I haven’t done any posts on horror yet, and Halloween is days away! This is SCANDALOUS.
Recently I had the pleasure of rewatching the Wicker Man. This time I managed to snag the director’s/extended cut, which I hadn’t yet seen. I watched the shorter/United States theatrical release about three years ago and while I liked it overall, it was with some confusion with regards to the action and motivation. Why the hell did the villagers do as they did, live as they did, believe as they did? Why the hell was Britt Eklund banging her hands and thighs and breasts against the wall? Why was Sergeant Howie so damn uptight? While the story was mostly intelligible and certainly still creepy, it had a lot of loose threads.
I’m happy to say that the extended cut has no such problem. The characters and plot make logical sense in this version, and there are great historical bits about Summerisle and the Lords of the island (which means more Christopher Lee – always a good thing). Therefore I unequivocally recommend it over the short cut. It’s not too much longer and it gives you a more complete, satisfying story.
(Naturally I’m going to spoil all sorts of stuff, so if you’re holding on till Halloween Night for your maiden viewing of the original Wicker Man, you’ll want to skip this post.)
We don’t get complete infodumpery in the director’s cut, but we do get more evidence for the characters’ behaviors and motivations. The opening scene is incredibly important in this regard, and sadly absent from the SC. We see Sergeant Howie in full pious mode: lecturing his fellow and subordinate officers and getting shit from them in return. For example, he comes on duty with his colleague McTaggart:
Howie: Any serious problems while I’ve been away?
McTaggart (grinning/sardonic): No, Sergeant, nothing serious. Just the usual – rape, sodomy, sacrilege – you know.
Note: I grabbed the above quote from the site The Various Versions of the Wicker Man, which is a very interesting site and has a great breakdown page of differences between extended and short cuts: Portions Absent from the Short Version. (Warning: links contain some NSFW and spoilery material.) After looking at this site, I think the only answer for Sewious Wicker Man Fans is to watch all available versions, although I prefer the extended cut.
Anyway, so we learn all about Howie’s exceedingly Christian lifestyle. He gets irate at Jesus graffiti. He attends church and listens the sermon with a rapt expression. He’s a virgin – something that is at first implied and later confirmed. Character-wise, that’s some important stuff to cut.
Plot-wise, we get the scene where the cops receive an anonymous postcard tip about the disappearance of Rowan Morrison. We do get this info in the SC, when Howie shows the anon postcard to the guys at the Summerisle dock after he flies in, but I think that seeing the handwritten card (addressed to Howie specifically) in addition to Howie’s lifestyle is a lovely and ominous setup for Lord Summerisle’s later revelation at just how thoroughly and seriously they planned out the ritual.
Some other nice stuff you get more of in the extended cut are music and songs. “Gently Johnny” especially is lovely and creepy, sung by the patrons of the Green Man pub as an underscore to Willow’s seduction of Johnny. There’s also a random, awesome scene of Christopher Lee timpanning poetry like a badass on the virtue of nature to flowers and some randy slugs.
|Hot slug action.|
This is my favorite Christopher Lee performance. Not only is he in a kilt half the time, lording it up as ruler of the island, but his role in the festival procession as the hermaphrodite is hilarious and creepily serious.
|“Cut some capers, man! Use your bladder!”|
His face is by turns calm, jubilant, hard. When he says, “A little child is even better, but not nearly as effective as the right kind of adult,” I get chills. When he leads the islanders in singing Sumer is Icumen In, he’s goofily exuberant. I am enamored, man.
Being a fan, I am not at all surprised that Lord Summerisle has a tumblr.
It’s gorgeously chilly out today, so I’m watching Madhouse, carving pumpkins and making cider. If you haven’t seen Madhouse, you should check that out, too, if for nothing else to see Vincent Price and Peter Cushing having a fabulous time.