The Wicker Man (1973)
Reviewed on 2008 October 27
Great cult flick from 1973, but don’t make the mistake I did of watching a cropped version (88 minutes). I’d been waiting for months to see this thing and when I finally scared-up a beat-up VHS copy from a movie place it was the abbreviated theatrical release. I was actually annoyed with it, wondering what the fans were going on about, until Mr. Shukti and I scored about as much of what the director intended as can be salvaged. It was night and day.
Sergeant Howie (Edward Woodward) is type-A, duty bound, and humorless, but he is an honest and a good man overall. When he gets a letter from the people of Summerisle, summoning him to search for a missing little girl named Rowan, he takes off for the Scottish island like a shot. The uptight Howie is horrified by the heathen behavior of the locals, as well as their reluctance to help him find Rowan. Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee), for all his interest and hospitality to the sergeant, seems to be hiding something. Howie persists on finding Rowan but he becomes increasingly worried it’s too late.
What makes this so creepy isn’t a bunch of blood and guts scares — it’s the fact that the people of Summerisle are just… off. You see this much better in the longer versions of the film. There’s a scene in the extended version that I didn’t recall from the theatrical release, where the inhabitants of a tavern sing to a couple upstairs, and the “loolooloo” quality of it made me think of a warped version of the “Peanuts” Christmas caroling. There were times when I thought the hippie-dippie sunshine-y music was a little distracting, but there’s a hysterical duet between Christopher Lee and Diane Cilento to take the taste of “folky” out of your mouth. There’s nothing funny about the ending though, and it horrified me.
Three chocolate morsels.