Tag Archives: Christopher Lee

How Not To Make A Cult Classic

“Inside The Wicker Man is a treat for all cinemagoers, exhaustively researched and achieving a near-perfect balance between history, trivia and serious analysis. Allan Brown describes the filming and distribution of the cult masterpiece as a ‘textbook example of ‘How Things Should Never Be Done’. The omens were bad from the start, and proceeded to get much, much worse, with fake blossom on trees to simulate spring, actors chomping on ice-cubes to prevent their breath showing on film, and verbal and physical confrontations involving both cast and crew. The studio hated it and hardly bothered to distribute it, but today it finds favour with critics and fans alike, as a serious – if flawed – piece of cinema.

Brown expertly guides readers through the film’s convoluted history, attempting along the way to explain its enduring fascination, and providing interviews with the key figures – many of whom still have an axe to grind, and some of whom still harbour plans for a sequel…”

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I’ve written previously about the 1973 film “The Wicker Man” which without doubt belongs in my top five films of all time. Well, I have just finished reading “Inside The Wicker Man – How Not To Make A Cult Classic” – a book all about the problematic making of the movie, written by Scottish journalist Allan Brown.

Originally published in 2000, I read the revised 2010 edition. Since publication of this edition Sir Christopher Lee passed away last year and a sort-of “sequel” mentioned in the blurb above has appeared with the release of Robin Hardy’s 2011 film “The Wicker Tree”. Hardy himself died earlier this year.

I haven’t previously read a book like this one. That is to say a book about the making of a specific film. I’ve read plenty of biographies that cover a multitude of projects but not one concentrated solely on one. As a result I can’t really compare the book to any similar works, so any observations are purely reactions to having read this one.

Allan Brown
Allan Brown

The first thing that struck me were the somewhat daft chapter descriptions, for example “Chapter 9 – Burrowhead : In which a goat urinates on Edward Woodward, and Anthony Shaffer threatens to burn some pandas”! I guess this is a reflection of the author’s sense of humour but, as I say, seemed a bit daft to me.

There’s a fair bit of detail relayed in the course of the book and it soon becomes clear that practically everyone involved – Shaffer, Hardy, Lee, Woodward, Britt Ekland, etc. etc. – have vastly differing views and memories of the whole experience. The most pronounced differences occur between the deceased pair of Shaffer and Hardy – former business partners who became rather adversarial subsequent to the making of the film – who seem unable to agree on anything and intent on taking the majority of the credit for themselves.

On balance, despite the feeling that the author has an agenda and is most definitely in the Shaffer camp, I’d have to say that given other testimony contained it seems probable that Hardy’s claims are the less likely. That would certainly go some way to explaining how someone who claimed to be largely responsible for “The Wicker Man” could go on the produce the rather poor “The Wicker Tree”.

The story of the genesis and making of the film, editing, marketing and distribution issues and problems that took place between 1972 and 2010 (plus a chapter on the near-comedy that is Nicolas Cage’s 2006 remake) takes up the first two-thirds of the book.

The Wicker Man Poster
The Wicker Man Poster

Following that are a number of appendices, of varying interest to this reader. The technical information on filming locations, scene by scene, and full cast and crew lists, for example, are all well and good but only really for reference purposes. An extract from Lee’s autobiography concerning the film is more interesting, but for me the most interesting appendix was the screenplay for Shaffer’s proposed sequel “The Wicker Man II”.

The premise is certainly interesting, and in its favour you’d have to say at least it’s not a simple retread like the aforementioned “The Wicker Tree”. There is an attempt to follow on the story from where the original film ended but I, and I suspect many fans of that film, find the addition of overtly supernatural elements and various folklore details from a variety of cultures alter the balance of the proposed sequel too much.

There is a tendency to repeat events and quotes – perhaps a result of the update? – and the timeline flits back and forwards rather confusingly sometimes, particularly with the very convoluted events once the film had actually been made. The author attempts to portray the film as something of a glimpse into the (in 1973) future, which I feel is far more coincidental than Brown seems to, but overall a decent read on an interesting subject matter…

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When The Skull Strikes You’ll Scream!

In my last post I said that normal service was being resumed, meaning regular postings. Well, that was two weeks ago, so was clearly a case of famous last words, as they say. In between has been further decorating, room moving and dog walking combined with a general lack of inspiration.

