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  • The Wicker Man, Edge of Darkness and Village of the Damned – The “Tricky” Cult Remake: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 29/52

    Village of the Damned-John Carpenter-1995-film still 5

    Remaking a much-loved and cult classic seems like a tricky path to choose in cinema and to a degree television drama: the film/programme you are making will often have a certain pre-existing recognition factor but that is also a double-edged sword as you are essentially pitting yourself against, well, the love of and for a cult classic.

    Along which lines it is also a potentially odd and tricky thing for a director to do to attempt to make a semi “in the spirit of” sequel to his own much-loved cult classic (see The Wicker Tree).

    Along which lines, three such films and programmes which have been remade that I have previously written about at A Year In The Country are The Wicker Man, The Village of the Damned and Edge of Darkness.

    Now, although I thought it was an odd thing to do, to attempt to remake The Wicker Man, I tried to go into watching the 2006 version with an open mind and without being overly prejudiced against it – as a cultural behemoth the original version of The Wicker Man casts a long and imposing shadow.

    It’s a fair while ago since I watched the remake and despite my trepidation in watching it, one of the main things that struck me was rather than thinking it was inherently bad, that it was essentially just another film, almost workmanlike, in contrast to the fantastical/fantasia like multi-layered cultural and aesthetic aspects of the original.

    (The original film version of The Wicker Man’s troubled and intriguing production and release history has also come to be fairly inherently intertwined with those cultural aspects – adding a further layering which makes it shadow all the longer and more imposing on any remake.)

    All of which brings me to the 2010 film adaptation/remake of Edge of Darkness.

    It seems like both a tricky and odd path for a director to remake his own much-loved, not so much cult but widely and critically acclaimed classic but that is what Martin Campbell did (he also directed the 1985 television original).

    For myself the original of Edge of Darkness is so rooted in my psyche and also the time, place and historical context of when it was made that I think I am too wary to watch the remake removed from that context and to possibly dispel my appreciation of the original, even out of curiousity about what the remake is like.

    Village of the Damned-John Carpenter-1995-film still

    Which brings me to John Carpenter’s 1995 adaptation of The Village of the Damned (originally adapted from John Wyndham’s novel The Midwich Cuckoos), here remade as Village of the Damned.

    (There was also a British made sequel to The Village of the Damned made in 1964 called Children of the Damned.)

    John Carpenter is known for holding British science fiction/fantasy writer Nigel Kneale in high regard (as I have mentioned before, in homage to Nigel Kneales’s Work, his Prince of Darkness film is credited to Martin Quatermass and he commissioned Kneale to work on the script for Halloween III which John Carpenter co-produced and co-scored) and it’s not much of a jump from Nigel Kneale’s intelligent take on British science fiction etc to John Wyndham’s.

    Halloween III-John Carpenter-Tommy Lee Wallace-Alan Howarth-Nigel Kneale-1982-5
    (Although not directed by the same person, the above still from Village of the Damned shares something of a similarity or two with the below still from Halloween III and both have a somewhat classic John Carpenter-esque “empty/isolated streets” dread.)

    The 1995 remake of Village of the Damned is an odd film texturally: it has the look and feel of a made-for-television movie, although it had a budget of $22 million (approximately $36 million today allowing for inflation), which is hardly small change.

    That look and feel may be in part due to the period aesthetics of when it was made, related film stock and/or the DVD transfer process.

    It could also possibly be a side effect of the way in which when viewed now 1990s and turn of the millennium film and television can have a sense of not yet being old enough to have gained a retro fetishistic aspect, more just still rooted to the period of its production and a little out of step with modern tastes and expectations.

    In this remake the story is moved from the English countryside to a smallish Northern Californian American town.

    While the village in the 1960 version is peopled largely by the middle classes with terrribly good diction, alongside working class and labourer types, in John Carpenter’s version at the start the town seems to be largely populated by male hunks and styled female blondes.

    The film also features a number of lead actors who previously starred in various well-known and market-leading science fiction/fantasy franchises (Mark Hamill – Star Wars, Christopher Reeves – Superman, Kirstie Alley – Star Trek).

    Village of the Damned-John Carpenter-1995-film still 2

    The government/authorities’ response to essentially the town’s women being impregnated by a possibly alien race seems curiously unofficial/ramshackle – particularly viewed today in an era of heightened security measures.

    Here the problem seems to be tackled by say the kind of grungey, underfunded, self-directed groups or organisations that would perhaps be found in David Cronenberg’s Videodrome.

    As I have mentioned before sections of John Carpenter’s work, particularly his earlier films in the 1970s and during parts of the 1980s, contained a kind of ragged, tight, almost street energy to them, a possibly more fun, less arthouse parallel to David Cronenberg’s earlier films.

    There is still some kind of left-of-centre cinema feel to this version of Village of the Damned and elements of that tighness or energy but it feels less focused or to not have quite the same energy of some of his other work:

    “I’m really not passionate about Village of the Damned. I was getting rid of a contractual assignment, although I will say that it has a very good performance from Christopher Reeve, so there’s some value in it.” (John Carpenter in an interview at Vullture website.)

    Possibly that lack of a sense of lean example of cinema could also be a result of the translation and remaking of an earlier piece of work and the way in which during that process some of the original energy or “magic”, that indefinable something can sometimes be lost along the way.

    However, as I say, it’s a tricky proposition attempting to remake a much loved cult classic.

    Village of the Damned-John Carpenter-1995-film still 4

    Elsewhere:
    The Wicker Man 1973 / The Wicker Man 2006
    Edge of Darkness 1985Edge of Darkness 2010
    The Village of the Damned 1960 / Village of the Damned 1995
    John Carpenter at the Vulture website

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
    1) Day #173/365: “Douglas I’m scared”; celluloid cuckoos and the village as anything but idyll…
    2) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 4/52a: Halloween III: Season of the Witch – A Curious Slice of Culture and Collisions with the Past
    3) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 22/52: John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness Part 1 – The Sleeper Awakens
    4) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 23/52: John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness Part 2 – “This is not a dream”
    5) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 24/52: John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness Part 3 – Quatermass-esque Non Bebop Filmmaking
    6) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 8/52: In The Morning I’ll Be Gone, Orkney Twilight, GB84 and Edge of Darkness – Hinterland Tales Of Myths, Dark Forces and Hidden Histories Part 2
    7) The Wicker Man: well, that would be in a fair few “Elsewhere at A Year In The Country”

     

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  • The Wicker Man – Notes on a Cultural Behemoth: Chapter 10 Book Images

     The Wickerman-rating

    “The Wicker Man… has become something of a towering cult celluloid behemoth. This is particularly the case amongst all things on the flipside of folkloric, as well as within areas of culture that have come to be known as folk horror…

    At its heart, The Wicker Man could be viewed as a mystery thriller, although in actuality it is a film which defies categorisation, mixing elements of fantasy, horror and musical.

    Within its enclosed rural setting it intertwines folkloric practices, pagan rituals, reimagined and reinterpreted traditional and folk music, unfettered sexuality and an older religious faith in conflict with a more contemporary Christian belief system.

    These elements, along with a background of its at-times troubled production and distribution, have come to create a heady mixture, which includes imagery and a soundtrack that have gained iconic status and the creation of an almost myth-like set of stories and reference points which surround it and that have reverberated throughout wider culture.” 

    The Wicker Man-Dan Mumford poster-A Year In The Country 

    “In 2013 a ’40th Anniversary’ – possibly misleadingly named – Final Cut of the film, running at 91 minutes, was released cinematically as well as on DVD and Blu-ray.

    This was not a complete, cinematic quality version of the film but rather an intermediate director-approved version which, as with earlier restored versions, featured segments which had varying levels of reproduction due to original source materials not being available.

    In one sense, the sections where the quality varies are appealing; the shift in quality can give these scenes a slightly surreal, almost parallel plains of 3D or cutout look, similar to the effect that viewing a faded set of images through a Viewmaster children’s toy might do.

    It would be interesting to see the entire film represented in this manner, to step away from the ongoing quest for a picture perfect representation of the tales of The Wicker Man and to embrace its otherworldliness more overtly with regards to its visual presentation.”

     The Wicker Man Collage-A Year In The Country-1080 

    Day 16-Willows Songs b-Finders Keepers-A Year In The Country Day 16-Willows Songs back-Finders Keepers-A Year In The Country

    The Wickerman-Trading cards-A Year In The Country-9The Wickerman-Unstoppable Trading Cards-Binder-A Year In The Country

    The Wickerman-trading card collection 1-A Year In The Country

    The Wickerman-RBeckettWickerman-A Year In The Countrynuada-wicker-man-journal-issues

    The Wicker Man book collection

    “While waiting for an actual final complete version there have been an ever-proliferating number of re-releases of the film and its soundtrack that have been released on video tape, DVD, Blu-ray, CD and vinyl, alongside period and modern associated posters, trading cards, books, zines, magazine articles and so forth.

    The resulting releases have become part of a whole not-so-mini industry that could keep industrious collectors busy but there are a few related items of particular interest.

    One is Willow’s Songs: an album released in 2009 by unearthers of rare and sometimes previously lost recordings Finders Keepers Records and which aims to showcase the British folk songs that inspired the soundtrack to The Wicker Man…

    Its lyrics tell a tale of agricultural dispossession and intriguingly it is not credited to a performer on the album, which in these times of instant knowledge about almost everything via online searches adds a certain appealing mystique that this author is loath to puncture.”

     The Wicker Man OST soundtrack-Jonny Trunk-Trunk Records-A Year In The CountryThe Wickerman Willows Songs Gently Johnny 7 vinyl Record Store Day-Silva Screen International-A Year In The Country 2

    “One of the curious things with The Wicker Man soundtrack (and indeed the film itself ) is that this is a case of where something authentic has been created from an inauthentic or commercially-orientated premise.

    The soundtrack has come to feel as though it features songs which have belonged to these isles for centuries: ones which are deeply rooted in the land, its folklore and history, when in fact a number of them were written and all were recorded especially for the film.”

     Ritual-David Pinner-First Edition-Finders Keepers Edition

    “Finders Keepers Records also reissued Ritual in 2011, which is the 1967 book by David Pinner, the basic idea and structure of which was in part the inspiration for what became The Wicker Man after David Pinner sold the film rights of the book to future Wicker Man cast member Christopher Lee in 1971.

    In both, a police officer attempts to investigate reports of a missing child in an enclosed rural area and has to deal with psychological trickery, seduction, ancient religious and ritualistic practices.

    The Finders Keepers reissue contains an introduction by writer and musician Bob Stanley called “A Note On Ritual”, which serves as an overview of and background to this very particular slice of literature which deals with pastoral otherlyness, the flipside and undercurrents of bucolia and folklore:

    ‘…be warned, like The Wicker Man, it is quite likely to test your dreams of leaving the city for a shady nook by a babbling brook.’ (Bob Stanley on Ritual from the introduction.)” 

    Inside The Wicker Man-Allan Brown-1st edition and revised edition The Wicker Man book-Allan Brown-A Year In The Country 2Your Face Here-Ali Catterall-Simon Wells-The Wicker Man

    The Wicker Man has been extensively written about over the years, both online and in print, including Allan Brown’s entertaining and extensive unearthing and researching of the background and myths that surround the film in his book Inside The Wicker Man: How Not to Make a Cult Classic…

    A concise and revealing look at the film is also included in the 2002 book Your Face Here by Ali Catterall and Simon Wells…

    There is a rigour to the research in the book without it stepping into the sometimes drier grounds of academia and the text reflects a genuine love for and appreciation of these films…

    …the chapter now reflects a sense of the ongoing and growing story of this now quite well harvested in one form or another film, albeit one which through its ongoing appreciation and cultural inspirations/reverberations still occupies apparently quite fertile and not yet completely unearthed or unburied ground.” 

    Sight & Sound-2013-The Wickerman-2010-The Films Of Old Weird Britain

    Sight & Sound-2013-The Wickerman-2010-The Films Of Old Weird Britain-2

    “Of the reams of writing on The Wicker Man, Vic Pratt’s article “Long Arm of the Lore” from the October 2013 issue of the BFI’s Sight & Sound magazine is well worth seeking out…

    The article intertwines the cultural and historical context of the film, the romance of analogue recording techniques and the inner and wider myth and folkloric aspects of it…

    In it Vic Pratt places The Wicker Man in its period cultural context of changing times and mores, considering how the children of the 1960s had grown up and taken their place in respectable society and sometimes the media, bringing or infiltrating their countercultural interests with them, possibly having lost some of their political fervour while also looking for the more authentic or spiritually fulfilling but not via traditional avenues.

    The article describes how accompanying this was a sense of folk custom, witchcraft and the occult no longer being quite such marginalised or extreme interests; they had become the stuff of relatively mainstream film, television, music and publishing and a reflection of this can be seen in the themes of The Wicker Man…

    In many ways, both this and the issue of the magazine could be seen as a companion to the August 2010 Sight & Sound issue, which has as its cover strapline “The Films of Old, Weird Britain”, accompanied by a Wicker Man-like, landscape myths and folk horror-esque illustration and features “The Pattern Under the Plough” article by Rob Young as its main feature.

