Yes, the 2006 The Wicker Man remake was fun; watching Nicholas Cage dress up as a bear and utter the immortal line “Oh no, not the bees, not the bees! Auuuugh! Aglubah my eyes! My eyes! Aaaauuuurrrrgh!” But Robin Hardy’s original The Wicker Man, starring Edward Woodward and Christopher Lee, is actually not only a tremendous horror film but a landmark work in British cinema. The movie follows Sergeant Neil Howie (Woodward) as he investigates the mysterious disappearance of a girl on the remote island of Summerisle. The island turns out to be the haven of a neo-pagan cult led by Lord Summerisle (Lee). Cult members worship strange gods to make sure their fruit harvest is successful, to the horror of the devoutly Christian Howie. It’s a brilliant deconstruction of the world of religion, in addition to just being plain old terrifying. Unfortunately, the original film was brutally cut in editing, and for decades the missing scenes were considered lost.
“I still believe it exists somewhere, in cans, with no name. I still believe that. But nobody’s ever seen it since, so we couldn’t re-cut it, re-edit it, which was what I wanted to do,” said Lee at Brussels Fantastic Film Festival 21. “It would have been ten times as good.” Luckily, after decades of searching, the 82-year-old Hardy has assembled the most complete version of The Wicker Man believed to exist, and it’s this version, appropriately called The Wicker Man — The Final Cut, that is making the rounds in movie theaters. While some footage is still sadly MIA, this is a wonderful opportunity to view an incredibly important piece of film history on the big screen almost as its director intended.