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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 Vulture 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 and the creators of the new version may well find themselves treading on what some may consider culturally hallowed ground. Taking on such a task could be considered something of a double edged sword in many ways; you have the pre-existing recognition factor and possibly proven appeal of the story etc of the earlier version but then there are also a whole host of expectations and comparing with its forebear to contend with.

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.

A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields – A Visual Accompaniment

A Year In The Country-Wandering Through Spectral Fields book-front and back coverA Year In The Country book-visual accompaniment-collage-Ghost Box Records-Broadcast-The Wicker Man-The Children of The Stones-The Changes

Below is an online “cut out and keep” set of visual accompaniments to the chapters of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Field book.

Paperback available at our Artifacts Shop and Bandcamp page.

Paperback and Ebook also available at Amazon UK, Amazon US, Amazon Australia etc.

More details on the book at the A Year In The Country site here.

 

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

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

Left to right: the first and second British editions and the American edition of Rob Young’s Electric Eden book (2010-2011).

Forest-Full Circle

The gatefold cover and vinyl of Forest’s album Full Circle (1970).

Kate Bush-Lionheart-vinyl-A Year In The Country

The cover and vinyl of Kate Bush’s second album Lionheart (1978).

The Wicker Man-construction-production photograph

Construction scaffolding for statue in The Wicker Man film (1973).

Ghost Box Records logo

Ghost Box Records logo/artwork.

Steeleye Span-All Around My Hat-single-1975-The Wombles

The cover of one of the editions of Steeleye Span’s All Around My Hat single (1975) and characters from The Womble’s television series (1973-1975).

Acts of Inclosure map-A Year In The Country

A period map showing enclosure/inclosure of the land.

 

Text extracts from Chapter 1 can be viewed here.

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

Gather In The Mushrooms-Bob Stanley-The British Acid Folk Underground-album-A Year In The CountryGather-In-The-Mushrooms-Bob-Stanley-The-British-Acid-Folk-Underground-album-inner sleeve artwork copy0001-A Year In The Country-Gather In The Mushrooms-back

Artwork from the Gather in the Mushrooms: The British Acid Folk Underground 1968-1974 compilation album. Released in 2004 and curated by Bob Stanley.

Gather In The Mushrooms album-folk-Bob Stanley-Vashti Bunyan sleevenotes image

Once upon a time lost-lady-of-folk Vashti Bunyan as featured in the sleeve notes to Gather in the Mushrooms.

Morning Way-Trader Horne-Judy Dyble-A Year In The Country-2

CD insert cover for Trader Horne’s Morning Way album from 1970, featuring former Fairport Convention member Judy Dyble and Jackie McAuley.

The Pentangle-Basket of Light-album coverThe Sallyangie-Children Of The Sun-Love In Ice Crystals-cover

Left to right: Cover art for The Pentangle’s Basket of Light album, featuring their version of Lyke Wake Dirge and The Sallyangie’s Children of the the Sun, featuring a young Mike Oldfield and his sister.

Forest-Full Circle-psych folk-acid folk-A Year In The Country

Gatefold photograph from Forest’s 1969 self-titled debut album.

Early Morning Hush-Folk Underground-Bob Stanley-album-A Year In The CountryEarly Morning Hush-Notes from the UK Folk Underground-album-inner sleeve artworkEarly Morning Hush-Notes from the UK Folk Underground-album-tracklisting

Artwork from the Early Morning Hush: Notes from the UK Folk Underground 1969-1976 compilation album from 2006, also curated by Bob Stanley.

 

Text extracts from Chapter 2 can be viewed here.

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

Day 162-Hauntology-A Year In The Country

Text from the debate around whether or not to delete hauntology as a music genre on Wikipedia. Bottom left – artwork by Demdike Stare, bottom right Ghost Box Records artwork.

The Owl Service TV program-A Year In The Country 2Children Of The Stones-TV series-A Year In The CountryThe Changes-1975-BBC-A Year In The Country-8

Left-right: stills from the intro sequence for The Owl Service, Children of the Stones and The Changes television series.

