I have never been much for musicals, but The Wicker Man is probably the closest I’ve ever come to a musical that I can watch again and again. This film, based off of the novel “Ritual” by David Pinner, chronicles the investigations of a missing girl by a morally incorruptible Christian detective named Sergeant Howie (played by Edward Woodard).
The detective enters a pagan island, called Summerisle, that is a polar opposite from his straight laced Christian way of life. Howie is always dressed in a police uniform or a suit. His mannerisms are rigid, and even his way of speaking is precise. This is completely opposite from his surroundings. The inhabitants speak an informal Scottish brogue, laugh, dance, sing, and (in one very interesting scene) conduct an orgy out in the nearby graveyard (you will probably want to get the uncut dvd to enjoy a few extra seconds of this scene).
Horror legend Ingrid Pitt and Britt Ekland add even more beauty to the screen. Their roles add to the carefree and laid back way of life for the rural community. Also, in several cases, it is easy to see that they are hiding a secret about the disappearance of Rowan Morrison.
Christopher Lee’s role as Lord Summerisle is brief, but electrifying. His booming voice at the chilling conclusion of the film is quite commanding. He was at his Hammer horror film best with his debates with the detective about religion.
For the horror fan, this film does not begin in a traditional horror film sense. Some may argue that it is slow. However, the eerie mood and (for this reviewer) all too cheery demeanor, belies a very sinister plot. Woodward’s powerful performance at the end of the film is haunting and adds to Lee’s power as well.
Yes, this film does seem like a creepy musical, but the last twenty minutes more than makes up for it. When I finally met “The Wicker Man,” I was left with a chill that has never gone away.