The original The Wicker Man is one of the best cult classics ever made, and fans of this cult hit need to learn more about how it was made.
Robin Hardy's The Wicker Man is one of the most beloved cult horror films of the 1970s. Although the film was not a success at the box-office at the time of its release, it grew in popularity through word of mouth. As such, the film currently holds an 89% Certified fresh Rotten Tomatoes rating, 87/100 Metascore, and 7.5/10 IMDB-rating. Its popularityand legacy were only strengthened when the 2006 remake starring Nicolas Cage failed so hard that it only made people seek out the 1973 original.
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Starring Edward Woodward, Sir Christopher Lee, and Britt Ekland, the story follows conservative police Sergeant Neil Howie summoned to Summerisle to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a young girl who the local townsfolk claim doesn't exist. As Howie meets a bevy of strange and sordid locals, he's led down a primrose path of pure pain.
The Wicker Man was in part inspired by a 1676 engraving called "The Wicker Image" created by the artist Aylett Sammes. The image can be found in the volume of Britannia Antiqua Illustrata.
According to screenwriter Anthony Shaffer, his intent for the project was to make a more cerebral horror moviethat wasless dependent on the kind of gratuitous gore that was popular at the time. When he settled on the concept of sacrifice, Shaffer knew he was headed in the right direction.
The Wicker Man was filmed in 25 various locations throughout Scotland in the fall of 1972. Galloway, Scotland was among the locations, which star Britt Eklandcalled"the bleakest place on Earth" before receiving tons of flak for saying so.
Since the film was shot in the autumn but set in the springtime, several handmade trees with full blossoms were trucked in for the production. However, the aerial shots of Summerisle were really shot in South Africa as the production could not afford to transport any more fake tree blossom to Scotland.
Before Edward Woodward was cast in the lead role of Sergeant Howie, Robin Hardy considered several other actors. Michael York was his first choice to play the role but he declined it. Once York passed, Hardy approached David Hemmings for the role.
Later, star Christopher Lee offered the lead role to his longtime friend and fellow British horror legend Peter Cushing but he declined due to scheduling conflicts. In the end, it was producer Peter Snell and screenwriter Anthony Shaffer who suggested Woodward, who happened to be Snell's first choice all along.
Christopher Lee has named The Wicker Manas his favorite of his own films and that his role as the cult leaderLord Summerisle is one of the greatest of his career. Lee also appeared in the film for free, as did most of the actors, and even spent his own money on a promotional tour to help market the movie.
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Lee attended every promotional stop willing to have him in the lead up to the film's release. He paid for the entire trip on his own dime. As proven by The Wicker Man'slasting legacy and impact, his passion for the film paid off.
To ensure the utmost authenticity, Edward Woodward repeatedly refused to visit the set where the Wicker Man effigy was housed before filming the iconic finale. The first time Woodward saw the towering set-piece came when his character Howie was dragged over the hill against his will.
As such, Howie's frightened response of "Oh God, Oh Jesus Christ" was Woodward's genuine reaction. As Woodward was being carried toward the effigy, he asked Hardy if he was really going to be placed inside The Wicker Man structure. Hardy said yes.
The movie's infamous finale features the sinister Summerisle locals cheering over the sacrificial burning of Sergeant Howie. Believe it or not, Edward Woodward was placed inside the Wicker Man structure while it was being burned for real. The actor has sinceclaimed that he's never been more scared in his six-decade career.
As if the burning Wicker Man wasn't enough,one of the sacrificial goats that was placed in a pen above Woodward urinated on Woodward. Specifically, this happened when the fires began and the poor goat was so terrified that it pissed on the actor below.
One of the most indelible moments of The Wicker Maninvolves Willow's (Britt Ekland) nude dance scene, which took 13 hours to shoot. Although a stunt-double was used for Ekland's lower-half, her then-boyfriend Rod Stewart lobbied to have the film banned over the use of Ekland's nude body.
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Because she was pregnant at the time, Ekland demanded a body-double from the waist down. Although Lorraine Peters is credited as her stand-in, Hardy claims he found a prostitute from Scotland to perform the dance. Ekland was displeased to learn the nude double scenes were filmed after she left the set.
Several scenes were filmed that ultimately went unused in the theatrical cut of The Wicker Man. Some if not all of the excised footage has been restored in the 102-minute Special Edition Director's Cut, giving fans of the cult film a new experience.
Among the more memorable excisions include footage depicting Sergeant Howie as a preacher, a longer version of Lord Summerisle's poem, several longer conversations between Howie and various locals, and a scene where Howie visits Lord Summerisle's castle and listens to him give a grand speech about apples. Lee was particularly miffed that the latter scene was cut.
Long after production wrapped, the official film negative and reels of outtakes were secured in a storage vault at Shepperton Studios in Surrey, England. Upon a change in ownership, the new management asked for everything in the vault to be destroyed.
Unfortunately, the original film negatives for The Wicker Man was returned from the lab and placed in the vault right before the contents were razed.This is why, as mentioned above, only a fraction of the many deleted scenes and outtakes were restored, as many of the originals were lost in the vault's destruction.
In 1989, The Wicker Man scribe Anthony Shaffer penned a 30-page treatment for a sequel entitled The Loathsome Lambton Worm. Rather than another methodical sacrificial mystery, this follow-up would have been a bombastic FX-driven fantasy-horror story. The sequel picked up immediately after the original ended, with several cops rescuing Howie. As he sets out to get revenge on Lord Summerisle and his disciples, Howie faces challenges from Pagan druids. This all culminates ina battle between Howie and a fire-spitting dragon before Howie commits suicide by plunging off a cliff while strapped two to giant eagles. Yes, really.
Hardy had no interest in filming this sequel,but itsillustrated treatment is included in Alan Brown's book Inside The Wicker Man:How Not to Make a Cult Classic. For the curious,The Loathsome Lambton Wormhas an online audio dramaand Hardy and Lee did in fact make a spiritual sequel toThe Wicker Manin the 2011 filmThe Wicker Tree.
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The Wicker Man (1973): 10 Things You Didn't Know About The Cult Movie - Screen Rant
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