Today’s film was an interesting experience. I had watched the film on a DVD disc that arrived in the little red envelope, and sat to write my review. As I began some research, I learned that there were three versions of the film in existence. It turns out that upon the initial production, the studio ordered some cuts and restructuring, bringing the original running time to 87 minutes. Years later, director Hardy restored some footage, recut it, and rereleased the film as a 96 minute film. Fast forward a couple of decades later, and the film was released on an Extended Edition DVD in its original running time of 99 minutes.
Desiring to be thoroughly educated on the final product, I rented the longer edition as well. The question as I inserted the DVD into my PS3 remained: Would I experience a situation that was similar to the atrocity that befell Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil”? Or would I wonder in awe as I did with the variants of George Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead?”.
I’m here to tell you that indeed th…..I’m getting ahead of myself.
I’ll let you read the review first…
31 Days of Howl-oween
A Review of Films Filled with Frights
~ The Wicker Man ~
Director: Robin Hardy
Cast: Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Britt Ekland, Diane Cilento, Ingrid Pitt
Country: United Kingdom
Specs: (86/95/99) mins. / Color / OAR 1.85:1 / MPAA Rating: R
Police Sergeant Howie (Woodward), a devout Christian, visits the small autonomous island of Summerisle upon receiving an anonymous letter regarding the disappearance of a young girl. He soon discovers that most of the inhabitants of the island are involved in a strange Celtic Pagan Fertility Cult, and are all but accommodating in acknowledging the existence of the missing child. Frustrated, repulsed, and puzzled at the same time, the Sergeant hurries to find and rescue the young girl before its citizens, including religious leader Lord Summerisle (Lee), offer the missing child as a sacrifice to their Pagan god.
A wonderfully haunting and eerie film featuring some truly mesmerizing music. The story is brilliantly written in a way that the viewer is never privy to any information the main character of Sergeant Howie isn’t. Every repulsive, confusing, mind-boggling revelation that he experiences is equally so with the unsuspecting person seated to watch this mystery/thriller/horror classic.
The film certainly has an independent feel to it, but as is true with many films in that category, never feels cheap or low-budget (the closing scene itself is both compelling and repulsive, from the sight of the set piece alone!).
The acting in this pic is absolutely amazing. It has the air believability due to the expressions from the very talented Woodward and Lee, as well as the townsfolk, including the children! Anyone who has ever been spooked by a mask, take heed to my word of caution. Run. Run very very far away. The costuming in the this film is evocative enough to send multiple shivers up the spine (especially the scene where they are watching Howie attempt to leave the island).
Now, to the different cuts. I have to say that both the shorter version, and the longer version, are entertaining in their own way. However, I lean more towards the shorter version. I felt as thought it were a bit tighter, and started the film with an air of mystery to every character, which made the film that much more of a mystery. In the longer version, we get a different opening scene, where we get more character exposition to the Sergeant, which to me, seemed unnecessary. In addition, the rearranging of certain scenes in the longer version did change certain aspects, but nothing I found detrimental to the overall experience of the film. Lastly, a few added scenes here and there did little in the way of development for me, and instead felt like cutting room floor footage that had been added back in, or rather, filler.
Either way, both versions are wonderful experiences. I don’t think anyone will disagree. Better yet, if you’ve seen HBO’s excellent “True Blood” season 2, you know what to expect.
You’ve been made aware.
My Rating: **** / B+
Available on Amazon: The Wicker Man
or Amazon Video on Demand: The Wicker Man (1973)