Thursday, 23 June 2011

news from nowhere

Our year twelve students are back at school for the last few weeks of term.  Mine hadn't ever seen The Wicker Man ( I'll be ignoring the pointless remake, much like I've generally done in my life anyway).  So, I made them come in early for the lesson as I told them it is totally pointless trying to watch it unless it is in one sitting.  Which it is. Without the build up there is no sense of genuine horror as the whole film changes at about the time of the May Day procession.

Needless to say, they found it a "bit strange" but seemed to enjoy it as most young people do when they're forced to watch it.  Now, I don't care what anybody thinks about the film, I just happen to think it is one of the best British films ever made.  That's probably because it is so unique.

I remember seeing it when it first came out in 1973 as the support film to Don't Look Now at a time when B-movies generally had finished. I somehow forgot about it until about 1982 or 3 when it appeared on a late night tv horror slot.  As I watched it all unfold, it gradually dawned on me that it was very familiar.  Having grown up reading Dennis Wheatley books and Man, Myth and Magic*, it all seemed exciting and within my sphere of interest.

Having sat through the film about fifteen or more times over the last ten years - plus analysing scenes and watching the Director's Cut additional scenes - I am very familiar with it.  I just can't find it boring - sure, there are some clunky moments in it - but I've always wanted to read the novel based on it by Robin Hardy.  This has been impossible to get hold of - until now. It's been out for a while evidently, so I've ordered it from Amazon.  But whilst ordering it, I found out that Hardy had written another book quite similar called Cowboys for Christ.  As these things do, it led on to me exploring further. Evidently Cowboys for Christ has been retitled and is being re-printed as The Wicker Tree.  This is the title of the long-awaited film sequel that Hardy started talking about not long after making TWM. Not only that, but there is already a website for the presumably soon to be released film (here).  So it seems imminent.

Anyway, to the main point of my ramblings. I warn you now about watching the trailer as it gives far too much away.  It seems that nowadays everyone has to know everything before they watch a film/tv programme/whatever.  You know, all those ridiculous spoilers in newspapers and tv listings magazines that tell you everything about a soap opera before it happens.  The same happens with films. Why not wait and watch the damned thing and let it unfold?

Oh Jesus Christ! No!
The first time I saw TWM I had absolutely no idea about what was going to happen or where it was going.  Now, even the dvd has the actual Wicker Man burning on the cover and main menu, so this leads to fewer surprises for newcomers.  Surely audiences only expect this treatment because that is how they are treated by a cynical media. In a way I am disappointed that I watched the trailer now - it looks great but I feel that I can see exactly what's going to happen.  I also presume that the "Company" will expect certain things to happen - or, indeed, not happen - and will get their sticky claws into it to change a real auteur's vision that has been gestating for well over thirty years.

One thing I do miss about the 1960s and 70s is the fact that very often you had to catch something while it was there - quite often there was no afterlife for a product. With the BBC re-using film stock and wiping programmes as nobody thought there was ever going to be a huge market for nostalgia - or just good quality stuff - much has been lost.  Does it matter?  Do we really need all the millions of hours of tv and film etc?  I don't know but I know I am one of those who enjoys looking back and often collecting such stuff. According to next week's Radio Times, the BBC are promising to use BBC4 as an online archive for older programmes (whatever that means) so look out for repeats of Noggin The Nog, then.

By the way, the BBC have just issued Richard Thompson at the BBC which has some marvellous stuff on it - recordings from 1973 onwards including a great dvd of "lost" tv programmes. Excellent stuff. Oh and check this out about contoversial popular music. Well worth a read.  Is there a subject that would offend any of you in song?

* a weekly magazine that built into a huge encyclopedia about all sorts of arcane stuff.  Check it out on Wikipedia.


Brendini said...

Richard Thompson at the OBE

Dave Leeke said...

That's a subject of a song that would offend you?

Andy Wright said...

Are you OK?

Dave Leeke said...

Hi Andy, yes I'm still here for the moment. For some reason your comments went into a separate file of needing attention, or somesuch.

I've been very busy over the last few weeks and we're about to go off on holiday. Look forward to seeing you again soon.