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A cult film about cult practices...
united10019 September 2003
The best British horror film ever made? Probably, yes. The best horror film ever made? No. The best occult thriller ever? Quite possibly.

The film was in part conceived as a vehicle for Christopher Lee to get away from his Hammer roles and give him a chance to demonstrate that, yes, he could actually act. Perversely, however, the film is in many ways homage to the films produced by the Hammer studio and is at the same time their antithesis.

Although Lee's Lord Summerisle was certainly a stronger character than his Hammer caricatures, and was suitably sincere and sinister, it was left to Edward Woodward's bumbling, pious Highland Police Sergeant to carry the film.

The rest of the cast are not as strong as the two central characters. Famously, it was always suggested that Britt Ekland's voice was overdubbed for the entire film. Robin Hardy has now denied that, stating that only her singing was dubbed. Even if the other actors' performances fail to match those of Woodward and Lee, somehow, it doesn't detract from the film.

Almost as famous as The Wicker Man itself are the stories surrounding the film. The version first released was almost completely butchered from an original, almost grandiose cut of 102 minutes to a more concise 87. Christopher Lee has always maintained that this was a crime against the greatest piece of art with which he had ever been involved. The original negatives were then accidentally thrown out!

When a fuller version finally surfaced in 2001, Lee's contentions were (at least in part) proved. The film was overall improved, and save for a couple of points of rather clumsy editing (the flashbacks Edward Woodward has as the penny drops spring to mind) and the pointless scenes before the flight to the island, it ran more smoothly and made more sense.

The film's greatest asset comes through in whichever version you actually see. The eerie sinister atmosphere never fails to be conveyed. Somehow, the fictitious Scottish island setting of Summerisle, which could so easily turn twee at any moment steers clear of the territory occupied by Brigadoon or the now happily deceased BBC TV drama 'Monarch of the Glen'.

The setting's remoteness, which could have been its worst enemy, is actually its greatest ally.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the film, however, is the way that it steadfastly refuses to fit precisely into any genre. It is all at once a horror, a thriller and even a musical! Unbelievably, these things come together and fit into the film.

The music in The Wicker Man is unique, always adding just the right tone of eeriness or bawdiness to proceedings. A strange mix of elements including traditional folk music, it's as innovative and interesting as the soundtracks to Blade Runner, or The Virgin Suicides. The opening title sequence to the tune of Corn Rigs succeeds in transporting you with the plane over the remote coastal peninsulas and out into the Irish Sea towards Summerisle.

My only criticism of the film (and I really am nitpicking here) is the way it goes about establishing Sergeant Howie's Christianity. I can't conceive of the Howie character adhering to any religion other than one of the obscure forms of Presbyterian Protestantism practised in parts of the Highlands of Scotland. These scenes contain an apparent reverence for the sacraments that appears more Catholic in nature. This distinction in religious backgrounds is important to understanding Howie's attitudes. Nevertheless, I am truly nitpicking when I make this criticism!

But what ultimately makes this film is its ending. Without giving the game away for those who have not yet seen the film, it is inevitable, and yet wholly unexpected when it finally comes.

The Wicker Man would be a classic of its genre - if it had a genre. Instead, it has to be ranked as a classic film.
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Creative, entertaining and tragic. A beautiful picture.
Snake-66627 September 2003
‘The Wicker Man' follows the story of Sgt. Howie (Edward Woodward) who travels to the Scottish island of Summerisle to investigate the disappearance of a young girl. However, the entire population of the island, including the girl's own mother (Irene Summers), denies that such a girl ever existed and as the righteous Howie investigates further he learns the terrifying truth of Summerisle.

Famed for an exceptional yet short performance from the legendary Christopher Lee as Lord Summerisle, ‘The Wicker Man' is a textbook example of how to create a virtually seamless horror/thriller. Director Robin Hardy at one point thought this low-budget movie would never be made as he was forced to work with a very small budget, a short shooting schedule and a studio on the verge of bankruptcy that was in fact declared bankrupt just a few short months after filming was completed. However, ‘The Wicker Man' was made and nowadays is accepted as one of the finest horror/thrillers of all-time despite not receiving the praise it so deserved back in the Seventies. ‘The Wicker Man' was brilliantly written by Anthony Shaffer who chose to add very subtle clues as to what would happen that are made more apparent on further viewings. With the added advantage of obvious research into the pagan rituals ‘The Wicker Man' sought to portray the movie is left with a chilling feel of realism.

An enchanting soundtrack is blended marvellously into ‘The Wicker Man' which seems to lull the viewer into a false sense of security. Despite the constant foreboding feeling created by the intricate plot and top notch acting, there is a certain playful feeling that is brought about by the elegant soundtrack making it difficult to actually envisage any evil events occuring. One could be forgiven for wondering on a first viewing just where this bizarre little movie is going but the story has a quality about it that can grab the viewer and keep their interest all the way to the bitter and awfully haunting ending. The final scene as the credits roll is an image that is now engrained on my mind with all its emptiness and despair. As the curtain falls on this performance (so to speak) it becomes hard not to question the events leading up to the end and the humanity of these islanders. In some ways ‘The Wicker Man' is an unsettling history lesson that makes itself seem all too real.

