Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Wicker Man (1973)

Director: Robin Hardy

Writer: Anthony Shaffer

Composer: Paul Giovanni

Starring: Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Diane Cilento, Britt Ekland, Ingrid Pitt, Lindsay Kemp, Russell Waters, Aubrey Morris, Irene Sunters

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Flesh to touch...Flesh to burn! Don't keep the Wicker Man waiting!

Plot: A police sergeant is called to an island village in search of a missing girl whom the locals claim never existed. Stranger still, however, are the rituals that take place there.

My rating: 10/10

Will I watch it again? A sure as religion will fuck shit up.

UPDATE 1.14.14:  I just watched the new Blu-ray of the 'final cut' and it's magnificent.  The picture quality alone is worth the price of the upgrade.  As for the added, recently found footage, I'm not sure there was much added.  I noticed perhaps a few brief seconds when Sgt. Howie exits the tavern and sees strange goings-on outside in the night.  I noticed that the beginning business at the police station had been removed in its entirety. Any changes made do not detract from the finished, brilliant product.

#95 on Drive-In Delirium Volume 2 (part of the TRAILER TRASH PROJECT)

It was probably 20 years or more when I was in college that I first saw this masterpiece. I had heard this was a horror classic so that was where I was coming from. Not until the end did I understand why. Until that point I thought it was a police thriller, not a horror classic. But when the final ten minutes hit my jaw was on the floor and I felt like I just got kicked in the guts. I knew absolutely nothing about this picture before giving it a go.

IF YOU'VE NEVER SEEN THIS, DO NOT LET ANYONE EVER SPOIL THIS MOVIE BEFORE YOU DO! I can't stress that enough; and make sure you get the uncut version where Sgt. Howie is more clearly defined. I'm so glad I went into it as a virgin, so to speak. I'll never get that feeling again watching it but with each time I see it I marvel at everything else leading up to it. The performances are spectacular, it's a wonderful story, the atmosphere is rich and the music...pitch perfect, from the score to the songs.

On my first visit to Summerisle I was taken aback by the songs save for one (the one during Willow's seduction attempt). I thought they were strange and some even laughable. I've grown since then and I look at them in an entirely different light. They're fantastic and do a magnificent job in not only helping tell the story but also in the mood they create. And then there's the tune that carries Willow's dance. Oh, my. It's beautiful - the song and Brit Ekland's (and body double's) bits.

Gratuitous? Absolutely not. The nudity serves the story. I'll refrain from being a pig for once. It transcends the exploitative elements and becomes something lesser films could never achieve.

There's not a single lacking performance in the film. I can't imagine a better choice for the lead than Edward Woodward. Powerhouse. He nails it and by the end of the picture you kind of feel for they guy. This really is a horror movie after all. Christopher Lee brings a lot of class and weight to his role as Lord Summerisle. His dialogue is choice and the lengthy exchange with Sgt. Howie (Woodward) on their initial encounter is delightful. Lee's last line of that scene, "I was under the impression I had already given it to you." slays me every time.

The Director, Robin Hardy, delivers a restrained, mysterious and masterful film that packs a major punch and food for thought. He makes a major statement on religion. I can dig it.

I was shocked by how remarkably bad the Nicholas Cage remake was, especially considering Neil LaBute directed it. He's responsible for the brilliant film, IN THE COMPANY OF MEN (1997). I'm embarrassed that THE WICKER MAN remake came from the same guy. Perhaps someday I'll get a few friends together along with a few fingers of fine bourbon and slug through it, laughing all the way at the sheer ineptitude of it all. Not even that turkey can take away one frame of brilliance from the original.

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