Monday, October 23, 2017

The Wicker Man (1973)

Who's In It: Edward Woodward (TV's Equalizer, the best Ghost of Christmas Present ever), Britt Ekland (The Man with the Golden Gun), Diane Cilento (Hombre), Ingrid Pitt (The Vampire Lovers, Countess Dracula), and Christopher Lee (The Curse of Frankenstein, Horror of Dracula).

What It's About: A straight-laced, tightly wound policeman (Woodward) investigates the disappearance of a young girl on a remote island where the local sensualism is not at all to his liking.

How It Is: Unfortunately, watching The Wicker Man for the first time without already knowing the final scene is about as hard as doing the same for Planet of the Apes. I very much liked Woodward's investigation and his stuffy disapproval of Summerisle's mores, but my enjoyment was tempered by my knowing exactly how things were going to end up.

It was a journey worth taking though. I don't end up liking any of the characters, but I don't exactly dislike them, either. Woodward's Sgt Howie is irritatingly judgmental, but he's also a good man on an honorable mission and his resistance of vice doesn't come easily to him. The villagers, on the other hand, have controversial moral views that would be considered illegal in most countries (including, technically, their own), but they're so good-natured about it. And if the whole community has bought in to this set of rules, then who is Howie to come in and question them?

Except of course that someone has written to the police, prompting Howie's investigation, so clearly everyone has not bought into all the community's practices. The movie raises fascinating questions about morality and culture and I appreciated exploring and thinking about them. (Almost as much as I enjoyed the soundtrack, which is amazing. The maypole song alone is worth watching the film for.)

Rating: 4 out of 5 Christopher Lees in drag.


Erik Johnson Illustrator said...

Movies like this make me ever wonder how horror films can be accurately judged when their intent is to make you feel disoriented or uncomfortable, which doesn't always translate into a favorable review.

Michael May said...

A good critic should be able to take that into account. Roger Ebert always said that he tried to judge the movie on what it's trying to do rather than on what he wanted it to do. I've tried to follow that advice, too.

It doesn't mean I'm necessarily going to subjectively like the movie any better, but it at least lets me appreciate it on its own terms.


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