Edward Woodward gives a tremendous performance as the increasingly baffled Sgt. Howie. He played his character convincingly and Howie's eventual realisation of what is going on around him is portrayed so well that it adds more realism to the movie. Woodward was able to take a character that may be a figure of loathing in another type of horror movie and make the audience feel empathy towards him. The strong religious beliefs within Howie thoroughly clash with the free-loving pagan society which adds humour and distress at the same time. However, as mentioned before, Christopher Lee somehow stole the show playing the relatively small part of Lord Summerisle. His magnificent onscreen presence seems so powerful that one forgets that he is only in the movie for a short amount of time. Added to this great mix was Britt Ekland as Willow, the beautiful landlord's daughter. Her seductive, nude dance (though a double was apparently used in parts) was one of the most erotic moments in horror and helped to contribute further realism to the movie. The scenes featuring the clashing characters of Howie and Willow are both amusing and tense making for some interesting character interaction.

‘The Wicker Man' is undoubtedly a cult classic of the horror genre which I recommend to all fans of horror/thrillers. Visually pleasing with some superb acting and direction as well as a fine screenplay. My rating for ‘The Wicker Man' – 9/10.
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Beware Shortened Versions
drednm26 November 2005
On an island off the Scottish coast is a very strange community that Sgt Howie (Edward Woodward) ventures to in search of a missing teenaged girl. On landing he is astonished to find that the crowd of old men has never heard of the girl. His quest will be stranger yet.

The island is "ruled" by Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee) who is the descendant of a scientist who introduced exotic cultivars of fruits and re-introduced druidic or pagan beliefs. As the island prospered with its exported fruits the paganism became more deep rooted. The Sgt finds more and more mystery as he continues his quest for the girl.

Pitting Christianity against early pagan druidic rituals is just one of the intellectual pleasures of this cult film. As the local teacher (Diane Cilento) tells the Sgt, it's easier for a child's mind to understand reincarnation than resurrection. It gets them past all those rotting bodies.

Part mystery story, part horror, The Wicker Man blends several genres into one fascinating film. The May Day Festival is a throwback to pagan rites of a thousand years ago (a bit of which continues today in Morris dancing) and are a highlight of this film. The bizarre procession to the sea to offer sacrifices to the sea gods and sun god is historically accurate and sets up a surprise ending not to be forgotten.

Woodward is splendid as the pompous officer who clings to his religion. Lee is terrific as the eccentric lord. Cilento is a hoot as the teacher. Britt Ekland is the landlord's daughter Willow and Ingrid Pitt is the librarian. Blending folk and Enya-like music (by Paul Giovanni), director Robin Hardy creates a bawdy pagan world in the midst of the 20th century. The Celtic symbolism (Nuada the Sun God) is beautiful and helps set the tone.

A visual treat with great music, this film really gives the viewer something to think about. Highly recommended.
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Chilling insight into ancient paganistic rituals, slightly chipped
xander-25 January 1999
The bizarre and chilling tale of a fool chosen to be king for a day.

The shocking denouement of this film has stayed with me for many years, far longer than scenes or images from more famous films. A classic of its kind, it deserves the re-release it will probably never get.

Superficially a mystery thriller, this intelligent and well researched story delves into the beliefs and rituals of Ancient Britain, its folk mythologies and music, and reveals some of the un-settling fears that lie at their root. Set on a remote Scottish Island and giving the appearance of being a Whisky Galore, Local Hero type community, there is yet something off-centre about the townspeople that Edward Woodward, as Sergeant Howie, has come to investigate. The presence of Christopher Lee as the eloquent, commanding Lord of the Isle, gives the film an insidiously creepy edge suggesting a Hammer Horror lurks around the next wee wall. He is perfect in the role.

The story un-folds like a cross between Chinatown and Rosemary's Baby, as the dogged Howie gets led all over town, up one blind alley and down another. Clues are dropped all the way about what is really going on, but we don't heed them. Until it's too late. Too late to walk away.

The standard video version runs for 85 minutes, cuts many important scenes and shows others out of sequence. A BBC version shown in 1998 ran around 95 minutes. The full version ran 102 minutes but I have never found it.

However, whilst uneven in parts and certainly flawed this is one of the most intelligent and interesting stories I have ever seen on film. See it yourself and you too will have many meetings with 'The Wicker Man', in your dreams, in the dark, where you cannot escape.
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A quite unique Pagan-mystery-horror-thriller
James Macleod31 December 2004
A quite unique and very creative mystery horror.

Superb acting from Edward Woodward as the prim Seargant Howie, and Christopher Lee as Lord Summerisle. Fascinating from start to finish and a real twister of a plot that keeps you hooked right until the final twenty minutes, what appears at first sight to be an innocent search for a missing girl turns into a fascinating exploration of pagan rituals on a remote and sex obsessed Scottish island.

One of the best elements of the film is the classic early 70's folk soundtrack which gives indication of how the era in which this was filmed influenced the subject matter.

Definitely not a 'horror' in the true sense of the word, but more mysterious and chilling than any gore-fest. A quality piece of cinema!
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A film that you never forget - a genuine cult classic.
tonypendrey15 August 2000
There is an enormous amount of interest in this film, and rightly so.

It defies a low budget production to deliver that rarest of things in film - atmosphere.

The apparently simple plot-line belies a truly astonishing climax. I have seen this film reduce an entire cinema audience to stunned silence on several occasions.

Edward Woodward gives a performance of such understated power it is difficult to envisage anyone else in the role of Sgt. Howie.

