Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): A Quick One - The Wicker Man

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Quick One - The Wicker Man

[As December, and with it 2008, comes to a close, let me take a moment to look back on several recently viewed (but undiscussed) movies. Each "Quick One" will be a paragraph, with the open invitation for you to keep the discussion going by leaving comments.]

I don't want to say too much to spoil this movie for those of you who haven't seen it. It finds that shifting border between what makes you laugh and what makes you scared shitless, and then dances back and forth over it to an upbeat folksy pagan tune, dressed like Christopher Lee in drag. Certain sequences, like the "Landlord's Daughter" song-and-dance in the pub, are borderline Monty Python. Other sequences cultivate a more foreboding air of dread than any slasher film you could care to name from the past three decades. I understand they remade this a couple years ago. I can't imagine it captures the original's near-deadpan exploration of primal horror with a smiling face. Supposedly this film was originally intended to be much longer. To this day, the creators rue the fact that much of their footage was lost in a freak accident. I feel sorry we don't have outtakes available, but I think the film is perfect in its short form - retaining the quality of a warped little parable. Is The Wicker Man a nihilistic assault on Christian values? Or does it uphold these values and christen a modern-day saint in its final moments? You should see this movie and decide for yourself.

4 comments:

Tony Dayoub said...

Fantastic movie. The third act depicts quite a shocking turn of events.

Dean Treadway said...

Certainly one of the most unusual movies of the 1970s. Horrifying, yes. A complex film about religious faith, yes. But lest we forget that THE WICKER MAN, in its 70s incarnation (I didn't see the remake, as the original is perfection in its own way), is also very much also a MUSICAL, with no less than five very distinct numbers to its name. That alone qualifies it as being one of the most notable cult classics available to us!

MovieMan0283 said...

Tony,

For whatever reason, I figured out where the movie was going around the time. I still enjoyed it, but my favorite part is probably from about when the investigator goes in the pub to about when he visits Christopher Lee - because I had no idea what was going on - in terms of the plot or anything else! Which brings me to,

Dean,

Part of what through me was the fact you note - that it is, in part, a musical. By the point that Britt Ekland was dancing around nude, I had no idea what to expect. Was I imagining this movie, or really watching it? (I'd seen some of these scenes years ago, when a friend was watching the film, but I didn't remember much of it - just the weird, eerie sense it left me with).

Sam Juliano said...

Yes, this is an unforgettable film, accentuated by that shocking and unexpected third-act finale. The idea by Dean Treadway that the original film is a musical does warrant some attention. I believe teh film may well contain lee's greatest performance.