Typically categorized as a horror film, The Wicker Man is actually a serious and literate thriller about modern paganism, written by Anthony Shaffer (Sleuth) with a deft combination of cool subjectivity and escalating drea... more »d. (Despite this promising directorial debut, British filmmaker Robin Hardy didn't make another film until The Fantasist, a little-seen thriller released in 1986.) We're introduced to the friendly but mysterious residents of Summerisle (located off the west coast of Scotland), where the isolated community enacts rituals that seem, at first, to be merely unconventional. When called in to investigate an anonymous tip about a missing child, mainland police sergeant Howie (Edward Woodward) is treated as an outsider, and the ominous Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee) has the inside advantage. As the repressed policeman is taunted by the island's sensuous atmosphere, his investigation leads to increasingly disturbing implications. With phallic symbols and soothing music at every turn, Summerisle is a pleasant haven for those who perform the pagan rituals of Lord Summerisle's maverick ancestors. These earthy ceremonies are presented with alluring authenticity, and the island's tempting eroticism is fully expressed by the landlord's daughter (Britt Ekland), who fills Howie with barely suppressed carnal desire. (Sirens took a comedic approach to a similar situation in 1994.) And yet the mystery of the missing girl remains, with clues that hint at a darker reality beneath the colorful local customs. When that reality is ultimately discovered, Howie becomes the crucial element in the islanders' most elaborate ritual, which is where the film's title comes into play. It may not be horror, but it is horrific, and this makes The Wicker Man an unforgettable film. --Jeff Shannon« less
Extremely disappointed that this is the shortened version...
Fanshawe | SC, USA | 02/23/2002
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Let me begin by saying The Wicker Man is one of my favorite movies...
A friend gave me this DVD and I was excited to see "The Wicker Man Enigma," the 32 minute "making of the movie" included here. HOWEVER I was blown away that the 88 minute "American release" version was featured on the rest of the DVD! Particularly after "The Wicker Man Enigma" went on about how the footage removed took so much away from the final film. I simply can't believe that no attempt was made by the producers of this DVD to use the longer version.
I have the 101 minute version on video and it is vastly superior. The movie makes much less sense in the 88 min copy. Chopped out bits include more background on Sergeant Howie (his fiancee, feelings about sex and deep religious convictions), how he received the letter about Rowan, not to mention other vital parts such as a scene with Lord Summerisle presenting a young man as a sexual offering to Willow and others. Also unfortunately abbreviated are many of the songs such as Willow's dance, Lord Summerisle and Miss Rose's song, etc. Some scenes are switched around to "make more sense" here, presumably after the film was butchered.
To anyone who has only seen the 88 minute version, I HIGHLY recommend trying to get a copy of the long version, it is like a completely different film. This is worthwhile only for "The Wicker Man Enigma.""
Unusual, outstanding thriller
Libretio | 10/01/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
THE WICKER MAN
(UK - 1973)
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1 Theatrical soundtrack: Mono
First-time director Robin Hardy and acclaimed writer Anthony Shaffer (twin brother of Peter, and author of FRENZY and SLEUTH [both 1972], the latter based on his stageplay) attempted to revise the horror genre with this cult favorite concerning a deeply religious police sergeant (Edward Woodward, in a note-perfect performance) whose search for an apparently missing schoolgirl on a remote Scottish island exposes a Pagan society rooted in old superstitions and the worship of vengeful gods. To the accompaniment of a haunting score by Paul Giovanni, comprising variations on traditional songs and folk music, THE WICKER MAN depicts an isolated community at odds with the world at large, steeped in ancient beliefs and ruled with deceptive benevolence by a patriarchal figure (Christopher Lee, in unusually subtle form) whom the script suggests is a monstrous con man, maintaining the island's customs not through genuine convictions, but because the islanders - all of them true disciples of the cause - simply know no other way.
The central mystery (Woodward's search for the missing girl) is genuinely engrossing, and the bawdy songs which greet the sergeant's arrival are soon replaced by an earthy sensuality as the true extent of the islanders' belief in regenerative powers - divorced from traditional notions of 'morality' - become apparent. Lee's assessment of God verges on blasphemy ("He had His chance and... blew it!"), but ultimately, neither Christianity or Paganism emerges with any dignity from the devastating finale. There's real magic in every frame of this extraordinary film, though it's clearly not for everyone: If you don't 'get it' within the first ten minutes, then the careful pace and deliberate absence of familiar horror motifs may seem a little long-winded, even dull. Everyone else, however, will be enchanted by this unique, one-of-a-kind movie.
