Unrated DVDs

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Hi there,

sorry if this sounds like a stupid question, it's just that I buy a lot of unrated DVD's from the US and wonder how that works with the MPAA. I mean in the UK all DVD's have to be BBFC rated by law, so I'd like to know how that's allowed to happen over there. What with all the recent talk of unfair/silly MPAA ratings and the like this has got me scratching my head. I mean what's the fuss if you can just buy the movie unrated on dvd? Or is it just selected films that are available? I'd love it if we could buy unrated movies in the UK; unfortunately that'll never happen though because of the video nasty scandal in the early 80's. Anyway would appreciate your thoughts



Isn't there a topic on this?
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Isn't there a topic on this?
No the other threads are about unfair/silly MPAA ratings, this is a separate question. If Yoda feels it needs merging with another more appropriate thread though that's fine by me



Bright light. Bright light. Uh oh.
I'm not sure if I'll answer this properly, but there are two ways to have an unrated DVD in the U.S. The first would be that the film was never submitted to the MPAA for a rating and their sign of approval. Many low budget movies (Pink Flamingos, for example) never bothered to submit their film for MPAA approval because (1) it actually costs the producer/distributor money to submit a film for a rating and (2) if you know you're going to get an X or an NC-17, why bother? You may be able to sneak an unrated movie into more theatres than one with an NC-17.

The second way to get unrated American DVDs is that when the film is released on DVD, there is no requirement to resubmit it to the MPAA for any added scenes which may have had to already be cut just to get an R or even a PG-13 in the first place. These kinds of "unrated" DVDs are almost invariably movies which don't deserve more than an R rating, but they add a few scenes and call the movie "unrated" because the MPAA didn't judge all the movie in that extended version. Besides, the DVD distributors are cynical salesmen and are always looking for extra ways to get people to buy DVDs, so why not add 30 seconds (of PG-13 material) to a PG-13 movie and call it unrated, making people think it's got way more sex and violence?

As I said, I'm not sure this is what you're asking about. I'm guessing you're asking about some of those extreme films you've been reviewing lately, and in the case of those, if they were distributed originally in the U.S., most of those were probably edited to get an R-rating to go out into the theatres. I mentioned to you before that I saw Suspiria in the theatre and it was rated R, but it was definitely cut. The DVD is about 5-7 minutes longer. Now, if an American DVD distributor wants to release any kind of extreme film in any form which wasn't approved and rated by the MPAA, it's perfectly legal here to do so with the "unrated" stamp on it. The MPAA technically has no sayso at all in ratings of DVDs if they're changed at all from their rated, released theatrical versions.
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Now, if an American DVD distributor wants to release any kind of extreme film in any form which wasn't approved and rated by the MPAA, it's perfectly legal here to do so with the "unrated" stamp on it. The MPAA technically has no say so at all in ratings of DVDs if they're changed at all from their rated, released theatrical versions.
Thanks Mark that's an excellent explanation. The section quoted above pretty much nails what I was (all be it vaguely) getting at. That's pretty amazing really, as I'm sure you're aware things were exactly the same here when video was introduced, and the rest as they say 'is history'.

So I guess my second question is who does have the power to step in if obscene material is found on an Unrated dvd? Perhaps more importantly where's the line of decency drawn on uncut dvds? Are they regulated at all? and is this an issue in the US? I kind of hope not because Amazon is proving to be a life saver at the moment.

Oh and yes you could say I've been watching a lot of extreme films recently, but you know what? I'd say films nowadays put that old stuff to shame in terms of graphic violence. Most of the old exploitation I watch is pretty dated and tacky, hence not that shocking by todays standards. The covers and titles of those old trash movies are the most shocking thing about them in most cases.



Bright light. Bright light. Uh oh.
I don't really know what to say about the obscene stuff because I assume you're not counting porno. I don't really think there are people short of the Feds and local authorities who will prosecute things involving kids, torture of animals, etc., but that kind of stuff I've never witnessed, so I'm not sure. What other kinds of obscenity are you talking about? I mean, I realize how one country may find something "more obscene" than another country, but I believe obscenity in the U.S. is left to local authorities unless it's some kind of federal crime (kiddie porn). In fact, I'm going to take a break because I need to breathe fsome fresh air for a few minutes now.



