on 28 May 2014
This rating is for the 3 disc BD package, the film itself is always an easy 5 stars!
This BluRay looks great for the most part but, the additional scenes, like the opener at the church and the "Gently Johnny" segment are washed out and flat. They might well have be painstakingly restored and de-speckled, as one of the bonus features demonstrates, but what was wrong with boosting up the colour to better match the rest of the film? If you look at the Directors Cut (also available with this 3 disc set) the same scenes have a better saturation in colour that fits in well with the rest of the footage. I dare say that the colour will be re-adjusted on a future re-issue so fans will have to shell out once more. Some of the bonus stuff is good but the newer interviews have not had the audio levels matched so one interview is too quiet another it too loud, very unprofessional.
The second disc contains the Theatrical Cut and Directors Cut but, both are in SD which is really disappointing. OK, so the Directors Cut uses additional footage from a VHS, as the original photo negative has been lost, and it would probably have looked terrible in HD, however, the Theatrical Cut should have had the HD treatment without question. Also they have wrongly labelled the Directors Cut with the slower NTSC running speed at 102mins instead of the correct 99min UK/PAL speed.
The last disc is a CD of the actual sound track which is great to own and nice to hear some of those songs in full, but there is no booklet with the artists, writers and production credits to peruse. This package really does fell a bit sparse without one!
Overall, I do like the `Final Cut' but how `final' will it be? I'm sure that there will soon be a separate BluRay Edition of the Theatrical Cut, in HD, before long and then, in time, a `colour corrected' version of the Final Cut.
It is a great shame that the original negative was lost, otherwise we would be looking at the Directors Cut in HD instead. But it is actually a distributors dream. Rather than having one respected version of the film to reissue, remaster and restore every few years, we now have a silly amount of different edits that can all be re-issued and repackaged indefinitely. What next the US Theatrical Cut with a 5.1 remix?
on 7 October 2006
I won't bother reviewing the film itself, as I'm sure most of you reading this are already fans, so I'll just stick to describing this new 3-disc release.
As many of you probably know, the film was considered too long for a commercial release by the typically clueless studio execs of the time, and was summarily hacked-down by about 15 minutes. In a depressing turn of events, the original negative of the film was lost, leaving no high quality method of restoring the missing footage.
Luckily for us, they were able to clip the missing footage into the main print, via the only full, unedited version in existence...a print owned by Roger Corman, the American king of exploitation pictures no less!
The quality of the missing scenes is not nearly as good as the rest of the film, making a list of "restored scenes" entirely unnecessary (you'll be able to tell), but it's probably the best we will ever get.
The package contains both the edited and newly restored versions of the film. The edited theatrical version has a very good transfer and 5.1 dolby sound mix. The Director's cut is presented in the aforementioned spotty video and mono audio.
The excellent commentary from the previous U.K. version is also included here (even if Christopher Lee comes off a bit cranky), as well as the original 35 minute featurette "The Wicker Man Enigma".
What's new is the freshly produced 60 minute documentary hosted by Mark Kermode. It's a wonderful and informative documentary, that suprisingly covers mostly different ground than the "Wicker Man Enigma", paying more attention to the genesis of the project and it's filming, rather than the "unfortunate fate" of the film covered in "Enigma".
You also get a soundtrack CD, which is something I've been waiting for forever. The sound quality is excellent, suprisingly so, although "The Landlord's daughter" is a different version than the one from the film. They must have lost the original. Also, there is no tracklisting for the CD, but that's a minor quibble.
This is a big upgrade for North American buyers, as we gain the new documentary as well as the soundtrack and commentary. U.K. buyers are only gaining the documentary, and soundtrack, but either way I think it's well worth the upgrade. Job well done!
on 7 January 2014
I'm a bit of a Wicker Man afficionado and I just thought I'd write this review to let everyone know that their billing of this "Final Cut" as the most complete version simply isn't true.
There is a version called the "Director's Cut" which is far more complete. I saw the "Final Cut" at bfi southbank a couple of weeks ago and was slightly disappointed to find many scenes, and parts of scenes, which are present in the director's cut are missing.
This is probably the slickest version they have made so far in terms of the introductory scenes and the transitions, and I think it has better audio visual quality (although this may just be because I saw it in a cinema) as for some reason the director's cut uses the old, bad quality footage of some scenes which we have the higher quality, undamaged footage of! (i.e. the final sunset).
I was really disappointed to find that this final cut is not as complete as the director's cut. All I want is the amount of time and effort that went into the visuals on the final cut, combined with the completeness of the director's cut!
Had to give it four stars as it is still my favourite film in any version (I fell in love with the drastically shortened cut that was originally released in cinemas). And I will probably still buy this version as I am a big fan!
