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4.5 out of 5 stars
The Wicker Man [DVD]
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Anthony Shaffer's iconic 1973 classic starring the perfectly-cast Edward Woodward and Christopher Lee (in his best-ever role), Ingrid Pitt and Britt Ekland (overdubbed because she couldn't get her Scottish accent right and body-doubled in her nude scene) is one of the most original independent British films ever made. Little of useful substance can be added to the many excellent reviews of the film posted here without indulging in repetition; but if you're interested in film and have never seen "The Wicker Man", then you can now experience the full, uncut 100-minute film in its entirety for the first time.

Having seen the shortened "theatrical" version of the film on its cinema release in 1973 paired with Nicholas Roeg's "Don't Look Now", I had waited many years to see the lost footage. Well, here it is offered on its own disk, as the "director's cut." It's definitely the better version, with the initial ten extra minutes showcasing Sergeant Howie's life on the mainland, his chaste and traditional relationship with his fiancée (anachronistic even in 1973), religious zeal singing in church, and the quiet mockery of his unassailable Christian faith from police colleagues. Howie opens and reads the fateful letter, addressed specifically to him, from an anonymous Summerislander informing him that Rowan Morrison is missing: this makes the plot development and shocking denouement all the more poignant, as the audience realises it's all been planned and Howie tested by the islanders to ensure he's fully what he appears to be. Other short but important scenes are restored to the middle of the running time, deepening the narrative and making the film more coherent.

The restored minutes are of lower image quality than the rest of the film, as the original high-def master was lost forever - suspected to be accidentally discarded by a careless engineer and unintentionally buried beneath the new M3 motorway construction. Roger Corman's personal copy was the only source available for the missing scenes, and you'll be able to tell the restored scenes right away due to the quality difference.

The original butchered cinema release version is also included on its own disk, along with some interesting extras including a truly excellent 50-minute documentary narrated with intelligence and insight by respected film critic Mark Kermode. Finally, there's also a separate CD of the soundtrack with all the original film's extraordinarily atmospheric music.

Through the decades, this eccentric 1973 masterpiece has gone from strength to strength and found newer audiences who appreciate its originality, iconoclastic theme, witty and realistic script and shocking ending. It's like no other film ever made, and it works brilliantly. This 3-disk set is the best edition we're ever likely to see, and well worth buying.

Neil LaBute's abysmal 2007 "remake", starring Nicholas Cage and departing completely from the original film's delightful nuanced complexity to descend into a hopeless, risible schlock-horror flick, should be avoided at all costs. See Shaffer's 1973 original. Please.
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91 of 94 people found the following review helpful
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!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
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?
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 29 January 2003
I didn't really know what to expect when watching this film, as I'm not the most ardent fan of the horror/thriller genre and this film was recommended to me by a work colleague. I can say now, after having watched this movie, that it is possibly one of the best constructed movies I've ever seen. I was captivated thorughout (not an easy task, I assure you!), and was ultimately surprised by the film's end, but I won't give that away!
Extreme tension and some brilliant acting from Christopher Lee and Edward Woodward push the movie along with surprising speed, yet never releasing the viewer from the suspense and isolation of Howie (Woodward) and Summerisle itself.
Despite not following the same religious beliefs myself, the portrayal of both Howie as the devout Christian and the pagan lifestyles of the islanders act in sharp contrast with each other, and also add to the increasing isolation.
Overall, an excellent movie. Worth buying for the film itself, and the extras are well worth a look (audio commentary and the additional 15 minutes of footage in particular). Highly recommended, and I can't praise it enough!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Surprisingly enough, I'd never seen this film before purchasing this set. I've heard lots about it over the years, mainly attacks from pious goody goodies who've never actually seen the film, but a few glowing reviews from film buff's who's opinion I respect. After stumbling across this set I decided it was time to take a chance.

The film itself was a bit of a surprise, I had almost been expecting something along the lines of a Hammer production. However, the production values and photography are superb. From the opening shot of the sea plane flying across the Scottish Isles to the legendary finale, the photography is quite superb and breathtaking. This is a production that has been put together with love and care.

The plot was also not was I was expecting. Written by Anthony Shaffer (who also wrote one of my favourite films of all time, Sleuth), it is an excellent tale of a staunchly Catholic policeman Sgt. Howie (Woodward) who has flown out to a remote Island community to locate a missing girl. The community (headed by the seemingly affable Lord Summersisle, played by an incredibly impressive Christopher Lee) closes ranks, and Howie comes to suspect something dreadful has happened and is connected to the islander's pagan beliefs. The story works on several levels, the straight investigation element, and the wonderful character study of Howie and his growing revulsion as he battles the islander's paganism with his Christianity. The sly manipulations of Summersisle, (Christopher Lee's greatest screen performance - the character has an almost magnetically affable persona, with a strong undercurrent of menace just behind the surface. Lee gets to act for a change, and not just dress up un a silly cape with fangs for make-up, he obviously relished the opportunity and grabbed it with both hands) gradually come to the fore, building to the a very surprising 'twist' ending and the final confrontation between the religious beliefs of Summersisle and Howie, said beliefs are ultimately both shown the be hollow. A really great thriller and character piece.

This set contains two versions of the film, the original theatrical release which was so badly cut as to make it almost unintelligible, and a directors cut, which restores as much material as is still extant, and makes the story a lot clearer. The picture quality is good in both, but the restored sections in the directors cut are from a low quality source and so stand out as the picture quality very obviously dips in these sections. The sound quality is superb.

The third disk is a CD of the soundtrack. It is worth getting this set for this CD alone. It features dialogue form the film, and all the original music. The opener 'Corn rigs' is a classic, and Christopher Lee singing the innuendo laden 'The Tinker of Rye' is a permanent fixture on my MP3 playlists!

An excellent set, which does thorough justice to a cult classic, which more than deserves it's reputation. 5 stars.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
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.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
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.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
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.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 30 June 2004
I was first properly introduced to this film last year when I started my first year at University. Of course I had heard of it before but had never bothered to watch it due to the fact that I usually find british films boring to say the least. Then one day in a great lecture we started to watch 'The Wicker man'. From the moment it begun the whole class was captivated by the eireeness of the film and when the lecture switched it off after about 20 minutes, the whole class wanted more and raced to the library to find it! I decided to purchase the dvd as I could'nt be bothered to wait and when I got home that night started right from the beginning. By the end of the film I was truly disturbed by what I had seen and found it to be so much more frightening then all the recent teen slasher movies of today. Anybody who say's that this film is rubbish are proberbly fans of the 'Im going to stab you as you run up the stairs in the dark' kind of films and are easily put off by films that are a bit dark and sometimes odd. This film is a genuine must see for anyone who wants to see a film and remember it for years to come. One thing - Don't watch it before bed!
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47 of 50 people found the following review helpful
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.
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