Directed by Robin Hardy.
Screenplay by Antony Shaffer.
Starring: Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee ,Britt Ekland, Diane Cilento & Ingrid Pitt.
In 1973, Robin Hardy’s debut film THE WICKER MAN fell victim to a boardroom takeover at distribution company British Lion, and had its release temporarily shelved. A finished version of the film that director Hardy was happy with had been delivered with a running time of 102 minutes.When it did finally reach UK cinemas that year, with little fanfare or promotion, and as part of a Double Bill with DON’T LOOK NOW, 15 minutes had been cut, leaving the film’s running time a trim 88 minutes. Director Robin Hardy and the other filmmakers had not been involved and did not approve of this new version.A few years later when Hardy tried to track down his original version, he was told that all the negative trims from it that had been stored at Shepperton Studios had been thrown away, and the only “original negative” was now the 88-minute version. He finally managed to ascertain that Cult US Director Roger Corman still had a print of the full-length version, and this was used for the US theatrical release. Corman’s print has been missing since the 1980’s and only poor quality 1” video material is known to exist of this version.
STUDIOCANAL conducted an extensive worldwide search for film materials for THE WICKER MAN over the past year, including a public appeal to fans for clues as to the whereabouts of the missing original cut. Eventually a 35mm release print was found at Harvard Film Archives which director Robin Hardy has confirmed is the cut he had put together with distributors Abraxas in 1979 for the US release. This has been scanned at 4k and used to create the first ever full digital restoration of the film, with Robin Hardy’s guidance.
Robin accepts that film materials for the fabled Long Version or “Director’s Cut” will probably now never be found. “Sadly, it seems as though this has been lost forever. However, I am delighted that a 1979 Abraxas print has been found as I also put together this cut myself, and it crucially restores the story order to that which I had originally intended. This version of The Wicker Man will (optimistically!) be known as The Final Cut.”
When asked whether this cut measures up to the fabled original, long version, Robin Hardy puts it most succinctly: “The film as I saw it in the editing suite the other day fulfills my vision of what it was intended to convey to the audience.“ I guess we will never know the full story until the missing film elements not found in The Final Cut emerge – if ever.
When a young girl mysteriously disappears on a remote Scottish island, devout Christian Police Sergeant Howie (Edward Woodward) travels there to investigate. He finds a close-knit and secretive pastoral community living on an island paradise, ruled over by mysterious Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee), with beliefs very much at odds with his puritanism. The islanders mock Howie’s attempts to question them about the girl’s disappearance, and put the very foundations of his faith to the test. He begins to fear that the fate of the girl could be linked to the islanders’ failing crops and their belief that only a sacrifice of the highest order will change their luck. As May Day festivities intensify and the islanders’ behaviour becomes more frenzied, Howie’s quest to save the girl becomes a race against time…
Brilliantly scripted by Anthony Shaffer (Sleuth, Frenzy) and featuring a career-best performance by the legendary Christopher Lee, director Robin Hardy’s atmospheric use of location, unsettling imagery and haunting soundtrack gradually builds to one of the most terrifying and iconic climaxes in modern cinema.
Ltd 4 disc DVD edition & Ltd 3 disc BD edition to include:The Final Cut / UK Theatrical Cut / The Director’s Cut (seamless branching on BD only)/ Audio Commentary / Making of Audio Commentary / short film Interview with Robin Hardy (new)/ The Music of the Wicker Man featurette (new),/ Worshipping The Wicker Man Featurette (new),/ Restoration comparison (new),Burnt Offering: The Cult of The Wicker Man / Interview with Christopher Lee & Robin Hardy (1979) / Original Soundtrack Trailer / DVD Tech Specs:The Final Cut RT: 90 min / UK Theatrical Version: 84 min Directors Cut: 99 min Cert: 15 / Region 2 / Colour / Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 / Audio: 2.0 Mono / English Language / Catalogue No: OPTD2583 / RRP: £24.99.
Blu-ray Tech Specs: The Final Cut RT: 94 min / UK Theatrical Version: 88 min / Directors Cut: 102 min.