The Wicker Man (1973)   Leave a comment

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This is one wacky island.

Sergeant Neil Howie flies to Summerisle, a remote Scottish island, to investigate the disappearance of a young girl. Immediately he notices the queerness of the townsfolk. Their ways differ wildly from his devoutly Christian life on the mainland and as Howie’s investigation into the villagers progresses, his outrage grows. Robin Hardy directed The Wicker Man from an Anthony Shaffer (Sleuth, Frenzy) screenplay on location near Inverness, Scotland. Edward Woodward of Equalizer fame plays Sgt. Howie as an uptight, morally certain policeman thrust into a bizarre world of bawdy songs, pagan teachings, and orgies. His incredulity mounts as it becomes apparent that not only will the villagers not help him find young Rowan, but also that they don’t care if she is found. Britt Ekland, Ingrid Pitt, Diane Cilento, and Aubrey Morris, as a creepy gravedigger, play their parts well, but it’s Christopher Lee who steals the show. As Lord Summerisle, Lee has all the best lines and looks thoroughly amused by Howie’s righteous indignation.
Example: about some girls dancing in the altogether during a religious rite Howie says, “They’re naked!”
“Well naturally” says Summerisle, “It’s much too dangerous to jump through fire with their clothes on.”

The Wicker Man lives up to its cult classic status because the writing is solid, the performances strong, and the locations authentic. The statements it makes about religious hypocrisy aren’t subtle, but they don’t achieve Oliver Stone obviousness either. The director’s preferred version makes the rounds of selected theatres in the fall of 2013. I hope to see it then myself.

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