DIRECTOR: Robin Hardy
“Come. It is time to keep your appointment with the Wicker Man.”
Though we never even lay eyes on it until the final few moments of the film, the Wicker Man, both as pagan image and classic horror flick, has become an icon of the genre.
But if you are expecting some dimly lit, slow burn slasher movie, then you will be sorely disappointed. The Wicker Man spends most of its runtime, which varies from its various versions, Theatrical, Director’s and Final Cuts, providing us with a pretty decent, if not disturbing insight into paganism.
Or more over, Paganism verses Christianity. Both spiritual, both magical, yet one is fun and the other is boring. The virgin sacrifice by the sexually liberated heathens is played out brilliantly.
The beauty here is that the final twist is so well conceived and executed throughout the entire film that even though most of us know the ending whether we have seen the film or not, it is not spoiled by that foreknowledge.
It is a kin to the previously released Planet Of The Apes (1968) or the much later Sixth Sense (1999). Both spin out complex genre tales which culminate in “that ending”. But in this case, Edward Woodward delivers a chilling performance in the finale, as he is taken to his death, locked inside the burning Wicker Man to be sacrificed in order to restore the poor harvest of the previous year.
“Don’t you see that killing me is not going to bring back your apples?”
But Woodward’s character is a devout Christian and he has only his faith and a dogged view of the world to aide him. Unable to accept the seemingly free spirited community in which his finds himself, one where sex is commonplace as he himself is still a virgin.
On the other hand there is Lord Summerisle, Christopher Lee, who steals the show as per usual as the charismatic leader of the this pagan community and the descendant of a lord who routed Christianity from the Highland Island a century before.
But whilst on the surface it may seem like a rather academic subject, the film is a trippy 1970’s sexploitation movie in many ways. Some of the sex and violence fits in well with plot but other moments, such as the nude dance by Britt Ekland, though actually doubled by Lorraine Peters is a prime example of a needless, if not memorable sequence.
Overall, The Wicker Man is low budget British movie of the 1970’s and one which has endured to earn it’s classic status, by meeting the main criteria of being smart, engaging and visually compelling, along with several standout performances throughout.