The Wicker Man

[Screenshot]This is not the recent American film, which I am given to understand is crap. This is about the 1973 British film, which is a classic of some sort. Whether the word classic is preceded with the word “cult” depends on who you’re talking to and whether they think adding the descriptor would be funny or not. Regardless of the width of its audience, The Wicker Man is a pretty unusual film. It certainly fits few of the genre conventions of horror, and is far more along the lines of a detective thriller shot through with elements of mysticism, eroticism, and a great deal of music. The music is worth mentioning, because there’s a lot of it, and it is mostly lighthearted but nonetheless a bit disturbing in its flagrant sexuality. It’s interesting to see how certain thematic elements have developed over time and place: as a social-liberal American in the 21st century, I didn’t find the islanders’ sexuality shocking in and of itself, but I couldn’t help but wonder to what extent it was meant to (or would) shock the British in the 70s, or a more conservative American today, or anyone else. It deals with potent hot-button topics, and I guess the audience is supposed to be put off and possibly upset by the islanders’ practices. Also, I bet this is the sort of thing that really upsets modern practitioners of traditional rites.

Moving on from themes to mechanical details: the acting hinges mostly on Edward Woodward and Christopher Lee. Oh, there’s Britt Eckland too, but her actual acting dwindles in significance in comparison to her dancing and singing in one scene (and, yes, I know, half of those are a body double). Woodward plays a one-note character and spends the whole film sputtering in righteous indignation, but it carries the plot along OK and that’s all his character needs to do. Christopher Lee, on the other hand, puts on a compelling, mesmerizing performance. His character oozes charisma, and it’s definitely the kind of charisma that oozes, the believable self-assurance of a cult leader. In the final scenes his stentorian tones reminded me more than a little of his much later role as Saruman. Dude’s still got it, and we can see why this film propelled him to the top of his game. He’s an alluring character in a role which desperately needed just such an actor.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.

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About Jake
I'm a mathematics professor at the University of Louisville, and a geek.

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