Monday, August 07, 2006

The Professionals and misleading ratings

I put in my DVD copy of The Professionals in order to while away a lazy Saturday afternoon. It remains one of the best classic Westerns to come out of Hollywood, so it was perfectly suited for this purpose.

Before the Columbia Pictures Annette-Benning-as-the-Statue-of-Liberty logo is shown, the standard rating stamp comes up. In this case, it says this film is rated PG-13 for "Violence and Nudity". Now, the official ratings system did not go into effect until 1968. That was two years after this film was released, so the rating is retroactive. This is even more obvious if, like me, you remember that the PG-13 rating was actually created back in 1984 (Red Dawn was the first film released as PG-13).

Now there is plenty of gunfire and people do bleed (though it's not at Wild Bunch level), so the violence moniker is understandable. However, the nudity thing is misleading. There is a scene where Claudia Cardinale tries to seduce Burt Lancaster by unbuttoning her blouse and letting it all hang out. However, a black smudge appears at the bottom of the screen where the justifications for the rating should be staring us in the face (Note to whoever put that smudge there: dirty pool, my friend). By the way, for those of you unfortunate to have not seen her in this film or Once Upon a Time in the West, check her out here.

On top of this, there was an interesting discovery when I started playing with the buttons on the DVD remote. In the original film as shown in theaters, the filmmakers made the choice to not present any subtitles when anyone speaks Spanish. Anyone in the audience who doesn't speak Spanish is left to wonder what the characters are saying, but the general gist is easy enough to guess. On the DVD, however, when you choose the English Subtitles option, the subtitles also surprisingly translate the Spanish lines into English. This includes one line in a scene where two Mexicans are fighting and one yells out, "I don't give a shit!".

Now, MASH is recognized as the first major studio film to have the word "Fuck" spoken, but it would seem that The Professionals is the first one to use "Shit", and use it four years before MASH to boot. None of this is to say that I'm offended by any of this, but it is an interesting bit of trivia for the film.

And in the interest of continuity, let me end this post with the great last lines of the film and their own milder profanity:
J.W. Grant: "You bastard."

Rico: "Yes, Sir. In my case an accident of birth. But you, Sir, you're a self-made man."

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