Compared are the Theatrical Version and the Director's Cut. There are 38 cuts with a total length of 4 minutes and 59 seconds in the .
Mary Henry, a swinging woman, goes on a wild joyride with her friends. A young group of men manage to talk them into a race that ends fatally. Mary's car falls off a bridge, her two friends die. Mary herself makes it out of there without a scratch but she has oddly changed. Subsequently, Mary is on her way to Salt Lake City to start a new job as church organist. On the way over there, she discovers an old amusement park which has a fascinating hypnotic effect on her while scaring her at the same time. Suddenly, she is looking at a creepy face and leaves. What does it mean? Mary gets a room in this city and starts working but reappearing manifestations are bothering her badly. Furthermore, the creep from the amusement park seems to be following her around. It appears he is trying to drag her into his world of the dead. Is Mary losing her mind? From now on, she thinks more and more that she is invisible for other people. She sees a doctor but he can't help her either. She unsuccessfully turns to a man for comfort but he just wants to get laid. Nobody understands her, she is completely alone. So she returns to the spooky amusement park. As she now figures out, it is a place for dead souls. The manifestations, especially the creepy guy, welcome her with a dance of the dead that gives her the chills. Mary now finally understands that the writing is on the wall.
Carnival of Souls was directed by Herk Harvey in 1962. Unfortunately, this is his only work as director. With his friend John Clifford, he developed the concept based on "An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge" by Ambros Bierce. The film is a perfect example for making a classic with low budget, almost no special effects and non-professional actors. The result is quite fascinating and horrifying. Shot in less than two weeks and with a budget of only $33,000. Unfortunately, the movie flopped at the time of drive-in theaters. One of the reasons was that other spine-chillers, such as "I Was a Teenage Werewolf which was in theaters at the same time, were more appealling to a particular target group. But that doesn't mean Carnival of Souls didn't achieve any successes. On the contrary, the movie has a huge fanbase and several directors, such as George A. Romero (Night of the Living Dead) or David Lynch (Eraserhead), stated they had been inspired by it. In 1998, Wes Craven (Nightmare on Elm Street) and Anthony Hickox (Hellraiser 3) produced a remake but it doesn't have the qualities of the original.
There are two different versions of Carnival of Souls: a shorter Theatrical Version and the Original Version also known as Director's Cut. The Theatrical Version is almost 5 minutes shorter but it is safe to assume that most of the differences are the result of a bad copy. All in all, the missing scenes are irrelevant, except for the minister's conversation with Zimmermann and probably Mary's appointment with the psychologist. Nonetheless, the Director's Cut is the superior version because there are some rather rough transitions from one scene to another in the Theatrical Version, resulting from the missing footage. Fortunately, the Director's Cut is the most common version worldwide.
There is also a colored version available (similar to Romero's Night of the Living Dead). In the US, it is availabe on DVD by Hart Sharp Video and Legend Films.
After the man with the hat challenged Mary's friend to a race, he says they better go straight until they passed the bridge and the winner was the one who arrived there first. Then, he asks the women if they were even capable to do so with their piece of junk.
Longer scenes of the women in the car. After the friend of Mary's make the promise, the man says they would see about it.
Mary looks at her friend in a sceptical way.
The women take a short look at the man and his buddy who is playing with the gas pedal while waiting for the streetlight to get green.
Extended shot of the road after Mary can't been seen anymore.
The car of the two men is driving out of the scene, then an extended shot of the man with the hat. He's looking at the women through the open window and laughs.
And again, one of the cars is gone from the scene plus the following shot of the men is shorter.
A shot of Mary is missing.
Extended shot of the cop and the other men by the lake. They are searching for Mary and her friends who drove their car into the lake.
Another shortened shot.
Extended shot of Mary walking away after the conversation with the minister.
The minister says to Zimmermann he couldn't figure out that woman because she was the only one of the women who had survived the car crash and as a result she was supposed to feel some kind of humility and gratefulness.
Zimmermann explains he didn't know what was going on in her head either and adds she was self-absorbed. The minister replies he would probably react in a similar way if he was in her shoes and she needed to find her way. Then, Zimmermann says Mary had always been that quite and she was up to something. After Zimmermann also said Mary was a sly dog, the minister responds it was required in order to survive but he also believed Mary seemed kind of weird. Zimmermann explains she didn't have it easy currently and she had to chew on it for quite some time.
Extended shot of Mary driving along the road.
Two further shortened shots of Mary driving along the road.
Extended shot of the road after Mary can't been seen anymore.
Shorter landscape shot by night.
The exterior shot of Mary's car in the ditch is missing. She tries to start the car but the car won't start. Then a cut to Mary, she keeps trying. In the process, she looks behind every now and then and she rolls up the windows and locks the doors - just to be safe.
Shortened shot of Mary during the ride.
Mary and the landlady enter the room. The beginning of this shot is slightly shorter.
Mary steps into the church. Then a zoom in and one gets to see her and the priest running up the stairs.
The priest in church after the shot of the gardener. The priest is listening to Mary playing the organ with a satisfied look on his face. The cleaning lady approaches him and he hugs her.
The priest keeps walking and the cleaning lady is going back to work.
While Mary keeps playing, she takes a look around.
Extended shot of the priest and the gardener.
When Mary and the priest have left the scene, the remaing part of the shot has been shortened.
Extended shot of the swishing leaves. The following shot Mary is longer as well.
Extended shot of Mary running in the park.
Slightly shortened shot of Mary bending over the well in order to drink some water.
Extendes shot of Mary tightening up her clothes in the suitcase.
Extended shot of Mary in the car at the garage.
The shot of Mary running off is a few seconds shorter.
Extended shot of Mary with a terrified facial expression at the gate. Then she runs straight to a bus and makes a gesture with her hand to stop the bus. But the bus keeps heading for Mary while she can step aside just in time. When the bus has left the scene, Mary is running in the alley.
Mary tells the psychologist she believes she didn't belong to this world and something was seperating her from other people. Furthermore, she says the strangers were lurking everywhere and they kept on and on. No matter where she went, she couldn't get away from them. Then Mary bursts into tears and explains the strangers were invading in order to take her elsewhere.
Extended shot of the undead dancing.
Extended shot of (undead) Mary dancing. The shot of two other dancing undeads is shorter.
Extende shot of the undead following Mary and leaving the scene.
Extended shot of Mary after she found a hiding spot plus an undead shows up in order to watch Mary.
Extended shot of the car with the bodies of Mary and her friends in it at the lakeside after dragging the car out of the lake.