    That article delves beneath the topsoil of British cinema to find a rich seam of films and television which take the landscape, rural ways, folklore (of the traditional and reimagined varieties) or ‘the matter of Britain’ as their starting point…”

    Winstanley-1975-Kevin Brownlow-Andrew Mollo-A Year In The Country 10Akenfield film 1974sleep furiously-Gideon Koppel-Aphex Twin-A Year In The Country

    Derek Jarman-Journey to Avebury-still Patrick Keiller-Robinson in Space-film still Chris Petit-London Orbital-film still

    Quatermass and the Pit-Nigel Kneale-bluray cover artPendas Fen-David Rudkin-A Year In The Country 3

    “(Rob Young’s The Pattern Under the Plough article) further contextualises The Wicker Man, placing it alongside other such folk horror films as Witchfinder General. It then goes on to consider an interrelated loose grouping of films and television which in part explore those flipside Albionic cracks in the landscape.

    These include Winstanley (1975) and its dramatising of historical English Civil War era searching for an earthly paradise, the journey through a rural year of Akenfield (1974), the almost straight documentary that also seems to quietly explore the undercurrents of the land Sleep Furiously (2008)…

    It also includes considerations of and connects the above with the art film experiments and psychogeography (a form of explorative wandering) of Derek Jarman’s Journey to Avesbury (1971), Patrick Keiller’s Robinson in Space (1997) and Chris Petit’s London Orbital (2002), the atavistic memories of Quatermass and the Pit (1967) and the layered spectral rural history tales of Penda’s Fen (1974).

     The Sneaker Pimps-How Do-Willows Song-Becoming X-Spin Spin Sugar-Kelli Ali-The Wicker Man 

    “The Wicker Man has also acted as a wider source of musical inspiration and influence, branching out into more mainstream and even chart music. The band Sneaker Pimps recorded a song called “How Do”, which is a version of “Willow’s Song” from The Wicker Man soundtrack and includes samples from the film…

    It was a curious thing for a quite pop orientated band, even if a more left-of-centre one, back then to include a song from The Wicker Man soundtrack. At the time of How Do’s release The Wicker Man was a known film but its extended and ever growing cultdom had not really started to gather pace yet and Trunk Records’ release of the soundtrack was still a couple of years away, so information about the film was probably still relatively thin on the ground.”

     Kelli Ali-Rocking Horse and Butterfly

    “In a possible further example of the ongoing influence of the film, in 2008 Kelli Ali, who was the singer with Sneaker Pimps at the time of Becoming X, released a pastoral folk inflected album called Rocking Horse on record label One Little Indian, which was produced by Max Richter…

    (On her album) Butterfly there is also another version of Willow’s Song, which takes it back nearer to its purely imagined folkloric roots and although being her own interpretation it is closer to how the song was performed for The Wicker Man’s soundtrack than the Sneaker Pimps version and indeed would not seem all that out of place if heard amongst the other music in the film.”

    Pulp-We Love Life-CD-back of cover-2001 Pulp-The Trees-Sunrise-CD singleForge Dam-Sheffield-Pulp-The Wicker Man-1Kill List-Ben Wheatley-A Year In The Country-4

    “In a further Wicker Man connection with one time chartbound bands, Pulp included a song called “Wickerman” on their 2001 album, We Love Life.

    The song is a multi-layered piece of culture, one that interweaves samples from the original The Wicker Man film soundtrack recording and hence otherly folkloric concerns, alongside a sense of urban exploration, the true life history of the band, spoken word, a certain grandiosity in its production (possibly courtesy of producer Scott Walker), the social history of Sheffield and surrounding areas and a yearning, wistful love story…

    …members of Pulp went on an expedition through tunnels beneath Sheffield that were used for sluicing industrial run off… that journey became increasingly dangerous feeling and… it inspired the Pulp song Wickerman…

    …what the real life story of the band wandering through those tunnels also brings to mind is the underground tunnel sequence in Ben Wheatley’s 2011 film Kill List, and its related occult vision of folkloric machinations; lines from which could be connected backwards to The Wicker Man and its flipside views, expressions and interpretations of folklore and an unsettled take on pastoralism.”

     The Wicker Man-construction-production photograph The Wicker Man-1973-Production notes The Wickerman-lost scene in hairdressersWillow Umbrella-Christopher Lee-The Wicker Man-1973

    “Along with the above books, articles and records which explore and/or draw inspiration from The Wicker Man there are an extensive number of websites and documentaries which focus on the film.

    One of the most in depth of such websites is The Wicker Man (1973) Wikia site which on a recent visit had 138 different pages related to the film…

    Of particular note are the images of the construction of The Wicker Man structure used in the film and also the numbered on-set and press photographs taken from contact sheets.

    Even though they are on a public site these seem to offer a semi-hidden view or a glance behind the curtain of the film.

    However, despite this they do not diminish the mystique or myths of the film, which can sometimes be the case with such photographs or “How We Made the Film” documentaries and DVD extras.

    This is possibly because The Wicker Man has such a multi-layered set of myths around it, some of which are intrinsically connected and interwoven with the production of the film itself and related backstories, all of which have become part and parcel of its intriguing nature.”

     The Wicker Man BBC Scotland On Screen 2009 

    The Wicker Man-Cast And Crew-BBC 4-2005-b2

    The Wicker Man-Cast And Crew-BBC 4-2005

    The Wicker Man-Cast And Crew-BBC 4-2005-2

    “Further behind the scenes views and discussion can be found in a now quite considerable number of The Wicker Man documentaries, including those on the various DVD/Blu-ray releases of the film and also in documentaries which were originally broadcast on television.

    These include:

    1) The Wicker Man/BBC Scotland on Screen (2009), in which actor Alan Cumming wanders around the film’s locations, with how they are today segueing into scenes from the film…

    This features… the woman who runs the gallery where the sweet shop scene was filmed (who says something along the lines of some visiting tourists thinking that those who live in the area actually are pagans).

    2) The Wicker Man episode of the BBC 4 series Cast and Crew (2005), which hosts a round table discussion of the film.

    (Which includes) cast members Christopher Lee, Ingrid Pitt being her delightfully eccentric and expressive self (slightly embarrassing/ awkward for more reserved British sensibilities to know how to cope with this)…

    Sing Cuckoo- The Story and Influence of The Wicker Man Soundtrack-Gothic-The Dark Heart Of Film-BFIPlayer-BFI

    Sing Cuckoo- The Story and Influence of The Wicker Man Soundtrack-Gothic-The Dark Heart Of Film-BFIPlayer-BFI-Jonny Trunk

    (Another Wicker Man related documentary is) Sing Cuckoo: The Story and Influence of The Wicker Man Sound track… 

    (Which features) the musicians Stephen Cracknell of The Memory Band and Mike Lindsay of Tuung (who have both created and released The Wicker Man-related work) and Jonny Trunk who is variously an archival record researcher, collector, writer and was responsible for the release of the first commercial edition of The Wicker Man’s soundtrack via his label Trunk Records…

    There is something very evocative and moving about this particular documentary and it has a certain classiness to it, a sense of a deep respect for the film both by those shown in it and from behind the camera.

    Part of that is the way it is divided into titled chapters that connect with the themes of the film and its influence; Creation, Isolation, Resurrection, Inspiration and Resolution…”

     Sing Cuckoo- The Story and Influence of The Wicker Man Soundtrack-Gothic-The Dark Heart Of Film-BFIPlayer-BFI-Stephen Cracknell-Mike Lindsay 

    “In terms of some of the reasons for the ongoing and expanding appeal of the film and its soundtrack, Stephen Cracknell makes an incisive point about how the songs have become like folk standards for young indie-folk musicians and says:

    “I think it will go on influencing people by giving them this idea of ‘Wow, you can be playful and sexy and daring and scary, not just reverential with old music and make it new and vibrant’. It stands like a beacon for that really.”

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 10 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside some text extracts from the chapter:

    Details of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book and the collection of its accompanying online images can be found at the Book’s Page, which will be added to throughout the year.

     

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  • Sing Cuckoo: The Story and Influence of The Wicker Man Soundtrack and Other Partly-Archived Summerisle Discussions: Audio Visual Transmission Guide #51/52a

    The Wicker Man-Cast And Crew-BBC 4-2005-2

    During this year of A Year In The Country I’ve visited the fictional world of Summerisle / The Wicker Man a number of times…

    …and now that the year is drawing to a close, I thought I would visit it once more.

    A while ago I came across a bevy of Wicker Man documentaries that I didn’t know about.

    I had watched various ones previously, the ones included on the DVD releases etc but then one day I stumbled on more online (the magic of the ever-archiving internet and all that).

    Now, I would’ve thought that I would be a bit overloaded with all things Wicker Man-esque but I actually thoroughly enjoyed watching the documentaries or sections of documentaries I found in various ways – it seems that this is the isle that just keeps giving it seems.

    The Wicker Man BBC Scotland On Screen 2009

    The ones in question were:

    One titled online as The Wicker Man BBC Scotland On Screen 2009, in which actor Alan Cumming (with a somewhat artfully arranged fringe) wanders around the locations of The Wicker Man, with how they are today segueing into scenes from the film.

    It features him meeting with the likes of the film’s director Robin Hardy, Britt Ekland’s body double, one of the public house musicians who played in the film and the woman who runs the gallery where the sweet shop scene was filmed (who says something along the lines of some visiting tourists thinking that those who live in the area actually are pagans).

    Alongside which Allan Brown, author of Inside The Wicker Man, film critic/broadcaster Andrew Collins, novelist Christopher Brookmyre and Edward Woodward all appear and comment on the film and its surrounding myths and intrigues.

    The Wicker Man-Cast And Crew-BBC 4-2005-b2

    Then I watched The Wicker Man episode of the BBC 4 series Cast and Crew from 2005, which hosts a round table discussion of the film, featuring Christopher Lee, Ingrid Pitt being her delightfully eccentric and expressive self (slightly embarrassing/awkward for more reserved British sensibilities to know how to cope with that it has always seemed when I have watched such appearances), director Robin Hardy again, art director Seamus Flannery, associate music director Gary Carpenter and again Edward Woodward (who was filmed separately from the other participants).

    The Wicker Man-Cast And Crew-BBC 4-2005

    One of the pieces of information that stuck in my mind from this documentary was Seamus Flannery saying how the actual Wicker Man sculpture in the film was built from pre-woven panels that were designed to be used as wind baffles in fields for sheep to shelter behind and which they bought very cheaply wholesale for just a few pounds each.

    Robin Hardy also briefly mentions the successor to The Wicker Man that he was planning at the time called May Day (which Christopher Lee was set to appear in and is at baritone, strident pains to make clear that it was not a sequel) and which I assume eventually became The Wicker Tree which was released in 2011.

    Sing Cuckoo- The Story and Influence of The Wicker Man Soundtrack-Gothic-The Dark Heart Of Film-BFIPlayer-BFI

    The one that really caught my eye and mind though was Sing Cuckoo: The Story and Influence of The Wicker Man Soundtrack, which is available to watch on the BFI Player (which I have mentioned a few times previously around these parts) and was recorded around the time of the BFI season Gothic: The Dark Heart of Film in 2014.

    This does what it says on the can and again features Robin Hardy and Gary Carpenter, alongside the musicians Stephen Cracknell of The Memory Band and Mike Lindsay of Tuung (who have both created/released Wicker Man related work), all discussing the soundtrack of the film, its influences, inspirations etc.

    There is something very evocative and moving about this particular documentary and it has a certain classiness to it, a sense of a deep respect for the film both by those shown in it and from behind the camera.

    Part of that is the way it is divided into titled chapters that connect with the themes of the film and its influence; Creation, Isolation, Resurrection, Inspiration and Resolution.

    Sing Cuckoo- The Story and Influence of The Wicker Man Soundtrack-Gothic-The Dark Heart Of Film-BFIPlayer-BFI-Jonny Trunk

    I don’t know if it was a deliberate but those directly involved in the film – Robin Hardy and Gary Carpenter – are filmed  against a featureless black background, whereas Jonny Trunk, Stephen Cracknell and Mike Lindsay are filmed set against tools of their trades (shelves of vinyl records and banks of modular synthesisers).

    There is a touching moment when Jonny Trunk talks about how it is a shame that the soundtrack’s author Paul Giovanni passed away before he could see how it had gone on to gain such an extensive following and possibly even played it live.

    Connected to that, there is a poignancy to all these documentaries; as the years have passed few of the principal participants featured are still alive, with Christopher Lee, Ingrid Pitt, Robin Hardy and Edward Woodward all since having passed away.

    In terms of some of the reasons for the ongoing and expanding appeal of the film and its soundtrack, Stephen Cracknell makes some interesting points about how the songs have become like folk standards for young indie-folk musicians and says:

    “I think it will go on influencing people by giving them this idea of “Wow, you can be playful and sexy and daring and scary, not just reverential with old music and make it new and vibrant”. It stands like a beacon for that really.”

    Sing Cuckoo- The Story and Influence of The Wicker Man Soundtrack-Gothic-The Dark Heart Of Film-BFIPlayer-BFI-Stephen Cracknell-Mike Lindsay

    (File Post Under: Cathode Ray & Cinematic Explorations, Radiowave Resonations & Audiological Investigations)

    Audio Visual Transmission Guide #1:
    Sing Cuckoo: The Story and Influence of The Wicker Man Soundtrack at the BFIPlayer

    More samizdat transmissions:
    The Wicker Man BBC Scotland On Screen 2009
    Cast And Crew – The Wicker Man

    Local Broadcasts:
    Well, that would be a fair few but here’s a starter or two – The Wicker Man Around These Parts

     

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  • The Wicker Man – Summer Isle Books, Bindings, Pounds, Shillings And Pence: Ether Signposts #46/52a

    The Wicker Man book collection

    A fair old while ago, back in the first year of A Year In The Country one of the posts included a consideration of various DVD etc editions of The Wicker Man.

    In a similar spirit, I thought I would bring together a gathering of some of the various Wicker Man related books that have been published…

    …there have now been enough to warrant their own section within a library.

