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The Wicker Man Soundtrack and a Summer Isle Mini-Industry: Wanderings 7/26

A while ago I sat down and listened to the 1998 Trunk Records of The Wicker Man soundtrack back to back with the Silva Screen version that was first released in 2002 and which was also included with the 40th anniversary home release of the film and has had various reissues on CD and vinyl.

As you may well know if you are reading this the soundtrack was composed and arranged by Paul Giovanni and performed by him and the band Magnet, which was formed in order to record the soundtrack and was assembled by the film’s associate musical director Gary Carpenter.

It is easy to forget just how odd and unique the soundtrack is. It feels very much like part of older British traditional music even though only a small part of it is directly traditional in origin.

The Trunk Records release is described as “The original motion picture soundtrack music and effects” and is not a conventional soundtrack album where each song is presented as an isolated whole, possibly with snippets of dialogue from the film between the tracks. On this album the songs, effects and so on are sequenced into one another and at points fragments of earlier songs reappear and fade in and out:

“The original music and effects tapes were found and carefully copied, and the LP release is an identical copy of the sounds found on these tapes.” (Quoted from the Trunk Records site.)

(Above: the 1998 Trunk Records release of the soundtrack which included a map of Summer Isle.)

It isn’t purely a straightforward edited recording of the film’s audio… it’s more like it takes you a journey through the atmosphere of the film, one which evokes a sense memory of its story rather than telling it in full and it captures the “otherly” character of the film.

Something which struck me when you sit down and listen to the lyrics is their obsession with fecundity. They are more than bawdy, more a sort of overwhelming sleazyness masked by a connection to nature. They become akin to a form of propaganda intended to convince the listener/islanders that this is the correct and natural way of being and there is a sort of overpowering enforcement of conformity to them, disguised as a form of liberal paganism.

The current interest and critical appreciation of The Wicker Man can in part be traced back to the Trunk Records release of the soundtrack; at the time of its release the film was not overly referenced and the release was one of the sparks (apologies for the accidental sort of pun) that started its rehabilitation.

My copy of the CD still has the HMV price sticker on the back and cost £14.95, which allowing for inflation since the late ’90s means it probable cost the contemporary equivalent of £25. Blimey (!)

The Silva Screen edition of the soundtrack is more conventionally presented and features isolated complete songs accompanied by some snippets of the film’s dialogue and at times it seems almost curiously showbiz-like in comparison to the Trunk Records edition. It isn’t sequenced in the order that the music appears on the album but rather is front loaded with the “hits” – Corn Rigs, The Landlord’s Daughter and Gently Johnny.

Both versions of the soundtrack have their champions and pros and cons and they complement one another in a manner which is in keeping with the film’s history in the sense of there not being a definitive, complete and final version of the film known to still be in existence.

Interest in The Wicker Man only seems to grow as the years pass, as do the number of releases and reissues of books, DVDs, Blu-rays, posters, zines, documentaries, trading cards, soundtracks etc related to it. As I’ve commented before the film has inspired a mini-industry all unto itself.

I suppose collecting multiple releases of a film, alongside related merchandise, is not all that different to say following a band and buying different versions of their singles back in the ’80s and 90s, which sometimes varied only slightly in content and at times it was only the cover art that was different. However, if you were to attempt to be a completist Wicker Man collector you would probably need a fair few pounds and also a fair amount of shelf space.

In this post I gather together some of the output (very bountiful harvest?) from the Summer Isle mini-industry…

The first more full length (well, sort of, this is The Wicker Man after all) and archival “proper” home UK release of the film.

The Quest for The Wicker Man, Constructing The Wicker Man and the two editions of Allan Brown’s Inside The Wicker Man non-fiction books.

One of the many and varied poster designs.


A title graphic which accompanied the BFI’s Sing Cuckoo: The Story of The Wicker Man Soundtrack documentary, which featured amongst others Stephen Cracknell of The Memory Band and Jonny Trunk of Trunk Records.

Covers to two issues of Nuada – “The Wicker Man journal” from the late 90s.

