Tag Archives: Diane Cilento

The Wicker Man (1973, Robin Hardy), the final cut

The Wicker Man can never decide on a tone. Director Hardy and writer Anthony Shaffer are both interested in minutiae of the film’s fictional setting, but never the same minutiae at the same time. Hardy is more interested in how the people live, cut off from the mainland, while Shaffer is more interested in how it all concerns the mystery.

Only Hardy isn’t much interested in the mystery. He’s too busy giving a folk feeling to a decidedly not folky setting. Stylistically, it’s a wonderful disconnect–a bunch of islanders, living in the modern world, but with ancient religious beliefs, all different ages, all apparently co-existing peaceably. The mysteriousness of the island, however, proves a problem as it’s supposed to be this utterly controlled environment–private property owned by lord Christopher Lee–yet Shaffer’s characters aren’t a bunch of isolates, they’re “normal.” Or normal enough the audience should be disturbed by them.

However, the unevenness aside, The Wicker Man’s a fine picture. Hardy does a good job directing–he and editor Eric Boyd-Perkins cut a constantly foreboding (but not necessarily threatening) experience, with Edward Woodward a solid lead. Woodward’s mainland police officer is sympathetic without being likable. The film sends him to the island in search of a missing girl; Woodward (and the viewer) are left to imagine her awful fate.

It should be more exploitative than it comes across. Hardy doesn’t exactly hurry through anything, but he keeps a different, brisker pace during certain sequences.

However, once Lee shows up, he starts running circles around Woodward. Lee’s not just better, he has a far better part. There’s a lot more he can do with it, while Woodward’s pretty much stuck.

There’s some good support from Britt Ekland, who has a sense of humor about it. Lee has one too. It helps–especially since Diane Cilento and Ingrid Pitt, as blonde harpies meant to fill Woodward’s mind with impure thoughts, play it all way too seriously.

The Wicker Man has numerous significant rewards (like when Harry Waxman’s photography gets to shine), even if it stalls quite often on Shaffer’s various narrative shortcuts.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Robin Hardy; written by Anthony Shaffer; director of photography, Harry Waxman; edited by Eric Boyd-Perkins; music by Paul Giovanni; produced by Peter Snell; released by British Lion Film Corporation.

Starring Edward Woodward (Sergeant Howie), Christopher Lee (Lord Summerisle), Diane Cilento (Miss Rose), Britt Ekland (Willow), Ingrid Pitt (Librarian), Irene Sunters (May Morrison) and Lindsay Kemp (Alder MacGreagor).


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The Third Secret (1964, Charles Crichton)

Between Crichton’s fantastic CinemaScope composition and Douglas Slocombe’s wondrous black and white photography, it’d be hard not admire The Third Secret. It’s an engaging enough thriller, though it does run into the problem of having one ending too many.

Stephen Boyd plays an American television journalist working in London–one of the lovely things about the script is how little is explained, we find out very little about Boyd’s life before the present action of the film–and he investigates the death of his psychologist. Joseph’s script has some problems with that subject, the topic of analysis needing lots of exposition and reminders there’s no shame. It hurts the film at times, but not significantly.

Boyd’s performance is impressive, since he’s adapting a character performance for a lead role. The friendship between him and Pamela Franklin (she plays the dead psychologist’s daughter) is touching and quite well executed. Franklin’s performance is great.

The rest of the supporting cast is solid. Diane Cilento and Paul Rogers are standouts.

A lot of time is spent developing Boyd’s character and the friendship with Franklin so the mystery aspect suffers. The two surprise endings are both pretty boring. The first one seems a little more believable–and there are some hints to a possible third ending they didn’t include.

The film, with Boyd and Franklin’s performances, should be a lot stronger. The mystery isn’t compelling, which seems like a conscious choice. Unfortunately, the attention the wanders, instead of focusing on the film’s successes.

But worth a look.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Charles Crichton; written by Robert L. Joseph; director of photography, Douglas Slocombe; edited by Frederick Wilson; music by Richard Arnell; production designer, Thomas N. Morahan; produced by Joseph and Hugh Perceval; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Stephen Boyd (Alex Stedman), Jack Hawkins (Sir Frederick Belline), Richard Attenborough (Alfred Price-Gorham), Diane Cilento (Anne Tanner), Pamela Franklin (Catherine Whitset), Paul Rogers (Dr. Milton Gillen), Alan Webb (Alden Hoving), Rachel Kempson (Mildred Hoving), Peter Sallis (Lawrence Jacks), Patience Collier (Mrs. Pelton), Freda Jackson (Mrs. Bales), Judi Dench (Miss Humphries), Peter Copley (Dr. Leo Whitset), Nigel Davenport (Lew Harding) and Charles Lloyd Pack (Dermot McHenry).