The whole production just weaves its magic spell - music - location - cinematography and direction all combine into a masterpiece.
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The most original and haunting British horror movie EVER. Fascinating, chilling, and utterly unique.
Infofreak17 August 2003
I've been fascinated by 'The Wicker Man' ever since I first saw it on TV in the late 1970s. I was very young then and probably didn't completely understand it, but I knew immediately that it was a very special movie, unlike anything I'd ever seen before. Twenty five years, and literally thousands of movies later, I think even more highly of it, especially now that I'm able to see the cut available on the 30th Anniversary DVD, which is over fifteen minutes longer than the version I already own on video. And, yes, 'The Wicker Man' is still unlike any other movie I've ever seen. I think this is mainly down to the brilliant script by Anthony Shaffer, who also wrote 'Sleuth' and Hitchcock's 'Frenzy'. There hasn't been anything made remotely like it since. I think it's the greatest British horror movie ever made, but the description "horror" only gives you half the story. It's also a thriller, a mystery, a Christian morality tale, and in a weird way, a musical. Christopher Lee regards it as the best movie he's ever been involved with, and describes it as one of the three or four greatest movies ever made in Britain, and I agree with him. Lee is very good in the movie as the enigmatic Lord Summerisle, but Edward Woodward is the real star. Woodward is best know for his TV work, as either 'Callan' or 'The Equalizer', depending what generation you're from, but he's superb as the deeply religious Sgt. Howie. Apparently Peter Cushing was initially suggested for the role, as was Michael York, but I really can't imagine either of then being half as good as Woodward is. The supporting cast are all superb - Diane Cilento as the school teacher, famous mime Lindsay Kemp as the publican, and especially Britt Ekland as the publican's daughter Willow. Ekland's seduction dance scene is the second most famous scene in the movie. She claims her speaking voice was dubbed throughout , director Robin Hardy disputes this, though her singing voice certainly was, and she used a (ahem) butt double. I also get a kick out of Aubrey Morris' graveyard scene. Morris is a great Brit character actor and was also in 'A Clockwork Orange', Hammer's 'Blood From The Mummy's Tomb' and sci fi trash classic 'Lifeforce'. Another Hammer alumni Ingrid Pitt ('The Vampire Lovers', 'Countess Dracula', etc.) is also in the cast as a librarian, but sadly in underused. Still, I'm glad she was involved. Inexplicably some people seem to hate this movie. I can't for the life of me understand why. It's utterly brilliant, utterly unique, and I never tire of watching it. If you've never seen it before I envy you! It's a cliche, but believe me, you have never seen anything like it before!
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Brilliantly realized but not for all tastes
capkronos12 May 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Edward Woodward (later star of "The Equalizer" TV series) is a devoutly religious police inspector who travels to the small island of Summerisle to investigate the disappearance of a young girl. There's a cover up to the girls whereabouts by the entire community and he finds himself equally appalled by their free-living lifestyle...simple pleasures which include drinkin', singin', swingin' sex...and pagan human sacrifice. The title refers to a giant wooden idol necessary for climactic May Day ceremony.

THE WICKER MAN opens fairly slowly (and some complain it has too many musical numbers), but after the first pub scene it becomes suspenseful, creepy (without a stitch of violence) and brilliantly atmospheric, creating a seemingly authentic (and unusual) society not dependent on standard moral or religious codes. It's safe to say that the strong and unflinching religious subject matter in this film carries with it the potential to infuriate Christians and Catholics. It's also extremely ironic that this same close-minded worldview is perfectly reflected in the bullheaded lead character, and also helps to seal his fate. Not that the pagans in this film aren't equally unwavering in their beliefs, but the "power of in numbers" philosophy rings true here. Imagine a small place in this world NOT adversely affected by standard organized religion and you get the gist of Summerisle.

If you want gore, you won't find any here. If you can't go into this film with an open mind, you simply won't appreciate what it has to offer. And if you are looking for a standard horror film you may be disappointed (or you may be like me and be pleasantly surprised). The ending is simultaneously chilling and oddly amusing. Both Woodward and Christopher Lee (with great hair) as Lord Summerisle are excellent in their roles.

Much censored over the years, try to avoid any version running under 94 minutes.

Score: 9 out of 10
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Involving and intelligent thriller
pooch-821 January 1999
Years before Edward Woodward gained a measure of fame in the States as TV's Equalizer, he portrayed a dogged police detective poking around a remote Scottish island in search of the truth about a missing girl in Robin Hardy's The Wicker Man. His performance here is easily one of his best -- in order for the unbelievable and unthinkable story to succeed, Woodward must convince us that all of the unnerving events that take place throughout the movie are entirely plausible. He certainly convinced me, and I have never been able to forget the traumatic, harrowing conclusion of the film. Christopher Lee, Britt Ekland, Ingrid Pitt and the rest of the cast provide perfect counterpoint to Woodward's analytical outsider.
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Questioning your belief system
Stefan Kahrs3 February 1999
Warning: Spoilers
It is somewhat strange that some of the best British films of all time are not very well known outside movie-buff-dom. The Wicker Man is certainly one of them (another is Get Carter).

The Wicker Man is not just technically very well made, with an excellent cast, a glorious cinematography and a gripping script, it goes beyond that. It is one of those rare treats that manage to question your belief system. It lures you into a foreign system of beliefs, it seduces you into sympathising with an act that is - legally speaking - a murder.

