In contrast to its bloodthirsty title and violent outbreaks, David Cronenberg's A History of Violence is first and foremost a quiet drama that accomplishes easily to build up a tense atmosphere of danger lurking in the background. It's not hard to understand the actions of and feel for the characters that are exceptionally well embodied by the actors. Even though it has a quite simple premise at its core, it is a strong, calm film that can be recommended.
Granted, the final version of the movie doesn't hold back on the violence but early plans revealed that it could have been a lot more brutal. As the IMDb's trivia section shows, the script included a fare more violent encounter at the diner (the younger gangster would've suffered 7 shots to the chest and the older one should've received two headshots) and the fight in front of the Stalls' home was more explicit, as well. However, David Cronenberg insisted to tone it down because he didn't want to glorify violence and give the film a more realistic feel. Still, the MPAA wasn't entirely happy with the final version of the movie and demanded two alterations in order to give the "R" rating. Owners of the DVD probably know that since Cronenberg made a bonus segment that solely dealt with this issue, explaining what was changed and why. A nice gimmick for all of those who are interested in film censorship. Nonetheless, we wanted to make our own comparison in order to fill that gap in our archive.
The "R" version is still the only available cut of the movie in the United States while the uncensored version has been released in most other countries. If you want to own the untouched film in HD, you can grab the British Blu-ray by Entertainment in Video.
Comparison between the R-rated Version (on US VHS, DVD and Blu-ray) and the uncensored International Version (e.g. on the German DVD or British Blu-ray).
2 alterations = No time difference
0:53:32: Charlie can be seen lying on the ground with his destroyed nose. While the international version shows more blood spurting from the wound, the "R" version is reduced here. However, isn't really that obvious.
No time difference
1:21:14: When Tom/Joey steps on the gangster's throat, he spits blood into the air. In the "R", less blood only spills out of his mouth. Furthermore, the impact sound was reduced in volume.
No time difference