January 15, 2013
Wicker Man (1973)
Christopher Lee and Edward Woodward
Two days ago I wrote about one of the nastiest and most
sucker punches in movie history (Spoorloos). Well, now I get
write about another one. This time I get to write about The
Chop! Chop! Chop! Chop!
The Wicker Man is a notorious horror (if you can call it that)
movie from 1973, and unlike a lot of the movies on this countdown it is
in fact very well known. For three
decades it has always been lurking around every countdown of "great
horror movies from the 1970's" and "the most disturbing horror movies
made." And my favorite one, "Movies that will make you say
shit!" the first time you see them." Yes, any movie that can
it onto the coveted "Holy shit! Did you see that!" list is
a special one.
The Wicker Man is one of those movies that I have a very personal
My favorite teacher I have ever had was my classics professor in
His name was John Heath and, well, basically, he was a lot
an older version of me. He loved mythology. He
movies. He loved writing. Oh and he was also
was basically a stand up comedian who got paid to teach
I used to hang out with him in his office between classes any
chance that I could. In fact, one of the proudest moments of
life was the day that I introduced Professor Heath to my personal
favorite TV show
of all time, Mystery Science Theater. He took to it as
I knew he would. Like I said, hanging out with him was
like hanging around with a future version of myself. He liked
the exact same sort of stuff that I liked.
Oh yeah, and Professor Heath's favorite movie was The Wicker Man.
I can't tell you how many times I heard about The Wicker
Man before I ever actually saw it. Professor Heath used to
RAVE about it. In every class of his I was ever in, in any
he taught that was in any way even remotely associated with mythology,
he used to
talk about it. He always said that he wanted to find a copy
and bring it in. He wanted to show it to his students during
In fact, that was what he specifically
tasked me to do. That was my #1 job in college.
getting a diploma, forget getting an education and a career, forget
earning enough credits to graduate. This is what Professor
designated me to do. I was supposed to track down a copy of
Wicker Man for him. Because here was the catch.
1995. And even though it was a well known cult favorite that
people around the world had revered and loved for more than twenty
years, it was nearly IMPOSSIBLE to find a copy of The Wicker
in a video store. Professor Heath had been looking all around
California Bay Area, in and out of video stores, for more than ten
years. And he had never actually found one. And
was tired of looking, he turned it over to me, since I was younger and
I had more energy. And, well, because as a college
student I theoretically had nothing to do and
thus had more spare time on my hands.
So this was my job in
college. Before I graduated, I had to find a copy of The
Man for him. And then he could show it on the last day of his
mythology class like he always wanted to do.
But here is the
thing, he wouldn't actually tell me what The Wicker Man was about.
He wouldn't tell ANYONE what it was about. For two
wouldn't even give you a hint. He would just tell people that
was his favorite movie and that it was kind of about mythology.
And then he would smile.
That smile should have bothered me more.
I was so foolish.
Chop! Chop! Chop! Chop!
Long story short, I never did find a copy of The Wicker Man for
Professor Heath. I looked all around the Bay Area, from San
Francisco to Gilroy. From Berkeley to Santa Cruz. I
looked for two years. Nobody
ever had a copy of it. It was like looking for a pot of gold,
you were never going to find it. And as a movie buff, it soon
like a bucket list thing for me. Before I die, I have to find
copy of this movie. I have to figure out why it is such a big
And why is that that nobody who has seen it will ever tell me what it
Well I finally found The Wicker Man in 1998. One day I was in
random video store in Issaquah, Washington (of all places), and there
it was, buried in the "Special Interests" section at some nameless mom
video store. That probably should have tipped me off.
wasn't in the horror section. It wasn't in the drama section.
It was in the Special Interests section. It was
with the documentaries and the softcore porn movies and the musicals.
And all I knew about the movie was that it had a picture of a
smiling Celtic sun symbol on the box.
Why look, a happy Celtic sun. Why I bet this movie is a happy
movie. I bet it is practically a kid's movie.
I took the Wicker Man home and I watched it with my wife.
And, well, as the name of the movie list implies, holy shit.
And god damn you Professor Heath. God damn you to
I could just picture him sitting back and laughing.
no matter where he was, I knew that he knew. I knew that
somewhere in California he was laughing. Because he knew that
Wicker Man (and The Wicker Man's sucker punch ending) had just claimed
This movie hit me and it hit me HARD.
Chop! Chop! Chop! Chop!
What is The Wicker Man about? Well if I had written this five
years ago I would have been more coy about it. I would have
exactly like Professor Heath did and I wouldn't have told you anything.
