The Wicker Man

All over Britain, every spring there are ancient fertility rites going on. Maypole dances, paice-egg plays, horn dances, you name it. In these days of mechanised farming and agribusiness they continue for the tradition and as an excuse for a piss-up. But when a prim and upright (or should that be uptight?) Highland police sergeant muscles his way onto Lord Summerisle’s offshore island in pursuit of an anonymous report of a missing child, he finds all those rituals concentrated in the one place and these people really mean it. It’s enough of a nightmare to drive a Wee Free to drink. And then the child’s existence is denied, then she’s dead, then she;s still alive, and our intrepid and righteous sergeant concocts a plan to rescue her and bring the islanders back onto the One True Path. But the islanders are a step ahead of him and there’s a nasty surprise in store for him.

All this would be a frothy piece of tosh, except that an Anthony Shaffer screenplay is a pretty good place to start from, and Edward Woodward acts his pants off as the unfortunate sergeant, and Christopher Lee is, well, Christopher Lee. It’s all very enjoyable, and yet Woodward’s character is so priggish that it’;s hard to feel the full horror of his fate.

We should count our blessings that we have a film at all. The negative was destroyed by accident when Shepperton Studios changed hands, and it was only after the soundtrack album – and it’s a startlingly good soundtrack by Paul Giovanni – became a cult icon that the film was pieced together. There’s still bits missing, I’m told.

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