That’s not to say that there haven’t been films or albums that have connected with me – there have, not to mention two concerts attended too – just that I haven’t felt the inclination to put virtual pen to paper. Some of those things will feature in future posts.

Anyway, making no promises this time, as there is still lots to do around here, but I intend to be posting on a more regular basis than the zero posts of the past fortnight(!), kicking off with a film that I watched today.

I do enjoy discovering decent old movies, and the 1965 horror thriller directed by Freddie Francis (“Tales From The Crypt“, “Dr. Terror’s House Of Horrors”) for Amicus Productions titled “The Skull”.skull_poster_01

Maurice Good
Maurice Good

The film opens in the 1800s with Pierre (Maurice Good – “Quatermass & The Pit”, “Murder Most Foul”) digging up a grave. Pierre is a phrenologist and wants to study the skull of the body buried in the grave. Returning to his home he sets about removing any skin, leaving just the skull itself, but is found dead moments later.

Peter Cushing
Peter Cushing

In the modern day (well, the mid 1960s), Christopher Maitland (Peter Cushing – “From Beyond The Grave”, “The House That Dripped Blood”), a writer and collector of occult items, is bidding for a set of figurines featuring likenesses of Lucifer, Beelzebub, Leviathan and Baal-Berith.

Christopher Lee
Christopher Lee

He is beaten in the auction by friend and fellow occult aficionado Sir Matthew Phillips (Christopher Lee – “The Wicker Man”, “Curse Of The Crimson Altar”) who bids a very large sum of money, without seeming to know why.

Patrick Wymark & Peter Cushing
Patrick Wymark & Peter Cushing

Later Maitland is visited at home by shady artifact dealer Marco (Patrick Wymark – “Repulsion”, “Where Eagles Dare”) who sells him a book on the life of the infamous Marquis De Sade, which is apparently bound in human skin.

Christopher Lee & Peter Cushing
Christopher Lee & Peter Cushing

When Marco returns the following evening with a skull, which he claims to be that of De Sade, Maitland isn’t so quick to part with his cash, thinking it unlikely to be genuine. When he discusses it with his friend Phillips, however, he discovers that the skull is genuine and was stolen from Phillips – who is adamant that he does not want it back and strongly advises Maitland to steer clear as it is dangerous.

However, Maitland’s curiosity has been aroused and believing that the skull cannot possibly be dangerous “…only your mind makes it so…” determines to make the purchase. That’s when his problems start…

Peter Cushing
Peter Cushing

I thought this was a great film. It’s very atmospheric, with long period of little of no dialogue leaving the visuals and score to do the work – which they do really well. I particularly enjoyed the use of the camera looking out through the eyes of the skull.

Baal-Berith, The Skull  The Story Of The Marquis De Sade
Baal-Berith, The Skull & The Story Of The Marquis De Sade

There is a great dream / nightmare sequence involving Maitland as well as a nice selection of occult objects and imagery scattered around his study. Cushing takes most of the screen time, and portrays his role really well, all the more so when you consider that a lot of what he has to convey must be done without speaking.

Visually the film is spot on but even more importantly it gets the story across effectively and is thoroughly entertaining. Highly recommended…Skull Lobby

…And Suddenly The Screams Of A Baby Born In Hell!

The latest Hammer Films production that I have watched was the 1976 occult horror film “To The Devil… A Daughter”, directed by Peter Sykes (“Demons Of The Mind”, “The Jesus Film”).

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Dennis Wheatley - To The Devil A Daughter
Dennis Wheatley – To The Devil A Daughter

As with the earlier Hammer production “The Devil Rides Out” (which was released in 1968 and based on the 1934 novel of the same name) this movie is an adaptation of a novel by English author Dennis Wheatley (1897-1977). Wheatley wrote many occult and espionage books. The source novel in this case, also titled “To The Devil A Daughter”, was first published in 1953.

Public tastes had changed since the Hammer heyday of the late 1950s and 1960s, and in some ways the studio found themselves now trying to keep up with mainstream films that were showing more violence and sexuality than found in the celebrated gothic Hammer films. Although there would be success in the 1980s with the TV series “Hammer House Of Horror”, of which I have very fond memories, this movie would be the penultimate feature film from Hammer (“The Lady Vanishes” from 1979, which was unsuccessful at the box office, being the last) until the brand was relaunched in 2007.

