History of film censorship: The censor’s sensitivity to snakes leads to multiyear ban in B.C.


Starting in 1913, one man determined which movies made it to theatres across British Columbia.

The Censor of Moving Pictures decided what was a ‘decent’ film, and what was not.

One of the first banned features was The Rattlesnake. The censor reasoned, “Snakes used throughout. Horrible, loathsome and nauseating in extreme.”

The B.C. Archives holds the records of the Censor of Moving Pictures. Archivist Rachel McRory says the documents provide a glimpse into B.C.’s societal values over time.

“At the time, a lot of Westerns were initially banned because they were considered sort of a bad influence on kids,” says McRory. “Infidelity and indecency were very common reasons for banning films, especially when it was women who were being the indecent or unfaithful ones.”

The classic movie Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi, was initially blocked from theatres. In 1929, a board was created so studios had some recourse when their movies were banned. After negotiations with the board, Dracula was able to premiere in B.C. after one scene was cut out.


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