The Wicker Man - Settling the Score
Continued from previous page

Location and post-production
The six 'core' musicians entrained or flew to Scotland for the shoot. Their significant appearances are in The Green Man and on the wall outside the school. But they turn up all over the place after that. I was filmed playing the lyre on the cliff-top - legs akimbo with a two-hundred foot drop between - as Howie is stripped, the organ in Howie's church scenes [interesting that the Church had ecclesiastical quibbles about the service but were happy to have an organist in drag] and the piano on the mainland [shot to exclude identifiable features in case anybody really looked closely!]. You also hear me when you see Lord Summerisle play the piano.

There was not a little of the mischievous about Paul. Realising that it would bore him to death whilst at the same time I [21 years old, remember] would probably quite like spending some time alone with Britt Ekland, I was charged with insuring that Britt could mime Willow's Song accurately. So I would happily pop into Britt's room, where she would lie in bed [this, at the time, seemingly starry affectation has of course since been explained by her then pregnancy] and I would teach her the song - and since you ask, she was always very polite, kind and friendly1. The extension of this 'care and attention' to detail was that Paul felt it necessary [after a lot of pleading on my part!!!] that I be on the set for the now infamous shoot of Willow's Song, thumping a drum to keep her in time with the playback when she danced and helping out with the lip-synch when she 'sang'. The shoot was tiresome - a 13 hour day by my reckoning. One of my other little jobs [invented out of sheer boredom and hard to find in any job description] was whipping Britt's towel away before each take. The much noted complications arose because of the need to covertly slide the 'bum'-double in, which was usually preceded by make-up asking for a small adjustment that needed Britt off-set. Actually, all the subterfuge was hokum, really. The story at the time was that the day before the shoot, the publicist distributed a note to each room at the Kirroughtree Hotel announcing that a body-double was being used and that on no account should Ms Ekland be informed. Sadly, he did not exclude Britt's room! I can categorically affirm that Lorraine Peters was the body-double - and if you are interested in comparing body-types, she is also the naked woman weeping on the grave, and credited as such. And if you wanted absolute proof of this, it happens that Ms Peters was having her period on that day and the camera angle, as is clear in the film, militated against the use of a tampon. Consequently, and despite the best efforts of the crew to swab up after each take, DNA evidence probably survives at the location to this day! As to Jane Jackson, who has it on record that she was filmed by a man in a sheepskin coat as the body double, I would venture to guess that her footage now resides safely in someone's private collection!

Whatever the editor, Eric Boyd-Perkins' defence, there is no question that he butchered the Willow Song sequence musically - in the British release version at least. This exquisite number loses its compulsive and hypnotic effect through insensitive and unrhythmical cutting and much of Mike Cole's beautiful bassoon playing and at least one verse are lost [the scoring was quite interesting - harmonica, bassoon, violins, recorders, pulsating tom-toms, African thumb piano, multi-tracked Nordic lyre - the same Nordic lyre - not Celtic harp - you see me play at Burrowhead]. Britt's singing on the film was voiced by Rachel Verney but a version was recorded by Lesley Mackie [Daisy in the film] which was intended for LP release [the difference in tonal quality is minimal, but Lesley was the more secure]. Lesley also sang the haunting credits/flight music and the Northumbrian pipes for that were played by Bruce Watson, [he also played the flute for the woman/baby/egg sequence] who was last heard of working as an osteopath and whose endless perorations during studio time were matched only by Christopher Lee's. I wrote the 'Chop, Chop' sequence, using Oranges and Lemons as the basis for a faux-Scottish violin jig. I still get about £2.00 per annum royalties off that! Howie's last-minute search for Rowan uses largely traditional Scottish folk music, particularly the Strathspey 'Robertson's Rant', although we use the Irish variant of the reel 'Drowsy Maggie'2. In fact a lot of the background scoring is Irish rather than Scottish-derived and a lot of that is cannibalised from old 'Hocket' arrangements3. The use of a more 'contemporary idiom' for the 'cave chase' was undoubtedly a mistake. We probably [on one of those recreational evenings most likely] thought 'rock' music was a good idea in a cave! I do remember that we recorded it to picture at Shepperton and that the sound engineer [not the estimable Louie Austin, who did such a wonderful job at De Lane Lea] had to put a large canvas sheet over the bass stack to prevent bleed and undue vibration on the soundstage! Rachel Verney and another singer, Sally Presant, also made other lasting and uncredited contributions to the film, namely many of the boys' voices in the Maypole sequence, important subsidiary vocals in The Flame Dance, all other female BVs and the vocalise that accompanies Howie's stripping.

As it was an important part of my job to insure that music accurately synched to picture, I have a vivid memory of having to score a phenomonally complex dream sequence for Howie [remember, this was pre-computers, so you had to operate off the editor's frame-by-frame breakdown - we had no dedicated sound editor either] which was like post-scoring an animation, it was so intricate. The fades and dissolves and extensive use of library footage [the snails were library, by the way] for this sequence seriously dented the budget. Despite Robin Hardy's enthusiasm for it and its inclusion in what I assumed at the time to be 'The Director's Cut', I have never seen reference made to it again and it is in no existing version of the film.

And then...
Paul Giovanni returned to his Riverside Drive apartment in New York and lived on into the 1990s, writing The Crucifer Of Blood and trying out a new musical he'd written called Shot Through the Heart. It seems he eventually succumbed to AIDS.

I didn't work on another feature film for nearly fifteen years, but I did work with Diane Cilento again on a musical version of Boucicault's The Streets Of London which did a critically acclaimed, but too-short run at Her Majesty's Theatre, Haymarket. And I've since retained contact and/or worked with most of the musicians on the film.

There is one more small secret to impart. In 1997, Trunk records released a technically risible, sonically abysmal mono CD of The Wicker Man soundtrack. Not a single participant in the score received a penny and were, apart from the composer and a mispelt me, uncredited. At a hidden location, much superior stereo mixes of much of the music do indeed exist - including the full three-verse version of The Tinker Of Rye sung inimitably by Mr Lee and Ms Cilento. When someone comes up with a realistic proposal that includes the musicians [who were not offered 'buy-out' contracts at the time because they didn't exist] and singers who helped define the entire character of this legendary film, they may re-appear - who knows?

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2000 Gary Carpenter; This article must not to be reproduced in part or in its entirety without permission. Contact: wickerman@garycarpenter.net

 © 2000 Gary Carpenter