Artwork which accompanies Stephen Applebaum’s eBook of conversations with Robin Hardy, Anthony Shaffer and Edward Woodward.

The first edition of The Wicker Man novel and a reissue.

The Wicker Man The Complete Piano Songbook.

Images from The Wicker Man press book.

More images from The Wicker Man press book and a collection of images from The Wicker Man trading cards.

The DVD of The Wicker Man given away free with The Guardian newspaper – and for completist purposes as in its early days The Wicker Man shared a double bill with it, the DVD of Don’t Look Now that was given away free with The Observer newspaper.

More images from The Wicker Man trading cards, including various “chase”-able collectibles such as original print blocks, signed cards etc.

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

Various DVD, VHS, poster, novel and soundtrack covers etc (including a revisit to the Trunk Records edition). No laser disc I notice, which I don’t think the film was released on…

…but talking of rarer formats, above are two Betamax versions.


The limited edition Record Store Day seven-inch single of Willow’s Song and Gently Johnny released by Silva Screen in 2012.

One of the various VHS covers.

The limited edition poster released in 2013 to accompany the Silva Screen limited edition reissue of the soundtrack and another trading card printing block and I think one of the collectible “chase” trading cards.

The issue of Sight & Sound magazine with The Wicker Man as the cover feature and Vic Pratt’s Long Arm of the Lore article from the magazine and the The Films of Old, Weird Britain issue with cover art partly inspired by The Wicker Man.


And last but definitely not least… one of the places where the current interest in and critical acceptance of The Wicker Man can be traced to; Volume 6 Number 3 of Cinefantastique that was published in 1977, which was an issue of the magazine that largely focused on The Wicker Man.

 

Links:

 

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country (well, a few of such things, I expect there are more):

 

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Constructing The Wicker Man and Explorations of the Bright, Beautiful and Serene Anti-Horror of Summerisle from Back When: Wanderings 44/52

Constructing The Wicker Man (2005) is a collection of essays that explore The Wicker Man, edited by Jonathan Murray, Lesley Stevenson, Stephen Harper and Benjamin Franks and based around contributions to an academic conference on the film that took place at the University of Glasgow in 2003.

It was the first time that such an event had focused on The Wicker Man at a point when the film was still going through something of a period of growing critical and cult appreciation. It also forebears more recent academic conferences which focus on flipside of folklore related culture, including A Fiend in the Furrows at Queen’s University in 2014, Child Be Strange: A Symposium on Penda’s Fen at the BFI in 2017,  the various Alchemical Landscape related events at Cambridge University which began in 2015, the Centre for Contemporary Legend’s Folklore on Screen conference at Sheffield Hallam University in 2019, The Geographies of Folk Horror: from the Strange Rural to the Urban Wyrd conference at the Royal Geographic Society in 2019, Folk Horror in the 21st Century conference at Falmouth University in 2019 and the upcoming Contemporary Folk Horror in Film and Media Conference at Leeds Beckett University in 2020.

(I have written about those various events at A Year In The Country previously – see links below.)

The book is particularly rare and in terms of books I’ve sought out during the A Year In The Country wanderings that have been hard to find I would put it next to Brian Freemantle’s novelisation of the 1968 film The Touchables and Filming The Owl Service. Second hand copies of Constructing The Wicker Man do appear online from time to time but often there aren’t any to be found.

In 2006 there was a companion book to it published called The Quest for The Wicker Man that drew from the same conference and was edited by the same people which, while it is currently out of print, seems to have had a wider release and copies can still more frequently be found online and generally at a lower price than Constructing The Wicker Man.

Both books could also be seen as companions to the editions of Allan Brown’s more pop culture orientated exploration of the film Inside The Wicker Man.

There is a link below to an in-depth exploration and analysis of Constructing The Wicker Man at the Offscreen website – one of the few pieces of writing about it I can find. That article ends with a still from The Wicker Man captioned with “Bright, Beautiful and Serene: Anti-horror?”, which quite succinctly captures one of the intriguing and curious contradictions of folk horror and related work; the way that rural areas are often places of beauty, respite and so on – sometimes in the real world, sometimes in the films etc which have been labelled as folk horror – but how within such work this sense of the bucolic has an unsettled flipside.