    There are other related books and editions out in the world as well as the ones below but that library section could well include:

    The Quest For The Wicker Man-Benjamin Franks-bookFirst off there is The Quest For The Wicker Man: History, Folklore And Pagan Perspectives by Benjamin Franks, Stephen Harper, Jonathan Murray and Lesley Stevenson, which is a more academic take on the film.

    There is a somewhat rarer book that accompanies this called Constructing The Wickerman, which includes work by some of the same authors and which was published to coincide with the first academic conference on the film in Glasgow in 2003.

    Studying The Wicker Man-Andy Murray Lorraine RolstonThen there is Studying The Wicker Man from 2017, which is a shorter academic book by Andy Murray and Lorraine Rolston…
    Inside The Wicker Man-Allan Brown-1st edition and revised editionHow Not To Make A Cult Classic – Inside The Wicker Man by Allan Brown, which if memory serves correctly is a good factual and also behind the scenes intrigues view of the film. It was originally published in 2000 (the first book on The Wicker Man?) and reissued in 2010 as a newer revised edition post the US remake.
    Ritual-David Pinner-First Edition-Finders Keepers Edition

    Ritual by David Pinner, which is seen as a forebear and possible influence on The Wicker Man. Originally published in 1967 as a hardback, in paperback in 1968 by Arrow Books with a more overtly possibly exploitation cover image and text and it was republished in 2011 by Finders Keepers Records.

    First editions of the 1967 version now fetch upwards of £400 (blimey etc)… and I like the background info at Finders Keepers site on their new edition and before they republished it how Andy Votel was about to pay a fair few pounds for an original copy and then he thought “I’ll just check the local library catalogue”… and there it was.

    Ah, the good old library system.

    The Finders Keepers edition also features an interesting introduction by Bob Stanley which in an earlier post at A Year In The Country I said this:

    “The introduction opens with a sense of how nature can come to almost dwarf you, how our sense of urban/modern security can easily be dismissed by the ways and whiles of nature.”

    (As an aside, although it was released in conjunction with David Pinner and reproduced from his copy, I like the way the Finders Keepers edition is listed by them as being “Finders Keepers Forgery Number One”.)

    The Wicker Man-The Complete Piano Songbook-with sheet music

    For the 40th anniversary of the film in 2013, alongside the various Bluray/DVD and soundtrack reissues, there was also The Wicker Man – The Complete Piano Songbook published by Summer Isle Songs, with arrangements by Christopher Hussey.

    Alongside the sheet music, it also includes an introduction by film’s Associate Musical Directory Gary Carpenter and various stills from the film.

    The Wicker Man-1st edition and new edition book-Robin Hardy-Anthony Shaffer-foreword Allan BrownThe Wicker Man novel, which curiously was originally published in 1978, five years after the release of the film (and also slightly curiously was released in the US first).

    The novel was written by Robin Hardy, the director of The Wicker Man but is credited as being co-authored by Anthony Shaffer, the writer of the film’s screenplay, as it re-uses much of the screenplay’s dialogue.

    It was republished in 2000, the same year as Allan Brown’s Inside The Wicker Man, with this new edition also  featuring a foreword by him.

    The Wicker Man-Conversations with Robin Hardy, Anthony Shaffer & Edward Woodward-Stephen ApplebaumAlthough only available as an eBook, The Wicker Man: Conversations with Robin Hardy, Anthony Shaffer & Edward Woodward, published in 2012 collects 46 pages of interviews by Stephen Applebaum…

    I’m hoping that at some point it will appear as a physically printed book.

    Also of note…
    Your Face Here-Ali Catterall-Simon Wells-The Wicker ManYour Face Here: British Cult Movies Since the Sixties by Ali Caterall and Simon Wells from 2001, which is a fine and very readable collection that focuses on various cult films, with one chapter being specifically about The Wicker Man.

    I’ve written about this book before at A Year In The Country and said:

    “…there is a rigour to the research… the text reflects a genuine love for and appreciation of these films… This isn’t something that is written by rote or which just trots out well visited stories in a cut and paste manner. The authors have put the footwork in, visiting locations, interviewing all kinds of associated folk and bringing forth something of a wealth of new information and connections.”

    nuada-wicker-man-journal-issues…and finally there is Nuada, which was a journal/zine about The Wicker Man which had three editions published in 1999-2000 (a busy period for such things it seems).

    …so, all in all, there have been a fair few Summer Isle related books and bindings (and as mentioned earlier, the above is not a complete list of books and editions)… something of a measure of just how it’s influence and inspiration has grown over the years…

    …and somewhat impressive for a film that took $58,341 in US box office receipts on it’s first release.

    Adjusting that for inflation, it would today mean it had taken $321,575.85 or using the exchange rates back in 1973, £137,185.79.

    So, no small potatoes (or other appropriate harvest crops).

    However as a point of reference, the Top 10 US ranking films back then (The Sting, The Exorcist, American Graffiti, Papilion, The Way We Were, Magnum Force, Last Tango In Paris, Live and Let Die, Robin Hood and Paper Moon) took between $156,000,000 and $30,933,473.

    Which, again, adjusted for inflation today would be $859,872,702.70 to $170,505,442.52.

    Or £366,825,785.39 to £72,738,432.87 in modern day Blighty pounds, shillings and pence.

    Blimey.

    The Wicker Man Collage-A Year In The Country-1080

    (File post under: Other Pathway Pointers And Markers)

    Directions and Destinations:
    The Quest For The Wicker Man
    Studying The Wicker Man
    Inside The Wicker Man
    Ritual at Finders Keepers
    The Wicker Man Song Book
    The Wicker Man novel
    The Wicker Man: Conversations with Robin Hardy, Anthony Shaffer & Edward Woodward
    Your Face Here
    Nuada journal

    Local Places Of Interest:
    Day #237/365: Your Face Here; peering down into the landfill – a now historical perspective on the stories of The Wicker Man
    Day #90/365: The Wickerman – the future lost vessels and artifacts of modern folklore
    Day #101/365: Gently Johnny, Sproatly Smith, The Woodbine & Ivy band and lilting intentions…
    Week #25/52: Fractures Signals #4; A Behemoth Comes Once More A Knocking…
    Ether Signposts #24/52a: The Wicker Man / Don’t Look Now Double Bill And Media Disseminations From What Now Seem A Long Long Time Ago
    Ether Signposts #25/52a: 138 Layers And Gatherings Of The Wicker Man

     

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  • The Wicker Man Revisited / Refreshed – The Long Arm Of The Lore: Wanderings #36/52a

    Sight & Sound-2013-The Wickerman-2010-The Films Of Old Weird Britain

    Now, there has been an ever increasing amount written about The Wicker Man and it could be possible to be a tad oversaturated with more considerations of the film…

    …but I recently(ish) read Vic Pratt’s article Long Arm Of The Lore about the film in a 2013 edition of Sight & Sound, at the time of one of the DVD/Bluray brush’n’scrub ups of The Wicker Man…

    And actually, it was a refreshingly calm, considered, reflective, contextual piece that made me pause for thought, consider and re-appreciate the film and its own stories and myths once again.

    In many ways it and the issue of the magazine could be a companion to the 2010 Sight & Sound with The Films Of Old, Weird Britain cover and The Pattern Under The Plough article Rob Young (and leading on from that, that article could also be seen as a companion to his Electric Eden book).

    Both articles explore a sense of an otherly Albion, of the undercurrents and layers of folk tales, customs and histories and their reflections within film, television, culture and music at various points in time.

    Sight & Sound-2013-The Wickerman-2010-The Films Of Old Weird Britain-2

    Vic Pratt’s article is particularly good at placing The Wicker Man in the context of the early 1970s, the what-happened-next of 1960s utopianism and a yearning to return to more authentic, rooted ways – the interest in variations on folk culture being an aspect of such things.

    I particularly liked this sequence, its analogies and the way it intertwines folk, the romance of analogue recording techniques and the myths of The Wicker Man itself:

    “The archivists among us surely long to see a fully restored version of the film derived from 35mm elements, and the new Final Cut should almost provide that, bar a few mainland minutes. Yet folklorists must surely enjoy the flawed long version; that old variation in quality, the sudden grainy sequences, are textural scars that remind us of a checkered past. The multigenerational flaws of decades-old transfer technologies are embedded in the images. Forever incomplete, with something added, something removed, like an old folk ditty with lyrics honed and melodies reshaped by time, The Wicker Man remains splendidly imperfect, the perfect folk film artefact.”

    The article is available to read online but I must admit I enjoyed being able to stop a moment and read it in its original printed form (although it seems to be one of the more hard to find back issues of Sight & Sound, not unsuprisingly considering the cult status of The Wicker Man).

    (File under: Trails and Influences / Year 3 Wanderings)

     

    Intertwined wanderings around these parts:
    Day #4/365: Electric Eden; a researching, unearthing and drawing of lines between the stories of Britain’s visionary music

    Day #80/365: The Films Of Old Weird Britain… celluloid flickerings from an otherly Albion…

    Day #90/365: The Wicker Man – the future lost vessels and artifacts of modern folklore

    Week #25/52: Fractures Signals #4; A Behemoth Comes Once More A Knocking…

    Elsewhere in the ether:
    Read the article here (which also includes an interview with director Robin Hardy).

     

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  • Constructing The Wicker Man: Ether Signposts #26/52a

    The Wicker Man-construction-production photograph

    I was recently wandering around the  The Wicker Man (1973) Wikia website and posted about its multi-layered archiving of The Wicker Man related material…

    The Wicker Man-cherry picker-under construction-2

    Some of the images I was particularly struck by were those that showed the literal construction of the film’s Wickerman structure/s.

    The Wicker Man-under construction

    The Wicker Man-1973-production notes-sketchAnd quite simply I wanted to post some of them online as well, it gives me a chance to peruse them again myself.

    Also because as I mentioned in my previous post about the related Wikia site, I don’t find seeing such “behind the scenes” images takes away from the myth and mystique of the film, rather that they more seem like part of the layered myths and stories that surround The Wickerman – of which the production of the film, its intrigues and tales are an intrinsic part.

    (File post under: Other Pathway Pointers And Markers)

    Directions and Destinations:
    The Wicker Man (1973) Wikia (introduction page)
    Behind The Scenes (still pictures)

     

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  • 138 Layers And Gatherings Of The Wicker Man: Ether Signposts #25/52a

    The Wicker Man 1973-US press book

    I recently went a-wandering to have a look-see if I could fine the original press book for The Wickerman – as I’ve mentioned around these parts before I have something of a softspot for press booklets from back.

    As far as I can see there were two main ones back in 1973; one for the US and one for the UK.

    Despite the cult and collectible nature of the film you can still occasionally find them, although they’re not necessarily cheap; the two I found were priced at/sold for around £26.00 and £325 (ahem!).

    Anyways, as I was having a potter around online I found a site called The Wicker Man (1973) Wikia…

    …and just when you think you know a fair bit about the film, have read a related book or two and seen a documentary or few etc…

    …well, you realise you’re just scratching the surface.

    The Wickerman-rating

    The Wicker Man (1973) Wikia site has 138 different pages on the film, which may not sound like all that many but some of those have literally dozens of photographs, hundreds of pieces of information etc: maps, autographs, scripts, newspaper articles, behind the scenes photographs by the dozen, location photographs then and now, scripts, production notes, floor plans, reunion photographs, memoirs from cast and crew, images from missing scenes, fanzines, construction plans…

    …and that’s to mention just a few of the things that can be found there.

    The Wickerman-lost scene in hairdressers

    Some of my favourite parts of the site are the Behind The Scenes page, in particular the images of the construction of The Wicker Man itself and also the numbered on-set and press photographs taken from contact sheets.

    The Wicker Man-1973-UK press bookThose two parts of the site seem, even though they are on a public site, to offer a semi-hidden view or a glance behind the curtain at it were.

    And interestingly, I don’t find that they ruin the mystique or myths of the film for me, which I can do sometimes with such photographs or “How We Made The Film” documentaries and DVD extras.

    That’s possibly because The Wicker Man has such a multi-layered set of myths around it, some of which are intrinsically connected and interwoven with the production of the film itself and related backstories.

    The Wicker Man-1973-Production notesWillow Umbrella-Christopher Lee-The Wicker Man-1973

    The site is a real labour of love that put me in mind of the Kate Bush Clippings site that I wrote about a while ago, on which there are hundreds or more scans of related magazine etc articles.

    The two sites may well also be interconnected in that both Kate Bush and The Wickerman seem to have come to represent, have spun or exist within some kind of world and myths all of their own; ones that connect with some kind of sense of arcane, layered stories, history and fantasia from this part of the world.

    Because of the vast nature of the site and the way that it is built (and possibly because of my initial sense of “must try and read and see it all”) it can be a bit overwhelming, so I thought a few initial pointers towards starting points and pages that caught my eye might be helpful…

    Directions and Destinations:
    The Wicker Man (1973) Wikia (introduction page)
    All Pages (you may be there a while…)
    Behind The Scenes (still pictures)
    Negative numbers (for on-set and press photographs)
    Images (all images on the site)
    Missing Scenes

    Kate Bush Clippings Site (and around these parts)

     

    (File post under: Other Pathway Pointers And Markers)

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  • The Wicker Man / Don’t Look Now Double Bill And Media Disseminations From What Now Seem A Long Long Time Ago: Ether Signposts #24/52a

    The Wicker Man-Dont Look Now-double bill-The Guardian and The Observer DVDs

    Fairly recently I was in a charity shop and on the counter they had a box full of the DVDs and CDs that used to come free with newspapers…

    That time now seems long, long ago, before the advent and popularity of online streaming services for films.

