The Wicker Man: The Final Cut review

11 06 2015

Robin Hardy’s cult horror, starring the late Christopher Lee, still prompts shivers, says Tim Robey.

“Try everything once except incest and folk-dancing,” said the conductor Sir Thomas Beecham. Had he lived to see The Wicker Man, it would have backed him up on at least one of those counts. What a strange, singular film it still is: name another Scottish, island-set folk-horror musical with this kind of instant recognition value. Over the years, it’s become as cherished a cult favourite as Blade Runner, and equally subject to persistent tinkering, thanks to being shorn of various scenes for its original release, when it was put out as a B-feature after Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now.

Timed to coincide with its 40th anniversary, this so-called final cut claims to be the most complete version possible, but it isn’t the longest out there — some additional prologue scenes of Sgt Neil Howie (Edward Woodward) on the mainland were included on a Director’s Cut, but not here.

The materials for this hybrid version aren’t all consistently good, meaning a trade-off between the curiosity value of some rare sequences and the visual unevenness they bring along. No matter: the film’s driftier interludes, however raggedly psychedelic, remain crucial to its aura, one of hypnotically sinister good cheer.

Christopher Lee’s imaculately polite performance as the pagan ringleader Lord Summerisle, patiently explaining to Howie the very trap into which he’s being lured, holds up splendidly, as does Woodward’s prudish brand of Christian martyrdom. They’re essentially playing Dionysus, god of ritual madness, and Pentheus, stuffy voice of repression, in the only reimagining of Euripides’ Bacchae where you also get Britt Ekland jiggling around nude.

There are moments that still prompt shivers — the banally hideous sign of the Green Man pub, a missing photo of last year’s harvest festival on its wall — and the famous climax holds on to every shred of its unmatched, infernal power.

Christopher Lee died on June 9 2015, aged 93.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/filmreviews/10336602/The-Wicker-Man-The-Final-Cut-review.html

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Berkeley hosts The Wicker Man: The Final Cut

1 08 2014

The Wicker Man Robin Hardy (U.K., 1973)

Film – Feature | August 31 | 7:30 p.m. |  PFA Theater

Sponsor: Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

Restored “Final Cut”!

“The Citizen Kane of horror movies”—Cinefantastique Magazine

Before Burning Man, there was The Wicker Man, that burning sensation. A Christian believer, Sergeant Howie (Edward Woodward), travels to the rustic island of Summerisle to investigate the disappearance of a young girl the islanders deny exists. The sarge is alarmed to find the inhabitants possessed of a paganism that has the cultists raising the maypole and fornicating in the fields. Playwright Anthony Shaffer (Sleuth, Frenzy) penned this heathen husk of folk horror specifically for Christopher Lee, who plays the priestly Lord Summerisle. This flammable flick finds its fright in the slow revelation that you are either kin or kindling.

—Steve Seid

Written by Anthony Shaffer. Photographed by Harry Waxman. With Christopher Lee, Edward Woodward, Diane Cilento, Britt Ekland. (94 mins, DCP, Color, From Rialto Pictures)

Tickets: $5.50 BAM/PFA Member; Cal Student,  $6.50 Cal Faculty and Staff; Disabled Patron; Non Cal Student; Senior Patron ( 65 & Older); General Admission Youth (17 & under),  $9.50 General admission

http://events.berkeley.edu/index.php/calendar/sn/townsend.html?event_ID=78454&date=2014-08-31

Event Contact: 510-642-080





The Wicker Man Blu-ray Review

14 07 2014
Review by Gary Tooze

The Film:

A righteous police officer investigating the disappearance of a young girl comes into conflict with the unusual residents of a secluded Scottish isle in this unsettling, intelligent chiller. Brought to the island of Summerisle by an anonymous letter, Edward Woodward’s constable is surprised to discover that the island’s population suspiciously denies the missing girl’s very existence. Even more shocking, at least to the traditionally pious law office, the island is ruled by a libertarian society organized around pagan rituals. Repelled by the open acceptance of sexuality, nature worship, and even witchcraft, the officer takes an antagonistic attitude towards the people and their leader, an eccentric but charming English lord (Christopher Lee). The officer’s unease intensifies as he continues his investigation, slowly coming to fear that the girl’s disappearance may be linked in a particularly horrifying manner to an upcoming public festival. Anthony Shaffer’s meticulously crafted screenplay creates a thoroughly convincing alternative society, building tension through slow discovery and indirect suggestion and making the terrifying climax all the more effective. Performances are also perfectly tuned, with Woodward suitably priggish as the investigator and horror icon Lee delivering one of his most accomplished performances as Lord Summerisle. Little noticed during its original theatrical run due to studio edits and a limited release, the film’s intelligence and uncanny tone has since attracted a devoted cult following. Read the rest of this entry »





