Friday, May 27, 2011

Ten Statements About....THE WICKER MAN (1973)

Arguably Christopher Lee's scariest performance...and he
does it without any fangs, weapons or blood...
"And what of the True God, in whose glory churches and monasteries have been built on these islands for generations past? Now, sir, what of him?"
"Oh, he's dead. Can't complain. Had his chance and, in modern parlance, blew it."

1) The version I watched was the extended version, which restored a slew of scenes cut out after British Lion changed hands--and to be fair, some of those scenes aren't necessary. The five minutes at the beginning establishing Sargent Howie's life on the mainland in particular doesn't help; it establishes what an intolerant jerk he is even more, and thus changes the whole mutability of the film.

2) However, what does work is how the extended version shifts around some scenes for greater impact. In particular, by moving Britt Eklund's dance from the first to the end of the second act gives it far more weight and logical sense.

3) You gotta give director Ron Hardy credit for that 'thanks to the people of Summerisle' card at the very beginning, as it manages to emphasize the feeling that this is some twisted home movie or something.

4) The strength of Lee's performance--a performance he claims to this day he accepted no payment for--is how Lord Summerisle seems perfect reasonable throughout...and yet there's always the sense he finds something very, very funny. You know, like he's playing a game.

If you get the choice between sleeping with her and being
burned alive...CHOOSE HER!!!!
5) If you told me the most disturbing scene in this film would involve a naked Britt Eklund dancing around, I'd laugh in your face. And it is.

6) This film's strength is that it changes from viewing to viewing. The character we identify with in our first viewing becomes something akin to a villain in later viewings.

7) Oh...and there's a brilliance to this being an out-and-out musical, with something like a dozen songs and production number sprinkled throughout--including one sang by Lee himself.

8) I am surprised nothing was made, given the comparative religion angle that infused this film, of the way Eklund, Diane Cilento and Ingrid Pitt could be seen to represent the three faces of the pagan goddess Hecate (The Maiden, the Matron and The Crone).

9) The most wonderful aspect of Anthony Shaeffer's plot? The people of Summerisle give Sargent Howie multiple ways out of the situation he finds himself in (including screwing Britt Eklund...which, given how good she looks in this film, isn't half bad as an exit)...and the man's pigheadishness, righteousness and religious zealousness keep him from seeing what he is being clearly told.

Forget your Girl School Screamers...Ed Woodward may have
the most gut-wrenching cry of horror in film history.
10) The joy of Edward Woodward's performance is how he is such a total priss--and yet, for a loooooong stretch of time, Woodward is able to keep our sympathies during that initial viewing, this keeping us in his point of view.

If you prefer this suck.
Period.  And Chris Lee will kick your ass. of my favorite films, and definitely one of my favorite horror films, a movie that works because it presumes an intelligence and alertness on the part of its audience, and trusts us to make the proper connections. Plus, it rewards multiple viewings.
(Oh, and Todd Haynes and Nicholas Cage? Fuck you for taking a film that should not have been remade and turning out such a colossal joke that a lot of casual horror fans will never discover how brilliant this film is.)

1 comment:

  1. Great Points you raise :D
    Thought you might like my machinima film,
    The Lammas Wickerman
    Bright Blessings