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INSIDE THE WICKER MAN: HOW NOT TO MAKE A CULT CLASSIC
By ALLAN BROWN (Polygon; 2000/10)

For anyone with even a passing interest in the 1973 English horror classic THE WICKER MAN this book is a must, being an unusually erudite and well written account of the film's making and reception.

     THE WICKER MAN, about a devoutly religious police sergeant's doomed investigation of a rural community's primitive rituals, remains one of the most unique and influential British films of its era. I'll confess I've always found it a shade overrated, and one of the virtues of this book is that it illuminates how it was that the film never reached its full potential. The circumstances responsible for its failure are sadly all-too common.

     As the subtitle makes clear, this book allegedly concerns itself with how "not" to make a cult classic, with THE WICKER MAN'S shoot apparently "one of the most notorious black comedies in cinema history." Really? Because as one who's worked on his share of low budget movie sets I can attest that there wasn't much here that seemed outside the norm for such fare, from the painfully low budget to the clash of egos between writer-producer Anthony Shaffer and director Robin Hardy to the film's butchering at the hands of clueless studio execs in the wake of a sudden regime change. Trust me, none of those things are especially uncommon!

     Brown, in any event, proves himself a good guide through THE WICKER MAN'S conception, production, distribution and resurrection (it being the very definition of a "cult" film). He also includes extensive descriptions of the film's copious lost footage, as well as info on Shaffer's planned sequel and the dreadful 2006 Hollyweird remake.

     Brown is furthermore quite an opinionated scribe. He dismisses THE EXORCIST, for instance, as a "slab of cross-eyed crap" and is not above offering pithy descriptions of his subjects (co-star Christopher Lee comes off as a first-class blowhard throughout). Brown is certainly entitled to his views, but the book is again best appreciated by WICKER MAN fanatics; as for the rest of you, I strongly doubt Mr. Brown’s opinions will do much to influence yours.

     

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