Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Scottish Burning Man and Worshiping the Old Gods, or Thoughts on The Wicker Man

 From writer Anthony Shaffer of Frenzy (1972, Hitchcock’s second to last film) and Sleuth (1972), The Wicker Man (1973) is a movie that could have been easily adapted from the works of Bram Stoker or Arthur Conan Doyle.  It’s a quirky British mystery about a missing girl until the very end, when it turns into a terrifying pagan nightmare of human sacrifice and immolation.
Edward Woodward, most famous in the States for the 80’s TV show The Equalizer (1985), portrays the self-righteous Christian Sgt. Neil Howie who has his faith tested while searching for young Rowan Morrison on the isolated Hebridrean island of Summerisle, off the Scottish coast.  He encounters the legendary Christopher Lee as Lord Summerisle and friendly but uncooperative villagers, but his Christian sensibility is most offended by the abundance of Maypole dancers, abandoned churches, fertility symbols and of course, random orgies in the fields.  At first glance it looks as if the island has embraced the free love hippie flower child generation but they’re actually following something far older.
The hippie aesthetic is enhanced by the Celtic folk music soundtrack and musical interludes; the cast breaks into song so many times it could almost be a production of Godspell (1973) except of course, pagan themed.  Sgt. Howie becomes an unwelcome representative of civilization and Christian values on an island that has no use for them and pays the ultimate price.  He’s well meaning, but he comes across as another arrogant South Seas missionary determined to save the natives who don’t actually require saving.
With Britt Ekland as Willow MacGregor, the landlord’s daughter and goddess of love in human form and Hammer Scream Queen Ingrid Pitt.  Britt Eckland would go on to star with Christopher Lee as a Bond Girl in The Man With TheGolden Gun (1974).
Everyone knows how this movie will end, it’s on the poster, but that knowledge only enhances the dramatic intensity and adds a level of dread to the entire film.  You are probably aware of the lamentable 2006 remake with Nicholas Cage, but I would prefer to mention how modern British Cinema has explored similar themes with movies like Wake Wood (2011) and The Borderlands (2013).  The lesson learned from all of these films is it’s best not to awaken the Old Gods, let them sleep, and dream…

my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).