1.) Concerning 'exclusive' R-rated versions:
There has been a lot of confusion regarding DVD releases in an 'Unrated' version lately. So this censorship report doesn't only compare two versions of 'Wizard of Gore', but does take a look behind the scenes of the rating practices and some companies' DVD releasing policy in the United States. However, in some cases (e.g. Feast, Feast II, Rogue, Storm Warning, Children of Wax) the sometimes quite obscure rating practices lead to confusion and, in rare cases, even angry reactions in other countries where these movies are released. The following report tries to shed some light on this issue (which may not be unfamiliar to regular readers of this website) and to explain some details (as mentioned above, this isn't limited to 'The Wizard of Gore' but includes some other movies, too).
Politics of multiple releases: Rated and Unrated
It's widely known that there often are two different home video releases of a movie in the U.S.: One version rated by the MPAA and a (quite effective in advertising) unrated version. In the past, many people – even on this website – assumed for a certain time that, above all, the economically most powerful U.S store companies didn't offer any unrated DVDs. The ones to be mentioned here are Walmart as most important seller of DVDs and Blockbuster as biggest Video rental store.
However, both chains have been offering unrated DVDs for quite a long time. Only the very rarely occurring NC-17-movies are not offered there. Unrated versions that would have gotten an NC-17 if presented to the MPAA are no problem for those stores and can be found there en masse on the shelves. Those two companies jumped on the unrated-bandwagon a bit later than rival companies as Amazon.com or Best Buy and sometimes explicitly refused to offer certain unrated versions, such as e.g. Old School or Requiem for a dream. But since unrated versions have become a mass phenomenon and the sales are not to be ignored any more, those politics changed.
At Walmart, too, both online and in the individual stores unrated versions can be found. This also and above all affects movies of which two versions are available.
Nevertheless, the R-rated versions of these movies are offered by these companies as well, but not in all cases and not more often than the unrated counterpart. So one can only guess why there are two versions of those movies released. One explanation could be that this issue is handled differently in different regions of the States: Whereas stores in the more conservative parts of the country are offering mainly the R-rated version, this is not necessary in other parts of the country. Though there is no complete proof of this theory, it still remains one of the most plausible explanations.
Especially at Blockbuster this can be seen more clearly. It seems like the R-rated versions are more likely to be offered in the (online) rental section, whereas in the Blockbuster Stores the unrated versions usually can be obtained, too. Especially in the rental section, where the majority are R-rated versions in order to maintain the family-friendly environment, this often leads to customers getting angry. Examples: Here, here, and here. Being that angry, many people then assume that Blockbuster censor DVDs by themselves. However, this is very unlikely…
Exclusive R-rated versions
If and when a movie is released in both an R- and unrated version can usually be known by viewing U.S. DVD websites or the most exact and complete source, amazon.com's media catalog. At exactly this point things become interesting: Some R-rated versions appear neither in announcements of the labels, and hence on the usual DVD-websites either, nor are those R-rated versions mentioned in the catalog of amazon.com or any other send away company. Just the unrated version is mentioned.
This mainly affects movies released by The Weinstein Company, which owns the sub-labels Dimension and Dimension Extreme. Weinstein and Blockbuster concluded a 3-year agreement in 2006 which gives Blockbuster the right to exclusively offer the rental versions of those labels' movies. On their covers, you can usually find an eye-catching Blockbuster Exclusive sticker. In course of this agreement it might be possible that Weinstein resp. Dimension have already created R-rated versions of their movies to appropriately fit the family friendly store policy. So it seems mainly the movies of Dimension Extreme to be affected, as there are many unrated movies from this label of which R-rated counterparts exist that are not to be found anywhere else. But on the other hand, many don't have said counterpart: Those are only available as unrated versions. So it might be possible that in some cases an R-rated version had been made for a limited theatrical release, for example, and that Blockbuster happily took this version for rental. It's a fact that those exclusive R-rated versions, due to many reports (as mentioned above), are to be found almost exclusively in the Blockbuster rental section.
Exclusive R-rated version: Shortened? Yes. Censored? Not necessarily.
However, not all exclusive R-rated versions are censored to obtain said rating. In this respect, this story isn' any different from other double releases. There, too, you have some deceptive releases which suggest an uncensored or gorier version. Whereas there are some already uncensored R-rated versions in the Dimension Extreme franchise, it is possible as well that a movie easily capable of obtaining an R-rating to be marketed as unrated due to advertising reasons. If there is an additional R-rated version of this movie, it is not necessarily censored.
