Horror
The Wicker Man
.
Dir: Robin Hardy
Star: Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Britt Ekland
Cert / Year: 15 - R / 1998
Format: DVD R1
'

Police Sergeant Howie (Edward Woodward) is called to investigate a missing girl on the remote Scottish Island of Summerisle. However when he arrives the locals are strangely unhelpful. A strict Christian Sergeant Howie quickly becomes appalled by the islands conversion to pagan worship, which seems to stem from the mysterious Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee). It soon is clear that the case of the missing girl may not be all it seems. It may be linked to the failed harvest and more ominously to human sacrifice.

It's British and it's a cult classic. It's a film that harks back to the days when we really could produce films that were daringly original and technically excellent, but rather than morn the passing of the British film industry lets concentrate on the film. I have already mentioned its originality and this makes it rather difficult to categorise. Technically it's a horror film. However the horror elements only really come into play at the end of the film, for the rest of the movies it's a chilling occult thriller. It is correct to say that is really is pretty unique.

The great thing about the film is the way the tension builds. Right from the outset it is clear that this is no ordinary island and the people who live there are hiding something. Good dialogue, great casting, and wily direction keep the audience like the police sergeant on the back foot. The clues are there to see, as pagan symbols litter the well scouted locations, but the true nature (and horror) of the motive of the islanders is cleverly not revealed until the very end. The level of unease all of this generates and the initial revulsion then plain horror of Sergeant Howie's reactions make for an effective and unsettling experience.

You really did need a good cast to pull this off and thankfully one has been found. Edward Woodward and the brilliant Christopher Lee expertly play the central characters of Sergeant Howie and Lord Summerisle. Both are superb but Christopher Lee delivers one of his finest performances ever (this is his favourite film that he has appeared in). Britt Ekland, Diane Cilento and the horror regular Ingrid Pitt provide the female side of the cast and fine job they do. Added to this we have a collection of mostly local Scottish actors and they provide a colourful and eclectic bunch, just right to enhance the sense of strangeness of the island.

There are faults. The direction is not always assured and there is some pretty wobbly camera work. A few scenes do border on the silly (Christopher Lee dancing in a dress!). But most of all once the shock ending has been revealed the re-watch ability is reduced. However these are minor faults.

This a very important and highly original movie in the annals of British cult films and is scarily entertaining in a post Hammer way. With a lack of pure horror and with more of an art house slant to it, it may not appeal to the Horror purists or those looking for instant thrills, but for others it will be essential viewing (if only for the great twist at the end). A special mention must be made for the score, thirteen songs in the film (OK so they are folk songs) compliment the mood perfectly and add greatly to the whole movie. It is a good film of the type that just isn't made any more and when you watch I hope you will agree that this is our loss.

Rating: 3 out of 5

The original cinema release was butchered by the film editors when the studio was sold to EMI, and this version while still good is vastly inferior to the long lost directors cut. The directors cut contains scenes at the start of the movies that establish the character of Sergeant Howie. It also contains more dialogue for Lord Summerisle and much better pacing of the story. In all fifteen minutes have been added back in and this really makes the film. Therefore I have given the directors cut a separate rating.

Rating: 4 out of 5

DVD
DISC 1
Picture 1.85:1 Anamorphic Good but shows sign of wear, could do with remastering.
Audio 5.1 Dolby Digital Unremarkable sound mix (unsirprising due to the age of the film).
Features The original cinema release (84 mins)
'The Wicker Man Enigma' (35 mins) excellent retrospective documentary.
Christopher Lee interview (25 mins)
Trailers, TV and Radio spots
Very in depth talent biographies
DVD-Rom downloadable pages from the original theatrical press brochure
DISC 2
Picture 1.85:1 Anamorphic Due to the source print the quality varies and is quite poor at times
Features The Directors cut of the film with an extra 15 minutes.
audio commentary with Christopher Lee, Edward Woodward, Director Robin Hardy and (unfortunately) moderated by Mark Kermode.
Easter Egg (press right from audio commentary option and select the little man) you will get to see some of the commentrary begin recorded.
Verdict Due to the limited existing material this is a superb set. It is worth it for the directors cut alone. If only the picture quality could be improved.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Reviewed by Glitz Back Top Home