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BBFC slashes Brit release of 'Murder'

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UPDATED 5:15 p.m. PT Feb. 28

LONDON -- The British Board of Film Classification has clamped an all-out ban on the DVD release of writer-director Nick Palumbo's "Murder Set Pieces" in the U.K.

It is only in rare cases that the BBFC outright rejects a proposed release and classification but Palumbo's tale of the activities of a psychopathic sexual serial killer was deemed unreleasable by the British body.

The rejection means "Murder" cannot be legally supplied anywhere in the U.K.

The decision was made by BBFC director David Cooke and president Quentin Thomas, among others.

A BBFC spokesperson said that the DVD release label, Philadelphia-based TLA Releasing, has 42 days to appeal the decision. "But even if there is an appeal, there are serious issues of other British laws this film is in potential conflict with," the spokesperson said.

The film contains scenes throughout of a serial killer raping, torturing and murdering his victims. Young children are among those terrorized and killed, and their inclusion in this abusive context is an added concern, the BBFC said.

Cooke said the board considered trying to cut the film to allow it a release here.

"However, given the unacceptable content featured throughout, and that what remains is essentially preparatory and setup material for the unacceptable scenes, cutting the work is not a viable option in this case, and the work is therefore refused a classification," Cooke said.

"It is the board's carefully considered view that to issue a certificate to 'Murder Set Pieces,' even if statutorily confined to adults, would involve risk of harm within the terms of the Video Recordings Act, would be inconsistent with the board's guidelines, and would be unacceptable to the public," he added.

"Murder" also raises potential legal questions, according to the BBFC, including contraventions of the Protection of Children Act 1978, and possible breaches of other legislation such as obscenity laws here.

Richard Ross, TLA's executive director sales for North America and the U.K., said the company is still deciding whether it will appeal the decision.

"We're shocked," Ross said in an interview. "We wanted to retain the director's original version. When we bought it, we hoped to release it unedited and thought we'd be able to do that in the U.K. We don't want to release the same version that Lionsgate released (in the U.S.)."

According to IMDb, Lionsgate's release of "Murder" was trimmed by 23 minutes in order to receive an NC-17 rating.

The last movie banned outright for DVD release in the U.K. was "Struggle in Bondage," a pornographic film that consisted of scenes of women tied up and struggling while humiliated and crying.

Chad Williams in Los Angeles contributed to this report.