UK BBFC cinema cuts of spaghetti westerns

I have the original BBFC cuts to over 60 European westerns which I am going to post here. Originally I was going to publish a book with about 1,000 film cuts but the organisation objected on ‘copywrite’ grounds even though this information is doing nothing but rotting in their archives.

Laurence Staig and Tony Williams’ book Italian Western The Opera of Violence has an Appendix listing 84 spaghetti westerns released in the UK from 1964 up to 1975. This is just Italian westerns though and omits all of the Winnetou movies (German) which were released in the UK and films like Shalako presumably as that was considered British.

The vast majority were rated X (over 16s only till July 1970 then over 18s only). The majority were also censored in some way by the UK film censors (BBFC). In addition to the censor cuts a number of films were heavily edited by the distributor to cut down running times so they could play in double bills. It is important to note that most film critics considered these films ‘trash’ so few objected to the censorship or the distributor trims.

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A Fistful of Dollars (1967 Release)

I examined the BBFC case file for this which was quite informative. Some at the BBFC thought it should be rejected but it was eventually passed X after about 5m of cuts by the distributor. These cuts persisted to a later theatrical re-release in 1981 when the film was downgraded to AA (14 and over) presumably as the distributor couldn’t be bothered to find an uncut print. The cut USA version was released on video (missing about 3m) and the uncut version was only released on DVD.

I saw this BBFC cut print in the cinema and also on BBC TV and had a copy of it on video at one point (although through it away once the DVD turned up).


Classified ‘X’ for theatrical release in 1967 after the following cuts (c.5m):

DR4 - Reduce to a bare minimum the beating-up of Joe; also remove the kicks and stamping on his hand.
Reduce the number of shots in this Reel and Reel 5 of his disfigured face, especially in close-up.
Reduce to a minimum the shots and sounds of the beating-up of the cantina’s owner.
DR5 - Remove as far as possible all close shots of the massacre of the Baxter’s; shorten the rest, including the murder of Mrs Baxter.
Shorten the episode in which the cantina’s owner is strung-up and tortured (NB: this was not cut but waived by the BBFC as the other cuts were so ‘thorough’).
Remove shots of Ramon dripping blood from his mouth.

The BBFC examiners commented initially that “…The carnage is terrific and the story poor and confused. Any excuse serves for some more killing. The high spots of brutality are the vicious and savage beating-ups of the central character, Joe, in Reel 4 (with the shots of his face afterwards) and the episode of the bullying and torture of Silvanito in Reel 5. Very unpleasant also is the terrifying of the little boy in Reel 1 by shooting round him repeatedly. But to get rid of the high spots would not solve the problem in our opinion, as the film would still be an exercise in brutality for its own sake…We should like the film to be seen by others. It is not nearly such a good story as For a Few Dollars More and we think there is a good case for rejection”. (NB: the first 2 dollars films were submitted to the censors at the same time). However, following a subsequent screening attended by BBFC Secretary John Trevelyan and the distributor the cuts list per above was agreed. The distributor responded ‘thoroughly’ to the BBFC demands and some cuts made appear to have been in excess of what was requested. Additional cuts include the CU of the men crushed by the barrel, both CU’s of the bloodied face of Esteban Rojo and all shots of the Baxter men on fire (the latter presumablyincluded as part of the general instruction to ‘shorten the rest’ of the Baxter clan massacre). In total about 5m was cut.

The BBFC cut print was shown several times on BBC TV in the 1980s and the actual deletions were as follows:

  • The beating-up of Joe suffers from a 1m excisionwhich cuts from Joe falling down the barrel shute to Joebeing kicked and staggering around just before what is actually his second interrogation by Ramon (the first interrogation and the subsequent beating having been deleted).

  • When the villains leave the warehouse, the stamping on Joe’s hand is cut together with the line “Wait till he’s awake, that way he doesn’t feel anything”.

  • When Joe kills the two men with the barrel, several close-ups of his bloodied face have been cut together with a CU of the bloodied bodies.

  • The scene in which Ramon interrogates Silvanito ends as Ramon turns round to face him missing the concluding 11s in which Ramon whacks Silvanito in the groin with his rifle butt.

  • The sequence in which the Baxters are massacred loses nearly 2m in total. In summary, only the opening 30s is shown and then there is an abrupt cut to Baxter and his son running out of the burning house pleading for mercy. Missing are all CUs of Baxter henchmen pleading “Don’t shoot” and then being shot, and all of the footage of Baxter henchmen on fire intercut with lots of CUs of the Rojo gang laughing. When Baxter is shot, a CU of him falling down is removed. When Mrs Baxter is shot we don’t see her falling down at all; the print cuts immediately to Ramon instead. Most of the CUs of Joe observing from a coffin are also cut including his line “Let’s go, the show’s over anyway”.

