70s cult classic The Wicker Man is the macabre tale of a Christian policeman, sent into the depths of the Scottish highlands to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a young girl. His investigation brings chilling consequences as he finds himself in the midst of a sinister pagan cult, where nude dancing, frog swallowing and human sacrifice are all on the agenda. Tonight, as part of its Gothic season, the BFI is honouring the film's 40th anniversary, showing the a final cut of the haunting screenplay. Although the original director's cut of the film has been infamously lost for a number of years, a similar edit – put together by director Robin Hardy – was recently discovered. It has since been restored by StudioCanal to all its eerie glory, and the originally intended length of 92 minutes. To celebrate the film's return to the big screen, AnOther present their top 10 Wicker Man facts.
1. Despite the film's iconic status today, it was originally made on a tiny budget, and only an 88-minute version was shown in the cinema. Christopher Lee was outraged by this referring to the short version as "a shadow of the film we actually made".
2. Although set in the middle of Spring, it was filmed during October and November, plastic blossoms had to be stuck to the trees and the actors had to suck on ice cubes during outdoor scenes to stop their breath from freezing.
3. The film is said to be inspired by both the David Pinner novel ‘Ritual’ – which tells a similar tale to the one portrayed in the final film – and an engraving entitled 'The Wicker Image’ from 1676, as well as Roman propaganda.
4. Former Bond girl Britt Ekland starred as the seductive innkeeper's daughter in the film. However it was later revealed that almost all of her dialogue and singing was re-dubbed by Scottish singer and actress, Annie Ross.
"Ekland also had a body double to perform her nude dancing scenes in the film – an illustrious position claimed by two Scottish women"
5. Ekland also had a body double to perform her nude dancing scenes in the film – an illustrious position claimed by two Scottish women. She later announced she didn’t perform the nude scenes herself as she’d recently discovered she was pregnant.
6. Christopher Lee was won over by the screenplay and agreed to star in the film for free. He has said that he considers his role as the devilish Lord Summerisle to be one of his greatest ever performances.
7. Alongside the lost footage, the original soundtrack by Paul Giovanni was also mislaid for a number of years. When discovered by Trunk records in 1997, it was released on vinyl and is rumoured to be one of the most collectable records of all time.
8. Most of the films characters are named after flowers, trees and plants, such as Willow McGregor, Miss Rose, Rowan Morrison and Daisy.
9. Britt Ekland caused more controversy when she labelled Galloway in Scotland – where the Wicker Man was filmed – the ‘bleakest place on earth’, and the producers had to apologise to the locals.
10. Director Robin Hardy can be spotted in a cameo role as the preacher in the mainland church scene.
You can find out more about the showing, and the BFI's Gothic Season here.
Text by Rhiannon Wastell