The Wicker Man
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A Note Regarding Spoilers

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for The Wicker Man can be found here.

Sergeant Neil Howie (Edward Woodward) of the West Highland Police travels to the small, isolated Scottish island of Summerisle, famed for their bountiful fruit harvests, to investigate the disappearance of 12-year-old Rowan Morrison (Gerry Cowper). When he arrives, however, no one claims to have heard of Rowan, not even her supposed mother, May Morrison (Irene Sunters). Continuing to dig for information, Howie discovers a school record with Rowan's name on it. The locals suddenly seem to remember Rowan, but their explanations of her whereabouts are bizarre, as are their religious practices, and Howie becomes determined to find out the truth.

Yes, albeit indirectly. The screenplay for The Wicker Man was written by English playwright Anthony Shaffer, who was inspired by David Pinner's 1967 novel Ritual, in which a Christian policeman is called to investigate what appears to be the ritual murder of an eight-year-old girl in the English village of Thorn. The screenplay was subsequently novelized in 1978 as The Wicker Man: A Novel by English film director Robin Hardy, who also directed The Wicker Man. Co-writing credit for the novelization was also given to Shaffer, as Hardy reused much of Shaffer's dialogue from the screenplay. In 2010, a spiritual sequel titled The Wicker Tree was released. It is rumored that Hardy has planned another sequel titled The Wrath of the Gods (no release date), which will complete what is being referred to as The Wicker Man Trilogy. The Wicker Man was remade in 2006, also titled The Wicker Man.

Howie receives an anonymous letter, supposedly from a resident of Summerisle, saying that Rowan has been missing for many months and asking him to come and investigate.

No, Summerisle was made up for the story, despite the credit given at the beginning of the movie to Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee) and his island. However, there is a group of islands, known collectively as Summer Isles, located in The Minch, with access from Ullapool (see map), which is sometimes mistaken for the fictitious Summerisle. The majority of the movie was actually shot in Dumfries & Galloway, much further south in the area of the Solway Firth.

It is not explained in the movie how Lord Summerisle came to choose Sgt Howie, only that he had foreknowledge of Howie's position as a policeman and status as a virgin. In the novelization for the film, the story begins on the mainland, and tells of how, unknown to Howie, he is being stalked by someone wearing a unique pair of running shoes... just like the shoes later worn by Lord Summerisle in the May Day Parade. The islanders stalked him on the mainland for quite some time before sending the fake letter to report Rowan's disappearance.

Sulis (aka Sulis Minerva) is a Celtic mother goddess localized to a thermal spring in Bath, England.

The most generally-accepted reason was that Willow (Britt Ekland) was attempting to test Howie to see if he was really the virgin he claimed to be. It was clear from the anguished look and beads of sweat on Howie's face and his response to the poundings on his bedroom wall that he was fighting off a strong, possibly magically-induced, desire to go to her. Some viewers have pointed out that, if Willow had been successful, Howie would no longer be so 'perfect' as the king and that Summerisle would have to fall back on someone of lesser quality. Others have suggested that Willow was simply acting for her own reasons.

How does the movie end?

Just prior to the May Day parade, Howie ties up MacGreagor (Lindsay Kemp), the innkeeper who is to play Punch the Fool, and steals his costume. So disguised, Howie joins the parade led by Lord Summerisle disguised as the man-woman. The parade winds through town, ending up on the beach where a libation is made to the gods of the sea. Summerisle announces that a more dreadful sacrifice is to be given to the gods who command the fruits of the earth, a horn sounds, and everyone turns to see Rowan tied to a post in front of a cave. Howie leaps forward, cuts Rowan free, and leads her into the cave. Rowan says that she knows a way out. After a brief chase, they emerge on a bluff overlooking the sea where Summerisle, Willow, and Rose (Diane Cilento) stand waiting for them. Howie is stunned when Rowan runs forward and hugs Summerisle, asking him whether she did it right. Howie looks up to see that he is surrounded by locals on the hill above. 'Welcome, Fool,' says Summerisle. 'You have come of your own free will to the appointed place.' He explains that the failure of last year's crop has made it necessary to make a sacrifice to the Sun god and Orchard goddess. In good times, animal sacrifices are acceptable, young children even better, but not nearly as effective as 'the right kind of adult'...a virgin who acts like a king but represents the law and comes to the sacrifice of his own free will. He further explains how the islanders lured him here with claims of a missing child and made him believe that Rowan was going to be sacrificed when it was he they wanted at the time. Against his protests, Howie is stripped, anointed, and dressed in a ceremonial robe. He is then led up the hill to an immense, 'man' made out of wicker, filled with animals, and sitting atop a pyre. Howie is forced into the wicker man, the door tightly closed, and the pyre set on fire. As the fire consumes him, Howie prays to Jesus Christ while the villagers sing. In the final scene, the wicker man's burning head falls off, revealing a blazing sun setting over the water.

Robin Hardy had two wicker men built for the final scene of the film. The first was burnt as seen in the film, and the second one was kept as a back up. It wasn't used.

There are rumors of a black-and-white edition of the film with all nudity removed. With the limited number of prints of this film, it is highly unlikely that such an edition was ever authorized, and it has never surfaced. Although many television screenings edit nude scenes for broadcast, these are not commercially available. Reports of this nature often arise from people who saw a particular movie on a black-and-white television set.

According to this interview with the director (also available on the DVD commentary), the animals were not burned inside the wicker man. 'They weren't in it when it was set on fire, thank god, that was faked, but of course the RSPCA were very concerned and the local villagers were very concerned that we were actually going to burn the animals. Of course, it was very time consuming, because we had to keep getting all the animals down, put them all up again, we built a fire in front of them so there was no danger of them actually being hurt.'

Not a lot more happens - we get to see Howie before he goes on his investigation, and there are some flashbacks of him in the church. 'Willow's Song' is also in a different place in the film, and there is an extra song 'Gentle Johnny' While there may not be many changes, those changes are vital to the feel and message of the film. The addition of the scene with Howie before he goes to the island gives considerable character background and sets the dynamic for the rest of the film. A detailed comparison between both versions with pictures can be found here.

Page last updated by muzilon, 5 months ago
Top 5 Contributors: WinterOfDiscontent, flutterby-7, bj_kuehl, andyg35, hankeegle

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