The Wicker Man title

Tag line : Flesh to touch, flesh to burn. Don't keep the wicker man waiting.

The Wicker ManThis infamous cult classic stars Edward Woodward as a devoutly Christian police officer named Sergeant Neil Howie, who heads over to the remote Scottish island of Summerisle to investigate an anonymous tip about a missing schoolgirl named Rowan Morrison.

Unfortunately the locals seem less than interested in helping, and he quickly realises things aren't quite what they seem. At first the townsfolk deny any knowledge of the girl in question, even the mother denies having a young daughter of that name. But after discovering she was actually enrolled at the local school, everyone switches their story and says that she died some time ago in a fire.

Not convinced, Howie starts poking around to see what the locals are up to and is shocked to discover the people there are all involved in bizarre pagan worshipping practices, which seem to stem from the islands owner, Lord Summerisle (played with unholy relish by Christopher Lee). Dismayed by the lawlessness and immorality that he sees around him, infidelity, public orgies and brawling in bars, he decides to investigate further to see if there are any pagan traditions that may explain where the missing girl is.

Could Rowan still be alive, and just what is Lord Summerisle really up to with the May Day celebrations? Most importantly, can Howie uncover what the ancient pagan ritual with the giant wicker man is meant to be before it is too late?

Touted as being Britain's greatest horror film, this also features appearances by Ingridd Pitt and Britt Eckland (checkout the rather interesting dance she does in the film). But don't go thinking this will be like those old Hammer horror films, this interesting chiller is something entirely different.

Overall marks : 6/10.

Terrifying Trivia.

  • The scenes around the main village were filmed at Dumfries and Galloway in South West Scotland. The actual scene with the Wicker Man were filmed at Burrowhead. The base of the legs still stand to this day, and are a popular tourist attraction for fans of the film.

  • Despite being set in May, the film was actually shot during October.

  • The original cut of the film ran about 100 mins, however EMI cut the film down to 87 mins for its eventual release. This deleted the entire prologue showing Sgt Howie on the mainland, along with several other scenes of him wandering around Summerisle, and moved several key scenes from his second night on the Island to his first night (most notably the "dance" Britt Eckland does in the room next to Howie's). This was done without consulting the original production crew, who were not happy with the finished result.

  • The film was loosely based on the book "Ritual" by David Pinner.

  • The film had a lot of difficulties getting a release first time round in 1972 as producers British Lion, had just been bought by EMI films and the new management weren't impressed with it. It was only after the film was finally screened as a B-movie on a double bill with "Don't Look Now" around London, the film managed to gain notoriety and secure a national release on its own.

  • Whilst the scenes of Britt Eckland's character Willow doing her "dance" in the bedroom were (unmistakably) of her when she is facing the camera. The scenes shot of her from behind were done using a body double.

  • It wasn't until 1976, when the producers attempted to put back together the original 100min cut of the film they discovered that all the original negatives and out-take footage had been accidentally cleared out of the vaults at Shepperton studios and dumped for use as landfill in the nearby M3 motorway. As luck would have it though, US distributor Roger Corman happened to have a full length pre-release print still in his archives, which he'd been sent some years earlier and turned out to be the ONLY original cut of the film still in existence.

  • Director Robin Hardy apparently wanted Michael York for the lead role of Sgt Howie, but producer Peter Snell and writer Anthony Schafner favoured Edward Woodward. As Michael York was unavailable, Woodward got the job.

  • As well as there being a directors cut and shortened theatrical version, there is also a "middle version". Which was the first attempt to reconstruct the original film for the US market. This restores the scenes of Sgt Howie wandering around Summerisle and puts the events from the theatrical version back in their proper order, although the intro scenes on the mainland are still truncated at the behest of the US distributors. This version was released on US video in the 80's, although never released in the UK was shown on BBC 2 as part of their "Moviedrome" season.

  • Christopher Lee agreed to appear in the film for free as the budget wouldn't stretch to his usual fee, and was so impressed with the original script that he wanted the film to succeed.

  • The longer "Directors Cut" wasn't released in the UK until 2000.

  • The film makers got into several angry confrontations with animal rights protestors who believed that they were actually going to burn live animals in the wicker man at the end of the film. The matter was quickly resolved after the director took out an advert in a local paper saying "Only the cute and cuddly animals would be burnt and nothing else".

  • There is a scene in the theatrical version which is not present in the directors cut, in which Willow (Britt Eckland) Brings Howie (Woodward) a morning cup of tea.

  • There were several scenes cut from the film for time/pacing reasons, which have since been lost due to the aforementioned vault clear out at Shepperton studios. These included Howie shutting down a pub on the mainland for serving drinks after hours, questioning one of May Morrisons friends on Summerisle about the missing Rowan, and a longer scene where Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee) explains to Howie the history of the island.

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