Robin Hardy's 1973 "The Wicker Man" was described by Cinefantastique as the "'Citizen Kane' of Horror Film." Total Film named it the sixth-greatest British film of all time. It was even included in the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony in a sequence that paid tribute to British cinema.
But for decades, the thriller starring Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee and Britt Ekland about pagan worshipers on a remote Scottish island has been seen only in truncated versions.
But thanks to a long search conducted via Facebook, "Wicker Man" worldwide rights holder Studiocanal has restored the complete U.S. version, which Hardy describes as "the final cut."
And on Sept. 27, Rialto Pictures will release the new digital restoration in New York with engagements in L.A., Chicago, Washington, D.C., and other cities through the fall.
Despite the film's strong reviews and cult status, "The Wicker Man," adapted by Anthony Shaffer from the book "Ritual" by David Palmer, had been cut by the U.K. distributor in order to fit on double bills. And it was further truncated for U.S. showings in 1979. The original camera negative and outtakes were accidentally destroyed decades ago.
Over the years, some missing scenes have turned up. Then earlier this year, Studiocanal began a Facebook campaign to find missing material, which culminated in the discovery of a 92-minute 35mm print at the Harvard Film Archive.
The film was scanned and sent to Hardy, now 83, in London, and he confirmed it was the version he had originally assembled for American distribution. The digital restoration of the complete U.S. theatrical version"fulfills my vision," Hardy said in a statement.