The Wicker Man, frequently voted the Best Horror Film of all time was brilliantly scripted by Anthony Shaffer (Sleuth, Frenzy) and features a career-best performance by the legendary Christopher Lee. Director Robin Hardy’s atmospheric use of location, unsettling imagery and haunting soundtrack gradually builds to one of the most terrifying and iconic climaxes in modern cinema.
When a young girl mysteriously disappears on a remote Scottish island, devout Christian Police Sergeant Howie (Edward Woodward) travels there to investigate. He finds a close-knit and secretive pastoral community living on an island paradise, ruled over by mysterious Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee), with beliefs very much at odds with his own puritanism. The islanders mock Howie’s attempts to question them about the girl’s disappearance, and put the very foundations of his faith to the test. He begins to fear that the fate of the girl could be linked to the islanders’ failing crops and their belief that only a sacrifice of the highest order will change their luck. As May Day festivities intensify and the islanders’ behaviour becomes more frenzied, Howie’s quest to save the girl becomes a race against time…
For this release, STUDIOCANAL conducted an extensive worldwide search for film materials for The Wicker Man, including a public appeal to fans for clues as to the whereabouts of the missing original cut. Eventually a 35mm release print was found at Harvard Film Archives which director Robin Hardy confirmed is the cut he had put together with distributors Abraxas in 1979 for the US release.Robin accepted that film materials for the fabled Long Version or “Director’s Cut” will probably now never be found. “Sadly, it seems as though this has been lost forever. However, I am delighted that a 1979 Abraxas print has been found as I also put together this cut myself, and it crucially restores the story order to that which I had originally intended. This version of The Wicker Man will (optimistically!) be known as The Final Cut.” Of paramount importance to Hardy is that the events on the island take place over a 72-hour period and that Lord Summerisle is established as a character far earlier than in the Short Version (the only version to ever have been previously shown in UK cinemas). Another important inclusion in The Final Cut is the performance of the song Gently Johnny, which is key in signaling both the strange and unusual community into which Sergeant Howie is intruding, and its complicity in events on the island.
When asked whether this cut measures up to the fabled original, long version, Robin Hardy put it most succinctly: “The film as I saw it in the editing suite the other day fulfills my vision of what it was intended to convey to the audience.“
Screenplay By Antony Shaffer
For the 2023 restoration of all three cuts, Silver Salt Restoration UK scanned the original 35mm negative in 4k. A second generation 35mm intermediate positive produced in 1973 was used to replace a small section with unrepairable damage in the original negative.
For The Final Cut, additional footage is sourced from 35mm prints, which are the only known sources for this material. For The Director’s Cut, the additional footage is sourced from a previous video transfer, as no film source, despite extensive searching, can be sourced for these segments.
Colour grading and restoration were completed by Silver Salt Restoration UK who dedicated over 500 hours to fix physical damage to the 35mm negative, manually clean and remove dirt, sparkle and scratches. The colour grade used was previously approved by Robin Hardy and replicated here.