The Wicker Man’s director and co-writer of the novelisation Robin Hardy also provides writing for both Constructing The Wicker Man and The Quest for The Wicker Man books; a short Foreword in Constructing…, where he describes the film’s now well known stilted and staggered release and slow accumulation towards cult and critical appreciation and a longer piece called The Genesis of The Wicker Man in The Quest… in which he discusses the inspirations and development of the film. Robin Hardy is also interviewed later in the book and Gary Carpenter, who was an arranger-orchestrator on the soundtrack, also contributes an article, all of which adds a nice extra touch of direct connection with those who worked on the film.

Curiously my copy of Quest For The Wicker Man is signed. It was bought as a used item and I’m not sure who it was signed by, as it was not mentioned by the seller. The signature is fairly abstract but I think that it begins with an R, so it may be Robin Hardy.

Hmmm…

 

Elsewhere:

 

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

 

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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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The Nightmare Man Part 1 – Cold War Paranoia, The Island as Restorative Balm and Unsettling “Other”: Wanderings 42/52

The Nightmare Man is a British science fiction horror tinged four part mini-series originally broadcast in 1981, adapted from David Wiltshire’s 1978 novel Child of Vodyanoi.

It is set on a small-ish remote Scottish island where the inhabitants start to be attacked and murdered by an unknown assailant with the beyond human strength to literally tear their victims apart and non-human characteristics and for a while during the series there is various debate about whether the attacker could be of alien origin or even a previously undiscovered sea creature or monster.

As the series progresses the island becomes almost completely isolated from the outside world and any possible external help as a heavy fog descends making nagivation to or from it impossible. Radio signals appear to possibly be jammed and the phone lines are cut; as is often the case in fantastical horror orientated work remote rural areas are shown as being the “other” and detached from civilisation and its extensive infrastructure and support of the forces of law and order, something which is further enhanced in the series in a Wicker Man-esque manner by the island location.

Four local police officers are left to try and contain and capture the killer on 35 miles of largely rural landscape made inaccessible due to the inclement weather conditions, although there does appear to be a curious amount of near-military and armed support for them; the local dentist is an ex army-partrooper, one of the local holiday makers is a military man, the local coastguard are armed and their hunt for the attacker the police are able to collect together and lead bands of nearly forty locals who possess their own firearms.

In the UK the ownership of firearms has traditionally been largely heavily restricted and limited, particularly in urban areas but the fact that so many of the locals in this rural coastal area have easy access to them subconsciously provides a further sense of remove from more mainstream mainland society; although the ownership of such weapons is likely to have been largely due to sport and/or agricultural pest control reasons, this is not made implicit in the series and so the viewer is left with a sense of such areas being almost frontier like places where normal societal restrictions and expectations do not hold such a sway as in urban areas.

Shot largely on location and recorded on video the series’ imagery and colour palette has a murky, low definition appearance and is all subdued greys and greens that are distinctive of a large proportion of drama from the 1970s and 1980s; also much of the series is shot at night, in daytime shadowed underlit locations and/or through heavy fog and it is often difficult to fully make out what is happening onscreen. This is accompanied by the viewer being kept in the dark about the attacker’s origins, rationale or even what it is and for a large part of the series the attacker is also not shown onscreen which adds to the sense of menace and tension.

Further heightening this when the attacker does appear the viewer is shown the scene from its viewpoint and the image becomes heavily tinted with a red haze, accompanied by laboured, heavy and unnatural sounding breathing.

This is a technically simple device that is far removed from today’s CGI-heavy large budget special effects and although the physical aspects and dismembering are referred to by the characters there is little onscreen violence and no gore but the presence of the attacker still creates a strong sense of threat and terror utilising minimal resources and without the use of overly explicit graphic imagery.

Although the rural coastal landscape is presented in a somewhat bleak or dour manner this is still the type of area associated with calm, rest, a steady way of life and vacations, which is referred to in the series in particular by one of the lead characters who has returned to live there after London and says that she knows she will live on the island forever as it is home and where she belongs. The contrast with such day-to-day calm and normal expectations and the sudden almost alien seeming appearance of the attacker’s red hazed vision makes for shocking and unsettling viewing.

