Compared are the Theatrical Version and the Final Cut, both available on the "3-Disc 40th Anniversary Edition" (Blu-ray) from the UK.
Length difference: 294.4 sec (= 4:54 min)
One should probably draw a veil of silence over Nicolas Cage's "Not the bees!" performance from 2006 but the original shot in 1973 still remains a classic of bizarre horror cinema. Whether it's Christopher Lee's maniac acting, Britt Ekland's nudity scene (unfortunately, she had a double for that) or the simply brilliant score: it's still a terrifying and yet wonderful piece of classic cinema.
And the story behind isn't less interesing at all. While shooting the movie, production company "British Lion" was bought up by "EMI" and the new people in charge were pushing for a so-called happy ending which - thank God - could be avoided at the end of the day. A rough 103 minutes copy* of the British movie ended up in the hands of American producer legend Roger Corman who allegedly recommended to cut out approx. 10 minutes of the footage. This actually took place and some were recut as well. The result was an 88-minute-version for its theatrical release in the UK - possibly because one intended to release it as a double feature with Don't Look Now. As time went on, the original negative seemed to be lost, the myth by Moviedrome founded in 1988) that the studio had given it away and it was used to build a highway was born. Meanwhile, director Hardy set his hand to his above-mentioned early but unfinished copy and a version that comes pretty close to his originally intended 96-minutes-version got its theatrical release in 1979.
But over the years, the UK Theatrical Version was the common version. That is until the year 2001. In this year, the movie was released on DVD and one of the other two versions was spread. One got hold of a Telecine copy on VHS (the quality was pretty bad because that's what an old VHS always has looked like and alwaya will) with a pre-release version with a length of 103 minutes. It got restored and was released as so-called "Director's Cut" on DVD. Though it was the longest available version, it was still unfinished and NOT the version the director originally intended - despite its name.
For that matter, a Facebook page was initiated in 2013. With the active help of the fans, the search for the Original Version continued. After several posts about unsuccessful attempts, the following announcement was posted on 07/23/2013:
So basically, it's not exactly the version they were searching but they were getting close. Hardy himself justified the more sensible name "Final Cut" and expressed himself
more distinctly about the "Final Cut":
In the following, this version also got a small theatrical release and has recently been released in the UK on Blu-ray and DVD.
* For consistancy matters, any time index refers to the NTSC format which also equals the time index in theatrical releases. The previous version on the Blu-ray is only availabe in PAL which explains the shorter running time of 99 minutes but it's 100% equal. Reagrding the version released in 1979: it's based on wikipedia information, so there's no guarantee that it's 100% correct.
The Final Cut
For starters, the probably most interesting aspect: no, there's NO completely new footage in the Final Cut - except for the god of the sun shots and the text boxes at the beginning/end. Any additional scene - compared to the Theatrical Version - is well known from the so-called "Director's Cut" released years ago. Bottom line: the Final Cut is some kind of hybrid version basically based on the Theatrical Version but containing the most striking differences from the Director's Cut.
The scene with temptingly dancing Britt Ekland is still in the second half of the movie which is much more suitung because Howie seems to have solved the mystery of Rowan on the one hand and his encounters with the villagers has gotten more and more curious on the other hand.
Also like in the Director's Cut, Lord Summerisle (Lee) is sending a boy toy to Willow's (Ekland's) room which is completely missing in the Theatrical Version. The shorter church scene provided with flashbacks is the third match between Final Cut and Director's Cut. Here, one gets to see the entire scene at the beginning of the movie which is a perfect start. The movie now begins with well-behaved Howie whose view of life is about to change step by step (the mentioned seduction scene by Willow later in the movie is also part of the reason for that).
Therefore, the other new scenes at the beginning of the Director's Cut (Howie at the station plus Howie on his way to Summerisle) are missing. Contrary to the Director's Cut, the shots of landing Howie during the opening credits haven't been shortened either. It's an exact copy of the beginning in the Theatrical Version - which also goes for the rest of the movie. Some of the admittedly rather redundant short additional scenes in between, but also the completely song about Willow in the tavern in the Director's Cut or the new recorded comment about Summerisle, which is well-knows for apples, are missing here. As compensation, the scene of the next morning resp. right after Willow's seduction dance, which was in the Theatrical Version but not in the Director's Cut for some reason, is back in the movie. Unfortunately, the seduction dance is equal to the Theatrical Version while it was approx. 1 minute longer in the Director's Cut.
All in all, the Final Cut is a double-edged sword. Somehow, the alterations in the Final Cut have been choses wisely plus it's based on the restored HD master of the Theatrical Verison. Consequently, the image quality is really good most of the time.
What hasn't been mentioned at all so far: here, additional scenes stick out because they were scanned in HD from a different source. The order of the scenes is equal to the Director's Cut but there are tiny frame differences. And above all, the aspect ratio is different. Please see the little comparison at the very end of the following comparison for more details. And this is also a point of criticism because the quality simply isn't homogeneous. Some people might be bothered by that and it also contradicts with the original post on Facebook according to which there wouldn't be any inconsistencies regarding the image and sound quality. Furthermore, there's a chance that little details were missed in the process of adding additional footage/scenes. At this point, I'd like to point Britt Ekland's (phony) nudity scene once again. As already mentioned, we get to see the HD version of it in the Final Cut and yet some footage is missing resp. the scene is longer in the Director's Cut and some alternate footage has been used as well. The cockily on Facebook announced original master of the 1979 version probably had a length of 96 minutes and in the process of piecing together the "Final Cut", the 93 minutes remained. But please keep in mind that the mentioned 96 minutes should still be treated with caution. That the new version doesn't contain any completely exclusive footage might be a disappointment for some people, too.
Anyways, one who doesn't know the movie at all should definetely get the Final Cut. Huge fans on the hand will have to buy the Director's Cut in addition to actually have any available footage in their film collections. Fortunately, the Director's Cut (in SD) is also available on the "3-Disc-Edition" from the UK, besides the Theatrical Version and the Final Cut (both in HD).
Running time refers to
Theatrical Version Blu-ray / Final Cut Blu-ray
Alternate / Logos
00:00-00:44 / 00:00-02:06
The Theatrical Version begins with the rating, the British Lion logo and an expression of gratefulness to the islanders.
The Final Cut on the other hand starts with a few credits after zooming in on the god of the sun and an information about the current date, it goes on with the service Howie is participating. At first, the flock is singing a song. Then the Eucharastic celebration performed by Howie. His girlfriend Mary is part of the flock.
Final Cut 82.7 sec longer
The further additional scenes at the beginning of the Director's Cut are missing though resp. the Final Cut continues with the credits from the Theatrical Version after the service while Howie is landing the water plane. As a result, the mentioned scene has the same length as it does in the Theatrical Version while the Director's Cut is a little shorter here.
The following quite sensible scenes in the Director's Cut (the complete song at the tavern about Willow plus the other comment of Howie's as reaction to Willow not being able to give him an apple as desert from the off) do NOT exist in the Final Cut. The Theatrical Version and the Final Cut contain the same footage here.
17:34 / 18:56-19:13
At the tavern, the band strike up a romantic song ("Gently Johnny"). This difference and the following one equal the Director's Cut!
Alternate / Recut
17:37-22:43 / 19:16-22:53 bzw 51:47-56:01
During the partially identical shot of Howie with his notes, the Theatrical Version lacks Lord Summerisle calling for Willow from the off. After that, the versions continue differently: a later upcoming scene in the Final Cut / Director's Cut of the service has been pulled forward (makes much more sense in its original oder) for the Theatrical Version.
Smooth transition to a shot Howie praying in front of the bed in the Theatrical Version, followed by several similar shots and some shortened flashbacks of the service, which are more detailed at the beginning of the Final Cut / Director's Cut. Not until now, we get to know about Howie's spiritual background.
After these almost 50 seconds, which aren't exactly exclusive (they are in this montage though), he notices Willow passing by his room and calling "Sergeant!". From now on, the very same footage from the Final Cut (51:47-56:01) is being used - no screens from that point on.
Howie goes to bed while a new song is being struck up downstairs. Nude Willow sings and knocks on the wall with the music. Howie realizes the singing is supposed to seduce him. so he sneaks to the door but he can control himself.
In the Final Cut however, Howie looks up in the same shot and watches. Lord Summerisle is at the garden, next to him an adolescent Summerisle calls the sacrifice for Aphrodite. Willow asks him on her room. Lord Summerisle calls Willow the "Goddess of Love" in human shape and explains he was only her modest servant. Willow blows kisses in his direction. Lord Summerisle wishes her fun but she should be ready in two days - at the the day of death and ressurection on which she will get a more serious sacrifice. When the adolescant walks across the taproom on his way to Willow's room, the guests lapse into silence for a moment. Then, they continue singing their melancholic song. Now a shot of Lord Summerisle at the garden, he's watching some snails making love and he also listens to the noises coming from Willow's room. He's talking to himself, well aware that Howie, who's praying in his room (some of the shots equal the ones in the Theatrical Version), can hear everything. That's why he's making despicable comment about Christen and her customs. The noises from Willow's room are becoming more obvious. Howie is grossed out and throws himself on his bed. The music and the noises break off.
These scenes are 89.6 sec longer in the Theatrical Version
Alternate / Recut
22:50-23:47 / 23:00-23:32
After the in both versions identical shot of installing the May tree as sign for the next morning, the versions continue differently again.
In the Theatrical Version, the part one can also see later on after Willow's seduction dance in the Final Cut (there immediately resp. without the May Tree interruption) follows. Willow wakes up Howie and she asks him why he hadn't followed her "invitation". Howie responds he was engaged. Willow says he was going to leave that day because he shouldn't show up at May Day in his condition. Then she leaves the room.
(Time index Final Cut: 56:01-56:58, no screens because 100% identical)
The Final Cut instead shows (the course of action is still identical with the course of action in the Director's Cut) Howie approaching Willow while she's a yard table. After some chitchat, he wants to know from her where the school was located and she points him in the right direction.
These scenes are 25 sec longer in the Theatrical Version
52:02 / 51:47-56:58
As already described in the last two differences, we now have Willow's seduction dance in the Final Cut plus her visit the next morning. That means it doesn't come up until Willow has developed the photo with Rowan and seen the circled date (1st of May) on the calendar one more time. These scene make much more sense at this point because they increase Howie's discomfort after having made the crucial discovery - while all that appears to be a little drastic in the Theatrical Version because all that takes place much earlier.
311.2 sec (= 5:11 min)
Please note: for some reason, the Director's Cut lacks the second scene with Willow and Howie in the morning. Since Willow's comment to Howie that he better not show up to May Day because he wasn't in shape is quite important for the following course of events, the Final Cut is the best solution for that matter. But then again, the Director's Cut contains more footage of the seduction dance and also alternate reaction shots of Howie while the Final Cut and the Theatrical Version here contain exactly the same footage.
87:57-88:14 / 92:52-93:08
The Theatrical Version ends with a further reference to the production company after the end credits.
The Final Cut on the other hand shows the god of the sun one more time. This time, the camera zooms out while it was the other way around at the beginning of the movie. Last but not, more credits.
Theatrical Version 1.4 sec longer
Finally a little comparison of the images of the new scenes in the Final Cut and the Director's Cut. As one can see, the HD Version is based on a different master that looks more colorless on the one hand but contains more image information on the other hand plus a different image section now and then.