Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Wicker Man, The

UK movie (1973). British Lion/Summerisle. Pr Peter Snell. Dir Robin Hardy. Screenplay Anthony Shaffer. Novelization The Wicker Man * (1978) by Hardy and Shaffer. Starring Diane Cilento (Miss Rose), Geraldine Cowper (Rowan Morrison), Britt Ekland (Willow MacGregor), Lindsay Kemp (Alder MacGregor), Christopher Lee (Lord Summerisle), Jennifer Martin (Myrtle Morrison), Ingrid Pitt (Registrar), Irene Sunters (May Morrison), Edward Woodward (Sgt Neil Howie). 102 mins. Colour.

Curious cult movie depicting the clash between Christian churchianity and the Fertility religions; interestingly, Christianity (embodied in the protagonist) is incapable of comprehending the mental set of its rival, yet paganism is shown as able to embrace (or at least identify with) Christian beliefs. Prissy God-fearing police sergeant and Sensible Man Howie comes to remote Summerisle, in the Hebrides, to investigate anonymous report of a missing girl, Rowan. There he finds widespread "depravity". Howie discovers Rowan was the Harvest Queen last year, when Summerisle's normally prolific fruit-crops failed; researching, he concludes she was sacrificed and Skinned in a fertility Ritual. On Mayday, Howie infiltrates the ceremonies; Rowan is still alive, seemingly groomed for Human Sacrifice. But she is not the intended sacrifice: all has been a Godgame designed to lure Howie to come here of his own will, as a virgin (> Virginity) and Fool, and as king for the day. Still praying to the Christ, Howie is set aflame alongside other livestock and vegetable offerings inside the towering "Wicker Man".

Certainly among Cinema's most interesting and literate Psychological Thrillers, TWM has some quaintnesses, some comic moments, some considerable suspense, and an omnipresent strangeness that cannot be dissipated even by the ham Scottishness of various of the cast. Although overtly nonfantasy, it serves almost as a directory of Dark Fantasy. At the close, Howie, clad in a virgin shift, personifies the martyred Christ; but God has forsaken him. [JG]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.