There were key movies in my life that helped to make me who I am today. Movies that I have loved from the moment the opening credit rolled and still love now. This blog series is about those, My guilty pleasures, my favorites, my escapes. Some were very popular, others not so much. Some of these will have some real life take-aways, others are just for fun.
Today we discuss the classic film The Wicker Man.
Today’s Key Movie:
When a Police officer travels to the a remote Scottish village in search of a missing girl, he soon finds that the small town has many more secrets than just that of missing children. Starring Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Diane Cilento, Britt Ekland and Ingrid Pitt, this is the twisted tale of ancient rites and dark secrets.
Why this movie?
Growing up my father’s fandom of Christopher Lee films was well known in our family. Having grown up on the classic Hammer films, anything Lee was in was a film that had to be seen in our home. When my father came across a vhs copy of The Wicker Man, he was thrilled at his find. Having only seen it once before, it was a film he had been searching for for some time and so, even at a rather young age, he insisted that we all watch it together. Needless to say, it stuck in my mind ever since.
You like it, but is it really a ‘good’ movie?
The first thing that hit me about this film is just how strange and disturbing the locals on Summerisle were. From the get go, they felt off in ways I, in my young mind, could not understand. Here someone was searching for a missing child and everyone seemed flippant by the situation, no one seemed to care. As the film progressed, the film simply got stranger causing my young mind some considerable confusion. The sexual nature of it was probably a little much for me at that age but nevertheless, we watched it through. It would be several years before I watched the film again on my own to discover a very deep and multilayered film that would go on to inspire filmmakers for years to come, including a rather disappointing remake many years later.
The film itself is about rituals and the transition between old and new religious rites. It is a dark exploration of how, even though the ‘old Gods’ have been moved aside, in some ways they never really go away. It also explores how destructive the judgmental mindset of modern religion can be on other beliefs. Unwilling to see the that every religion, no matter how different, has it’s place, Sgt Howie represents those who want to force their mindset on others even when they themselves are trespassing in someone else’s world. With this in mind, what would it be like to discover an entire modern community worshiping pagan Gods utilizing sacrifices and other rites? How would a person who came from a ‘modern society’ immersed in ‘acceptable’ belief’s react to such a place, how would they react to him? Needless to say, it doesn’t end well but we won’t get into that here.
The film itself has become quite legendary in years being recognized as one of the most iconic horror film’s of it’s time. Unfortunately, the version we have is not a complete version as much of the original cut has been lost with several versions having been released since. The version I remember had some very strange imagery of snails and other animals during one of the sequences, something that I have not seen in any version I have run across since. Whether this is just a vague memory or having really been in the film I will never know for certain but it has always stuck with me.
The cast in this film is nothing short of stellar. With Edward Woodward in the roll of the rather judgmental Sgt Howie accompanied by the great Christopher Lee as Lord Summerisle. Theirs quickly becomes a battle of ‘Christian’ beliefs vs ‘Pagan’ Beliefs that slowly drive Howie out of his mind. Each actor in this fully embrace their roles giving them each a realistic quality that could sometimes be rather unnerving. Lee and his followers come across as genuine believers in their pagan religion giving them somewhat of a strange and unnerving nature that would make anyone unfamiliar with their rites disturbed. Woodward is utterly convincing in his judgmental nature as a ‘Christian’ police officer allowing his own preconceived notions to take over making him seem all the self righteous person he is meant to be.
Visually, the film is incredible. Director Robin Hardy captures the disturbing nature of Howie’s fall into the pagan rites with some rather stunning shots giving even the visual nature of the film an unnerving and disturbing nature throughout. One thing that really makes the film stand out is it’s disturbing music by Paul Giovanni. Through classic folk songs and interesting arrangements Giovanni manages to create an atmosphere that is truly nightmarish.
Overall, this is a must see for any film buff or horror fan. Between the great cast, Hardy’s direction and Giovanni’s music, they manage to present a disturbing and terrifying film that is one that you will never forget.
OK, where do I get this movie?
This is a classic in every sense of the word and if you enjoy film in any way, you really should watch this one. I will warn you though, it can be quite sexual in it’s nature and is not one for kids, even though I saw it at a rather unfortunately younger age.
If you want a copy, grab one here on Amazon (as it is the only place I could find one). You might also hit up Vudu or the like as it is on some streaming services.
Needless to say, if you do watch it, give it a chance, it’s a trip for sure.
Late To The Game 7/30/2020
If you would like to read more reviews please check out the rest of the Key Movies Of My Life that comes out every Thursday.
For more retro TV goodness check out the rest of the Retro TV Reviews here. and, If you dig Music, I have a semi regular series called Stand Out Albums that covers some of my favorite records I have come across in life.
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