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…
The Wicker Man is in my eyes, the pinnacle of British horror and still stands the tests of time today. Despite some issues with studio interfences that resulted in some non-director approved changes, the film managed to gain a cult following and has slowly gained it’s reputation as one of the finest British horror films ever made. The discovery of a longer cut that was released in 2000 clarified some of the film’s original intentions. The work that has gone into this newly recreated ‘Final cut’ pays off as the film now feels more polished and cements it’s film’s legacy.
The Final Cut of The Wicker Man is presented on a BD50 disc with a 1080/24p MPEG4-AVC codec that preserves the film’s original 1.85:1 original aspect ratio. Struck from a freshly restored 2k scan from original 35mm prints, the work that Studiocanal have done in co-operation with Deluxe is remarkable. The transfer is very natural looking and contains a nice layer of original film grain that retains some finer detail. The colour scheme isn’t overly vivid but again displays a nice palette of colours. Some particular highlights include the look of Summerisle itself and the dusty looking surroundings of the island. Black levels are spot on and no evidence of crushing was seen. It’s worth noting that additional footage that was restored for the final cut is of notably lower quality. It won’t distract from your overall enjoyment of the film but for me for it acted as marker for the additional scenes. A sample of this can be seen in screencap 2. This version of the film runs for approximately 1 hour, 33 minutes and 8 seconds
The Wicker Man is presented on Blu-ray with an English LPCM 2.0 Dual Mono audio track that preserves the film’s original sound mix. The work that has been done to clean up the original audio stems really does show. Whilst the film doesn’t have the most dynamic audio mix, dialogue was clear throughout and the general sound mix was nicely balanced across the front speakers. The film’s rather catchy folk songs that are used throughout sound detailed and crisp and instrumental pieces sound great with a little bit of natural bass coming through. Again for the additional scenes, there is a slight dip in quality but is hardly noticable
Burnt Offering – The Cult of the Wicker Man (48 minutes 19 seconds) : Mark Kemode presents a fantastic documentary looking at the making of the Wicker Man with plenty of interviews from the cast and crew and many more. Presented in 576/50i with LPCM 2.0 audio
Worshipping the Wicker Man (22 minutes and 37 seconds) : A sit down interview with today’s horror directors and film critics who discuss and examine the film’s impact then and now and how it inspires today’s horror releases. Presented in 1080/50i with LPCM 2.0 audio
The Music of the Wicker Man (15 minutes and 22 seconds) : A look at the work on the music of The Wicker Man and the folk songs (a popular and important part of the film) that were included in the song. Presented in 1080/50i with LPCM 2.0 audio
An Interview with Robin Hardy (16 minutes 18 seconds): A sit down interview with director Robin Hardy who discusses the origin of the screenplay and making the film. Presented in 1080/50i with LPCM 2.0 audio
Interview with Christopher Lee & Robin Hardy (24 minutes and 50 seconds): Originally filmed in 1979, Sterling Smith presents Critic’s Choice, a TV studio interview with both director and star that was used to promotes the film’s US release. Sourced from the film’s original broadcast tapes. Presented in 576/50i with LPCM 2.0 audio
Restoration Comparison (1 minute and 53 seconds): A side by side sweeping comparison and before and after shots of the original film print that was discovered recently and the digital clean up completed by deluxe. Presented in 1080/24p with LPCM 2.0 audio
Trailers – this segment contains the following
The theatrical trailer for the Final Cut edition of The Wicker Man
(1 minute and 28 seconds, (1080/24p, LPCM 2.0 audio)
The film’s original theatrical trailer
(2 minutes and 9 seconds, 576/50i Dolby Digital 2.0 audio)
The Wicker Man – UK Theatrical Cut (88 minutes and 13 seconds): The film’s original UK theatrical cut, complete with a recreated BBFC X certificate intro, which has been restored and remastered. Presented in 1080/24p with LPCM 2.0 audio
The Wicker Man – Director’s Cut (99 minutes and 41 seconds): This edition of the “Director’s Cut” is exactly the same as the version that was released in co-operation with Anchor Bay & Canal+ back in 2001. It is a hybrid version consisting of restored footage from the UK theatrical cut and additional footage sourced from the NTSC 1” master tape. This is still currently the longest cut available. Presented in 576/50i with LPCM 2.0 audio.
Making of Audio Commentary (15 minutes and 52 seconds): Some behinds the scenes footage from the recording of the audio commentary for the 2001 DVD release that was moderated by Mark Kermode. Presented in 576/50i with LPCM 2.0 audio
The third disc in the set is the film’s original soundtrack. This CD was not available to review sadly
The Wicker Man – the Final Cut is a release that I cannot recommend highly enough. Being a huge fan of this film for many years, the work that Studiocanal have poured into this is absolutely phenomenal and any horror fan should pick this release up as soon as possible. Whilst I would of liked to have seen what work was done restoring the recovered print, the exceptional selection of bonus features really do make this the definitive release of this classic British horror film. Come. It is time to keep your appointment with the Wicker Man…….
The Wicker Man is available in two editions
The regular edition is a 3 disc set that this review is based on. It contains two Blu-rays and a CD of the film’s original soundtrack.
Zavvi are also selling a limited edition steelbook double play edition (with interior artwork chosen by the HDN community) which includes Disc one of the BD set and a DVD edition of the Final Cut with selected bonus features