The Wicker Man 50th Anniversary Edition Review

The Wicker Man has been celebrating its 50th anniversary in grand style with summer screenings and a stunning new remastered collector’s edition.

Directed by Robin Hardy, Edward Woodward stars as Police Sergeant Howie; he’s journeyed to the remote island Summerisle in search of a missing girl. All he has had as a clue is a mysterious and anonymous letter, but his faith in finding her is so strong he makes the first in a series of bad choices. Two things fuel Howie as a person: his belief in upholding the law and his faith in God as a devout Christian. So, he is immediately disturbed by the resident’s free-spirited antics and their apparent worship of pagan Gods.

Worse for him yet, nobody has even heard of the missing girl, Rowan Morrison, or so it seems, and Howie has arrived just in time for their May Day festivities. After a meeting with the group’s leader, Lord Summerisle (an enigmatic Christopher Lee), it soon becomes clear that there is more going on here than creepy folk singing and free love.

My first encounter with this film was when I was just a young lad, but the encounter I had with The Wicker Man wasn’t seeing the movie; it was hearing the haunting soundtrack. As a child, I would regularly hang out with a friend after school, and we’d spend time playing LEGO or attempting to get a Commodore 64 game to load. A sound that would frequently travel up the stairs, muffled by the closed doors in between, was The Wicker Man soundtrack. Clearly, my friend’s parents were fans of the film and music; looking back on that now, perhaps they were into some other things Wicker Man-based as well.

Skip forward a couple of years to my first viewing of the actual film (the theatrical cut on VHS), and throughout, I kept hearing music I knew yet couldn’t place how or why. Combined with the unsettling tone, the haunting ending, and a towering performance from Christopher Lee, The Wicker Man stayed with me for a long time and would eventually find its way onto a (short) list of movies I find genuinely uncomfortable to watch.

The enduring appeal of Hardy’s film remains as strong today; over the years there have been multiple different versions with a Director’s Cut and Final Cut (both included in this release). I prefer the Director’s Cut as we get to spend a little longer in this fully realised folk horror nightmare. In the 50 years since The Wicker Man’s release, only one film comes close to creating the same palpable sense of dread. To the surprise of no one, that film is NOT the misguided (and unintentionally funny) remake that starred Nicolas Cage. That well-earned title goes to Ari Aster’s haunting Midsommar, which only highlights the legacy of The Wicker Man and the indelible mark it has left on cinema.

Jam-packed with unmissable special features, The Wicker Man has never looked or sounded better. The Wicker Man 50th Anniversary Limited Edition is available from September 25.


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