Christopher Lee
Christopher Lee

The film itself opens as Father Michael Rayner (Christopher Lee – “The Wicker Man”, “The City Of The Dead”) is excommunicated by some Catholic officials, much to his displeasure as he remarks “it is not heresy, and I will not recant!”.

Nastassja Kinski
Nastassja Kinski

We then jump forward twenty years to a Bavarian island where Rayner is running a convent called the Children Of The Lord. A seventeen year old nun, Catherine Beddows (Nastassja Kinski – “Paris, Texas”, “Cat People”), who is also Rayner’s god-daughter, visits her father Henry (Denholm Elliott – “The Vault Of Horror”, “Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade”) in London each year for her birthday.

Denholm Elliott
Denholm Elliott

Beddows was formerly a member of Rayner’s cult and, aware of a fate that awaits Catherine now that she is turning eighteen, contacts occult author and expert John Verney (Richard Widmark – “Pickup On South Street”, “Panic In The Streets”) and asks him to look after her.

Richard Widmark
Richard Widmark

Verney enlists the help of his agent Anna Fountain (Honor Blackman – “Goldfinger”, “The Cat And The Canary”) and her boyfriend David Kennedy (Anthony Valentine – “Tower Of Evil”, “Callan”) in the hopes of keeping Catherine from the clutches of Rayner and his followers and their plans to turn her into an avatar for Astaroth in order to unleash Satan’s reign on Earth…

Anthony Valentine & Honor Blackman
Anthony Valentine & Honor Blackman

There were reputedly many problems with the production of this film. The script wasn’t finished when shooting began, the original ending was too close to that of one of Lee’s earlier Dracula movies so had to be rewritten and re-shot.

Christopher Lee & Nastassja Kinski
Christopher Lee & Nastassja Kinski

Lee himself was unhappy with parts of the finished film, Widmark remarked on the “mickey mouse production” and Wheatley was so fed up that the film bore so little resemblance to his book (not to mention the gratuitous sex, nudity and gore) that he declared that Hammer would never again be able to make a film from his work!

Lee gives an assured performance with plenty of evil intent evident in his character, whilst Kinski is also impressive in her role. Incidentally, perhaps surprisingly in view of the nudity and sexuality required of her character, Kinski had only just turned fifteen when the film was released in 1976!

The Devil Rides Out
The Devil Rides Out

It’s fair to say, I think, that this film isn’t a patch on “The Devil Rides Out” and isn’t what one would normally expect from a Hammer film. Equally it doesn’t match up to the likes of “The Omen” or “Rosemary’s Baby”, similarly occult-themed films from the mid 70s. Nonetheless, I did find this to be an enjoyable movie. Granted, that may be partly due to my interest in the left-hand path but largely because I didn’t find this to be the car crash that many seem to view it as…Daughter01_vamosalcine

Turn The Knob, Open The Door, Step Past The Pool Of Blood, Walk Straight Ahead… And Scream Your Mind Away

Today I watched another of the Amicus Productions horror anthology films. Directed by Peter Duffell (“England Made Me”, “The Famous Five”) and dating from 1971, this one is titled “The House That Dripped Blood”.

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John Bennett
John Bennett

The connecting scenes here involve Detective Inspector Holloway (John Bennett – “Hitler : The Last Ten Days”) investigating the disappearance of a film star, last heard of renting an old country house.

John Bryans
John Bryans

Holloway meets with estate agent A.J. Stoker (John Bryans – Henry VIII And His Six Wives”) who tells him stories of some previous tenants of the house.

In the first story “Method For Murder” Charles

Denholm Elliot
Denholm Elliott

Hillyer (Denholm Elliott – “Raiders Of The Lost Ark”, “Bad Timing”), a horror story writer moves into the house to write a new book. The central character of his book is a psychopathic murderer named Dominic.

Joanna Dunham
Joanna Dunham

When Hillyer starts to see Dominic around the house he finds his wife, Alice (Joanna Dunham – “A Day At The Beach, “Scandal”), disbelieving so seeks advice from a psychiatrist. But is there more to Dominic’s appearances than meet the eye?…

Peter Cushing
Peter Cushing
Joss Ackland
Joss Ackland

On a walk into the local town he visits a waxworks museum where he is captivated by the model of Salome, who the proprietor claims was a murderess. When Grayson’s friend Neville Rogers (Joss Ackland – “Lethal Weapon 2”, “Royal Flash”) visits the pair go to the museum, despite Grayson’s reservations.