The Wicker Man, de Robin Hardy (1973)

14 04 2014

The-Wicker-Man

Au début des années 1970, le grand Christopher Lee commence à se lasser de jouer dans des productions Hammer qui sentent légèrement le réchauffé, surtout dans les nombreuses déclinaisons de Dracula, rôle qui l’a rendu mondialement célèbre et fait encore de lui une icône du cinéma fantastique. C’est alors qu’on lui propose un film atypique, prenant pour thème la survivance de rites païens sur une île écossaise nommée Summerisle.

Film atypique du cinéma de genre de l’époque pour plusieurs raisons. La plus évidente, celle qui se remarque au premier coup d’œil, c’est le refus de tourner les scènes la nuit, pourtant une des caractéristiques du cinéma d’épouvante classique – à plus forte raison britannique. Cela pouvait certes diminuer l’ambiance pesante et l’impression de danger imminent, mais au contraire il en résulte un respect des codes du genre à mesure que le récit avance. Dès son arrivée sur l’île pour enquêter sur la disparition d”un jeune fille, le sergent Neil Howie se rend compte du caractère très communautariste des habitants. A chaque nouvel habitant interrogé, les secrets de Summerisle refont surface et il en apprend un peu plus sur les étranges coutumes du coin. Comme il est assez courant dans la production des années 1970, le cinéma d’horreur se mêle ici à des ingrédients du polar, de la petite enquête de police qui débute au départ comme un exercice de routine. Comme le disait dans un entretien le réalisateur Robin Hardy, l’objectif était de faire “un film d’anti-horreur”, et l’essentiel du film étant tourné en plein jour renforce ce parti-pris. On peut remarquer que quelques années plus tard du côté de l’Espagne, Narciso Ibáñez Serrador tourne lui aussi un pur film d’horreur sous un soleil méditerranéen et également sur une île ( ¿Quién puede matar a un niño?/Les Révoltés de l’An 2000, 1976). Sans doute faut-il y voir la volonté de renouveler un cycle du cinéma fantastique qui cherche un nouveau souffle. Read the rest of this entry »





Robin Hardy to appear at BOZAR film screening in Brussels

1 03 2014

THE WICKER MAN – ROBIN HARDY

En présence de Robin Hardy

Robin Hardy réalisateur
avec Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Diane Cilento
Nous avons l’immense honneur, privilège et plaisir de présenter la projection director’s cut du cultissime The Wicker Man de Robin Hardy. Peu de films ont réussi à atteindre l’aura particulière que dégage le film original. Et ce n’est certes pas le remake de 2006 avec Nicolas Cage qui pourra nous convaincre du contraire. Le film retrace l’enquête d’un détective confronté aux coutumes tribales des autochtones hallucinés et exaltés d’une île écossaise. Sous-estimé lors de sa sortie en salle, monté sans tenir compte du point de vue de Hardy et distribué comme une série B sans intérêt, le film était voué à une mort prématurée. Ce n’est que fin des années 1970 qu’une version longue fut projetée et appréciée à sa juste valeur, parfois saluée comme le Citizen Kane du film d’horreur sans pour autant être le film que Hardy désirait ardemment montrer. Quarante ans plus tard, il peut désormais nous présenter en personne sa propre version!
Ravensteinstraat 23 | Rue Ravenstein 23
Brussels, Belgium
+32 2 507 82 00
Lieu
Dates
Dimanche 16.03.2014 – 20:00 > 22:00
Prix à la caisse 
€ 8,00: tarif standard
€ 6,00: tarif réduit
Langue(s)

VO: Anglais

http://www.bozar.be/activity.php?id=14706

 





A Lucid Restoration: Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man

9 12 2013

Thanks in part to a gorgeous digital restoration, Robin Hardy’s darkly comic The Wicker Man, currently screening in a “final cut” in select theaters on both coasts, feels like a lucid dream. The 1973 film is tinged with lasciviousness and pervaded by jangly folk music, and its tone fluctuates madly, veering from the hysterical to the horrifying, from the fermata of promiscuous harmonies to the howls of a man wreathed in flames. Trying to get a grasp on the film’s sense of normality, of realism, is like trying to squeeze a flopping fish. The dichotomy of modernity and tradition transects the film; restored to the original look of glorious 35mm, it feels perversely modern and timeless. Like a passage from the Bible, or a 14th-century oil painting, The Wicker Man is at once epochal, rooted in a specific time (the wake of the summer of love) and place (a Scottish island village), and somehow transcendent of reality. You slowly sink into its bizarre charm, and by the time its sinister epiphanies begin to proliferate, you’re too deep to get out.

thewickerman_lordsummerisle

Edward Woodward is Sergeant Neil Howie, an uptight Christian who’s intolerant and ignorant while preaching morals—”a privileged fool,” you could say. After receiving a letter that claims a young girl, Rowan Morrison, has disappeared on the remote Hebridean island of Summerisle, he takes off in a sea plane, by himself, set on finding her. When Howie arrives, he wastes no time in flashing his credentials, telling everyone he’s there on police business and threatening to lock up anyone and everyone who may interfere with his investigation. His first interaction with the locals sets the tone for his brief stay: He passes a photo of Rowan to a group of fisherman who don’t lack for plaid or facial hair, and the camera slowly strolls along the line as the picture is passed from calloused hand to calloused hand. No one has ever heard of the girl, and Howie, they say, should mind his own business. Read the rest of this entry »





Discussing The Wicker Man: Final Cut with Director Robin Hardy

9 11 2013

Update: While The Wicker Man: Final Cut tours the U.S. from Bellingham to Brookline (see link below), L.A. audiences are fortunate, as it’s just been announced that this Friday night, the first of November, legendary actress Britt Ekland — “The Landlord’s Daughter” herself! — will introduce the 7:30 screening at Landmark’s fabulous Nuart Theatre, plus she’s staying for a Q&A. If you miss this, you’re crazy.

2013-10-30-WMFCBritt

Britt Ekland in The Wicker Man: Final Cut

We now return you to the original opening paragraph.

I get excited about movies, but rarely does a film astound me. Sinisterly exuberant, elegantly subversive, ravishingly eerie, hilariously chilling — I just can’t throw enough positive adjectival phrases at The Wicker Man: the 1973 masterpiece penned by Anthony Shaffer and magnificently directed by Robin Hardy. At the fore stands the world’s greatest actor Christopher Lee, in one of his career peaks (“the best-scripted film I ever took part in,” Mr. Lee says of The Wicker Man, in the 1999 edition of his autobiography); plus it features remarkable turns from Edward Woodward, Ingrid Pitt, Lindsay Kemp (who taught David Bowie and Kate Bush to dance), and the alluring Britt Ekland (whose dance herein could alter your worldview). Add the brilliant songs of Paul Giovanni and generous dollops of folkloric savvy, et voilà: perfection.

The trick is the treat.

The plot? I’m not telling. A cop searches for a missing child. Do not read synopses, don’t ask anyone about it, just see it. If for the first time, I envy you.

Truly, lucky you. In its unique blend of mystery, thriller, drama, comedy, social satire, and yes, even musical, this film practically reinvents the art form of cinema. Following years of butchered prints, short cuts, slightly-improved cuts, and missing shots, you get to experience The Wicker Man: Final Cut, director Hardy’s approved DCP restoration of his definitive version. This edit has been out of circulation since 1979, and recently scanned from a 35mm U.S. print discovered in the Harvard Film Archive. After being unceremoniously slashed in 1973 to fit on a double bill with Don’t Look Now, The Wicker Man: Final Cut celebrates its 40th anniversary in style. I spoke with Mr. Hardy, and asked him about the film’s origins.

“Tony Shaffer and I had been partners in the film company we owned for 13 years,” he relates. “We had facilities in Paris, Frankfurt, Milan and New York — headquartered in London. And we made dramas for television, and lots of very high-priced commercials all over the world.

“During that time, Tony and I, in our association, were very much — how can I saw, smitten, perhaps, is the right word — with a passion for games play. And this is a key that really very few people have understood about The Wicker Man — and maybe because they’ve never seen Tony’s play Sleuth: which preceded it, on the stage in London, and in New York.

“The games playing was part of our daily lives for those years. Every now and then he would play an enormous practical joke on me, and I would have to think of one to play back. This was all very good-humored, and sometimes I was furious at what he had done, and he was furious at what I’d done — but it kept us amused through all those years, and then the time came for us to start leaving the whole commercial/television scene, and move to features — and plays: he of course was very much influenced by the fact that by that time his twin brother was one of the most famous playwrights around (Peter Shaffer: Equus; Amadeus).”

2013-10-30-WMFCSnellShafferHardy

Wicker Men: Producer Peter Snell, screenwriter Anthony Shaffer, director Robin Hardy
(from the autobiography of Christopher Lee)

Read the rest of this entry »