Or rather 44 years almost to the day, Larry Kent’s BITTER ASH premiered in Vancouver, and what a scandal it caused. The film went head to head with the Canadian censors, a story that seems to be well documented online. On Friday, October 11, the headline of the Ubyssey, the student paper of University of British Columbia, read AMS SLAMS DOOR ON MOVIE. Five days later another story appeared on the front page of the same paper, BITTER ASH TO CHALLENGE CENSORS.
HUMP FANS TAKE NOTE
Because of its frank sexual content, the film was banned pretty much everywhere. Kent “conveyed a down-to-earth realism, dramatic tension and sexual eroticism, which came as an unexpected force on screens that were then so empty of Canadian films”. Besides being censored, THE BITTER ASH has become notorious in Canada’s film history annals for a number of reasons: it’s thought to be the first feature to include a shot of a woman’s exposed breast [editor’s note: discounting, of course, Nell Shipman’s innocent naked romp in Back to God’s Country in 1919]; and it was the first Canadian feature to tour the university circuit, drawing large numbers of student viewers before a circuit of this kind even existed. The film sold out in advance when it screened at McGill in Montreal. Male students were so eager to see the naked breast and graphic sex scenes, they broke down the locked doors and stormed the cinema.
I’m not sure if at the time it made its way south of the border to Seattle screens (anyone know the answer?). In todays world who knows if the film would have even cleared customs. Now some 44 years later, we’re extremely excited to present Larry Kent’s controversial first feature. I wish today’s paper’s headlines read THE BITTER ASH TONIGHT!