It’s not long before Rogers is also captivated by Salome…

Christopher Lee & Chloe Franks
Christopher Lee & Chloe Franks

In story number three, “Sweets To The Sweet”, widower John Reid (Christopher Lee – “Dr. Terror’s House Of Horrors”, “Too Hot To Handle”) moves into the house with his young daughter, Jane (Chloe Franks “Escape From The Dark”).

Nyree Dawn Porter
Nyree Dawn Porter

With no mother figure around, Reid employs a private teacher, Ann Norton (Nyree Dawn Porter – “From Beyond The Grave”, “The Cracksman”) to teach the girl at home. Norton cannot understand which Reid doesn’t allow his daughter to play with dolls, but when some candles go missing and Reid begins suffering sudden and inexplicable pains, things start to add up…

Jon Pertwee
Jon Pertwee

“The Cloak” is the final tale, where we are introduced to the film star mentioned at the beginning – Paul Henderson (Jon Pertwee – “Dr. Who”, “Worzel Gummidge”). Henderson has rented the house whilst he films a vampire movie nearby. In his quest for realism and perfection he finds a cloak in a local shop.

Ingrid Pitt
Ingrid Pitt

Unfortunately, he finds the cloak beginning to affect him in an unexpected way and changing the lives of both him and his co-star Carla Lind (Ingrid Pitt – “Countess Dracula”, “The Vampire Lovers”)…

Another perfectly competent anthology film, and in all honesty probably one of my favourites, there is some genuinely talented actors on display here and the whole thing is very enjoyable…

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Frenzied Fright! Freezing Terror! Screaming Nightmare!

I have previously written about a couple of Amicus Productions horror anthology films, “Tales From The Crypt” and “From Beyond The Grave”. Yesterday I watched a third, this one from 1965 and directed by Freddie Francis (“Hysteria”, “The Creeping Flesh”) and titled “Dr. Terror’s House Of Horrors”.

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Peter Cushing
Peter Cushing

The film opens with a group of five strangers sharing a railway carriage on a train departing London, who are joined by Dr. Schrek (Peter Cushing – “Frankenstein & The Monster From Hell”, “The Vampire Lovers”).

Dr. Schrek has a deck of tarot cards and tells the five that he can tell them their destiny by picking four cards from the deck, each scenario depicted in separate stories. A fifth card at the end of each story will then tell them how they can avoid the future foretold

Neil McCallum
Neil McCallum

In the first, “Werewolf”, architect Jim Dawson (Neil McCallum – “Catacombs”, “Quest For Love”) is requested to return to his former home on an island off the Scottish mainland by its new owner to plan some alterations.

Ursula Howells
Ursula Howells

Mrs. Biddulph (Ursula Howells – “Assignment K”, “Crossplot”), the new owner, explains that she bought the house as she wanted somewhere quiet and secluded to mourn the death of husband.

Examining the cellar, Dawson finds the coffin of Count Valdemar who owned the house hundreds of years previously before he was killed in a dispute with Dawson’s ancestors. It appears that Valdemar is taking the form of a werewolf at night but the truth may be more complex…

Alan Freeman & Bernard Lee
Alan Freeman & Bernard Lee

Story two, “Creeping Vine”, sees Bill Rogers (Alan Freeman – “Sebastian”, “Absolute Beginners”) returning from a holiday with his family to discover a rapidly spreading vine has begun to grow in his garden and resists any attempt to prune it.

Rogers seeks help from a scientist, Hopkins (Bernard Lee – “Thunderball”, “Diamonds Are Forever”), at the Ministry of Defence.

It seems that the plant has intelligence and harbours murderous intent to any threat to its continued existence…

Roy Castle
Roy Castle

“Voodoo” is the third tale, and has a definite sense of fun with obvious humour throughout. Jazz musician Biff Bailey (Roy Castle – “Carry On Up The Khyber”, “Record Breakers”) travels to the West Indies for some performances. Whilst there he witnesses a voodoo ceremony and is struck by the music used.

Despite warnings from his friend Sammy Coin (Kenny Lynch – “Carry On Loving”, “The Playbirds”) and from the locals who tell him that the music belongs to the God Dambala, Bailey decides to “borrow” the voodoo tune and use it in his shows back in London…

Christopher Lee Michael Gough
Christopher Lee & Michael Gough

In story four, titled “Disembodied Hand”, art critic Franklyn Marsh (Christopher Lee – “Season Of The Witch”, “The Lord Of The Rings”) is proud of his acidic reputation and happily scathing of artists’ work.

