Nowadays, „The Wicker Man“ is widely regarded as a classic horror movie, although this categorization is not fully applicable. It mixes elements of mystery, crime, thriller and even of musicals, the survival horror emerges only towards the end. This bold cross-over of genres made “The Wicker Man” a cult movie, though fans of straight-forward horror might not be too delighted. Furthermore it impresses by its strong atmospheric tension and its excellent cast.
Prior to the theatrical release, the movie was heavily cut and restructured by the British production. Since then, director Robin Hardy tried to publish the original version, but the material was apparently lost. 28 years after cinema release, the new holder of rights Canal+ reconstructed the movie in 2001. Unfortunately they had to rely on material of inferior quality, so the newly integrated scenes are easily recognizable.
Since then there have been several 2-disc editions of this so called „Director´s Cut”, in 2009 even in Germany for the first time ever, with the theatrical version included, too.
Overall the changes in the Director´s Cut can be nailed down to two major points. First off, there is the completely new beginning of the movie that sheds more light on the main protagonist Howie. The other notable scene shows Howie noticing the seduction and sexual intercourse of a minor boy. This entire scene was deleted in the cinematic version and replaced by another scene that should take place far later in the movie. Furthermore there are lots of other cuts that do not have a relevant impact.
To sum things up, the Director´s Cut is more coherent. However the theatrical version can equally build up suspense. Fans will certainly prefer the Director´s Cut, but anyone who does not yet know the movie may as well enjoy the theatrical version.
Comparison between the theatrical version (TV) and the Director´s Cut (DC), both contained in the 2-Disc-Set from Warner Home Video.
Runtime TV including end credits: 1:24:04
Runtime DC including end credits, without production logo: 1:39:28
There are 13 cuts in the TV, at 5 more cuts the TV uses alternative material that may run longer than the DC. The TV is at 3 times longer than the DC without alternative materials. In addition there are 5 other changes.
The CV is 15 minutes, 24 seconds shorter than the DC. All time codes in this report are based on the DC. The cuts relate to the KF, unless stated otherwise. Additional time discrepancy may arise by rounding and/or irrelevant master differences.
In the TV the movie starts directly with the acknowledgement to Lord Summerisle and the islanders. The British Lion production logo is not shown.
10 sec, not counted
Sergeant Howie arrives by seaplane in the harbour, and meets his colleague McTaggert. They pass a wall on which somebody scrawled “JESUS SAVES” and “JESUS LIVES”. McTaggert gives a mocking remark to Howie, but Howie just orders the wall to be cleaned.
They both enter a police car. While driving, Howie asks if anything serious has come up during his absence. McTaggert replies – mocking again – that there was just the usual stuff: rape, sodomy, sacrilege.
Dissolve to a service with Howie participating. At first, the community is singing, then Howie conducts the Eucharist. In the audience one can see his fiancé Mary.
The next morning: A mailman cycles through the street and delivers some letters to the police office. One is for Sergeant Howie from the island Summerisle, apparently with a women´s handwriting. The mailman and McTaggert share some jokes on this, but then Howie enters the building and they fall quiet.
It is an anonymous letter, McTaggert begins reading it aloud. The twelve-year-old Rowan Morrison is to be missing for several months. She couldn´t have left the island alone by herself, and her mother wouldn´t talk about it at all. A picture of the missing is enclosed, too. McTaggert says that he knows of the apples from Summerisle, but that he has never been there. Howie states that there are barely any laws, that there is lots of singing and dancing even on Sundays, customs that he as a Christ strongly disapproves.
The take-off of Howies seaplane was extended in the TV to have more time for the main cast credits. In the DC those were already shown. It ties in from the table of the supporting cast.
TV 21 sec longer
The ribald song about the landlord´s daughter Willow was shortened. The jump on the sound track is easy to notice.
Once more the free space on the wall, where last year´s harvest picture should be hanging. In another shot, the landlord is shown smoking.
When Howie orders an apple for dessert, Willow responds that there are no apples available. Howie is surprised and only in the TV he says off-screen that the island Summerisle is well-known for its apples. This is another early hint to the crop failure that is not given in the DC. However, the famous apples of Summerisle are mentioned earlier on in the DC.
No time difference, screen for reference
Now a scene that is missing in the DC: When Howie looks over the wall, the TV shows a group of people watering a grave. The crying woman that Howie notices afterwards, is then shown in both versions.
TV 3 sec longer
In the inn, the band pitchs a romantic song.
In the TV there is a brief shot of Howie doing some paperwork. Then the following is cut: Howie hears somebody in the garden calling the landlord´s daughter Willow. She appears at her window. It is Lord Summerisle and a teenage boy in the garden, Summerisle calls him a sacrifice to Aphrodite. Willow invites the boy to come to her room. After some more awkward Aphrodite-references, Summerisle wishes her lots of fun, but reminds her that she must be ready for the day after tomorrow – the day of death and rebirth that will have a more serious sacrifice.
