Cronenberg Is Crashed Out Of Cinemas Again


David Cronenberg’s unsettling adaptation of the J.G. Ballard novel is once again too dangerous for public showings.

It seems that David Cronenberg’s subversive masterpiece Crash – based on the extraordinary novel by J.G. Ballard – is doomed never to place central London cinemas. Back in 1996, the film was notoriously banned by Westminster council – who had not, of course, actually seen it – in a rare return to the sort of local panic that afflicted towns across the UK in the 1970s and saw films like The Devils and Monty Python’s Life of Brian banned by educationally-subnormal local councillors lest they corrupt their citizens. the fact that said citizens could simply get a bus to a neighbouring town was neither here nor there. At the time, London was seen as a liberal stronghold – the GLC passing films that the BBFC had refused – but in 1996, egged on by a hysterical campaign from the Daily Mail‘s buffoonish film critic Chris Tookey, Westminster banned Crash from appearing in West End cinemas, sending people across to Camden in order to be depraved and corrupted. It was – so far – the last gasp of this sort of ludicrous localised censorship.

It’s unsure if the ban was ever actually rescinded or had a statute of limitations, but Arrow Films had planned to bring Crash back to UK cinemas – including central London cinemas – in November. Perhaps they were just going to wing it in the reasonable assumption that the people responsible for the ban in 1996 had long since been put out to pasture. It was a welcome reissue, perhaps taking advantage of the fact that major movies had been pulled due to Covid. In fact, the reclaiming of cinemas from empty blockbusters for a wider variety of titles – and perhaps the revival of the repertory cinema – seemed a potential positive for the post-Covid age. If the New Normal meant that Marvel movies and other franchises wouldn’t be block-booking screens for most of the year, we were all for it.

Unfortunately, the Covid curse has struck again, and the release of Crash was pulled when we went back into lockdown thanks to the sort of feckless and self-centred superspreaders who make the antics of the characters in the film seem positively public-spirited in comparison. Once again, London (and the rest of the country) has been saved from the kinky sex of the Cronenberg/Ballard collision. A genuine pity, if only because if any filmmaker was crying out for an audience of people wearing facemasks, it would be the king of body horror. Crash will now appear, in newly remasterd form, for home viewing only in December.

Here’s a new trailer. Fasten your seatbelts.

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3 comments

  1. Let’s be honest, sitting “socially distanced” from your fellow patrons, wearing a pointless mask (unless to protect your lungs from the frequent antiseptic sprays?), isn’t exactly an enjoyable cinema experience.

  2. I got to see this on it’s original release. I saw it in East Kilbride (I’m in Scotland) because the nearest cinema was Showcase and they didn’t show it. And no, I didn’t see it for the sex scenes but because I was already a massive Cronenberg fan. It’s still my favourite of his films. The whole controversy was just nonsense. Tookey had a reputation for being a complete tosspot and Alexander Walker was another fuckwit (look up his crap about Miike’s Audition) and watching this video pissed me off cos they both talk complete shit. I mean, listen to Tookey rubbish the fact that Cronenberg is a serious filmmaker. Thankfully Sheila Whitaker challenged him on it and showed him up as the complete cunt he is. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fbUz9lbGhrM

    1. I remember Tookey doing a few TV appearances – no doubt he expected his moral campaign to propel him as the voice of the people onto news channels, but he was so staggeringly ignorant and blinkered that even Richard and Judy probably found him a bit embarrassing. I know he carried on with his lip-pursed moralising for years (Human Centipede 2 caused a spectacular rant) but no one ever took him seriously after his Crash triumph and even the Mail finally sent him packing.

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