All those sacrifices to the cinema gods must have worked, because after a yearlong worldwide search, the final cut of ‘The Wicker Man’ has been found. The thrill of seeing the 1973 cult classic on the big screen is reason enough to drop everything and go – but doubly so with this longer version, which deeply enhances the film’s eerie pagan weirdness.
That creepiness is what made distributors delete some of the film’s most evocative scenes: a sermon at the start, the ‘Gently Johnny’ song segment with snail-on-snail action and more of Christopher Lee’s splendid Lord Summerisle.
The print quality is variable and much of the ‘new’ material has appeared on DVDs previously. Whole websites have been dedicated to spotting the differences, so fans will keep debating about which version is ‘definitive’. What an incredible treat, though, to see it all in one place, in the cinema, as director Robin Hardy intended. ‘The Wicker Man’, as a British classic, has it all: ‘Carry On’-style gags, a haunting folk soundtrack, spectacular Scottish landscapes, Edward Woodward’s stiff-upper-lip sense of duty, a critique of organised religion and that still-harrowing ending.