At first the locals deny the girls existence, then when he finds out she does, he is told she has died. And the mystery deepens from there. But what concerns Howie most is the strange, unchristian behavior of the locals. Christopher Lee plays Lord Summerisle in a silly wig and sideburns, and Britt Ekland is hot dancing naked.
The main point of conflict here is Howie's tightly wound Christian beliefs against the pre-Christian sensibilities of the island folk. His authority is clearly limited to the investigation at hand but his judgement of the people rises above that.
Every now and again, I am pointed to The Wicker Man as a seminal work of horror. IMdb gives it high marks, and if you listen to the actors, they declare it one of the greats. Cinfantastique magazine called it the Citizen Kane of horror, which is more than a stretch. I don't count Kane as the greatest film ever, but it's flawless movie making was remarkable. There were more than a few flaws in Wicker. Lucky for it, the story was more interesting.
But maybe the movie would have been better had the original negatives not been immediately destroyed and the film cut to ribbons upon release. Apparently, British Lion was sold during the production of the movie and the new owners hated the film. Much has been restored, but there are apparently still missing scenes and significant film and audio quality issues.
I think what interests people most, apart from the delightful nudity, is it's ambiguity. Who exactly is the villain? The pagan island folk or the moralistic cop? Maybe a matter of opinion. Also, this may be the first film to accurately depict pre-christian culture and ceremonies.
The Citizen Kane of nothing, but still a movie very much worth watching. AMRU 3.5. Britt Ekland was hot.
"Sergeant Howie: Your lordship seems strangely... unconcerned.
Lord Summerisle: Well I'm confident your suspicions are wrong, Sergeant. We don't commit murder here. We're a deeply religious people.
Sergeant Howie: Religious? With ruined churches, no ministers, no priests... and children dancing naked!
Lord Summerisle: They do love their divinity lessons.
Sergeant Howie: [outraged] But they are... a-are NAKED!
Lord Summerisle: Naturally! It's much too dangerous to jump through fire with their clothes on!"