Sunday Night Movie: The Wicker Man (1973)

Last night I was in the mood for something darker and yet fantastic, so I settled on the original film, The Wicker Man, made in 1973. (Let’s make this clear NOT the remake staring Nicholas Cage.)

This is a film I first heard about when I watched the Academy of Science-Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror’s televised award broadcast in 1979. To give you an idea of their commitment to horror they are the ones who unleashed William Shatner’s — interpretation — of Rocket Man upon this world.  Anywho, that year they award the Best Horror film award for 1978 to The Wicker Man. (I guess horror is such a thin field you gotta let a film five years old compete.) So a few months later I got a chance to see this movie in HBO and it blew my little mind.

(Okay in 1979 my mind was not little, I had already read Time Enough For Love, Starship Troopers, and Stranger In A Strange Land, but still my mind was blown.)

It was years and years later before I could see this gem of a movie again and it still blew my mind. It is an amazingly literate horror movie — though as a film it defies that genre classification. If you had to classify it, the closest you could get is Art House, Musical, Horror film.

Years later again it became one of the first DVDs in my collection. (The wooden boxed set of two DVD of the Original Release cut and a Directors Cut. Sadly for me all the bonus features were on the Original Cut disc and that one turned out to be bad.)

In the movie Police Sergeant Neil Howie (Edward Woodward) a pious and devote Christian, receives an anonymous letter informing him that a child has gone missing on a remote island and that no one on the island is interested in reporting it or trying to locate the girl. Howie flies himself to the island to investigate, but finds that the local refuse to even admit that such a girl ever existed. Even the Lord of the Island, Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee) proves to be an obstacle to Howie’s investigation.

Howie is further more shocked and repulsed to find that paganism is the local religion with Christianity not observed or taught except as a curious myth.

The plot become a conflict between Howie and his devout beliefs trying to locate the girl he knows to exist while becoming more and more entangled by the conspiracy of the locals.

This film is marred in that the director was simply not talented enough. There are plenty of sequences where it’s clear that abrupt coverage it being used to masked poorly planned out shooting. Visually this film is not as interesting or as smart as the script and that is a shame. The films limited budget does not hurt the production because the script is perfect for this sort of low budget film making. This is a story about character, not monsters.

If you see the directors cut, and I advised that this is the cut you should, see first. please note that as far as anyone knows a full print on film does not exist. The footage that was restored came from 1″ video tape and the video and audio suffers because of it. However the story is much better in the longer (jeeze all of 99 minutes) version.

I have not seen the 2006 remake, but I know enough to now they missed the point. It’s  a shame. If you took this script and did not change a word and handed it to a talent visual director the results would be stunning.

If you have never seen this movie and you like the odd, the unsettling, the horrific, and naked sexuality does not offend you, then by all means see this film.

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One thought on “Sunday Night Movie: The Wicker Man (1973)”

  1. William Shatner’s — interpretation — of Rocket Man -> heh, I see what you did there 🙂 consider yourself virtually fist-bumped

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