What's the difference between an X-rated movie and an R-rated one? That depends on whom you ask. In recent weeks, for instance, two film companies have found the difference to be a matter of seconds: a little more than half a minute in one case, less than two seconds in another. The seconds in question come in "In the Cold of the Night" and "Hardware," two of the recent spate of films to be given X ratings. Both movies have now been cut to escape the X tag -- and in the case of "Cold of the Night," the trims consist of two camera angles during one love scene, for a total of about 36 seconds. (Originally, the motion picture ratings board told the filmmakers that to merit an R, they'd have to remove three complete scenes, totaling more than four minutes.) And while the board had turned down two appeals from the makers of "Hardware," it turned out that the futuristic thriller needed only one minimal cut to earn an R: 38 frames, totaling about 1 1/2 seconds, from a scene in which a character is killed by a mechanical door.
In Sweden, meanwhile, the state board of film censors has finally given permission for "Death Weekend" to be shown, with about two minutes of cuts. The movie, which was released without much comment in the United States in 1977, was branded "an exercise in mindless violence and sadism" by the Swedish government censors when they saw it -- and banned it -- 14 years ago; since then, the movie's distributor, Gebe Films, has been fighting to overturn the ruling -- and after seven previous decisions that upheld the ban, Gebe finally was successful.
"Exorcist III" was the runaway winner at the box office last weekend, but 20th Century Fox's strategy with the movie -- keep it away from the critics and hope to make a fast killing -- isn't designed to produce a movie with much longevity. And longevity is a tough thing to come by in movie theaters this summer: Once again, the weekend saw a few films taking drastic drops. Among them were "Air America," "Arachnophobia," "Mo' Better Blues" and "The Freshman," all of which fell by more than 40 percent over the previous weekend. But the big loser was clearly "The Two Jakes," which followed its lackluster opening weekend by falling an alarming 52 percent. The "Chinatown" sequel may have been years in the making, but it'll be out of most theaters in a matter of weeks ... Meanwhile, "Ghost" continued to show some staying power, and "Flatliners," "Presumed Innocent" and "Die Hard 2" had acceptable drops of 30 percent or less ...
Maybe we aren't battling the Russians in the Cold War anymore, but in the movies they can still be our foes: Esparza/Katz Productions have just announced that they're developing a movie titled "American Ice," about a plucky little hockey team from a small Minnesota town going up against the Red Army hockey team ... The same company is also producing three separate movies from "Zoot Suit" playwright and "La Bamba" director Luis Valdez. The films are "Angel's Flight," a drama based on the scandal in which Los Angeles' trolley system was deliberately bankrupted to make way for the freeways; "Bless Me Ultima," a drama based on Rudolfo Anaya's novel about a small Hispanic town in New Mexico; and "St. Patrick's Brigade," based on the rash of defections from the U.S. Army during the Mexican-American War ... Japanese director Akira Kurosawa, whose current film, "Dreams," was made with the backing of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, will next make "Rhapsody in August," a film written by Kurosawa and based on a Kyoko Muraka novel entitled "Nabe-No-Naka" ("In the Caldron") ... Chuck Jones, the animator who created Bugs Bunny and the Road Runner, among others, is planning to spend the next two or three years working on a full-length animated feature entitled "The Short Happy Lives of Barnaby Scratch"; the title character is a cat who fights in World War I.