It is impossible to categorize the film into a genre. Some have described it as a horror film, which in a strict sense is completely wrong as there are no shock elements here, no gore whatsoever, and just one killing; but in a more relaxed sense this is not such a bad characterisation after all, because the film uses the language of horror films, e.g. permanently hinting at that something mysterious and horrific is going on. Similarly flawed are characterisations as a fantasy film (nothing supernatural) or sci-fi (no science), but the film takes a little bit each from the flavour of these genres.
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"It's much too dangerous to jump through fire with their clothes on."
bensonmum28 May 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I'll try to keep this short as I've always found it difficult to write about a movie I genuinely love. Give me a bad movie and I'll write for days, but with a brilliant film like The Wicker Man, I'm at a loss for words. If it's possible, I enjoy The Wicker Man more and more with each successive viewing. I notice things each time I see the movie that I never noticed before. It may be something as insignificant as a small piece of set decoration or a look that one character gives another, but they all add to the overall enjoyment I get out of this movie. And regardless of the number of times I've seen The Wicker Man, that final scene has lost none of its power. The images of Sergeant Howie being led off to face his destiny are some of the best I've seen in any movie. It's the kind of moment that you don't easily forget. As I said, it's powerful stuff.

I just checked to see who won the Academy Award for Best Actor for 1971. Don't misunderstand because Gene Hackman is good in The French Connection, but there are very few performances that I feel compare with Edward Woodward in The Wicker Man. People in movies like The Wicker Man don't generally get recognized for awards, but they should. It's a fantastic performance. Every moment, whether it's what I call The Seduction of Sgt. Howie to The Indignation of Sgt. Howie to The Martyrdom of Sgt. Howie, Woodward expresses more emotion and conveys more feeling than most actors are capable of. Whether you like the character or not, it would be difficult to deny how effective Woodward is.
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Exceptional but NOT a horror film
preppy-328 September 2004
A police sergeant (Edward Woodward) goes to a remote island near Scotland hearing that a young girl is missing. When he gets there it seems no one has ever heard of her...and most say she never existed. He continues to search and the mystery gets deeper and deeper leading up to a very disturbing conclusion.

I saw this during it's theatrical reissue in 1980--it was the cut 88 minute version. I was disappointed. It was advertised as a horror film and the edited version leaves gaping plot holes. I just saw the extended version on the DVD and loved it!

For one thing, as I said, it is NOT a horror film. I went in expecting that and didn't get it. It's actually a thriller with strong religious and sexual overtures. There's WAY too much to get into about the religious views in this film, and the sexual element is STRONG! There's a whole circle of nude young women dancing around a fire, and an exceptional sequence in which a very erotic song is sung by a nude Britt Ekland. The mystery itself is fascinating but I really got caught up in the religious and social aspects presented in this film. Credit writer Anthony Shaffer for his script.

Also the acting is great on all counts. Woodward deserves credit for playing such an unlikable character--and STILL getting you to sympathize with him! Also Hammer stars Christopher Lee and Ingrid Pitt (whose part is brutally reduced in the short version) are just great! For one thing it's interesting to see them playing fairly "normal" people (instead of vampires) and they give out excellent performances. Lee especially is enjoying himself--he did the film for free! To this day he said it's his best movie--he's right.

An excellent, haunting thriller but it might be too much for some people. There's next to no blood or violence, but I do know some people who just found the ending a bit too much to handle. Still, it's a definite must-see.

A deserved cult classic.
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Poorly paced but worthy seeing for the ending
bob the moo14 November 2003
Drawn to a small Scottish Island by a letter pleading for help in finding a kidnapped girl, Sergeant Neil Howie realises that things are very different from life on the mainland. He begins to suspect that Rowan's disappearance may be part of a ritual to appease the nature gods worshipped on the island.

Well known now as one of the best British horror cult movies (one critic called it `the Citizen Kane of British horror') this film still stands today as new generations discover it's ending and fall in love with that. Sadly, most people know the ending before they have actually seen the film, which, in my mind, greatly takes away from the film's impact. For that reason I will make no mention of the ending's detail suffice to say that it works very well and actually raises the rest of the film.

The main body of the film sees Howie hunting for the missing girl and finding that things are not as simply as he originally thinks. The film comes across as a sort of spiritual musical for the most part and doesn't really bring out the tension or suspicions until near the end. The downside of this is that parts of the film appear slightly dull or meandering. I did get a little tired with the overuse of naturalist religious images but I accept that they were necessary for the story to be built.

The cast are very good. Lee was happy to do a film that brought him away from the camp Hammer horror mould into which he had been set. His Lord Summerisle is an image of cold, religious zealotry – terrifying in his portrayal of evil as part of `the right thing'. Woodward is also cast against type as he was a harder man in much of his work rather than a pure upright type. Ekland is good but is dubbed the whole way through the film to give her a Scottish accent in place of her own distinctive Swedish one. Of the cast it is Lee and Woodard who carry the film – their scenes together work well and they also carry the opposing moral weights of the story.

Overall this is a film that has had a reputation built on it's ending, and for that it is well deserved. However for the majority of the film the pacing is a little off and I felt that the songs slowed the film down too much. Overall the film works due to it's set-up and payoff, however it's delivery as a total film is not as good as it's reputation would have you believe.
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An misunderstood cult classic that became a legend (9/10)
djhaircutboy6 September 2004
Warning: Spoilers
(***Possible Spoilers...***)

Anyone reading the various posts on the comments page can read the plot so I won't bother with that...