The filmmakers themselves have roundly condemned the shorter 'theatrical version' (88 minutes) which crept into UK theaters in 1973 as support for Nicolas Roeg's DON'T LOOK NOW. However, most viewers were first introduced to TWM via the shorter print, simply because it was the only available version for many years, and despite the makers' protestations to the contrary, it's still a remarkable experience.
The filmmakers' preferred print (100m) underlines the script's major themes and streamlines the narrative, and will be a revelation to anyone who's only ever seen the theatrical print or the 95m version unearthed by the BBC. There are a few bits and pieces in the theatrical version which are exclusive to that print, and the BBC edition includes an animated 'Sun God' which appears after the closing credits, filling the screen before shooting backwards into darkness. The loss of this brief, iconic fragment from most extant versions is inexplicable. "
Stunning, an absolute must!!
Deborah MacGillivray | US & UK | 01/22/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a POWERHOUSE of a movie that will blow your mind!!!It is listed as a horror film, when actually it is SO MUCH MORE. If one classify the genre, I would say Mystery.It begins with an anonymous letter to the Scottish Constable ( Edward Woodward of Equilizer fame) telling of Summer Isle. A local girl is missing and none of the villagers seems to show any interest. Flying to the small Isle, Woodward arrives just before Beltane, the pagan May Day Festivals and the find the Island completely immersed in the Pagan ways of Auld. Head of the Isle is Lord Summerisle (British horror legend Christopher Lee - Dracula for Hammer Films - in his favourite performance), the leader of his pagan island, and it is clear he not only is aware of the villagers beliefs, he encourages them!Slowly, Woodward comes to believe the girl is being held for Sacrifice on May Day as he races to save her.Brilliant performance from Britt Eckland (former Mrs. Peter Sellers and one of the great beauties of her time - * though most of the nude shots are not her since she was pregnant at the time) Hammer horror actress Ingrid Pitt and Diane Cilento (the first Mrs. Sean Connery, mother of Jason) contribute to the eerie feel.The movie portrays pagan beliefs in an unHollywood style, that goes for substance and facts, rather than sensationalism. The scenery is beautiful and the music written for the film is haunting.The film faced many production problems, to being passed through several production companies, a lot of lost footage from the film editor - a devoutly religious man who thought is sinful to be filming this and was systematically destroying as much as he could, and indifferent reediting by Roger Corman, and then nearly dying in bad handly in the theatres. Was not seen for nearly two decades, and the version in existence was Corman's poorly edited one, missing over 20 minutes of the 101 minute original verson. I spent years and year trying to track down a copy, and finally for a short time news was good. The director found that he had an original copy still in his position. This was released the VHS - first time the 101 version had been seen in nearly two decades!! Shortly after, it was pulled from the shelves. Corman's version ( a nice companion piece so it was made of a lot of out takes) came out for a spell.So I am delighted to see this one on DVD and protected for all time.Warning: some flashes of Eckland and her stand-in nude, and people of a very religious nature will not like the content. Otherwise, this is one fabulous knock out of a film."
A True Cult Classic!
Bill W. Dalton | Santa Ana, CA USA | 08/26/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a handsome DVD edition. The two disc set comes in a rather distinctive wooden box instead of the usual plastic case. The discs insides are in a jewel case on a clear plastic frame, and there are two 5x7 cards, each with a chapter index for the two different versions of the movie. Not two different formats, widescreen and full-frame, which I've seen offered on other DVDs, but two different versions of the movie itself! On one disc is the infamous theatrical release short version with a stated runtime of 88 minutes (this version had a runtime of 87 minutes, according to most sources) and the other disc has the extended version with a stated runtime of 99 minutes. This longer version has the mainland prelude scenes and the Christopher Lee monologue in his offering to Aphrodite, which accounts for the "rarely seem" 11 minutes. A lot of confusion about the length of the uncut longer version seems to exist! I've seen runtimes given as "105 minutes", "104", "103" and "101"! Actually, according to the film editor himself, Eric Boyd-Perkins, it was cut down to a finished release version of 102 minutes. But this version was never released. And this is the version that was further cut down (on the advice of Roger Corman, no less!) to the 87/88 minute theatrical release version. It was also re-cut later for the BBC to a 95 minute version. Just out of curiosity, I timed the long version on this DVD and it is 99 minutes. I also timed the one I recorded 15 years ago off the old Z Channel and it, too, is 99 minutes. I can't time my Media VHS version because I don't have it anymore. It had a stated runtime of 102 minutes, but since I never noticed any difference between it and the Z Channel copy, it may have been 99 minutes, too! Maybe there never was an actual 102 minute version released anywhere! Not that it