Greetings, motivators

Last updated 10:53 06/07/2012

I remember watching Beverly Hills Cop on television in the 1980s and wondering why every now and then Eddie Murphy's voice would change slightly, especially when he was upset or stressed.

"What the frick is going on?" he would exclaim.

"What is wrong with these melon farmers?" he would add.

It was only later in life that I realised it wasn't Eddie Murphy's voice. Somebody else had been employed to overdub his expletives with TV-friendly alternatives. This is known as the TV edit, when a film is neutered for television by removing all the gore, sex and swearing.

But this often has unintentionally hilarious consequences. Die Hard presents a particular problem as one of the iconic lines uses a word you definitely can't say on television. I remember watching the film on UK television and Bruce Willis ending his chat with Alan Rickman with the phrase: "Yipee Ki-yay, kemosabe".

Eh? Kemosabe? That's not the line. This was like hearing Clark Gable at the end of Gone with the Wind saying: "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a hoot.''

A search of the internet reveals that in the US, the iconic line in Die Hard 2 became:

Mr. Falcon? Who he?

The oedipal swear word does provide a headache for TV censors and they have come up with some interesting and creative replacements.

Check out this TV edit for Snakes on a Plane:


Monkeyfied snakes? What is that? Also, what on earth is a "Monday to Friday plane"?

Other creative alternatives include "muddy funsters" in a TV edit of Lethal Weapon, the line "motivator, please" in Resident Evil and "you freaking fairy godmother's brother" in The Usual Suspects.

The TV censors can also be quite creative with other words. In the TV edit of the Big Lebowski, the scene where Walter smashes up a car is quite different. As he takes a crowbar to the windscreen he is shouting: "This is what happens, Larry. This is what happens when you find a stranger in the Alps.'' Wow, that sounds more like Polari.

On the DVD extras for Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead, you can see clips from the expletive-free TV versions where people exclaim "peas and rice!" and call each other "prinks".

But, perhaps the masterpiece of this craft is the TV edit of Scarface. It was always going to be unwise to edit a violent, drug-fuelled and expletive-laden film like Scarface so it can be shown on television, but they did it anyway.

Those classic Scarface lines become quite comical. Here are two great examples:

"This town is like a great big chicken waiting to be plucked.''

and

"Where did you get that scar? Eating pineapple?"

Although, to be honest, the dirty version of that second line never made much sense anyway.

Do you remember any choice TV edits? Post them below. But, remember, keep it clean, muddy funsters.

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9 comments
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Dr Cussin'   #1   11:38 am Jul 06 2012

How I welcome the advent of DVD. The wife and I been catching up with some old movies that are now available. Having only ever seen them on the UK's ITV channel (notorious for bowlderisation), it comes as a shock to hear the cursing in Jumpin' Jack Flash, Stakeout, 48HRS, et al which had previously been replaced by edits, cuts, overdubs, or car-horns.

The worst example had to be The Terminator when the landlord is knocking on the door as Arnie is working on his arm. The whole "FU A-hole" line was erased completely, making the landlord's reaction pointless.

I also heard about the cuts to a film being shown on an aircraft flight in the days before individual screens, which were so dramatic as to make the whole movie totally incomprehensible.

Really, why bother showing the movie if you're not going to show it in full. Give appropriate warnings, show it at the right time, but show it complete. Thank goodness for HBO.

Niri Tacen   #2   11:53 am Jul 06 2012

At least in these cases they've bothered to replace the actual words. The censoring that really annoys me is when they fade the volume down for a moment. And, as Dr Cussin' said, when they cut a scene completely, making the next thing that happens pointless or confusing.

The funny part of leaving the scene intact, but changing the audio, is that for a person who can lip-read the swearing is still there.

Jimjams   #3   01:34 pm Jul 06 2012

MUDDY FUNSTERS! I totally remember that. My friends and I would call each other muddy funsters and couldn't get in any trouble whatsoever.

DMR   #4   02:39 pm Jul 06 2012

I have an absolute loathing for the over-dubbing of swear words in movies - if you're offending by a few cusses but not offended by dozens of people being blown away by machine guns then there's something wrong. However I do appreciate how stupid the edited versions can be. Yes, 'melon farmer' was a pretty grim insult back in the 1970s, I heard it first on the TV edit of the Breakfast Club. The censors of that film also replaced the line "give her a hot beef injection" to "give her hot love and affection" (which, sorta rhymes). But, for me, the most criminal example was a TV version of David Mamet's Glengarry Glenross: a dialogue-heavy masterpiece from the Shakespeare of swearing. The over-dubs made the whole thing totally unfathomable.

bOb   #5   02:48 pm Jul 06 2012

They dont seem to cut much on NZ TV these days. I remember the TV version of Silence of the lambs has the guy in the cell saying "I can smell you" instead of "I can smell your ####"... I guess that still works and that particular word will always be a no go on TV.

Good TV editing - Blazing Saddles when the choir is singing a song "... our town is turning into $$$$". On the TV version the backing organ hits a wrong note and you cant hear the swear word... which I find funnier than using the actual word.

LBV   #6   12:52 pm Jul 08 2012

I am not a fan of swearing. For the most part swearing is gratuitous and completely unnecessary. Having said that, at times it is appropriate. For example the inmates in Shawshank Redemption would not have said 'oh fudge' - I can accept swearing in that context. I can also accept Billy Connollys use of the F word (in fact his explanation on why it is appropriate is hilarious). However, when movies use it just to use it I find that it really annoys me.

A good example I remember is Ruthless People. I first watched the TV version (as a kid I was not aware of both versions) and thought it was a good movie and recommended it to friends - they watched the alternative version and were very shocked. The thing is - the movie was good on its own - the use of swear words did not add anything to the story or to the characters, rather it was irritating. In years past many great movies were made without the use of excessive swearing. Now its hard to find a movie (outside of the kids section) without it.

Rubbertoe   #7   07:15 pm Jul 08 2012

I remember watching a film called Johnny Dangerously which intentionally used sanitised swearing: 'fargin iceholes, cog-suggers' etc, it were a laugh it were. The Big Lebowski and In The Loop/Veep contain the best swearing EVER, but in some films it's just padding. On a related note, there's many a liver to be destroyed if you have a shot everytime someone says 'Son of a b**** !' in (any) Lethal Weapon.

Ed   #8   09:11 am Jul 12 2012

Shaun of the Dead. Funky Pete.

Clarge   #9   10:20 am Jul 15 2012

It was "Repo Man" where Emilio says "flip you, melon farmer"

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