The Wicker Man, 1973 – ★★★★½

Simply put, one of the greatest films ever comitted to celluloid. ‘The Wicker Man’ is my favourite British movie, it’s my joint first favourite horror movie with ‘Theater of Blood’ and it’s damn near one of the greatest films i’ve ever had my pleasue to sit through, any cut, doesnt matter if its first thing in the morning, or last thing at night. If ‘The Wicker Man’ is on, im watching ‘The Wicker Man’.

I’ll keep it brief, the script is razor sharp, acidically bleak in its comedy and while not *entirely* accurate about its depiction of pagan rituals, it goes a lot further in its accuracy than most may think. barring the ‘Directors cut’ (which in and of itself is more of a ‘complete’ cut than the directors preference) the pacing is perfectly balanced, the act structures cleanly marked and seamless in their ability to transition.

All the characters are superbly written, have solid, multi layered character arcs, are consistent, and feel fleshed out. The plot twists are genuinely unexpected and rewatches, like a fine whiskey only further enhance the complex flavours and tones of this film as, once your aware of the twists, you realise just what kind of 4d chess is going on.

The dialogue is delightful, ripe for quoteable lines and still as wonderfully fresh as the day the ink dried on the first draft. its punchy, powerful and honestly, I’ve seldom found a stronger work than this, that so fully captures a vision and narrative.

The direction, given the absolute trials and tribulations the production had to even get off the ground is nothing short of miraculous. It looks incredible and barring a couple of night shoots where the heavy grain film stock renders things a little *too* overdark. this is a professional and solid looking production that had a LOT of research put into not only the locations chosen for the shoots, but the history and mechanics involved in trying to recreate some of the more intricate moments of pagenism.

direction of the cast is faultless too, it’s a lightning in a bottle moment when a cast and a director almost in lock step seem to understand the exact tone and nature of a production. it’s BEYOND lightning in a bottle when chunks of the cast are actively falling out with a director over the terrible filming conditions while ALSO giving the performances of their careers. I cannot understate just how astounding Robin Hardy’s work is here. its unreal.

the cinematography is gorgeous, with astounding and colourful compositions, each of which could easily be a portrait, carefully curated into gorgeous and powerful scenes that blow me away on every rewatch. Depending on which cut you choose to watch, your milage may vary as to the itensity of delight with which you take this film. But for me, even the worst cuts from the worst version of this film still stand head and shoulders against some of the best offerings of mainstream cinema. it’s a gorgeous film.

And the performances!? dont even get me started. Forget Dracula, THIS, is Christopher Lee’s defining picture, the one i’ll always remember him for. He waived his fee to appear in this film because he wanted to save the production money and he so sincerely believed in it, he did anything he could to get people in front of it. and he was absolutely correct in this assertion. As Lord Summerisle he’s astounding, a genuine ‘once in a lifetime’ performance that, in my opinion is unlikely to ever be bettered and is seldom even remotely equalled. he’s lively, spry and smarmily condescending in the absolute best possible way. Every second he’s on screen is simply some of the greatest.

Same applies to Edward Woodward as Sgt. Howie. an ASTOUNDING performance of a devout christian police officer trying to unravel the mysteries of this most unusual island. he has a wonderful level of arrogance thats downplayed by a genuine sincerity in his beliefs. There are no heros on Summerisle.

and thats before we even GET to the supporting cast ALL of whome are frankly astounding. They’re absurd, bizarre and not one person given a talking role is forgettable. they’re all just…BEYOND amazing. With Britt Eckland and Ingrid Pitt astounding with cheery to the point of concern performances (and thats not even mentioning the nude scenes which, im certain for many men and women of a certain age were quite lifechanging)

add all of this to frankly one of the most gorgeous soundtracks ever put to magnetic tape. a near all acoustic folk soundtrack that, in and of itself is a tremendous work. but when coupled to such a striking script, astounding direction and breathtaking visuals only further cements this film as one of the greatest works of the 20th century and a film that I sincerely regret brushing off watching till my mid 20s. I could have easily had years of extra enjoyment from it.

I dont need to recommend this one, it speaks for itself. an essential to any film collection and beyond compare. I own it on VHS (twice), DVD (twice), Bluray (three times), I have 3 streaming copies on standby not to mention 2 copies of the 180g Vinyl pressing of the soundtrack (sealed and unsealed to preserve my folk music) and frankly, when the 4k version is released. I’ll be grabbing that too…probably in multiples. I never want to be in a position where I dont have semi-immediate access to this film.

Oh! and because I cant really fit it in anywhere else:

The Theatrical cut has always been a longstanding favourite of mine because of how concise and to the point it is.

The Final Cut is gaining appreciation from me as the years go by, at first I thought it was a bit overlong, but I enjoy the extended scenes more after rewatches and I feel it strikes a nice balance of letting the film breath a bit, but not too much.

And the ‘Directors cut’ (which now isnt really the directors cut as Robin Hardy considers the ‘Final’ cut to be the true ‘directors cut’…the ‘Directors cut’ is just, as much of the film as survives assembled and released. is probably my least favourite of the bunch. Its still a lot better than most films, but I have to conceed that its overly long and whats added in doesnt really add to the experience.

I think the final cut is probably my defacto viewing experience at this point as it keeps most people happy, followed very closely by the theatrical cut which was my introduction to the film and one im very fond of, and following up the rear is the directors cut, which i’ve seen approximately twice. and I should probably catch again at some point, but it’s just…SO long for what it is.

…Go watch ‘The Wicker Man’.


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