Just wanted to let people know that this is **not** the most complete version of the film. Get the director's cut (it has great special features, hoping this version does too!)
on 22 November 2004
A devout Christian policeman is investigating the whereabouts of a missing girl in an isolated, pagan Scottish community. He soon finds himself entangled in a web of strange rituals which seem to be the exordium of some horrible, unimaginable deed. Unable to decode the hidden meanings of the rituals of a cult that is foreign and, indeed, hostile to him, he continues his search in the hope that he will find the missing girl. His perseverance ultimately affords him an answer to all his (and our) questions; but there is a price to pay.
More than a feast of gore this film is a fascinating examination of the clash of two systems of beliefs. The policeman is the bringer of law and order (enforcing indirectly Christian priorities and values). The island community has opted instead for a pagan lifestyle reflecting the beauty and brutality of Nature. Eventually both sides appeal rigidly to their respective gods for mercy (the island community for a good crop, the policeman for help). Both sides gesticulate emptily, in a Universe that doesn't care, the hidden meanings of their words and acts only understood to those who share similar beliefs. The gods remain silent and mercy is not to be found.
A beautiful film, somewhat permeated by hippy ideals (but even that being to its advantage), with a climax that leaves you gasping for breath. Performances are uniformly excellent but Edward Woodward deserves special mention for his riveting performance as the puritan, austere but well-meaning policeman. Robin Hardy's direction is evocative, enigmatic, shocking.
on 1 September 2014
I could pore over every nuance of the film (I must have seen it 2, maybe 3 hundred times: from late night TV in the very early '80's, through scratchy VHS copies (and a copy of the Roger Corman 'cut', long before it commercially appeared on DVD), then DVD and now, on Blu-ray.
I was actually reticent to buy it, due in no small part to the disingenuous claims made by both Studio Canal and Robin Hardy in the pre-launch propaganda that this was the 'never seen before version'. For Wicker Man fans anticipating the Holy Grail: lengthy footage of Chris Lee discussing apple strains with Sergeant Howie or the deleted Holly Grimmond scenes, they are likely to be underpinning the M3 motorway as landfill (Michael Deeley and Eric Boyd-Perkins are quite possibly responsible for that!) and are equally unlikely to be ever seen.
Instead, this version contains some of the Corman scenes (found on the DVD "Director's Cut 'full' version) including Ash Buchanan's introduction to Aphrodite, Gently Johnny, Willow scrubbing the tables the following morning, etc.
No Alder rattling the spoons across the optics or blowing smoke across the wall towards the missing photo frame. You get the cut version of Landlord's Daughter missing a verse and no police station scene at the beginning with John Hallam, though I did note in the end credits: Postman - Tony Roper scrolled-up. The opening credits attributes music to Magnet (was it not Lodestone on the Corman version?)
Sound is not been vastly improved upon. Some reviews on Amazon suggest a 5.1 soundtrack, but printed on the box and apparent to my ears, it's 2.0 mono. However, the picture quality is a revelation: jumping out of the screen in comparison to any previous version I've seen. I didn't realise it was raining when Howie first lands on the jetty at Plockton, but the rain droplets on his West Highland Constabulary tunic are apparent to see.
Mark Kermode's documentary is good: Boyd-Perkins, Deeley, Ekland, etc. are interviewed alongside the pro-film 'usual suspects' (Hardy/Lee/Woodward/Shaffer/Snell/etc.). Ekland postures that her voice was completely re-dubbed by Annie Ross throughout the film and that she was unaware of the Miss P and Jane Jackson body doubles until the film's release, despite Jane saying Ekland eyed her up and down in pre-approval just prior to the shooting before swanning off set (likely to go and enrage more of the locals with her prima donna attitude).
I may have been a bit stubborn in my reticence to buy the Blu-ray, but as said above, the manner of marketing it as something entirely new irritated me no end, but it seemed silly to not have my favourite film in my Blu-ray collection. I'm glad that I did buy it now.
on 2 September 2003
This 1973 British film was savagely edited during a studio takeover before being allowed to escape as a B-feature. Contemporary critical and popular interest was almost non-existent - although this Classic Collection DVD release is testament to the ability of Anthony Schaffer's curious screenplay to generate an extensive delayed cult of admirers.
Edward Woodward stars as police sergeant Neil Howie, investigating an anonymous report of a missing girl on Summerisle - a fictional island off the coast of Scotland. Despite the locals' denial of the girl's very existence, Howie finds alarming evidence to the contrary and of her involvement in the island's fervent observance of pagan rituals. Veteran villain Christopher Lee stars as Lord Summerisle, his avowed favourite role, with a patronising and aristocratic distain of Howie's presence.
One disc contains the theatrical release in widescreen and newly and sensitively mixed 5.1 sound. The transfer is excellent but reveals limitations of the source material - processing flaws are particularly evident in dark, low-contrast sequences, for example. The second disc contains the so-called 'Director's Cut'. This extended version is really the theatrical release extended by the insertion of quite poor quality footage sourced by necessity from an NTSC 1-inch telecine transfer release. However, the image quality is quite noticeably poorer throughout the entire 'Director's Cut'.
