Anchor Bay’s two-disc special edition treatment of the title, meanwhile, is flat-out superb, at least with regards to the extras. The transfer of the 1.85:1 widescreen presentation unfortunately suffers lots of bad color matches, as well as some grain, and ghosting in grey areas. Additionally, while the theatrical version of the film comes with Dolby digital 5.1 surround and Dolby digital stereo 2.0 audio tracks, the extended version is weighed down by a sub-par mono track. Furthermore, there are no optional subtitles, which makes the thick brogue difficult to parse, even when cranked up to holy hell.
A pleasure, then, that the supplemental material at least presents a properly robust and contextualized portrait of the title. As mentioned, two different cuts of the movie are included herein — the 88-minute theatrical version, and a 99-minute extended version. The differences between and reasons behind these differing versions are intricately parsed in an extremely interesting audio commentary track on the latter cut, with director Robin Hardy and lead actors Woodward and Lee. Hardy actually lost 20 cans (!) of completed film after the shoot, and Lee expounds upon his own rich conspiracy theory that involves several of the producers and the movie’s original distributor. Essentially, there’s less religiousity and character background in the shorter version, which robs the movie of some of its three-dimensionality. Another interesting bit of trivia: scripter Schaffer apparently lifted Sir Walter Raleigh’s gallows speech for the film’s much-discussed finale. (I guess that’s public domain…) Oh, and Ekland had butt and voice doubles for her own, much-discussed attempted seduction of Woodward’s Howie. The front, though? That’s all her.
A superlative behind-the-scenes/retrospective featurette anchors the first disc, meanwhile, featuring interviews with Woodward, Lee, Hardy, Shaffer, actress Ingrid Pitt, producer Peter Snell, U.S. distributor John Simon, filmmaker Roger Corman, art director Seamus Flannery and many others. TV and radio spots, the theatrical trailer and 11 minutes of rarely seen footage round things out, along with obligatory talent bios. B (Movie) A- (Disc)