Saturday, May 1, 2010

"The Wicker Man"(1973)d/Robin Hardy

Having just passed another Walpurgis Night/May Day on the old calendar,I figured a review of this British cult classic would be appropox,if not a little obvious,which in some cases,might not be all that bad by half.Sometimes the best curve ball is a fast ball high and inside,as they say.Actually,nobody says that,but it sounded alright a few seconds ago.Needless to say,I sacrificed many brain cells to the party gods this weekend,after which,they were none too impressed,seeing as I have so damned many of them to begin with.Spent the evening grilling with an old pal who's cut from the same cloth,and much food,Italian soundtracks,D'Amato flicks,and illicit drugs were had by all.I should probably stop there,so as not to offend members of the online horror community that frown upon bloggers with any kind of a personality,but then again,anybody who prefers their horror served up blandly with no flair or Michael Weldon once said of Andy Milligan fans,there's really no hope for you.
Let me start out by saying,you can release your collective breaths now,this is not a review of whatever steaming bowel-pile may have exited Neil LaBute's ass when he completed the overwhelmingly hated remake in 2006,with Nicholas Cage.Here at the Wop,we pretend that such ludicrously pathetic big studio money grab remakes do not exist,for the most part.Unless,of course,we're gonna throw them into a colossal wicker man and burn the figurative shit outta 'em.You can ALWAYS expect the very best here,kiddies,and rest assured that your humble N would never sell the fuck out and pitch such garbage atcha.What we have before us today has been called the "best horror movie ever made" in some critical circles,and regardless if you agree with that sentiment or not,if you have seen it,you have to admit,it is both unforgettable and extremely well-made.Quite simply,a brilliantly wicked tale of faith.How much have you got?If it came down to it,would you lay it all on the line for something you believed in?
Kittehs sez "We can has humin sakrafise plz?"
Sargeant Howie(Edward Woodward) is sent off to investigate the disappearance of a young girl named Rowan Morrison on the remote island of Sumerisle,on an anonymous tip in a letter he receives,but is astounded by the isle's inhabitants denying she ever existed in the first place,when the evidence shows that she did,indeed.More disturbing to the lawman,a devout christian who has taken a vow of celibacy,is the fact that the entire population of the small island seems to comprise a neo-Pagan cult o'Celts.He's appalled to witness two people fucking in the church courtyard,the school mistress teaching her young female students that the maypole represents a rigid cock,and whooping cough cures involving the ol' toad-in-the-mouth.Common savages,this lot.To make matters worse for the old boy,temptation lies at the inn he's staying at,in the form of the innskeeper's daughter,Willow(Britt Ekland).After the island's owner,Lord Sumerisle(Christopher Lee,fantastic,as always)presents the girl with a male of appropriate age to seduce(and Howie is forced to hear their humpin' and a'thumpin' in the next room),she sets her sights on the virginal cop the very next night,dancing naked and pounding the walls,while singing a siren's song to the poor bastard.He resists,a good christian,believing that sex is something that should never occur out of wedlock.I'd have been right in there,before she even managed to unleash her bobblers,believe you me.
Could you stay pure with Britt Ekland next door?
After drawing no leads from the townsfolk on Rowan's whereabouts,he turns to Lord Sumerisle for answers,but the wacky-coiffed magistrate has nothing but sarcastic jests for the officer,speaking of appeasing some alleged "old gods" of some sort,leading the sargeant to act on his own in the strangely unfolding case.
He exhumes what ought to have been the young girl's body in the unconsecrated graveyard,finding a freshly offed dead rabbit in her coffin,instead.After breaking into the chemist's,and examining prints from the previous May Day,he discovers that the previous crops had failed,and the young girl was appointed May Queen,leading him to deduct that the islanders plan to sacrifice the girl,yet alive,at the upcoming festival to change their collective agricultural fortunes.After scouring the island thoroughly turns up no results,Howie ties up the innkeeper and assumes his costumed role as "Punch" the clown for the parade.When he comes upon the young Morrison tied to a post,after parading through town with the locals,he daringly rescues her only to find that the whole thing was a set up,and she was never meant to be sacrificed.Sumerisle informs the officer,instead that he,was the obvious choice for sacrifice,arriving pure of heart and body and of his own free will,and playing the fool so well,as he discovered he had.Howie pleads for his life,arguing that his death will not make the crops grow next season,and that Sumerisle himself should be sacrificed when this inevitably occurs.The parade goers force the cop into a massive,titular wicker man filled with live animals and food offerings to the elder gods,where they set the thing ablaze and surround it,singing a folk song while Howie tries to shout psalms from the bible over them as the framework of the man is rapidly engulfed by flame.He then begs God to accept his faithful soul into Heaven,as the wicker man is completely overtaken by the fire,collapsing before the setting sun.
You've reached Jesus,but I'm not in right now,if you leave your name,message,and a number you can be reached at,I'll be sure to get back to you eventually...or not.
Probably not something the gore crowd would dig much,the film boasts of lush cinematography,an amazing score by Gary Carpenter and Magnet,a gripping screenplay by Anthony Shaffer,loosely adapted from the novel "Ritual" by David Pinner,and of course,a wonderful cast of characters played to the hilt by genre staples such as Lee,Ekland,and the magnificent Ingrid Pitt.Several different cuts of the film exist,although none can boast of being the true "director's cut",as the original negatives were thrown out,allegedly finding a home as landfill on the M3!Director Hardy,who makes a cameo as a priest,originally intended Michael York to play the sargeant,but he turned the role down.Lee,surely one of the greatest actors of all-time,was so enamored with the project that he agreed to work for free.In my mind,this entry is not only one of the greatest and uniquely original horror movies ever made,but one of the greatest movies ever made,period.It comes highly recommended,with the highest scale rating possible.Check it out.
A burn that John "Smith-tips" Smith would be envious of.


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