  • Both CUs of Estebans bloodied face are missing. In the BBFC cut version it is not all that clear who has been shot in the upstairs window since we barely see his face.

  • The shots of Ramon dripping blood from his mouth are cut.

Cut theatrical version re-rated ‘AA’ in 1981 without further cuts (NB: this version is 6m shorter than the uncut version re-released for cinema in 2018).

Pre-cut USA theatrical print classified ‘15’ for video in 1986.

The USA theatrical version was subject to similar but not identical cuts (c3m) to the UK theatrical version. For example, the USA version removes most of the second half of the beating-up of Joe whereas the UK theatrical print removes most of the first half. The Baxter massacre scene was slightly longer; the CU shots of the men pleading “Don’t shoot” and then being shot were intact but all of the subsequent footage of the men on fire being shot intercut with shots of the Rojos’laughing was removed. Mrs Baxter’s death scene was uncut but only one of Esteban’s bloodied CUs was restored.

Uncut version classified ‘15’ for DVD in 1999.


For a Few Dollars More ( classified in 1967)

Seen at the same time as Fistful of Dollars this was cut by 3m which included the entire second flashback scene. The BBFC didn’t consider rejecting this one which probably influenced their decision not to reject the original.

I saw this cut print in cinema and BBC TV.

The subsequent problems with the DVD/Blu Ray releases have been caused by using the cut M USA print and failing to splice the previously censored footage back properly. Nothing to do with censorship.

The footage missing from the current UK/USA DVDs and Blu Rays of Indio stopping the beating up of Manco and Mortimer plus the other couple of missing shots was all present in the UK cinema version.


Classified ‘X’ for theatrical release in 1967 after the following cuts (c. 3m)

DR2 - Remove as far as possible the blows on the helpless man at the hands of Indio’s gang (NB: a 10s cut to the opening of the scene resuming on Indio just after he has struck Tomaso)

DR6 - Reduce to a bare minimum the beat-up of the two bounty hunters and remove as far as possible the laughter of their assailants (NB: 1m25s cut. Apart from the opening 30s the entire sequence was removed, resuming at the point Indio stops the fight).

DR7 - Remove the whole flashback to the rape and death of Mortimer’s sister. (1m25s cut - from CU of watch with sister’s picture to Indio’s sweaty face after flashback)

Uncut version classified ‘15’ for video in 1986.

Pre-cut USA ‘M’ rated version classified ‘15’ on video between 1997 and 2002.

The pre-cert video release from Warner was uncut, as was the initial video release but this was subsequently replaced by the USA ‘M’ rated version which was missing about half of the beating-up in DR6 as well as other shots of violence (such as the CU of Calloway’s head wound and the repeated shooting of the off-screen prison warden) not cut previously by the BBFC. The DR7 flashback and the DR1 blows were, however, intact.

Slightly pre-cut version classified ‘15’ for DVD in 2005.

The SE DVD/Blu Ray restores most of the violence in the DR6 beating-up and some other MPAA trims but is still missing approximately 30s of footage. About 25s of uncontentious footage, present in both the UK theatrical print and previous video releases, is missing from end of the DR6 beating-up sequence showing Indio stopping the fight and explaining his reasoning to a henchman (which causes an abrupt continuity error and leaves the fate of No Name and Mortimer unexplained until later). There are also a couple of other minor MPAA trims which have not been restored such as Indio’s manic laughter at the end of the prison break. The most complete version is in Italy although the German Blu Ray at least restores the end of the fight.


The Good the Bad and the Ugly (1968 release)

The 161m International print was submitted by the distributor and this was cut by 3m40s mostly to remove most of Tuco’s torture. Subsequently the distributor cut another 9m to reduce the running time to 148m so it could have 3 showings a day.

I have seen the 148m print in the cinema twice, the last time as late as 1984. It doesn’t seem to have been shown on TV though as the first BBC screenings restored the distributor cut scenes but not the BBFC cuts.

Alex Cox has reported a shorter 121m version re-released in the 1970s but I have never seen this and the BBFC have no record of it even though it would have required a re-certification as the X rating had changed from 16 to 18. Possible Cox has made an error.

This has been uncut (as regards BBFC cuts) since the first VHS release.


