A movie for every day of the year – a good one
Lady Chatterley Trial verdict, 1960
On this day in 1960, a jury in the trial of Regina versus Penguin Books found the UK publisher not guilt of obscenity. The trial against DH Lawrence’s novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover was brought under the provision of the Obscene Publications Act, which had only come into force the previous year and was intended to more clearly mark off pornography from works of artistic and scientific merit. And so the trial hinged on whether Lawrence’s 1928 novel did indeed possess artistic merit, or whether its litany of rude words and rude acts would tend to “deprave or corrupt”. The defence called 35 witnesses, who ranged from the academic Richard Hoggart, to the cleric the Bishop of Woolwich, to the politician Roy Jenkins, the writers Cecil Day-Lewis (father of Daniel) and EM Forster and the film critic Dilys Powell. The prosecution called no witnesses, instead relying on the advocacy of Mervyn Griffith-Jones who had in his opening remarks let the cat out of the bag with his much-reported rhetorical questions to the jury – “Is it [Lady Chatterley’s Lover] a book you would have lying around your own house? Is it a book that you would even wish your wife or your servants to read?” In the event the jury decided that they were quite happy with their servants reading Lady Chatterley’s Lover and found the book not guilty of obscenity. A similar verdict had been reached in the USA the year before. It was another victory in the fight against state censorship and a key moment in the creation of what became known as the Permissive Society.
South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut (1999, dir: Trey Parker)
South Park’s feature-length one-fingered salute to ultra-conservatism takes on the forces of censorship with a ridiculous story about parents so outraged that their precious children have seen a vulgar R-rated film by fart-gagsters Terrance and Phillip that they lobby the US government to declare war on Canada, the anally fixated duo’s home country. What is the correct response to violence and obscenity is clearly the debate that Trey Parker and co-writer Matt Stone are hashing out in the most profane of ways, with words to match the crudity of their animation, and 2D images that, once seen, will remain seared on the memory – Satan and Saddam Hussein’s sex scenes, anybody? Satire is the intention, and Stone and Parker deliver it as if via fire hose. But satire can be a high-fibre meal of worthiness, so Stone and Parker inject as much childish humour as they can, no holes barred. And songs, let’s not forget the songs, which chuck a grenade at Disney wholesomeness, the winsomeness of Mariah Carey at her most inspirational, the gruesomeness of tuneless Broadway songs at their most expositional. It was released in the US just as the MPAA were having one of their periodic attacks of the vapours and its R rating came with the qualifications – “for pervasive vulgar language and crude sexual humor”. You will laugh, sometimes in spite of yourself, because whatever else South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut is, it’s very very funny.
- Guinness World Records holder of the most profanity in any animated film
- Jesus in a fight with Santa Claus
- See Kenny without his hood on
- Guest voices include George Clooney, Eric Idle, Nick Rhodes (Duran Duran) and Stewart Copeland (The Police)
© Steve Morrissey 2013