In the end, it didn't take much for Jack Valenti and the Motion Picture Association of America to save face: All they had to do, in reforming the movie rating system, was stay away from the letter A, the rating the MPAA's critics have been promoting (and MPAA President Valenti has been proclaiming unnecessary) for the past several months.
Instead, they adopted a rating whose chief virtue is its clunkiness, one that sounds so unwieldy that no self-respecting sleaze merchant would ever think of using it to hype a porno film. ("Triple NC-17!"? It just doesn't sound right.) And if this is the week when the great 1990 movie ratings controversy was settled -- it's also the week before the ratings board would have upheld the X rating given to Philip Kaufman's "Henry and June," and in doing so would have drawn the wrath of a major studio, Universal, as opposed to the less-powerful independents -- then it might also be an appropriate week to consider that ratings, censorship and their ilk aren't limited to this summer's battle.
For instance: In 1960 all kinds of things couldn't be shown on movie screens. At least that's what Universal Pictures decided when it released Stanley Kubrick's Roman epic "Spartacus," which ran for more than three hours but was missing some material the censors deemed inappropriate. But now the two historians who restored "Lawrence of Arabia" are at work putting the missing footage back for next year's theatrical and video re-release. Of course, the revamped "Spartacus" will come complete with 70mm prints and Dolby Surround sound -- but of more interest are the scenes originally cut from the film. One of them is a particularly brutal battle scene; another takes place in a Roman bath and involves Tony Curtis and Laurence Olivier consuming snails and oysters, apparently with more gusto than was considered proper. The re-released film will run 197 minutes, 15 minutes longer than its original form and 36 minutes longer than its last theatrical version.
For instance: In Malaysia, authorities are up in arms about a recent movie that includes a kiss. Moslems, it seems, are not allowed to kiss in Malaysian movies, but the Malaysian-Indonesian production "Isabella" shows singer Amy kissing actress Vanya Dzulkarnain. The scene will be cut inside Malaysia, but that country's National Film Development Corp. isn't satisfied: It's campaigning for a law that will let it restrict what films can be exported.
For instance: In Indonesia, the Board of Film Censors recently announced that it will soften its censorship policies. But just how soft is open to question: Even after making that announcement, the board canceled membership-only screenings of the well-received British films "Sammy and Rosie Get Laid" and "Maurice" that had been sponsored by the Singapore Film Society. The censors objected to the depiction of homosexuality in "Maurice" and to the promiscuity in "Sammy and Rosie." But apparently the Indonesian board has the same attitude -- strict on sex, lenient on violence -- that the American ratings board has been accused of having. To replace "Sammy and Rosie," the Film Society says it'll show "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and director Tobe Hooper's horror film "The Funhouse."
For instance: For the first time in 16 years, it's legal to see "Fiddler on the Roof" in Chile. A decade and a half ago, the military regime that ruled the country at the time decided the musical had Marxist content and outlawed showings -- but this week the new government rescinded the ban. There's no word yet whether it'll be re-released.
Wall Street is getting notably bearish about the movie industry these days. Between general disappointment with this summer's box office performance, concern over the soaring cost of making movies and the overall slump in the stock market, you've got a recipe for disaster: According to the Baseline Stox Index, between August 1989 and August 1990, Hollywood stocks dropped in value by $39 billion. That's a 40 percent decline in a single year.