matters. The filmmakers themselves had to cut out about 20 minutes of filmed scenes to get down to that 102 minute release version! These missing scenes will never be seen again by anybody! They are lost and gone forever, probably buried under a highway in Britain! So why quibble over a missing 3 minutes? Get over it! There's a wealth of information about The Wicker Man on the Internet. Just do a Yahoo! search and you'll find dozes of interesting sites, including one with transcripts of those missing 20 minutes! By reading them, you'll better understand some of the events in the movie more clearly. Like why some characters/actors are listed in the end credits but are not in the movie -- because their scenes were cut! And like why graves on Summerisle are 9 feet deep! And what the Hand of Glory is! Check it out! But back to this DVD set. In defense of the much-maligned short version, it has one thing going for it -- it has a scene that is not in any of the longer versions that I've seen! It takes place the morning after Willow's erotic dance and gives further insight into Howie's character, as he states that he doesn't believe in sex before marriage, and Willow gently mocks him for it. This is an important scene and should have been in the extended version as well! (This scene is about 2 minutes long. Could it have been in the 1973 102 minute version, and subsequently cut, accounting for the confusion about the "uncut" length?) There are some other differences as well, such as credits backgrounds and some scene juxtaposition, but they're minor. This short version is in Dolby Digital 5.1 and it sounds great! The image quality is very good. The extended version is in mono and the image quality varies from fair to good, but this is explained in a brief forward to the movie -- in effect, they did the best they could with what they had! Bonus material includes the theatrical trailer and TV spots, and a lot of radio spots. But there's no language selection and no subtitles option. Chapter selections for each version, of course. And cast & crew bios -- but only for Lee, Woodward, Hardy, and Shaffer. The most interesting feature is the short documentary that has the ubiquitous Lee, the still-lovely Pitt, star Woodward, director Hardy, and many others talking about the film. The documentary ends with a poignant shot of that highway, under which the lost footage may be buried! Well, let's be thankful that we have as much as we have of this true cult classic! So is this DVD set worth the money? I say yes. I'm happy with it. I think you will be, too."
Quit the Quibbling!
Geoff Badger | Menlo Park, CA USA | 09/24/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"To start with, this is a great DVD, Anchor Bay are the best, and this is most likely the best DVD you're going to see of "The Wicker Man" (unless someone finds the lost, 'full-length' Roger Corman print). So buy it if you like the movie. To address the 'full length' vs 'truncated' debate we need first to recall the facts. There are 3 versions: 87 min/original theatrical version (UK and USA); 92-95 min version (Robin Hardy's subsequent US theatrical version, later also acquired by the BBC) that was reconstructed from the 103 minute print sent to Roger Corman; 103 minute version (original directors cut/length of Roger Corman print). I can't explain the difference between the 103 minute vesrion and what Anchor Bay have listed as 99 minutes - some have said that this is *precisely the same film* - my comments are altogether different. (1) The film that got great reviews and established the reputation of the picture was the 87 minute version (this is the only version that was seen in the UK until a BBC broadcast in the late 80's). (2) Robin Hardy did not include the early Howie sequences in his 'reconstructed' version (92-95 min) in the late 70's - *why?*, if they are so "essential" to the film? (3) Edward Woodward's performance is so great, I don't think the film *needs* the early Howie sequences (which are poorly acted and written) - we can see what he is about in every frame, PLUS, I actually find it more interesting to learn about Howie as we go than to see it all in exposition "up front" (4) Finally, as a film writer, director and editor myself, I refute those that say that the film is so altered across versions - a film as original and powerful as "The Wicker Man" can not be fundamentally changed by a variance of less than 10% of the footage at the pointd the variance occurs! The message is: get a life here - it's a great film in any version! The final quibbling about this DVD (not explained in the documentary) is the quality of the footage in the extended version. Well the fact of the matter is that the only known surviving element of the long version was the print sent to Roger Corman. This was used for the Magnum video release and is the Beta SP tape copy used by Anchor Bay. Where is the print itself? Nobody knows. It, too, is lost. So since the negative is destroyed, nobody knows where Robin Hardy's 92-95 minute theatrical prints are and the Roger Corman print is lost, all we have is a Beta SP videotape with this footage. Again, Anchor Bay have done a painstaking job of pumping this up to give the best possible image and integrating it with the better quality footage (from the theatrical release negative) so give them credit for doing the best that they could. I am personally glad to be able to see "The Wicker Man" again in such a great presentation and to make a choice between the "original theatrical" and "long" versions as I see fit."