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                 BOOK REVIEW - ALLAN BROWN - INSIDE THE WICKER MAN 2002. Sidgewick & Jackson 

 

Film study taking an inside look at the history of this troubled classic production. The controversial paganism winning out over Christianity theme was a controversial one, so severe script editing pruned away some of the darker elements of the tale even in pre-production stages. Location work was mostly shot in Scotland, notably around the Galloway Forest, though the opening credit aerial shots of the fertile island of Summerisle (supposedly in the Hebrides) were shot in Africa. There were some problems during filming. Britt Ekland was reluctant to have her nude scenes show her bare bottom, (possibly due to jealousy by her then husband, singer Rod Stewart). A stunt bottom was used from another attractive young actress. The Wicker Man itself was actually three models of various sizes, each of which were destroyed in the filming of the final sacrificial scenes of the film. Real problems arouse in the film editing post-production and distribution stages. Censorship cuts and timing cuts butchered the film, rendering some edits virtually nonsensical. Action originally intended to take two days was rushed to make it look as if events took half that time. The film was finally put out as a supporting feature to another troubled horror film, Donít Look Now, starring Donald Sutherland. To make it fit the time length, even more footage from The Wicker Man was lost. Some people, including Christopher Lee, who was in The Wicker man as Lord Summerisle, believe that valuable film footage was cynically buried in the concrete supports of the British motorway system. Initially, the Wicker Man was a commercial failure; though Lee was convinced rightly that it was his best ever work.He helped to promote the film among US student film societies and it slowly became an underground classic. A recent DVD edition restores all that could be recovered of lost material, giving the film a new prologue sequence and restoring the original timelines of events in the horror story. This book is a remarkable study of the great film that the World almost forgot, and did its own distributors do.

 

Arthur Chappell

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