The Wicker Man (1973)
Until the final moments of the film, it is impossible to say conclusively what is afoot on the remote Scottish island where Sergeant Howie (Edward Woodward) has come in search of a missing child. Despite a pervasive eeriness, the suspicion remains that any wrongdoing could be only in his mind.
Anthony Shaffer’s screenplay is bold in its deferral of information, mature in its comparison of Christianity and paganism, and downright devastating in its final twist. The film was originally pushed out in a butchered cut as a B feature to Nicolas Roeg’s ‘Don’t Look Now’, but its reputation as a stand-alone classic is now assured. Its influence goes beyond cinema: modern folk musicians have cited the evocative soundtrack as an inspiration.
The Scotland shown on screen here is far away from the romance of ‘Brigadoon’ or the spectacle of later films like ‘Highlander’ or ‘Rob Roy’. Burrow Head, Plockton and St Ninian's Cave are used to create an all-encompassing sense of weirdness and unease – something only a Scottish filmmaker could put on film.