The Wicker Man is a 1973 British horror film, directed by Robin Hardy and written by Anthony Shaffer. The film stars Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Diane Cilento, Ingrid Pitt, and Britt Ekland. Paul Giovanni composed the soundtrack. The film is now considered a cult classic.
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. Film magazine 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. It also won the 1978 Saturn Award for Best Horror Film. A scene from this film was #45 on Bravo‘s 100 Scariest Movie Moments.
“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
“The Wicker Man is a masterpiece (and is so in all versions). Possibly the finest British horror film – possibly the finest British film 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. And 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, Strange Things Are Happening
In 1989, the film’s screenwriter Anthony Shaffer wrote a script treatment for The Loathsome Lambton Worm, a direct sequel with fantasy elements. Robin Hardy had no interest in the project, and it was never produced.
In 2006, an ill-received American remake was released, from which Robin Hardy and others involved with the original have disassociated themselves.
In 2011, a spiritual sequel entitled The Wicker Tree was released to mixed reviews. This film was also directed by Robin Hardy, and featured Christopher Lee in a cameo appearance. Hardy is currently developing his next film, The Wrath of the Gods, which will complete The Wicker Man Trilogy.
On October 13, 2013, Studio Canal are releasing a three disc Blu-ray set comprising:
Disc 1: “The Final Cut” (HD): the UK theatrical Cut (HD) & the Director’s Cut (HD but with seamless branching to extra scenes in SD only) & audio commentary for Director’s Cut
Disc 2: Extras (TBD)
Disc 3: The Soundtrack
“Visually the film has conviction in many nice small touches, and the islanders seem quite real, they don’t look as if they’ve come from Central Casting. But the ironies are a little too obvious, as both the policeman’s faith and the islanders’ faith are weighed in the balance, and both found wanting. Unlike most films about witches, this one does not suggest that somewhere a genuine Satan is manipulating events (the Devil is never mentioned), or a genuine God, if it comes to that. 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, HorrorNews.net
“Right up until the last few minutes, The Wicker Man isn’t brilliant – it’s a bit cringemaking with its awful songs and Prisoner-like imagery, and everything is a bit jokey. 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