Christopher Lee stars in this well written and very eerie classic of British Horror from director Robin Hardy. Optimum UK 3-disc DVD.
Howie (Edward Woodward) of the Scottish West Island Constabulary
receives an anonymous letter from the remote Summerisle community
telling of a missing girl. He flies out to the island to investiage and
discovers a mysterious and obstructive wall of silence from the
townspeople. As he digs deeper his discovers that the islanders are
followers of a curious pagan religion lead by the Lord Summerisle
(Christopher Lee), and as more clues emerge, that there seem to be
sinister motives behind the girl's disappearance.
The Wicker Man
is a very well written film that combines effective horror and mystery
stories with a thought provoking theme. At first the film plays like a
classic mystery tale, with Howie trying to unravel the truth behind the
disappearance. However, it soon becomes clear that there is something
sinister going on, and as it progresses, the film builds an incredible
sense of dread and an atmosphere almost unrivaled in horror
cinema, and it grows to an incredibly powerful
climax. Interestingly though, the film stands out above the horror
themes with a much deeper storyline concerning a battle of the faiths.
Sgt. Howie is from the start identified as a solid Christian, and he is
shocked by the non-Christian attitudes of the townspeople -
particularly their frank discussions of sexuality and their belief
in natural reincarnation. It has been said to represent the conflict
between the traditional Christian beliefs and the ever increasingly
liberal culture of the 1970s, although importantly the script does
avoid too much direct judgement against either side and leaves
potential for some interesting debates
Hardy's direction is very strong with some unsettling use of camera
angles and even slow motion in a few scenes - it certainly helps to
build the atmosphere and largely covers up the fact that the film was
shot in Winter but set in Summer. The soundtrack is most memorable and
includes a variety of folk songs that really help to boost the
atmosphere further giving it a surreal nightmarish quality.
lead roles of Sgt. Howie was originally suggested for Michael York, but
since he was unavailable, they instead cast Edward Woodward, an actor
mostly known for television work. He gives a strong and very plausible
performance and brings a lot of strength to the role. Christopher Lee
was involved in the film from the start, looking for a role that would
take him out from the Dracula typecasting - he gives an impressive
performance here as an unexpectedly 'nice' figure, although his
distinctive voice and presence provides a strong sense of dread to the
character. The rest of the cast, including Britt Ekland, Diane
Cilento and Ingrid Pitt as the female leads, perform well and help to
keep the atmosphere strong and effective.
An effective script,
cast and soundtrack gives The Wicker Man
a powerful atmosphere that few
other horror films have ever achieved - it has repeatedly and quite
rightly been voted as
one of the best horror movies of all time. For horror fans this is
undoubtedly a must watch film, and it comes recommended to all cinema
fans. To anyone who has only seen this film in the simply butchered
'theatrical cut', I must strongly recommend seeing the director's cut
version as reviewed here as it relocates a number of scenes, provides
an extensive opening that gives Howie's character more plausibility,
and contains the 'Gently Johnny' sequence that is among the best, and
most haunting of the songs in the film.
Anyone famous in it?
Christopher Lee - A horror icon who made his name in the Hammer films of the 1950s/60s. Ingrid Pitt - the Polish born beauty best known for her role in Hammer's The Vampire Lovers (1970). Edward Woodward - the British star best known for this film, who latter starred in TV series The Equalizer (1985)
Directed by anyone interesting?
Robin Hardy - a little known British director who has only shot a few other films, and has been working on a sequel to The Wicker Man for many years.
Is it scary?
A general feeling of dread pervades the entire film.
A few soft nude scenes and sexual references.
Who is it for?
A must see film for horror fans, it comes highly recommended to all.
A mostly folk music score that helps to give this film an eerie and dream-like atmosphere.
This film is part of the new Wicker Man
collectors edition boxset from Optimum Releasing UK. Both the directors
cut (reviewed here) and the deeply inferior original theatrical cut are included using
the same prints/transfers as the existing WB set. The Optimum set
includes most of the same bonus features as the WB DVD, plus a new 50
minute television documentary about the film and its legacy, there is
also a third disc containing the film soundtrack - however it lacks the television/radio spots and the talent
biographies of the previous discs.
Original Aspect Ratio - 1.85:1 widescreen. Anamorphically enhanced. Colour. For
most of the runtime the print is strong with good colours, minimal
print damage or grain. The director's cut includes 15 minutes of
footage restored from a much lower condition print which is much
grainier and softer and the interchanges between the footage can be
distracting although they are generally are done smoothly.
language mono. Sounds good with no drop in quality in the extra scenes.
The set includes:
theatrical cut of the film. Anamorphic widescreen and with original
mono audio, or a rather tinny and flat 5.1 remix. (1hr 24m 01s)
Original theatrical trailer.
Director's cut of the film (as reviewed above). (1hr 39m 40s)
commentary with director Robin Hardy, actors Christopher Lee and Edward
Woodward, and moderated by film critic/writer Mark Kermode.
Footage of the audio commentary recording showing the four men talking. Not particularly interesting.
The Wicker Man Enigma,
a documentary about the film including interviews with most of those
involved. Presented fullframe within an anamorphic frame. (34m 33s)
Burnt Offering, a different and more interesting documentary shot for TV, presented by Mark
Kermode and including some modern location shoots including more
interviews with all those involved in the production. Anamorphic
widescreen. New feature for this DVD. (48m 15s)
choice interview - a contempory TV interview with Christopher Lee and
Robin Hardy. Very low PQ, presented fullframe within an anamorphic
frame. (24m 29s)
Trailers for Don't Look Know (1973), The Wicker Man (2006) and Cronos (1993).
Disc 3 is a film soundtrack CD.
Region 2 (UK, Europe) - PAL
Various other DVDs of this film exist, although this is currently the most feature packed.
film is believed to be fully uncut as far as possible. Both theatrical
and director's cut prints are included in their English language
prints. There are rumours of a longer, original director's cut of the
film but this is believed to no longer exist.
An effectively atmospheric horror film with strong cast and soundtrack. A must see horror film and recommended to all.
A good DVD set, although there
is much repetition between the documentaries and commentary track. The
new documentary is very interesting and well made, but on its own
might not be worth an upgrade for owners of the existing DVDs. Partly