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:
In the USA, both a censored R-rated and an uncensored unrated version were released of the surprising and thrilling horror movie Martyrs. In order to obtain the R-rating, severe cuts had to be made. 58 cuts of in total almost 3 minutes strip the movie of almost every peak of violence. Fortunately, the unrated version is more widely distributed than the R-rated verison.
58 cuts = 2 mins. 53,9 secs. (173,9 secs.)
Comparison between the cut R-rated US DVD from The Weinstein Company and the uncut French original version, represented by the Austrian DVD from NSM
After Lucie has shot the boy, the shot from behind the boy was shortened in the R-rated version. So you can't see the blood running from the shotgun wound.
Lucie is moving her hands through the blood on the floor a bit longer.
Lucie is walking thorugh the house scared a bit longer and holds up her hand covered in blood. She hears steps of someone running through the house. Sort of weeping, she says: 'Look here!'.
Another shot of Lucie holding up her bloody hand. The first frames of the following shot (Lucie from behind) are missing, too.
Lucie is turning around a bit longer. The first two frames of the following shot when her imagination attacks her are missing, too.
The imagination cuts Lucie, who was planning to sneak out of the closet, in the hand with the razor. The following shot of Lucie in the closet is missing, too.
Anna uses her scarf as a band-aid for Lucie.
Close-up of Lucie's severely cut back.
A long shot of Anna's putting the girl's body on the (seemingly) dead body of the mother is missing. In the R-rated version, there is another fade to black instead. Quite a slick move, as there are several of them in the original version just before this shot. However, some frames of the following shot where desperate Anna is kneeling down get lost by that. Because of that, an exact time measure is not possible, either.
ca. 3,5 secs.
A major part of the scene where Lucie is attacked once more by her imagination with the razor in the bathroom is missing: Imagination is stepping over the bathtub and moves towards Lucie. Lucie is crawling on the floor. In the meantime, Anna tries to break open the bathroom door. Last, but not least, there is a long shot of the imagination preparing to strike with the razor.
Another part of the bathroom scene: Imagination is crawling towards Lucie, who herself is prone on the floor. Anna is still trying to break open the door. The imagination jumps towards Lucie.
A shot of Lucie fighting the imagination is missing: She grabs hold of the razor in order to not being cut any more. Then imagination pulls the razor out of her hand and thereby cuts it.
A shot of the imagination is missing. The first frames of the following shot are missing, too.
After Lucie has hit the imagination in the face, a shot of it falling to the side is missing in the R-rated version. The cause for removal of this shot could be the naked butt of the creature.
Lucie gets up in order to run away. The hit creature is lying in the background, its naked butt clearly visible.
Close-up of the hammer once more hitting the head of the woman Anna wanted to save. The following shot of Lucie preparing to strike again is missing as wel.
Two other shots are missing: Lucie strikes out once more with the hammer and heavily hits the already dead woman on the forehead.
Once more a shot of Lucie striking out and hitting the head of the woman with the hammer is missing. The first few frames of the following shot where she is preparing another strike are missing, too.
Another close-up of the head being hit by the hammer.
Yet again: Lucie preparing to strike and close-up of the hammer hitting the head. The first frames of the following shot where she is preparing another strike are missing again, too.
The imagination is cutting Lucie's arteries a bit longer. Cut to Lucies face writhing in pain.
The first few frames of the imagination removing the razor from Lucie's arm are missing. So the rest of the cut can't be seen in the R-rated version.
The shot of the second arm being cut was shortened at its beginning in the R-rated version.
The next shot of the arm being cut was removed, too. There is just the beginning when the camera is showing Lucie's face. The movement of the camera down to and along the arm is mising. The following shot (long shot of Lucie, Anna crawling on the floor in the background) is missing.
At this point, the R-rated version was censored quite cunningly. It's not easy to explain: There are three shots of Lucie with her cut throat while Anna is walking towards her in the uncut version. Then Lucie falls into Anna's arms.
In the R-rated versions, scenes got switched: The second shot is shown in the last place, where the third and goriest scene is shown in the unrated version. This scene was completely removed from the R-rated version. That's why you only have two of those shots in this version. However, the second shot that was moved to a latter spot (in terms of time) has been shortened a bit in order to make it less bloody. Additionally, to maintain continuity, a shot of Lucie running towards Anna is missing.
A shot of Anna running towards Lucie who had just cut her throat is missing, as well as the following shot of Lucie with her cut throat visible from which blood is running.