    The Wicker Man-Dont Look Now-double bill-The Guardian and The Observer DVDs-2

    Anyways, a while after I got home I realised that two of the DVDs I had gotten from the shop were effectively the original double bill cinema release of The Wicker Man and Don’t Look Now.

    The version of The Wickerman on the DVD is one of the shorter ones with a runtime of 84 minutes but nonetheless I suppose for Wickerman collectors and completists this would still be something to look out for.

    Finding them also made me curious if there had ever been one of those double bill cinema posters for the two films.

    They were once quite popular and now seem to often capture previous era’s styles and aesthetics.

    The Wicker Man and Dont Look Now-double bill adverts

    However, despite quite a search for one of those double bill posters I couldn’t find one, only a couple of newspaper/magazine adverts.

    So in lieu of an actual double-bill poster I thought I would repost a double page spread from a copy of Film Review magazine back in 1974, showing The Wicker Man side-by-side with its cinematic partner:

    The Wicker Man-Dont Look Now-Film Review Magazine-A Year In The Country-1200

    Directions and Destinations:
    Day #90/365: The Wickerman – the future lost vessels and artifacts of modern folklore
    For Summer Isle completists: The Wickerman and Don’t Look Now

     

    (File post under: Other Pathway Pointers And Markers)

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  • Day #237/365: Your Face Here; peering down into the landfill – a now historical perspective on the stories of The Wicker Man

    The Wicker Man-Your Face Here-Ali Catterall-Simon Wells-A Year In The CountryFile under: Trails and Influences.
    Other Pathways. Case #39/52.

    And while we’re talking about semi-lost celluloid (see Day #235/365)…

    Although there has been much written about The Wicker Man over the years and across the ether, I tend to be quietly pleased when I come across writing about it on the printed page and in particular in the bound sheafs of books…

    Your Face Here is one of my favourite film books. It was published just after the turn of the millennium. I read it a reasonable number of years ago now but it has stuck in my mind and stayed with me since.

    It is a book which takes a wander through British cult films since the 1960s and has a good old gander and consider of amongst others Blow Up, If…, Performance, Get Carter, Clockwork Orange, Quadrophenia, Withnail & I and The Wicker Man itself, dedicating a chapter to each.

    All fine and/or intriguing films in their own various ways and while that list may seem like a fairly obvious selection of cult films, an almost accepted canon of such things, there are other things at play that make this a thoroughly enjoyable, informative and engrossing read. I can’t quite put my finger on what those things might be but in part I expect it is that there is a rigour to the research without it stepping into the drier grounds of academia and the text reflects a genuine love for and appreciation of these films.

    The Wicker Man-Your Face Here-Ali Catterall-Simon Wells-A Year In The CountryThis isn’t something that is written by rote or which just trots out well visited stories in a cut and paste manner. The authors (Ali Caterall and Simon Wells) have put the footwork in, visiting locations, interviewing all kinds of associated folk and bringing forth something of a wealth of new information and connections.

    If you don’t feel like or haven’t the time to read a full book on The Wickerman, say one of the versions of Allan Brown’s Inside The Wicker Man, then the chapter here acts as a fine precis of the story of the themes, production, loss and part-refinding of The Wicker Man. That story is vastly entertaining in itself and as I type it brings forth images of a good narrative film romp that could well lend itself to being made…

    …plus when re-reading the chapter, it has gained an interesting historical perspective as it was written before the more recent longer versions of the film were made available on various shiny digital discs, the Hollywood remake or the sort of follow-up were sent out into the world. Also the book was published not all that long after Trunk Records made the soundtrack available for the first time and at a point when the films long march towards cultural rehabilitation and inspiration had just started to gather pace.

    In that sense, the chapter now reflects a sense of the ongoing and growing story of this still not completely yet unearthed or unburied film (literally so, if the stories of its negatives being used as motorway landfill are historical fact).

    The Wickerman-Your Face Here-Ali Catterall & Simon Wells-A Year In The Country

    In case you’re wandering the full title of the book in question is Your Face Here: British Cult Movies Since The Sixties. It was written by Ali Catterall and documenter of butterflies on wheels Simon Wells.

    The book is currently out of print but can be found for but a few pennies. Well worth a look-see and those few pennies.

    Future lost artifacts from said story here. Pathways that lead to the soundtrack here.

     

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  • Day #90/365: The Wicker Man – the future lost vessels and artifacts of modern folklore

    The Wicker Man Collage-A Year In The Country-1080File under:
    Trails and Influences: Other Pathways. Case #12/52.

    I suppose there was a certain inevitability that The Wicker Man would come knocking at the door of A Year In The Country one morning…

    Over the years it seems to have become such a touchstone and point of reference for people and there seems to be an exponentially increasing amount of text, articles, referencing and so on which shows no sign of dwindling even a touch.

    Via storage and dissemination through various mediums and artifacts, such celluloid and (once) cathode ray stories could now be considered to be our modern-day folklore or folktales, allowing for a common cultural language in days when people no longer live and share such things with their geographic neighbours to as large a degree as in the past.

    The Wicker Man-Hessian Bag Edition-Insert-A Year In The Country-2The title of the page mentions “future lost vessels”. Why you may ask? Well, one day in years to come it is quite likely that some of the physical artifacts, the digital discs and ferrous cassettes, that have been used to pass on our folk tales from the 1970s onwards may well still exist as objects but will the stories that they contain still be readable by all but a few? The current machines for such things will have more than likely returned once more to the ground from whence they originally came. The stories themselves may well have been re-recorded and transferred to other mediums but the original artifacts will quite possibly just have become symbols or ornaments that represent them…

    But who knows what may happen in the future and what the future story may be of a tale which is already possibly partly buried beneath passing cars (see here about half way down the page for more details).

    Hmmm.

    And so, this page is a document of some my favourite (or at least the ones I find the most interesting) of the vessels and artifacts of this particular slice of modern day folklore…

    (In memory of possible future lost vessels, only the casing that contains the discs and tapes are shown below, I’ve included a touch of actual vinyl as such things have proved a certain longevity).

    Here goes…

    I think one of my favourite of such things is the hessian bag release of the DVD… it just seems to fit…

    The Wicker Man-Hessian Bag Edition-A Year In The Country 2 The Wicker Man-Hessian Bag Edition-DVD-A Year In The Country

    One of the Dan Mumford poster designs for the 40th Anniversary re-issue of the film…
    The Wicker Man-Dan Mumford poster-A Year In The Country
    …and some variations on the poster via Dark City Gallery
    The Wicker Man-Dan Mumford poster detail-A Year In The Country
    Below on the left is what seems to be one of the rarer DVD issues of the film, featuring part of a still that seems to be something of a favourite out in the world (and which has been used by contemporary pastoral-psych-folk band Sproatly Smith, who also released a 7″ single of Gently Johnny)…

    Nice rarer paperback cover on the right below… well, when I saw nice, it’s in the context of somebody being thrown onto the altar so that people can grow some mildly exotic apples…
    The Wicker Man-The Cult Classic Film Series-A Year In The Country The Wicker Man-Pocker Fiction paperback-A Year In The Country

     

    Ah, the days of VHS (was this ever released on Betamax? Video 2000?)…
    The Wicker Man-1973 1972-VHS Thorn EMI-Pick Of The Flicks-A Year In The Country copy
    Now, I should really love the hinged wooden box edition of the film but there’s something just slightly off or maybe unloved about it…
    The Wicker Man-Wooden Box Edition-DVD-A Year In The Country
    Something which may well have been responsible for some of the increase in interest over the last decade or so… The Trunk Records vinyl release of the soundtrack album, the first time it had been commercially available…
    The Wicker Man OST soundtrack-Jonny Trunk-Trunk Records-A Year In The Country
    If you should wish to read about how film cults came about in part because of the siren call of ladies in metal bath tubs to the cigar chomping folk behind the scenes…
    The Wicker Man book-Allan Brown-A Year In The CountryThe Wicker Man book-Allan Brown-A Year In The Country 2
    …and a return to VHS, this time with a slightly more sober cover (and more giving away of the plot)…The Wicker Man-VHS video cover-A Year In The Country
    Now this seems to be one of the rarer artifacts out in the world… the 2012 Record Store Day 7″ single release of Willow’s Song/Gently Johnny…
    The Wickerman Willows Songs Gently Johnny 7 vinyl Record Store Day-Silva Screen International-A Year In The Country 2The Wickerman Willows Songs Gently Johnny 7 vinyl Record Store Day-Silva Screen International-A Year In The Country
    …and (almost) finally, Richard Beckett’s poster for the 40th Anniversary (as seen on t-shirts, the aforementioned posters and a new differently edited version of the soundtrack)…

    …plus one of the lesser seen DVD releases. I like the simplicity of this one.
    The Wicker Man-Richard Beckett poster-silver hair variant-A Year In The Country

    The Wicker Man-Studio Canal DVD-A Year In The Country

    So, 12 artifacts to accompany A Year In The Country seems quite an appropriate number.

    I know what, let’s make it a baker’s dozen as I quite like the story behind that phrase…

    A double page spread from a copy of Film Review magazine back in 1974, showing The Wicker Man side-by-side with its cinematic partner Don’t Look Now:

    The Wicker Man-Dont Look Now-Film Review Magazine-A Year In The Country-1200

    (In case you’re curious the cover of that issue featured Sid James, Babs Windsor, Margaret Nolan and Valerie Leon in Carry On Girls… something of a favourite in the Carry On cannon round these parts, a point when the films began to change and reflect a country “gone to the dogs” but before the films just became seedy shams. Anyway, I digress…).

    As an (actual) final note: don’t watch The Wicker Man with an older relative, suggesting a viewing as your mind seems to have momentarily selectively remembered it as a bit of a knockabout light-hearted folkloric musical…

    Ah, we live and learn.

    A few trails and pathways: The appeal for lost Wicker Man materials here and at The Art Shelf here. Corn(flake) rigs via Johnny Trunk at Feuilleton, at Fuel and at Mr Trunk’s home in the electronic ether. A whole slew of Wicker soundtracks here. Richey Beckett’s hand of glory here. An interesting “behind-the-scenes” on the creation of the artwork for the 2012 Record Store Day Willow’s Song/Gently Johnny 7″ here and here. Sproatly Smith and the Woodbine & Ivy band split version of Gently Johnny (something of a favourite) at purveyor of vinyl artifacts Picadilly Records and Static Caravan.

    A baker’s or devil’s dozen here.

     

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  • Summerisle In (Sort Of) Pop #1 – Pulp’s Wickerman: Audio Visual Transmission Guide #31/52a

    Forge Dam-Sheffield-Pulp-The Wicker Man-1

    A while ago I read Freak Out The Squares, which is former Pulp member Russel Senior’s autobiography of his time with the band.

    In it there is a section where he talks about a time where pre their fame he and former members of Pulp went on an expedition through underground tunnels beneath Sheffield that were used for sluicing industrial run off, how that journey became increasingly dangerous feeling and that it inspired the Pulp song Wickerman (which was recorded after he left).

    I most probably listened to the song when We Love Life, the album it was on, came out but hadn’t remembered it until then.

    Listening to it now it struck me as a curious piece of culture, one that interweaves samples from the original The Wicker Man film soundtrack recording and hence otherly folkloric concerns, alongside a sense of urban exploration, the true history of the band, spoken word, a certain grandiosity in its production (courtesy of producer Scott Walker?), the social history of Sheffield and surrounding areas and a yearning, wistful love story.

    Here are a selection of the lyrics:

    Just behind the station, before you reach the traffic island, a river runs through a concrete channel. 
    I took you there once; I think it was after the Leadmill. 
    The water was dirty & smelt of industrialisation
    Little mesters coughing their lungs up & globules the colour of tomato ketchup. 
    But it flows…
    Underneath the city through dirty brickwork conduits
    Connecting white witches on the Moor with pre-Raphaelites down in Broomhall. 
    Beneath the old Trebor factory that burnt down in the early seventies…
    And the river flows on…
    And it finally comes above ground again at Forge Dam: the place where we first met.

    DIGITAL IMAGE

    Jarvis Cocker, who I assume wrote the lyrics, said that he used to live on The Wicker which is a street in Sheffield and so I guess that’s where the title in part comes from.

    In a further connection with otherly folklore, what the real life story of the band wandering through these tunnels also put me in mind of was the underground tunnel sequence in Ben Wheatley’s The Kill List.

    But I won’t talk too much of that as I want to sleep tonight.

    Pulp-The Trees-Sunrise-CD singleThe album We Love Life seems to have been a mixture of classic Pulp-like kitchen sink-esque observation and an interest/attempt to connect with the basics of a more natural life, particularly so in related artwork and on songs such as Trees and Sunrise, alongside which the band played a series of concerts in forests to support its release.

    (File Post Under: Cathode Ray & Cinematic Explorations, Radiowave Resonations & Audiological Investigations)

    Audio Visual Transmission Guide: Pulp’s Wickerman

     

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  • Day #69/365: Charles Fréger’s Wilder Mann and rituals away from the shores of albion

    Charles Freger-Wilder Mann-Dewi Lewis Publishing-A Year In The CountryFile under:
    Trails and Influences: Other Pathways. Case #8/52.

    Well, as I seem to say here and there, while we’re talking about Charles Frégers Wilder Mann (see Day #65/365), here is his document of folk rituals and costume from other shores.

    And well, if you want to look for an underlying unsettledness to a bucolic pastoralism, look no further.

