The Wicker Man (1973)

wicker man poster 1973 movie
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 10/10
Acting: 9/10
Visual: 9/10

Great crafted horror with strong acting and visuals

Hard to find a good copy of the film

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Wicker Man

Studio:  British Lion Films

Genre(s):  Horror/Mystery/Suspense

Release Date(s):  December 6, 1973 (UK)/August 7, 1974 (US)

MPAA Rating:  R

wicker man edward woodward

Any normal person coming to this island:
“Haven’t seen Rowan? I’m out…”

A girl named Rowan Morrison (Gerry Cowper) has been reported missing, and Sergeant Neil Howie (Edward Woodward) has traveled to the remote island of Summerisle to investigate the reports.  There he finds a pagan society which worships Celtic gods and the land, and Howie can’t get a straight answer on what happened to Rowan.  Howie’s Christian upbringing contradicts with the teachings of the island’s leader Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee) and finds the overt sexuality and archaic behavior he believes can be tied to the Rowan’s disappearance.  As the celebrated May Day festival approaches, Howie’s chances of finding out what happened to Rowan are running out.

Directed by Robin Hardy, The Wicker Man is a horror film.  It adapts the 1967 novel Ritual by David Pinner.  The movie was critically acclaimed upon its release and has continued to gain a cult following over the years.  The movie has sometimes been referred to as “The Citizen Kane of horror” and the final moments of the film often place on the “Best of” lists for horror and suspense.

wicker man britt ekland wall dance

I LOVE this wall!!!

For years, I had heard of The Wicker Man, but due to the subject matter and many of the scenes, I never saw it run on regular TV.  Finally I found a copy and watched it…I expected a horror film with more graphic scenes, but instead it is a well-crafted suspenseful somewhat sexual thriller.

The biggest problem with The Wicker Man is that there are a ton of different versions of the film.  The movie was hacked up merciless for most U.S. versions (this is the version I saw).  In losing often five to ten minutes, the movie’s flow is all messed up.  The movie is a very minstrel and suspense based film, and the atmosphere is the primary built through the oddness of the Summerisle.  Take a few scenes out, and the suspense is taken away.

wicker man lord summerisle christopher lee edward woodward

I’m a bad guy? No way!

The movie is aided by two great actors.  Edward Woodward (who is mostly known to American audiences from his TV series The Equalizer) is perfect as the tormented investigator.  While his religion blinds him through most of the film, it is the only thing he has at the end of the film.  Christopher Lee has called his role in this film his favorite role and while Summerisle could be seen as totally insane, he’s given a real rounded character.  The movie is also peppered with tons of strange behaving islanders which includes a bigger role by Bond girl Britt Ekland as a temptress for the virginal Howie.

The movie looks and sounds fantastic…regardless how badly edited the version you see is.  The movie is almost a bridge between horror and musical with a lot of song and dance.  The scene in which Ekland is trying to seduce Woodward through the wall of his hotel room is a perfect combination of camera work and sound.  It is creepy and sexual at the same time.  This is just a great example of how the film treads the line between the genres and creates an interesting piece of work.

wicker man ending burning sacrifice

These guys do know how to party!

*****Spoiler Alert***** You can’t talk about The Wicker Man without talking about its shocking ending.  As Howie investigates Rowan’s disappearance, he decides she is to be sacrificed as part of the May Day celebration to ensure the crop’s success.  It turns out however, he is the sacrifice and that he was drawn to the island due to his proper religious upbringing (a greater sacrifice for greater crop yields).  As he’s placed in the wicker man and burned for the harvest, he warns people that God is with him, and Summerisle will be proven wrong.  There is a great moment in this exchange where you see Christopher Lee have a moment of doubt in himself and that is part of what makes the film…that other tons of great moments.

See The Wicker Man…if you are a fan of horror, it is a must.  Robin Hardy released a final cut version recently which restores the scenes he intended to be in the film (though rumors of more missing scenes continue to circle The Wicker Man legend).  The movie was the unfortunate victim of one of the worst movies (and definitely one of the worst remakes) in 2006 starring Nicholas Cage and Ellen Burstyn.  Hardy has plans for a trilogy for the series and the movie has a semi-sequel in the 2011 film called The Wicker Tree.

Related Links:

The Wicker Tree (2011)

The Wicker Man (2006)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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