Extras include a lucid commentary by the two main stars and director and a well-produced 35-minute documentary examining the origins of the film. This Classic Collection release also exclusively includes the superb soundtrack CD sourced by newly discovered stereo masters. There is also a reproduction of the original press booklet, and a Senitype™ (a film frame of the recent Region 2 Collector's Edition with matching still) and even an Easter Egg for treasure hunters.
This is certainly a very worthy release and a limited one at that - as it is obviously designed for diehard fans of the film with one of the most stunning climaxes in filmic history.
on 12 August 2006
This is one of the best British films ever made - simply that! Considering its pretty low budget it is staggering how good this is. There is no other film that compares to this, it really belongs in a genre all of its own. Made in a time when horror films were completely formulaic (the same is still true I guess) this film really broke the mold. I must have seen this film 20 or 30 times over the years and I still love it.
Christopher Lee (Lord Summerisle) describes this as his greatest moment. Perhaps you think well so what, he didn't have that many, but here he is excellent. Edward Woodward also gives a tremendous performance as Sergeant Howie. The other main actors maybe aren't so good but what really makes this film is the contribution of the bit part actors and extras many of whom were local repertory players or just members of the public. They give the film a real authentic feel. The script and the storyline are truly excellent and the ending still shocks.
But the absolute best thing about this is the music. Composed by Paul Giovanni. This has to be some of the most fitting film score ever written. It just goes with the film so well. To be honest I pretty much hate "musicals" but in the case of the Wicker Man I don't feel worried that people start bursting into song - it just goes so well with the storyline and adds the quirky feel that makes this film a cult classic.
The good thing about this release on DVD is that it gives you a chance to compare the butchered cinema release version (which most people will have seen as this is the version generally shown on TV) to the extended directors cut version which is infinitely better. A few of the scenes on this version are a little dodgy in quality due to the difficulties restoring this film (see the book "Inside the Wicker Man" which is also excellent). However the presence of scenes such as "Gently Johnny" certainly add to the film.
A genuine classic of British cinema.
on 29 October 2013
I was under the impression that this would be the same as the other blu ray set of The Wicker Man that includes three edits of the film. After spending a large amount of cash on this steelbook, I will have to repurchase the other blu ray set to get the other two cuts. I still love the steelbook version, but minus the DVD. Would prefer the two blu ray set instead.
Does anyone know how many versions of this "Final Cut" are available on blu ray? I am having trouble locating info about it here in the states. Sure don't want to spend over 100 US dollars to get all three cuts. But I definately want to hold onto this steelbook. It is so cool. Love it when steelbook blu rays are released in the UK so I can add to my ever growing collection.
By the way, the Final Cut on blu ray looks stunning! I am glad I was able to get this cut (which is not available on home video here in the states. It is Region B my American friends). A great purchase indeed.
on 27 February 2002
A film which changes peoples's lives. Once seen, the haunting images in The Wicker Man will stay with you forever: this is a film which proves that terror comes from the mind and the soul and makes the gruesome masks, bloodlust and decapitations of the so-called horror films of the 80's and 90's look like heavy-handed, garish, slapstick imitations of the real thing. Christopher Lee looks entirley at home in his role as the Heathen ("though not an unenlightened one") Lord Summerisle and not once does he have to bare his fangs. Edward Woodward, meanwhile, is totally believable as the devoutly Christian copper thrown into circumstances completely beyond his limited experience and comprehension. His character, Sgt Howie, remains focussed on both his duty and his unwavering faith to the bitter end. The counterpoint of the cheerful, apparently helpful islanders, the genreally sunny setting and the functional, settled community with the haunting folk tunes, monoliths, masks and pagan imagery send and often unexpected shiver up the spine and the whole story is a carefully orchestrated, inexorable journey toward a truly horrific finale. I have encountered people who watch this film weekly, have the read the excellent novel drawn from it on countless occasions and have generally have their whole lives altered by the Wicker Man; you surely cannot miss the opportunity to purchase this for yourself and feel the power of The Wicker Man...
on 13 October 2013
Robin Hardy's cult horror classic finally gets an HD makeover. This review covers the content and technical aspects of the new blu-ray release. The main selling point is the "final" director's cut, using a newly-discovered print. This version does not include several scenes of Sergeant Howie on the mainland prior to the opening credits that featured in the extended version, but director Hardy has made clear that these were effectively deleted scenes spliced back into the film and did not represent his preferred vision. In any case the "extended version" scenes only exist as videotape copies, so the change in quality on HD would have been particularly jarring. Studio Canal has done a fantastic restoration job - the majority of the film from the theatrical cut looks like it could have been shot yesterday, with natural grain and colours and no print damage evident. The additional scenes taken from the found footage show an increase in grain and contrast, which is clearly noticeable but not to the same extent as the switches between film and videotape-sourced footage in the extended version. Included in the extras is a before-and-after comparison showing the restoration of the new footage, an impressive achievement given the scratches, print damage and colour casts on the source material. Overall this is an essential blu-ray upgrade, although fans of the film might want to hang on to the 2002 DVD release for the videotape-sourced deleted scenes.