Put together, the result is that at this point first a shot of Anna running towards Lucie is missing. The following shot of Lucie with her cut and bleeding throat has been shortened at its beginning and moved to a later point in the R-rated version.
So first are missing:
(the moved part that is contained in the R-rated version was not counted in the runtime of the cuts)
At this point now the rest of the above mentioned shot was inserted, just before Lucie falls into Anna's arms.
Instead, the third shot of Lucie with her cut throat was completely removed. So there are additionally missing:
After Anna has found the martyred woman in the basement, a shot of her crawling towards Anna is missing.
The martyred woman is sitting on the floor in front of Anna, whimpering.
Anna touches the completely scared woman's hand hesitatingly. The first frames of the following shot where the woman is pressing herself to her leg are missing, too.
Anna examines the woman's shackles a bit longer and uses the keyring in order to find a matching key.
A shot of Anna walking through the house with the martyred woman is missing. Maybe this shot was removed due to the visible breasts.
Two shots of the martyred woman after Anna has put her on the floor in the house are missing. The woman is turning her head in all directions in panic. The first frames of the following shot are missing, too.
The martyred woman is crawling on the floor, scared. She gets hold of the dead mother's leg and panics as she realizes that she is dealing with a dead body. In panic, she crawls to the corner in front of a bookshelf. There, she in vain tries to get rid of her iron mask. You can hear a grinding noise. She then tries to remove the barbed wire around her belly. She doesn't succeed in that, either.
An additional shot of Anna pouring disinfectant on a cloth is missing. Cause: The martyred woman is sitting in front of her and her breast is directly visible in the picture. The first frames of the following shot (the woman's face) are missing, too.
Close-up of the woman's body, messed up by years of torture. Her breasts can be seen.
A shot of the woman's legs. As the camera moves up, her butt can be seen (this might be the cause of this censorship cut). Yet again, the first frames of the following shot are missing (bird's eye view of Anna and the woman).
A shot from above of the martyred woman in the bathtub is missing. This night be due to her breasts' being clearly visible again.
In the R-rated version, the scene when Anna removes the first nail from the woman's head has been severely shortened. You can only see her positioning the screwdriver and some blood running from the wound. Then this shot was shortened. The following shot (bird's eye view of the action) is missing. The next shot when Anna completely removes the first nail is missing, too.
Shot of the woman's head from the side. Blood is still running from the wound under the mask. Anna positions the screwdriver in order to remove the second nail. The perspective changes to a position a bit further away. In the end, another close-up of the second nail being loosened by Anna is missing.
Close-up of Anna pulling out the second nail a bit further.
Close-up of the lower part of the woman's face. She screams. The following shot of how Anna completely removes the second nail is missing, too.
The first shot of how Anna is tearing the mask off the woman's head is missing.
Frontal shot of how Anna is tearing the mask off the woman's head.
A shot from bird's eye view of the woman in the bathtub was shortened at its beginning. The camera moves down and gives a view from the side. That's when the R-rated version sets in again.
A shot of the martyred woman cutting her arm with a kitchen knife is missing.
Two additional shots of the woman cutting her arm with the knife are missing.
The martyred woman can be seen from behind a bit longer. The following shot of the headshot is missing completely. The shot when Anna is hit by the spattering blood is ahortened by two frames at its beginning and therefore less intense, as a matter of fact.
The shot of the woman sinking on her knees with the hole in her head was shortened by four frames. Just enough frames so you can't see the hole in her head any more in the R-rated version.
The doctor fixes Anna's right arm to the framework. There are some shots where you can see Anna's skinned arm and body.
The two shots when he fixes her left arm to the framework are missing, too.
The shot of the doctor moving Anna's skinned left foot from the wheelchair to the ground was shortened at its beginning in the R-rated version.
The doctor removes the white sheet from Anna's skinned head and pulls away the wheelchair. The first shot of her completely skinned body is missing, too, because of this.
The shot when the doctor is removing the wheelchair behind skinned Anna was shortened.
Once again a shot where you can see skinned Anna from above was shortened.
The following shot of the doctor is some frames shorter at its beginning, too.
Strangely, some frames of the doctor removing his hands from the lamp he had just pointed at Anna are missing.
The camera movement towards the eyes of martyred Anna was severely shortened at its beginning in the R-rated version, so you can't really see her skinned body any more.
The camera movement away from martyred Anna was shortened as well. This time, of course, towards its end so you can't see much of her skinned body any more.