Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Actor Edward Woodward Has Died (Wicker Man)

British actor Edward Woodward has died. He was 79. According to his obit in The New York Times today, he was best known for two television series in which he starred. One was The Equalizer, which ran from 1985-1989, in which he played a retired secret agent who fought injustices that the police refused to address.

I never watched that show, however. I remember Edward Woodward as the star of the 1973 cult "horror" movie The Wicker Man, which is sometimes called the "Citizen Kane" of horror films. Not the risible remake of a few years ago starring Nicholas Cage. The original. In the film Woodward played a policeman lured to a remote island off the Scottish coast by reports of a missing girl. But to his dismay, he discovers by the end of the film that the enigmatic, unhelpful island villagers are not just insular. They are members of a celtic nature cult led by Christopher Lee. And Woodward's policeman has actually been lured there intentionally, to his death during their pagan May Day celebrations (filmed in joyful "Swinging 60's," hippie style). And his death, in the final, "terrifying" scene, is to be by burning in a Roman-era "wicker man," a two story wooden cage shaped like a human being.
I'm not a fan of "horror films." That term connotes excessive gore and gratuitous violence, at least to me. But there's no gore in this film. Almost all of the "horror" is psychological. It does have one "gratuitous" sequence nonetheless, however, in which 1960's "it girl" Britt Ekland dances topless in her bedroom in some sort of psychedelic trance. (Well, she mostly just hugs the walls and bangs on them rhythmically with her hand, in apparent attempt to seduce Edward Woodward, who is in the next room, dressed in full pajamas, straining to fight off her psychic "charms.") Embedded below is the original trailer for the film which features footage of both Britt Ekland's dance and the wicker man itself. I'll remember Woodward for those two scenes.

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