Pure Unbridled Filth

Readers of a milksop disposition, look away now! for Frank is about to besmirch the pages of The Dabbler with pure unbridled filth…

According to John Trevelyan in What The Censor Saw (1973), the following list includes some of the disgusting and morally repugnant subjects rightly banned by the British Board of Film Censors during the first twenty years of its existence:


Indecorous dancing.

Native customs in foreign lands abhorrent to British ideas.


Incidents injurious to the reputation of Governmental Departments.

Unnecessary exhibitions of feminine underclothing.

The effects of vitriol throwing.

Stories tinctured with salacious wit.

Sensual exposition of eugenic doctrines.


Criminal poisoning by dissemination of germs.

Excessive revolver shooting.

Animals gnawing men and children.

Clutching hands.


Libels on the British nursing profession.

Bolshevik propaganda.

Abdominal contortions in dancing.


Employee selling his wife to employer to cover defalcations.

Severed human heads.

Degrading exhibitions of animal passion.

Indecent wall decorations.

Dangerous mischief, easily imitated by children.

Lecherous old men.

Themes which are likely to wound the just susceptibilities of our Allies.

Comic hanging.

Breaking bottles on men’s heads.


Marriages within the prohibitive degree.

Girls’ clothes pulled off.

The Salvation Army shown in an unfavourable light.

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About Author Profile: Frank Key

Frank Key is a London-based writer, blogger and broadcaster best known for his Hooting Yard blog, short-story collections and his long-running radio series Hooting Yard on the Air, which has been broadcast weekly on Resonance FM since April 2004. By Aerostat to Hooting Yard - A Frank Key Reader, an ideal introduction to his fiction, is published for Kindle by Dabbler Editions. Mr Key's Shorter Potted Brief, Brief Lives was published in October 2015 by Constable and is available to buy online and in all good bookshops.

12 thoughts on “Pure Unbridled Filth

  1. Gaw
    January 27, 2012 at 08:52

    Not sure about the decline in morals but there’s certainly been a decline in vocabulary.

  2. Worm
    January 27, 2012 at 09:17

    ‘Sensual exposition of eugenic doctrines’ – I am trying to picture that but so far failing

  3. johngjobling@googlemail.com'
    January 27, 2012 at 09:38

    You missed “inappropriate behavior towards Spam sandwiches”

    Circa mid fifties, the Grand cinema, Pelaw. Grand it most certainly was not, miss Bardot, in black and white, ever the perfect put off, flashed something or other and pouted, we spotty herbert’s, expected to be in mid hormonal maelstrom were too busy smoking Woodbines “she hasn’t got very big tits” said someone, obviously a budding AA Gill. The thrill came from being taken for sixteen year olds.

  4. jgslang@gmail.com'
    January 27, 2012 at 10:47

    The BBC, from the 1930s to early 1960s had its own code. Officially the ‘Variety Program and Policy Guide for Writers and Producers’ and known from its green covers as the Green Book, it read, in part, as follows: ‘Programs must at all cost be kept free of crudities. There can be no compromise with doubtful material, it must cut. There is an absolute ban upon the following: jokes about lavatories, effeminacy in men. immorality of any kind, suggestive references to honeymooning couples, chambermaids. fig leaves, ladies’ underwear (e.g. ‘winter draws on’), animal habits (e.g. rabbits), lodgers, commercial travellers. When in doubt — cut it out.’ There were also to be no mentions whatsoever of drink or religion, the royal family was sacrosanct and while comedians might ‘take a crack at the government,’ this must only be ‘without undue acidity.’ The term ‘working class’ was not to be used as a pejorative and there was to be no personal abuse of politicians.

  5. Frank Key
    January 27, 2012 at 10:54

    “1919 – Animals gnawing men and children”. Presumably, then, it was permissible to show animals gnawing the ladies?

    • peter.burnet@hotmail.com'
      January 27, 2012 at 17:36

      Frank, I suppose in those days men and women were one and the one was men, but a little frisson of nostalgic pleasure went through me when I noted that in 1926 it was apparently acceptable to break bottles on the heads of children.

  6. johngjobling@googlemail.com'
    January 27, 2012 at 11:07

    The documentary about the BBFC was fascinating, ranging from the days when nothing went to the era of Ken Russell. The horse trading with Russell was hilarious, “trade you three bonking nuns for six sets of pubes and will throw in two erections for free”

  7. george.jansen55@gmail.com'
    January 27, 2012 at 11:35

    “Dangerous mischief, easily imitated by children.”

    The Three Stooges were banned from our household on just that ground.

    “Marriages within the prohibitive degree.”

    War and Peace or Oedipus Rex?

    “Libels on the British nursing profession.”

    A Farewell to Arms?

    • Gaw
      January 27, 2012 at 13:59

      George, you may have invented a parlour game.

      “Degrading exhibitions of animal passion.”

      The Horse Whisperer

      “Lecherous old men.”


      “Excessive revolver shooting.”

      Lethal Weapon

      • johngjobling@googlemail.com'
        January 27, 2012 at 17:10

        “Native customs in foreign lands abhorrent to British ideas”

        Das Lied der Frauen am Fluss (the song of the women from the river) don’t ask, ever, it’s an NRW thing, and a new opera.

  8. law@mhbref.com'
    jonathan law
    January 27, 2012 at 13:48

    I’ve always admired the reasoning of the BBFC man who denied a certificate to the surrealist film The Seashell and the Clergyman in 1928. Apparently, the film was “so cryptic as to be almost meaningless. If there is a meaning it is no doubt objectionable.”

  9. bugbrit@live.com'
    January 27, 2012 at 18:59

    1926 Comic Hanging.

    Thats a shame because there are a number of comics I would gladly see hanged.

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