The Wicker Man (1973)
By: J.R. McNamara on October 27, 2005  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Universal (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1. 84 minutes
The Movie
Director: Robin Hardy
Starring: Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Britt Ekland, Ingrid Pitt,
Screenplay: Anthony Shaffer
Country: UK
The Wicker Man has been named 'the greatest English horror film not made by Hammer' although some would say the greatest English horror film EVER made. Christopher Lee (Lord Summerisle in the film) played his role for free, and still considers it to be one of his finest.

Many myths and legends surround this film: some say Michael Deeley, then new owner of British Lion Films, disliked this film so much that he had the original negative of the full length version (which is longer again that this directors cut) dumped with the landfill on the M3 motorway in England, another is the original negative and outtakes were accidentally destroyed when the vault manager stupidly stored them with rubbish film stock set to be burnt. These days, this film is respected for every aspect of the filmmaking exercise, and deservedly so.

The Wicker Man starts with the arrival on the island of Summerisle of uptight religious man Sgt. Neil Howie (Edward Woodward) who is to investigate the disappearance of a young girl. His investigations lead him to be confronted with his own upbringing as he encounters the pagan lifestyle of the people of the isle. His investigations are seemingly thwarted by the local Librarian (Ingrid Pitt), the publican's daughter Willow (Britt Eckland) and even the mysterious benefactor of the isle, Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee). His eventual revelation of the case leaves him shocked to learn the truth...

Shot beautifully in Dumfries and Galloway in South West Scotland, the film was set in May, but filmed in the colder months of October and November of 1972. The theatrical version suffers really badly from its 15 minutes that were cut from it, but should be watched just so you can appreciate the directors cut. Having noted that though, the film and sound quality is far superior on the theatrical version to the directors cut. It should be noted though, that according to Christopher Lee, this is STILL not the full uncut version, never recovered was a speech by Lord Summerisle about apples. Even with the massive amounts of cuts made, the film, in 1973, was nominated for Saturn Awards from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy ands Horror Films USA for Best Actor (Christopher Lee), Best Director (Robin Hardy), Best Music (Paul Giovanni), Best Writing (Anthony Schaffer) and Best Horror Film, which was the only one it collected. Brilliantly acted, beautifully shot .
Some of the video quality in the extended director's cut is of dubious quality, but this of course is due to its reinsertion into the film. Both versions of this film are in widescreen 16.9.
The extended director's cut is in mono, due to keeping the quality of the restored print to a similar sound. The theatrical version on disc 2 is in Dolby Digital 5.1.
Extra Features
Disc One Extras: The audio commentary on the directors cut of The Wicker Man is moderated by horror lover and BBC film critic Mark Kermode, and features input from Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee and director Robin Hardy. This is a fascinating commentary with three intelligent and intriguing men, which is kept flowing by Kermode's questions. They discuss everything from other actors in the film to the soundtrack, and pay some attention to the fact that the original theatrical version was so badly butchered that it barely made any sense at all.

Disc Two Extras: The Wicker Man Enigma is a 35 minute documentary filmed in 2001 by horror film documentarian David Gregory. Featuring talents such as Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Ingrid Pitt, Roger Corman and many others, this is probably one of the greatest retrospective look at a film ever.

Interview with Christopher Lee (25 minutes 8 seconds) is a Critics Choice interview with Lee and Hardy. The quality of the film has deteriorated over time, but the interview is interesting nevertheless, just for the song that Lee sings at the end.

The theatrical Trailer runs for 2 minutes 12 seconds.

The is a TV Spot (36 seconds) of really below average film and sound quality, but interesting from a historical point of view.

The radio spots are a series of radio ads for the film, again interesting from a historical point of view. Some of these are done by Christopher Lee both in and out of his Lord Summerisle character.

There also on this disc is a wonderful DVD-Rom element in the form of an Original Press Brochure in a PDF file.
The Verdict
A brilliant movie on extras packed discs. Not necessarily for the gore-loving fan of ultra-violence, The Wicker Man is a brilliant example of subtle horror, brought about by a wonderful script and some outstanding acting and direction. This is an excellent 2 disc set that should be required viewing for the horror aficionado.
Movie Score
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