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The Wicker Man: The Final Cut (1973) - Blu-ray Review

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The Wicker Man: The Final Cut (1973) - Blu-ray Review

4 stars

Some still argue to the death that Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man is the Citizen Kane of horror movies.  Watching Lionsgate’s recently released “Final Cut” version of the film (a blu-ray debut for the title), it’s hard to disagree with the legion of fans still in an uproar over Neil LaBute’s 2006 version starring the one and only Nicolas (“Oh no, not the bees!”) Cage.  They now have their vindication with this release.  The classic film – once sliced and diced from ear to ear by censors, television viewings, rough treatments from producers, and Roger Corman himself (who assembled a decent version) – is now fully restored.

The original attempt at The Wicker Man has long haunted my nightmares.  I’m not alone either.  It still haunts the filmmakers.  After all, it was an arduous shoot in Scotland and, after completed, it faced its fair share of obstacles in its history on film, laserdisc, VHS, and countless DVD special editions.  At one point, the filmmakers had three different versions of the film they were lassoing into one version.  The ill-conceived 2006 remake didn’t help matters either.

Finally, though - thanks to the continuing efforts of Lionsgate and Hardy - The Wicker Man has come to its grand (and probably) final resting place.  At 94 minutes, the “Final Cut” version presents fans with a longer print than the first theatrical version; a shorter print than the “middle version” assembled by Corman back in the 70s and the special edition versions; but a truer version to the initial conception of a pre-Christian Celtic cult in a remote community.

If your head isn’t already rotating, well, it will be by the end of this cerebral-minded horror gem. Sergeant Neil Howie (Edward Woodward) – a devout Christian – is beckoned to a remote island to take on the case of a missing girl.  Once there, he is shocked by the island’s inhabitants and their worshipping of the old pagan gods of their ancestors.  He finds the society – where couples openly have sex in fields, frogs are used to cure illnesses, and girls are taught to worship the penis – more than just a little disturbing.

And then the conspiracy unfolds.  Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee) and the mysteries of the island are only the beginning of Howie’s strange trip down the rabbit hole, though.  Co-starring Britt Ekland, Diane Cilento, and Ingrid Pit, The Wicker Man is guaranteed to send weak minds over the edge and those of stronger spirit smoldering into the sunrise.  Forget the remake, though.  This is where the true spirit of The Wicker Man resides.  Hardy himself has followed up the film with a sequel entitled The Wicker Tree and, while it does feature Lee, the sequel only makes sense – in a spiritual sense – if one has seen the original.

So let your “wicker” journey – if it your first twist round the maypole (heh heh) - begin here.  May you set fire to the sunrise.

The Wicker Man: The Final Cut (1973) - Blu-ray ReviewMPAA Rating: R.
Runtime:
88 mins
Director
: Robin Hardy
Writer
: Anthony Shaffer
Cast:
Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Diane Cilento
Genre
: Horror
Tagline:
The residents of Summerisle invited Sergeant Howie to their traditional May Day festival. He didn't expect to meet...The Wicker Man
Memorable Movie Quote: "The building attached to the ground in which the body lies is no longer used for CHRISTIAN worship, so whether it is still a CHURCHYARD is debatable."
Distributor:
Warner Bros.
Official Site: https://www.facebook.com/WickerManAppeal
Release Date:
June 1975
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
January 7, 2014

Synopsis: A police sergeant is sent to a Scottish island village in search of a missing girl whom the townsfolk claim never existed. Stranger still are the rites that take place there.

The Wicker Man: The Final Cut (1973) - Blu-ray Review

Component Grades
Movie

Blu-ray Disc
5 Stars

5 Stars



Blu-ray Experience
4.5 stars

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - January 7, 2013
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles
: English, English SDH, Spanish
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)
Region Encoding: Region A

Presented here on Blu-ray by Lionsgate Films (in conjunction with StudioCanal) with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.85:1, The Wicker Man looks mostly fantastic for the bulk of its 94 minute running time.  Colors are solid and black levels have been lovingly restored.  Unfortunately, large sections of “The Final Cut” have been sourced from inferior prints so there is unevenness to some of the presentation.  Grain levels fluctuate and there are some picture compression issues.  The 2.0 Mono Linear PCM 2 soundtracks are largely hiss free with some surprisingly hi-fidelity in some of the songs that like the movie, must be a fair few generations down from the original.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • Nothing new but included is the December 2001 recording which features the director, both male stars (Lee and Woodward) and reviewer Mark Kermode officiating. It's a sometimes longwinded affair but always entertaining- especially considering the film’s history.

Special Features:

Well, it looks the rest of the world (boasting the release of a three-disc version) beats this single disc release.  Lionsgate gives the US audience one version of the film and cuts the supplemental material in half.  What we do get is informative, though, so it is hard to complain about what is missing.  First up is a compendium of interviews clocking in at just over 20 minutes, then there’s a detailed look at the unforgettable music of the movie, and a bonus interview with Hardy.  Finally, an all too brief restoration comparison is included.

  • Worshiping The Wicker Man (24 min)
  • The Music of The Wicker Man (16 min)
  • Interview with Robin Hardy (17 min)
  • Restoration Comparison (2 min)

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