Such a great film - the characters, acting, locations, costume, direction, the bawdy and suggestive songs, the totally unique and authentic folk soundtrack (which fits the film like a glove, I must say!), the sexuality (let us not forget Britt Ekland's lovely jugs! ), the religious tension sub-text - all superb. It's the most unconventional horror film ever, IMO. The sense of dread and unease throughout is brilliant - Robin Hardy did such a good job, and Edward Woodward steals the show as the baffled and disgusted Sgt. Howie.
I first saw this not too long ago and loved it. I pretty much agree with everything you said. It has such a weird and peculiar atmosphere that totally draws you in and makes you want to learn more about those crazy ass Pagans. Excellent ending as well. Very disturbing movie overall, even though it feels so light-hearted.
I bought the 2 disc Region 2 DVD of this film for 50p ($1) and sat down and watched it. As I was watching it I wasn't 100% sure, I was getting very restless, finding the pacing slow, but as things started to peak towards the end I found myself engrossed. The atmosphere is created brilliantly, atmosphere of dread, the viewer feels like the outsider, it's all so alien, very unsettling. Then comes the ending, so disturbing and an image that stays with you after the film is over. The performances are great and the atmosphere was created perfectly. Good film!
I really enjoyed the film. I am a big Christopher Lee fan and thought his performance was truely great. I still have yet to see the remake and have no desire to. Nothing can compare to the original as far as I am concerned.
The Wicker Man is one of the all-time classics. The ending is just awesome and it helped that I never looked at the cover closely before I bought it it (or more accurately, never saw it big enough to make it out), so the ending was a shock to me. I loved Lee's sureness in what he's doing, especially when things may fall on his shoulders.
I saw the original cut about a year ago and thought it was a waste of time and money. It really is one of the biggest disappointments ever, especially since I have heard so much good things about it prior.