Saturday 5 October 2013

"Wicker Man : 40th Anniversary Edition" - UK BD & DVD review

In celebration of the 40th anniversary of Robin Hardy and Anthony Shaffer’s infamous cult classic “The Wicker Man”, Studio Canal are releasing a Special 40th Anniversary Final Cut of the film to DVD and Blu-Ray, containing 3 different versions of the film and a whole stack of bonus features.

The film stars the late Edward Woodward as Sgt Neil Howie, a devout Christian copper, who flies over to the remote Scottish island of Summerisle to investigate an anonymous report about a missing girl named Rowan Morrison.

However, he finds the locals are none to helpful when he attempts to make his enquiries. He is also shocked to find the islanders practising some bizarre pagan religion, which greatly conflicts with his devout Christian beliefs.

After a lot of poking around, he eventually discovers that there was a girl named Rowan, but that she ‘officially’ died in a house fire. Convinced that something isn’t right and the locals are hiding something, he starts looking into their pagan practices and suspects that young Rowan might actually be alive, and her disappearance may have something to do with their forthcoming May Day celebrations….

Co-starring Christopher Lee as Lord Summerisle, with Ingridd Pitt and Britt Eckland in supporting roles (be sure to checkout Britt Eckland’s rather interesting dance routine in this), don't go thinking this is like those old Hammer films, “The Wicker Man” is something entirely different and has rightly earned its cult status in movie history.

The film actually plays more like a mystery-thriller, as you know something’s not quite right on the island, but you’re not sure what. The film also, very cleverly, leaves subtle clues about what’s going on and what is about to happen throughout, but its not till the end that everything ‘clicks into place’ and you find out what the big deal is with this wicker man they’ve been hinting at

Now there have been 3 versions of the film released to date, the “Theatrical” version that played cinemas and was originally released to VHS, which cut out a lot of dialogue and changed some of the events of the film around for timing purposes.

A longer “Director’s Cut” version, which adds a lot more narrative and back story to the film, which was released to DVD.

Finally a middle version, referred to here as the “Final Cut”, which had not previously been released to disc and is essentially a slightly shorter version of the directors cut with an altered intro and end credit sequence. Until now, this has been the more elusive version of the film to get hold of, having only been released to VHS in the US and only shown in the UK once, back in 1988, on TV as part of BBC2s “Moviedrome” series.

This Final Cut/Middle version is the main one under review here, being the main feature of Disc 1, which has been painstakingly restored from a recently discovered cinema print and extensively digitally remasterd for this release.

This release by Studio Canal also contains the 2 other versions of the film and a bonus CD of the films soundtrack.

The DVD release spreads the films and bonus features over 4 discs (3x DVDs & 1x Audio CD) whereas the Blu-Ray release contains them on 3x discs (2x BDs & 1x Audio CD).

I was sent the Blu-Ray release of the film, but sadly my player was on the blink, so had to view this on a friend’s machine and take notes, so I’m afraid this isn’t a very detailed review of the supplemental features.

But anyway, amongst the new features on this release we have…

-Interview with Robin Hardy (new)
-The Music of the Wicker Man featurette (new),
 Worshipping The Wicker Man Featurette (new),
-Restoration comparison (new)

Features carried over from the previous releases include…

-Audio Commentary on the Directors/Extended Cut cut version
-Making of Audio Commentary short film
-Burnt Offering: The Cult of The Wicker Man documentary
-Interview with Christopher Lee & Robin Hardy (1979)

Also included is the films soundtrack on a bonus Audio CD.

It is worth noting that whilst the newly discovered Middle/Final Cut version has been extensively restored and digitally remastered, it appears that the Theatrical and Directors cut versions have simply been “ported over” from the previous DVD releases. Whilst the theatrical version actually looks comparably good to the final cut/middle version, the directors cut actually looked worse on my friends 40” HDTV on the new Blu-Ray, compared to viewing it on DVD on my old 20” Toshiba.

Also, the previous documentary feature “The Wicker Man – Enigma” which featured on the old US Anchor Bay and Warner Bros UK discs seem to have been left off this release sadly.

But anyway, this newly restored Final Cut/Middle version is undoubtedly the best the film has ever looked, as can be evidenced on the restoration comparison feature, and boasts the best selection of extras to date. This release is also a limited edition release, making it a must for all serious horror film collectors.

The film is released to UK DVD and BD October 14th from Studio Canal...

Buy the UK DVD at

Buy the UK BD at

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