Why Irish Censors Saw Fit To Ban Quentin Tarantino's From Dusk Till Dawn

The crude, lewd, and brutal cult classic "From Dusk Till Dawn" is a celebration of the kind of grindhouse insanity that its director Robert Rodriguez and screenwriter Quentin Tarantino grew up devouring. Despite the B-movie worship, however, the film is completely agnostic of traditional genre story structure, notoriously surprising people when the crime thriller they thought they were watching turned into a vampire horror splatterfest. The Film Censors Office in Ireland was perhaps the most shocked by this turn of events, banning the film's theatrical release in 1996 due to its "totally gratuitous violence."

This wasn't the first time that the Irish government targeted a Tarantino-related film, either. Two years earlier, the Film Censors Office (renamed the Irish Film Classification Office in 2008) banned "Natural Born Killers," which Tarantino had originally scripted before director Oliver Stone changed a bulk of the content, out of concern of "copycat crimes" inspired by the main characters' murder spree. The office had also targeted Paul Verhoeven's recently released film "Showgirls" in 1995, which garnered controversy for its graphic nudity and sex scenes. It appears that in the case of "From Dusk Till Dawn," however, events that occurred shortly before the film's release influenced the Film Censors Office's final decision.

No mass violence for the masses

Interestingly, head censor Sheamus Smith wasn't normally open about stating the reasons behind the office's bans, but he made an exception in this particular case. The United Kingdom and neighboring Ireland were still reeling from the mass shooting at Scotland's Dunblane Primary School, which took place earlier that year in March and spurred the adoption of stricter gun laws. In addition, Australia had witnessed a mass shooting at Tasmania's historic Port Arthur penal colony site in April, similarly leading to heightened firearm restrictions. A couple of months later, tensions were still high, and Smith felt that it was "irresponsible" to release something as over-the-top violent as "From Dusk Till Dawn" in the aftermath of these tragedies. He explained the decision to The Irish Times:

"Somebody has to say `stop' to this extraordinary violence on the screen. I admire Harvey Keitel and Quentin Tarantino, and I'm not saying everyone in Ireland would be affected by this film. But even if one person were affected I wouldn't like to have it on my conscience."

Around the turn of the millennium, the Film Censors Office overturned a number of decisions and finally released a list of previously banned films, including "A Clockwork Orange" and "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre," both passed in 1999. It took "From Dusk Till Dawn" a bit longer to arrive on Irish screens, but the bloody vampire extravaganza from Tarantino and Rodriguez finally became available in 2004 as a home video release.