Following a public search for the original film materials relating to horror classic THE WICKER MAN, STUDIOCANAL UK made an announcement last Monday about what they have found, via a video message from the film’s director Robin Hardy on Facebook page that was set up for the search.
“Studiocanal contacted me last year in their search for the original materials that have been missing… I’m very pleased to announce that Studiocanal have been able to find an actual print of The Wicker Man, which is based on my original cut, working with Abraxas, the American distributors all those years ago. And they plan – and this is the exciting bit – to actual release it. This version has never been restored before, has never been shown in UK theatres before, and has never been converted to bluray before. This version of The Wicker Man will (optimistically!) been known as The Final Cut.
Thank you all Wicker Man fans, and please share and spread the word.”
Studiocanal have been conducting an extensive worldwide search for film materials for THE WICKER MAN for the past year, 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 and measured to be around 92 minutes long. This print was scanned in 4k and sent to London, where it was recently inspected by Robin Hardy. Robin confirmed that it was the cut he had put together with Abraxas in 1979 for the US release. This has previously been known as the “Middle Version” and was in turn assembled from a 35mm print of the original edit he had made in the UK in 1973, but which was never released.
Robin accepts that film materials for this “Long Version” 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.”
Hardy has long maintained that the “Short Version” of the film, which is the only one that has ever been shown in UK cinemas, does not make narrative sense. 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. Another important inclusion 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.
“We are very excited to be able present at last a version of the film that is true to Robin Hardy’s original vision,”says John Rodden, General Manager of Home Entertainment of Studiocanal UK. “The Final Cut release will reinstate all the important extra scenes that Robin Hardy intended to include and will restore the original timeline and story structure. After extensive film restoration work we will create a new digital cinema master of the film to screen in cinemas across the country for the 40th Anniversary. The Blu-ray will include the UK theatrical cut, The Director’s Cut and of course The Final Cut, plus lots more!”
The Final Cut won’t include all of the pre-credit mainland sequences, but Hardy himself originally agreed to their removal because the most important scene set in the Church is still there: of Sergeant Howie taking communion.
The 2013 Festival del film Locarno will screen The Wicker Man: 40th Anniversary restoration on Thursday 8th August as part of their homage to Sir Christopher Lee, who will be receiving the Excellence Award Moët & Chandon at the festival.
When asked whether this cut measures up to the fabled original, long version, Robin Hardy puts 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.”
THE WICKER MAN: FINAL CUT is in UK cinemas 27th September 2013 and on DVD/Blu-ray from 14th October 2013
Ltd 4 disc DVD edition & Ltd 3 disc BD edition to include:
The Final Cut
UK Theatrical Cut
The Director’s Cut (seamless branching on BD only)
Making of Audio Commentary
Interview with Robin Hardy (new)
Featurette on the Cult of the Soundtrack (new),
The Wicker Man: 40 years on Featurette (new),
Restoration comparison (new),
Burnt Offering: The Cult of The Wicker Man
Interview with Christopher Lee & Robin Hardy (1979)\