The Wicker Man is a cult 1973 British film directed by Robin Hardy, written by Anthony Shaffer and starring Edward Woodward (Sergeant Neil Howie), Christopher Lee (Lord Summerisle) Diane Cilento (Miss Rose. Cilento later married Anthony Shaffer) and Britt Ekland (Willow).

The film was produced at a time of crisis in the British film industry. The studio in charge of production 'British Lion films' were in financial trouble and were bought out by millionaire businessman John Bentley. In order to convince the unions that he wasn't about to asset-strip the company, Bentley needed to get a film into production quickly. This meant that The Wicker Man, a film set during mid-summer was actually filmed in October (in order to look convincing, artificial leaves and blossom had to be glued to trees in many scenes). Christopher Lee was extremely keen to get the film made and Lee and others worked on the production without being paid a fee. By the time of the film’s completion the studio had been bought out by Michael Deeley. At a private screening he described the film as one of the worst 10 films he'd ever seen. Cuts were made and a copy of the film was sent to American film producer Roger Corman in Hollywood to make a judgement of how to market the film in the USA. In Britain the film was cut again and eventually released as part of a double bill. Lee claims that the cuts had 'butchered' the continuity. Despite these problems the film met with critical acclaim and won the first prize in the 1974 Festival of Fantastic Films in Paris. At some point shortly after, the original negatives and the only print of the first cut of the film were 'lost'.

When the film was released for DVD two different cuts of the film were included. The film as it was originally released is an 87-minute cut. A partially restored version (which contained scenes recovered from a video-tape of the version sent to Roger Corman) runs to 99 minutes.


Warning: Wikipedia contains spoilers

Sergeant Howie, of the Scottish police, is sent an anonymous letter recommending that he investigates the disappearance of a young girl, Rowan Morrison, on the remote Hebridean island of Summerisle. He flies out to the island and during his investigations discovers that the entire population follow a neo-pagan religion under the islands owner Lord Summerisle, worshipping the sun and engaging in curious rituals.

Howie, a extremely devout and repressed Christian is increasingly shocked by the islanders' rituals and behaviour. He has no assistance from the islanders in his search for the girl but he battles on and uncovers evidence that he suspects show that the girl was a victim of human sacrifice. But it is finally uncovered that the letter was a ploy to bring Howie to the island in order for him to be the sacrifice. He is forced into the belly of a large wicker man and burned while the islanders surround the burning and sing while Howie yells "The Lord is My Shepherd" at them.