    Although it’s probably not all that underlying.

    I’m curious as to whether it’s just the exoticness of not having seen them before; that their tropes, designs and roots are not deeply buried in my subconscious which makes these seem so much more dramatic, odd, film like and possibly accomplished or even professional in appearance compared to those found in English folk rites…

    Wilder Mann-Charles Freger-A Year In The Country…and why sometimes do I think of the march and advancement of the simians upon homo sapien in The Planet Of The Apes / The Monkey Planet (circa 1960s and 70s, not later mind)? Or even strangely surreal Stan Lee superheroes and villains?

    With these photographs there is often something unsettling and genuinely scary to some part of me that still feels ten; they strike a chord with that younger me and can genuinely give me the heebie jeebies… these images could well have tumbled from distant lands into high fever childhood Wicker nightmares.

    In one photograph somebody is having a ciggie, which should break the spell but it doesn’t; there’s something about that, his costume, stance and the way he’s staring at the camera that makes it wander off into some very odd almost slasher film territory and more childhood nightmares. These are Sesame Street monsters which have crawled from under the bed and out of the cupboards…

    Hmmm.

    I think this is one of those posts or days where I shall stop now and let the images speak for themselves.

    Wilder Mann-Charles Freger-A Year In The Country

    Wilder Mann-Charles Freger-A Year In The CountryWilder Mann-Charles Freger-A Year In The Country

    Wilder Mann-Charles Freger-A Year In The CountryWilder Mann-Charles Freger-A Year In The Country

    Wilder Mann-Charles Freger-A Year In The CountryWilder Mann-Charles Freger-A Year In The Country

    Wilder Mann-Charles Freger-A Year In The CountryWilder Mann-Charles Freger-A Year In The Country

    Wilder Mann-Charles Freger-A Year In The CountryWilder Mann-Charles Freger-A Year In The Country

    Peruse the Wilder Mann here. Marvel at the price of the now sold out English text edition here. Fortunately you can still find German and other language editions here. Dewi Lewis, the original publishers of the UK edition here.

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  • No Blade of Grass and Z.P.G. – A Curious Dystopian Mini-Genre: Chapter 28 Book Images

    ZPG-Silent Running-Soylent Green-1970s science fiction film posters

    The Omega Man-Logans Run-Noahs Castle-1970s science fiction film and television posters-DVD cover

    “In the 1970s there was a curious mini-genre or gathering of doom laden apocalyptic, dystopian science fiction films, which warned of the dangers of ecological collapse, the depletion and battle for vital resources, out of control population growth and related ways citizens might be controlled and manipulated.

    You could include Z.P.G. (1972), Soylent Green (1973), Silent Running (1972) and The Omega Man (1971) in amongst these, possibly in a more crowd and eye-pleasing way Logan’s Run (1976) and you could draw a line from them to later British television series along similar lines such as Noah’s Castle (1979), which also dealt with the effects of dwindling resources and the resulting societal breakdown.”

    No-Blade-Of-Grass-The Death of Grass-John Christopher-book covers and film poster

    “No Blade of Grass (1970), based on John Christopher’s The Death of Grass novel from 1956, was another such film.

    This is a surprisingly bleak, brutal film (admittedly with some inappropriate almost sitcom-like music here and there and longstanding UK sitcom and soap opera actress Wendy Richards as a slightly out-of-place comic female character) about what happens when a new strain of virus kills the world’s grass, related plants and crops.”

    No Blade Of Grass 1-A Year In The Country

    “The title frames show a lone group of figures armed and on the run on a parched, cracked landscape, set against images of pollution and decay, which are soon followed by scenes of abundant food and conventional affluent middle class ways of life.”

    No Blade Of Grass 2-A Year In The Country

    No Blade Of Grass 8-A Year In The Country

    “In the 1970s it often seemed to be wild gangs of bikers who were the recurring societal bogeymen that would take over when civilisation collapsed (John Christopher’s 1968 novel Pendulum novel takes a similar line, while the 1973 film Psychomania sees the bikers become undead countryside hoodlums).”

    No Blade Of Grass-The Death Of Grass-John Christopher 11-A Year In The Country

    No Blade Of Grass 11-A Year In The Country

    “Meanwhile those sometime symbols of bucolic English pastoralism, the good old tweed clad country farmer and the stone farmhouse become almost Deliverance (1972) style hijackers and scenes of troop insurrections.”

    No Blade Of Grass-3b-A Year In The Country

    “While in the cities the dependable British bobby has become an altogether different gas mask wearing, gun-toting symbol of authority.

    The spires of a land forever England now merely act as a backdrop to the chaos.”

    No Blade Of Grass-The Death Of Grass-John Christopher 17-A Year In The Country

    No Blade Of Grass-The Death Of Grass-John Christopher 16-A Year In The Country

    No Blade Of Grass-The Death Of Grass-John Christopher 19-A Year In The Country

    “Although in some ways quite a mainstream, possibly even exploitation piece of cinema, throughout the film there are quite non-mainstream moments, presentation and commentary on what has led the world to this place: the action will stop and be replaced by non-narrative sequences and stills that show fields full of carrion, rivers strewn with dead aquatic life, smokestacks framed by leafless nature, rows of discarded cars are pictured on riverbanks, a luxury car is shown abandoned in the countryside as an advertising voice over says “You can do anything in a Rolls-Royce” while the almost unnoticeable specs of citizens fleeing the rioting and looting mobs in the cities can be seen on the hill behind it.”

    Z.P.G.-1972-Oliver Reed-Geraldine Chaplin-Diane Cilento-A Year In The Country-4Z.P.G.-1972-Oliver Reed-Geraldine Chaplin-Diane Cilento-The Edict-Max Ehrlich-A Year In The Country

    “Z.P.G. (which stands for Zero Population Growth)  is not as overtly apocalyptic, more being a depiction of a dystopian-regulated future. It was inspired by Paul Ehrlich’s factual 1968 book The Population Bomb which warned of the potentially disastrous effects of mass resource depletion due to overpopulation, with a screenplay by Frank De Felitta and Max Ehrlich (the second of whom also published a novel based on the screenplay called The Edict in 1971 prior to the film’s release).”

    Z.P.G.-1972-Oliver Reed-Geraldine Chaplin-Diane Cilento-A Year In The Country-11

    “The film seems reasonably obscure and overlooked but is somewhat intriguing, not least because of the cast which includes Oliver Reed, past his peak but still full of a glowering, brooding power, Geraldine Chaplin who is the daughter of bagged trousered celluloid tumbler and sometimes dictator botherer Charlie Chaplin and the bewitching, almost otherworldly luminescence of sometime The Wicker Man (1973)/Summerisle inhabitant Diane Cilento.”

    Z.P.G.-1972-Oliver Reed-Geraldine Chaplin-Diane Cilento-A Year In The Country-10

    “The setting is a massively polluted, smogbound Earth where natural childbirth has been banned for 30 years in order to try and preserve resources, with those who stray from these rules being punished in a particularly draconian manner as it results in execution, which slightly surreally and unsettlingly involves plastic domes printed with the word “Transgressor” being used as traps which are spray painted pink to hide the inhabitants who are then left to run out of air.”

    Z.P.G.-1972-Oliver Reed-Geraldine Chaplin-Diane Cilento-A Year In The Country-12

    “Couples are offered robot child substitutes, in a way that seems prescient of Japanese electronic Tamagotchi toys where the users had to nurture a digital pet but without giving away too much, not all citizens are obeying the “no children” edict.”

    Z.P.G.-1972-Oliver Reed-Geraldine Chaplin-Diane Cilento-A Year In The Country-still

    Planet of the Apes-1968-ending

    “As a film, it is a good representation of a point in time when downbeat bleakness was often presented as part of mainstream entertainment, possibly reflecting the troubled times of the 1970s and the collapse of post-1960s utopian dreams…

    It contains elements of B-movies and action movies but also possesses a certain intelligence and investigation within its genre tropes that put the viewer in mind of Planet of the Apes (1968) and the sense of “What have we as a species done?”.” 

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 28 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside text extracts from the chapter:

    Details of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book and the collection of its accompanying online images can be found at the Book’s Page, which will be added to throughout the year.

     

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  • Requiem Part 2 – Sidestepping Modern Methods, Curiously Banal Infrastructure and Other Considerations: Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 27/52

    Requiem-2018-BBC Netflix television series-Kris Mrska-still 3

    Continuing on from Part 1 of this post, a few further points about the television series Requiem:

    1) As has been a recurring trope in cinema and television, it presents rurally based communities in contrast with urban ones as insular or “other”, to have their own ways and beliefs that connect back to previous eras, in a not dissimilar manner to say Hot Fuzz and The Wicker Man.

    2) Talking of The Wicker Man, without wishing to give too much of the ending of Requiem away, as in The Wicker Man, here the outsider victim is essentially lead on a misleading merry dance by the rural folk in pursuance of their beliefs and practices and for the correct completion of their ritual the chosen one must come willingly.

    Requiem-2018-BBC Netflix television series-Kris Mrska-intro sequence image-2

    3) As is often the case with modern drama, Requiem sidesteps or ignores some of the realities of modern life, communications, the dissemination of news, images etc: here a strikingly stylish famous musician whose mother has died in bizarre circumstances is able to go and raise merry heck in a community and rake up all kinds of semi-buried truths in a very public manner, with only one apparent instance of a reporter and a traditional newspaper headline and little or no recordings of her actions digitally by the public nor social media postings.

    The truth is likely that in such an instance today her actions would be recorded and/or posted about and spread widely online within minutes of them happening.

    It must be difficult as a scriptwriter to get around the “well, the characters are trapped and threatened by forces x, y and z but with just one mobile phone call they could summon help” aspect of modern life.

    Possibly hence a fair bit of character’s in modern dramas holding up mobile phones and saying “No, no signal”, having left them at home, dropping them etc.

    Requiem-2018-BBC Netflix television series-Kris Mrska-still 1 copy

    4) Largely in Requiem supernatural elements are seen in only very fleeting glimpses or represented via audio but at one point a form of spirit or demonic possession is shown as having not dissimilar characteristics as electrical charges and discharges.

    Which caused me to wander how do you represent the supernatural on film and in television? What is the possible literal physical manifestation of such things? Are they/should they be all otherworldly spectral or ectoplasmic apparitions? Do they have a connection to and/or have the characteristics of other real world, natural and/or scientific phenomenon?

    (See John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness for a further consideration of the commingling of science and the supernatural, also for sharing with Requiem a depiction of mirrors as portals through which the super or preternatural can attempt to enter the day-to-day world.)

    Requiem-2018-BBC Netflix television series-Kris Mrska-intro sequence image-7

    5) Aside from the above electric like possession, there is only one other overt special effects orientated visual expression of the supernatural, which leaves space for the viewer’s imagination.

    That other overt expression is when one of the character’s has been possessed and in order to show this her eyes flip to opaque black for just a moment.

    Such elements are tricky as once you have overtly shown the supernatural it can normalise it or seem a little obvious or too signposted as “this person is now bad”.

    6) In Requiem the “good”, respectable people of the rural community who are actually up to no good appear to be largely the relatively affluent middle class and above; the local “coven” is made up in part by a doctor/psychiatrist, a solicitor, a mildly bohemian antiques dealer and an owner of large rural estate. They appear to have their more working class or lower in class footsoldiers but they are more the lead than the leading.

    Programme Name: Requiem - TX: n/a - Episode: Requiem - Ep2 (No. 2) - Picture Shows: Matilda (LYDIA WILSON) - (C) New Pictures - Photographer: Adrian Rogers

    7) A pivotal character in the plot, although one without a large amount of screen time, is that mildly bohemian antiques dealer, who is played by Tara Fitzgerald and seems to have an almost smugly evil aspect to her character.

    That character puts me in mind in part as a form of occult middle manager with a sense of self-satisifying expectation.

    (This put me in mind of Sean Hogan’s 2011 film The Devil’s Business, which explores some similar themes as Ben Wheatley’s Kill List; two assassins or mercenaries find themselves embroiled in occult activities, the carrying out of which in both have a curiously banal infrastructure and management aspect.)

    Symptoms-1974-BFI-A Year In The Country

    8) The main character Matilda Gray in the series is played by Lydia Wilson, who here has a very striking and almost otherworldly “Woman Who Fell to Earth” aspect to her appearance, which looking back over the series could be seen as a reflection of the hidden, preternatural forces which are present  around and also even contained within her.

    Although in a more overtly fashionable, almost hipster way in Reqiuem, that otherworldly aspect of the appearance of a disturbed individual can also be found in Angela Pleasance’s physical appearance and screen presence in José Ramón Larraz’s 1974 film Symptoms, which as with Requiem, also depicts rural areas as being far removed from bucolic idylls.

    Requiem-2018-BBC Netflix television series-Kris Mrska-intro sequence image-3

    Elsewhere:
    The Requiem trailer
    The Requiem title sequence by Peter Anderson Studio
    The Symptoms trailer via the BFI

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
    1) Week #28/52: Symptoms and gothic bucolia
    2) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 22/52: John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness Part 1 – The Sleeper Awakens
    3) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 23/52: John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness Part 2 – “This is not a dream”
    4) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 24/52: John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness Part 3 – Quatermass-esque Non Bebop Filmmaking
    5) Wanderings, Explorations and Signposts 25/52: Requiem Part 1 – Further Glimpses of Albion in the Overgrowth and Related Considerations

     

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  • Folk Horror Revival: Harvest Hymns I & II Released – Companions for Wanderings Amongst the Patterns Under the Plough

    Folk Horror Revival-Harvest Hymns-I-Twisted Roots-II-Sweet Fruits-book covers-1px stroke

    Published just recently are the books Folk Horror Revival: Harvest Hymns I – Twisted Roots and Folk Horror Revival: Harvest Hymns II – Sweet Fruits.