Instead what I have to note about people's views on The Wicker Man (in general as well as on IMDb) is that the film is so easily misunderstood. At face value I can understand that people are disappointed with what they presumably expected to be a straight horror film. However, this film is the best kind of film... a 'grower', one that the more you delve into it and learn about it sucks you in and enthralls you more and more. It's true that the film suffered many set backs during both production and post-production (for instance attempting to shoot a film about the may day festival in the middle of Autumn - a lot of the tree blossoms in the film had to be 'stuck on') but it's this which gives it that unfulfilled potential and quirky charm that allows it a cult status. The script is brilliant and the acting (Britt Ekland aside) is valiant, especially considering most of the locals were indeed actual, untrained locals. It really is Christopher Lee's best role (he delights in mocking his own previous roles whilst delivering an all together more sophisticated performance than in any of those hammer horror parts).

In fact, The Wicker Man is mislabeled as a 'horror' film, it's unclassifiable (why people are so obsessed with trying to classify it I have no idea)... its more like a play than a film really, but then what would you expect from the writer of "Sleuth"?

What really gets me, however, about the film, which so many people seem to miss (or choose to miss) is that its a perfect satire of the time it was made. Depending on which side of the fence they fall, people seem to disagree upon whether the islanders are the good guys or Sgt. Howie is, whether it is a film celebrating Christianity or paganism. Truth is and the point is its neither.

The early seventies (post summer of love, hippy revolution etc.) was a time of increased freedom of thought and action all over the world especially in the USA and Europe. More and more people at this time were rejecting Christianity and I guess what you could call 'orthodox' religion. The seventies saw a significant rise in the number of people dabbling in what they would call Pagan spirituality (although I'm sure true pagans would complain that they were merely following a trend and had no true belief at all) as a opposed to that of God. Personally I'm an agnostic and do not like to judge any followers of any kind of faith, but this whole film is a well constructed diatribe about the follies of any kind of organised worship. The whole movie is peppered with endless similarities between the pagan worship and that of Christianity. Christopher Lee as Lord Summerisle is constantly pointing these out to Edward Woodward. It's Howie's closed mindedness and complete rejection of the Islanders right to a different faith that leads to his doom, however as he learns from Lord Summerisle himself, the only reason the pagans worship so on the island is because his late great grandfather used it as a way of controlling the workers that first lived there. The reason for the bountiful fruit crops growing on Summerisle is down to volcanic soil on the island, the pagan religion was merely carried on as a kind of tradition. At the end (SPOILER WARNING...) Howie shouts something along the lines of to Summerisle:

"What will happen if the crops fail again this year? They'll have to use the next best sacrifice and only the Lord of Summerisle himself will do..."

…pointing out that Summerisle's lie will end up with his own demise. The point of view of the film is that rejecting one faith and merely replacing it with a closed minded fanaticism of another however different makes you just as chained and no gives you no more freedom of thought or action.

The screenplay is wonderful, detailed and purposefully leaves you at odds as to who's side you should be on. As in life, it's not a clear cut affair. Still, amazing film and I personally wouldn't want it to be perfect because discovering it, laughing along with it and at it and being chilled by is all part of its charm.
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The Wicker Man in my back yard!
alan_bonsor27 January 2006
Since first seeing this film way back in the mid seventies as an 18 year old it has remained one of my favourite ever since. As a normal teenager I have to confess my first attraction was the promise of seeing Britt Ekland wearing nothing but a smile. However on viewing this spiritually haunting film I was fascinated by its pure originality. Having been to many of the locations before its production I felt almost as if I were part of it. I live less than 10 miles from Culzean Castle (home of Lord Summerisle), and know Kirkcudbrightshire very well indeed. I have stood on the very cliff at Burrowhead and watched the sun dip into the sea. Living as I do in relatively close proximity to many of the locations I am looking forward a visit this summer to Plockton on the western mainland opposite the Isle of Skye and to explore and soak up the atmosphere of the place. I feel I would be safe from a similar fate which was bestowed upon the unfortunate Sergeant Howie as I cannot be a true Christian as I would not have been so hesitant in nipping in to see Willow next door in the Green Man!!! I would not have been invited to the great cliff top barbecue.
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Unique and Memorable
jane_dont20 June 2007
Warning: Spoilers
"The Wicker Man" is a great movie. Not only is it an original subversion of the genre conventions of typical "horror" films, but it also subtly incorporates themes much wider than the narrative. The film starts of as Detective Sergeant Howie (Edward Woodward) arrives on a picturesque Scottish island after receiving an anonymous letter telling him that a young girl has been missing for months, so he sets out to find her. But he finds the locals of Summerisle to be uncooperative, and their behaviour - particularly their neopagan religious practices - bizarre and sinister. The film seems to have sparked debate between Pagans and Christians on the board as to which theology the film is advocating, or whether it is scornful to both, but I don't think this really features. "The Wicker Man" is a film with no apparent political or strong ideological agenda, and as such it raises more questions than answers. The films rejection of genre markers adds to the neutrality of the way it treats its subjects. This could be in reference to Pagan tradition itself. Whereas Christian teaching suppresses the parts of human nature it finds dark or impure, the sort of beliefs depicted embrace their animalism and celebrate everything that is innate to human beings in their role as part of nature. Sounds fair enough, but in the ending scenes when the animalism of humanity, or "nature", is laid bare in all its brutality, the result is disturbing and abhorrent. Despite the moral neutrality of human nature, in most people there is a desire for purity and goodness. Part of the irony of the human psyche is that there are instincts and behaviours clearly "natural" - things we were born to be - that are too dark to be embraced or even really accepted by sane people. Woodward's character can be seen as somewhat dour and closed minded, but in the end his adversaries prove his suspicions correct, and the islanders simply come across as sick...forks. In a similar vein, the film plays up the similarities between Christianity and Paganism, yet never quite derides or exalts the concept of Faith. It is faith that seals Detective Howie's fate, but at the same time faith that lends it some dignity. The contrast is enhanced by the setting of the film. Summerisle is at first glance a normal village, and its inhabitants look normal. But the details build up a dreamlike surrealism and confusion - on Summerisle, everyday concepts such as school, church, medicine, childhood and social interaction are subverted from mundane to glaringly abnormal. This gives a disconcerting sense of what it might have felt like when the first Christians set foot in Pagan Britain, and of the subjective nature of normality. By placing a conventional man as the outsider to a strange community, the film creates an empathy with the outsider, contravening the usual character "roles" in Horror. "The Wicker Man" is in no way typical of a horror movie, not even the murder scene. The fact that such a horrifying act takes place in broad daylight, in the open, by a whole community, and that their emotional reaction to the situation's brutality is so indifferent not only underscores that what's "natural" isn't always "right" but also triggers questions about the horrors that become accepted in societies. There is nothing like "The Wicker Man". For the most part, it is a strange fusion of crime thriller, surreal comedy, musical and (at the climax) epic, and it somehow pulls it off; the overall feel is similar to a disturbing dream that stays with you all through the next day after you wake up. Its weirdness is what makes it work :)
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A crisis of Faith
rockyhorror-123 January 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This brilliant film is , at it's heart, the best warning against irrational faith I've ever encountered. And I'm not talking about the Pagans.

