Tag Archives: Christopher Lee

My Thoughts on: The Wicker Man (1973)

I’m honestly not sure when The Wicker Man first came to my attention, but the idea of seeing it has been in my head for awhile. While my general aversion to the horror genre is hardly a secret, I heard so many times about how this was one of those films you must see before you die that I finally decided, once I found a copy, that I would sit down and watch it, for better or worse. It also didn’t hurt that Christopher Lee is in this film also (I’ll watch just about anything that has him in it).

If you haven’t seen the original The Wicker Man, the story follows Police Sergeant Neil Howie (Edward Woodward) as he travels to the (fictional) Scottish island of Summerisle to investigate a complaint about a missing child, Rowan Morrison, that’s been sent to him via an anonymous letter. A simple investigation quickly goes sideways when everyone Howie meets protests that Rowan either a) does not exist or b) died six months earlier. Not only that, but the devoutly Christian Howie is horrified to discover the entire island follows a pagan religion with Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee) happily ruling at the top of it all.

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Right away I could feel major Midsommar-vibes coming off this story and indeed they are similar in broad strokes. You have an outsider encountering a pagan culture they do not understand, there’s pagan symbolism everywhere, and oh yes, there’s human sacrifice at the end. I investigated and found out that both Midsommar and The Wicker Man (the original version anyway) both belong to a sub-genre of horror known as folk horror. This sub-genre contains stories that focus on the “old religion” and ritualistic practices. Given I’ve watched and enjoyed two films from the folk horror genre, it might be I’ve finally found a niche of horror that is for me after all. But I digress, back to The Wicker Man

I find it very interesting how Howie is presented to the audience. Given how prevalent Christianity is all over the world, you might think that at least some of the sympathy would be with Howie as he goes about his investigation on Summerisle. But Howie, as Woodward plays him, is so uptight, and so self-righteous, that he quickly becomes unlikable. He has no tolerance for anything that deviates from the norm, and there’s a lot of things on Summerisle that you don’t normally see. Now, to be fair, the police sergeant does make something of a good point at the end of the film when he points out that sacrificing him is tantamount to murder, but it also reveals how little Howie understands life on the island. Except for that little part about human sacrifice, the villagers on Summerisle aren’t hurting anybody by following the old religion, but Howie can’t stand for it regardless.

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The pivotal moment with the titular “wicker man” was just as amazing as I’d been led to believe. I found out that Edward Woodward insisted on not seeing it until the moment of filming, which makes his scream of “Oh God, oh Jesus Christ!” upon seeing it so utterly believable. Also, I will never look at the song “Sumer is icumen in” in the same way ever again.

One thing I keep turning over and over in my head is the sacrifice at the end of the film and what it’s intended to do. You see, the old religion was established on Summerisle over a hundred years ago to help with the growth of the apple orchards on the island. But the previous year was the first year the harvest failed, hence the sacrifice at the end of the film, the idea being that a human sacrifice will appease the gods and allow the apples to grow again next year. Howie maintains that the apples are going to fail anyway because fruit isn’t meant to grow in this region. And yet…I can’t help but wonder….what if the sacrifice works? Or at least appears to work. Even though the results of the sacrifice are never revealed, I have a feeling Lord Summerisle has nothing to worry about even though Howie implied that he himself would be the next sacrifice should the crops fail again. If that was the first time the fruit didn’t grow in over 100 years, it seems unlikely that they would permanently die off just like that. Even if they are slowly dying, it doesn’t happen that quickly, so it’s more likely the fruit will continue for a while longer. I just hate how certain Howie seems that the fruit trees are never going to bear fruit again. I guess I can’t help but wonder “what if Howie’s wrong and all of this works anyway?”

What I’m trying to say in all of this is that The Wicker Man is an amazing film and one that everyone should definitely see at least once. Christopher Lee steals every scene he’s in. I also really loved all of the songs in this film, if I’d known how musical The Wicker Man is I would’ve watched it years ago.

Let me know what you think about The Wicker Man in the comments below and have a great day!

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The Fellowship of the Ring “The Treason of Isengard” (2001)

After confirming the terrible truth: that Frodo’s ring is none other than the One Ring that Sauron has been desperately seeking all these years, Gandalf rides as quick as he can to Isengard, to consult with Saruman the White (Christopher Lee), the head of the order of wizards and one who has studied Sauron and his works for several ages of history.

