Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews - By Fans For Fans



Directed by Robin Hardy.
Starring Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Britt Ekland, Ingrid Pitt, Diane Cilento.
UK 1973 88/95/101 mins. Certificate: 15

Released by StudioCanal on September 25th, 2023, in 5-disc 4k Ultra-HD Collector’s Box Set,
4-Disc Steelbook and on Digital.


It is time to keep your appointment with THE WICKER MAN in the most luxurious fashion possible.


StudioCanal empties our groaning wallets and afford this landmark genre picture the 50th anniversary treatment it deserves. Opening in a low key on the 29th of April 1973 and closing with one of the most extraordinary final images in cinema, the film still amuses, startles and beguiles. Conceived as a bolder alternative to waning Hammer horror, it cannily puts Ingrid Pitt in a bathtub and Christopher Lee (did he ever smile as much in any other film?!) in a dress while shifting between procedural thriller, musical and satire en route to that ending.


It's never looked this good. This release rounds up all three cuts of the movie (with hilarious new warnings of outdated historical attitudes!): the theatrical cut is the shortest (arguably the best), the “Director’s Cut” the longest and the “Final Cut” somewhere in between. Silver Salt Restoration UK spent over 500 hours restoring and repairing the original 35mm negative while working magic on the additional footage from a second-generation intermediate print and video.


The 4k transfer is simply glorious. Those disconcerting, sun kissed Summerisle days and cloudless blue skies (much colder than it looks) are even more so in the Geek Heaven world of 2023. You are guaranteed to discover and appreciate more detail in the classroom and external rituals/celebrations alike. The costumes – including Mr Lee’s gaudy purple-hued dress – are eye-popping, the island festivities dominated by vibrant primary colours, and Edward Woodward’s climactic “appointment” rendered yet more harrowing by the UHD clarity.


The multiple discs round up various extras from the film’s 30th and 40th anniversary releases. There’s also an enlightening set of brand-new featurettes produced for this set, with heavy involvement from the late director Robin Hardy’s sons Justin and Dominic. A location feature returns us to the Green Man pub, Lord Summerisle’s garden, Anworth Church and that fateful cliff edge at Burrowhead. The always delightful David McGillivray recalls watching it in December 1973 with two other critics for the Monthly Film Bulletin, while Vic Pratt celebrates the Hogarthian gallery of grotesques lurking in the supporting cast. There’s a discussion of the enduring cult following, and a spry, 80-year-old Britt Ekland talks about being pregnant during the shoot, not getting along with Hardy and how Englishmen like Lee “love to dress up in women’s clothing and wigs”. One fabulous new feature has Tim Plester marvellously delivering the Summerisle speech that never was, using Robin Hardy’s recently recovered original working script.


The archival features include everything you could possibly want, encompassing interviews and commentaries that feature many long-dead (and much missed) participants, from screenwriter Anthony Shaffer to Lee and Woodward. There’s a useful dissection of the different cuts, modern genre directors (including Ben Wheatley and Eli Roth) weighing in on its impact and the marvellous 2003 Channel 4 documentary “Burnt Offering: The Cult of The Wicker Man”. Here, a black-clad, quiffed Mark Kermode looks fabulously youthful amidst a comprehensive examination of everything from the body doubling of Ekland (“That poor woman’s arse”) to British Lion’s managing director calling THE WICKER MAN one of the ten worst films he’d ever seen. Whoops.


Steven West.




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Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews
By Fans For Fans