What does the Mull of Kintyre have in common with censorship?

Mull of Kintyre. Picture: Google Maps
Mull of Kintyre. Picture: Google Maps
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MULL of Kintyre is a peninsula in the south-west of Scotland, and a famous song by Paul McCartney’s Wings. But less well-known is its (possibly apocryphal) role as a filter in the UK film industry.

The story goes that the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) used to judge whether images of naked men were suitable to be shown on screen by comparing a certain part of their anatomy to the aforementioned Scottish peninsula. If the filmed phallus in question appeared more erect than the Mull of Kintyre’s memorable outline, then the scene would be flagged up as inappropriate for viewing and swiftly relegated to the cutting room floor.

To this day, the BBFC maintain that the so-called Mull of Kintyre Test is a work of fiction but it’s an urban legend that has stuck around in Scottish culture and, unsurprisingly, continues to raise eyebrows.

Many hopefully maintain that this rumour is too good to be an outright porkie pie, and it’s been suggested that the Mull of Kintyre Test was rolled out on the release of controversial historical drama film Caligula in 1979. Now considered a cult classic, the film, starring Malcolm McDowell and Helen Mirren, was not well received on its release, partly due to its extremely graphic hardcore sex and orgy scenes (it was financed by US porn magazine Penthouse). It’s safe to say the BBFC would have had a fair few “Mull of Kintyres” to examine when Caligula arrived through their door.