Five Fun Facts About The Wicker Man (1973)
With Midsommar about to release, we’re turning back to an old pagan horror favorite of ours, 1973’s The Wicker Man. Though often confused with the 2006 Nicolas Cage film of the same name, Robin Hardy’s original remains one of the absolute greatest pagan horror films of all time.
The Wicker Man trades in spooks and jump scares for an intriguing mystery and psychological chills, and its fundamental conflict is on one of opposing ideologies and culture shock. It proves how disastrous it can be when we try to intervene in an attempt to change people’s perspectives to that of own, and it’s full of refreshing contrast in comparison to other horror favorites; it’s brightly lit, full of musical numbers, and somehow maintains footing as a light-hearted comedy and a pitch-black horror.
While the film remains as a classic, it seems to be one of those over looked gems. Chances are if you say “The Wicker Man” to anyone, they’ll just start screaming about bees. We’re determined to not let The Wicker Man gather dust, so come dance around the Maypole little nuggets, we’re serving up five fun facts about this Celtic pagan chiller.
Britt Ekland and Rod Stewart had problems with the nude scenes.
Britt Ekland, who played the inn keeper’s daughter Willow, was actually dubbed by Annie Ross for both her song and dialogue, and she also had a secret body double, Lorraine Peters, because she was pregnant at the time and only agreed to do nude scenes from the waist up. After Ekland left set, Peters was used to get the shots of Willow dancing.
When Ekland learned she had been doubled, she was very upset. Rod Stewart, her then boyfriend, even launched an attempt to block The Wicker Man’s release due to her appearing nude. To this day, whenever she’s approached by fans to autograph photos of the full nude scene, she always declines, pointing out that it’s not her.
There’s a trippy dream sequence that’s never seen the light of day…
Ian Cutler, one of the musicians that appears in the film, wrote about the film and a mysterious dream sequence that’s never been released on his website:
"The film has been badly cut over the years, and Ian remembers doing scenes that have never appeared in any version of the film. One such scene is the 'Dream' sequence which Ian can remember parts of quite clearly. He believes that this was filmed when Sgt Howie is sleeping, while the Hand of Glory burns. During the dream, which is a kaleidoscope of images, a huge egg-shaped stone is revolving faster and faster. Also the woman in the churchyard who is feeding the baby has the egg in her hand and crushes it. All very symbolic stuff. This scene has never been mentioned anywhere to my knowledge. Has anyone out there ever heard of it?"
Musical Arranger Gary Carpenter remembers similarly:
"I have a vivid memory of having to score a phenomenally complex dream sequence for Howie, which was like post-scoring an animation, it was so intricate. The fades and dissolves and extensive use of library footage for this sequence seriously dented the budget. Despite Robin Hardy's enthusiasm for it and its inclusion in what I assumed at the time to be 'The Director's Cut', I have never seen reference made to it again and it is in no existing version of the film."
The referenced scene never made an appearance in the script; however, a cast listing released by Variety, as well as a few credits that appear at the end of the film, seem to suggest elements that were removed from the film, which is said by many to still be incomplete.
…presumably because the film’s negative were destroyed (and might be under the M3 Motorway).
The negatives and outtakes for The Wicker Man were all stored in the vault of Shepperton Studios, which was underwent an ownership change after the film’s release. The new owners ordered the vault to be cleared of all old material, and apparently, the vault manager accidentally put the negatives for the film, which had just come back from the lab, with the canisters that were to be destroyed.
It’s rumored that the film's full-length negatives and extras were used as landfill in the construction of the M3 motorway in England. According to Sir Christopher Lee, this may be on purpose, since the managing director of British Lion at the time, Michael Deeley, had a major dislike for the film.
Sir Christopher Lee loves the film.
The Wicker Man is Sir Christopher Lee’s favorite film in which he’s appeared, and he considers his portrayal of Lord Summerisle to be his greatest role. Allegedly, he was so taken by the film’s content that he agreed to appear in the film for free, going so far as to pay out of pocket for his own press tour, hitting every stop willing to interview him about the film, which included small, rural areas in places like Iowa.
Edward Woodward’s reaction to the Wicker Man was mostly real.
Though he was asked multiple times, actor Edward Woodward never bothered to see the Wicker Man structure the crew had built for the film’s finale. He much rather preferred the reaction to be genuine, so the first time he saw the structure was when Sgt. Howie was dragged over the top of the hill. His iconic cry of “Oh, God! Oh, Jesus Christ!” was part acting, part authentic.
Then, of course, there’s the burning, which Woodward has repeatedly said that he’s never been more scared in his six decade plus career as he was inside the Wicker Man as it burned. He wasn’t alone though. A goat penned above him was so scared that it gave Woodward a golden shower. Woodward would tell British film critic Mark Kermode that the terror forced him to “act his socks off.”
Welp, that’s our list! What do you think about The Wicker Man? Did you learn anything cool? We want to know. Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and as always, remember to viddy well!