How Would You Rate this Film?


This article originally appeared in Issue# 33

Testimony of Edward Donnerstein, PhD at hearings on media violence.

"I'm going to show you a five-minute clip from a video called Toolbox Murders. It's very popular in our local video store so think of it in terms of being readily available to 14 or 15-year-old young males. This is at the end of the film and the lead character has already killed four women with drills and hammers. His next victim is a lovely woman who first appears in a very sensual scene in a bubble bath. Note the sound track which is a beautiful country music love song. Listen to the words of the song. It will end when the killer bursts into the bathroom, armed with a nail driver, and it will come on again right after he kills her. You're not going to like what you see, but I should say it is still the least violent scene of any film we use in our research.

(Film clip)

...The interesting thing is that if we take the bubbles away, this scene would make the film X-rated but as long as we keep the bubbles there and don't really show any sexual explicitness, it gets an R. But more importantly, I was just on the Phil Donahue show and we screened the last scene where the victim is shot and she falls down and the towel drops from her hand up to where the nail driver is placed near her head and the trigger is pulled. Now because it was on commercial television, they had to put a black band across her breasts. As she was moving around and falling down, the black band followed her. Now that black band had to stay on her breasts, but it was perfectly okay to show the man pull the trigger and drive nails through her.

I think that's a very interesting message – to children or anyone. We don't want to see a woman's breasts, but sure enough we can see just about everything else done to women in these types of films."