The Wicker Man has had a complex history. Since its release 40 years ago, it is has been seen in many different forms. There have been multiple cuts, different theatrical cuts, a director’s cut, and now a ‘final cut’, which is what we have here.
Probably one of the few horror films to take place almost entirely in daylight and feature quaint musical numbers involving children dancing on the village green, The Wicker Man is a bit of a weird one. Its horror relies on an unsettling sense of menace that pervades each scene, culminating in a devastating moment of ritualistic murder on an epic scale; one which has become cinema legend.
This final cut is a little bit shorter than the initial director’s cut, but longer than many versions people will have seen. The story is still kept intact: a policeman, travelling on a self-driven aircraft, arrives at a small Scottish island to search for a little girl who has been reported missing. All the locals are unhelpful, however, and are, to put it mildly, a bit weird.
This cut isn’t perfect – there is apparently stuff still missing, and maybe one day we will get the film as it was shot and intended to be seen. Modern audiences may also be put off by some rather clumsy dubbing; not the fault of this release, but it’s still disconcerting to see actor Britt Ekland’s mouth moving out of sync with the voice that comes out of it (she was dubbed for accent reasons).
The thing that struck me most about the film as I re-watched it was how subtle Edward Woodward’s acting stays throughout. When many actors would have abandoned everything in favour of hysteria, Woodward saves his energy for the closing moments. And those closing moments aren’t ones you’ll forget in a hurry.
A note on the release: Presented for the first time on Blu-ray disc, this 1080p high definition presentation is more-or-less excellent. Some scenes have clearly been struck from very dated masters (some of them, I suspect, transferred in standard definition), but the majority of the film is presented in beautiful, brilliant clarity. It may be off-putting when the film jumps between different standards of image quality, though I think most viewers would prefer this state of affairs than cut out those scenes altogether. A good, solid release from StudioCanal.
Film: ★★★★★ Disc: ★★★★☆
The Wicker Man (1973), directed by Robin Hardy, is released on Blu-ray disc and DVD on October 14, Certificate 15. The film is also currently showing in selected cinemas.