I would have said "Um, it is kind of a musical and it is kind
about mythology. Uh, just watch it, I bet you will like it."
I can't do that anymore because unfortunately the secret is out.
They remade the Wicker Man a couple of years ago.
everyone knows about it. It is no longer considered one of
greatest unfindable masterpieces in movie history. Oh, and of
course the remake turned out to be a complete piece of shit.
Don't even waste your time with
it. The Wicker Man remake is memorable only because they
screwed everything up about it and it turned out to
be unintentionally funny.
The ORIGINAL Wicker Man is the
story of a police officer named Sgt. Howie (Edward Woodward).
He receives a report of a little girl who has disappeared
from the remote Scottish island of Summerisle. So he
out to the island to investigate. And, well, that's when the
movie gets weird.
Howie quickly discovers that the residents of Summerisle aren't really
your normal every day villagers, they are more like a cult.
as a deeply Christian man, he is offended by their customs.
Between the women walking around the island naked, to the
prevalence of phallic symbols being taught to the children in school,
to people having sex in plain view on the grass, to their traditions of
reincarnation and harvest festivals and maypoles and sacrifice, he is
shocked by just about all of it. And he quickly suspects that
little Rowan might not be missing. He suspects that she may
have actually been sacrificed.
So he goes around the island and he tries to confirm his suspicions.
And the rest of the movie is The Wicker Man.
The missing little girl, Rowan Morrison
Sgt. Howie trying to figure out what happened to her
is one of those movies that really works better the less you know going
into it. So I don't want to tell you any more than that.
All I will tell you is that it is not a horror movie, it is
comedy, it is not a drama, it is really more of a musical than
But it is scary. Oh believe me, it is scary.
You will be haunted by this
movie for years. Even if you know what happens going
you will remember it for the rest of your life, because the
storytelling and the visuals are that damn
As one of the IMDB reviewers pointed out below, The Wicker Man is
the ultimate con game. You think it is going in one
then BAM, you realize it is going in another. So ha ha, you
figured it out. I got you, movie. Only then the
film zigs in a third direction
right before the ending and it all suddenly makes sense. And
it hits you with the knockout punch. And then your jaw just
drops to the floor.
I have never seen another
movie remotely like it.
There is a reason I compared The
Wicker Man to Spoorloos at the beginning of my writeup. There
is a reason I posted them on my countdown
almost back to back. And the reason is because THEY WILL BOTH
YOU UP SO FASTEN YOUR SEATBELT. And I don't mean that in a
I don't mean that in a disgusting way. I don't
think there is a drop of blood in this entire movie. It
isn't gory at all. But neither is Spoorloos and that one will
really get in your head and mess you up too. So buyer beware.
People who are super sensitive and who get upset
would be wise to build themselves up to both The Wicker Man and
Seriously, I am warning you. Do not watch The Wicker Man
right before you go to sleep. This would be a bad idea.
If only these pagans had heard of a little Christianity
In the end, I love and I hate the fact that they remade The Wicker Man.
love it because, well, to be honest, it just means that more people
know about it now. Fifteen years ago it was almost impossible
find a copy of the original Wicker Man on DVD. But nowadays
easy. So if nothing else, The Wicker Man remake helped raise
awareness of the original. And for that I will always be
thankful. Even if, yes, it is much harder to spring that
ending on people like Professor Heath did to me so many years ago.
It was fun when you could really catch people off guard with
movie. Nowadays because of the remake it is much harder to do
Oh, and the
reason I hate the fact that they remade The Wicker Man? Well
reason I hate it is twofold. First off, anyone who has seen
remake knows that it sucks. So it is really hard to convince
people that the original is so amazing when they have already seen the
remake and they know what happens. So most of the time when I
recommend The Wicker Man to people, what I hear is "Yeah I already saw
remake. I hated it." It takes forever to convince
that the original is not terrible at all. It is hard
to explain to
people that everything that was so coy and clever and chilling about
the original was done completely wrong in the remake. So that
half of the reason why I hate the remake so much.
The other reason I hate the remake so much? Well because I
saw it. And because it made me want to put a bullet in my
dare you think you can remake one of the ten scariest movies of all
time. How dare you. I mean, Christopher Lee (who
Summerisle) once claimed that The Wicker Man was the best movie he was
ever in. And Christopher Lee was in a lot of good movies.
