Wicker Man Trivia (based on the WIcker-Man.com page but added to)
In this section we present some curious bits, bobs, odds and sods relating to The Wicker Man. As with any anecdotes relating to matters that happened 35 years ago, it is perhaps hard to decipher which are entirely factual and which are not, particularly as stories about The Wicker Man have a habit of contradicting each other.
The producers of The Wicker Man bought the film rights to a 1967 novel entitled 'Ritual'. Written by David Pinner, 'Ritual' tells the story of a police officer who is called to a remote Cornish village to investigate the disappearance of a missing child. As the story progresses, it transpires that the community is routed in ancient pagan beliefs. The book even contains a scene where the local temptress seduces the policeman through the wall separating their bedrooms. According to Pinner, there was talk of 'Ritual' being made into a film starring John Hurt. (There is also a sequel: The Wicca Woman written by Pinner!)
Christopher Lee performed in The Wicker Man for no fee. He still insists that it is the best script he has ever seen and describes the film as one of the best of all time.
The Wicker Man was filmed during October and November. Fake blossom trees were carried between filming locations to create an impression of it being May. It was bloody freezing, and wet, when The Wicker Man was filmed.
Famously, The Wicker Man was denied a full British cinema release and was hacked to bits by the film's studio boss ( Michael Deeley ) who declared the film to be rubbish. The shortened film ended up being given only a small regional release as an opening 'b' movie to 'Don't Look Now'.
To this day, Christopher Lee is still outraged that Michael Deeley never stood up for his wife upon their meeting. Until this day Lee makes sure to make this fact known whenever he is interviewed on the subject. If you should ever meet Christopher Lee, it would be a good idea to stand up if his wife is present.
According to legend, the master of the full film was buried in a landfill under the M3 motorway .
The film was rescued in the late 1970s for release as a low key art film in America . It was restored from a print found by Roger Corman who had been sent a copy before the film had been butchered. During a legal dispute, the restored material had to be handed over to a company who had been sold the American rights years before. (The shorter version of the movie played one night at two drive-ins in Nevada and was then declared a financial loss as they had intended it to be so they could reap the tax benefits.) This company have since lost the restored material....doh! In the director-approved version we now have on DVD, approximately 15 minutes of the film had to be sourced from a poor quality NTSC videotape. Christopher Lee believes that there is a more sinister conspiracy surrounding the whereabouts of the film's masters, but refuses to divulge who he believes has hidden it.
Considering the film's themes of 'death and rebirth', some have claimed that the film's destruction and subsequent resurrection imply that there is something genuinely supernatural about The Wicker Man. It took an entire generation for the film to be widely recognized as a great work of art. The Wicker Man is considerably more popular over thirty years after its release than it ever was. It has joined an unusual group of films who can make this claim including 'Its A Wonderful Life' and 'Citizen Kane'. The Wicker Man has long been described as 'the Citizen Kane of horror films'. Fans of the film have objected to this claim, not because it doesn't rank alongside 'Citizen Kane', but simply because it isn't a horror film! Sadly, Citizen Kane is never described as 'The Wicker Man of normal films'.
The scenes in which Ash Buchanan is presented to Willow and the mainland scenes were cut from the first release of the Wicker Man.
The mainland scene in which we see Howie and McTaggart in their police car was filmed in a garage. The illusion of passing cars was created by two crew members waving torches past their windscreen.
The Episcopal church used for the mainland church would not allow Edward Woodward to receive communion. The communion shots had to be filmed in Anwoth which was also the site of Summerisle's ruined kirk.
Director Robin Hardy makes a cameo appearance in the film as the preacher in the mainland church scene. Screenwriter Anthony Shaffer was present during the filming of the final scenes and is said to be among the villagers.
The snails footage was sourced from archive material.
Diane Cilento, who played Miss Rose, claimed to be a white witch at the time of filming and took a personal involvement in the 'fire leap' where she appears in her white robes. She also assisted in the choreographing of this sequence. The poster seen on the ceiling of the Green Man inn was designed by Diane Cilento. It was artwork she had created for a series of tarot cards.
During the film's American release, its promoter Sterling Smith claimed publicly and loudly that Britt Ekland's then boyfriend, singer Rod Stewart, had offered them large amounts of money NOT to release the film. The above claim has been dismissed by everybody else involved, including Rod Stewart, as being nothing but myth making.
Speaking of everybody; according to everybody except director Robin Hardy, Britt Ekland's dialog was overdubbed by the Scottish actress and singer Annie Ross.
Britt Ekland described Dumfries And Galloway as the most dismal place in creation during filming. The producers had to apologize to the local press for her comments.
According to Gary Carpenter, Britt Ekland's 'bum double' was in the midst of menstruation at the time of filming. Seeing as toiletries were not an option for the naked scene, Gary suggests that evidence of this may still be visible on the wooden floor of the room it was filmed! (We are pleased to say that the floor has since been carpeted. )
There are not one but two people who both claim to have played the part of Willow's bottom. Lorraine Peters ( who also played the girl crying on the grave ) was the real one, according to reliable sources, including Gary Carpenter, who was on-set during the filming of the scene.
Edward Woodward wore a police uniform that was purposefully too small for him. This was to help create the impression that Sergeant Howie was constricted and ill at ease.
Anthony Shaffer's brother Peter stood in for Howie's Mr Punch during one shoot. Peter Shaffer worked with Anthony in researching the ancient pagan rituals which can be seen in the film. His main resource was the 'Golden Bough' series of books written by Sir James George Frazer. He also adapted the lyrics of some ancient songs featured to a hybrid ancient / modern English heard in The Wicker Man's score. For further details of this, see our article on The Music of The Wicker Man.
