Film: Pagan bangs and twangs
`The Wicker Man' soundtrack is available after 25 years.
Thursday 11 June 1998
It is indisputably the strangest cinematic tribute to paganism ever produced in this country, with Edward Woodward's rigidly Presbyterian policeman, sacrificed to fire in a fertility rite. Written by Anthony Shaffer, better known for Sleuth and Frenzy, the film has long been clouded in mystery, hindered by distribution and ownership problems out of its creators control, and subject to dramatically differing cuts.
Jonathan Benton-Hughes of Trunk Records is responsible for bringing the soundtrack to the public's attention. Trunk have achieved recognition for their compilations from the Bosworth Music Archive, with tracks created as incidental music using the most advanced techniques the sixties could offer. Never before available, many of these snippets are already becoming familiar through the sample hungry world of dance music. Benton-Hughes, deeply into soundtracks and other memorabilia, found the challenge of The Wicker Man irresistible, and took over two years to untangle the legal minefields involved, just pipping some rather larger players. "So many people after it", he says, "Even private detectives were involved."
But mere business was hardly the motivation. "It's a little monster, mate. It's been under my skin for a few years now," he admits. "I saw a video of the Alex Cox cut for BBC2 a few years ago, and I thought it was great, the most peculiar thing I'd seen for ages. It had all these noises, twangs and boings. Then there's naked women in graveyards, and the music is fab." He shrugs, as if to say: "what more could you want?". Certainly, the soundtrack, produced by Paul Giovanni, an American devoted to the idea of representing the isolated island community of the film through accurate local music, is a true oddity. Alongside incidental noises, it includes lovingly crafted faux-traditional folk numbers like "Corn Rigs" (based on a Robert Burns poem), the gorgeous "Willow's Song" (mimed by Ekland in the film to a vocal by someone only remembered as a "young girl we found in London"), and the climactic version of the genuinely ancient "Sumer is ecumen in", complete with the sound of conflagration. Not really a collection of songs like modern soundtracks ("They date movies horribly"), but more an evocation of plot, the record works just as well as an ambient piece.
With events such as the annual lighting of a similar figure at Glastonbury and America's Burning Man event in the Nevada desert, such rites seem more contemporary than ever. Perhaps on its 25th anniversary we might even get to see The Wicker Man back on the big screen at last. And if you should find yourself in the Machars peninsula in Southwest Scotland, apparently part of one leg still stands, opposite a caravan site. Paganistically enough.
TVJamie's Sugar Rush reveal's campaigning chef's new foe
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 What marriage would look like if we actually followed the Bible
- 2 President Obama leaves touching comment on Humans of New York photo from Iran
- 3 If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
- 4 The Chinese city where men have 'three girlfriends because there are so many women'
- 5 'Heartbreaking' Syria orphan photo wasn't taken in Syria and not of orphan
The Gamechangers trailer: Daniel Radcliffe stars in GTA movie
Star Wars: New action dolls launched on Force Friday ahead of The Force Awakens release
Ricki And The Flash, film review: Meryl Streep's rock'n'roll creation steals the show
Joan Aiken: Today's Google Doodle celebrates life of British fantasy novelist
Photographer captures the beauty and intensity of his girlfriend giving birth at home
Britain to take more refugees as Cameron bows to pressure after more than 250,000 back our campaign
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Refugees welcome: More than 250,000 sign Independent petition calling for Britain to 'take its fair share'