Christopher Lee was Dracula. That should tell you
Christopher Lee in his favorite movie role. Lord Summerisle.
honor of The Wicker Man (which one reviewer below correctly
"the Citizen Kane of horror movies") I am not just posting my
five or six IMDB reviews. For this one I am posting my top
And I could have posted forty more that all say the exact
The IMDB is just page after page of people raving about how
The Wicker Man is. So don't just take it from me, take it
everyone. This is definitely a movie that everyone who likes
creepy movies needs to see.
Yes, even if you saw the remake and you thought
it was stupid. I saw the remake and I thought it was stupid
This changes nothing about the original.
favorite IMDB user reviews about The Wicker Man
Wow! - 31 March 2008
saw The Wicker Man, a film i've been looking forward to for awhile. I
did think it was going to be good but i had no idea it was this good.
Probably goes to my Horror Top 10 along with Black X-mas, Suspiria,
Deep Red, Texas Chainsaw Massacre etc. I did not think of it as a
horror film at first, but more of a mystery or occult thriller, but i
realized it was in fact deeply unsettling when you think about it. Very
emotionally engaging film, almost suggestive, and affected you in a
weird way that most movies don't. Works on a deeper/intellectual level
as well and seem to explore some very interesting questions, almost
making you dizzy when you think about it. Christopher Lee is usually a
creepy guy in films but i think this is the creepiest role i have ever
seen him in. And Woodward's performance was excellent too, he was
simply perfect for the film, as were most of the other performances. I
can't say much more, you have to see the film yourselves.
it hard to rate something like this, (i still don't quite know what hit
me) but a perfect 10 would probably be closest. The Wicker Man is a
strange and unusual film, and completely timeless, i don't know what to
compare it to at all...
A Profound impression - 4
know absolutely nothing about criticising films. I wouldn't know good
from bad acting. However there's one thing about this film I *do* know.
Along with another British film - "The Stranger Left no Card" - this is
one that I will *never* forget. It made a profound and lasting
impression that will remain with me for all time. In both films we know
there's something going wrong. That sense of wrongness builds up over
time. You sense that something very evil indeed is about to transpire
yet continually hope it doesn't. As the time for the end of the film
approaches you wonder exactly where it can possibly go in such a short
time. Then suddenly - it happens - and leaves you in a motionless state
of stunned silence.
Ambiance perfected. - 9
perfect example of how to create an ambiance that perfectly describes
and entrances the viewer into the film. Throughout the entire duration,
there is a sense of ominous fear and perfectly constructed surrealism
makes you feel uncomfortable and eerie until the final shocking
conclusion. The ending is one of the most beautiful and cathartic that
I've ever seen. It takes every Hollywood-happy-ending standard and
completely turns it on its ear. It shocked me to the core and left me
completely numb, well after the credits rolled. I honestly can't
express how brilliant the ending was in words. One of, if not the,
greatest I've ever seen. I must also praise Edward Woodward's brilliant
performance. His emotional strength provided so much more to the
already magnificent film this was. Certainly one of the greats.
This is how the horror
movies should be made - 22 November 2007
Wicker Man" (1973) which is known as one of the best British horror
movies and has achieved the cult status since it was released over
thirty years ago, is much more than just a horror. It very creatively
and successfully mixes straight crime/mystery with horror, thriller,
and occult drama, throwing in the elements of musical. The story
(written by Anthony Shaffer) is always interesting and the characters
are well developed and memorable. Where the film succeeds entirely, it
is in slow build of unbearable tension that makes its final both
inevitable and unbelievable.
"The Wicker Man" follows the
disappearance of a young girl on the remote Scottish island Summerisle.
Sergeant Howie of Scotland Yard (Edward Woodward), the serious and
rather humorless but decent man whom we would eventually identify with,
arrives to Summersville to find the girl but the locals claim that she
never existed. Soon he realizes that cheerful and smiling residents of
the island, adults and children led by their spiritual leader Lord
Summersisle (Christopher Lee) are engaged in the pagan religion with
the rituals that shock and disgust devoted Christian Howie. The film
maintains sensual, creepy, ominous atmosphere throughout yet often
makes you smile and in the end leaves you totally stunned. The
cinematography is breathtaking, the songs and musical score are
beautiful and take the important part in the plot. Even if you guess
correctly where the movie takes you, you will be undeniably shocked and
disturbed when you see where exactly it took you.
P.S. It's been
few weeks since I saw the movie but I still wonder whether the harvest
on the island improves the following year.
The best confidence trick
movie since Psycho. - 11 October 2002
Christian policeman visits a Scottish Island to investigate the
disappearance of a child and is shocked and puzzled by what he finds.
of these movies that has formed a cult following because of its
original theme, setting and use of music. In truth it is a low budget
confidence trick played out on a audience that is expecting one film
and is drawn in to another.