    The books are collections of articles, interviews, album reviews etc by a number of different authors, with both taking as their focus the undercurrents and flipsides of folk music, alongside more spectral/hauntological music and related cultural pastures.

    Folk Horror Revival-logo

    They are published by Folk Horror Revival which is described as:

    “…a gathering place to share and discuss folk horror in film, TV, books, art, music, events and other media. We also explore psychogeography, hauntology, folklore, cultural rituals and costume, earth mysteries, archaic history, hauntings, Southern Gothic, ‘landscapism / visionary naturalism & geography’, backwoods, murder ballads, carnivalia, dark psychedelia, wyrd Forteana and other strange edges.”

    In recent years those gathering places have included the main website, well-visited social media groups and a number of events including the Otherworldly: Folk Horror Revival at the British Museum day long event which featured talks, lectures, short films, poetry readings and museum tours.

    Folk Horror Revivial-Harvest Hymns I-Twisted Roots-book contents

    Harvest Hymns I – Twisted Roots considers the roots of related music and includes chapters on The Wicker Man soundtrack by Jonny Trunk, A Brief History of Acid Folk by Grey Malkin (of The Hare And The Moon and Widow’s Weeds), David Cain and Ronald Duncan’s The Seasons by Bob Fischer, the music of British folk horror films by Adam Scovell (author of the book Folk Horror: Hours Strange and Things Dreadful) and the sounds of The Stone Tape where Jim Peters interviews Andrew Liles. Elsewhere you’ll find chapters by/that focus on Sharron Kraus, Comus, Alison O’Donnell, Maddy Prior, Coil, The Radiophonic Workshop alongside a fair few other wanderings and explorations.

    Folk Horror Revival-Harvest Hymns-Sweet Fruit-book contents-1px stroke

    Harvest Hymns II – Sweet Fruits explores the modern day descendants of such work, including an interview with Jim Jupp of Ghost Box records by Jim Peters and Darren Charles, a review of Keith Seatman’s A Rest Before the Walk by Chris Lambert (of Tales from the Black Meadow), an interview with Drew Mulholland by John Pilgrim and also Jim Peters and a chapter on Boards of Canada’s Geogaddi by Daniel Pietersen. Elsewhere you’ll find chapters that focus on Moon Wiring Club, Songs from the Black Meadow, Jon Brooks’ Shapwick, Flying Saucer Attack, The Stone Tapes’ Avebury, The Rowan Amber Mill’s Harvest the Ears and as with the previous book a fair few more flipside of folk/spectral hauntological wanderings.

    The book also includes Cuckoos in the Same Nest, which is an alternate version of the Cuckoos in the Same Nest: Hauntological and Otherly Folk Confluences and Intertwinings chapter from the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book.

    And if you look closely, you may also see a piece or few of A Year In The Country artwork in the books…

    Folk Horror Revival-Field Studies-Harvest Hymns-book covers

    As just mentioned the focus of these two books are the music side of folk/hauntological and interconnected work; they can be seen as a companion piece to the previously published Folk Horror Revival: Field Studies, which focused on similar pastoral flipside and spectral areas but in the realms of film, television and literature.

    That volume featured writing by amongst others Robin Hardy, Ronald Hutton, Alan Lee, Philip Pullman, Thomas Ligotti, Kim Newman, Adam Scovell, Grey Malkin, John Coulthart, Gary Lachman and Susan Cooper and includes chapters on Public Information Films, Nigel Kneale, David Rudkin, M. R. James and well, once again many more…

    Folk Horror Revival-Field Studies-book contents

    If you should fancy a wander amongst the patterns under the plough you may well find that these three books prove to be rather fine companions and bountiful points of reference and inspiration.

     

    Elsewhere:

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

     

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  • Queens of Evil, Tam Lin and The Touchables – High Fashion Transitional Psych Folk Horror, Pastoral Fantasy and Dreamlike Isolation: Chapter 23 Book Images

    Queens of Evil-1970-Le Regine-A Year In The Country 8The Touchables-film-1968-French posterTam Lin-1970-film poster-A Year In The Country

    “There is a mini film sub-genre of pastoral fantasy, with at times elements of folk horror, wherein late 1960s and turn of the decade high fashion mixes with grown up fairytale high jinx, wayward behaviour and sometimes a step or two or more towards the dark side, all carried out in dreamlike isolation in the woods and pastoral settings.

    The three main films aligned with such things are Queens of Evil aka Le Regine or Il Delitto del Diavolo (1970), Tam Lin aka The Devil’s Widow (1970) and in a more loosely connected manner The Touchables (1968).

    All three of these films draw from, to varying degrees, some of the often defining themes of folk horror: being set in rural places and buildings where activities and rituals can develop or take place without easy escape to or influence from the outside world, normality and societal norms.”

    Queens of Evil-1970-Le Regine-A Year In The Country 1

    Queens of Evil-1970-Le Regine-A Year In The Country 4c

    “Queens of Evil’s plot follows a handsome young freewheeling hippie idealist who comes across a house in the woods after he has been involved in a road accident where a materially wealthy gent was killed.

    Living in this house are three young women who take him in, charm, nurture, seduce and confuse him. Everything is rosy for a while but there is something off-kilter about the setup and he cannot quite seem to leave.”

    Queens of Evil-1970-Le Regine-A Year In The Country 5c

    Psychedelic-Folklorist-collection of images-1px stroke

    Celia Birtwell-Ossie Clark-1960s-three fashion photographs-pastoral-folk

     “It is an at points chimeric fantasy which is largely set in sharply stylish but indolent, tree-inhabited period interiors and is full of late 1960s ethereal high-fashion along the lines of Ossie Clark and Celia Birtwell’s work from then and also incorporating the period folkloric-meets-psychedelia imagery collecting of website Psychedelic Folkloristic and its reflection of a relatively brief point in time around the later 1960s to early 1970s when fashionability turned towards folk and pastoral concerns.”

    daisies-1966-sedmikrásky-1 daisies-1966-sedmikrásky-2

    “(In terms of) reference points it creates a sense of a gently decadent grown ups version of a tea-party in the woods, a dash of Snow White (at one point somebody says “It’s just like Snow White’s house” about the cabin in the woods), a bit more of a dash of Hansel and Gretel and its tales of leading astray, more than a touch of the earlier mentioned and loosely interconnected kidnapping and pop-art pastoral playground film The Touchables, alongside the social critique and/or dreamlike qualities of some of Czech New Wave films such as Daisies (1966) and Valerie and her Week of Wonders (1970).”

    Queens of Evil-1970-Le Regine-A Year In The Country 4

    The Wicker Man-1973-film still-procession

    It could well also be appropriate to include The Wicker Man (1973) as another reference point.

    “In both films there is a similar sense of game playing, of leading a worldly innocent through a set of rituals and of differing levels of power and control in a rural setting.

    Also, in common with that towering relatively modern folklore tale, apples and symbols of temptation play a part in this game.

    And as with The Wicker Man, this is a tale full of its own and borrowed mythology, which seems to exist and be told in a world of its own imagining, where the outside rarely intrudes.”

    Liefe & Lief-Fairport Convention-album cover art Comus-First Utterance-album cover art

    “In many ways it is a story of a culture tottering right on the edge of when the utopian, carefree, sundrenched dream of the 1960s was about to fall into the darkness of its own dissolution in the following decade (Liege & Lief becomes Comus, to draw parallels with folk music’s progression at the time).”

    the-touchables-1968-film-a-year-in-the-country-2

    The Touchables-Brian Freemantle-book-novelisation-Robert Freeman 1968 film The Touchables-1968-Robert Freeman-film still

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    “In terms of this loose mini sub-genre of pastoral fantasy, The Touchables is more rooted in the later part rather than the tipping point of that 1960s dream, although it does represent a world and culture which seems to have become untethered and possibly one which lacks a moral centre.

    It is a very modish tale of a group of stylish sixties women who live in a huge see-through plastic bubble in the middle of the countryside who kidnap a pop star as “a temporary solution to the leisure problem” and in order make him their plaything.

    the-touchables-1968-film-a-year-in-the-country

    Nirvana-1968 album-All of Us-The Touchables film 1968

    “Mixed in with this are the stealing of a Michael Caine dummy, gangsters, wrestlers with rather refined aristocratic tastes, a fair bit of high-fashion styling and a fine pop-psych title song by Nirvana (the 1960s band rather than the later Seattle based grunge group).

    Essentially, at heart it is a caper romp but one that is more than one remove from the mainstream and quite surreal in its setting and the mixture of elements it contains.”

    Performance-1970-Nicholas Roeg-Donald Cammell-James Fox-Anita Pallenberg-Mick Jagger-Michele Breton

    “It was not a surprise to discover that The Touchables was based on a script by Donald Cammell (with a screenplay by Ian La Frenais), as in part it represents a proto, more pop-art, possibly light hearted take on Performance (1970), which he wrote and co-directed.

    As with The Touchables, Performance also incorporates a theme of a popstar living in an enclosed bubble world, although its setting is in some ways more prosaic as it involves a former popstar who lives a reclusive, isolated life in a London flat rather than in a rurally set large-scale see-through plastic dome as is the case with The Touchables.”

     the-touchables-1968-film-a-year-in-the-country-4

    “One intriguing aspect of The Touchables is that there is not even an attempt to explain how the stylish group of female kidnappers’ bubble or lifestyle are afforded, nor why there seems to be no outside comment or interference by mainstream society, authority etc. about their quite frankly rather unusual giant blow-up see-through home that is sitting in the middle of the countryside, complete with jukebox, canopied merry-go-round etc.”

    Tam Lin-1970-opening sequence 2-A Year In The Country.jpg

    Tam Lin-1970-opening sequence-A Year In The Country.jpg

    “Tam Lin is a curious film which as with Queens of Evil and The Touchables does not easily fit into any particular mainstream genre; it is a loose modern adaptation of the traditional folkloric tale and song “The Ballad of Tam Lin”, relocated to the country home of an almost mythologically wealthy older woman which is peopled by various late 60s hipsters, hunks and prepossessing actresses of the time (including Madeline Smith, Joanna Lumley and Jenny Hanley) and soundtracked by British jazz-folk band Pentangle.”

    Ian McShane-Ava Gardner-Tam LinIan McShane-Tam Lin-Stephanie Beacham

    Tam Lin-1970-screenshot 2-Ava Gardner-lighter-A Year In The Country.jpg 

    “Hollywood legend Ava Gardner stars as that wealthy, older woman, alongside a dapper Ian McShane who plays a young man that catches her eye and Stephanie Beacham as the innocent from the world outside.”

    Planet of the Apes-1968-ending

    Roddy McDowall-Ava Gardner-Tam Lin-on setRoddy McDowall-Cornelius-Planet of the Apes

    “It was directed by Roddy McDowell, who is possibly most famous for playing the lead simian character in the Planet of the Apes films that were released from 1968 to 1973.

    This was the only time he directed which is a pity as this film shows that he had considerable promise in that area.”

    Tam Lin-1970-screenshot-A Year In The Country.jpg

    Tam Lin-1970-screenshot 2-Joanna Lumley-Madeline Smith-A Year In The Country.jpg

    Tam Lin-1970-screenshot 2-A Year In The Country.jpg

    “The plot involves an immensely rich older lady Michaela Cazaret, gathering up hip young things to come and live, play with and amuse in her country mansion; her actions seems like a scooping up or pied piper-esque leading as she heads a convoy of cars through roads walled by pylons into her country lair.

    Cue childlike games (how can a game of frisbee seem so very odd?), partying, pleasing of the senses, imbibing and so forth.”

     Psychomania 1971-screenshot-A Year In The Country

    “In Tam Lin there is a sense of playful opulence and a mod/post-mod sharpness to the style which could be compared and contrasted with say the murk, grime and tattiness of the also sub/counter-culture orientated folk horror related film Psychomania which was released in 1973.

    They are separated by but a few years but are worlds apart in terms of the aesthetic style, societal/economic conditions, atmosphere and possibly optimism that they represent or portray.”

     Pentangle-band-group photograph

    “Tam Lin was also made at a high water mark of folk rock and the returning music refrain throughout the film is traditional folk song “The Ballad of Tam Lin” from which the film takes its inspiration, performed in the film by Pentangle and which infuses and intermingles with the more conventional music score.

    The film’s story follows that of its folk music forebear which with its fantastical tales underpins and layers the sense of this being an adult fairytale.” 

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 23 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside some text extracts from the chapter:

    Details of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book and the collection of its accompanying online images can be found at the Book’s Page, which will be added to throughout the year.

     

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  • Afore Ye Go – A Final Visit to A Year In The Country at Late Junction, Accompanied by Explorations of Pastures New in Starburst and Revisiting a Highland Lament in Willow’s Songs

    AYITC image and Late Junction

    Just a brief note to say that if you should fancy a listen there is only one day left to listen to the A Year In The Country piece with Verity Sharp on BBC Radio 3’s Late Junction:

    Day 16-Willows Songs Inside-Finders Keepers-A Year In The Country

    Ah well, seeing as it is May the 1st we just had to kick off with that didn’t we? It’s a tune called May Day from The Hare And The Moon. They were a band that once existed but now are they say ‘as ghosts’. Which means that they slot perfectly into a genre called hauntology and that’s something that I’m going to be exploring a little bit later on with Stephen Prince, who works under the guise of A Year In The Country and he goes seeking out what he calls pastoral otherlyness in this sceptred isle.

