The Wicker Man

DVD Rating: *****

Reviewed by: Max Blinkhorn

Read Max Blinkhorn's film review of The Wicker Man
The Wicker Man

When it originally appeared, The Wicker Man was cursed by the fact that it seemed to be a Hammer Film, if you were to judge from its origins and cast list. The studios did not know what to do with it. They felt they couldn’t sell it – more a reflection of their inadequacies than the film’s.

For a long time it received very few screenings. Worse still, it was cut down from 97 to 84 minutes to “simplify it for the public”. Eventually it emerged from this sleep in the shortened form and has since become a cult classic. The film, which itself tells a strange enough tale, has become a conundrum itself as there are several different cuts. How do I know all this? It’s on the packed DVD I’ve just spent four hours looking at.

Copy picture

It’s an excellent package – a true document containing many insights into the British film industry of the 1970s. There are two different versions of the film included in this release (there may be several other versions around too). There’s the original British issue and a directors cut, put together using parts from a copy of the long version found in the States where it showed fairly widely. In a very stiff, chat show style interview with host Stirling Smith, director Robin Hardy and Christopher Lee give an engrossing account of their efforts to make the film. Hardy brilliantly explains the way The Wicker Man works on different levels and politely overcomes Smith’s obsequious banality.

Critic Mark Kermode is the anchor to most of the material and his patient analysis of the events around the life of this wonderful oddity give us a 21st Century perspective. There is an excellent section on The Wickerman Enigma which looks at the film itself and Burnt Offering which takes a wider view of the film’s production and it’s subsequent recognition as a milestone of British cinema.

The major revelation from this DVD for me is that scenes that reveal Howie’s religious and “Constabular”(!) piety have been completely excised from the mainstream release. There is additional footage before the seaplane takes off which eloquently shows us the strength of Howie’s attachment to Christ and God and our understanding of this makes Howie’s pleadings and beseeching as he is shown his fate, much more powerful. For trivia fans, Britt Ekland says none of the dialogue was hers and that Scottish actress Annie Ross spoke all her lines, while Hardy, during the commentary denies that happened. A Google search for the Wicker Man will produce a treasure chest of other trivia and detail – look there if you want more!

The commentary, which for once is interesting and informative, has a film of its own in which Christopher Lee repeats the same assertive exposition to Mark Kermode as he had to with Stirling Smith 30 years earlier!

There is more than enough here to satisfy the curious film buff, but there is real substance in the material too and anyone with an interest in the process of film-making should own this two DVD set.

Reviewed on: 07 Sep 2006
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The Wicker Man packshot
A policeman gets more than he bargained for on a remote Scottish isle.
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Product Code: OPTD0589

Region: 2

Ratio: 1:1.85 widescreen

Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1

Extras: Original British issue and director's cut, commentary, trailer, a film on the making of the commentary for the director's cut featuring Mark Kermode, Christopher Lee, Edward Woodward and Robin Hardy, The Wicker Man Enigma, Burnt Offering, interviews with Christopher Lee and Robin Hardy

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