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'The Wicker Man 1973' It was Wickered. 15/04/2016

Figure 1: 'The Wicker Man 1973' Poster
This film review will focus on the film 'The Wicker Man 1973', the story follows the investigation of a police officer named Sgt. Howie, who has been sent to the remote Hebridean island of Summerisle to investigate the disappearance of a young girl, little does he know there is much more going on behind the scenes and the film quickly turns from generic police investigation into a very dangerous game of cat and mouse. The film has a huge amount of religious symbolism behind it, even down to where the film is set decisions were taken to make sure the details all fitted together and made sense.

The film was released in 1973 and was directed by Robin Hardy, produced by Peter Snell, Harry Waxman did the cinematography and Paul Giovanni produced the music. The film was based off of the book 'Ritual 1967' which was written by David Pinner who sold the rights of the book to Christopher Lee who later turned the book in the film 'The Wicker Man 1973'.

The film as a whole can be very creepy at times, using the friendly setting of what is some sort of community where everyone knows everyone and everything gives the film a sense of claustrophobia in certain scenes of the film despite there is lots of space, but it is what else is happening at the time which can really give chills to the viewer. "On its face a horror film with shocking revelations and vice-like tension, Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man is actually study in contrasts; a treatise on modern incomprehensibility in the face of social upheaval." (Matt. 2012)

Figure 2: Animal Masks
The film heavily focuses on the religions of Paganism and Christianity almost like two opposites. There is this strange religion known as 'Christianity' that has come to the shores of Summerisle and when Sgt. Howie arrives at the island he is very quick to judge the people there, because they are not of his religion. At first he appears very hostile to all of the people in the village but as the film goes on this hostility almost completely flips by the end of the film, costing Sgt Howie his life. There are a few very clever tricks done in the film to give that sense creepiness and anxiety, one of the main techniques used in the film is showing the obvious danger but not explaining either how it came to be or what it will do.

There are no real gore moments in the film apart from the severed hand with candles, however the way the film is set up it's like something could happen at any time. A massive impact on this is the way Sgt Howie is treated in the village, when he becomes very impatient and begins bursting into homes with no authority, and even though he has not really told anyone he will do this, there are still people in the homes prepared to see him almost as if they were warned somehow which brings up the question, what do they know that Sgt. Howie doesn't?

Another creepy asset in the film are the costumes used in the parade, wearing dead animal hides as costumes and even stylizing them to look like the real creatures. Not only can we not see what is underneath but also the fact the mask almost completely conceals the face adds to the suspicion of something being hidden. When someone is wearing a mask the face cannot be seen, usually we can tell a lot about a person from looking at their face, if their happy, sad or angry. However the only things we can tell from these people wearing the costumes is that they are about to take part in a ritual where someone will be killed.

Figure 3: The Wicker Man
As state earlier there is a lot of religious symbolism in this film, but the most symbolic scene in the film is when Sgt. Howie is burned alive inside the wicker man. Now there is a lot of symbolism in this scene but lets start with the religious symbolism. The village itself is all one religion whereas Sgt Howie is a Christian, so when the villagers take Sgt Howie into custody they explain it like the sergeant came along willingly. This scene resembles that of Jesus's crucifixion, giving himself up to save our sins, in this case the villagers believe that they need a sacrifice for the pagan gods so that their harvest for the year will be fruitful. Then there is the fact that fire is used to kill Sgt. Howie, now it could be argued that the only reason fire was used was because of the material that the wicker man was built of but there is much more reason behind it.

Earlier before his demise Sgt Howie is almost thrown into the water as a sacrifice but the villagers choose not to, even the way the cliff is presented is a force nature that is brutal. However fire does have some symbolism behind it, in the sign of the cross there are three parts, the Father, the son and the holy spirit. The holy spirit in multiple descriptions is described as a flame, now when a fire is started it can consume everything if it gets out of control, so is the fire a use of demise for the sergeant or is a symbol of his religion consuming him and the reason his demise right to the bitter end.

Lets also take a look from the villagers perspective, up until this point they have been informed of everything that is going to happen. Another thing to take into consideration is some of the sergeants last words, "What if your crops fail this year?" now this is a reasonable statement, if the crops failed then that would mean the religion they all believe in is false. It is also stated that the reason for the crops failing is because of where they are grown. So these all seem like logical reasons however due to how strongly the entire village believes in their religion they overthrow the sergeant and give him a "Martyrs Death".

Figure 4: The Stone Circle
The last point to touch on is how females and males are portrayed in the film, there is a large amount of talk in the film about the way both sexes treat each other. Males do have some sort of a dominance in the film but females still possess a large amount of power. A strong scene of this is when Willow MacGregor strips off then begins slamming against the wall next to the sergeants, causing him to become frightened. The main man at the center of it all however is Lord Summerisle who as a character can summaries the entire plot by just being a character, deceptive and calm. "Christopher Lee's imaculately polite performance as the pagan ringleader Lord Summerisle, patiently explaining to Howie the very trap into which he’s being lured, holds up splendidly, as does Woodward’s prudish brand of Christian martyrdom. They’re essentially playing Dionysus, god of ritual madness, and Pentheus, stuffy voice of repression, in the only reimagining of Euripides' Bacchae where you also get Britt Ekland jiggling around nude. There are moments that still prompt shivers — the banally hideous sign of the Green Man pub, a missing photo of last year’s harvest festival on its wall — and the famous climax holds on to every shred of its unmatched, infernal power." (R Tim. 2015)

Females are shown as sex objects quite a lot in the film, dancing naked in fields and learning about the male genitalia (Which would not have been ethical for when the film was set.), even the game that the boys play with the ribbons and pole is shaped to look like a penis. Then there is the way females interact with all of these ideals, almost worshiping them? It is unclear about the villages thoughts on reproduction apart from that babies were sometimes used in sacrifices, but other than that no real hints are given in the film that reproduction was a major thing. The village believes in the reincarnation but not resurrection once again going against this strange religion known as Christianity.

The film as a whole works really well, not having your typical horrific sights like blown out brains or bleeding victims, but yet even with small things like the dismembered hand candle and the animal masks really sell the ominous atmosphere. The film can drag on slightly near towards the end but not to a degree where the film is held back. The film is still very creepy, even with all of the bugs with its restored footage and sound, it's still able to shine, "Most importantly, The Wicker Man retains its occult power, and remains as bizarre and bewitching a fable as when it first appeared four decades ago. Once seen, never forgotten" (D Stephan. 2013)


Dalton, S. (2013) The wicker man: The final cut: Film review.
(Accessed on 15 April 2016)

Matt (2012) THE WICKER MAN (1973).At:
(Accessed on 15 April 2016)

Robey, T. (2015) 'The wicker man: The final cut, review'
In: The Telegraph 11 June 2015
[online] At:
 (Accessed on 15 April 2016)

Image Bibliography

Figure 1: 'The Wicker Man 1973' Poster

Figure 2: Animal Masks

Figure 3: The Wicker Man

Figure 4: The Stone Circle


  1. Hi Tom,

    Remember to put the dates in brackets after the film name, otherwise it looks as though it is part of the name - 'Ritual 1967' should be 'Ritual(1967)' for example.
    There are a couple of bits that are a bit garbled, so always make sure that you proofread before posting.
    It sounds as though you enjoyed the film, though :)


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