The Wicker Man
Written by Anthony Shaffer
Directed by Robin Hardy
Sergeant Howie...Edward Woodward
Lord Summerisle...Christopher Lee
Sergeant Howie from the Scottish mainland arrives on a strange little island town, much to the chagrin and disdain of the locals, in order to investigate the reported disappearance of a young girl named Rowan Morrison. The townsfolk aren't exactly cooperative, and they inhibit his investigation with founts of misinformation and superstition.
First off, they deny Rowan's existence. Then they claim that she's dead. Howie discovers there is no death certificate, and exhuming her grave brings a strange surprise. It seems that no one is being quite honest about what happened, and Howie may never learn the truth.
Sergeant Howie is a devout Christian fellow, so he's far from comfortable with the pagan festivities of May Day occurring all around the island--including public orgies, young girls attempting to become impregnated by the fire god ("It's much too dangerous to jump through fire with your clothes on!"), and doing their little shimmy-shimmy around the May Pole--the phallic symbol that is believed to be the basis for our Christmas tree. He becomes even more uncomfortable, however, when he discovers that Lord Summerisle and his congregation mean for him to be a direct participant in these rituals.
Strange things abound in this movie--perhaps none quite so strange as the abundance of song and dance numbers, almost like an Andrew Lloyed Webber examination of sex and death. Witness the awkwardly titillating ass-slapping get-down of Willow, the proverbial inn-keeper's daughter (with her own bawdy themesong, natch!), for a prime example.
Full of symbolism, well-researched rites, and a distinct intellect, this low-key horror may not be ideal for everyone, but the patient and contemplative genre fan will find plenty to marvel at here. And, if viewed strictly as a psychological thriller, The Wicker Man can be seen as the older and wiser brother of Scorsese's recent Shutter Island.
Definitely a favorite. And if none of this entices you to try it out, how about this:
Christopher Lee. In drag.
I rest my case.
"Here the old gods aren't dead."