Directed by Robin Hardy
Distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment
It has been said time and time again that the only good thing about Hollywood’s endless fetish with remakes and rehashes is that these paltry buck makers open up whole new audiences to the original material. Along those same lines fans can generally expect brand new DVD releases of the original films and often some spectacular extras. The Wicker Man is no different. Now that we have suffered through a cheap, dimwitted remake with worn-out workhorse Nicolas Cage, horror fans can get back to the real deal in the form of this new two-disc Collector’s Edition.
The Wicker Man is loved as a cult classic by fans and the actors alike. Christopher Lee even says that he thinks it was the best performance of his career. He loved the film so much that during its initial release he contacted every critic he knew in England to see the film. It’s just too bad that what everyone’s been seeing for the last 33 years has been the shamefully cut version. Now, thanks to Anchor Bay and Studio Canal, we can see the whole thing, 11 minutes longer. Thanks also must go to Roger Corman, who was the sole owner of the print responsible for this edition.
But Krytie, you’re probably wondering, how much difference can 11 minutes make in such a classic film? Glad you asked, little fiends. Extra footage, even a short amount, if used correctly can make a large impact on how you perceive and get sucked into a film. There are even some subtle bits of menace added just because of a few seconds of tape.
First and foremost it is to be noted that the newly installed scenes suffer in terms of beauty. The tapes used have severe grain and have not been touched up whatsoever. Not all is bad though because these jumps in image quality tip the audience off that they are watching previously missing scenes.
Right off the bat as The Wicker Man starts rolling a new scene is spotted. Instead of Sgt. Neil Howie (Edward Woodward) taking off for Summerisle, the audience will see him land and meet up with another officer at the West Highland police department. The scenes showing Howie in church and speaking to the congregation have also been migrated to this new beginning. It certainly tips the viewer off early to how deeply rooted the Sergeant’s Christian views are.
The interesting new additions continue as another officer reads the alarming letter concerning a young girl’s disappearance in Summerisle. Also note the little look the officer gives Howie as he reads it. There is almost a hint that the whole conspiracy that unravels on the island was spread out further than initially thought. It does make sense considering that the task of hunting down a devout Christian virgin dedicated to Queen and country would be a formidable task without outside help. Something to think about?
More than just video has found its way back into the film; a lovely song was cut out of the already amazing soundtrack. The ballad “Gently Johnny” and the introduction of Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee) now replace Willow’s (Britt Ekland) seduction of Howie. As this new bit of music plays, Lord Summerisle brings a young man to Willow’s window so he may be “sacrificed” to the goddess of love. Here the audience is also given some insight as to the Lord’s hatred of religious views that are not those of the island.
After these two significant changes things go back to normal with the exception of a few short additions here and there. Don’t worry though; Britt Ekland’s nudie slapping dance is still there but moved to the night of Howie’s second stay on the island. Not a bad bit of restoring even if some cleanup is desired. The film now has a fuller feeling that adds a more sinister tone to the whole story. The Wicker Man still contains the same impact and shock as the previous release that Debi reviewed here. When one first cracks open the case, the first disc that greats you is the exact same one from the last DVD version we already reviewed. No bother though as the special features in that one were altogether great and you get them all in one set now.
There it is for you. The Wicker Man has almost been completely restored to its original version with the exception of a small scene concerning an apple that Christopher Lee discusses in the newly attached audio commentary. This is the only extra feature to be found on the extended DVD and makes up for being alone by stacking up to be one meaty beast. Lee, Woodward, and director Robin Hardy go into great detail about filming, lost footage, religion, characterization, and their deep love of the film. Not one second goes by without shards of information being thrown at you. That and listening to Lee is always a treat because of his smooth, sexy voice.
Commentary by director Robin Hardy, Christoper Lee, Edward Woodward, Mark Kermode
11 minutes of additional footage
The Wicker Man Enigma featurette
Interviews with cast and crew
5 out of 5
4 1/2 out of 5
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