"The Wicker Man: The Official Story of the Film" Book Review

Written by Robert Gold

Published by Titan Books

Written by John Walsh
2023, 192 pages, Reference
Book released on November 7th, 2023

Review:

When a young girl vanishes from a remote Scottish island, Police Sergeant Neil Howie (Edward Woodward) travels from the mainland to investigate. Howie is an ultra-conservative Christian whose beliefs are challenged when he encounters the pagan community on Summerisle. The locals stonewall his efforts, claiming never to have heard of the missing child, insisting he speak to the community leader, Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee), for permission to continue his investigation. Howie is shocked and offended by the casual open sexuality of the inhabitants, particularly the barkeeper’s daughter Willow (Britt Ekland). Howie’s pursuit of the truth will lead him on a harrowing journey, culminating in a shocking resolution.

The Wicker Man (1973) has been called “the Citizen Kane of horror movies” (Cinefantastique magazine), and for fifty years has developed a dedicated cult following. Stories of this production and difficult release are legendary within the genre. There have been multiple edits of the film released over the decades, most recently a hybrid “Final Cut” culled from various sources, as the original camera negative has been lost.

In his new book The Wicker Man: The Official Story of the Film, author John Walsh takes a deep dive into the complicated history of this mistreated classic. Following a thoughtful introduction, Walsh takes a look at the numerous appearances of wicker men in artworks and writings through history and from there discusses David Pinner’s source novel Ritual. The author covers all aspects of this production, starting with a look at the cast, including Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Britt Ekland and Ingrid Pitt. Biographical information and interview excerpts provide a detailed study of the key players. Not satisfied with such a narrow focus, Walsh goes on to track down and interview many of the supporting players and background actors who provide additional perspective.

Moving on to the talent behind the camera, the author gives thorough coverage to director Robin Hardy, screenwriter Anthony Schaffer, producer Peter Snell and production designer Seamus Flannery. The most compelling interview comes courtesy of distributor British Lion’s own Michael Deeley, the man forever painted as the villain in this story for his drastic cuts to the finished film. Deeley defends his decisions, insisting without his edits the picture would not have been released at all. He has some choice words for Christopher Lee, who never missed an opportunity to badmouth Deeley in the press.

Having covered all the key talent on both sides of the camera, Walsh shares numerous first-hand accounts of production stories from the daily shoot. Topics include the locations, the performances, the songs, and capturing the fiery conclusion. From there, he moves on to cover the post-production process, focusing on the work of the composer and editor before discussing the movie’s initial release and public response. Looking ahead a few years, the author discusses the various re-edits and re-releases, including The Director’s Cut and The Final Cut. There is also a lovely chapter displaying legacy artwork for the film, both commissioned and fan submissions.

The Wicker Man: The Official Story of the Film is filled with information spread across eighteen chapters, the pages filled with rare, some never before seen behind-the-scenes photographs in color and black and white. Devoted fans and newcomers alike will find this tome brimming with little-known facts and fascinating stories.

Grades:

Overall: 5 Star Rating Cover
Buy from Amazon US.
Cover
Buy from Amazon UK.

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Robert Gold
Staff Reviewer
Robert's favorite genres include horror (foreign and domestic), Asian cinema and pornography (foreign and domestic). His ability to seek out and enjoy shot on video (SOV) horror movies is unmatched. His love of films with a budget under $100,000 is unapologetic.
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