This is the kind of film that really
should come in to cold. Any prior knowledge - apart from my paragraph
above - really damages the impact. Despite all appearances, our hero is
an anti-hero. He is a middle aged prude flung in to a liberal society
which likes a bit of sex and nudity and doesn't make any bones about it.
audience is quickly on the side of the villagers rather than the
straight-laced Edward Woodward. But slowly, but surely, we get on his
side, see his logic, until we have the giant pay-off at the end.
an end it is - shame that so many people know about it before viewing.
I didn't and couldn't stand up for about five minutes.)
Lee has his best film role as the feudal lord and ring leader, although
that says more about his anything-if-the-money-is-right choices. We
also have Brit Ekland in the undressed (or was it a double?) form of
Maybe the film was a happy accident - one of these
films where the parts fall in to place almost by themselves? It should
be studied by all film students as a lesson on how to manipulate and
mislead an audience. Then, when they are staggering, gloves-down,
delivering the final knock-out punch.
Stunning and hard to
forget - 7 January 2008
night I watched director Robin Hardy's 1973 movie The Wicker Man and
was completely stunned by what was on the screen. I have heard good
things about this movie, and decided to watch it on demand. The music
is one of the many things that makes this movie work, along with decent
performances by the actors involved, and disturbing scenes that seemed
torn from an ancient past.
A police officer named Sargeant Howie
(Edward Woodward) comes to an island village in search of a ming
girl. The locals deny she ever existed and don't offer him much help.
They aren't hostile per say, but you get a sense that something just
isn't right about them. After discovering some strange rituals that go
on which involve Pagan religion, Howie becomes suspicious and, being a
Christian man an all, appalled and disgusted by what is going on. He
continues his search for the ming girl using his authority as an
officer of the law. He has an idea about what's happening, but never
truly suspects where this trip to the island is really going to lead
him until the shocking ending which I will not reveal.
music that opens the movie was perfect for a film such as this one. It
fits in with everything that goes on. There are dance numbers as well,
and one in particular involves Britt Ekland who plays Willow. This
scene, which is rather unusual but surprising for a movie out in 1973,
will become important to the plot of the film and the shocking journey
that follows at the end.
The scenery is eerie and though this
film is not scary, well not until the shocking conclusion anyway, it is
more of a mood piece that pulls you in and creeps you out instead. The
atmosphere is creepy as well, and Christopher Lee as Lord Summerisle is
perfect in his role. He never appears terrifying, but you easily sense
that there is a reason to be frightened of this man.
The film is
the director's take on two distinct and different religions. Edward
Woodward as the passionate Christian fits the mold well. His distaste
for Pagan religion feels completely genuine, not like that of a man
just playing a part. You feel his anger and disgust. The island's
inhabitants also fit their beliefs as well. They never appear to be
actors, but a real society that might easily exist somewhere in the
Weird, creepy, shocking. These words all fit as
descriptions of The Wicker Man. The film is neither gory nor
terrifying, but it will make your blood run cold anyway. Highly
recommended. I've never seen the remake, but this film is a definite
"Shocks are so much
better absorbed with the knees bent." - 15 March 2010
the cult film to end all cult films -- due to the fact that it is a
cult film that concerns, well, a cult -- "The Wicker Man" is a highly
influential and surreal story about a devout Christian police officer
sent to a remote island in Scotland in search of a ming girl. Things
go awry, as not only does the hedonistic way of life these islanders
enjoy clash with that of the officer's beliefs, but also because no one
will tell him the truth about what happened to or what will become of
the ming child.
Filmed entirely on location in Scotland, "The
Wicker Man" has a sense of authenticity that is driven home by a pair
of knock-out performances in Edward Woodward and the legendary
Christopher Lee. Woodward, as the would-be hero, keeps things grounded
even at their most bizarre and ridiculous. His grim facial expressions
and looks of horror say it all. Lee, on the other side of the coin, is
playing the enigmatic leader of the cult, and is certainly in his prime
in one of his finest roles. Elsewhere, the acting ranges from
questionable to non-existent, but because these two men deliver in
spades, the film rarely suffers.