Sergeant Howie (Edward Woodward)a prudish Scottish Policeman, receives a complaint from a resident of Summerisle (a remote island somewhere off the coast of Scotland) about her missing daughter. This precipitates Howie's encounter with the islands "quaint natives", back country, rural folk, "Pagani", in Latin, and it's not long before the devout Christian copper discovers that they have abandoned Christianity and become exactly that. As the community's leader (a delightful Christopher Lee) calmly explains, Jesus "Had his shot, and, in modern parlance. . .blew it" Lee's ancestor rejuvenated the desperate island's economic prospects by introducing a new and hardy strain of fruit, and knowingly attributed his success to his worship of the old Celtic deities who were once reverenced in Britain before the imposition (and eventual adoption) of Christianity. And now, the islanders have not only reclaimed their ancestor's old beliefs, but in the process have "freed" themselves from conventional Judaeo-Christian morality, much to Howie's consternation. "You teach them what? False Medicine! False Religion?" However, to these islanders, the Celtic Gods are very real, and they are as sincere and unwavering in their beliefs as Howie is in his. The policeman's pursuit of the missing child, affirming repeatedly along the way his complete faith in the right of Christian dogma and morality, will lead him and us to a harrowing end on a windswept cliff at sunset, where we finally realize, too late, that what we might regard as unquestionably true just might not be somewhere else. . . .and that is far more terrifying than any monster could ever be.

This film should take on increasing importance in this day and age, where, everyday, we are bombarded with news reports, and in some cases real events in our own backyard involving people whose unwavering belief that what they believe in and do in the name of that belief is right and good end up inflicting irreparable harm on others. And I'm not just talking about suicide bombers. The joy, the utter suety , with which the people of Summerisle go about their May Day festivities at the expense of Seargent Howie is truly one of the most effective pieces of cinema I have seen, and should be a stark warning to any of us, on either side of the fence, who, even in the back of our minds, believe that we alone truly have "it" right.

Highly recommended, if viewed with an open mind
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I rave about this quirky film with good reason!
powwowdancer25 September 2002
This movie has definitely punched a hole in what is expected from horror films! I loved the strong performances, and unlike the reviewer at the Wicker Man page, I also enjoyed the music and the atmosphere of the film. Christopher Lee gives one of the best performances of his career as Lord Summerisle; the Wicker Man was voted one of the top one hundred most important British films of all time for many a good reason. It broke the mold for horror films and it's like hasn't been made since. I love the "thinking man's horror film" gestalt that this film has and the way that things gradually unfold, leading us inexorably towards an emotionally charged, stunning climax. The seventies kitsch that the site reviewer laments adds immeasurably to the atmosphere of the film for me; an atmosphere which is very earthy and enjoyable. The characters are very human and vibrant, and all of them are likeable, which is strange all things considered. I really did like Lord Summerisle. I liked the sincereity of all the villagers. This "likeability" adds a profound depth to one's sense of shock and horror at the end of the film. All in all, I must respectfully and quite vigorously disagree with the negative review bestowed upon the Wicker Man at it's page. I felt compelled to rebut it and to point out that not only did I love this movie, (indeed, it's one of my all time favorites; right up there with Dr. Strangelove and Lawrence Of Arabia), but I enjoyed the music so much that I'm going to buy the CD as soon as it comes out this month! It's a good, particularly odd and definitely inimitable film with atmosphere and to spare. The performances are all rock solid, and I'd recommend it VERY HIGHLY to anyone who enjoys either good cinema or a good story!
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Pagan Poetry
kokkinoskhioni4 July 2002
A rare thing indeed, this movie : a decent religious film. It's just a shame it cops out in the end by reducing the islanders to murderers. The music makes the movie what it is more than anything else. As for Edward Woodward, that's got to be one of the best pieces of casting and acting in movies ever. A word of warning if you see the restored version : the footage looks like it comes from a release print or work print, not the original negative, consequently the quality is very noticeably inferior to the rest of the film, and there are at least two moments of restored footage that would have been better left out.
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After twelve years, I finally get it
dr_foreman1 July 2004
I hated "The Wicker Man" when I was twelve, but even back then I realized that maybe I just wasn't old enough to get it. And now? Now, human sacrifices aside, I think I'd like to live on this film's fictional Summer Isle. What a groovy place.

