The Wicker Man
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“I thought the acting a little wooden”
“My favorite part was when he burst into flames”
Originally made for six shillings in 1973 (a budget of £27 million by today's standard), The Wicker Man is a bastion of the British Film Industry, a position that many find odd in that it neither starred Hugh Grant nor Kenneth Branagh, and did not feature Helena Bonham-Carter in a corset.
Recently made into a "remake", where the entire story was rewritten, the original location changed, major characters sexually realigned, and bees introduced. Producers thought long and hard as to who could carry such a film. Edward Woodward could.
But Nicolas Cage is cheaper and has a better wig.
|“||Welcome, fool. You have come of your own free will to the appointed place. The game is over.||”|
The original premise and script for The Wicker Man manages to portray an alternative view from most films of the Horror Movie genre. The beliefs of the puritan Christian policeman are counterbalanced by the gentle "otherworldly" element of the pagan islanders. Who could they get to play the part of the uptight investigator? Edward Woodward might?
Filmed entirely on location in Scotland, the cast, who survived on a diet of porridge and assorted sheep parts, did not take well to their stay north of Hadrian's Wall. "It was worse than living in Warsaw", purred Polish sex muffin Ingrid Pitt. The film was recorded in one take during the three week "summer" period of the Scottish calendar.
|“||Throw another God-botherer onto the fire, Ethel, it's freezing||”|
The film revolves around a supposed murder of a young girl and the Police Officer sent to the island to investigate. As an outsider, PC Howie is at odds with the locals from the beginning, his culture, beliefs and his faith set him apart, and not even his coarse Scottish accent can act as an equalizer. Edward Woodward is perfectly cast as the embittered detective, demonstrating a hard-edged vulnerability that only Edward Woodward could. Or even should.
Many members of the cast starred in the earlier West End Musical production, including:
- PC Howie ... Edward Woodward - "Blood and Thunder" style Christian Fundamentalist "Copper".
- Lord Ponsonby-Smallpiece ... Christopher Lee - Crazy-Haired English Toff with poor taste in jackets.
- Willow ... Britt Ekland - Hot, naked dancing babe.
- Stumpy ... Warwick Davis - Tiny, little islander with fake Scottish accent.
- Rose ... Ingrid Pitt - Slightly older, hot, naked dancing librarian.
- Damien Thorn ... Sam Neill - Taller islander with fake Scottish accent.
A remake has been the subject of numerous rumors since the 1980s, with the writers of the original screenplay suggesting that a Wicker Man II might be a serious prospect, however it was not until 2006 that someone could cobble together an American focused version.
Moving the project to the USA gave the Producers their first real dilemma, how to replace the near incoherent ramblings of the original (mostly) Scottish cast. Their response was to shift the focus away from the accents by replacing the villagers with a group of mumbling feminists. Movie Moguls next had to ask one of the most important questions of the project, do we keep with Britt Ekland's hypnotic sexually-charged dancing OR do we go for Killer Bees. Killer Bees it was.
|“||Put... the bunny... back... in the... box||”|
The next important decision was finding an easily combustible leading actor, so the call went out to locate someone particularly wooden. Edward Woodward wood? (perhaps after watching Britt Ekland dancing?) Woody Harrelson? Elijah Wood, perhaps? Keanu Reeves was under contract so Nicolas Cage was approached. With the additional bonus of the huge amount of hairspray needed to keep his sparse comb-over in place, the Movie Executives had found their man. It is rumored that the film opened to rave reviews until someone pointed out that it wasn't Snakes on a Plane or Lost in Translation. How terribly wrong they were.
|“||Oh no, not the bees! NOT THE BEES!!! AAAAAAAAA!!!! ARGLUBAH THEY'RE IN MY EYES!! MYY EYEEEES!!!! AAAAAAAA!!!!! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHGURGLERRRR...||”|
It has since gone directly to DVD, VHS and Betamax, and is available as part of a box-set along with Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs and Tim Burton's Ed Wood. Ed Wood Woodward? Probably.