Film Review: The Wicker Man (1973)

Also known as: Kult (Poland)
Release Date: December 6th, 1973 (UK)
Directed by: Robin Hardy
Written by: Anthony Shaffer
Based on: Ritual by David Pinner (uncredited)
Music by: Paul Giovanni
Cast: Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Britt Ekland, Ingrid Pitt, Diane Cilento, Aubrey Morris

British Lion Film Corporation, 88 Minutes, 99 Minutes (extended), 94 Minutes (final cut)

Review:

“Do sit down, Sergeant. Shocks are so much better absorbed with the knees bent.” – Lord Summerisle

This is my 2000th film review here on Talking Pulp (formerly Cinespiria) and I wanted to celebrate with one of my all-time favorite films. I also chose this one because I feel like it is now unfairly forgotten due to it having a horrible and justifiably mocked remake. You know, the one with Nicolas Cage screaming about bees.

Additionally, I was actually surprised to find out that I hadn’t reviewed this already, as it is a film I revisit every few years. But I guess I hadn’t seen it since before I started this site in November of 2016.

It’s a pretty haunting and effective film and despite its age, it still works. In fact, I think it may have gotten better over time but that could also be due to modern films not having the same sort of panache as films from this era, especially in regards to horror and suspense thrillers.

The plot to this movie is fairly simple. A detective arrives at a Scottish island in a sea plane. It’s far from civilization and the residents sort of exist in their own world. The detective quickly learns that the whole village is very, very pagan. He’s brought there because a little girl was reported missing. As he investigates, he starts to uncover some really dark things about the village and the mystery behind the missing girl gets weirder and weirder.

The detective is played by Edward Woodward, who American fans will probably most recognize from his hit television show, The Equalizer. His foil and leader of the community is Lord Summerisle, who is played by horror icon and total legend, Christopher Lee.

The cast is rounded out by Hammer horror starlets Britt Ekland and Ingrid Pitt, as well as a few character actors like Aubrey Morris, who is probably most recognized for his role of Mr. Deltoid in A Clockwork Orange.

The film plays like a slow burn but it is a very immersive and engaging experience that lures you in and grabs you around the throat. It builds suspense incredibly well and you’re never really sure what’s going on until you get to the big, incredible finale. In fact, if you’ve never seen this and don’t know where it’s going, it’d be best to go into this film blindly and just experience it completely fresh.

It’s certainly well directed with superb editing but the thing that really stands out is the acting, especially from the two leads. Christopher Lee doesn’t even come into the picture until you’re forty minutes in but once he does, he ups the ante greatly and you feel the pull of his magnetic charm, even if he does feel off and possibly mad.

The Wicker Man is a stupendous horror picture. It’s one of the best to ever exist and it does that by being cerebral, building suspense and dragging out the mystery with perfection. It’s chilling, haunting and pretty fucked up. But it’s also beautiful, kind of serene and makes you think about yourself, your mortality, your morality and it weirdly gives you hope in a hopeless situation, as the hero never relents, never stops doing what he feels is right and stands proud till the very dark end.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: other religious or occult horror films of the ’60s and ’70s, as well as the spiritual sequel, The Wicker Tree.

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