When he savages an exhibition by artist Eric Landor (Michael Gough – “Batman”, “Out Of Africa”) in front of the artist he finds himself being even more publicly humiliated in return. However, when Marsh resorts to violence things spiral out of control quickly…

Donald Sutherland
Donald Sutherland

The fifth and final tale, “Vampire”, finds Dr. Bob Carroll (Donald Sutherland – “The Eagle Has Landed”, “JFK”) returning from Europe to New England with his new French wife, Nicolle (Jennifer Jayne – “They Came From Beyond Space”, “On The Beat”).

Jennifer Jayne
Jennifer Jayne

When patients start turning up with blood missing and strange marks on their necks, Carroll’s colleague Dr. Blake (Max Adrian – “The Music Lovers”, “The Devils”) suggests to Carroll that a vampire may be responsible…

Dr. Schrek then tells the five what the fifth card shows and how they can avoid the destinies that he has shown them…

This is a decent enough anthology film, especially given its age, though it’s fair to say that the fate shown on the fifth card is worse than that suffered in a couple of the stories – though really that’s irrelevant by the time you get to the twist at the end.dr-terrors-house-of-horrors.24742

The Thrills – The Chills Of Witchcraft Today

Today, reflecting on the passing of the legendary Sir Christopher Lee earlier this month, I decided to check out one of his less well-known pieces of work, a 1960 horror film directed by John Llewellyn Moxey (“Foxhole In Cairo”) which was released in the UK as “The City Of The Dead” but re-titled for the US as “Horror Hotel”.

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Although filmed at Shepperton Studios in Surrey and produced by a British film company, the film was set in Whitewood, a fictional Massachusetts town and the British actors involves had to adopt American accents.

Christopher Lee
Christopher Lee

Professor Alan Driscoll (Christopher Lee – “The Wicker Man”, “The Devil Rides Out”) is teaching a course on witchcraft in an American college.

Venetia Stevenson
Venetia Stevenson

Driscoll encourages one of his students, blonde Nan Barlow (Venetia Stevenson – “Island Of Lost Women”, “Studs Lonigan”), to use a break in the school year to travel to the small isolated town of Whitewood (which seems to suffer from a permanent infestation of dry ice on the streets and full of characters who stand in silence, staring!) to carry out some field research.

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Patricia Jessel

The town has a history of witchcraft and The Raven’s Inn, the hotel that Driscoll recommends to her, has a plaque to commemorate the 17th century burning at the stake of witch Elizabeth Selwyn (Patricia Jessel – “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum”) – during which Selwyn had pledged her eternal life to Satan if she was spared from death.

Venetia Stevenson
Venetia Stevenson

Nan arrives at the hotel on Candlemas Eve, the date on which the town’s coven traditionally met. She goes out to investigate the town, borrows a book on witchcraft from Patricia Russell (Betta St. John – “Corridors Of Blood”), the daughter of the town’s Reverend, to help with her research. However, by morning she has seemingly vanished.

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Tom Naylor & Dennis Lotis

Nan’s brother Richard (Dennis Lotis – “Sword Of Sherwood Forest”) and boyfriend Bill (Tom Naylor – “Danger By My Side”) discover her disappearance two weeks later when the school break is over and travel to Whitewood looking for her.

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Betta St. John & Patricia Jessel

The hotel owner, Mrs. Newless (Patricia Jessel again) tells them, and anyone else enquiring, that Nan checked out after a day without paying for her room. Naturally Richard and Bill don’t give up and, aided by Patricia, and struggle to comprehend what they uncover…

Christopher Lee
Christopher Lee

This is a charmingly naïve and really rather innocent horror film, particularly compared to the likes of the more bloodthirsty and cleavage-baring Hammer films.

Nan is a particularly innocent and trusting character. As for Driscoll – let’s say that whilst there’s nothing wrong with Lee’s American accent and the actor’s presence, this isn’t going to replace “The Wicker Man” as my favourite Lee film, or even near favourite. Nonetheless, it’s certainly worth a watch if you’re in the mood for a good old-fashioned black and white afternoon movie…

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Flesh To Touch… Flesh To Burn!

“The Wicker Man” is a 1973 horror thriller film, directed by Robin Hardy, bringing Anthony Shaffer’s screenplay to the screen.

