Swamp Thing (1982) from Tuna
Swamp Thing (1982) - When this film was released on DVD, we were all thrilled to discover that it was not only a beautiful restoration job, but was the uncut version with the lovely extended topless bathing scene featuring Adrienne Barbeau. It was nice to see MGM do this one right, because this Wes Craven film is a comic book film classic, and the tasteful topless scene is gorgeous.
Unfortunately, if you don't already own this DVD, it
looks like you will never have a chance. It seems one Mary Dorflinger of
Dallas, Texas was looking for an electronic baby sitter for her 9 year
old boys, and rented Swamp Thing at Blockbuster. I don't know which
part of Parental Guidance she didn't understand, but she sat the kids
in front of the boob tube, and started the DVD. Next thing she knew,
the nine year olds, who up to that point had been prevented from even
knowing that breasts exist, were staring at Barbeau's nearly perfect
ones, and were impressed. The virgin Mary Dorfinger declared Jihad,
and attacked both Blockbuster and MGM. As a result of this one woman's
complaint, the DVD has been recalled, and has disappeared from every
source I checked. The last of these $16.95 DVDs to sell at eBay went
for over $36.
My original comments
about Swamp Thing evidently resonated with many of our readers,
judging by the response I received. One reader found a copy still on
the shelves, got it for a bargain $10.99, watched it, and is planning
to sell it at eBay. As he said, "It's the American way." Another wrote
with some very uncomplimentary comments about Mary Dorflinger, then
went on to say that he was really more angry with MGM for caving in so
easily. He has written them a nasty gram from their Web site, and
hopes many others will follow suit. In answer to a reader who enjoyed
my "rant" and agreed with it, I explained in some detail just why this
upsets me so much.
Scoop's notes in yellow:
MGM and Blockbuster acted correctly in this instance. Well, to be technical, MGM made a mistake at first, then acted correctly to amend it. The studio had at one time received a PG rating for a version of the film without the topless scene, but that is not the version on the DVD. After restoring that scene, they had not submitted the film to be re-rated. Therefore, the version of the film on the DVD had never been rated, but they labeled it PG on the box. Therefore, the boxes were all labeled incorrectly. MGM just messed up somehow when they issued the DVD. We don't know why, but we can give them the benefit of the doubt and assume it was an innocent mistake. MGM is a member of MPAA, and has agreed to comply with the system, so when they caught the error, they corrected it. End of story,
Blockbuster's policy forbids unrated films, so when they realized they had an unrated film mistakenly labeled PG, they quite correctly pulled it. You may not agree with their policy, but they followed it consistently. Of course, there is a massive inconsistency in Blockbuster's policy. Many, many films say "extra features not rated." In fact it seems that virtually every DVD includes unrated extra features, yet Blockbuster carries those products, perhaps without noticing, or perhaps in a "don't ask, don't tell" mode. The incongruous result is that if the Swamp Thing DVD had included the topless scene in the bonus features and not in the film proper, everybody would have saved face. The film itself would have been a legit PG, as advertised, and the bonus features would have been unrated, as so many on Blockbuster's shelves already are.
This contradictory situation can't last, can it? As soon as someone publicly confronts Blockbuster with this inconsistency, they will have to do something, and whatever decision they make will affect a vast number of films now on their shelves. Let's hope it is something sensible. Blockbuster's CEO, John Antioco, is a long-time associate of mine from our days with 7-Eleven in Dallas, and I'm sure you can count on him to keep a cool head.
As for ol' Mary Dorflinger, her expectations were NOT reasonable, despite what I wrote above. If Mary had expected a 1985 PG film to be breast-free, her logic would have been sound, but Swamp Thing was a 1982 film. There was no PG-13 rating until 1984, so there are many pre-1984 films with PG ratings and naked breasts. (If you think about it, you'll realize that the situation hasn't changed. Today's PG-13 movies, which are PG movies under the 1982 system, sometimes include nudity. Titanic obviously would have been rated PG if it were issued in 1982, so ol' Mary could have been outraged by Kate Winslet's naughty bits. )
A brief history of the ratings system:
I would like to see the entire system replaced by a simple recitation of facts. Tuna's suggestion above is too general. The term "Nudity: female" could apply equally to Deep Throat or Titanic, and thus helps nobody because insufficient information is provided. If it were my decision, the labels would read something like this: "this film has a brief exposure of non-erect male genitals, as well as repeated instances of exposed female breasts," or "this film includes prolonged anal intercourse between males and females, including graphic portrayal of erection and penetration," or "this sucker includes some SERIOUS real-time sheep-fuckin'." That would actually be a huge help to everyone, including some who avoid particular content, and some (like me) who seek it, especially the hot barnyard action. Of course, that would require people to read several words to make a decision, rather than a single letter, which might be an intellectual stretch for the very people who are making enough noise to influence the MPAA.
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