The Wicker Man (1973)


Originally posted here as part of MovieRob and Gill’s Genre Grandeur – films set in Scotland.


Another genre grandeur! They come around so quick. Thanks Rob and Gill from WeegieMidget Reviews for suggesting such a great movie genre – films that take place in Scotland.

wicker-man-1973-poster

The Wicker Man is set on the Hebrides, a bunch of islands off the coast of Scotland. A horror / mystery film which is often named as one of Britain’s best horrors. It stars Edward Woodward and Christopher Lee and is directed by Robin Hardy (not really notable for much else I’m afraid to say).

I personally think the film lies more heavily on the ‘mystery’ side than outright horror (even I-Hate-Horror-Movies-MovieRob might enjoy it). It’s best approached as one might approach a particularly good episode of Morse or Columbo. Close the curtains and get comfy up on the sofa like it’s Sunday afternoon even if it’s not and enjoy the intrigue, the dialogue, odd characters and puzzling, unsettling backdrop. Only really the last scene is truly horrific (and really horrific it truly is), though there is still tension and unease in the rest of the film.

The story follows Woodward as Sergeant Howie, a well meaning Christian police officer who flies to the Hebriden island Summerisle to investigate the disappearance of a young girl. Things feel weird as soon as he arrives. The locals are wonderfully eccentric (you can see how later films and even TV shows have taken influence) and the highly religious Howie is quite disturbed to discover the islanders practice paganism – under the influence of their leader, Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee).

Finding the residents of Summerisle secretive and defensive, things get even weirder for poor old Howie as his investigation progresses. Piss taking locals, annoying singing, creepy masks, dead animals, kindly adults quite literally putting frogs in their kids mouths to cure a sore throat. Oh, and a lot of nudity. Quite a lot of hot nudity in fact – Britt Ekland plays the pub landlord’s daughter Willow and she dances around naked quite a bit. Howie is staying at her father’s pub (called The Green Man!) and enjoys a few odd ‘dreams’.

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Christopher Lee predictably steals the show a tad, though Edward Woodward is perfect as the well meaning copper – and you do really like the guy, which only serves to make his fate and the ending even more horrific (and because of that, a lot more memorable). But it has to be said about Lee, I mean he just has that…complete presence doesn’t he. And playing someone as mad, self-assured and deep voiced as Lord Summerisle suits him well. He also sings and dances (and wears a ludicrous wig) with no inhibition at all.
I’ve already mentioned the film has some good dialogue, but the scenes between Howie and Summerisle are particularly good. Howie takes the paganism as somewhat of a personal insult, given his background as a devout Christian.

impregnated-i-believe-by-a-ghost

It’s a film for actual movie fans really I think. Or at least viewers willing to invest their time. Not in a pretentious way at all, I just can’t imagine a bunch of stoned teenagers enjoying it too much. Though the film does conclude with a terrifying scene, it’s not a ‘classic scary movie’ like The Exorcist or Alien. It’s very strange, creepy at times and has an uneasy feel, don’t get me wrong (and the ending seriously never ceases to amaze, I always expect some sort of….intervention, but the intervention never comes). You just have to make sure you get into it, best watched by yourself or with someone like minded. And if you want to watch something whilst you’re stoned, watch the 2006 remake where Nicolas Cage sprints up to someone in a bear costume and punches them in the face (or just watch that one scene on YouTube as the rest of the film sucks).

Now I know Rob likes a bit of film trivia, so let’s end this review with one of my favourite film facts, which is that Christopher Lee named The Wicker Man as his greatest film role and also appeared in the film for free.

“You did it beautifully!” 

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About emmakwall

Films, books, soundtracks, good humour
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27 Responses to The Wicker Man (1973)

  1. The Vern says:

    I watched the Nick Cage Version first before this and the tone of the two are very different. Y ou are right Emma I can’t imagine a bunch of kids watching this at a party. Naked Brit Eklund is always a good thing.

  2. Urspo says:

    This remains a disturbing movie. Over the years of seeing it a few times I grow more aware of its central theme of ignorance surpassing wisdom. I think in this day and age people tend to see ‘pagans’ as ‘good’ while Christians as bad. Yet in this movie paganism is equivalent to superstition and rejection of science. This point gets lost I think. Here is the USA we are seeing far more ignorance/dogma vetoing science and fact – ironically disguised not in paganism but Christianity.

  3. Kevin says:

    Added to my ever growing list of films to see!

  4. stephen1001 says:

    I gather the Radiohead video ‘burn the witch’ was a tip of the hat to this film – throw in Christopher Lee delivering a brilliant (and free!) performance, now I’d definitely like to see it

  5. Seriously good critic on Wicker man. I remember watching it when I was young from behind the settee. I didn’t have a clue what it was about but scared the cr*p out of me. Have you seen the re-make ?

  6. Jay says:

    For free!! Nice one.

  7. CR@B Howard says:

    Great review! Fun, informative and easy to read, you have reminded me it’s been far too long since I last watched this one. May have to plump for the fancy looking anniversary box set…

    Have you checked out Robin Hardy’a belated sequel-of-sorts, The Wicker Tree? It has all the same elements as the original, including nudity and Christopher Lee (though thankfully not nudity from Christopher Lee!!). Hardy always planned a third film to complete the Wicker trilogy but sadly passed away recently.

  8. beetleypete says:

    (I left a comment on the original.)
    As always, you get right to the heart of it. Not a Horror film at all, but a completely unique, very British, crazy-arse drama that defies categorisation. Woodward is solid throughout, and the mad dancing, frequent nudity, and silly outfits give it the feel of a ‘serious’ Carry On film at times.
    Just when it starts to get a teeny bit irritatting, it turns nasty just in time, and presents us with that untypical and unexpected ending. A real classic, in every sense of the word.
    Always good to see you back, honey. You should really try to pop up more often.
    As ever, Pete. XXX+x

  9. mikeladano says:

    Just to mess with people, I tell them I prefer the Nic Cage version. I don’t…but it’s funnier.

    This still one of my favourite movies and yes it’s crazy-ass!

    And yes the genius of it is that only the last scene is horrific. The rest is just edge of your seat tension!

  10. I loved Britt Eklund in this movie! Actually, I’m very tempted to buy it. It is a crazy ass film.

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