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Edward Woodward plays Sergeant Howie, a devoutly Christian policeman, who receives a note in the post claiming that a young girl, Rowan Morrison, has disappeared.

Edward Woodward
Edward Woodward

He travels to a Scottish island, Summerisle, to investigate. This remote and isolated community is led by the strange Lord Summerisle, played by Christopher Lee.

When he arrives he discovers that seemingly no one has heard of the missing girl, not even Mrs. Morrison who Howie believes to be Rowan’s mother.

Britt Ekland
Britt Ekland

Howie takes a room in the Green Man Inn for his stay on the island, and, with his religious convictions, is shocked to hear the bawdy songs sung in the pub, notably “The Landlord’s Daughter” which celebrates the sexuality of the titular character, Willow MacGregor (played by Britt Ekland).

May Celebrations on Summerisle
May Celebrations on Summerisle

He sees a series of framed photographs depicting the annual harvest celebrations featuring the May Queen, but the most recent photograph is missing, apparently broken.

Edward Woodward and Christopher Lee
Edward Woodward and Christopher Lee

When the policeman finds evidence in the school that Rowan did, in fact, exist the teacher tells him that Rowan died, but returned in another form. After further unsuccessful inquiries, he approaches Lord Summerisle for permission to dig up Rowan’s grave, suspecting that she must have been murdered. Although Lord Summerisle is charming, Howie cannot reconcile himself with the pagan attitudes that he encounters. When the grave is exhumed, Howie is shocked to discover it contains only the corpse of a rabbit.

Summerisle Harvest Photograph
Summerisle Harvest Photograph

Howie realises that the islanders pay homage to the pagan Gods of their ancestors, and with the island being reliant on the crops that they produce, specifically their apples, he suspects that due to a crop failure Rowan is being kept hidden away to be sacrificed to the Gods and resolves to find and rescue her.

The Wicker Man
The Wicker Man

The final scenes of the have lost nothing over the years, remaining as powerful as ever.

This film has long been one of my all-time favourites, but I was unaware until recently that there was more to it than the version shown in cinemas as supporting feature to “Don’t Look Now” in 1973 and on TV from time to time since then.

11798The history of “The Wicker Man” began in 1971 when Christopher Lee and Anthony Shaffer, together with movie producer Peter Snell began to discuss making a film based on the 1967 novel “Ritual” by David Pinner. The three bought the film rights to the book and, with director Robin Hardy on board, came up with a new story using the original novel as inspiration.

Following filming in the Autumn of 1972 an edited version of the film, removing some introductory scenes on the Scottish mainland and some of Lord Summerisle’s explanations of the history of the island, and running to approximately 99 minutes was prepared.

One of the bosses at the film studio, British Lion, then asked American director Roger Corman to make some suggestions to make the film more “marketable”. Corman’s sugestions resulted in a further thirteen minutes of footage being removed, and the order of some scenes being changed around. The resulting 87 minute version is known as the theatrical version and was shown in cinemas in 1973.

The-Wicker-Man-R2-cover-dvd-freeI have now been able to see the “Director’s Cut” version, which restores most of the footage cut from the original version and puts elements of the story back to the place in which they were originally placed.

The film has a better flow as a result and, even though some of the restored footage does not have the same picture quality as a result of having been cut out decades ago, is a much more complete and satisfying experience.

The Wicker Man Soundtrack
The Wicker Man Soundtrack

A mention must also be made of the superb soundtrack, which for many years was unavailable. Put together by Paul Giovanni and performed by Magnet (a group put together specifically to record the soundtrack) and featuring various members of the cast, the music is a mixture of takes on traditional songs, such as the main title theme and “Corn Riggs” which are based on songs by Robert Burns (1759-1796) and “Sumer Is Icumen In” which originates from Middle English sometime circa 1200, and original songs such as the beautiful “Willow’s Song” and “Gently Johnny”, all arranged to give a feel of the pre-Christian pagan culture of the film – well worth finding a copy of the album.

And what of “The Wicker Tree”, Robin Hardy’s 2011 “spiritual successor”? The film explores similar themes, and even features Christopher Lee in a brief cameo role. However, although entertaining, the film does not in any way compare positively to the original film – much the same must be said of the 2006 remake of “The Wicker Man” starring Nicolas Cage.

To this viewer the old film remains far more evocative and powerful than the successor or remake. Maybe in the same way that Sergeant Howie discovered the old Gods were more powerful than his newer Christian God…