Oh, and I do like the movie these days.

A few crotchety commentators have pointed out some "plot holes," and I think their arguments need debunking. The cultists were not necessarily counting on Woodward being a virgin; that was a bonus. Even if he wasn't quite so pure, his status as (a) an adult and (b) a representative of the government would still have made him a good sacrifice, if not ideal. And I get the feeling that, had Woodward not come through in the end, the cultists really would've burned that girl.

But tish and pish to all such concerns, since horror movies are never really supposed to make sense anyway. The really great thing about this film is its oppressive atmosphere and general freakyness. I love the wonderful folk music, the passive-aggressive townsfolk, the eerie animal masks, the drawn out sacrifice segment; it's all so ballsy, when you consider that the average movie plays it so much safer by comparison. And of course, the contrast between the island's idyllic appearance and the sinister goings-on there works really well.

This is a cult classic that deserves its status. You can sneer if you like, but horror really doesn't get much better written than this.
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A great and disturbing film ( theatrical cut review )
scottieweiss15 August 2008
A claustrophobic tension pervades this film from the first moment, when a devout Presbyterian policeman sets of on a journey to a remote Scottish island, to investigate the disappearance of a missing girl. He receives a frosty reception from the villagers upon arriving on the island. He also suspects them of stonewalling but is impotent to counter their response effectively. This dynamic sets a pattern for much of the film.

Howie, played to perfection by Edward Woodward, is further disturbed to learn the islanders practice ancient pagan rituals, in stark contrast to his absolute devotion to the Christian faith. The more frightened he becomes, the more dogmatic his reactions, and the less he's able to see what is happening around him. His interplay with the charismatic community leader, played brilliantly by Christopher Lee, only adds to his distress in his search for answers. Howie correctly perceives that the pagan religion is being used by Summerisle as a form of social control, but is unable to counter Summerisle's challenges to his own religious beliefs.

Symbolism is very important in this film. The meanings of various animals and shapes may baffle you when you first see the movie. If you can hang on till the final 20 minutes, everything becomes wonderfully and completely clear. It's well worth the wait. It's a superbly written and acted movie, that will leave the viewer with questions about society and life long after the final credits have rolled.
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Watch this movie, because most people like it. I didn't, though.
equazcion21 May 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I watched the remake first, and was pleased to see how many people agreed that it sucked; But many were also saying that the original was much better, so I gave this a shot. I'm bewildered as to how anyone can like this movie. I'm even more confused as to how anyone can see the original as being all that different from the remake. The only differences I can see are worse acting, worse cinematography (forgivable due to the era), slower development, and lots of unnecessary singing and naked women. Not that I'm complaining about the naked women.

Like the remake, the resolution had nothing to do with the story leading up to it. It's a formula for nonsense. "Surprise, everything we've been showing you up until now meant nothing. Here's the real story which we'll tell you in the last 20 minutes of the movie. Sorry to make you sit through the rest, but we had nothing better to do, and hopefully you didn't either. Similarly, we hope you didn't invest too much thought in the useless clues we provided to the mystery that wasn't there."

If this film deserves any credit at all, it's for an underlying metaphor that puts the viewer in the very same emotional state as the main character. The viewer suffers the same frustration the main character feels, only my feeling was because the movie dragged on for so long, asking more and more intriguing questions, and culminating in a climax that didn't answer any of them, since of course there was in actuality nothing to answer. It was just an act, a way of tricking the main character and the audience into visiting a strange place that neither of us should ever have wasted our time with.

When the villagers were all laughing as the man burned, I felt like I was the man, getting laughed at by the movie, for being deceived. And now it's too late. We're both in pain, him for being on fire and me for having invested my time and thought in this movie, both begging pathetically for salvation from our respective, unsolvable conundrums. Perhaps that metaphor itself was the point of the movie, and if that's the case, then it has succeeded in annoying me. If there was some other point, then I seem to have missed it.
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The Sleep of Reason
James Hitchcock20 January 2005
Although "The Wicker Man" is sometimes classified as a horror film, it starts off like a standard police detective drama. Neil Howie, a sergeant with the West Highland Constabulary, arrives on Summerisle, a small Hebridean island, to investigate the case of a young girl named Rowan Morrison who has been reported as missing. To his surprise, however, the local people prove to be unhelpful to him in his search, either evading his questions or deliberately misleading him. An even greater surprise to Howie is the discovery he makes about the religious beliefs of the locals. They have abandoned Christianity and, encouraged by Lord Summerisle, the local laird, adopted a form of paganism. Howie starts to suspect that Rowan may have been murdered as a sacrifice to the island's pagan gods.

