Saturday, June 2, 2018

The Folk Horror Podcast Episode 4: Robin Redbreast (1970), pt.1

Forgot to mention it actually IN the episode, but this is the first part of what will probably be a two part discussion of Robin Redbreast!

Listen below. But who wants to sit in front of a computer? Download it on your phone! 

The sounds during the letters section is library music by James Harpham, "Nature's World."

From Mike:

Play for Today episode guide:

John Bowen bio:

Some interesting info on John Bowen and RR:

PDF of The Golden Bough:

No Mod Cons.

Someone lost their marbles on her windowsill.

Who sherded?

Sherry, but not Percy Bysshe.

Can you understand a light among the trees?

The eyes have it.
No one smiles if you cross their stiles.

From listener John (about Wicker Man):

- See the Whitby Hand of Glory and Hand of Glories that you can buy!

- The procession tune. See this for more info:

- Not only is Paul Giovanni in one of those shots on the cliffs, Anthony Shaffer is in one too! Check out this shot:

See the man with the green turtleneck behind the woman in the blue top who is behind Howie? That’s Shaffer! His only cameo in the film. The associate music director, Gary Carpenter, dressed up in drag to play the organ in the church scene. You can see a behind the scene shot of that here:

Hardy’s minister cameo, as far as I know, didn’t make any cuts nor did Gary’s.

 - 'Summer is icummin in' is only heard when they set the Wicker Man on fire, not during the procession or at any other time. It’s the oldest song in the English language.  More info on its use here:

- Check out these pictures of a commune that re-created their own Wicker Man. It wasn’t until recently that I found out they their “man” wasn’t one of them made for the film.


  1. Great talk. I think the TV teleplay format is perhaps the reason for its obscurity, not the B/W look. Night of the Demon is B/W too.

    I just cant get over the " poachers" attack - then cut to the victim showing up at the door just fine. And if the disposal is a " Chekhov's Gun" what's the half marble? Great play- filled with dread.

  2. Great start to your Robin Redbreast discussion.

    Here are my thoughts.

    Mike mentions the custom of the BBC to broadcast ghost stories at Christmas. Actually, it is a very old custom to tell ghost stories in England (and in the USA) on Christmas. Even the song "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" mentions "scary ghost stories". With Christmas we are again dealing with a "liminal" date, in many places the Winter Solstice is considered the first day of Winter. So a liminal day like this (it is the border between Autumn and Winter) would be a day when other borders became faint, such as the border between the living and the dead. Hence ghost stories. As early as 1611 William Shakespeare's play "The Winter's Tale" contains the line "A sad tale's best for winter: I have one of sprites and goblins". In other areas, the cold weather starts a little earlier, so the Winter Solstice is considered "Midwinter", and the first day of Winter gets pushed back to what we now call Halloween, again considered a fit day for ghost stories.

    (more to come)

  3. Now, is Mr. Fisher the Fisher King? He certainly seems to be in charge of everything, hence a king. In the stories, the Fisher King as you mentioned is the keeper of the Grail, but also he is seriously wounded and can't walk or ride a horse, which is why he spends his time sitting in a boat fishing. Mr. Fisher's cane may be a vague allusion to this. But the Fisher King's wound has also made him sexually impotent. And his kingdom becomes a Waste Land. Many commentators say that the fertility of the king is connected to the fertility of the kingdom. So when the king becomes infertile, he should be sacrificed and a new, young virile man made the new king. Only in turn to eventually become elderly and have to be sacrificed to make way for the next new king. Anyway, that would be the sort of interpretation that followers of The Golden Bough (By James George Frazer) would support, most modern anthropologists no longer consider The Golden Bough to be good anthropology. This Golden Bough approach to the Fisher King myth was followed by Jessie Weston in her book about the Grail From Ritual to Romance, and both The Golden Bough and From Ritual to Romance were major influences on T.S. Eliot’s famous poem The Waste Land. It seems to me that any or all of these works would have been known to John Bowen.

    And as I was thinking about it, there is a story about the Fisher King that appears in Thomas Malory’s Morte D’Arthur and also in The Once and Future King by T.H.White. Again, either of these could be books known to John Bowen. White portrays the Fisher King as an eccentric occultist, rather like Mr. Fisher. One of the things the Fisher King does, with the help of a magic potion, is gets Sir Lancelot to have sex with the Fisher King’s daughter, thus impregnating her with the future Sir Galahad. This seems to me to parallel the way Mr. Fisher manipulates Rob/Edgar into impregnating Norah.

    Waving trees seem to show up a lot in horror, as you were saying. They were particularly prevalent in that TV series Lost. Fans of the show used to try to guess what was causing all the weirdness on the island. There is a legend of a fan who thought that all of the shots of shaking trees was somehow significant, and so decided that the trees were shaking because they had epilepsy. So in some circles the term “epileptic tree” has come to mean any wild off-the-wall theory about media.

    (more to come)

  4. I’m not sure that the distinction in Britain between “urban” and “rural” folks is a distinction between the “working” class and other classes. Lots of “working” class folks worked (and still work) in the cities created by the industrial revolution. And lots of wealthier people prefer living in the country.

    Rob/Edgar’s obsession with the SS didn’t strike me as particularly odd. The British as a whole seem quite obsessed with World War II, the story of how Britain survived the war is perhaps their most important national story, and is very heavily taught in British schools. World War II seems to be all over the place in British television. Documentaries, dramas, even comedies.

    I don’t think you would have found young people wearing swastikas in Britain in 1970 when this was first broadcast. That sort of stuff didn’t get started until later in the decade (and the explanation is a bit complicated).

    Neil was surprised by Rob’s connecting the SS with King Arthur’s Round Table. To answer that question I have to act a bit like Rob and go into a discussion of the SS. The SS was an inner group of the Nazi party that contained the most fanatical Nazis. It was led by a fellow named Heinrich Himmler. Now Adolf Hitler’s own religious beliefs are still open to some dispute, but it is clear that Himmler believed that the Christian religion was incompatible with Nazi ideology. So Himmler wanted to use the SS to destroy Christianity. He was himself interested in the occult, and wanted to replace Christianity with a racist Nazi version of Neopaganism. In addition, Himmler, like Hitler and other Nazis, was a big fan of the operas of Richard Wagner, some of which were on Arthurian or Holy Grail themes: Parsifal, Tristan und Isolde, and Lohengrin. Himmler incorporated this material into his new SS cult. Eventually, he acquired a castle in the village of Wewelsburg, which he started converting into the focus of the cult. The new decorations included Nazi, Neopagan, and Arthurian elements. (Interesting story how a gold cauldron was found in a German lake in 2001. At first, it was thought to be 2000 years old, but then more research revealed it was created as one of the decorations for Wewelsburg castle!). We really don’t know everything about what strange rituals performed here, or what all of Himmler’s long term plans were. But when the allies finally took the castle they did find a round table modeled on King Arthur’s table, with seats for the leaders of the 12 departments of the SS.

    Now as a King Arthur geek myself, I don’t consider the stories of the Round Table to be racist. In fact, it always seems to be portrayed as a very multiethnic organization. The only group that might be excluded are King Arthur’s enemies the Saxons, which would include a lot of Nazis and SS guys!