The Wicker Man is a 1973 British folk horror feature film, directed by Robin Hardy and written by Anthony Shaffer.
Inspired by the basic scenario of David Pinner’s 1967 novel Ritual, the story centres on the visit of Police Sergeant Neil Howie to the isolated island of Summerisle, in search of a missing girl the locals claim never existed. Howie, a devout Christian, is appalled to find that the inhabitants of the island practise a form of Celtic paganism.
The Wicker Man is generally well regarded by critics. Cinefantastique described it as “The Citizen Kane of Horror Movies”, and during 2004 the magazine Total Film named The Wicker Man the sixth greatest British film of all time.
In 2006, an ill-received American remake was released, from which Robin Hardy and others involved with the original disassociated themselves.
In 2011, a spiritual sequel entitled The Wicker Tree was released to decidedly mixed reviews. The film was also directed by Robin Hardy and featured Christopher Lee in a brief cameo appearance.
The Wicker Man is a masterpiece (and is so in all versions). Possibly the finest British horror film – one of the finest British films full stop, come to think of it – it’s a movie that manages to remain as fresh now as when it was first shot, thanks to the fact that it seemed oddly out of time in 1973 – while a contemporary story, there is little here to date it, given that Summerisle is such an isolated, insular and out-of-time community.
While perhaps slow-paced by modern standards, the film still manages to be an intriguing puzzle of a story and one of the few mysteries with a final twist that continues to work on multiple viewings.
David Flint, MOVIES & MANIA
“It is a rather cruel film, only fantastic in its imagery (Jungian rather than Freudian) and in its suggestion that sacrificial rituals are so close to the surface of human consciousness, perhaps in the form of a race memory, that they may erupt again at any time.” Nigel Honeybone, Horror News
“It’s only when Rowan finally appears that the everything falls into place. And it doesn’t matter how many times you see it, or whether you know exactly what to expect (and everyone does) – the look on Howie’s face when he realises what the smiling, dancing islanders have in store for him and his useless screams for mercy and absolution are truly terrifying – and something which stay with you long after the Wicker Man has bowed his head to the setting sun.” Chris Wood, British Horror Films
“Absolute nonsense, of course. And yet it is so persuasively written by the remarkably agile-minded Anthony Shaffer, that few will be able to suppress a shudder as the awful truth finally dawns … an immensely enjoyable piece of hokum, thoroughly well researched, performed and directed.” David McGillivray, BFI Monthly Film Bulletin, January 1974
Cast and characters:
- Edward Woodward … Sergeant Howie
- Christopher Lee … Lord Summerisle
- Diane Cilento … Miss Rose
- Britt Ekland … Willow
- Ingrid Pitt … Librarian
- Lindsay Kemp … Alder MacGreagor
- Russell Waters … Harbour Master
- Aubrey Morris … Old Gardener / Gravedigger
- Irene Sunters … May Morrison (as Irene Sunter)
- Walter Carr … School Master
- Ian Campbell … Oak
- Leslie Blackater … Hairdresser
- Roy Boyd … Broome
- Peter Brewis … Musician
- Barbara Rafferty … Woman with Baby (as Barbara Ann Brown)