Although first viewings of most films should be experienced with as little prior knowledge as possible, few benefit as much from walking in cold as The Wicker Man. Newly restored in a "final cut" that apparently is what the filmmaker originally put together before the distributor trimmed it down for double features, Robin Hardy's cracked 1973 classic feels off from the moment it starts. A cop makes landfall on a Scottish islet named Summerisle to investigate the disappearance of a little girl. Withholding locals frequently break into song, but while there's something corny about the sincerity with which they do so, you can't quite bring yourself to laugh—the folksiness of it all seems menacing. Knowing something is up and knowing just what that is prove to be two very different things for both protagonist and viewer, however, and The Wicker Man is propelled by the thrill of not knowing. Many a film has tried to replicate this wonderfully off-kilter vibe—and a few, most recently Ben Wheatley's Kill List, have come close—but none has quite pulled it off. That the newly restored scenes are largely inessential and could just as well have stayed on the cutting-room floor hardly matters, as any excuse to see Hardy's film on the big screen is a valid one. As for where it's all headed, well, in the words of Lord Summerisle himself, it's a good thing you'll already be seated, for "shocks are so much better absorbed with the knees bent."
Robin HardyEdward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Diane Cilento, Britt Ekland, Ingrid Pitt, Lindsay Kemp, Russell Waters, Aubrey Morris, Irene Sunters, Walter CarrAnthony ShafferRialto Pictures