It’s been 50-years since our first appointment with ‘The Wicker Man’, and to mark this momentous occasion, StudioCanal have pulled together a glorious new 4K UHD collector’s edition. As well as two UHD discs and two Blu-ray discs, this stunning box set also comes with a Heavenly Records EP of songs from ‘The Wicker Man’ by Katy J Pearson and Friends. There’s also a 64-page booklet with brand new essays, two posters, and 3 Summerisle postcards. It’s an essential release for fans of the movie and physical media collectors alike.
‘The Wicker Man’ is the defining piece of work in the folk horror subgenre, and remains one of the most influential British films of all time. Exploring themes of religious and cultural conflict, ancient traditions, and the consequences of blind faith, it is more than just a straight up horror film. At times it almost feels like a musical. Even now, 50-years on from its initial release, Robin Hardy’s chilling and atmospheric masterpiece provides one of the strangest and most unsettling viewing experiences.
A weird and tonally inconsistent film, full of jaunty folk tunes, and filmed almost entirely during the day, there’s nothing particularly scary about ‘The Wicker Man’. But the gradual slow-burn of the central mystery draws us into the world of this strange Island community, before curdling our blood in the shocking and unforgettable climax. A finale which has become an iconic moment in cinema history.
As the devout and morally upright Sergeant Howie, sent from the mainland to investigate the disappearance of a young girl, Edward Woodward gives one of the standout performances from his career. His portrayal of a man struggling to reconcile his rigid Christian beliefs with the strange and disturbing customs he encounters on Summerisle is at the very heart of the film, and plays brilliantly against Christopher Lee’s charismatic community leader.
Even with its relatively brief running time, ‘The Wicker Man’ has created a lasting legacy with its potent mix of disturbing imagery, powerful performances, and thought-provoking themes. In the pantheon of folk horror it sits proudly at the top, and remains essential viewing for those seeking intelligent and psychologically unsettling cinema. Its enduring impact on the genre continues to resonate with audiences, making it a true classic that has more than withstood the test of time.
The 4K UHD presentation brings a level of depth and definition that is quite incredible, however it should also be noted that it doesn’t perform miracles. Those familiar with previous restorations of the Final Cut will know full well that certain scenes are of a much lower picture quality. That is no different here. There are some scenes however, most of which are exterior, where the UHD transfer is truly stunning. The final sequence in particular has never looked better.
Disc One presents the Final Cut of ‘The Wicker Man’ in UHD. As well as the feature, we also have all the extras from the 40th anniversary Blu-ray edition. We also get a number of brand new featurettes exclusive to this release, including a short documentary revisiting the locations of the film, Justin Hardy (son of director Robin Hardy) interviewing filmmakers and critics about the film, and a rare insight into Hardy’s original copy of the script with Lord Summerisle’s epic final monologue which was cut from the film.
Also new and exclusive to this release is an interview with Britt Ekland, and a gallery of behind the scenes stills. Although not a new feature, there is a 2001 documentary, ‘The Wicker Man Enigma’, which wasn’t included in the previous Blu-ray edition and has instead been ported over from the 2001 DVD release.
If the Final Cut isn’t your favourite version, then disc two gives you UHD restorations of both the director’s cut and the theatrical cut (my personal favourite). There is also an audio commentary with Robin Hardy, Christopher Lee, and Edward Woodward on the director’s cut, and a behind the scenes short film about the commentary. Both of these were available on the previous Blu-ray release. Discs three and four, repeat the above in BD format.
Cast: Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Britt Ekland, Ingrid Pitt Director: Robin Hardy Writer: Anthony Shaffer Released By: StudioCanal Certificate: 15 Duration: 92 mins Release Date: 25th September 2023