The contrasting aspects of the restorative nature of the landscape and the events that take place there is given further expression in the closing sections and credits; the ends of the first three episodes freeze on a still of these red hazed attacks, the discovery of a victim and the fear of an onlooker seeing an attack who is also a potential victim, all of which then fade into the gentle waves of a grey misty rural cliff top coastline as the credits roll. Once the theme music fades out there are a few brief seconds where the only noise is a very lonely and isolated seeming recording of the wind.

Later on in the series the attacker’s origins are discovered to be rooted in the international tensions and arms technology research of the time, which adds a plausible period aspect of Cold War related paranoia and also layers the sense of threat in the series with real world worries and fears; it is explained that a NATO submarine was trailing a Soviet submarine and there was a collision and a nuclear accident, the fallout from which caused the malfunction of a small Soviet experimental craft called a Vodyanoid and the irradiation of its pilot, who has been genetically modified to increase his strength and was cybernetically connected via a brain implant with his craft.

The Vodyanoid’s pilot had made an emergency landing on the island; it is explained in the plot that disconnecting from the Vodyanoid normally required skilled handlers, who because of the situation are not present and so when the pilot disembarks he literally leaves part of his brain in the craft’s cybernetics, with him being left as a deranged madman operating only on a remaining instinct to kill that has been honed and enhanced over years of military training.

This is told by the holidaying military man who after attempting to present himself as a British military leader and placing the island under martial law in an attempt to control the situation is ultimately revealed to be the leader of a specialised Soviet military unit, which comes to the island in order to reclaim the Vodyanoid craft and hopefully avoid an international incident. The craft is revealed to be carrying a biological warfare weapon which has leaked and the Soviets supply the local population with an antidote.

This aspect of the plot further heightens the series’ connection with Cold War paranoia; the “nobody wins” aspects of suspected biological warfare and the sense of hidden subterranean international activity by the Soviets, alongside which UK national sovereignty is invaded with impunity and without effective resistance by a a Soviet military taskforce. Also the pilot of the Vodyanoid leaves a radioactive trail due to his being caught in the blast from the nuclear submarine collision and when in the series a geiger counter is activated by his presence there is a sense of the nuclear dangers of the Cold War coming into contact with the day-to-day world…

To be continued in Part 2 (which, depending on when you are reading this, may not yet be online).

 

Elsewhere:

  1. The Nightmare Man DVD
  2. A very particular period snapshot: the opening and closing continuity announcements for the opening episode of BBC1’s 1981 thriller series “The Nightmare Man”, posted by The TV Museum

 

Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:

  1. The Nightmare Man Part 2 – Frankenstein-like Meddling, Vodaynoid Myths and Exploratory Portals: Wanderings 43/52
  2. Day #183/365: Steam engine time and remnants of transmissions before the flood
  3. Day #212/365: With but a tap and a swoosh; the loss of loss and paper encapturings of once fleeting televisual flickerings…

 

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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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Willow’s Songs – A Haunting Lament and Tales of Late Night Trysts: Revisiting 9/26

Willow’s Songs is a compilation released in 2009 by Finders Keepers Records which gathers together “12 vintage recordings of haunting, rowdy and risque British balladry” which are said to have influenced the soundtrack to The Wicker Man.

The album was released after the first official release of The Wicker Man’s soundtrack in 1998 by Trunk Records. It is part of a not-so-small industry of all things Summer Isle related, that takes in multiple releases of the film on DVD and Blu-ray, the soundtrack and novel, alongside collectors cards, documentaries, academic conferences, a book of sheet music, zines, t-shirts, posters, several non-fiction books, near endless seeming posts online and so on.

