Wicker Man (1973)
Directed by Robin Hardy

Starring Britt Ekland Christopher Lee Diane Cilento Edward Woodward Ingrid Pitt

From the trench coat crowd, much of the attention this film has received over the years is for the long and erotic nude scene the gorgeous Britt Ekland has at the beginning.She lip synchs a folk song while writhing about naked.

As exciting as it sounds, Ekland's laughable debut as a nude karaoke singer is actually a distraction from an excellent film on the occult, one that horror movie veteran Chistopher Lee has hailed as the best movie he ever starred in. It is an amazing horror film, one that was incredibly difficult for the producers to have distributed. Released initially in a very cut form and on a double bill with "Don't Look Now," it would eventually be re-released in its uncut form to art houses in 1979, gaining international acclaim and solififying itself as a cult classic.

Edward Woodward plays an uptight, virgin police officer who flies to a Scottish island to investigate the disappearance of a young girl. Disgusted by the pagan practices of the island, where churches are no longer used as houses of worship and phallic symbolism is taught in elementary schools, he begins to suspect the girl had been sacrificed during a ritual -- or may soon be sacrificed. His fears aren't allayed when he meets the leader of the island, played by Christopher Lee, who explains to him that worship of the "old gods" is what has enabled the inhabitants to grow fruit on what was originally thought to have been an agriculturally unfriendly island.

The inhabitants seem to giggle whenever Norton discovers another clue that the missing girl may have been murdered. Initially, they don't even admit that such a girl lived on the isalnd. Eventually, he is sexually tempted by Ekland and, in a brief scene, Ingrid Pitt who plays the town librarian. When his plane is tampered with, preventing him from leaving the island, he decides to look for the girl on his own.

The end of the film could, very well, have served as inspiration of the Burning Man festival held in the Nevada desert throughout the 1990s. Director Hardy wouldn't direct much else than this, sadly. The film was written by Anthony Schaeffer, the man who penned Alfred Hitchcock's "Frenzy." He'd follow this film up with a number of Agatha Christie movies. The studios were apparently not enthusiastic about the film when it was finished and refused to do it justice by promoting it or giving it a legitimate release. Eventually the uncut version of the film made its way to theaters, but the negatives for this 100-minute-plus rendition of the film have been sadly lost. The cut version runs at under 90 minutes.

A must see for any self-respecting horror fan.

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-- Review by Lucius Gore

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