The Wicker Man (1973)

Is he... making the touchdown sign?
"Flesh to touch...Flesh to burn! Don't keep the Wicker Man waiting!"

Too true wicker man, too true! Welcome to the Thursday/Wednesday night if you really want it edition of the Tagline! As promised, today we're taking a wacky trip back to the early 70s, to experience this cult classic, considered by many to be the best movie of 1973. Not having seen many other movies that were released in 1973, I can't be sure if that is saying much or not. Maybe 1973 was a great year for movies let's see... okay there's no way The Wicker Man was the best movie of '73, it apparently WAS a pretty good year, and if nothing else The Exorcist came out in '73 and that was a much better horror movie. I'm getting sidetracked though so BACK TO THE TOPIC AT HAND which is The Wicker Man, a 1973 film often categorized as "Folk Horror" which was sort of a thing for a little while and then it really wasn't anymore. Starring television actor Edward Woodward as British police cop Neil Howie, The Wicker Man follows his journey to the Hebridean island of Summerisle after the reported disappearance of a young girl. What he discovers on the island is a community wary of outsiders, and devoted to pagan, Celtic practices, all the while attempting to divert his investigation, and claiming the girl, Rowan, never existed at all. Despite what a sane person who enjoyed living might choose to do, Sergeant Howie doggedly pursues the case, and his belligerent means of doing so ends pretty much how you would expect, except okay maybe you wouldn't predict he gets burned alive in a giant wicker man (spoiler alert).

I remember this guy from Assassin's Creed.
I feel like in some ways, watching this movie after the fact allows me to better get into the mindset of the police officer, even though I don't share his fervent faith in our lord Jesus (fervent). You see, the 70s were weird, much as the present is weird, only I'm FROM the present, and not the 70s, so that shit seems really bizarre. The fact that this is classified as some manner of horror movie, and yet also has a number of segments involving lots of singing is pretty goddamned unusual. I mean there are large stretches where Sergeant Howie watches with bemusement (that I shared) as residents of Summerisle caper around singing and being weird and pagan or what have you. The movie really goes out of its way to give a sense of things being weird on the island, and the form of the movie itself is kind of odd. Also there is one scene where this lady slaps the walls naked while Howie is in the adjacent room, which causes him a crisis of faith that he narrowly endures for some reason (he is engaged so he should not be having encounters with strange wall-slapping ladies). I'm not sure if the scene was supposed to be erotic or not. Mostly I just found it to be particularly strange.

Then again I think that a scene where everyone has a big orgy in the woods at night is pretty weird too, but I think that was DEFINITELY supposed to be judged that way. Obviously for a god fearing Christian man like Howie, all these practices are deeply troubling, and so he makes it his personal mission not just to find the missing girl, but to also forget that he is alone on an island with these people and generally through his weight around in the least subtle way possible, to maximize his chances of definitely 100% dying before the end of the movie. I know it's easy to call plays from the couch and all that, but if I were alone and clearly being stonewalled by all the locals, who were involved in some weird shit, I'd maybe act less like the Queen was looking right over my shoulder, from heaven, with lightning bolt ready. I might also take a little more care to protect my seaplane, it being my only means of escape from the island. Also after I discovered the plane had been tampered with, I might consider that I was truly in deep shit, and not go take a nap at the fucking inn. That's me though, I like not being burned to death. Of course the good sergeant does not follow this sage advice, and instead confronts Hippie Sarumon head on, and pays the ultimate price for his Hubris (Chrisopher Lee is Lord Summerisle in this movie so there's that).

All of you are probably aware that relatively recently there was a "remake" that had precious little in common with this film. I mean, a lot of the events were very similar, but it sort of relates to the original the same way The Great Gatsby movie related to the book. The events were mostly there, and the players were on the field, but the whole point behind it was totally absent. The Wicker Man is a horror movie not because a guy gets burned, but because it plays upon a fear of the other. Sergeant Howie is not like the people around him, even though they are technically still in the UK. They have a totally alien set of values, they worship a different god, and that is frightening because when you set out into the world you like to imagine it's all kind of the same. BUT WHAT IF IT IS NOT AND THEY SACRIFICE PEOPLE TO THE SUN. It's important to not let fear of the otherness of different places overwhelm us though right? Unless they actually sacrifice people to the sun, in which case I'd say back in the plane we're going back to the mainland.

She's being.. really forward with that picture...
I can't honestly say this movie was really my thing, it was all a little too... something. Trying too hard to be outlandish maybe, or maybe it's just that it WAS so outlandish. I could absolutely see what was going on and could respect it, but I didn't especially enjoy watching the movie. It was just kind of weird and boring, because you kind of figure out early that things aren't going to end well for Sgt. Howie. I guess my attitude towards horror movies could also be coloring my disinterest though.

That's it for today! Join me next week for more of the 60s and 70s... kind of.

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