Daphne Oram-Radiophonic WorkshopBruton Music Flexi-Steens Dilemma-via James CargillSeasons-David Cain-Jonny Trunk-BBC-A Year In The Country

Left-right: Daphne Oram and others working at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, flexidisc of an advert for Bruton Music library music company, the cover art for The Season album by David Cain and Ronald Duncan.

Day 162-Hauntology-A Year In The Country faded 2

Pye Corner Audio-Sleep Games-Ghost Box Records-album artworkPye Corner Audio-Stasis-Ghost Box Records-album artwork

Left-right: cover art for the Ghost Box Records released Sleep Games and Stasis, both by Pye Corner Audio.

Beyond The Black Rainbow-still-1

A still from Panos Cosmatos’ film Beyond The Black Rainbow.

 

Text extracts from Chapter 3 can be viewed here.575px by 1px line

 

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

The Owl Service-TV series and band-The Wicker Man-Radiophonic Workshop-Broadcast-Focus Group-Children of the Stones-Ghost Box Records-3

Left-right first row: The TV tie-in publication of Alan Garner’s The Owl Service novel, islanders in masks from The Wicker Man film and Delia Derbyshire of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.

Left-right second row: cover art for the Broadcast and The Focus Group Investigate Withcults of the Radio Age album, cover art for The Owl Service’s The View From a Hill album, a still from the intro sequence for the Children of the Stones series and a Ghost Box Records logo.

The Owl Service-The View From A Hill-albumBroadcast and the Focus Group investigate witchcults of the radio age-album cover-warp records-Ghost Box recordsGather In The Mushrooms-Bob Stanley-The British Acid Folk Underground-album-A Year In The Country

Left-right: cover art for The Owl Service’s The View From a Hill album – designed by Dom Cooper of The Owl Service/The Straw Bear Band/Bare Bones, cover art for the Broadcast and The Focus Group Investigate Withcults of the Radio Age album – designed by Julian House of The Focus Group/Ghost Box Records and released by Warp Records and cover artwork from the Gather in the Mushrooms: The British Acid Folk Underground 1968-1974 compilation album – released in 2004 and curated by Bob Stanley.

The Changes-DVD cover-BFI-BBCAlan Garner's The Owl Service-DVD cover-NetworkChildren of the Stones-DVD cover-Network

Nigel Kneale's The Stone Tape DVD cover-BFIThe Wicker Man-The Directors Cut-DVD cover-strokeDoctor Who-The Stones of Blood-DVD cover-Tom BakerDoctor Who-The Daemons-DVD cover-BBC-John Pertwee

Left-right first row: DVD cover art: the BFI’s release of The Changes television series, Network’s releases of Alan Garner’s The Owl Service and the Children of the Stones television series.

Left-right second row: DVD cover art: the BFI’s release of Nigel Kneale’s The Stone Tape, the Director’s cut release of The Wicker Man, Doctor Who stories The Stones of Blood featuring Tom Baker and The Daemons featuring Jon Pertwee.

The-BBC-Radiophonic-Workshop-Delia Derbyshire

Members of the BBC Radiphonic Workshop.

 

Text extracts from Chapter 4 can be viewed here.575px by 1px line

 

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

Ghost Box Records-logo-hands

Ghost Box Records logo and artwork.

THE_BBC_RADIOPHONIC_WORKSHOP-album-BBC records and tapesSeasons-David Cain-Jonny Trunk-BBC-A Year In The Country

Left-right: The Radiophonic Workshop album by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and The Seasons album – poems by Ronald Duncan, Radiophonic music by David Cain (the Trunk Records reissue cover art).

Belbury Tales-Belbury Poly-Ghost Box-A Year In The CountryBelbury Poly-Belbury Tales-Rob Young-Julian House-Ghost Box Records-A Year In The Country 3

Left-right: a poster that accompanied the Ghost Box-released Belbury Poly’s Belbury Tales album and the CD front cover.

The Advisory Circle-Mind How You Go-Ghost Box Records-Jon Brooks-vinyl-A Year In The Country

The sleeves and artwork for the vinyl version of the The Advisory Circle’s Mind How You Go album (revised edition).

