Monday, October 26, 2009

31 Days of Halloween - Day 26 - Movie

It's been at least twenty years since I last saw "The Wicker Man" (1973) so I decided it was time to revisit. Edward Woodward is a policeman who travels to the Scottish island of Summerisle to investigate a missing girl report. It's obvious the minute he reaches the island that something isn't right here. Even though everyone here claims to know everyone else, no one recognizes the girl in the photo, and everyone claims she doesn't exist, including the girl's mother. It soon becomes clear that everyone on the island is a pagan, an idea that revolts the Christian policeman. As he continues his investigation he uncovers fertility rituals, folk singing, cavorting naked girls, animism, parthenogenesis, and a harvest ritual that might include human sacrifice.

This movie still holds up really well, though the, at the time, surprise ending is no surprise now, and the early 70s hippy element seems a little dated. The latter element, with its plethora of musical numbers adds some authenticity to the movie. I'm sure at the time this was originally released, the pagan elements in this movie seemed weird and unsettling, and maybe even unnerving, much as they do to Woodward's Christian policeman. His appalled reaction to an island without Jesus feels very relevant now with such a large number of intolerant, extreme "Christians" having so much political authority in our own country now. Everything about this movies is well done, with the exception early on to drop in short bits of one song about apple groves over an moment where no conversation was happening. The actors are all excellent, particularly Woodward, and Christopher Lee, as Lord Summerisle, the owner, and leader of the island. I really wanted more of his character in the movie. The setting for this movie is perfect, and the direction and cinematography really bring the place to life while evoking an alienness to the place which resides, not simply below the surface, but on the surface, over the normalcy.

I'm glad I went back to this movie. I have no doubt it will be a lot less than twenty years before I get around to watching it again.


Wendy the (Very) Good Witch said...

I went to see the re-make of the Wicker Man when it came out, and it prompted to search out a copy of the original version. And I hate to admit this, but it has just sat in my cabinet unwatched all this time. So after reading your blog, I am going to make a point of watching this in the next few weeks. Can't wait to see how it differs from the re-make. Although I heard that most people prefer the original. Thanks for posting. Oh...and it's just 5 more days...hooray!

John Rozum said...

At this point I'm looking forward to day 6.

I have so much to do yet, and am keeping my fingers crossed that the predicted rain on Halloween won't happen.

Michael Jones said...

First time I saw it was on late night tv. It freaked me out. Then I saw an uncensored version with Britt Ekland in all her glory and wow! Peter Sellers was a lucky man.
Wendy, if you like the original better, you'd better turn in your broomstick! (But, hey. To each their own.)
What 5 days to go! Oh crap, I need to think of a costume...

Anonymous said...

The Wicker Man is one of my favorite movies. The first time I watched this movie, I had the privilege of watching the uncensored version on vhs instead of the theatrical version. That version adds so much more to the story in my opinion. I bought this on dvd from Anchor Bay as soon as it was released on dvd years ago and was disappointed to discover that it was missing several notable scenes. The unrated version is definitely the way to go.