Six of the tracks don’t have recording artists listed, which as I said in the first year of A Year In The Country, is quite nice in these days of instant digital knowledge about almost everything. It helps to create a slight sense of mystery to the songs, which suits both The Wicker Man itself and the many myths that surround its production, and also the sense of mystery and ancient semi-known tales which sometimes surrounds traditional folk music and culture, particularly in its more “wyrd” aspects, interpretations and explorations

As I also say in the first year of A Year In The Country it is Highland Lament, the first track on the album, which is a particular standout for me. I’m listening to it as I type and it has a timeless quality and is indeed haunting, both musically and in its heartbreaking tale of dispossession due to the “unrelenting cruelties” of those in power.

On the 2002 Silva Screen release of The Wicker Man soundtrack the song is known as “Opening Music” and is used as Sergeant Howie flies towards Summer Isle. The song is shortened so that the lyrics only tell of rural hardship and poverty but not actual dispossession; its use ties in with the imagery and themes of the film, being heard as Howie flies over more arid landscape but then once he arrives over the fertile greenery of Summer Isle it ends and “Corn Rigs” sung by Paul Giovanni begins and tells of “bonnie” crops and late night trysting amongst them.

 

The original post published during the first year of A Year In The Country:

 

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The Owl Service’s The View from a Hill – Ploughing the Furrows for the Future Blooming of Otherly Pastoral Culture: Revisiting 8/26

The View from a Hill by The Owl Service was one of the first albums I bought when the ideas and themes of what would become A Year In The Country first began to coalesce, alongside the “cosmic aquatic folklore” of Jane Weaver Septième Soeur’s The Fallen by Watchbird, the enigmatic cut-ups of Broadcast and The Focus Group Investigate Witchcults of the Radio Age, and Gather in the Mushrooms, on which Bob Stanley curated British acid folk from the 1960s and 1970s.

The album revisits and reinterprets traditional folk music in a way that is very accessible but also it is not purely mainstream folk music, or as I said during the first year of A Year In The Country, it is an exploration of the patterns beneath the plough.

The album’s title is in part inspired by M.R. James’ short ghost story A View from a Hill, in which a historian borrows a pair of binoculars that have been bewitched in order to show objects which no longer exist. The story was adapted for television in 2005 as part of BBC Four’s revival of the Ghost Story for Christmas series that was originally broadcast between 1971 and 1978. The series has included a number of adaptations of M. R. James’ stories, and the original episodes have become ongoing hauntological / otherly pastoral reference points.

The Owl Service was formed by Steven Collins in 2006 and he has said that:

“Essentially what I was trying to do at the start was to somehow capture in sound the feel of some films and TV shows that had a major effect on me as a child – things which, for reasons I can’t explain, have always evoked the same feeling in me as my favorite folk music. Films like The Wicker Man, Blood on Satan’s Claw, and the Quatermass films, and also TV shows like Children of the Stones, The Stone Tape and the BBC’s M.R. James adaptations.”

In this sense it could be considered to have helped laid the pathways, or ploughed the furrows, for the current blooming of interest in wyrd folk / otherly pastoral culture, and where it intertwines with the parallel worlds and spectres of hauntology.

 

The original post published during the first year of A Year In The Country:

  • Day #30/365: The Owl Service – The View from a Hill

 

Index: Year 6

Click the links below to peruse wanderings from the different years of A Year In The Country:

Index: Year 1      –      Index: Year 2      –      Index: Year 3      –      Index: Year 4      –      Index: Year 5      –      Index: Year 6

 

