The Wicker Man

“A folk horror with hair-raising making-of tales of its own, The Wicker Man is a reminder that great art rarely comes easily….

Inexperienced director Robin Hardy, best known at the time as a director of ads, infuses Anthony Shaffer’s ingenious screenplay (adapted from David Pinner’s 1967 novel ‘Ritual’) with a gathering sense of unease. The Wicker Man is deeply unsettling long before those still-remarkable final moments, as Edward Woodward’s devoutly Christian policeman, Sergeant Howie, is lured to a remote Hebridean island by news of a missing girl and then trapped by the sybaritic Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee, never better) in a seemingly ordinary community that acts as a pagan hive mind plotting his demise.

This 91-minute 4K ‘final cut’, shorter than the director’s cut but longer than the original theatrical release, is the strongest version, paring back the early exposition and deepening the mystery. Woodward’s brilliantly measured performance tells you everything you need to know about this buttoned-up policeman and his inner turmoils – it’s all there in his furious forging of an improvised cross to ‘reclaim’ a derelict altar from pagans, and in his tortured response to Britt Ekland’s siren song – and the balance of narrative logic to uncanny mystery is perfectly struck.”  (Phil de Semlyen, Time Out)

1973 Dir. Robin Hardy 1.85:1 Color dcp 94 min.