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The Wicker Man

By Jeff Shannon

Typically categorized as a horror film, The Wicker Man is actually a serious and literate thriller about modern paganism, written by Anthony Shaffer (Sleuth) with a deft combination of cool subjectivity and escalating dread. (Robin Hardy here marks his only directorial effort.) We're introduced to the friendly but mysterious residents of Summerisle (located off the west coast of Scotland), where the isolated community enacts rituals that seem, at first, to be merely unconventional. When called in to investigate an anonymous tip about a missing child, mainland police sergeant Howie (Edward Woodward) is treated as an outsider, and the ominous Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee) has the inside advantage. As the repressed policeman is taunted by the island's sensuous atmosphere, his investigation leads to increasingly disturbing implications.

With phallic symbols and soothing music at every turn, Summerisle is a pleasant haven for those who perform the pagan rituals of Lord Summerisle's maverick ancestors. These earthy ceremonies are presented with alluring authenticity, and the island's tempting eroticism is fully expressed by the landlord's daughter (Britt Ekland), who fills Howie with barely suppressed carnal desire. (Sirens took a comedic approach to a similar situation in 1994.) And yet the mystery of the missing girl remains, with clues that hint at a darker reality beneath the colorful local customs. When that reality is ultimately discovered, Howie becomes the crucial element in the islanders' most elaborate ritual, which is where the film's title comes into play. It may not be horror, but it is horrific, and this makes The Wicker Man an unforgettable film.

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FILM FACTS

Buy this VHS movie from Amazon.com! (Click here!)Buy this DVD from Amazon.com! (Click here!)Soundtrack unavailable at Amazon.com - try eBay (see links below)Rated RNot on an American Film Institute 100 list

Director: Robin Hardy

Stars: Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Britt Ekland

Released: September 1, 1973

Availability: DVD VHS


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