Yes this quiet, Galloway backwater is a perfect place, beautiful, remote, uspoilt, the locals are warm and friendly until having led you a dance they deceive you, attempt to seduce you, dress you up and you burn you alive as a human sacrifice...
'Where is Rowan Morrison?' demands Howie.
Continued from previous page, Also at Anwoth is the old Kirk, 'desecrated', Howie was shocked to find, Anwoth was also where the maypole scene was filmed. Today Anwoth is just the same, well, less the props.
Whilst my picture of the schoolhouse has blossom on the tree, when shooting the film in October to late November 1972 in the least summery conditions imagineable, the production crew glued false plastic blossom onto the trees, you see, in The Wicker Man the deadline was the pagan festival of Beltane, around May 1st.. Britt moaned like a drain, she was locally named Bert Elkland.
'A day of death, and rebirth', whispers Willow.
Starring Edward Woodward as Sergeant Howie, Christopher Lee, said it was his favorite role as Lord Summerisle, and Britt Ekland as Willow MacGregor, Ingrid Pitt as a nymphomaniac librarian and Diane Cilanto as the schoolteacher. Lindsay Kemp as bar keeper (Kemp was best known as a dancer and mime artist). And many other great lasting Scottish actors had minor roles, locals were extras..
The film, heavily cut, was released in 1973 as a B movie to 'Don't Look Now', at the time it was the only way to get it out, despite that the days of double bills had gone at the cinema, despite big names, Woodwood was 'Callan', Hammer Horror queen, Ingrid Pitt often displayed her assetts and sat in hipbaths, Lee was desperate to be not Dracula, Ekland was hot, being in the hit 'Get Carter' 1971. Despite the cuts the film became acclaimed as 'The Best British Horror' of all time, and it lasts, possibly because beneath the surface it's so complex. Possibly because the hunter is unwittingly the game.
To me the music and there's lots in the film, make the Wicker Man as much a musical as a horror/melodrama, it uses mostly folk songs/ballards, some by Robbie Burns, sung by the characters in the film, Lesley Mackie, who plays the character of Daisy in the film, sings the opening song. These songs evoke or hark back to or hint of a pagan time. Music composed, arranged and recorded by Paul Giovanni and his band Magnet.
Anyway the plot.
Sergeant Howie, a devout Christian, arrives on Summerisle, a remote Scottish island to investigate the disappearance of a schoolgirl. He finds, beneath a conventional façade, a community - a pagan cult with very sexually liberated ideas, entirely in opposition to his own. Not until the end does he realise that he himself forms the most important part of the communities plan... Because they are all in it.
'Accept our sacrifice and make our blossoms grow'
The Summerislanders just wanted a decent crop of apples, after all..
The film apart from the opening scenes, Plocton and Skye, and the cave chase scenes Wookey Hole, Somerset, the rest of the scenes were filmed in the Dumfries and Galloway and make wonderful use of the villages, gardens, views, castles, ruins and cliff top. Partly the film was rushed into production as the studio had changed hands and the unions were keen to see that a film went into production than have their fears realised, the foretold asset stripping of the studios.
Local scenes include Howie entering Whithorn Library - there is a small brass placque there, and a scene in the film of children chanting 'we take death out of the village'. Alder's room was at 59 George St, Whithorn.
Burrowhead - the legs of the Wickerman were still there until about 10 years ago. But you can find the remains and post holes. The caravan site covers quite a large area but tends to be deserted. Anyone can walk/drive through there. When in the site walk right along the cliff for a while. There is a very small car park area right next to the WM leg holes. That bit at the end when they are all standing at the cliff edge, next to a large rock, is just a bit further along.
St Ninians Cave, where Lord Summerisle sacrifices barrels of beer to the sea gods and Howie chases Rowan into the cave. More Click here
The bath scene with Ingrid Pitt was filmed in the castle at the Isle of Whithorn, the castle and adjacent boat were also used in some scenes.
High Street Gallery, High Street, Kirkcudbright. which became May Morrison’s post office and sweetshop.
Kirkcudbright Ginnels - chase scenes and when Howie’s feet were on firmer ground Greyfriars Episcopal Church, St Cuthbert Street, Kirkcudbright
The bakery is the Harbour Cottage Gallery, Castlebank, off Harbour Square, Kirkcudbright.
Inside the Green Man Inn is Creetown's Ellangowan Hotel outside is Cally Estate Office, Gatehouse of Fleet. The chemist is now 'Boots' in Gate House of Fleet.
Logan Botanical Gardens. These exotic gardens grow faboulous plants as the area is warmed by the gulf stream.
Castle Kennedy various shots including the stone circle and fire leaping took place, and the procession. - and also Lochinch Castle interior.
Lord Summerisle : “Good afternoon, Sergeant Howie. I trust the sight of the young people refreshes you.''
Sergeant Howie : “No sir, it does NOT refresh me.''
Lord Summerisle's mansion, exterior Culzean Castle.
Newton Stewart museum has a hip bath that was used (mmm perhaps) in the film by actress Ingrid Pitt, the seductive nymphomaniac librarian. There are also photos and newspapers from the time at the museum.
There is also a display of Wicker Man material at Creetown Heritage Museum.
I recommend that you watch the film again and try to match up some of the scenes.Then you'll be back under the spell, and I suggest you visit some of the locations.
The Wicker Man continues to be important to this area of Galloway it's eyecatching locations are showcased and imaginably so, and remain true today - visit St Ninnian's Cave, the museums, Castle Kennedy, Logan Gardens and Burrowhead.
I include the schoolhouse scene here because Sgt Howie goes around in circles just like that beetle unaware he's on a string. Aren't we all?
Pic American Lobby Card and Lord Summerisle at St Ninnian's Cave.