PORTIONS UNIQUE TO THE SHORT OR MIDDLE VERSIONS
This section describes material present only in the Short ("Theatrical") or Middle ("Final") Versions of the film.
The Middle Version only starts with a caption saying: "Sunday – The 29th of April 1973" instead of the tongue-in-cheek caption thanking the "real" Lord Summerisle:
In the Short Version of the movie, there are two overdubs to add some extra Howie dialogue as the fishermen on the quayside look at the photograph: "The photo was in this letter, posted here on Summerisle," and: "The letter is anonymous and was addressed to me personally on the mainland." These changes obviously help fill in for the absent mainland scenes detailing the letter's arrival. (For some reason, early releases of the Short Version on DVD omitted these overdubs. This has been fixed for later releases, though.)
In the Short Version of the movie, there is a small overdub to change some of Howie's dialogue during the scene at the inn where he is eating his meal: he says: "No apples – on a island famous for its fruit and vegetables?" rather than the simpler: "No apples – on Summerisle?" as per the Long Version. This was changed for the Short Version presumably because the mainland sequence establishing the island as a famous fruit producer is absent.
When Howie takes his evening stroll during his first night on the island, he sees some extra goings-on as he peers over a wall. This shot of villagers watering graves is often mentioned in articles about the film but does not appear in the Long Version of the movie. At the time of filming, this shot was instead intended to be seen by Howie later on in the film, as he and the Old Gardener go to dig up Rowan's grave (you can just about see the gardener entering the shot at the back with his lantern).
There is a small difference between the Middle Version as presented on StudioCanal's DVD/BD disks versus the copy the BBC showed in their Moviedrome slot in the late 1980s. After the close-up of the calendar in the chemist's darkroom, the StudioCanal version goes straight to a shot of Howie's bedroom door (with Willow passing by outside whispering: "Sergeant") without any shot establishing the change of location. The BBC version has a shot of Howie, kneeling by his bed, turning around at the noise of Willow passing by outside the door and then has the shot of the door. It is unclear which is the "right" variant.
The scene where Willow brings Howie a morning cup of tea is present in the Short Version but not in the Long Version:
(Willow comes into the room with tea and toast on a tray, and puts them down on a bedside table.)
WILLOW: Wake up, Sergeant Sleuth.
HOWIE: What time is it?
WILLOW: It's past nine. I thought you were going to come and see me last night.
(She draws back the curtains and the room floods with light. Howie is dazzled and narrows his eyes.)
WILLOW: I invited you.
HOWIE: I'm engaged to be married.
WILLOW: Ha. Does that stop you?
(She straightens a picture.)
HOWIE: Aye, aye.
WILLOW: I must say, you are a gallant fellow, Sergeant.
HOWIE (putting on his watch): It's nothing personal. Just that I don't believe in it before marriage.
WILLOW: Suit yourself. I expect you'll be going back today. You wouldn't want to be around here on May Day, not the way you feel.
(She leaves the room.)
Likewise, the establishing shot for the scene in which Howie returns to his seaplane is not present in the Long Version. This omission may just be due to damage to the print, though, as the scene suspiciously occurs at a reel change.
Most, if not all, appearances of the Short Version on DVD (and Blu-ray) erroneously omit Lord Summerisle's line: "Here comes the chopper to chop off your head," as the swordsman make the symbol of the sun during the scene at the stones near the end of the film. This mistake seems to have started with the faux Dolby 5.1 soundtrack constructed by StudioCanal and initially released by Anchor Bay on DVD in the US in 2001. Unlike the similar missing quayside overdubs (see above), the problem has never been fixed and has even filtered down to the Middle Version released on DVD and Blu-ray in 2013.
This shot of the sun god Nuada opens and closes the Middle Version only. The image appears after the final credits have rolled (see left, below) and then recedes into the distance accompanied by a muted roaring(wind?) sound. The first TV transmission of the Middle Version (in the BBC's Moviedrome slot) also contained a similar image at the start of the film (see right, below, superimposed over the outgoing shot of presenter Alex Cox), but this was deleted from all reshowings of this version; it is, however, present and correct on the StudioCanal DVD/BD releases.
The provenance of these two shots is unknown; though they only appear in the Middle Version (i.e. the late 1970s American re-release), this version was put together under a very tight budget so it is unlikely they were newly made at that time (as has sometimes been suggested).
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