Hall of Fame Speech #2: The Wicker Man

Brief note before we start: last July we got together and worked out a first class to be inducted into the Smaddies Baddies BMT Hall of Fame. It has been nearly six years since we started BMT and the films we had seen more than five years ago, in some cases, deserved a rewatch and reassessment. Over the next four weeks leading up to the fourth (sixth?) Smaddies Baddies we’ll bring you previews and Hall of Fame Speeches for the five films chosen. This is the second, for the spooky cult-bad-movie smash hit The Wicker Man starring Nick Cage. The intention is to reminisce a bit about what we remember about the film, what we think of it now, and why it deserved a special place in BMT history. Enjoy!

Hall of Fame Induction Speech for The Wicker Man

Ah, The Wicker Man. When people first learn about BMT upon meeting either me or Patrick (which is usually within five minutes) there is a high likelihood that the first question they have is “Have you seen the The Wicker Man?” It’s almost universally beloved. Primarily this is because it is Nic Cage at his craziest, but also because it defines what makes a bad film great for so many people: easily digestible pieces that stick in your mind. You can tell someone, “You gotta see Wicker Man,” and many different moments distributed throughout the film will deliver on your promise of a good time. While that’s not necessarily what defines many of the top BMT films (e.g. Here on Earth), The Wicker Man represents one of the very best of a certain type of bad movie.

As will be the case with all the BMT HoF films, it’s been five years since we watched this film. So let’s go through what I remember from that first viewing:

  • This film involves Nic Cage traveling to an island off the coast of Washington run by a bunch of women and bees. He has come to find a lost child and the inhabitants of the island seem determined to do everything to get in his way.
  • The film stuck in my mind as more of a series of crazy events rather than a coherent story.
  • The moment I most vividly recall from the film is Nic Cage waking up from a dream within a dream. It might still be the hardest I’ve laughed at a BMT film. It’s the craziest editing/storytelling choice we’ve seen, only rivalled by the triple flashback of Ghosts of Mars.
  • Besides that you have Nic Cage dressing up like a bear and punching women in the face and getting bees poured all over him.
  • In fact the whole storyline itself is kind of lost in those moments. I can only presume given the title of the film that Nic Cage dies at the end by being burned in a giant wicker man, but I honestly don’t remember as it was such a minor part of my original experience.

What I was most interested in seeing upon rewatching the film was how the original book may have influenced the remake. Since we watched The Wicker Man so early in BMT’s history there was never a thought of reading the original story. So obviously for the rewatch there was never a thought of not reading the original story. There was a part of me that hoped some of the craziest aspects of The Wicker Man came from that book. That somehow I’d be reading the story and everything would make sense in how we arrived at the remake from the original. Alas, it was not meant to be. The book certainly influenced the original film, but nothing more from the source made it further into the remake. The remake is through and through a remake of the original film. Nothing more.

But when I say “nothing more,” I of course mean, “nothing more than Nic Cage’s magnum opus.” It is astonishing to watch and there is little wonder that this film has captured the hearts and minds of those that follow bad movies closely. Replace Nic Cage with any other actor and the film is assuredly forgotten. He is an acting tornado, tearing into every scene with abandon. At times you wonder if the shock expressed on other actors’ faces is less the reacting to the odd aspects of the plot, and more a product of them watching Nic Cage leave no scenery unchewed. Further, all the scenes that I remember vividly continue to deliver today. The bear punching scene, the bee scene, and the still hilarious dream-within-a-dream scene. They are all still some of the funniest scenes we’ve seen to date. It confirmed for me that it is nothing less than top of the line in popular bad movies: a film that delivers on what it promises over and over again.

I say “popular” because I believe that the film will end up standing out amongst the other great works in the HoF as being more beholden than others on a singular aspect of the film: Nic Cage. Many bad bad films are beholden in this way (e.g. White Comanche and William Shatner playing a pair of White/Native American twins) and we’ve strived in BMT to look at the balance of a film rather than what might be perceived as a gimmick. But The Wicker Man earns its place near the top of BMT HoF despite this because it exemplifies the very best of that category.

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