The Wicker Man

  • Directors: Robin Hardy
  • Producers: Peter Snell
  • Writers: Anthony Shaffer
  • Genres: Drama, Horror, Mystery, Thriller
  • Actors: Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Diane Cilento, Ingrid Pitt, Britt Ekland

Police Sergeant Neil Howie is sent an anonymous letter recommending that he investigate the disappearance of a young girl, Rowan Morrison, on the remote Hebridean island of Summerisle (a fictional island apparently inspired by the real-life Summer Isles of the Inner Hebrides).

He flies to the island and during his investigations discovers that the entire population participates in a Celtic neo-pagan cult, believing in re-incarnation, worshipping the sun and engaging in fertility rituals and sexual magic in order to appease immanent natural forces.

Howie, a celibate devout Christian, becomes increasingly disturbed by the islanders’ behaviour. In the original uncut version of the film, he witnesses couples copulating in the churchyard, in addition to finding a naked woman sobbing on a grave. He angrily threatens to involve the authorities after discovering the school mistress (Diane Cilento) is teaching young girls about the phallic importance of the maypole. Amulets such as the hag stone, toad stone, and snail stone, and the supposed cure of the whooping cough by placing a toad in a child’s mouth, closely resemble descriptions found in the book Animal Simples.[2]

Howie finds himself strongly attracted to Willow, the sexually liberated daughter of the landlord. In the restored director’s cut of the film, Lord Summerisle refers to Willow as Aphrodite when presenting her with a young male adolescent to seduce. Howie cannot help but overhear their passionate lovemaking. To compound matters, Willow tries to seduce him the following night, dancing naked and beating upon his bedroom wall, but Howie resists the torment because he does not believe in sex outside marriage.

The policeman is dragged screaming into the belly of a large hollow wicker statue of a man which is then set afire. In the final scene of the film, the islanders surround the burning wicker man and sing the Middle English folk-song “Sumer Is Icumen In” while Howie shouts out Psalm 23, then beseeches God to accept his soul into heaven. The film ends with the Wicker Man engulfed in flames, and collapsing in front of the setting sun.

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