Something like that happened to the not so gory Australian crocodile horror movie Rogue. This movie was released in the U.S. in an unrated version under the label of Dimension Extreme. It seems that there was made a shorter R-rated version of the movie as well. As no censorship cuts were necessary to obtain the R-rating, Dimension just removed some plot elements. Maybe also to shorten the movie a bit for U.S. audiences. The unabridged version does have a gory 'unrated' sticker to suggest that this is a gorier version. In Feast III, too, the changes were not made for censoring but for the only cause to be able to release an additional unrated version for advertising reasons.
2.) Versions and report:
After his debut movie Wolf Creek, Australian Greg McLean dared enter the realm of creature horror movies. Whereas his first feature had been a terror movie full of atmosphere and suspense, expectations towards his keeping this level were high. Unfortunately, Rogue is nothing special among creature horror movies. This is not due to technical aspects, as photography, score, and creature animation are splendid. The issue with this movie is, in my humble opinion, that it takes too long to draw a picture of the characters and the main reason you watch this movie doesn't really appear until the last half hour. Nothing much happens before, you mostly see nice landscape shots. Those were present in Wolf Creek, too, but there it fitted better.
Conclusion: Average creature horror flick with great special effects and nice landscape shots, but hardly any suspense. But everyone should see for themselves.
As an example, when this movie was released in the German speaking regions of Europe, people thought it was the uncut version as it isn't too gory at all. But when the unrated DVD version appeared in the US with a longer runtime (even after calculating PAL speedup), some were confused. Which version had been the source for the European release, the American R-rated version although its being an Australian movie (where you don't have the R-rating)? Or was it cut by the release company in Europe itself, and if so how much?
All was made clear by an announcement of the company that had released the movie in the German speaking parts of Europe, which said that they had used the American R-rated version. So the license had come from the USA and not from Australia, as it had already happened with Wolf Creek, too. In the USA, the R-rated version of Rogue can hardly be found anywhere, as all shops are only offering the unrated version. It might be possible that the shorter R-rated version are available in a few stores of Blockbuster and/or Walmart, as they (and mainly Blockbuster) usually offer specially made R-rated version.
However, there are no cuts due to violence. Merely some landscape shots and some (unimportant) plot parts are missing in the R-rated version. Additionally, some material has been inserted at another place and two shots are mirrored in the R-rated version. So it's quite unimportant which version one is watching as they don't differ too much.
Cut version = 89:08 mins.
Uncut version = 95:01 mins.
Cuts in total = 5:53 mins.
Comparison between the cut R-rated version (represented by the German FSK 16 DVD from Kinowelt) and the uncut unrated version (represented by the Australian M-rated DVD from Roadshow Entertainment).
00:00 The unrated version sets in a bit earlier (black screen).
10:47 Some landscape and bird shots are missing. The last three shots can be seen a bit later in the R-rated version, and put together differently.
11:52 Scenes on the boat. The couple is talking. Pete looks to Simon who is stuffing his face with something, and last but not least Kate's dog can be seen.
13:57 Here, the shots of the birds and Simon (that could be seen earlier in the unrated version) are now to be seen in the R-rated version.
+ 6,7 secs.
In the unrated version, there are shots on the boat. Pete is leafing through his notepad, Kate is looking around, and you can see some shots of animals.
23:19-23:27 Two shots are mirrored in the R-rated version. No runtime difference.
23:27 Pete asks Kate if she is fine and she tells him that she doesn't like being in this part of the river. After that, there are some camera movements over the river and the boat .
24:11 Shot of the boat and then camera moving over the river. Thunder strikes and Kate looks worried.
24:21 Shot of the river. Then a spiderweb with spider and prey, afterwards shots of the boat and the passengers.
29:37 Shots of the by the drastically rising river. Pete looks around, worried, and tries to get a signal with his cellphone.
48:46 After Allen has been snatched by the crocodile, shots of the mourning and shocked people (the pictures had to be brightened a bit).
54:14 Elizabeth puts a life vest on her daughter and tells her that she is not supposed to help if something happened to her (Elizabeth).
56:36 Elizabeth and Sherry can be seen. Russell brings a life vest for the mother and talks with her. He is sorry for her husband's death and that she couldn't bid him farewell. Elizabeth says that she had been taking leave of her family during the last three years (she has a terminal illness, probably cancer). When Russell decides that they have to go now, Elizabeth says that she wouldn't come along in order not to endanger someone. Russell tries to reason with her and says that he won't leave her alone.
57:16 Russell walks to the others and stares at the river. In the background, Elizabeth and Sherry enter the picture.
62:57 Shot of the full moon.