casImagine a project that gave the greatest horror filmmakers some money and one hour to do whatever they wanted? Wouldn’t that be the coolest thing ever? If you’re saying to yourself, ‘We have that, Devin, and it’s called Masters of Horror, airing on Showtime,’ you’d be wrong. It turns out that even Showtime’s series has content restrictions, and that means the Takashi Miike episode, Imprint, will never be shown. Instead a Clive Barker scripted episode directed by John McNaughton, Haeckel’s Tale, will be seen.

Mick Garris, one of the main guys behind the series, tried to justify the dumping of Miike’s work. "I think it’s amazing, but it’s even hard for me to watch," he told the New York Times. "It’s definitely the most disturbing film I’ve ever seen."  Well, we wouldn’t want that on an episode of a show spotlighting the greats of horror.

The Times reporter seems to have seen Imprint, and offers this description:

"Imprint," which has a much more polished look than most of Mr. Miike’s work, plays like an infernal variation on "Memoirs of a Geisha." In mid-19th-century Japan, an American journalist (the genre stalwart Billy Drago) goes in search of the prostitute he has fallen in love with but was forced to abandon.

The American’s quest leads him to a mysterious island zoned exclusively for dimly lighted brothels, where one procurer, a syphilitic midget, introduces him to a relatively sympathetic prostitute (Youki Kudoh, who also appears in "Memoirs of a Geisha"). Hideously deformed, the right side of her face pulled into a permanent rictus, the nameless woman tells the American the terrible story of what happened to his lover, throwing in at no extra charge the story of her own hideous childhood as the daughter of impoverished outcasts.

As the woman’s story continues, her revelations, scrupulously visualized, become more and more outlandish, and her descriptions of the violence done to the missing prostitute, who was suspected of stealing a ring from the brothel’s madam, become more cruelly imaginative and difficult to stomach. But the most shocking imagery is yet to come, as the nameless woman describes her collaboration in her mother’s work as an abortionist.

And that’s where we come to what separated Showtime from their balls – abortion. At least that’s how Garris makes it sound. "Definitely, at the script stage we made comments about the aborted fetuses," he said. "We made it clear that we were going on American pay cable television, and even though there wasn’t as much control over content, there still were concerns. And then when we got the first cut, it was very, very strong stuff, and we made some suggestions on what might help before we showed it to Showtime. The Japanese made the changes they were comfortable with, and eventually we arrived at a film that he was happy with and we’re all happy with. But Showtime felt it was not something they were comfortable putting out on the airwaves."

This makes me furious. What’s the point of pay cable if they’re going to be censoring content? And what the hell is the point of inviting Miike to play if you’re not going to let him do his thing? It isn’t like this is a sudden twist in the kinds of films the guy makes – when you hire Miike you’re hiring the modern embodiment of transgressive filmmaking. So now we see who the modern Masters of Horror are – William Malone, the guy who made  Fear Dot Com and House on Haunted Hill,  but not a genius like Takashi Miike.

Imprint will eventually see light of day on DVD from Anchor Bay.

I am glad I never got a subscription to Showtime. It saves me from having to cancel it now.