Rob and Mike watch Edgar Ulmer’s The Black Cat (1934) at The Projection Booth. “The first big American studio film — and last big American studio film – directed by Edgar G. Ulmer, The Black Cat is, uh, ‘inspired’ by Edgar Allan Poe’s short story and stars Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff in a taut game of life and death.”
Posted May 4, 2006
I’m sure it’s happened to all of us at one time or another. You’ll be flipping channels and arrive on a TV broadcast of one of your favourite motion pictures, one where you know lots of the scripted dialogue by heart. Then suddenly, as if one of the characters has been possessed, a different voice comes wafting out of their mouth, and whatever they used to say is now gone and changed into something far more vanilla.
You can’t quite believe it it for a second, and you think that maybe you just imagined what you heard. But you didn’t. TV networks do that kinda shit all the time. It’s the kind of censorship that they tell us is for our own good, but we know better. Hearing the word “Ass”, “Shit” or “Fuck” isn’t gonna ruin anyone’s moral character, but don’t tell that to the TV people. They’ve got a assshitfuckload of work to do overdubbing all those naughty words.
In one of my favourite films of all time, GLENGARY GLEN ROSS, a movie gloriously packed to the rafters with profanity, “You have the memory of a fucking fly!!” became “You have the memory of a firefly!!”. Almost every other word was looped or changed somehow in that TV broadcast — changing the film in dreamlike and surreal ways. Why any network would even bother trying to televise that film, when they aren’t interested in filling the airwaves with performers screaming “FUCK YOU!” is a total mystery to me.
Another personal favourite of mine came during THELMA AND LOUISE, when the two outlaws have taken the lewd truck driver off the road and have blown up his semi. In the original he screams at them as they ride off “You bitches! You bitches from hell!!” The TV version was changed to “You witches! You witches from hell!!”.
And I’ll never forget seeing the TV version of BLUE VELVET and watching Dennis Hopper’s insane Frank Booth character omitting the word ‘Fuck’, and instead screaming wildly: “Let’s KISS! I’ll KISS anything that moves!” when in the non censored version what the trippin’ psycho really wanted to do was stuff his grubby hambone into someone.
But truth be known, that’s about all the ammunition I’ve got for this subject despite desperately wanting to write about it. I simply can’t remember all the other overdubbed swears I’ve heard over the years, and after a lot of research, I’ve found that there just isn’t anywhere or anyone who seems to be cataloguing this absurd media phenomenon.
Actually, I don’t even like watching movies on TV. If it’s something I’d want to see, I’ve already got my own commercal-free copy on DVD or VHS. And seeing as I don’t have cable (and haven’t for all but 4 years of my 32 years of TV watching experience) I knew that to do even a half way decent job on this article, I’d need to employ the memories of others. In this case I relied on friends or movie nerds who prowl online message boards just waiting for a chance to boast of their dorky wisdom of some has-been actress’ filmography or, or flex their nerdy brain muscles in some other movie-trivia-related way. The following is what was posted as a response to my call for funny or weird TV overdubbing of theatrical films on TV on several different boards, and around my ‘hood.
Tyler Spencer: DIE HARD’s “Yiippie-ki-ay Mother Fucker!” is the king of all idiotic TV overdubs, man. I have a buddy who swears he heard him say “yippie-kai-ay, monkey brother!”, and I personally heard “Yippie-kai-ay, Mr. Falcon!” when DIE HARD 2 got played on TV here in New York.
Chris Poggiali: Special mention to THE LAST BOY SCOUT, a work of art on TV, with whole sections of the script dubbed by people who sound nothing like the original actors. I especially like the whole “You’re wife is so fat” scene in the alley between Bruce Willis and Badja Djola. Only dubbed line I remember is this one… Taylor Negron, as slimy bad guy Milo, calls Willis and greets him with “Hey mother fucker!” On TV, Negron’s lips move but someone else’s attempt at a menacing voice cuts in with “Hello my friend.”
Paul Iannone: In THE BIG LEBOWSKI when John Goodman smashes that kid’s car while yelling “See what happens when you fuck a stranger in the ass?!”, the TV edit replaced it with “See what happens when you take a stranger to France.” What the heck does that mean?
