Saturday, August 29, 2009

#485: The Wicker Man (1973)

Director: Robin Hardy
Cast: Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Diane Cilento & Britt Ekland

On Summerisle, a small island off the coast of western Scotland, a girl has gone missing. When Sergeant Howie arrives at Summerisle, he encounters a very hospitable and charming village, but something is wrong. Nobody seems to believe that the missing girl has ever existed - even the girl's own mother. As time passes, more and more of the townspeople's strange practices are revealed, until their underlying darker side is finally revealed.

The singular impressive feature of this film is its use of suspense and pacing. From the beginning, Hardy shows us a beautiful northern British culture, pulling us in even further with an authentic-sounding folk soundtrack scored by Paul Giovanni. The realization that the townspeople are hiding something occurs early on, but how can such a happy society hide something as dark as the murder of a missing child? Hardy allows his audience to view Sgt. Howie as the darker of characters, clinging fervently to his Christian faith. It is Sgt. Howie who speaks of rotting corpses, while the townspeople have a light and happy view of reincarnation as hares and other animals. Only at the riveting finale are we finally exposed to the true dark nature of the townspeople.

The Wicker Man has sadly become a dated film, with not much holding it together but the single question: What have the townspeople done to Rowan Morrison? It's easy to say why Neil LaBute decided to recreate this film, though it appears he's been thoroughly unsuccessful in that endeavor (though I can't say - I've never seen it). It's still a very intriguing film, and I'd recommend it to any film buffs out there.

Fun Trivia (Stolen from IMDB):
  • Christopher Lee agreed to appear in this film for free.
  • The film gives it's name to a music and arts festival (The Wickerman Festival) which has been held annually in the area where the film was shot (Dumfries & Galloway, Scotland) since 2004. At the end of the festival a giant Wicker Man sculpture is burned as a 'sacrifice to the festival gods'.
  • According to director 'Robin Hardy', Howie's final speech is based upon Walter Raleigh's dying words.

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