    You don’t have to look very far for it either. I wander how many of you were up at dawn watching your local Morris side dance as the sun came up? And forget maypoles in the imagined town of Scarfolk, children would once again be dancing around that May Pylon.

    “And for me personally Beltane is the thing, that ancient Celtic tradition where you can light a big bonfire and join hands with your friends and share thoughts about new beginnings. Let us celebrate all of that tonight…
    (Verity Sharp, from the introduction to the show.)

    The Advisory Circle-Jon Brooks-Ghost Box RecordsGather In The Mushrooms-Bob Stanley-The British Acid Folk Underground-album-A Year In The CountryThe Duke of Burgundy-Cats Eyes

    The Hare And The Moon-2009 album cover art-Reverb Worship-May Day-1px strokethe-forest-the-wald-weekly-track-03-the-hare-and-the-moon-a-year-in-the-country-bcA Coat Worth Wearing-Neil McSweeney

    Wander amongst the spectral fields in the company of amongst others the just mentioned The Hare And The Moon, alongside The Advisory Circle, Trader Horne and Cat’s Eyes and enter a land of imagined plenty with Neil Mc Sweeney via the BBC’s iPlayer.

    Previous posts about the episode and Late Junction can be found at A Year In The Country here and here.

    Thanks again to Verity Sharp and Rebecca Gaskell for inviting me on and putting together the show.

    Starburst-issue 448-A Year In The Country Wandering Through Spectral Fields book review

    Plus this review for the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book recently appeared in issue 448 of Starburst magazine, which was nice to see:

    …aimed fiercely at turning over soil in pastures new… if you’re already interested in folk culture and want to be astonished by how deeply its roots run, you’ll treasure A Year In The Country enormously… covers everything from folkloric film and literature to electronic music to acid folk to folk horror to the dystopian fiction of John Wyndham and the classic unearthings of Nigel Kneale to the formation of under-the-furrows record labels like Trunk, Ghost Box and Finders Keepers… there are excursions to Kate Bush and Broadcast, television shows like Children of the Stones and Sapphire & Steel, the psychogeography of the Uncommonly British Days Out books and even a visit to the gentler landscapes of Bagpuss and The Good Life.”

    More details on that issue of the magazine here and the review can also be read online here.

    Thanks to Ian White and Ed Fortune for that, much appreciated.

    Day 16-Willows Songs b-Finders Keepers-A Year In The CountryPS The above maypole image is from the booklet that accompanies the Willow’s Songs album released by Finders Keepers records, which is a collection of 12 vintage recordings of traditional British folksongs that inspired the soundtrack to The Wicker Man.

    Well worth seeking out, particularly for the wonderfully evocative version of Highland Lament and its tales of social dispossession.

    At the time of writing Willows Songs can be found for but a few pounds on CD at Finders Keepers and in a previous post at A Year In The Country here.

     

    Elsewhere:

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

     

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  • A Year In The Country – Spectral Fields – Wyrd Kalendar Mix 1; Chapters 1-13

    A Year In The Country-Spectral Fields-Wyrd Kalendar Mix 1-Chris Lambert

    Throughout the year Chris Lambert, author of amongst other works Tales from the Black Meadow, is planning on creating four mixes which each explore 13 chapters of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book.

    Tales from the Black Meadow-Chris Lamber-Nigel Wilson-book-front and back covers

    They will include a selection of music tracks, trailers, clips from the book etc which in various ways connect with and reflect the wanderings in the book.

    A-Year-In-The-Country-Wandering-Through-Spectral-Fields-book-Stephen-Prince-6 copies-front cover and back cover

    The first mix is now online and can be listened to at Mixcloud and read about at the Wyrd Kalendar site.

    And rather fine it is. At points it made me laugh out loud, at other times it was good to revisit some old audio friends, at others just to be able to step back and appreciate the intermingling and interweaving of tracks, styles, text and ideas.

    It also made me wander if it is possible to sponsor a stile, in the same way that you see say public benches that have been sponsored by people?

    I’m not sure but in the meantime, hop over the Ghost Box stile and wander the Spectral Fields with Mr Lambert

    I-Spy books-Trees-The Sky

    A quiz for all the family:

    While you wander the Spectral Fields, in an I-Spy manner, can you match the chapters and song titles below?

    Rob Young-Electric Eden-book covers-1st edition-2nd edition-US edition

    Chapters explored in the Spectral Fields Wyrd Kalendar Mix 1:

    1. Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain’s Visionary Music: Folk Vs Pop, Less Harvested Cultural Landscapes and Acts of 
Enclosure, Old and New

    2. Gather in the Mushrooms: Early Signposts and Underground Acid Folk Explorations

    3. Hauntology: Places Where Society Goes to Dream, the Defining and Deletion of Spectres and the Making of an Ungenre

    4. Cuckoos in the Same Nest: Hauntological and Otherly Folk Confluences and Intertwinings

    Julian-House-Intro-design-Ghost-Box-Records-A-Year-In-The-Country-5-stroke

    5. Ghost Box Records: Parallel Worlds, Conjuring Spectral Memories, Magic Old and New and Slipstream Trips to the
 Panda Pops Disco

    6. Folk Horror Roots: From But a Few Seedlings Did a Great Forest Grow

    7. 1973: A Time of Schism and a Dybbuk’s Dozen of Fractures

    8. Broadcast: Recalibration, Constellation and Exploratory Pop

    The Book of the Lost-Emily Jones-The Rowand Amber Mill-CD albumThe Book Of The Lost-A Year In The Country

    9. Tales From The Black Meadow, The Book of the Lost and The Equestrian Vortex: The Imagined Spaces of Imaginary Soundtracks

    10. The Wicker Man: Notes on a Cultural Behemoth

    11. Robin Redbreast, The Ash Tree, Sky, The Changes, Penda’s Fen Red Shift and The Owl Service: Wanderings Through Spectral Television Landscapes

    12. A Bear’s Ghosts: Soviet Dreams and Lost Futures

    13. From “Two Tribes” to War Games: The Ascendancy of Apocalyptic Popular Culture

     

    Albion Country Band-Battle of the Field

    Songs etc included in the Spectral Fields Wyrd Kalendar Mix 1:

    “We’re going to take a slightly different route…” – The Kalendar Host
    I Was a Young Man – The Albion Country Band
    Glistening Glyndebourne – John Martyn
    Black Country Rock – David Bowie

    Gather In The Mushrooms-Bob Stanley-The British Acid Folk Underground-album-A Year In The Country 0001-A Year In The Country-Gather In The Mushrooms-back

    Love in Ice Crystals – The Sallyangie
    Morning Way – Trader Horne
    Children of the Stones – Sidney Sager
    Caged in Stammheim by Demdike Stare

    The Quietened Village-album CD cover-A Year In The Country-1px strokeThe Stone Tape-1972-logo credits-Nigel Kneale

    Flying over a Glassed Wedge vs. The Stone Tape – Howlround
    Playground Gateway – Belbury Poly
    Mind How You Go Now – The Advisory Circle
    Forgotten Places – Hoofus
    The Magic Yard – Lubos Fiser

    Hoofus-The Edgelands-game soundtrack-album artwork-HoofusEdgelands-Marshlight software-Hoofus-3b

    Loomings – Hoofus
    Witch Hunt – Frog
    Trailer – The Final Programme

    Dark and Lonely Water-6-A Year In The Country copy

    The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water – Central Office of Information
    The Be Colony – Broadcast and The Focus Group
    I See, So I See So – Broadcast and The Focus Group

    Noahs Castle-television series-1979-1980-John Rowe-A Year in The Country-5Noahs Castle-television series-1979-1980-John Rowe-A Year in The Country-6

    Noah’s Castle – Jugg

    Tales From The Black Meadow-A Year In The Country Tales From The Black Meadow-Professor R Mullins-Chris Lambert-A Year In The Country

    Tales from the Black Meadow (Main Theme) – The Soulless Party
    The Book of the Lost – Rowan Amber Mill and Emily Jones

    Berberian Sound Studio-Equestrian Vortex-Julian House-Peter Strickland

    The Equestrian Vortex – Broadcast
    Corn Rigs – Magnet
    Wickerman – Pulp

    The Wicker Man-Trunk Records release-OST-vinyl-soundtrack-map

    Gently Johnny – Magnet
    How Do – Sneaker Pimps
    Searching for Rowan – Magnet

    The-Owl-Service-TV-program-A-Year-In-The-Country-3bThe-Owl-Service-TV-series-titles-Alan-Garner-A-Year-In-The-Country-b

    The Owl Service – Ton Alarch
    The Dream of Gerontius/Penda’s Fen/Robin Redbreast – Edward Elgar
    The Tomorrow People – Dudley Simpson
    Red Shift Trailer – Phil Ryan
    The Changes vs. The Ash Tree – Paddy Kingsland

    The Owl Service-Garland Sessions-album artwork

    The Bear Ghost – The Owl Service

    Wargames-1983 film-A Year In The Country

    WarGames – clip
    Dancing with Tears in my Eyes – Ultravox
    WarGames Theme – Arthur B. Rubinstein
    Since Yesterday – Strawberry Switchblade
    The Game Begins – Arthur B. Rubinstein
    I Won’t Let The Sun Go Down on Me – Nik Kershaw
    Edge of the World (End Title) – Arthur B. Rubinstein
    Coming Soon – The Kalendar Host

     

    Thanks indeed to Mr Lambert for being such a helpful and informative Kalendar Host and for the work involved. A tip of the hat to you good sir.

    Wyrd Kalendar-book cover-Chris Lambert-Andy Paciorek-Folk Horror Revival-Wyrd Harvest Press

    Elsewhere:
    Tales From The Black Meadow – the book (or few), the CD (or few), the project
    The Wyrd Kalendar book by Chris Lambert and Andy Paciorek (published by Wyrd Harvest Press / Folk Horror Revival)
    A Year In The Country – Spectral Fields – Wyrd Kalendar Mix 1; Chapters 1-13 at Mixcloud
    The mix at the Wyrd Kalendar website
    Tales from the Black Meadow – the book by Chris Lambert
    Chris Lambert’s own writing website

    Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:
    The A Year In The Country Wandering Through Spectral Fields book

     

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  • “Savage Party” and Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) – Glimpses of Albion in the Overgrowth: Chapter 20 Book Images

    Hollyoaks-Savage Party-folklore-A Year In The Country 4

    “In 2012 in the earlyish days of planning for A Year In The Country there was a trailer being broadcast for an episode called “Savage Party” of the British television youth-orientated soap opera Hollyoaks.

    The trailer is basically a high street-esque take on some of the visual language, themes and tropes of the flipside or undercurrents of folkloric culture expressed in the likes of The Wicker Man (1973): a glimpse of Albion in the cultural overgrowth, a step through the gates into the secret garden (with spangly hotpants as your attire).”

    Hollyoaks-Savage Party-folklore-A Year In The Country 12

    “It shows the young folk entering a gated slightly magical-seeming woodland; they are often animal masked, behorned and May Queen crowned and enter an unsupervised carnivalesque atmosphere which seems to subtly hark back to earlier almost pagan times…”

    Hollyoaks-Savage Party-folklore-A Year In The Country 11

    “And yes the trailer is a simulacra of folklore-inspired culture but still enjoyable…

    For some reason this promotional video blurs those lines a touch. It is joyous, ridiculous, a copy and also created with some sense of love or passion for its source material, even if that is but a flickering, passing moment of interest.”

    Stealing Sheep-Shut Eye

    Coco-Rosie-Arthur-Magazine-Devandra Banhart-Joanna Newsom

    “The trailer’s soundtrack is Stealing Sheep’s “Shut Eye” (2012), which is a lovely catchy sort of psych-folk indie-pop song, with the band’s music reminding me in a way of a more youthful, British Coco Rosie  (the sister duo who were loosely connected with American freak folk in the 2000s, along with the likes of Devandra Banhart and Joanna Newsom).”

    Halloween on Hollyoaks-trailer-2016

    “Curiously in 2016 there was a “Halloween on Hollyoaks” trailer which drew from one of the other more flipsides of filmic culture, Italian super- natural horror and interconnected giallo, and was basically a homage to Dario Argento’s Suspiria film from 1977.”

    021-Randall & Hopkirk-Charlie Higson-Vic Reeves-Bob Mortimer-Emilia Fox-Tom Baker-A Year In The Country

    Randall-Hopkirk-Charlie-Higson-Vic-Reeves-Bob-Mortimer-Emilia-Fox-1

    Randall-Hopkirk-Charlie-Higson-Tom-Baker-television series still

    “The appearance of such less thoroughly travelled themes in mainstream culture can seem like something of an unexpected treat when it is treated in a respectful manner and done at least reasonably well.

    Along which lines, a soft spot should be reserved for the turn of the millennium remake of television series Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) that was broadcast in 2000-2001, and which was produced by Charlie Higson, who also wrote and directed some episodes, and starred comedians Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer alongside Emilia Fox and gloriously white-haired former Doctor Who Tom Baker.”

    Hot Fuzz-film-Simon Pegg

    “…it often shows a great love for a whole slew of fantasy, television, literature, crime horror and science fiction films etc. from years gone by in the way that it references and draws from them.

    “The episode Man of Substance in particular, which seems to predate Edgar Wright & Simon Pegg’s Hot Fuzz film of 2007 by a year or few in a number of its themes, borrowings and the story of a sleepy country idyll gone bad and is rather folk horror-like in its setting and plot.”