Whoa, I'm not talking about porn at all, that's a whole different issue and I don't want to go there. I was merely referring to standards of decency regarding the violent content of unrated dvds. Like you say this is a differing of standards between the US and UK. It's just quite hard to get my head round having been used to such a strict ratings board for so long. Thanks for the info though, very informative.



All mark is saying really is that it is a bit of a grey area because here in the US everything starts at the local level. What I mean by that is we don't have one statute across the board, which is what I think you have in the UK yeah? Here in the US things can change from city to city. While we still have Federal laws that encompass our entire nation there is a lot of breathing room. A lot of cities have similar statutes that they go by but they are rarely cookie cutter versions of eachother.

That can be a large part of the reason why dealing with the US can be not only confusing but also frustrating. You never know what state you're dealing with or what statewide laws you're supposed to be following until you're told you're breaking one of their laws. Kind of stupid I know but that's usually how it works here.

So depending on what state is distributing the unrated DVD also can dictate what is actually on it or how "unrated" it really is. I know this may not make sense. It doesn't really make sense to me either. We have a lot of government in this country and mostly the average joe is just left alone to be confused and pay taxes...
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Nice to meat you. If you know what i'm saying.
Also , most stores will also sell unrated DVD's to minors - if they have policies against selling R rated movies to them.
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That's a good point as well that kind of exemplifies what I mean by "grey" areas. We have tons of loopholes in this country. So even if there's a store in a city that has a strict code that they follow it can be thrown out the window because the DVD has been labeled "unrated"! Because as of right now "unrated" hasn't been labeled as a bad thing yet.

I love that. The US is a trip sometimes.



Thanks a lot for your input guys I find this whole issue extremely fascinating and hadn't taken into consideration the different US state and city laws that might effect dvd ratings. You're right PW in the UK there's just one law across the board and that is that everything including all dvds go through the BBFC.

There certainly appears to be a number of loopholes in US law/s and I'm wondering how long it is before these become an issue and you're thrown into a situation like the UK was back in the 80's with video. Perhaps never (I certainly hope not) but if like Meatwad says, a minor can go and buy Women's Prison Massacre unrated on dvd then something's wrong no? I should probably do a bit more research on this myself, I certainly wouldn't be surprised to find groups there lobbying to get the laws amended regarding unrated dvds. This of course affects me too as I buy so many region 1 dvds on the internet.

Anyway thanks again, oh ad I hope I didn't offend you Mark, what with you having to go out for fresh air



Well the way things work here generally is that it will only become a "real" issue when some group of people determine that they need to make some money off of it somehow. Still though there's a very likely chance that this will only happen on a local or state level. To get something like this pushed through on a Federal (all 50 states) level requires a large amount of money and someone is only going to do that if they believe they will make it all back and then some.

And to be clear I'm not saying that state or city laws may affect the actual rating really but its possible. Different areas of this country can be ultra conservative and I wouldn't be at all surprised if there were localities around America that monitor and label things as they enter their towns and what not.



There certainly appears to be a number of loopholes in US law/s and I'm wondering how long it is before these become an issue and you're thrown into a situation like the UK was back in the 80's with video.
I don't have much knowledge about this issue, however, I would've thought that what happened over here is unlikely in the States because of the 1st Amendment.

I would recommend watching the documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated. It doesn't deal with this issue, it's about how the MPAA are more harsh on sexual scenes than violence (and homosexual sex in particular) than the actual ratings, but you might find it of interest.



The MPAA is not mandatory. The film makers can reject the rating the MPAA gives and release the film unrated, but most distributors wont distribute an unrated movie to cinemas for some reason. On DVD however the studios dont care because the film still falls under the orriginal rating, so you could edit down a film to PG for theaters, then release and unrated cut on DVD and it would still technically be classified as PG.