Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Philippe (David Niven) is called back from his sophisticated city life in London to his family's estate in the French countryside to deal with the failing of their vineyards. His wife Catherine (Deborah Kerr) is upset to be left alone and soon packs up her young son and daughter and travels to the estate where she feels threatened by Christian, a mysterious blond man (David Hemmings) who shoots doves dead with his bow and arrow, and his twin sister Odile (Sharon Tate, pictured) who turns a toad into a dove in front of Catherine's daughter. Later she sees the two take a dead dove into a room filled with strange hooded figures. Catherine also has run-ins with Philippe's high-strung aunt (Flora Robson), a smiling but cold priest (Donald Pleasance) and a friendly (or is he?) local doctor. And, of course, those twelve hooded folks. What could be up?

Even if you’ve never seen THE WICKER MAN, you’ll figure out pretty quickly what’s going on: blood sacrifice so the vineyards will be fertile again. The nifty twist here has to do with the origins of the sacrifice ritual: they're not pagans who carry it out, but a heretical Christian cult. The film is atmospheric—its black & white cinematography, its lovely/spooky rural setting, and the presence of Deborah Kerr all put me in mind of THE INNOCENTS—but it's far too slowly paced, so any suspense or tension that builds up eventually dissipates. Kerr is fairly bland; Niven underacts and is surprisingly effective as the movie goes on and his character becomes more downbeat, fatalistic, and possibly sinister; Robson and Pleasance are both fine; Hemmings and Tate seem to be around just as creepy eye candy, having very little dialogue and ultimately little to do with the plot. The climax is particularly dragged out and in the end is not the least bit surprising. [TCM]

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