The Wicker Man starts with police sergeant Neil Howie (Edward Woodward) arriving at a remote Scottish island and asking the locals if they know of a missing girl called Rowan and show them a letter sent by her mother saying she had not been seen for months. After meeting the mother she denies ever writing the letter and tells him that Rowan never lived on the island and that her only daughter is called Myrtle.
Howie attempts to talk to the other residents, but after a while, he realizes that everyone is lying to him and something does not feel right. He also witnesses strange behaviour and rituals being performed and after meeting Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee), he is shocked to learn that the rituals are in fact part of everyday life. Curiosity takes the better of him and determined to uncover the truth about the missing girl and the island he comes across something more shocking than even he could imagine.
The Wicker Man has achieved cult status over the years and it’s easy to see why. Superbly acted and directed from the moment Howie steps on the island you get the feeling of unease and dread. The now well-known climax is still shocking and seeing it all in HD shows you the amount of detail that went into the production.
The film has had a very problematic past, the original version was cut down and most of the missing footage has never been found. StudioCanal’s release contains three different versions of the film: The Final Cut, the UK Theatrical Cut, and the Director’s Cut.
The Final Cut is placed on Disc 1, while the UK Theatrical Cut and the Director’s Cut are placed on Disc 2. The final cut (93 minutes) is the version put together with distributors Abraxas in 1979 for the U.S. release. This has been scanned at 4K and used to create the first ever digital restoration of the film, with director Robin Hardy’s guidance. The image is superb. The film has always looked a bit murky on previous releases but this new HD presentation blows them all out of the water. Colour is greatly improved, blacks very solid, there are some inserts of lost footage inserted and these are noticeable but do not detract from the film at all.
The UK theatrical cut (88 minutes) is also very good and almost identical to the Final cut picture wise. The directors cut ( 100 minutes) is in SD and is ok, but after watching the HD presentation this is of course, sadly lacking. Audio is presented in a lossless English 2.0 on both HD versions and is very pleasing and clear. Again an improvement on past releases.
Some good extras are present on this release apart from the three versions of the film you have an informative and interesting audio commentary by director Robin Hardy, Christopher Lee, and Edward Woodward hosted by Mark Kermode (this is on the directors cut version only).
The best extra is the superb documentary Burnt Offering: The Cult of The Wicker Man which goes into great depths about the making of the film, the cuts made and the cult that has grown around the film since release.
- Worshipping The Wicker Man – directors Ben Wheatley, James Watkins and Eli Roth, film critic Larushka Ivan-Zadeh, film editor Chris Tilly, and music and film critic Frances Morgan recall their love for The Wicker Man and explain why it is considered a cult horror film.
- The Music of The Wicker Man – musical directors Gary Carpenter and Johnny Trunk discuss Paul Giovanni’s unusual soundtrack.
- Interview with Robin Hardy – in this exclusive new interview, director Robin Hardy tells how The Wicker Man came to exist and talks about The Final Cut of the film.
- Interview with Robin Hardy and Christopher Lee – in this archival interview for the New Orleans TV show “Critic’s Choice” director Robin Hardy and Christopher Lee discuss the pre-production of The Wicker Man, the shooting of the film, and the film’s critical reception.
- Restoration Comparison – a short but interesting look at the new restoration of The Wicker Man. Included here are select clips from the unrestored and restored versions of the film.
- Making of Commentary – this footage is from a small part of the recording of the audio commentary for the UK DVD release of The Director’s Cut of The Wicker Man.
- CD Soundtrack of the film
A lot of effort has gone into this release but the main selling point is the superb restoration work done, until or if ever, the full version is found this is definitely the ultimate edition.
FILM 7.5 PICTURE: 8.5 SOUND: 7 EXTRAS: 8.5