What if you are assigned the case of a missing child to solve on a remote island, but once you arrive there, you start to notice little details that differentiate the island from the remaining world, and in the end, you are the one being sacrificed by the people believing that your end will bring crop prosperity for you?
Directed by Robin Hardy, the sinister horror film titled “The Wicker Man” was made with a similar storyline, with Sergeant Howie getting assigned a case of a missing girl to solve, and after he reached the tiny Scottish island, he ended up becoming their sacrifice for a ritual to increase crop prosperity.
Produced by Peter Snell, the film starred Edward Woodward in the role of Sgt: Neil Howie, the film’s protagonist and the islander’s sacrifice.
Christopher Lee plays the role of Lord Summerisle, Britt Ekland plays Willow MacGregor’s role, Lesley Mackie plays the role of Daisy, Diane Cliento plays the role of Miss Rose, Ingrid Pitt plays the role of a librarian, and Lindsay Kemp plays the role of Alder MacGregor in the lead role.
The supporting cast includes Ian Campbell playing the role of Oak, Russell Waters playing Harbour Master’s role, Aubrey Morris playing the role of Old Gardener, Irene Sunter playing the role of May Morrison, Jennifer Martin playing Myrtle Morrison’s role, Donald Eccles playing the role of T.H. Lennox, and Walter Carr playing the role of a schoolmaster.
Released on December 6, 1973, the sinister horror film titled “The Wicker Man” had a runtime of 88 minutes and did quite average at the box office, with a collection of $475,661 and an initial investment of $471,600.
The prime focus of the movie is on Sergeant Neil Howie, who visits the isolated Scottish island of Summerisle to investigate the case of a missing girl, but he gets appalled after he finds the strange practices that the inhabitants of the island follow, including paganism.
The film starts with Sergeant Neil Howie’s journey by seaplane to the remote Hebridean island of Summerisle, a Scottish island, to investigate the case that involves the disappearance of Rowan Morrison, a young girl about whom he received an anonymous letter.
Well, Howie is left astonished by the rituals followed by the inhabitants of the tiny island, as he is a devout Christian, and on the first day, he witnessed them paying homage to pagan Celtics, who they say are gods of their ancestors.
Another thing that surprised Howie was the openness of the inhabitants because they would copulate in the open for people to watch and include children in their May Day celebrations while teaching the children about the phallic association of maypole.
One of the habits that disgusts Howie is the inhabitants putting toads in their mouths to cure sore throats, and Howie continues to deal with them while investigating, but things turn problematic for Howie after the inhabitants start trying to foil Howie’s investigation by claiming that the girl he was searching for, Rowan, never existed.
While Howie stayed at the Green Man Inn, he started to notice a series of photographs that celebrated the village’s annual fest that had young girls in the role of May Queen, but the photograph of the recent celebration was missing, and after Howie questions the landlord about the same, he avoids the question by stating that the Inn was broken into.
Meanwhile, at the local school, Howie questions the students about Rowan, but all of them deny knowing her and tell him that no one by the name of Rowan ever existed in their village. After Howie checks the school register for confirmation, he discovers Rowan’s details in them.
After Howie questions the teacher of the school about Rowan, he is directed to Rowan’s grave, and this leads to Howie having a meeting with Lord Summerisle, the island’s leader, to ask permission to exhume the dead body of Rowan, where the Lord informs Howie about his grandfather encouraging the belief of old gods and paganism in the population.
Meanwhile, after his talk with the Lord, Howie gets Rowan’s body exhumed only to find a carcass of a hare instead of a girl’s body, and Howie discovers the missing harvest photos that featured Rowan standing amid empty boxes, thus resulting in a failed harvest.
After her thorough research, Howie discovers about the village and the human sacrifice that the inhabitants offer to the god after a crop harvest fails, and soon he concludes that Rowan was alive and will be sacrificed soon after to have a successful harvest.
Howie returns to his seaplane to seek assistance from the mainland only to discover that it was destroyed and can no longer function, thus leading him to conclude that he can neither leave nor ask for help. Howie, on the day of the May Day celebration, steals the costume and mask of the innkeeper to infiltrate the parade, eventually spotting Rowan.
After spotting Rowan, Howie frees her, and the two run to a cave together, but after exiting the cave, the duo is intercepted by the inhabitants, to whom a happy Rowan returns, and Lord Summerisle finally reveals to Howie that Rowan was never the intended sacrifice for the gods, but it was Howie instead.
This was because Howie fulfilled all the requirements for being the human sacrifice, and Howie, after learning the truth, tries to tell the inhabitants that the reason behind the failing harvest is climate change, but it falls on deaf ears as the villagers force him inside a giant wicker man statue.
The film ends with Howie cursing the villagers after they set the statue ablaze with animals, which leads to a slow and painful death for Howie, whose death is marked by the head of the wicker man collapsing on the ground, still ablaze in flames.
The filming of the sinister horror film started in October 1972, with small Scottish towns being the prime filming locations.
Known for its enchanting castles, Scottish whisky, and serene Loch View, a beautiful country that is a part of the United Kingdom and is often covered in snow, Scotland was used as the prime location to film the entire horror movie as most of the scenes were shot in small Scottish lands.
Culzean Castle, Maybolem, Scotland, was used by the production crew to film the part where the exteriors of Lord Summerisle’s island mansion and Burrow Head, Isle of Whithorn, Scotland, were used to film the climax scene where Howie was burned inside the Wicker Man.
Old Police Station, High Street, Kirkcudbright, Scotland, was used to film the part with Rowan’s mother shop, and Ellen Gowan Hotel, Creetown, Scotland, was used to film the part with Green Mann Inn, where Howie stayed.
St Ninian’s Cave, Physgill, Scotland, was used by the production crew to film the part with the beach and cave scene; Plockton, Highland, was used to film the part with Summer Isle, where Howie lands in his seaplane.
Schoolhouse, Anwoth, Scotland, was used to film the part with Summerisle School, and Logan Botanic Gardens, Port Logan, was used by the production crew to film the part with Lord Summeriske’s Gardens.
Ruined Church, Anworth, was used by the production crew to film the parts Maypole Dance, Schoolhouse and Desecrated Church, and Harbour Cottage Gallery. Dumfries & Galloway was used to film the part with the bakery.
Other Locations Used:
Some other locations used by the production crew of “The Wicker Man” to film not-so-pivotal parts of the movie include Stranraer, Gatehouse of Fleet, Newton Stewart, Creetown, and Plockton in Ross-shire.