If there was one actor born to play Saruman, it was Christopher Lee. Years ago, he actually met and talked with Professor Tolkien himself. And according to the story I heard, Lee had Tolkien’s blessing to play Gandalf should a film adaptation ever be made and that (I think) is why he auditioned for at first for the role of Gandalf. However, Peter Jackson already had Ian McKellen in mind for the part and offered Lee the role of Saruman instead. I think it worked out just fine the way it did.

Saruman is a very complex character, one that can wear many masks. He’s had everyone believing for years that he still has the best interests of Middle Earth at heart, but in truth, he was corrupted a long time ago. The music we first hear as Gandalf rides into Isengard is already rather martial, full of trumpets and brass (perhaps a very early hint of the army Saruman is going to build and let loose in The Two Towers).

The Fellowship of the Ring “The Treason of Isengard” (Soundtrack only) (2001)

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Now that he knows (from Gandalf) that the Ring of Power has been found, Saruman can spring his plans into motion. There has already been one big red flag: Gandalf learns that Saruman has been using the Palantir (a magical seeing stone) in the Tower of Isengard to spy on Sauron’s movements. This is very dangerous because not all of the seven Palantirs are accounted for, and when Gandalf’s hand brushing against the stone reveals an echo of Sauron, it confirms that the Dark Lord has at least one stone in his possession. But it gets worse…

The Fellowship of the Ring “Saruman the White” (Film Scene) (2001)

Saruman casually lets Gandalf know that the Nine Ringwraiths (initially known to us as the Black Riders) are on the move, and by this time have surely reached the Shire. A panicked Gandalf heads for the door, but Saruman blocks his way by commanding all the doors to shut. It then comes out that Saruman already knows of Gandalf’s plans to have Frodo take the Ring to a place of relative safety, and that he *knows* it cannot work. Just how far Saruman has fallen is demonstrated by this exchange:

“Against the power of Mordor, there can be no victory. We must join him him. We must join with Sauron, Gandalf. It would be wise, my friend.”

“Tell me, “friend,” when did Saruman the Wise abandon reason for madness??”

As expected, Gandalf completely rejects this despicable offer to turn traitor and join the forces of evil (did Saruman really think anything else would happen?) and the enraged wizard attacks with his magic staff. What follows is a brief battle between the two elderly wizards (a phenomenal fight considering the age of the actors at the time), but Saruman is able to wrest Gandalf’s staff away and uses both to pin the wizard to the ground. This is one scene where the music does not particularly stand out (as it does in “The Wood Elves” for instance). Rather, it functions more to highlight certain moments, like the fight between Gandalf and Saruman, or Gandalf’s initial approach to Isengard.

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The music does becomes rather ominous at this point though, highlighting Gandalf’s dire situation, powerless in Saruman’s grasp:

“I gave you the chance to aid me willingly, but you have elected the way of PAIN!!”

With this, Gandalf is thrown up into the air, straight up the tower, and the music explodes upward with him. It is implied that Gandalf is being smashed against the high ceiling of the tower (given that the screen cuts to black immediately), but I suspect Saruman used a magic trick or spell to send Gandalf straight through the ceiling to the roof platform above, where we find him later.

“The Treason of Isengard” is a good introduction to Saruman the White, but this is only a preview of the larger role he will play in the next film. I hope you enjoyed it, have a great weekend!

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Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

See also:

The Fellowship of the Ring “The Shire” (2001)

The Fellowship of the Ring “Shadow of the Past” (2001)

The Fellowship of the Ring “The Wood Elves/Passing of the Elves” (2001)

The Fellowship of the Ring “A Knife in the Dark” (2001)

The Fellowship of the Ring “Flight to the Ford” (2001)

The Fellowship of the Ring “Many Meetings” (2001)

The Fellowship of the Ring “The Ring Goes South/Fellowship Main Theme” (2001)

The Fellowship of the Ring “The Bridge of Khazad-Dum” (2001)

The Fellowship of the Ring “Lothlorien” (2001)

The Fellowship of the Ring “In Dreams” (2001)

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