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Wicker Man, The (1973)


The Wicker Man's newest fan art poster...

Genre: Horror Mystery Thriller (UK)

Starring: Edward Woodward (“The Equalizer” • “Callan”),  Christopher Lee (The Man With The Golden Gun Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones)

Directed By: Robin Hardy

Overview: When a policeman goes to a remote Scottish isle to look for a missing girl, he finds a pagan community with secrets in spades.

When police sergeant Howie (Edward Woodward) arrives by seaplane to the remote island of Summerisle in northern Scotland, he calls out to the natives to send him a dingy. They reply quite plainly, “I'm afraid it can't be done, sir! This is private property! You can't land here without written permission!” Howie’s work of finding a missing girl is certainly cut out for him. The residents of Summerisle are not only xenophobic, they’re also pagan and worship in the old way, complete with maypoles and ritual sky-clad dancing. As Howie investigates the missing girl, he finds the residents are far too secretive and suspicious a lot.

They take pride in their costumes

The Wicker Man’s plot is pretty straight-forward, but what sets it apart - what has made it one to earn its place on The List - is the mystery of the island itself. The strangeness of the people who live on Summerisle, whether it’s the nigh-creepy children, the outrageously uncouth pub patrons, or their almost irresponsibly carefree Lord Summerisle (the flagrantly foppish Christopher Lee), that place exudes a feeling of mystery, of something being ‘off’. There’s also a wonderfully unique culture being shown to us throughout Howie’s investigation. Whether it’s finding out why umbilical cords are hanging off trees planted in graves, or elaborate May Day celebration rituals, the things Howie sees while he searches is not your usual cinema. Another other thing that makes The Wicker Man memorable is that climax, which takes a full, compelling half hour to bring us to the credits, and a wonderfully satisfying ending it is.

Lord Summerisle: We're a deeply religious people.
Sergeant Howie: Religious? With ruined churches, no ministers, no priests... and children dancing naked!
Lord Summerisle: They do love their divinity lessons.
Sergeant Howie: [outraged] But they a-are... NAKED!
Lord Summerisle: Naturally! It's much too dangerous to jump through fire with their clothes on!

There are indeed some caveats to note. The Wicker Man is dated, and contains elements that we as a modern audience need to remember in order to fully appreciate. The music, folksy and bright, sometimes crass, sometimes haunting, is noticeably ‘from a time before’. Sergeant Howie may seem fanatical in his Christianity, but The Wicker Man is a film from 1973. Thinking back to that time, it’s a lot easier to imagine him as far more ‘everyman’ than ‘zealot’. But again, the further we are from the world director Robin Hardy created - including the 1973 where it began – the closer we get to a strange and surreal place. Add frequent disrobed frolicking and, well, there’s not much to complain about when it comes to The Wicker Man… except maybe what Nicolas Cage did to it in 2006.

Keep holding out Howie!

Performance: 8 Cinematography: 7 Script: 8 Plot: 8 Mood: 8

Overall Rating: 78% (Sit A Spell On Summerisle)

The venue for this one was a friend’s house with a group that seldom gets together to watch an assortment of films. The Wicker Man was chosen as the ‘good’ and ‘important’ film of the evening, but we were still happy enough to see one another that the occasional wisecrack passed our lips, given that most of us had seen this before. Then, with 30 minutes left, the climax began, and we all just naturally got sucked up into the unfolding tale. We sat there silent and watched The Wicker Man come to an end, engrossed.

Do yourself a favour though – if your version includes a trailer, do NOT watch its spoiler-filled images until AFTER your screening.

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One of my personal favorite horror movies. The ending is almost literary. Is the poster at the top an official poster? Sidenote: Awesome blog. Thanks for turning me onto some new movies. 

I think that poster is a labour of love rather than something official. Sometimes fan art is so much better than the original!

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