|The Wicker Man is not parental bonding material|
Despite its endless tit parade, The Wicker Man is, at its core, both conservative and reactionary. It's no coincidence that it came out a couple years after the hippie movement's heyday. In The Wicker Man, anything redolent of back-to-nature -- even folk music or not wearing a bra -- is evil. Yet, like Milton, Hardy seems to be on the devil's side without knowing it. His heathen villagers are ignorant and wicked and the very very Christian Howie is gallant and good, but Hardy's film imbues its villains with a crucial charm its hero lacks: a sense of humor. When Howie, stumbling upon a fertility rite, blusters "They are NAKED!" and Summerisle replies that it would be too dangerous to jump through a fire fully clothed, we can't help but snigger a little bit at our hero's expense. Howie is noble enough, but not particularly sympathetic.
From what I understand about The Wicker Man's production, it's a miracle that a finished print ever saw the light of day (forces ranging from uninterested studio heads to Mick Jagger himself conspired to smother it). Consequently, there are several different cuts floating around. The one I watched -- a 2009 Lions Gate release -- has an un-hemmed quality, laden with scenes and shots which don't contribute directly to the movie's plot. Yet the wealth of information we receive about Summerisle, not all of it relevant or useful, lends the movie's setting a realistic, almost documentary quality. The movie-makers were presumably aware of this unsettling effect, given their winking special-thanks intertitle to "Lord Summerisle and the people of his island" (which has never existed).