WICKER MAN: A TALE OF TWO MOVIES
by Paul Butler
The creative core of The Wicker Man (1973)
(Left to right) Peter Snell, Anthony Shaffer, and Robin Hardy
In 1973, with a minimum of fanfare, a movie produced through British Lion and directed by Robin Hardy snuck briefly onto the cinema screens of the UK. The Wicker Man, a mystery thriller featuring a battle of wills between a fiercely Presbyterian police sergeant and a joyfully pagan aristocrat, had no real precedent.
Filmed entirely on location on several islands in western Scotland, with choppy sequences characteristic of the (then) little used hand-held camera, The Wicker Man at the time must have seemed relentlessly uncommercial.
British Lion, which had gone through a change of ownership, didn’t like the film. They had it drastically edited, and despite the presence of several names in the cast –including Christopher Lee and Edward Woodward– gave it only a very limited release.