Marty McKee: The TV line, at least as I heard it on the USA network is: “This is what happens when you have fun with a stranger in the Alps.”
NICK PINANSKY: It was also changed later in the scene to “Do you see what happens Larry? do you see what happens when you… FEED A STRANGER SCRAMBLED EGGS?!!” THE BIG LEBOWSKI was butchered by USA Network. Almost every line of dialogue had some cut or edit. A complete hatchet job.
Aaron Lee: Do you remember the opening sequence of RISKY BUSINESS — where Tom Cruise tells a story about being propositioned by a beautiful woman, and his friend rejoinders, “I think you went home and jacked off?” On network TV, the line became, “I think you went home and sacked out.” Which then led to a priceless exchange (“I didn’t sack out. I don’t sack out.” “Come on… EVERYBODY sacks out!”).
Ian Drummond: How about ROBOCOP? In the scene in the bathroom where the CEO is chewing out the cocky young executive (played by Miguel Ferrer), the older man is talking about the names he used to call his own boss. He concludes by saying “Once I even called him ….” I don’t remember what the original is, but on TV he says, “…A LOT WORSE.”
Sarah Fielding: At the beginning of Kid n’ Play’s HOUSE PARTY, the one with the high hair (Kid?) walks right into the school bullies. The big dude says that’s the second time that he’s dared to walk into him and calls him a “Cocky mother fucker”, only the TV version has him saying: “I think you’re a conscious monkey sucker”. Very funny.
Michael Sirk: How about this one? “Mother fucker” became “Mikki Frikki” in the TV cut of Spike Lee’s DO THE RIGHT THING.
Joe Hoferka, Jr: The TV version of TREMORS replaces “Jesus Christ!” with “Judas Priest!” How is that for lame?
Jeff Henry: Another bad looped snippet that sticks in my head: Kevin Bacon yelling “FOOLED YOU!!” to a graboid (is that what they called them?) in TREMORS. His mouth was clearly saying “Fuck you!”.
Ash Atchison: The creme de la creme has to be when the Tremors thing bursts into Michael Gross’ basement and he subsequently kills it. It’s not the replaced line that’s really humorous, but the guy dubbing “Broke into the wrong gaul-derned reckroom, didn’t ya, ya big jerk?” sounds absolutely NOTHING like Michael Gross. Worst.. dubbing.. ever.
Alan Rankin: A pal of mine swears he saw a bowdlerised TV version of Cheech Marin’s BORN IN EAST LA back in the ’90s. Instead of saying, “I’m gonna sit around and get stoned,” Cheech says, “I’m gonna sit around and just say no.”
Keith Bailey: On the recent two disc DVD issue of SCARFACE, there is a bonus feature that compares side-by-side scenes from the movie to the same scenes after being edited for TV. Some great ones are “Where’d ya get that scar, eating PINEAPPLE?” (pussy), and from: “..it’s like a great big pussy waiting to get fucked.” to: “Miami… It’s like a great big CHICKEN waiting to get PLUCKED!”
Marc Edward Heuck: Here are a couple I remember from the “Universal Debut Network” syndication package: WEIRD SCIENCE — the blues bar scene with Anthony Michael Hall changed Kelly LeBrock’s line of “She kicked him in the nuts and called him a fucker” to “She kicked him in the guts and called him a braggart.” In GOING BERSERK — John Candy’s posthypnotic rant of “I’d like to talk about my dick, it’s about this wide.” became “I’d like to talk about my doll, she’s about this wide.” To the best of my knowledge, these overdubs only appeared in the syndicated premiere broadcasts. Whenever I’ve seen them since, the station (indie or cable) has worked from an ordinary theatrical cut instead of a prepared TV edit, and just blanked or cut the scenes themselves.
Charlie Bass: Speaking of WEIRD SCIENCE, one of the most ridiculous overdubs I’ve ever heard (and there are many throughout) is in THE BREAKFAST CLUB. Not sure who says it, probably Judd Nelson, but it involved the phrase “gosh darn egg roll” I believe the use of egg roll as a substitute for asshole can be heard multiple times. Always made me laugh…
William S. Wilson: In the theatrical and home video version of SIXTEEN CANDLES when Jake calls Samantha’s house and hangs up just as the Grandmother is answering, he says, “Ah, bite me.” In the TV version, he says, “Ah, hug me.” Also, when Samantha finds out that her friend doesn’t get the note, she says if anyone finds it she “would shit twice and die.” In the TV version she would “spit twice and die.”
