Monday, April 30, 2018

The Folk Horror Podcast Episode 1: The Wicker Man (1973), pt. 1

 Wicker Man Ride


  1. Hello! Just finished listening to your new podcast (part 1 of your discussion of the Wicker Man)!

    A few points came to mind . . .

    Personally, I don't like using the word "pagan". That is a word that has many contradictory definitions, so using it just leads to confusion. Having said that . . .

    It says in the movie that the old religion on Summerisle completely died and had disappeared and been forgotten. Then Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee) introduced his own religion (which he claims is the old religion) to the island. So really, the people on the island aren't practicing some prehistoric religion, they are practicing a religion more-or-less made up by Lord Summerisle.

    I think that actually makes the movie more realistic, because any detail that isn't particularly historically accurate we can just say was the fault of Lord Summerisle.

    And this parallels the study of these old religions. Back in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and into the twentieth century, the study of British folklore study was mostly conducted by rather overenthusiastic amateurs. These amateurs would make wild guesses about pre-Christian religions. And a lot of these guesses spread and became well-known among the British people. Eventually, there were groups of people who took these imaginative amateur guesses and turned them into religions--these are the Neopagans and Witches (Wiccens). And this is basically what has happened on Summerisle. But about the time that Wicker Man was made, the study of folklore was becoming more professional and scholarly, and the modern folklorists were discovering how many of these antiquarian guesses were completely wrong. But the older, incorrect, interpretations of folklore have continued to be more known popularly, and continue to be spread by Neopagans and Wiccens and similar groups.

    You didn't mention that Anthony Shaffer is the brother (Wikipedia says the identical twin brother) of Peter Shaffer, who is also a writer of plays and films. I have sometimes seen the two get confused, and confusion between which works are by which brother.

    And a couple small details. A "rig" such as a "corn rig" or "barley rig" is something you find in a plowed field. When you plow a field, there is the small ditch that is left in the path of the plow, this is called the "furrow" or the "run". The earth that is moved to make way for the furrow then gets pushed into a small row, a few inches high, between each of the furrows. That is what is called the "ridge" or "rig". Go and walk in a recently plowed field and you will see what I mean.

    And the "Green Man" is NOT the most common pub sign in Britain. The most common is actually the "Red Lion". I once read about an American tourist who thought that "Red Lion" pubs were a chain because there were so many!

  2. Hi Neil,

    A great source of info about the movie is Brown’s book. It’s out of date, much has been learned since then but still the most inclusive source of info about the film. I and some others, have made a wiki that is also full of good information. You can find that here:
    (I highly recommend a Facebook group for the movie too. You can see that here:

    The rights to the book Ritual by David Pinner were bought by Shaffer/British Lion to be used as film but it was decided that that it wouldn’t work so was abandoned. Yes, there are many similarites. Look for other blogs on the what really happened.

    The painting on the ceiling of the Green Man was a tarot card painted by Diane Cilento, Miss Rose in the film. It is of the sun, as you guessed and is the High Priestess card. I don’t know about tarot but you can look that up.

    The eye on the boat is a real boat that they found on location at Plockton, owned by a fisherman. The evil eye is a Mediterranean tradition but when you find something like that, you use it in a film like this. It was later destroyed in a storm. You can read about it here:

    I’ve never heard that story of Robin Hardy stumbling into a pub where singing was going (at a festival?) on as being the impetus for making the film. See Brown’s book for a more commonly known explanation for how it got started. (Would love to know where that story came from. If you can point me to it, that’d be great.)

    (Yes, do go to the Hasting’s Green Man festival… Also go to Padstow on May Day to see the ‘oss.)

    No, the soundtrack doesn’t have lots of psychedelic guitars in it. Only in that one scene, the cave chase. (That was put in at the (clueless) studio’s insistence, over Hardy’s dead body according to him.)

    See the story of the soundtrack on Gary Carpenter’s site:

    All the original film was destroyed/lost. No, it wasn’t buried under a motorway.

    Howie being massaged is a shot taken by the set photographer. It wasn’t a scene, only Britt being nice to Edward Woodward.

    No, the missing scenes weren’t cut but the censors. Most never made it into the first version of the film sadly. I’d love to see ALL the scenes that were shot. (Christopher Lee thinks they may be hidden away on purpose so maybe they will reappear someday.)

    Looking forward to the rest of these podcasts.


    John L

  3. Hi,

    Thanks TheRealKEVP for the reminder on the Shaffer brothers (I continue to mix them up) and the clarification on rigs which I've always wondered about since first seeing the movie and hearing the opening tune. By the way, that American tourist was me, Red Lion is a hotel chain on the this side of the pond and my work had our holiday party at the one in Seattle.

    Thanks for the book recommendations and all the great links, John. I read that story about Robin walking into a pub in the midst of a singalong (the Landlord's Daughter?) in the Cinefantisque issue that was dedicated to The Wicker Man. Someone uploaded it here:

    Thanks again for pointing out more interesting things about this endlessly fascinating film,