“The Wicker Man” is a 1973 British folk horror film about paganism in a fictional island in Scotland. Directed by Robin Hardy. The screenplay was inspired by David Pinner’s novel “Ritual” (1967).
A police sergeant of the West Highland Constabulary, Scotland, Neil Howie (Edward Woodward) comes to the remote Hebridean island Summerisle off the west coast of mainland Scotland to investigate the disappearance of a 12-year-old girl named Rowan Morrison (Gerry Cowper). He has received an anonymous letter of request for searching Rowan.
The island has been governed by the leader Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee), who is the grandson of a Victorian agronomist. The islanders have believed in the ancient Celtic religion.
Howie, who is a devout Christian, is shocked to discover that they copulate openly in the fields, involve children in a sexual ceremony, and teach children about phallicism in school.
Howie gets information about Rowan, but the islanders deny the existence of her. He begins to suspect that Rowan was killed as a sacrificial victim in the religious ritual of the island.
The “Wicker Man”, which appears in the last sequence, is a large wicker statue used by Druids (ancient Celtic priests) for sacrificial ceremony.
Though the film was released as the “B” picture on a double bill with “Don’t Look Now” directed by Nicolas Roeg in Britain, it has established a reputation as a cult classic since the 1980s.
The film incorporates the elements of horror, mystery, and comedy. It consists partly of musical parts with the use of idyllic songs based on traditional British folk music.
Though the original version was 120 minutes long, the reduced version (87 minutes) was screened in the 1973 public release. There are many other versions: the 1979 restored edition (96 minutes), the 2001 director’s cut (99 minutes), and the 2013 final cut (94 minutes).