When the boy enters the inn, the crowd falls quiet. Then they start singing again. Summerisle is still lurking in the garden, watching some snails mating, and listening to the sounds from Willow´s room. He is talking to himself, about his disapproval of Christian customs. Howie, while trying to pray in his room, is hearing all this. The sounds from Willow´s room are becoming more explicit. Obviously disgusted, Howie lays down on his bed. Then the music and the sounds become silent.
The TV shows some shots of Howie praying and then a cut-back to the church scene (shortened though). This is the first time for the TV to underline Howies spiritual background. Then he notes that Willow passes his door and calls “Sergeant!” Howie lays down on his bed, meanwhile the band pitches a new song downstairs, and the naked Willow starts singing and thumping in rhythm on the wall to Howie´s room. He realizes that he is meant to be seduced by her, he sneaks to the door, opens it, but then shuts it again. Willow is singing more and more unleashed and starts banging on the wall. Howie is obviously tempted, but resists in the end.
This scene does not make too much sense at this early stage of the movie, as Howie should still be completely self-possessed, just like he is in the following scenes. It is meant to be shown later in the movie, when Howie is already loosing his cool, making his reaction more comprehensible.
TV 281 sec longer
Both versions briefly show the maypole, then they are different once more.
In the DC Howie approaches Willow who is cleaning a table in the yard. After some small talk he asks her about the direction of the school. Willow leads him on the right track.
In the TV Howie is still in bed and is awakened by Willow. She asks why he did not follow her “invitation” last night. Howie responds that he is engaged. Willow comments that he will certainly leave the island, he would not want to be around in his condition on May Day. Then she leaves the room. This scene is exclusive to the TV. Whether it was left out from the DC on purpose or was simply forgotten, is unknown.
Difference: TV 24 sec longer
When Howie walks towards the old graveyard after talking to the teacher, two shots are shortened in the TV.
The gardener leaves laughing. This is audible in the TV as well, because the sound was shifted to the next shot of the skin strip.12 sec
Howie meets Doctor Hawthorn in front of his surgery. He asks him if he has signed Rowan Morrisons death certificate. The Doctor confirms that and mentions that these certificates are kept in the town´s office. When Howie asks why Rowan has died, the Doctor reacts unfriendly and leaves inside the surgery.
After digging out the dead rabbit, a dissolve is missing in the TV. Then an organ is shown, the camera pans to the door. When Howie enters the room, the TV ties in.
Howie analyzes the harvest picture of Rowan and concludes that there was a crop failure. The following is cut in the TV: Howie takes the picture out of the water and reasons that in pagan religions a crop failure would be countered by a sacrifice. Then follows a cut-back to Howie´s first meeting with Lord Summerisle. Summerisle speaks about their ways with the natural gods. Howie realizes that there will be a sacrifice (an assumption that could be heard earlier and off-screen in the TV, when Howie studies the harvest picture). Then follows another cut-back to the second meeting of Howie and Summerisle, and the Lord says that Howie certainly will not want to attend tomorrow´s celebration.
When Howie looks at the calendar, the sound track differs. In the TV it is Lord Summerisle´s sentence that was cut just before (Howie will not want to attend the celebration). In the DC, Howie´s thoughts can be heard: “What if she´s not dead?”
No time difference, screen for reference
An exterior view of the inn. Howie lies in bed and thinks once more: “What if she´s not dead?” Then follows the seduction and nude dance of Willow that was already shown in the TV. Here it is longer, though (Willow steps to the window with interlaced fingers, touches a phallus-resembling shaft), and there are some alternative reaction shots of Howie. The TV ties in after the dissolve to the morning sun.
Howie studies the pagan rites in the public library. This is shortened and partially re-arranged in the TV. At first a shot of the harvest picture is cut, with Howie reading further: "[the sacrifice was a human being.] In some cultures it would be the king himself, in others their most beloved virgin. And very often he or she would be kept hidden for months, preceeding the ceremony. Just as the sun is hidden from the Earth in winter."
The TV shows an additional shot of the old woman next to him.
Difference: 12 sec
After Howie thinks “Rowan is not dead!”, the TV shows Rowan´s picture for a very short moment, and then Howie. In the DC, the picture is shown longer, and Howie keeps reading: "Methods of sacrifice differed."
While Howie is still reading on, the TV shows the harvest picture and then Howie. The DC remains on Rowan´s picture.
No time difference
Only the TV shows a shot of the bay and Howie´s sea plane.
TV 3 sec longer
Howie´s search for Rowan is longer in the DC. Some women are sitting in a barbershop drying their hair, others apply bird masks to their faces. Howie examines them grimly, no one says a word. Howie then enters the next house by force and stumbles down a stairway. Two girls are terrified and run away.
Alternative material was used for a brief shot of the captivated barkeeper.
No time difference
Shortly after leaving the cave, Rowan says that it was worse than she remembered. The TV shows a rather distant shot of her and Howie. In the DC though, Lord Summerisle, Willow and the custodian are already shown, thereby giving away the surprise for a little bit.
No time difference
Howie tries to convince the crowd that all what happened was the will of God.
Before displaying the end credits, the sunset is shown longer in the TV.
TV 4 sec longer