Index: Year 6:
The Corn Mother Novella and The Corn Mother: Night Wraiths Album – Release date 16th March 2020
Build Your Own Stonehenge Model Kits (and Other Sacred, Profane and Playful Simulacra): Wanderings 1/26
250-0001-A-Year-In-The-Country-Gather-In-The-MushroomsGather in the Mushrooms: Revisiting 1/26
Lisa Bond’s Landscape Phantasms: Wanderings 2/26
The Quietened Journey – Reviews, Broadcasts and Dreams of Overgrown Sidings and Crumbling Platforms
Rob Young’s Electric Eden: Revisiting 2/26
Worzel Gummidge – Mackenzie Crook’s Albion in the Overgrowth Recalibrating of Mainstream Family Television: Wanderings 3/26
Day-14-The-Twilight-Language-Of-Nigel-Kneale-Strange-Attractor-A-Year-In-The-Country-1The Twilight Language of Nigel Kneale: Revisiting 2/26
The Corn Mother Novella and The Corn Mother: Night Wraiths Album – Released 16th March 2020
Marion Adnams, Paul Nash and Matthew Lyons – Wyrd Culture Forebears, Otherly Geometric Landscapes and the Shape of the Future’s Past: Wanderings 4/26
250-Day-6-The-Fallen-By-Watch-Bird-Jane-Weaver-1-A-Year-In-The-Country-575x314Jane Weaver Septième Soeur’s The Fallen by Watchbird: Revisiting 4/26
A Quatermass Book Mini-Achive: Wanderings 5/26
Day-7-Devon-Folklore-Tapes-Vol-IV-Magpahi-and-Paper-Dollhouse-A-Year-In-The-Country-2Folklore Tapes – Rekindling Myths and Otherly Geometry: Revisiting 5/52
The Corn Mother Novella and The Corn Mother: Night Wraiths Album: Released
Future City – Experiment and Utopia in Architecture 1956-2006: Wanderings 6/26
The Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society: Revisiting 6/26
The Wicker Man Soundtrack and a Summer Isle Mini-Industry: Wanderings 7/26
She Wants to be Flowers – Filming The Owl Service: Revisiting 7/26
77 Posters / 77 Plakatow, Quest for Love and The Man Who Haunted Himself – The Phantasmagoric Parallel World of Eastern European Film Posters and Other Cinematic Alternate Realities: Wanderings 8/26
The Owl Service’s The View from a Hill – Ploughing the Furrows for the Future Blooming of Otherly Pastoral Culture: Revisiting 8/26

To be continued throughout 2020…

 

Click the links below to peruse wanderings from the different years of A Year In The Country:

Index: Year 1      –      Index: Year 2      –      Index: Year 3      –      Index: Year 4      –      Index: Year 5      –      Index: Year 6

 

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Gather in the Mushrooms: Revisiting 1/26

Due to the ever-expanding nature of the internet and the way that search engine results often seem to focus on more recent posts etc, a lot of older online content can be, if not lost, then at least a little lost-to-view. A bit like a book in an overcrowded second-hand bookshop that’s hidden away near the bottom of a pile of books. Still worth a look-see but you’ve got to forage a bit to find it.

I’ve had something of a hankering to return to and have a wander through the first year of A Year In The Country, to revisit some old cultural “friends” and inspirations. Maybe it will be a bit like picking up an old magazine that you’ve had on the shelves for years but haven’t browsed through for a fair old while.

I find myself enjoying that, appreciating the way that the contents can be like time capsules or snapshots of a particular point in time, and also how sometimes things that you missed the first time around or didn’t fully take in can now catch your eye and interest.

(As an aside, I also appreciate, particuarly in older music magazines, the prices of things back then – adverts for gigs by bands who now play stadiums and that it might cost you £80 or more to see playing a small venue with an entry fee of £2.50 and so on.)

Sometimes as well, when you pick up older magazines you spot cultural trends or themes that weren’t apparent at the time. Picking up an older magazine can also sometimes give you a moment to stop, pause and reflect, which is somewhat precious in these times of such a vast array of access to culture in various forms.

It’s also a form of digital scrapbooking, in a not dissimilar way that once upon a time people may have created actual scrapbooks of things in magazines etc that caught their eye.

These posts are in part inspired by all that and this is the first of a series of posts which will revisit posts from the first year of A Year In The Country.

And so, without further ado, the first of these “revisitings” jumps all the way back to one of the very first posts at A Year In The Country:

The collection of acid folk etc on the Gather in the Mushrooms compilation album released in 2004 was a notable inspiration for A Year In The Country. Particularly Trader Horne’s Morning Way, that begins with “Dreaming strands of nightmare, Are sticking to my feet”, which seemed to open something up in my mind and thoroughly cast aside any preconceptions of folk music I had.