The Belbury Poly-New Ways Out-Ghost Box Records-Jim Jupp-A Year In The CountryThe Belbury Poly-New Ways Out-Ghost Box Records-Jim Jupp-inner-A Year In The Country

The CD sleeve for The Belbury Poly’s New Ways Out album – design by Julian House, circle illustration by Jim Jupp.

The Soundcarriers-The House Of Julian-Julian House-Ghost Box Records-2

Artwork for The Soundcarriers Entropicalia album and accompanying poster, plus various Ghost Box related artwork.

Ghost Box Records-Julian House-See They Await Us-A Year In The CountryGhost Box Records-Sketches and Spells-The Focus Group-Julian House-Rouges Foam-A Year In The CountryGood Press Gallery-Julian House-A Year In The Country

Left-right: poster artwork by Julian House, the cover to Sketches and Spells by The Focus Group, exhibition poster by Julian House.

Julian House-The House Of Julian-Ghost Box Records

Ghost Box related artwork by Julian House.

Ghost Box Records-Julian House-Summer Wavelengths-Retrospective and Q&A-Broadcast-Bob Stanley-A Year In The CountryThe Invisible World of Beautify Junkyards-Ghost Box Records-Julian House design

Left-right: mandala like Ghost Box related artwork by Julian House and the album cover art for The Invisible World of Beautify Junkyards.

Broadcast and The Focus Group video still-A Year In The Country 2Broadcast and The Focus Group video still-A Year In The Country 1Broadcast And The Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults Of The Radio Age-video-Julian House-1

Video stills from #1: Witch Cults – collaborative work between Broadcast and Julian House to accompany the album Broadcast and The Focus Group Investigate Witchcults of the Radio Age.

 

Text extracts from Chapter 5 can be viewed here.575px by 1px line

 

Chapter 6 Book Images: Folk Horror Roots – From But a Few Seedlings Did a Great Forest Grow

The Wicker Man-Witchfinder General-folk horror films

Left-right: stills from Witchfinder General, Blood on Satan’s Claw and The Wicker Man.

The Wicker Man-1973-film still-villagers

Still of islanders in folkloric animal masks from The Wicker Man.

The-Wicker-Man-poster-1973-Anthony Shaffer-Peter Snell-Robin Hardy

The Wicker Man poster.

Barbara Steele-Curse Of The Crimson Altar-A Year In The Country 19

Curse of the Crimson Altar still: Barbara Steele in as Lavina Morley, Black Witch of Greymarsh, who is dressed in striking, opulent and almost surreal folkloric garb, including a behorned headdress.

Curse of The Crimson Altar-for one night only

A collage of images from Curse of the Crimson Altar.

Black Sunday-film-Mario Bava-Barbara Steele

Poster for Mario Bava’s Black Sunday, featuring an illustration of Barbara Steel as Katia Vajda / Princess Asa Vajda.

Miss-Jessell-Clytie-Jessop-manifests-by-the-lake-The Innocents 1961-A Year In The CountryThe Innocents-O Willow Waly-George Auric-Isla Cameron-Finders Keepers 7 inch vinyl-Finders Kreepers-A Year In The Country 5

Stills from The Innocents.

Et Mourir De Plaisir-Blood And Roses-1960-Roger Vadim-Il Sangue e la Rosa posterEt Mourir De Plaisir-Blood And Roses-1960-Roger Vadim-6

Et Mourir De Plaisir-Blood And Roses-1960-Roger Vadim Et Mourir De Plaisir-Blood And Roses-1960-Roger Vadim-4

Et Mourir De Plaisir-Blood And Roses-1960-Roger Vadim-5

Stills and posters for Roger Vadim’s Blood and Roses, aka Et Mourir de Plaisir and Il Sangue e la Rosa.

The Stone Tape-1972-logo credits-Nigel KnealeBeasts-TV series-Nigel KnealeThe-Owl-Service-TV-program-A-Year-In-The-Country-3b