I think it’s fair to say that The Wicker Man is unlike any other film that I’ve seen. Not that I watch films from the 70s very often, but this one was so ‘out-there’ I was left bewildered but what I had just witnessed. Robin Hardy’s 1973 film takes us to Summerisle, a small island community in Scotland, where Sergeant Howie (Edward Woodward) is sent to search for missing girl, Rowan Morrison. But what he finds on the island, is beyond anything the pious policeman could have imagined. Transported into a world of Paganism and way-out religious practices is sure to shock any normal citizen let alone any devout Christian such as Edward Woodward’s persona. I was surprised to see the late Christopher Lee starring in such a bizarre film, but he considered it his best appearance despite being remembered for famous roles such as Saruman, Dracula and Count Dooku.
It’s really hard to describe this film tactically, so I’m going to have put a large spoiler warning on this review! Sergeant Howie time on the island reveals an old religion, not thought to be practiced in a wholly Christian United Kingdom. I was unsure why this film was deemed a form of horror, but maybe an island full of people praising sun gods and sacrificing people would be a pretty scary concept at the time of filming. The unpredictable nature of the film was what made it most intriguing for me. I had a vague idea of what to expect, but I felt as though I was discovering the island along with Sergeant Howie, as he too slowly discovered the true nature of the islanders. After watching a small documentary on the filming, it became clear that the mystery was an intended feature for the original 1973 audience. With actors such as Christopher Lee, Britt Ekland and Ingrid Pitt, the audience would have been a standard Hammer horror film, but instead had a whole new form of horror altogether. It seemed to truly break the mould of the time which I do have a certain amount of respect for whilst viewing a film.
To develop on the ‘unlike any other film that I’ve seen’ statement, there was so much randomness that I did feel confused watching it. Islanders would randomly burst into song, start dancing naked and spout weird and wonderful statements. Primarily, I found this downright weird, but on second thought it did create the truly alien location for us and Sergeant Howie to roam in. The fact that all filming was actually done on-site on a Scottish Isle made it all too real and close to home. It was odd to see Christopher Lee prancing around in a wig, but he obviously had faith in the film as he took no wage for his performance in the film. In the small documentary in the special features, he said, “you’ll do anything for love”. I think you need to watch the film to truly understand why Christopher Lee had so much love for this film. It may seem odd at first but I now understand why he was so proud of this work.
This one was part of my Witchcraft course, and although there are no actual witches that show up. In this instance, I feel it important to focus on the mythical aura this film creates. It is certainly an odd viewing, but one that I recommend experiencing at some point.
A very worthy: