seconds of cuts, these are detailed in the 1979 report available here.
After passing the film X, James Ferman received a letter from a Research Officer at a centre for legal studies in Johannesburg, South Africa. The letter requested detail of the BBFC's decision to pass the film, since it was to be reviewed by their own appeals board. James Ferman supplied the centre with details of the X rating and the cuts required to the film. The BBFC continues to share research and expertise with international classifiers, you can find out more about this in our International Film Classification episode of the BBFC podcast.
Mad Max was submitted on video in 1984 and again passed 18 after the same cuts were required to the scene involving the couple in the car. However, when Mad Max was seen by the BBFC on video six years later, in 1992, it was agreed the film could be classified without cuts at the 18 level, since the violence against the couple is largely implied through shots from within the vehicle as the windows are being smashed and by the aftermath of the attack, rather than any detail of sadistic person-to-person violence.
Mad Max was submitted for a modern cinema classification in May 2015, and classified 15 for strong threat, violence and injury detail. The Classification Guidelines at 15 state:
"Violence may be strong but should not dwell on the infliction of pain or injury. The strongest gory images are unlikely to be acceptable. Strong sadistic violence is also unlikely to be acceptable.
"There may be detailed verbal references to sexual violence but the depiction of sexual violence must be discreet and justified by context."
The previously cut scene in Mad Max is acceptable within the Guidelines at 15 because of its implied nature and lack of visual detail of the acts themselves.