Classified ‘X’ for theatrical release in 1968 after the following cuts (c.3m40s approx.):

R2 - Reduce to not more than three, the blows on the girl (NB: single cut of 13s after Angel Eyes says “I’ll ask the questions. Where is he?” to girl on the bed. Only one blow left in. Presumably over-edited for continuity).

R6 - Reduce to an absolute minimum the beating-up of Tuco, leaving only enough to retain essential dialogue; deletions to include all shots of eye gouging (NB: single cut of 3m20s from first POV shot of Blondie looking at hut to shot of Tuco’s face post eye gouging and Angel Eyes then asking “What did he say about the money?”).

Reduce the bashing of Wallace’s head on a stone (NB: 4s cut removing head bashing shot entirely).

Cuts restored for all video and DVD releases. Both the 161m International Cut and the 178m Director’s Cut are available on DVD.


Thanks for sharing this info … though I actually find it difficult reading, as the censor’s arrogance appalls me. Governing bodies who take it upon themselves to act as guardians of the public’s wellbeing. :woozy_face:

Isn’t it enough to give these films an ‘adults only’ rating, without chopping it up !!!


Fistful got off lightly compared to some other movies. The BBFC cut about 50% of X movies in some form or another between 1957 and 1976.

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Once Upon a Time in the West (1969 release)

The distributor submitted the abridged 144m version which managed to get an A rating after some mild cuts (children under 16 admitted if adult 16 or over present). Quite generous of the censors I thought.

I’ve never seen the abridged version.

The full length 165m version was released in 1982 and passed uncut with an AA rating (14 and over).


Classified ‘A’ for theatrical release in 1969 after the following cuts:

R6 - The bedroom scene which figures Frank and Jill was reduced, especially CUs of Jill when she is showing sexual pleasure. Frank’s line, “You also like to feel a man’s hands all over you. Even if they’re the hands of the man who killed your husband”, was removed.

Cut A version upgraded to AA in July 1970

The uncut full length version was classified AA uncut in 1982.


In the early 80s, our one and only Art house cinema was scheduled to show ‘Yojimbo’ … but when the print couldn’t be delivered in time, Fistful of Dollars was shown instead - I wasn’t allowed to attend the screening because the film was still legally an X, but at this point, you needed to be 18 or over to see the film, which at that time had already been shown on TV.

By way of compensation I was invited to visit the projection booth, where I found some 35mm clippings … one of which was the film censor’s X cert for Fistful … not the actual film, but 3 or 4 damaged frames which I kept for years as a souvenir.


The X changed to 18 on 1 July 1970. At the same time the AA was introduced and the A became advisory only.

The BBFC often used to justify cutting X films because 17-18 year olds could see them but this argument was largely spurious because they continued to cut 50% of X films even after the age limit was raised.

It was only a after James Ferman became BBFC Secretary that this level of cutting started to recede although his appointment co-incided with a decline in the type of film the BBFC usually cut (horrors, spaghetti westerns, king fu).


A Fistful of Dynamite aka Duck You Sucker (1972 release)

The distributor submitted the abridged 137m USA PG version which was passed uncut with an AA certificate in 1972.

Based on the BBFCs censorship standards in 1972 I suspect that several cuts would have been made to the uncut version for an X rating had that been submitted. I suspect that the extended rape scene would have been cut and that some of the F words would have been removed as the BBFC were still trimming F words as late as 1975 if used aggressively.

The 137m version was also passed uncut with a 15 rating for video in 1988.

The uncut version (150m Pal) was passed uncut for DVD with a 15 in 2003.

Bizarrely in 2005 when the ‘special edition’ was released the film was cut by 6s (for a 15) to remove two horse falls from the scene in which Juan and Sean machine gun the soldiers by the bridge. These horse falls had not previously been cut - they were in all versions submitted before - and the BBFC legal requirement to cut cruel horse falls had not changed. Not sure what they were doing here.

So, ironically, the only Leone western to be uncut for its cinema release is now the only Leone western to be cut by the censors on DVD.


Although The Cinematograph Films (Animals) Act has existed since 1937, its widespread application (in regard to the BBFC and horse falls) is a relatively recent trend. Which explains the retrospective cuts seen in spaghetti westerns such as ‘A Fistful of Dynamite’, ‘Bandidos’ and so forth.

The 1972 theatrical and 1988 home video release also noticeably cut the pre-credit sequence.

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Montero - the pre credit cuts were part of the general reductions made to the USA PG print which seemed to have two purposes (a) censor cuts to avoid an R rating (b) time reduction to squeeze more shows into the day.

