‘The most objectionable story I have ever had to report on’: Film censorship in post-WWII Britain and the ‘horrific’ realism of The Body Snatcher

Paul Frith

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Existing research on British censorship during the 1940s has often favoured the notion that a so-called ‘H’ ban effectively upheld the import, production, and exhibition of the horror film in Britain during the later-half of the Second World War. However, through an analysis of contemporary critical reception and censorship discourses, it becomes apparent how this ‘ban’ was nowhere near as clearly defined as is often argued. While the ‘H’ ban may have succeeded in barring a small number of low-brow fantasy horror films from cinema screens the genre prevailed in various guises, with the films of producer Val Lewton bringing about a shift away from fantasy towards representations of the everyday. Furthermore, the role of the script supervisor at the British Board of Film Censors clearly demonstrates an alternative to censorship through an involvement with the studios prior to production in order to avoid such restrictions. This article therefore presents an analysis of such negotiations at the BBFC during this period, with Lewton production of The Body Snatcher (Wise, 1945) representing an example of how horror remained a fixture on British screens, through both self-censorship and a move away from the type of film typically associated with the ‘H’ classification.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-19
Number of pages13
JournalHorror Studies
Issue number1
Early online date1 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018


  • Horror
  • Censorship
  • British cinema
  • Second World War

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