British Board of Film Classification

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Alfie

Alfie (1966) starring and narrated by Michael Caine, tells the story of a young womanising chauffeur. He leads a self-centred and uncaring life until events make him reflect on his ways and realise his loneliness.  

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Before going into production, Alfie (1966) arrived at the BBFC for script advice in May 1965. This is not unusual, since its formation in 1912, the BBFC has provided feedback on scripts and books for film adaptation. 

In a letter available here, from the Secretary of the BBFC John Trevelyan, the feedback on the script suggests that, despite its adult content, the film could likely be accommodated at the X category. The BBFC recognised the moral theme, however it raised fourteen points in the script requiring careful handling or complete omission from the film. These scenes include dogs sniffing each other; revealing costumes; dialogue "descriptive of ardent love-making" and nudity.

When the finished film arrived at the BBFC it was classified X for themes of sexual promiscuity and abortion. No cuts were required for the X certificate, but a letter from John Trevelyan to the Department of Education in Bermuda, who were concerned about classifying the film in their own country, reveals his recommendation for some reductions to be made at the editing stage, before the film was submitted for classification. In his letter John Trevelyan describes the film as "a picture of an immoral and amoral young man but we all felt it was very moral in its message and would show young people that 'sleeping around' produces nothing of permanent value".

In 1965 the X certificate restricted films to audiences aged 16 and over. When the video of Alfie came to the BBFC for classification in 1985 the BBFC classified it 15 without cuts. At this time the 12 classification did not exist (the 12 was introduced for film in 1989 and for video in 1994) so this meant the choice of either a PG or a 15 classification. The moderate sex references and theme of Alfie were not appropriate at the PG level and although the Examiner reports highlight the undetailed nature of most of Alfie's affairs, and a lack of nudity in the film, "except for a bare chest or two”, the numerous double entendres ("having it off, a bit on the side, a bit on the other side, she left weals on my back") and a powerful abortion scene took the film out of PG and into the 15 category.

Alfie (1966) was classified for cinema re-release in 2001, when the 12 certificate was available and it passed at 12 for moderate sex references and abortion references. The sexual innuendo in the film and the abortion scene go beyond the BBFC's 2001 Guidelines at PG, but are within the parameters of 12 and it was unnecessary to continue to restrict the film to those aged 15 and over.

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