Figure 1. 1973 Movie Poster.

The Wicker Man, directed in 1973 by Robin Hardy is a pagan folk-horror, thriller set on the Island of Summerisle, a remote Island in Scotland famed for its unusual abundance of fruit produce. The story revolves around the visit of Police Sergeant Neil Howie (Edward Woodward) who is lured to the Island by a letter from an unknown sender to uncover the mystery behind the disappearance of a local girl. The Sergeant arrives by plane and his visit happens to coincide with the Islander's annual Pagan Harvest festival, where animals are sacrificed to the various God's of the sea and Earth to make for a more bountiful Harvest next year. The villagers turn out to be suspiciously uncooperative and it appears that abduction and sacrifice are the cause of the girls disappearance. The Sergeant searches the Island for the girl and when he finds a grave with her name on it he opens it to find the body of a Hare. Suspecting Murder he confronts Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee) who explains the community's outlook on life, Death and Religion. After threatening to bring the full weight of the law down upon the village and its inhabitants for the deeply unchristian act of suspected human sacrifice the Sergeant returns to his plane to find the fuel completely drained. During the festival the next morning the Sergeant disguises himself and hides amongst the villagers as they dance through the streets in celebration. The villagers capture him and Lord Summerisle explains how he was chosen specifically and lured to the Island for the ceremony. He had to come to the island of his own free will, with the power of a king and because of his strict Christian lifestyle he is also a virgin making him the “right kind of adult”. He is stripped of his clothes and dressed in ceremonial robes before being locked inside a huge Wicker man statue and burnt alive.

Figure 2. Willow (Britt Ekland) The film is now considered a cult classic and is generally well regarded by critics and film enthusiasts. And in 2004 was voted by Total Film Magazine to be the sixth greatest British film of all time. Although it would appear the popularity of the film has more to do with the content than with what the film actually tries to deal with, Figure 1 is a still from the scene in which Willow (Britt Ekland) dances provocatively in her bedroom. Jamie Russel of the BBC furthes this point by telling us “there's a paedophile sub-plot, lots of occult rituals, sexual perversion ... and a resolutely downbeat finale that's as far removed from a happy ending as it's possible to get. And on top of all that, it's bloody scary. (Russel, 2001) Here Russel raises the point that the “Sexual Perversions” of the film may be overpowering the more subtle points the film raises about Religious Tolerance, especially regarding the Sergeants attitude towards the unchristian teachings and habits of the inhabitants of Summerisle which in our modern society would be regarded as deeply intolerant and punishable by the law of which, ironically, he is an enforcer.

Figure 3. The Burning ritual.

The Villagers Sing “Summer Is Icumen In”.

List of Illustrations Figure 1: Figure 2: Figure 3.


Russel, Jamie, 2001, (accessed on 18/01/2012)