The Tree Farm Scene That Was Cut From National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation But Still Made The DVD Cover

"National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" is one of those rare movies where every scene is memorable. Its quotability is off the charts, and it's almost impossible to get through an entire holiday season without hearing at least one person make reference to Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid) and his infamously backed-up trailer toilet. It's almost guaranteed that the movie will play on at least one (but probably more like 10+) channels throughout the month of December, and if you aren't secretly a little worried that your Uncle Lewis (William Hickey) will accidentally burn down your Christmas tree, then you aren't really prepared for the hell that often accompanies the holiday season. 

The original DVD artwork for "Christmas Vacation" is perhaps just as iconic as the movie itself, sporting a drawing of a frazzled-looking Clark Griswold on its front cover. He's decked out in a Santa suit and wrapped up in Christmas lights that are most definitely in the process of electrocuting him just like Aunt Bethany's (Mae Questel) beloved cat (IYKYK). It's an image that, for some people, is now almost as synonymous with Christmas as holy renderings of Mary and Jesus away in a manger, and yet, the back of the DVD sports one still from the movie that ... isn't actually in the version of the film we have come to know and love. So just what is this mysterious tree farm scene and does it really exist? Or is it more like Santa Claus, a mythical mirage that no one has ever actually caught a glimpse of in person?

Cut trees and cut scenes

The image in question appears on the back of the DVD case and it shows the Griswold family standing outside in the snow at the tree farm. Clark (Chevy Chase) seems to be addressing a slovenly dressed man who is casually sporting a Santa jacket and hat and who is reclining on a patio lawn chaise. Ellen (Beverly D'Angelo) looks cold but determined to try and make the best of a bad situation, whereas the children just look cold and miserable. It's clear that some sort of altercation is taking place, but since this scene never actually made it into the movie, we are left to wonder what exactly is going on here. 

Fans of the film will remember that the Griswolds visit a tree farm hoping to partake in the picturesque tradition of cutting down their own tree (Just like their forefathers!). However, once they trek far into the woods and find the perfect(ly massive) pine, they realize they have forgotten to bring a saw along to cut it down. The next thing we see is the car driving away with the tree tied to the roof, the tree's roots (and quite a lot of dirt) still firmly intact. It's a brilliantly executed cut scene that's loaded with visual humor, but if you've ever wondered how Clark managed to get the tree out of the ground sans saw, the answer lies in this mysterious image on the back of the DVD.  

A not-so-jolly Jerry

The mystery image in question is from a scene eventually cut from the film's final version. The official script has the scene occurring right after the Griswolds realize they don't have a saw. In it, the family is back at the headquarters of the tree farm which is housed in a dilapidated trailer. "A rotting double wide serves as the office and residence of Jolly Jerry," reads the script. Clark asks Jerry if he can give them a saw, but Jerry isn't as jolly as his name suggests. "Rules say buyer provides own damn saw," he tells them.

Jerry references a hand-painted sign — the one displayed in the still — that says, "Buyer pays in advance. Buyer don't use the ranch as a bathroom. Buyer don't cut down more trees than he paid for. Buyer provides own damn saw." After some negotiation in which it's revealed, to Ellen's horror, that Clark paid $75 for the tree, Jolly Jerry finds the smallest bit of holiday spirit within him and gives Clark a shovel to presumably use to dig the tree out of the ground. The next scene is an altered version of the driving scene in which the family is shown to be completely blue and frozen to the bone with the huge tree tied to the roof of the car. 

While it's fun to read the script and imagine this scene (no actual footage seems to exist, though there are rumors that some saw it on television years ago), it's pretty obvious why it got cut. The joke is much funnier if viewers are left to wonder how the family managed to uproot a giant tree, and so while it's still a bit of a head-scratcher why the image is even included on the back of the DVD, the fact that it's absent from the film is more of a win than a loss.