Jason Willis: Another “fuck” omitted fave was in THE BREAKFAST CLUB, “No Dad, WHAT ABOUT YOU? FLIP YOU!” monologue by Judd Nelson. Ahh, that still cracks me up. I’m a simple man.
Ed Brisson: The only one that I can remember is from GOOD MORNING VIETNAM. Robin William’s says to his boss something to the effect of: “You are the man most in need of a blow job.” They dub it as, “You are the man most in need of a backrub.” An added bonus is that it’s raining and the rain stops for a moment when he says backrub.
William S. Wilson: Buffalo Bill’s creepy mirror dance dialogue of “Would you fuck me? I’d fuck me.” in Johnathan Demme’s THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS becomes “Would you marry me? I’d marry me.”
Darren Nemeth: Absolutely the best censored movie I ever saw on TV was SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT. Superstation TBS used to air it every so often on the weekends. The guy who was the 2nd Fred Flintstone voice dubs Jackie Gleason, and “You son of a bitch” is turned into (as I remember) “You Crumb Bum!”. The overdubbing is so obvious and awkward you have to see it to believe it.
David White: The change in GHOSTBUSTERS really confused me. The scene in which Bill Murray charges out of the hotel dining room into the lobby after catching the ghost, he says “We came, we saw, we kicked its ass!” Once, while watching it on television, they aired an alternate take of the scene in which Bill Murray says “What a knockabout of pure fun that was!” (??)
Ian: This one is courtesy of my brother Rob: In GHOSTBUSTERS Bill Murray’s character tells the mayor (about the EPA inspector) “Yes, it’s true. This man has no dick.” TV version: “Yes, it’s true. This man is an insect.”
Mike Mhyer: TBS used to censor the shit out of everything. They’re so lax now its hilarious, but back in the day they were such tight asses. When they played BACK TO THE FUTURE (still have it on beta back home) they censored “Jeez Louise! JEEZ LOUISE!” from when the DeLoreon first goes back in time. It became “Louise! LOUISE!”which made no sense at all to me as a kid.
Beer Can: The TV cut of WHITE MAN CAN’T JUMP uses “astronauts” in place of “assholes” fairly often. Maybe other movies do too but that was the fist time I heard it.
Rick Bradford: I saw about half of ALL ABOUT THE BENJAMINS on tv a couple of weeks ago and there is some funny-ass shit in there. The two that really stuck with me are “mothertrucker” and “bullshaking”. I am not bullshaking you, mothertrucker.
Dr. R. Strother: In the first scene of DIRTY MARY AND CRAZY LARRY, lovely Susan George spots Peter Fonda some distance away, stands up, opens her lovely, snaggletoothed mouth and bellows, “Hey, ASSHOLE!!” Note that these are the first words the titular (and I mean titular) “Crazy Mary” speaks, and if memory serves, the first words spoken in the film — so they carry some weight, and I believe were meant to be very funny. Start the movie off with a “bang,” as it were. I watched the television version with anticipation, waiting through the opening credits until the crucial moment Susan spots Peter, stands up and yells… “Hey, APE-HEAD!!”
Stef Lewellyn: Just saw an example of bad dubbing in John Water’s CRY-BABY on MuchMoreMusic tonight. The scene where Traci Lords is getting sentenced by the judge and she tells him “fuck you!”,but it’s replaced by “fink you!” Fink you veddy veddy much… sounds like Latka. What would Andy Kaufman think?
Chris Clarke: PULP FICTION had the worst TV dubs I have ever seen. Samuel Jackson in particular, whose ‘Motha fucka!’ was consistently replayed as ‘Mother Fletcher!’, and whose ‘Shiiiit, Nigga!’ was replaced with ‘Shoot, Negro’. Not to mention the fact that the entire gimp scene was removed, so all of the sudden Wallace and Willis were friends again? Oh, if life were only made for late night public access tv.
Thanks to everyone who helped out.