Neil Howie is a devoutly Christian policeman and lay minister, still an unmarried virgin though middle-aged and is mocked for such by his assistant, McTaggart. He anonymously receives a photograph of a girl, Rowan Morrison, in the post with a note stating that she has mysteriously vanished.

Howie heads out to Summerisle, an island community within his jurisdiction, in his search for the girl. No one there has heard of Rowan, not even May Morrison, whom Howie suspects to be Rowan's mother. Mrs Morrison's young daughter shows Howie a picture she has drawn of the supposed missing girl, but the drawing is that of a hare. Howie takes a room at a pub run by Alder MacGregor and his daughter, Willow. He is shocked by the ribald songs sung by customers of the pub and even more so when he observes couples making love in a cemetery as he takes an evening walk. On his return, Howie is further shaken when he sees Lord Summerisle, the lord of the island, bringing Willow a teenage boy for sexual initiation.

The next morning Howie heads to the local school in search of Rowan. There he finds the children being taught about phallic symbols and participating in a phallic maypole dance. Howie finds Rowan's name on the school register and Miss Rose, the teacher, explains that the girl has died but returned in another form. Inquiries with the island's gravedigger, librarian and doctor are all fruitless. His frustration mounting, Howie goes to Lord Summerisle's castle for permission to exhume Rowan's grave, suspecting murder. Though Summerisle is a perfect host, Howie is angered by his pagan attitudes. Howie removes the girl's coffin from the grave and is shocked to find the corpse of a hare. He breaks into the local chemist and examines some harvest festival photographs, discovering that the last batch of crops on the island have failed to grow. He surmises that these pagan people have kidnapped Rowan and are going to sacrifice her in May Day festivities. As he lies in bed wondering about what to do, he is disturbed to find out that Willow is parading naked around her bedroom singing a love song to him. Working himself into a frenzy, Howie eventually collapses exhausted.

The following morning Howie returns to his plane intending to fetch help from the mainland. His plane has been tampered with and will not start, so he begins a search of the island for the missing girl. Returning to the pub for a rest on his bed, he wakes to discover Alder MacGregor in the act of administering a smoking sleeping drug to him. Howie knocks out MacGregor, steals his jester's outfit and joins the costumed procession incognito. The parade around the island is colourful, full of costumes representing nature. Howie spots Rowan being led for an apparent sacrifice and attempts to rescue her. He is quickly surrounded and it is only then that he discovers the truth: Rowan's disappearance was simply a ruse to lure the good Christian man to Summerisle for a ritual sacrifice. Feverishly offering up prayers to Jesus, Howie is placed inside a giant wicker man that is set afire against the setting sun.


(Mouseover or touch character name for image)

Sergeant Howie Edward Woodward
Lord Summerisle Christopher Lee
Miss Rose Diane Cilento
Willow Britt Ekland
Librarian Ingrid Pitt
Alder MacGreagor [sic] Lindsay Kemp
Harbour Master Russell Waters
Old Gardener / Gravedigger Aubrey Morris
May Morrison Irene Sunters
School Master Walter Carr
Oak Ian Campbell
Hairdresser Leslie Blackater
Broome Roy Boyd
Musician Peter Brewis
Woman with Baby Barbara Ann Brown
Villager on Summerisle Juliette Cadzow
Communicant Ross Campbell
Gillie Penny Cluer
Musician Michael Cole
Old Fisherman Kevin Collins
Rowan Morrison Geraldine Cowper
Musician Ian Cutler
T. H. Lennox Donald Eccles
Mrs. Grimmond Myra Forsyth
P.C. McTaggart John Hallam
Fiancée to Howie Alison Hughes
Butcher Charles Kearney
Holly Fiona Kennedy
Baker John MacGregor
Briar Jimmy MacKenzie
Daisy Lesley / Leslie Mackie
Myrtle Morrison Jennifer Martin
Musician Bernard Murray
Villager on Summerisle Helen Norman
Girl on Grave Lorraine Peters
Postman Tony Roper
Doctor Ewan John Sharp
Villager on Summerisle Elizabeth Sinclair
Musician Andrew Tompkins
Communicant Jan Wilson
Ash Buchanan Richard Wren
Fishmonger John Young
Musician Gary Carpenter (uncredited)
Singer in pub Paul Giovanni (uncredited)
Minister Robin Hardy (uncredited)
Onlooker on clifftop Anthony Shaffer (uncredited)


Sound Editor Vernon Messenger
Assistant Editor Denis Whitehouse
Casting Director Maggie Cartier
Publicity Frank Law
Stills John Brown
Wardrobe Supervisor Masada Wilmot
Make-up Billy Partleton
Hairdresser Jan Dorman
Assistant Director Jake Wright
Location Manager Jilda Smith
Unit Manager Mike Gowans
Continuity Sue Merry
Production Secretary Beryl Harvey
Camera Operator Jimmy Devis
Focus Mike Drew
Sound Robin Gregory
Bob Jones
Production Manager Ted Morley
Choreographer Stewart Hopps
Costume Designer Sue Yelland
2nd Unit Photography Peter Allwork
Associate Musical Director Gary Carpenter
Music Performed by "Magnet" / "Lodestone"*
"Corn Rigs" and "Gently Johnny" Sung by Paul Giovanni
Art Director Seamus Flannery
Music Composed by Paul Giovanni
Director of Photography Harry Waxman B.S.C.
Film Editor Eric Boyd-Perkins G.B.F.E.
Screenplay Anthony Shaffer
Producer Peter Snell
Director Robin Hardy

* The Short Version credits "Magnet"; the Long Version credits "Lodestone". The title for the musicians was changed when it was realised the name "Lodestone" was already in use by others.

Original text portions © Copyright Steve Phillips 1995-2023. All rights reserved.

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