Why did sausage nunchucks cause such a stir in Great Britain?

When Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze arrived in 1991, it came off the back of an incredibly successful first installment just a year earlier. Expectations were high and the studio toned down the violence, wanting to make it as child-friendly as possible.

In the UK, however, adjudicators still took issue. Their concern focused on one scene in particular, where sausage nunchucks were deemed potentially harmful to “any streetwise eight-year-old”.

Sausage nunchucks teenage mutant ninja turtles
Photo- New Line Cinema: WB

There were far fewer weapons in the second Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film. Despite the first movie raking in over $200 million at the box office, in an attempt to make the sequel accessible to an even wider audience, the turtles had their weapons removed. Instead, they did all their ninja turtle fighting with their bare hands. Well, almost all their fighting…

It hardly sounds vicious, but in one scene, the turtles (Michelangelo specifically) use a certain meat product to protect themselves. The writers probably thought they had a moment of light comedy that stayed in line with their no-weapon stance when they conceived of makeshift sausage nunchucks. The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) was less convinced. 

In a now infamous case of film classification, the BBFC explained that the scene needed to be cut because “any streetwise eight-year-old” would think they were weapons. It seems important to stress that this was two sets of sausages strung together. The BBFC thought the overlap was too close.

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“In the credits sequence in Reel 1, chainsticks are wielded (or seem to be) after a shot of sausages hanging from the butcher’s rail,” the report from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze says. “Since there is real confusion between chainsticks and sausages this sequence needs to be carefully checked before cuts (if any) are listed. Ditto a sequence in Reel 2, where April tries out a pair of chainsticks; could they be sausages? If so, we would look pretty foolish (right Charlies, in fact) if we cut them!”

It’s a wonderfully British, if slightly eccentric, message. 

The BBFC’s Parental Guidance rating

In the end, common sense just about prevailed. The sausage nunchuck scene was allowed to stay after the movie’s distributors assured the BBFC that all the sequences “involved sausages not sticks”. Still, the BBFC’s director, James Ferman, practiced caution. He cited the potential for the sequence to showcase chainsticks-type weapons “to any streetwise eight year old” and his cuts list included a request to minimize the glamorization of easily accessible weapons. It reads below:

“After turtle takes down sausages and uses them as a flail. Reduce to minimum dazzling display of swinging sausages indistinguishable from chainsticks.”

Even at the time, the decision was ridiculed by some. The Examiner reports for the video release include some criticism of the decision, with one report noting that “the sausage/chainstick confusion makes his [Ferman’s] cuts list a tiny bit ludicrous to read”.

After all the song and dance, the BBFC eventually awarded Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze a PG, meaning parental guidance – the rating the film had requested all along.

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