4 July 2016



Robin Hardy passed away earlier this week at the age of eighty-six. He was the director of what is commonly viewed as one of the greatest British films of all time, THE WICKER MAN (1973). If directing this superlative, practically perfect film was your one achievement in the whole of your life, then you could consider yourself not to have wasted your time here on Earth. It's just that good.

For those who don't know, THE WICKER MAN is the story of Sergeant Howie, a rather straight-laced 'Christian copper' who travels to the Scottish island of Summerisle in search of a missing child. He can hardly believes what he finds there. The islanders to a man are amoral, sex-mad pagans, who worship 'the old gods' while shunning everything Howie considers decent, right and proper.

The film gradually builds up the tension and sense of impending doom before culminating in possibly the most shocking and spine-chilling climax in cinema ever. There's an American re-make of this marvellous film starring Nicolas Cage, but I understand that fans of the original movie prefer not to acknowledge its existence...!

Personally speaking, I feel that the re-make would have been an 'okay' stand-alone film if it hadn't been purporting to have any connection with the original. It's the fact that it claims to be a re-make of the best British film ever made that has the die-hard fans up in arms and spitting feathers of outrage and hatred. I'll probably be burnt alive (ahem!) for saying anything at all in favour of the re-make so, if you don't hear from me for a while, you'll know the reason why.

THE WICKER MAN, the original one, has a superb musical score and some immensely memorable dialogue and scenes. It has a trio of sexy blonde beauties (Diane Cilento, Ingrid Pitt and Britt Ekland) disporting themselves rather charmingly about the place and the most aristocratically-voiced English actor who ever lived, Christopher Lee, as the joint lead male with Edward Woodward.

THE WICKER TREE is seemingly neither a re-make of the original nor a sequel to it. Based on a novel by the great director himself, it was intended to be the second film in a WICKER MAN trilogy, the first instalment being of course THE WICKER MAN itself.

The third one, THE WRATH OF THE GODS, is as yet unmade. It was to have been the story of a theme park based on Norse legends and, with the sad death of the director, I suppose its future is uncertain now.

Now to THE WICKER TREE. I've been dilly-dallying about, putting off writing about it because I'm going to say awful things about it. It feels a bit like I'm marking the passing of dear old Robin Hardy by totally decimating one of his life's works. That makes me feel as guilty as a person who's just been found guilty of being guilty and who's going to have to live with that for all eternity.

I pray that he forgives me and won't hold a grudge. If there's a place for the humble fan in that great WICKER MAN reunion in the sky, I hope that this bad review won't blot my copybook and ruin my chances of gatecrashing it somehow. I really want to meet the snails who were copulating outside Willow's bedroom window while Lord Summerisle pontificated in his deep handsome voice and ask them what their motivation was for that crucially saucy scene...!

Well, here we go. Firstly, I was horrified to observe that THE WICKER TREE has Americans in it. Actual Americans...! I'm not being racist against Americans, haha. It's just that the original film is as British (and Scottish) as it's possible to be. Then the action moves from America to Scotland, which is good, but the Americans go too, which is bad...! (I'm still not being racist, I swear!)

Two smugly, publicly chaste Born-Again-Christian singers from the good old US of A travel to Scotland. Their mission is to preach Christianity to the unconverted heathens who live there who've never accepted Jesus Christ as their personal whatsit.

Beth and Steve have the most irritating Texan accents and they actually say y'all. Y'all...! I'm very much afraid to say that I hated both of them on sight, especially Steve who looked like he should be chewing on a straw and saying 'Aw, shucks, ma'am!' every time he was addressed by anyone. He wears his cowboy hat to bed, for gosh-darn's-sake!

They are both taken under the wing of the laird of Tressock, a village in the Scottish Lowlands. I didn't like the laird and his missus either, I'm afraid. Sir Lachlan Morrison, the owner of the local nuclear plant, looks like a cross between Patrick Stewart and Ben Kingsley.

I'm certainly not holding that against him, as those are both attractive, charismatic men. As the local toff, however, Sir Lachlan couldn't hold a candle to Lord Summerisle for menacing glamour and sensuality, and his wife Delia, though she attempts to be a bitch, is pretty forgettable really.

The pair of yodelling Yanks are just in time for the Mayday celebrations, at which they're intended by the locals to be the guests of honour. If you remember the way in which poor dear Sergeant Howie was the guest of honour at the Mayday celebrations of the inhabitants of Summerisle, then you'll know exactly how big a deal it is and how it will all pan out.

The acting and dialogue is almost uniformly poor. The attempt at comic writing is painful and cringeworthy. There's zero atmosphere and none of the natural sexiness of the original film. Every time I hear the haunting, primeval strains of 'Gently, Johnny' from THE WICKER MAN, I want to grab the nearest guy and start working my way through the Kama Sutra. Nothing in THE WICKER TREE made me want to have sex, not even the sex scenes.

There's a bizarre sex scene in it featuring the position commonly known (I believe!) as 'reverse cowgirl.' It's not remotely sexy, even though you see tits. The naked bathing scene focuses on a man's bare butt for quite a long time, which was fine by me but I imagine it put a lot of guys off their chips.

A lot of the film doesn't make sense. There weren't any characters in it I felt like rooting for either. I disliked most of them. The character of Beame, the chauffeur and general factotum, could have been played quite successfully by Scottish comedian Billy Connolly, as they're both dead ringers for each other. I'm sure Billy Connolly wouldn't at all have minded making his testicles the butt of one of the film's jokes...! Christopher Lee's cameo was sad and baffling, though it was lovely to see him.

There were some nice shots of the beautiful countryside and the scenes in the ruined castle were passably interesting. I also liked seeing what had become of previous Queens Of The May. It reminded me of Vincent Price when he was the deranged owner of a popular wax museum in one of his films. I think that's about all that I liked about the film, or could tolerate about it, heh-heh-heh.

I normally like to see the positive side of every film I review but I'm afraid I just really hated this. I didn't want to, because of Robin Hardy's connection to the original WICKER MAN, but it couldn't be helped. It's a chaotic mess which doesn't seem to know whether it's coming or going.

THE WICKER TREE is dedicated to Edward Woodward who passed away in 2009. Sir Christopher Lee died in the summer of 2015 and, of course, now Robin Hardy is no longer with us either. I love these three lads to bits, despite my harsh words in this review, and I sincerely hope that somehow, somewhere, they know that.


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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