Movie review: 'The Wicker Man'

COLIN COVERT | Updated 10/24/2013

Reissued 1973 suspense classic shines.

Christopher Lee in "The Wicker Man"
Rialto Pictures

⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars

Where: Uptown.

In the 1973 suspense classic “The Wicker Man,” Sgt. Neil Howie (Edward Woodward), a puritanical Christian investigating a girl’s disappearance, encounters forces beyond his imagining. With its warm Gulf Stream currents and palm trees, lush Summerisle off Scotland’s west coast could not be more different from Howie’s chilly Highlands, and the locals’ pagan rites shock his inflexible piety. A pleasingly literate script by Anthony Shaffer (“Sleuth”) toys with the conventions of missing-persons stories while capturing a sense of menace lurking beneath the everyday. Christopher Lee plays the urbane Lord Summerisle, whose subjects worship fertility in all its forms. Howie, offended by this heresy, endures isolation and agonizing sexual frustration, rather than the usual cops-and-robbers rough stuff. Ultimately, he finds himself the unwilling main character in a heathen passion play. While the film technique is creaky and the Scottish folk songs outstay their welcome, Lee and (especially) Woodward shine. Now reissued with several minutes of restored footage. (Rated R.)