The Wicker Man - The Final Cut

Wednesday, 16 October 2013 10:24

The Wicker Man - The Final Cut comes to Blu-ray and DVDStudioCanal have produced what they and director Robin Hardy consider to be the definitive version of “The Wicker Man”. This so-called ‘Final Cut’ also represents the 40th anniversary of the movie’s original cinematic release, in a multi-disc limited edition that delivers everything fans of the cult British shocker could desire. Prepare to join Sergeant Howie (Edward Woodward) on his doomed journey to Summerisle one last time…

Howie, a devout Christian, receives a letter from a mother asking for help in tracking down her missing daughter. He flies to a remote and beautiful island, only to receive a frosty welcome. Having established his police credentials, the locals mysteriously become both hospitable and yet frustratingly evasive when questioned. Bewildered and disgusted by their Pagan rituals, the Sergeant is determined to uncover the truth despite warnings about leaving before the arrival of May Day.

Nothing new can really be said about “The Wicker Man” that has not already been said countless times before. This revamped release is an essential purchase for fans of horror, cult, British, musical and a fair few other movie genres and categories. The difficulty in pigeon-holing the film is one of its many charms (Britt Ekland being another!).

Edward Woodward (The Equalizer, Callan) is perfect as the gentle but resolute copper; a vulnerable fish out of water amongst the boisterous Summerisle inhabitants, Howie nevertheless struggles manfully to reinstate some Christian values amongst those he considers despicable heathens. Balanced against him are the charming, carefree Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee cast against type for once) and the likes of teacher Miss Rose (Diane Cilento – “Tom Jones”), who stand up for their local values as ardently as Howie tries to dismiss them.

The aforementioned Ekland (“The Man with the Golden Gun”) is wonderfully sexy as the free-living, local landlord’s daughter, playfully flirting with the restrained policeman (and everyone else) and testing his willpower to its limits. Horror icon Ingrid Pitt (“Countess Dracula”) also stars as the village librarian and record keeper who would definitely be telling Howie that ‘The computer says “No”’ were the film set a bit closer to the present day.

One of the central themes of Christian versus Pagan values and morality stays with the viewer long after the closing credits have rolled. Does Howie have any right to try to imprint the locals with his religious beliefs? Is their faith in reincarnation and renewal any less valid than his viewpoint simply because it seems primitive to him? If only Richard Dawkins could also be thrown into the mix to really stir it up!

I am generally not a fan of musicals but the soundtrack and songs in this film really do form a critical part of its folksy identity. The islanders’ love of life really shines through the music.

If you have never seen the film, you really should seek it out, especially if you like The Prisoner TV show for its otherworldly, place-out-of-time and isolated feel, and also “The Kill List”, a recent homage to “The Wicker Man” that may not have matched its idol but still delivers a substantial punch to the gut. “Hot Fuzz” would also probably not exist were it not for Hardy’s classic. Owners of other editions of the movie should seriously consider replacing them with this new release, not least for the fresh, remastered cut and inclusion of three versions in one box, although the other two cannot match it visually.

Special features bundled with both versions include:

  • The Final Cut
  • UK Theatrical Cut
  • Director’s Cut (with Audio Commentary)
  • Burnt Offering: The Cult of The Wicker Man documentary written by Mark Kermode
  • Worshiping The Wicker Man - Famous fans featurette
  • The Music of The Wicker Man featurette
  • Interview with Robin Hardy
  • Interview with Christopher Lee & Robin Hardy (1979)
  • Restoration comparison
  • Trailers
  • Making of Audio Commentary short film
  • Soundtrack

In truth, the new bonus content does not add very much, mainly because the existing featurettes are already very strong and give masses of interesting background on the making of a true classic.

The new cut has been remastered to achieve quite stunning levels of picture clarity. Some of the rediscovered content is noticeably less sharp and stands out for that reason, but the bulk of the film is a treat for the eyes. It puts a lot of the Blu-ray releases for new pictures to shame.

“The Wicker Man: The Final Cut” (1973) is out now on DVD (4 discs) and Blu-ray (3 discs), courtesy of StudioCanal. The main feature (‘Final Cut’) has a running time of 94 minutes approx, carries a ‘15’ certificate and retails for £24.99 on DVD and £29.99 on Blu-ray, or less from www.culttvstore.com

 

Last modified on Wednesday, 16 October 2013 10:28

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