Combustible Celluloid Review - The Wicker Man (1973), Anthony Shaffer, Robin Hardy, Edward Woodward, Britt Ekland, Christopher Lee, Ingrid Pitt, Diane Cilento
Combustible Celluloid
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With: Edward Woodward, Britt Ekland, Christopher Lee, Ingrid Pitt, Diane Cilento
Written by: Anthony Shaffer
Directed by: Robin Hardy
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 88
Date: 11/30/1973

The Wicker Man (1973)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Island Girls

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Robin Hardy's and Anthony Shaffer's horror film recently made the BBC's list of the 100 greatest British films ever made. Edward Woodward plays a puritan cop who arrives on a remote island to investigate the disappearance of a young girl, but the townspeople seem to know nothing about it. Christopher Lee appears as the mastermind behind it all. Hardy made his directorial debut with a sure, curious touch, and Shaffer -- the twin brother of Peter (Amadeus) Shaffer -- crafts a brilliant screenplay, unfolding in perfectly sculpted waves and including fascinating subtexts on puritanism and moral superiority.

Though Anchor Bay's 2001 DVD looks great and comes with an interesting making-of featurette, it still doesn't provide the elusive full-length version running 102 minutes. This is the edited 88-minute version originally released in U.S. theaters. Anchor Bay has also released a 99-minute "Limited Edition" that still isn't quite complete, but closer. In 2013, Lionsgate issued a Blu-ray with a "Final Cut," reportedly approved by director Hardy, that runs 92 minutes. I'm not yet sure if this is the same as the theatrical cut. More detective work is still required.

The last time I saw this movie was on the aforementioned DVD. Lionsgate has now released a spectacular two-disc Steelbook set, including a restoration of a 94-minute cut on 4K disc and a Blu-ray disc, as well as a bonus digital copy. I was very pleased. (I still haven't seen the 99-minute cut, however.) Bonuses don't appear to include anything new, but they include "Worshipping the Wicker Man" (24 minutes), a discussion of the film, "The Music of the Wicker Man," a discussion of the film's brilliant Paul Giovanni score, an interview with director Hardy from 2013 (17 minutes), trailers, and a restoration comparison. The 4K disc includes even more bonuses, but since I haven't yet upgraded, I can't tell you about them. Nonetheless, this is Highly Recommended.

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