    John Barleycorn Reborn Rebirth-Dark Britannica-Cold Spring-A Year In The Country-collage

    “I guess we should have known something was not quite right when shown the unsettling monument on the way into the village that looked as though it should have been on the cover of one of the John Barleycorn Reborn series of dark Britannica compilation albums of wyrd, exploratory, underground etc folk that were released by Cold Spring beginning in 2007.”

    Randall-Hopkirk-dancers collage

    stills from The Wicker Man-The Monster Club-Pendas Fen-Curse of the Crimson Altar-2

    “Along the way the episode wanders into the territory of and borrows from: The Wicker Man, The Monster Club, Curse of the Crimson Altar, Hansel and Gretel, Witchfinder General, The Bloody Judge and Penda’s Fen.”

    tom-baker-doctor-who-wearing scarf

    “And just having Tom Baker, possibly still the archetypal Doctor Who, in amongst it all makes the episode fundamentally interconnected in the minds of watchers of a certain vintage with particular culture and tropes.”

    Gareth Thomas-Blakes 7

    “…and that is before we get to Gareth Thomas, who once starred as a freedom fighter in the cult science fiction series Blake’s 7 (1978-1981), who here plays a real ale pushing pub landlord who later appears in his festival garb only to be revealed as a centuries-old medieval lord of the manor.”

    The League of Gentleman-Royston Vasey sign

    “Randall & Hopkirk is not necessarily as dark but thinking back this episode may have shared some ground with the similar time period’s The League of Gentleman series that was broadcast from 1999-2002 and its mixing of horror and comedy in a rural setting gone bad where “You bain’t be from round here” is the general refrain.”

    The Wicker Man OST soundtrack-Jonny Trunk-Trunk Records-A Year In The Country

    “Just prior to its broadcast the The Wicker Man soundtrack had been first released in 1998 via the efforts and investigating of Jonny Trunk and Trunk Records and this is thought to have been one of the sparks that ignited that growing interest.

    However, the number of different references to fantastic fictions from before that time in the series suggest its creator had a knowledge, interest and love of such things that stretches back some way.”

    030-Randall & Hopkirk-Charlie Higson-Vic Reeves-Bob Mortimer-Emilia Fox-Tom Baker-A Year In The Country 002-Randall & Hopkirk-Charlie Higson-Vic Reeves-Bob Mortimer-Emilia Fox-Tom Baker-A Year In The Country

    Doomwatch-still altered-states-1980-movie-ken russell

    Raiders of the Lost Ark-last scene-warehouse Scooby Doo-unmasking

    “The episode Fair Isle is set on an isolated island called Strait Isle which has its own laws and ways of doing things, produces its own unique foodstuff under the direction of an eccentric lord ruler and includes high jinx with the locals in a very local hostelry, all of which further echo The Wicker Man.

    That episode also features Doctor Who-esque folkloric costumed creatures, ecological worries that have shades of the series Doomwatch (1970-1972), transformations which echo Ken Russell’s Altered States film (1980), a hiding of relics which harks back to The Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and even an “I would’ve got away with it if it wasn’t for you pesky kids” Scooby Doo-esque unveiling of the baddie.”

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 20 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside some text extracts from the chapter:

    Details of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book and the collection of its accompanying online images can be found at the Book’s Page, which will be added to throughout the year.

     

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  • Kill List, Puffball, In the Dark Half and Butter on the Latch – Folk Horror Descendants by Way of the Kitchen Sink: Chapter 16 Book Images

    Kill List-Ben Wheatley-A Year In The Country-2Kill List

    “…folk horror is a film genre which as a cultural strand has created ever-growing reverberations and led to and/or inspired more recent work.

    One such piece of work is Ben Wheatley’s thoroughly unsettling film Kill List from 2011. As a film it is an intriguing, fascinating, inspiring piece of work. An online discussion about the film said “some pieces of culture are the thing that they purport to be about”; this is a film about evil.

    Visually, if not thematically, it shares similarities with the grittier side of social realism British cinema. For a large part the world it represents, although about the lives of somewhat shady mercenaries, is presented in an every day, social realist, kitchen sink manner.”

    Kill List-Ben Wheatley-still-2

    Kill List-film-Ben Wheatley-mirrorKill List-Ben Wheatley-A Year In The Country-4

    “It does not feel like an esoteric otherly world, at least initially; people are shown having dinner, a couple argues about money and so forth. But something else lurks and creeps in; a symbol is scratched behind a mirror, a descent begins and the mercenaries are drawn into an arcane, hidden world and system.

    In many ways the film feels like a sequel to 1973’s The Wicker Man, or at least of its direct lineage or spirit, exploring the themes of that film but through a modern day filter of a corruption that feels total and also curiously banal; there is a sense of occult machinations and organisations but also of just doing a job, of the minutiae of it all…

    The film utilises tropes from more recent horror and possibly voyeuristic exploitational film but seems to layer and underpin this with what psychogeographic thought has called “the hidden landscape of atmospheres, histories, actions and characters which charge environments”: occult in both the literal and root meaning of hidden.”

     Adam Scovell-Folk Horror-Hours Dreadful and Things Strange-Auteur-book coverThe Wicker Man-1973-film still-statueQueens of Evil-1970-Le Regine-A Year In The Country 6

    “Continuing on from Kill List, kitchen sink or realist folk horror is a description that could be applied to other films such as Josephine Decker’s Butter on the Latch (2013), Alastair Siddons In the Dark Half (2011) and Nicholas Roeg’s Puffball (2007).

    These films take some of the recurring themes of folk horror (precised by Adam Scovell, author of the 2017 book Folk Horror: Hours Dreadful and Things Strange, as featuring landscape, isolation, skewed moral beliefs and a happening or summoning) but which strip away some of the more fantastical presentation and sometimes stylisation that can be found in The Wicker Man or 1970’s Queens of Evil and utilise a more “rooted in the real world” approach.”

    Puffball-Nicolas-Roeg-2007-625px wide

     Kate Bush-Aerial-A Sky of Honey-vinyl label-side aGrand Designs-television series-logo titleEnglands Hidden Reverse-David Keenan book-Coil-Current 93-Nurse With Wound-b

    “Puffball is… set in a remote part of the countryside, it is a television-esque kitchen sink folk horror film that mixes Grand Designs with the music of Kate Bush and England’s Hidden Reverse.

    (Grand Designs is a long-running British television series that documents people spending often large sums of money custom building unusual homes for themselves and their families, England’s Hidden Reverse is a 2003 book by David Keenan that focuses on the work and music of Coil, Current 93 and Nurse With Wound and posits the idea that they represent the real English cultural underground. The soundtrack to Puffball features Coil and Nurse With Wound, with the music to the film all sinister portents and drones that veers upwards and outwards, venturing into more normal climes and back again.)

    In the film new age-ish imagery intermingles with “are-they-real or not?” folkloric and witchery shenanigans, tales of fertility battles, fertility ending with ageing and the slick yuppie-like outsiders gutting and rebuilding a cottage that was previously the site for intense local loss in a possibly inappropriately modern, minimalist, over-angled style.

    In some ways it feels like the story of the old ways battling with the new: of the arrogance of money and man trying to push out the mud and nature of the land.”

    Robin Redbreast-A Year In The Country-BFI DVD-1970-Play For TodayRobin Redbreast-A Year In The Country-BFI DVD-1970-5Robin Redbreast-A Year In The Country-BFI DVD-1970-4

    “(Robin Redbreast) is reminiscent of the Play for Today television drama Robin Redbreast from 1970 in the sense of the entrapping of an outsider in fertility rites and rituals and the use of a slightly simple man of the land for those ends.

    Puffball adds a graphic, almost dissolute sexuality to that realism. This is not an easy film in parts: it is both unsettled and unsettling in various ways.”

     The Wicker Man and Dont Look Now-double bill adverts

    “As an aside, (Puffball) is loosely connected back to early 1970s folk horror by the appearance of Donald Sutherland, and being directed by Nicolas Roeg, it is but a hop, skip and jump from them to The Wicker Man via Nicolas Roeg’s 1973 film Don’t Look Now, in which Donald Sutherland stars and which was released cinematically as part of a double bill with The Wicker Man.”

     Puffball-Nicolas Roeg-2007-A Year In The Country-4 Puffball-Nicolas Roeg-2007-A Year In The Country-2

    Rita Tushingham-A Taste of Honey-film still

    “Further connecting Puffball to kitchen sink, the film also features the bird-like late beauty and fascinating screen presence of Rita Tushingham, who appeared in A Taste of Honey (1961), which is known as one of the classic 1960s kitchen sink/British new wave films; here she is all staring eyes and grasping country ways.”

    Kate Bush-Aerial-album cover artCloudbusting-Kate Bush-A Year In The Country

    The Red Shoes-Kate Bush-album cover artthe lines the cross & the curve-kate bush-miranda richardson-laserdisc cover 

    “Throughout the film Kate Bush’s song “Prelude” from her 2005 album Aerial, which features the angelic voice of her son accompanying her piano playing, appears and reappears, interconnecting the themes of the film and its stories of progeny to come and those lost.

    Puffball is also further connected to Kate Bush’s work through two of its actors: Donald Sutherland appeared in the video for her 1985 single “Cloudbusting”, while one of the film’s lead actors is Miranda Richardson, who was also one of the main cast members in Kate Bush’s The Line, the Cross & the Curve film which accompanied her Red Shoes album from 1994.”

     Puffball-Nicolas Roeg-2007-A Year In The Country-3

    The Company of Wolves-film still

    “(Puffball) also has the more exploitation friendly title The Devil’s Eyeball (puffballs are large round white fungi, also known by this other name). The imagery which accompanies The Devil’s Eyeball version of the DVD release makes the film look nearer to a cheap b-movie, teenage friendly take on say the 1984 gothic fantasy-horror film The Company of Wolves, which is in part an adult take on the fairy story Little Red Riding Hood and could be considered an early example of folk horror with its tales of deceitful ravenous wolves in the wood.”

     Day 18-In The Dark Half-2012 Film Poster-Alistair Siddons-A Year In The Country

    Day-18-In-The-Dark-Half-575-2012-Film-still-1-Alistair-Siddons-A-Year-In-The-Country Day 18-In The Dark Half-2012 Film-Alistair Siddons-A Year In The Country

    “In the Dark Half takes some of the tropes familiar from British social realist cinema such as a rundown estate on the edge of the countryside, family loss or dysfunction and a sense of social depravation or lack of chances to escape but wanders elsewhere with them.

    It is not quite magical realism, but rather the subdued, downtrodden landscape is given a subtle sheen which creates a sense that you are looking in on a magical otherly world.

    There are folkloric, borderline folk horror elements to the film, but it is not so much those which create the sense of a world with its own rules and even magic.

    Rather via its visual presentation there is a certain lush, soft beauty to the rundown estate and the nearby countryside: a refreshing view of such things in contrast with gritty, realist and sometimes-dour cinematic presentations of similar locales.”

     butter-on-the-latch-josephine-decker-a-year-in-the-country

    Joesphine Decker’s Butter On the Latch was discussed in the BFI’s Sight & Sound magazine… with the headline “Dark Pastoral” and with “Lovely, dark and deep” written below a picture of a solitary wooden shack-like building in an isolated moorland landscape, with two female figures approaching it from the edge of the frame.

    It is an intriguing image and pair of descriptions which, while not overtly signalling such things, seemed to conjure up a dreamlike, rather classy take or variation on folk horror.

    Along with the above, a well-known online commerce site has this description of the film:

    “At a Balkan folk song and dance camp in the woods of Mendocino, California, Sarah reunites with her old friend Isolde and with a song she learned years before about dragons who entwine themselves in women’s hair and carry them off through the forest, burning it as they go.”

    …while Butter on the Latch interacts with cinematic tropes and conventions, it beats its own fragmentary path through them; the film is imbued deeply with a sense of dread and dysfunction and following those just mentioned conventions there’s a sense of waiting for something terrible to happen in a conventional thriller or slasher manner.”

    butter-on-the-latch-josephine-decker-a-year-in-the-country-4

    As a moment or two of calm amongst that dread, at points the film may just stop, pause and focus on close ups of woodland foliage. There is an entrancing beauty captured in such moments: you hope to remain ensconced in them but in this tale that is not how things are to be.

    This is a form of folk horror where “folk” could be taken as implying “being from the wild woods”; these are woods that seem both tamed and untamed, connected to civilisation and yet those within it have also crumbled away from it.” 

    Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares-album-4AD Inland-Empire-spotlight-David Lynch-film still

    “…the music that accompanies the film and which is played in the camp is to the untutored ear in part not far removed from the stately, elegiac, otherly album of Bulgarian folk songs Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares which 4AD released in the 1980s. While the film is also reminiscent here and there of the lower-fi aesthetics of David Lynch’s 2006 film Inland Empire; Hollywood but at a far, dark remove.”

    butter-on-the-latch-josephine-decker-a-year-in-the-country-2

    butter-on-the-latch-josephine-decker-a-year-in-the-country-3

    The hand-held documentary feel is complimented or should that be fractured by surreal flashes of staring faces in the woods and other intriguing, hypnotic, yet terribly unsettling images and sounds, often with a more overtly folk horror/horror aspect; such split second moments, even if you pause or try to watch the film frame by frame are hard to quite fathom, explain or take in. To again quote Sight & Sound magazine:

    “Decker creates a weave of woozy camera movements and abrupt cuts that at once trouble and open up the viewer’s perception.”

     

    Online images to accompany Chapter 16 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside some text extracts from the chapter:

    Details of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book and the collection of its accompanying online images can be found at the Book’s Page, which will be added to throughout the year.

     

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