The Wicker Man (1973) Review
Written by: Goon
The Wickerman has a very interesting story behind it and it is one that not many people are aware of. This film has been through hell and back. To be honest it is a miracle that I am even reviewing the film right now. But luckily for all of us fans of the film somehow the movie that wouldn't die is still here. Before I delve into the backstory of the film let me give you a quick run down.
A young girl goes missing on a small island and a distraught letter is sent to Police Sergeant Howie played by Edward Woodard. Howie travels to the little island and is confronted with what he sees to be a consipiracy of lies and deception. He travels around the island and quickly discovers that these are not only very strange people but they are also "hedonistic pagans". Howie being a staunch christian is on edge with every step he takes as he tries to unravel the mystery of what happened to the young girl who has gone missing.
To explain anything more would be ruining the film for anyone who is not familar with it. This is one of those films where the less you know about it the better off you will be going in. With this two-disc special edition that Anchor Bay has put out their are actually two versions of the film. One is the U.S. Theatrical cut which runs 88 minutes and the other is a longer cut which runs 99 minutes. Now this is where things get really interesting.
The original producer was bought out and booted off the project and when they found the film they were not liking what they saw. So they were trying everything they could to bury the film. Luckily though they still got the film overseas to America and one of the first people they spoke to was Roger Corman who was sent a 101 minute cut of the film. But he didn't offer them enough money at the time so they sold it to someone else. Well this company ended up hacking the film to bits and cutting it down to 88 minutes.
So the film ran in theatres with the 88 minute cut and not much was made of the film at the time. Down the road of course the movie always had some die hard fans and it was going to be put in theatres once again. So when they went back to get the negatives they had been told that the original distributor had thrown all of them in the trash. All 20 cannisters! Christopher Lee to this day still claims that it was all a big consipiracy against the film. But they remembered that Roger Corman still had the original 101 minute cut which the director had went threw and later cut down to 99 minutes.
Unfortunately the full 99 minute cut of the film is in very bad shape so when you watch the second disc whenever the new scenes are added in you can tell from the degredation in quality. Both versions of the film are fantastic but if I had it my way I think I would have cut the film in a dfferent way. Not that the movie is bad the way it is its just that I felt some scenes weren't necessary while others added a lot to the story. To be honest this is the first movie that I have ever thought about how I would have cut the film and maybe that is because both versions are perfect the way they are but it opens you up to so many different cuts.
Now the actual film itself is easily one of the top ten movies of all time. With Hammer actors Christopher Lee and the sexy Ingrid Pitt this movie gives its nod to horror right off the bat. It also introduces us to several other talented actors along the way with Britt Ekland and Aubrey Morris (A Clockwork Orange). Not only does it contain some great actors but people who resided on the little island with no acting experience whatsoever did a fantastic job.
But without a shadow of doubt this movie has some wonderful music that could only work within this movie. Every single piece of music written for this film was done so to fit with the scenes they are used in. The film has some musical numbers as well including a bar full of drunks singing about the landlords "loose" daughter who is played by Britt Ekland.
Since Britt Ekland has been brought up I must mention she has one of the most memorable scenes in the film. She is dancing in her room naked while the staunch virgin copper Howie is in the next room fighting temptation. I must say its a really powerful piece of cinema history and hot as hell as well. But thats not all the nudity in the film. Oh no. There is plenty of that which drives the officer insane by the end of the film that young woman are running around in the buck.
All of these nude scenes also took place during the colder months in October and November. Which was quite the challenge for the entire production because the film is supposedly taking place in the Spring. So every scene shows people running around in spring clothing. This also made the task of lighting the film very difficult but was somehow pulled off without the viewer even knowing a bit about when the film was done.
Ultimately I view this movie as a sort of oppression or fear of the unknown. The officer is constantly berating everyone in the village because they do not know of Jesus Christ. Something that is even more applicable in the world of today with the Muslim faith. I don't believe anyone during the commentary track brought it up but I feel that the scribe was definetly trying to add a bit of social commentary within the film.
This new release by Anchor Bay includes a nice featurette which goes even more in detail of what I have said here about the disappearence of the footage. It also contains the original theatrical trailer, some TV and radio spots, and some really nice talent bios. The second disc contains the 99 mintue cut along with a brand new commentary track with director Robin Hardy, Actors Christopher Lee and Edward Woodward, along with a moderator Mark Kermode. Its actually a commentary worth listening to with plenty of nice little nuggets of information found within.