Lord Stairs owned an estate where much of the film was shot. His wife was a dead ringer for( and relative of ) the Queen. When she emerged walking her corgi dogs, the 'fire leap' girls were so embarrassed at being semi-naked in the presence of the monarch, they ran screaming into nearby bushes.
Lindsay Kemp ( who played Alder McGregor ) had a habit of turning up at parties wearing woman's clothing and carrying a handbag.
At one point during the production, Robin Hardy was found unconsciously drunk in the women's toilet of an Isle Of Whithorn pub!
At one point in the film's production, Kemp had enough of The Wicker Man and abandoned the project. The producers had to ask him very nicely to come back up to Scotland from London and finish the shooting.
The scene where we first see Rowan at the cliff opening was filmed at St Ninian's Cave. The cave is a sacred monument among christians who believe that Ninian spent the night there when he arrived in Scotland to bring christianity to the Scots. It is now place of holy pilgrimage.
It is surprisingly common for fans of The Wicker Man to make regular pilgrimages to its filming locations.
'The Sun' - Britain's biggest selling newspaper - once ran an article about Wicker Man fanatics and said that they are called 'Wicker Heads'. Like a great many things in 'The Sun' newspaper, it was complete rubbish.
Anthony Shaffer has described Wicker Man fanatics as being lovely and charming people but absolutely mad. Wicker Man fanatics are not quite as famously mad as fanatics of the cult British TV series 'The Prisoner'!
The mainland police station seen in the film was demolished in the mid 1970s. While building was under way on its replacement , the police worked from the Kirkcudbright shop that was used for May Morrison's post office.
An annual music festival entitled 'The Wickerman Festival' has taken place near Kirkcudbright in recent years. Although the artists who perform have absolutely nothing to do with The Wicker Man whatsoever, they do show the film in a tent at each event, and arrange a tour of some of the film's locations. The festivities end with a burning of a wicker man, which sadly looks nothing like The Wicker Man. The acts are invariably incompletely reformed British punk bands of yesteryear and the like. In 2003, the minister of the Castle Douglas church in Dumfries And Galloway refused to accept a donation from the organizers of 'The Wickerman Festival'. He said that he was following a decision made by his church elders, who were unhappy with the themes of The Wicker Man film, rather than the music festival itself.
Dumfries and Galloway in the south of Scotland served as the location for most of the scenes in The Wicker Man. The most notable exception is Plockton, which doubled as Summerisle harbour and seafront. Plockton is located in the Scottish Highlands.
The seaplane number G-AXZN seen in the film was destroyed by a fire in Scotland shortly after filming.
The 'evil eye' rowing boat was not constructed for the film. It belonged to a resident of Plockton .Upon seeing it, the producers decided it would suit the film. The boat survived until 2004 when it was destroyed in a storm.
According to locals, the larger boat, which we see during the search for Rowan, served in the gulf war! Whether it delivered apples to the troops is unknown.
When Edward Woodward was inside the Wicker Man, the goat above him pissed on his head. The goat in question was called 'Touchwood'. In fact, whenever the goat's owner called its name to the creature, the crew thought that 'touchwood' was an instruction to set The Wicker Man alight.
According to Robin Hardy, Howie's final speech is based upon Walter Raleigh's dying words. Anthony Shaffer wrote a sequel to 'The Wicker Man'. It was merely written to order and was, of course, never filmed. It is not to be taken especially seriously.
The phrase 'Momentomori' is latin for "remember that you will die".
The legs of one of the wicker men built in Burrowhead for the closing scenes still exist today.
Edward Woodward released many easy listening LPs throughout the 1970s. Among them are 'Edward Woodward', 'The Edward Woodward Album' , 'Edwardian Woodward', 'An Evening With Edward Woodward' and 'Woodward Again'.
According to Robin Hardy, when The Wicker Man played in Kentucky, state officials were so impressed by the film's pro-resurrection message that he and Christopher Lee were made Kentucky Colonels. This is the same title afforded to Colonel Saunders of 'Kentucky Fried Chicken' fame.
Phil Heslop, who lived in the house where the bedrooms of Willow, Howie and Alder were shot, tells of one scene that hasn't been heard of otherwise. Supposedly a rape scene was filmed in Willow's bedroom. The rapist exited out her window. A local called out "Get your big hairy arse our of there", during the take, he says. No evidence of this has turned up anywhere else. Can anyone corroborate this?
Titles in other languages:
Belgium (Flemish title) - De gevlochten god
Belgium (French title) - Le Dieu d'osier
Bulgaria (Bulgarian title) - Плетеният човек
Brazil - O Homem de Palha
Spain - El hombre de mimbre
Finland - Uhrijuhla
UK (complete title) - Anthony Shaffer's The Wicker Man
Greece (transliterated ISO-LATIN-1 title ) - To katarameno skiahtro
Greece - Το καταραμένο σκιάχτρο
Hungary - A vesszőből font ember
Norway (alternative title) - Narrenes konge
Poland - Kult
Poland (TV title) - Slomiane bóstwo
Portugal - O Sacrifício
Serbia - Čovek od pruća
Sweden - Dödlig skörd
Slovenia - Moz iz protja
Slovenia (alternative title) - Pleteznik
Soviet Union (Russian title) - Плетеный человек
Venezuela - El culto siniestro
Europe (English title) (alternative spelling) - The Wickerman
From Stuart Byron's Something Wicker This Way Comes article in Film Commentary, Nov-Dec 1977.
360 cans of negatives shot (Hardy)
19 locations in Scotland (Stuart Byron)
2 102 (99 really) minute prints sent to Corman. Only one found its way back to Abraxis.
Twenty-four prints of the eighty-six minute version were struck by Warner Brothers.
Warners used the same trailer as was prepared for its second-feature career in England. merely changing the voiceover narration from a British to an American accent.