I imagine the shot of Juan peeing on the ants nest was one of the (many) cuts made to avoid an R rating and that the Americans didn’t like the Mao quote very much. All the F words were missing as well, the scene where Sean mistakenly dynamites his employer was gone, the massacre in the ‘pits’ was abridged, the sequence in which Juan finds his family massacred was re-edited and shortened and the climatic flashback was heavily reduced (to about 30s changing the film’s meaning - I imagine UA thought it was just far too long coming right at the end of the movie) amongst other cuts.

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Can you elaborate … do you mean ‘Aschenbach’ being blown up when Juan stands on the Dyno-plunger ?

Yes - that scene is missing completely from the 137m edit.

I think to maintain continuity they also remove the later dialogue reference to it by Villega about killing foreign capitalists.

The cuts have been done quite cleverly and with some care - for example some of Juan’s dialogue has been moved to different visuals to hide the F word being taken off the sentence. The most awkward and strange thing is the re-editing of the scene in the cave when Juan finds his family dead. In the 137m version shots of the bodies are intercut with close-ups of Juan as if he is looking at the bodies. In the uncut version we don’t see the bodies until after Juan has left and it is Sean who is looking at them. They’ve only saved about 90secs by re-editing this so I wasn’t sure why it was done.


The ‘restored’ version premiered on UK television on Saturday 14th July 2001, 22.20 - 00.50, BBC2. I still have this on VHS somewhere (plus the Viva Leone! screening from December, 1989) so I’ll try and check if the offending horse falls are present.

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I don’t doubt what you’re saying … but it seems so weird that scene didn’t seem ‘New’ to me when I watched the Special edition DVD … Previously I had the Warner Home Video VHS, (which I stupidly sold off) and I’d also seen the film on BBC 2, 1981 -ish ? … I’m sure Toscano can confirm or correct this :wink:

So, we go straight from Sean blowing up the carriage, to the railroad track, ‘Juan & John’ scenes.

I think you have in mind the BBC2 short season of Spaghetti Westerns (7 in all), which was aired on a Thursday evening, in July/August, 1979. The season began with ‘A Fistful of Dynamite’.

In the following six weeks, it was followed by (in order):

A Fistful of Dollars
They Call Me Trinity
For A Few Dollars More
Trinity is Still My Name
The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

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Thanks, Toscano … I don’t remember GBU being shown for this season, but it’s possible we had the dreaded ‘Regional Variations’ … usually meaning some local sports or political program shown instead.


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Yeah, I remember it well, amigo. It was the second time I’d seen it - the first being Easter Monday, 1976…a film that changed my life! :cowboy_hat_face: (See bottom of page for info).

It was the same week that the last ‘Morecambe and Wise’ episode (series 8) was aired (just before the GBU); and the ‘Starsky and Hutch’ pilot episode was introduced to the British public on the Friday of the same week…
The last episode of ‘M & W’ featured what has now become the famous 'Making breakfast/‘The Stripper’ sketch.
I thought at the time that ‘GBU’ was a great way to end a season of SW’s - four of which (Dynamite, Sabata, and the two Trinity films), that I’d never seen before…good memories.

NOTE: I’ve just found this info on the internet…

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

First broadcast: [Thu 23rd Aug 1979, 21:15] (actually the second time it was broadcast)(Schedule - BBC Programme Index) on BBC Two England

Tonight’s Spaghetti Western stars Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, Eli Wallach

ALSO: Here’s the information for the first ‘GBU’ broadcast, Easter Monday, 1976…

Monday Film: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
](Broadcast - BBC Programme Index)

First broadcast: [Mon 19th Apr 1976, 21:30](Schedule - BBC Programme Index) on BBC One London

Starring Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, Eli Wallach

During the American Civil War, three men - Joe, a mysterious American; Tuco, a Mexican gunman; and Setenza, a savage, sadistic killer - are searching for a cashbox containing $200,000. Setenza leaves a trail of death in his wake as he seeks the prize but it is Joe and Tuco who first learn the whereabouts of the money.

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Thanks a million for all the detailed info … it was only 44 years ago, so forgive me if I get a bit confused.

I do remember clearly the two ‘Trinity’ films, which then at the tender age of 13, I really enjoyed - I don’t know if they were ever repeated on British TV, or ‘Sabata’ for that matter.

Perhaps this was the first complete time I got to see GBU, because the earlier screening in 1976 was interrupted by power cuts.

As you say, Good Times … but the BBC must have thought these films too low brow to show again as a season.

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