The film raises some interesting philosophical issues about the nature of religious belief. Howie is a devout Christian, and is shocked by the paganism of the islanders. He is shocked partly by their open attitude to sex which conflicts with his own puritanical views, but mostly by their callousness about human life. Although the film was made in the hippy era of the early seventies, with its growing interest in alternative forms of religion, it is not a celebration of paganism. The faith of the islanders is not a benign nature-worship but rather a cruel, superstitious, mechanistic fertility cult, devoid of any genuine spirituality.

The view one takes of the religious issues raised by the film will probably depend upon one's own religious views and also upon how one sees the ambiguous character of Howie. On the one hand he comes across as deeply unsympathetic- narrow-minded, dogmatic and priggish. On the other, he is the only representative we see not only of law and order but also of decency and morality. He may be a prig, but he is also the only character in the film who objects to human sacrifice on moral grounds. It seems to me that two quite different interpretations of the film are possible. On the one hand, it could be seen as a humanist critique of religion. On this reading, Howie's Christianity could be seen as merely a watered-down variety of the islanders' fierce paganism, more socially respectable but no more rational. When Howie challenges him about his beliefs, Lord Summerisle retorts with some sharp comments about the Christian doctrine of the Virgin Birth.

On the other hand, it would be possible to see this as a Christian film, an exemplification of Chesterton's dictum that when men cease to believe in God, they will not believe in nothing, they will believe in anything. Summerisle and his followers do not merely reject Christianity, they also reject the entire rationalist tradition of the Enlightenment. They believe that human sacrifice will ensure the success of their harvests and that illnesses can be cured by placing a toad in the sufferer's mouth. Howie stands not only for orthodox theology but also for orthodox science. Religion and science are sometimes portrayed as being in conflict, but it can also be argued that science has had a beneficent effect upon religion; by removing material affairs such as the cure of the sick and the fertility of the soil from the hands of priests and shamans and entrusting them to doctors and agronomists, it has freed contemporary Christianity from these concerns and enabled it to concentrate more on spiritual matters.

I normally like films that tackle weighty themes and ask difficult questions without necessarily providing easy answers, so I am disappointed that I did not like "The Wicker Man" more. It seems unfortunate that so many versions exist; I have seen two on British television, both different from one another and neither the full director's cut. I will therefore reserve my comments on the direction until I have seen the definitive version, but neither of the versions I have seen flowed easily. The famous ending is genuinely shocking (as Goya said, the sleep of reason produces monsters), but what leads up to it does not always tell the story with any fluency.

The acting was too often wooden and lifeless. In the case of Edward Woodward as Howie this was presumably deliberate, as his character is supposed to be a stiff, formal individual who finds it difficult to show emotion, but none of the other characters seemed any more animated. Christopher Lee as Summerisle had too much of the urbane British gentleman about him and not enough of the religious fanatic. The worst contribution came from Britt Ekland, who wandered through the film as though she did not know what she was doing in it. Come to that, I wasn't sure what she was doing, either. A body double was used for her dance scene, her singing voice was dubbed and (according to some accounts) her speaking voice was too, apparently because she could not manage a convincing Scottish accent. She was presumably only hired because the film-makers thought that to have a glamorous international star in the cast-list would be good for the takings at the box-office.

Despite these weaknesses, the film is often thought-provoking, and there is enough of interest to make it worth watching. 6/10
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Hello Inspector . Send Me More Virgins To Burn
Theo Robertson11 November 2003
Warning: Spoilers
***** SPOILERS ******

It`s not very often that I comment on what other people have written in their reviews but it`s not very often I see a movie as stupid as THE WICKER MAN get praised to the high heavens . Bryce David and Ray Girvan are totally correct in their views - This film revolves around the plot set-up of someone from a Scottish island sending an anonymous letter to a police station hoping that the policeman who reads it will investigate the case of a missing child - AND WHO WILL BE A VIRGIN ! What`s the chances of that ? and as said how would the islanders know in the first place ? It also ignores other logical things like won`t Sgt Howie be missed if he`s sacraficed ? and is it fair to assume the police will investigate the contents of an anonymous letter ? It also seems to ignore police procedure . Wouldn`t CID lead the investigation for a missing child , and don`t policemen travel in pairs ? It`s rather a clever idea of a character being killed because they`re a virgin but not if it`s to the detriment of the rest of the story

There`s other things that annoyed me . If this is a totally isolated Scottish island untouched by modern society then the inhabitants will be Celts , but are their pagan based ideals truly Celtic ? Doesn`t the English West country have may poles ? If so then surely people from the West country can`t have anything in common with these islanders who have a different cultural background ? The philosophy seen here is more new ageism than Celtic so is there any point of setting it on a remote Scottish island ? It`s also obvious that this has been happening for years . Does that mean they`ve been writing to police stations on the mainland for years and the cops have been sending them virgins ? I can`t escape from this ridiculous premise no matter how hard I try

I don`t know if it`s the fault of the production or if channel 4 used a bad print but everything on screen seems very cheap and badly edited as the camera jumps around from scene to scene . The sound editing is very poor but listening to the songs I can`t say I`m complaining and I feel I should point out to anyone thinking of hiring Britt Ekland that if they`re using a stand in can they please use someone who has a vague passing resemblance to her , you know someone with blonde hair might be start .

I know Christopher Lee said pre LORD OF THE RINGS that this is the best movie he ever appeared in , but can anyone name me a good film starring Lee where he doesn`t use the words " Gandalf " or " Mordor " ?

THE WICKER MAN gets two out of ten
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