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Johnny LaRue's Crane Shot
Sunday, June 25, 2006
I just watched the trailer for an upcoming Nicolas Cage movie titled THE WICKER MAN. It's a remake of a British movie from the early 1970's, which was not widely seen at the time, due to distribution troubles, but has since grown a reputation as a cult favorite. The original WICKER MAN stars Edward Woodward, later an American household name as the star of THE EQUALIZER, and Christopher Lee, and it was written by the renowned Anthony Shaffer, whose credits include the brilliant mystery SLEUTH.

The remake, directed by Neil LaBute, appears awful, judging from the trailer and from comments by LaBute about changes he has made to the source material. One such change, making the Cage character a father, sounds like a deadly one. Woodward was a virgin in the original picture, a character trait that was of utmost importance both to his character's reactions to the situation he was in and to the plot. I can't go into much more of THE WICKER MAN without getting into spoiler territory, but LaBute's updating of Shaffer's original screenplay (which was sensitively directed by Robin Hardy) seems on initial reflection to be fatal. The trailer goes to great lengths to make the remake look stupid, including a car crash, killer bees, and a gender switching of Lee's character, who is portrayed by Ellen Burstyn in the new film.

THE WICKER MAN by Hardy, Shaffer, Woodward and Lee is a unique horror film and a thoughtful one that delves into a peculiar culture--Paganism--and dares to pit that religion against Christianity, personified by Woodward's uptight policeman. The plot finds Woodward arriving on a remote Scottish island to search for a missing little girl and getting a complete runaround from the entire village, including the girl's mother, a sexy barmaid who performs a wild naked dance (Britt Ekland), and Lord Summerisle (Lee), who owns the island. Shaffer structures it as a mystery and keeps the audience--and Woodward--guessing right up to its powerful climax.

Thinking back on THE WICKER MAN, it seems likely that almost everything about it that makes it unusual and fascinating will likely be jettisoned by a Hollywood studio attempting to dumb it down for the 16-year-olds: the lead's virginity, the otherworldly Scottish locations (the new film is set in the U.S., but filed in Canada), the nudity and eroticism (extremely important to the story), the unusual folk songs, the downbeat ending.

Perhaps the marketing people are making the new WICKER MAN look stupider than it really is (it wouldn't be the first time), but I hold out little hope that it will be a good movie.

Posted by Marty at 12:01 AM CDT
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