And if the Crops Don't Grow?


Folk horror has had a pretty major resurgence in the last few years. Midsommar, The VVitch, In the Earth, Kill List, The Ritual, Apostle, A Field in England, and may other films have brought the genre back into the public consciousness.  The genre got its start in the late 60s and early 70s with films like The Witchfinder General and Blood on Satan’s Claw.  That first wave culminated with the absolute masterpiece that is Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man.

By now, it seems likely that everyone knows at least the bare bones of the film’s plot: Police Sergeant Neil Howie (Edward Woodward, best known on my side of the pond as The Equalizer) comes to Summerisle, a remote island in the Hebrides, in search of a missing child. Rowan Morrison.  He had received an anonymous letter informing him that the girl had been unseen for months, and that no one seemed to be looking for her.

Howie is a devoutly religious man, and is immediately shocked by the pagan religion of the islanders. While he surely is scandalized by their worship of what he believes to be false gods, his real ire is raised by the sexual nature of their rites. Young people have sex in public, there are phallic symbols everywhere, and even involve the children in their celebrations.

There is a fascinating scene in which Britt Ekland (Get Carter) performs a strange, nude dance in an attempt to seduce Howie. While it is certainly enjoyable to watch, I have never found this scene to fit logically within the plot. The conclusion of the film hinges on Howie being a virgin, so she shouldn’t be trying to have sex with him, unless she is secretly against the rest of the islanders.

The plot plays out as a mystery. Howie collects clues as to the fate of Rowan.  The trail leads him to Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee in one of his finest performances). The Lord’s grandfather, an agronomist, had purchased the island because it had perfect conditions for various crops that he wanted to grow. He had convinced the pagan locals that the new fruits would bring favor from the gods, and as the island’s harvest was plentiful, even those who had previously not been part of the local traditions began to convert.

Howie begins to fear that Rowan is in fact alive, and is to be a sacrifice to the gods during the May Day celebration.

Howie steals a mask (Punch, the fool as it so happens, which turns out to be very fitting). He infiltrates the parade and finds Rowan very much alive. He flees with her to a cave where they are soon followed by the locals. It is then that Howie learns the truth:

Rowan was never in danger.  Summerisle tells him that he has all the attributes that their gods require of a sacrifice: he came of his own free will, has the king’s power (as a cop), is a virgin, and is a fool. Howie tries to tell Lord Summerisle that the failing crops are due to the changing climate and that his sacrifice will do nothing to change that. His pleas fall on deaf ears. The men force him into the giant eponymous wicker man along with various animals. It is set ablaze. Poor Howie burns up.

And if the crops don’t grow? Then perhaps Summerisle will meet the same fate.


The Wicker Man is, without a doubt, absolutely essential viewing for all fans of folk horror or of horror in general.


A final note:


The film has been released in many editions. Perhaps the best of them is the Limited four disc hardbox from Imprint. It features unique artwork created by Author & Artist Richard Wells. 2000 copies.



1080p high-definition presentation of The Final Cut version of the film

NEW Audio commentary by BFI film historians Vic Pratt and Will Fowler (2022)

Burnt Offering: The Cult of the Wicker Man – documentary (2001)

Worshiping The Wicker Man – featurette

The Music of The Wicker Man – featurette

Interview with director Robin Hardy

Critic’s Choice interview with director Robin Hardy and actor Christopher Lee by Stirling Smith (1979)

The Restoration Comparison – featurette

The Final Cut Trailer

Theatrical Trailer

U.S. Theatrical Trailer

Aspect Ratio 1.85:1

Audio English LPCM 2.0 Mono

Optional English HOH subtitles


Disc Two: UK Theatrical Cut (HD) and The Director’s Cut (HD/SD)

1080p high-definition presentation of The Theatrical Cut version of the film

NEW 1080p high-definition presentation of The Director’s Cut version of the film utilising standard-definition material for additional footage

NEW Audio commentary by film critic/historian Kim Newman & author Sean Hogan on The Theatrical Cut


Disc Three: Bonus Disc

The Director’s Cut in Standard Definition with optional audio commentary by actors Christopher Lee, Edward Woodward, and director Robin Hardy

Making the Director’s Cut audio commentary – featurette

The Wicker Man Q&A (2013)

Folk musicians discuss The Wicker Man

Ex-S: The Wicker Man – documentary (1998)

The Wicker Man Enigma – documentary (2001)

NEW Willow’s Song & The Liberation of Eve – The Wicker Man: Sexual Revolution, Counterculture, and Satanic Feminism – video essay by Kat Ellinger (2022)

NEW Forged Folklore: The Fakery of The Wicker Man – video essay by Dr Adam Scovell (2022)

NEW The Music of The Wicker Man – interview with author David Huckvale (2022)

NEW The Golden Bough – interview with author David Huckvale on the symbolism of The Wicker Man (2022)

NEW Robert Reed on The Wicker Man (2022)

The Willow Song – promo video by Robert Reed featuring Angharad Brinn

TV Spot

Radio Spots


Disc Four: The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack CD