Reviews

The Wicker Man Special Edition Director's Cut

5

Strikingly original and strangely seductive, The Wicker Man has grown in stature during the last 30 years, to become justifiably regarded as one of the greatest British horror films ever made.

Director Robin Hardy's chilling masterpiece follows pious Christian copper Sergeant Howie (Edward Woodward) as he searches for a missing girl on a Scottish island inhabited by pagans. Howie's initial frustrations with the insular locals soon give way to serious concerns that the girl has a horrifying fate in store...

Almost as intriguing as the movie itself is the struggle Hardy faced to bring his vision to the screen. Despite the movie being set in the spring, studio politics decreed it be shot between October and December. Exterior scenes were continually scuppered by the dodgy weather and heaters had to be placed under the actors' faces to prevent steamy breath.

Then the real problems began. By the time The Wicker Man was finished, distributors British Lion had been sold. New head honcho Michael Deely declared it "one of the 10 worst films I've ever seen," and demanded 15 minutes of cuts before burying it upon its 1973 release.

This DVD presents both the studio version and a restored 99-minute director's cut made possible by the discovery of footage long thought lost. The longer edition takes more time to set up the story and finds space for more of Paul Giovanni's unsettling musical numbers and various pagan rites. Of particular interest is Britt Ekland's barmaid `initiating' a young lad and the earlier introduction of Christopher Lee's sinister Lord Summerisle, his magnetic eyes glowing in the darkness as he croons an Olde English ballad.

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