Tuesday, October 25, 2005


This weeks KBT is a cautionary tale of the power of personal belief and the spiritual consequences when two opposing viewpoints clash. The Beáltaine fertility rituals of an isolated small Scottish island offend the devout Christian police officer there to investigate a missing girl. It seems the Island's simple country folk and Lord Summerisle (played by an intellectually menacing Christopher Lee) are not unwilling to sacrifice one of their own children to make the crops grow better. The film has the power to unsettle from the conviction of Lord Summerisle and the fact that all the strange events are taken by the locals as 'normal'. Even the most unsettling scenes in the film take place in peaceful, scenic broad daylight, to the calm (corny) lyrics of Paul Giovanni.

Officer Neil Howie (Edward Woodward) begins to quickly realize he is out of his depth when he cannot get an ounce of truth from anyone with whom he speaks and is sexually tempted to the point of cold sweats by the innkeepers daughter, at her fathers request. Willow (a sultry and zestfully naked Britt Ekland who married Peter Sellers and appeared two other iconic 1970s British films, Get Carter and The Man with the Golden Gun, around the same time as The Wicker Man) doesn't have much to do in the film, but her thru-the-wall song of seduction is a fantastic sequence, (it was memorably covered by The Sneaker Pimps in the late 1990s, and is also used effectively as a reference in Eli Roth's forthcoming Hostel).

The 1973 film, which was written off as B-grade shlock at the time, has achieved well-deserved cult status, cropping up in a 1980s Iron Maiden Single, various film references (besides Hostel, see also Joe Dante's The 'Burbs and Roger Avery's The Rules of Attraction, Nicolas Widing Refn's Bleeder and Danny Boyle's Shallow Grave) and as an icon for several UK Music Festivals. There is a sequel of sorts in production (from the director of the original) , and also a remake (every classic horror pic is getting one these days) which went with the truly bizarre director choice of Neil LaBute. I'd be curious to know whether or not it has come up in the sermon of a progressive minister or an edgy bible study worn down from too much C.S. Lewis.

The Wicker Man hasn't so much as aged, as taken on a life of its own. The music, the eerie investigative structure, creepy imagery and the final shocking scene still have the power to disturb more than 30 years later. People remember this film, it stays with them. The insight into pagan ritual and belief make it perfect Halloween cinema, even if the Beáltaine festival is May 1st.

Note: KBT is back to the usual start-time of 8:30, on account of us keeping our kids up later to adjust for the upcoming time change. Come by at 8pm for a drink and a nibble is you like.


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