Granted, there's a wealth of
musical numbers that make things a bit awkward, but maybe that's the
intention. Afterall, most of the film seems aimed at catching its
audience off-guard and creeping it out, and to that end, it certainly
succeeds. Even nearly forty years later, it still manages to at least
make you uncomfortable one way or another, whether it's through the
unassuming scenery, the outrageous costumes and rituals or simply in
its shocking ending that will certainly leave you with a little extra
left to chew on. "The Wicker Man" is quite simply a unique horror film
that is must-see material. Whatever you feel after watching the film,
you'll certainly be affected one way or another, and that's the film's
Edward Woodward at His
Best - 25 January 2010
hearing Edward Woodward died late last year and hearing that this was
his most famous film, I was curious to see it. I saw the 88-minute
version and was floored by it. Of course, if you're quick, you'll catch
all the little things along the way.
It concerns a call that the
mainland police received about a ming girl on an island off the
Scotland coast. Enter Sgt. Howie (Woodward) and his attempt to
interrogate the people on the island as to the whereabouts of the girl.
For the most part, they are not only uncooperative, but rather amused
by his manner and his determination to get to the truth and by certain
remarks he makes about his own beliefs.
If you've never seen
this movie, you should rent it right now. Considered by many as the
"Citizen Kane" of horror movies, it leaves you thinking about it long
after it's over, and that's even creepier.
A great and disturbing
film ( theatrical cut review ) - 15 August 2008
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 ming 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.
horror film with an unforgettable ending. - 19 February 2006
Wicker Man is an outstanding horror film from 1973 - perhaps the finest
British horror film of all-time, and certainly a film that weaves an
absorbing spell on a whole range of levels. It is not a horror film in
the sense of buckets of blood and gore. Nor is it a horror film with
ghosts and creaking doors and strange sounds in the night. The film
plays out more like an enigmatic mystery thriller, with the horror
coming right at the very end when we learn where the narrative has been
leading us all along. In fact, The Wicker Man has a classic climax that
will both surprise and unsettle viewers who are new to the movie. It is
an ending far more memorable, and horrific in a subtle way, than any
shock moment in, say, an Italian gore film.
Christian policeman Sergeant Howie (Edward Woodward) flies out to the
remote Scottish island of Summerisle to investigate the disappearance
of a young girl. Almost immediately upon arriving, he finds the
islanders alternately unwelcoming or downright peculiar. The ming
girl's mother, May Morrison (Irene Sunters), claims that she never even
had a daughter; the locals in the island pub refuse to acknowledge the
girl's existence; and at the island school, the pupils and the teacher
(Diane Cilento) say they've never heard of the ming girl. Howie is
equally perturbed by some of the other events he witnesses - the pub
landlord willingly surrenders his daughter for sexual hijinks; the
children at the school are taught about phallic imagery and are
encouraged to dance naked through flames; pagan symbols are to be found
everywhere. The entire island seems lost under the sinister spell of
Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee), and Sgt. Howie becomes increasingly
certain that his ming girl may be the victim of some kind of pagan
To reveal much more would be to rob the viewer of
a staggering conclusion. Let's just say that Howie finds out all too
plainly what is really going on by the film's end. Woodward gives a
career-best performance in the film, etching a remarkable portrayal of
a devout man who is so bound to his moral code that he is sometimes as
dislikable as he is honourable. Lee excels too as the island's top man
- this is one of the great roles of his prolific career. The film
switches from police mystery to pagan horror, with frequent pauses for
atmospheric folk songs, and is at all stages a work of real
intelligence. In both its shorter theatrical version and the longer
Director's Cut, it tells an enthralling story while keeping its trump
card cunningly disguised. There aren't many movies in the history of
the medium that are genuine "must sees".... The Wicker Man, though, is
one of the few!
favorite trivia about The Wicker Man
* Christopher Lee agreed to appear in this film for free.
This film was intended as a vehicle for Christopher Lee. Lee himself
has said that he considers this to be one of his greatest ever roles.
Was filmed in 1972 in Galloway in South West Scotland, and there was
some controversy when Britt Ekland labelled it as the "bleakest place
on Earth". The producers were forced to apologize to the locals.
* During 2006, The Wicker Man ranked 45th on Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie
* The Wicker Man was ranked by Empire Magazine as 485th of The 500
Greatest Movies of All Time
(from Wikipedia) A remake, starring Nicolas Cage and Ellen Burstyn and
directed by Neil LaBute was released on September 1, 2006.
Original Wicker Man director Robin Hardy expressed concern
the remake. After its release, Hardy simply described it as a different
film rather than a remake. The remake was panned critically and was a
failure at the box office. Today it has a significant cult following as
an unintentional comedy, with several scenes on YouTube boasting Cage
brutalizing various women throughout and terrorizing children, a
fan-made comedy trailer of the film, and more.
favorite scene in The Wicker Man
at the IMDB
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