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Scorsese Film Opens, Subway Bans Advertising

September 9, 1988

LONDON (AP) _ The controversial film ″The Last Temptation of Christ″ opened in London today to poor reviews, a small protest outside a theater and a ban on advertising in the London subway system.

About 150 viewers attended the first public showing of the Martin Scorsese film about Christ’s life in a 600-seat cinema on Shaftesbury Avenue. Half a dozen protesters gathered outside.

The film opens in two other London theaters today, but national distribution dates have not been set.

First into the moviehouse was Michael Fadel, who said: ″I seek no publicity, I seek knowledge.″

Another viewer, Glenn Petrie, said: ″I’m here to see a good movie. I’m also making my own private protest as a Christian against this.″

Nearby protesters handed out leaflets and copies of the Gospel According to St. Mark. A man chanted verses from the Bible. There were no incidents.

One protester, Ruth Bowhill, 23, from St. Mary Church’s in Reading, south of London, said: ″I as a Christian would never spend money to support such a blasphemous film.″

She said she had not seen it, but ″I know enough to know it is abominable in God’s sight, and that men are going away from God in seeing the film.″

Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie - spiritual head of the Church of England and leader of the 70-million worldwide Anglican Communion - and Cardinal Basil Hume - leader of 5.2 million Roman Catholics in England and Wales - have urged Christians to shun the film.

London Transport Advertising, a subsidiary of London Regional Transport, said it banned posters advertising the movie from the subway system.

The movie’s distributors, United International Pictures, said in a statement that the decison amounted to censorship.

″It is regrettable that London Transport Advertising should take this action despite having advised me that they have not received any letters from the public encouraging this course of action,″ said Ken Green, the company’s marketing director.

A spokesman for London Transport Advertising, who demanded anonymity, said: ″It doesn’t matter that we have had no complaints.

″It is very clear this film is going to offend religious groups because church leaders like Cardinal Hume have urged Christians not to see it. Our job is to protect our passengers.″

London Transport Advertising said that while the poster itself was not offensive, it was certain to upset many passengers.

Reaction among London critics who saw the film at a press preview Thursday ranged from scathing criticism and charges it was theologically offensive and artistically incompetent to lukewarm praise.

One part of the film shows Jesus Christ hallucinating while on the cross about marrying and having sex with Mary Magdalene.

The British Board of Film Classification, which decides which movies can be shown to children and which can be seen only by adults, on Aug. 25 granted the film a certificate allowing it to be shown in Britain to audiences over the age of 18.

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