The Wicker Man (1973)
Edward Woodward as Sergeant Howie
Christopher Lee as Lord Summerisle
Diane Cilento as Miss Rose
Britt Ekland as Willow
Like most great movies, this one is difficult to categorize. The Wicker Man is built upon a foundation of mystery with both musical and erotic interludes. Its climax, however, is a masterstroke of horror. It may be tempting to fast-forward through much of the mystery, but the majesty of the horror can only truly be appreciated in the context of the building friction between the characters.
The film begins with Sergeant Howie, a police officer, flying a plane to a small Scottish island to investigate the disappearance of a 10 year-old girl. He finds the townsfolk uncooperative from the start and is both surprised and baffled by their unusual customs. His frustration with their ways, which are seemingly inseparable from their willingness to obstruct, intensifies over the course of a couple days – climaxing with his witnessing of a peculiar celebration.
At times The Wicker Man seems to be a documentary – as though National Geographic was dispatched to film the strange practices and beliefs of these unusual islanders. The story plays out in such a fashion, as well. Mercilessly moving along, as though there was nothing terribly dramatic and they were just going about their daily lives, or celebrating a typical festival. Even through the awful screams of terror… No weeping. No guilt. No second thoughts. What’s even more disturbing is that the ethics and ceremonies of the townsfolk are factual. Indeed, the writers have been meticulously faithful in their depiction of them.
This is a must see movie for every fan of the genre, every fan of film, or just those who desire to be entertained. It was an instant classic when released in 1973 and its originality has yet to be duplicated. The story provides you with that IV-drip of information crucial to great suspense. The compelling interactions of well crafted characters are acted out by a highly talented cast, which includes horror legend, Christopher Lee (Dracula in the Hammer movies).
1) Watch it cold (at least, don’t read anything further about the plot). The less you know about the background of the film, or the meaning of the wicker man, the better.
2) Do not see the Nicholas Cage remake The Wicker Man (2006)! Not only is it a poor substitute for the original, but it is an awful film in its own right.