Compiled by Bob Stanley of Saint Etienne, it has the subtitle The British Acid Folk Underground 1968-1974. Alongside Trader Horne it includes, amongst other things, an instrumental version of Magnet’s Corn Riggs from The Wicker Man soundtrack, the ethereal gothic folk of Forest’s Graveyard, Pentangle’s haunting take on traditional song Lyke Wake Dirge, Sandy Denny’s beguiling journey through love and the seasons Milk and Honey and Sallyangie’s Love in Ice Crystals, which features a rather young Mike Oldfield and his sister prior to his Tubular Bells fame.

The album is a rather fine and concise gathering and representation of the different strands of exploration in British folk in the late 1960s and into the 1970s, and although it is long out of print and can sometimes be a bit pricey used, it is well worth seeking out.

 

The original post published during the first year of A Year In The Country:

 

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Build Your Own Stonehenge Model Kits (and Other Sacred, Profane and Playful Simulacra): Wanderings 1/26

Now, I know that Stonehenge holds a unique place in people’s imaginations, and there are endless and ongoing debates about why  and how it was built etc.

Alongside more traditional heritage and archaeological interest in them, the sense of mystery, the ancient past and so on that stone circle’s often contain also interconnects with a “wyrd” or “otherly” sense of history, folk culture and so on, which has added to the interest in them.

I also knew that there have been an awful lot of books published on Stonehenge and stone circles in general. However, even allowing for all that I was still somewhat pleasantly surprised to see just how many Stonehenge model and construction kits of one form or another have been released commercially. In this post are just a few of those that I’ve come across.

English Heritage’s online shop stocks some of them along with all kind of Stonehenge ornaments, including two different “Stonehenges in a tin” (!)

English Heritage also used to sell a Stonehenge fridge magnet cross stitch kit, which I rather liked the idea and look of, as it seems to interweave so many things in a sort of slightly wrong but also interesting way; a certain Wicker Man-esque aesthetic, ancient history, traditional crafts, the commercialisation of religious or sacred souvenirs etc. Other related cross stitch items which I don’t think are still available from them include a bookmark and a keyring. For some reason the bookmark seems a bit more “acceptable” than a fridge magnet or a keyring, perhaps because books are often held in higher esteem than such things.

I like the figures of the visiters in the pop-out kit above, who seem to variously be questioning or bemused by Stonehenge, or in one case imagining an elaborate possibly worship orientated wooden structure over the top of it.

(Above: Stonehenge model kit with Arthurian extras, completed by zoidpinhead – link below.)

These various model kits seem to be a mixture, and possibly inspired by, an interest in the sacred, profane and at times just sheer playfulness. In that sense, they could well be filed alongside some of HeyKidsRocknRoll pop-up diorama sets of the likes of Delia Derbyshire, The Stone Tape, Quatermass and the Pit, The Wicker Man etc. Those dioramas could be considered examples of when contemporary secular cultural work, which for some people has gained an almost sacred-like aspect, is the inspiration for playful or child-like build at home ornaments.

Actually, surprisingly, I don’t think HeyKidsRocknRoll have made a Stonehenge or stone circle related diorama. A Halloween III: Season of the Witch set might well work, one which incorporated the film’s nefarious company scientists’ lab and their use of chippings from Stonehenge, the ancient power of which is used in novelty Halloween masks sold to the public, that are intended to bring about the destruction of their wearers.

Another reference point might also be Zupagrika’s various build your own Brutalist architecture kits, particularly those based on Soviet-era Eastern Bloc architecture, as that was built during and as symbols of a regime which attempted to do away with traditional religion and replace it with a belief or faith system based around the political system and its figureheads.

The above model isn’t a Stonehenge LEGO kit as it first may appear, but rather a LEGO compatible nanoblock kit, which in its utilising of the grey areas of copyright law could well be considered a form of profanity in terms of the corporate world’s belief systems.

I was rather taken by the above adapted kit, the photograph of which is included in an article on building your own miniature stonehenge garden – link below.

When I was searching for Stonehenge model kits I came across a blog called Clonehenge which contains a searchable set of posts, lists etc of Stonhenge replicas “from the megalithic follies of the 1800s to the present”. It includes amongst other things posts on retail bought and custom kit builds, large permanent replicas and laptophenge which, of course, does what it say on t