Wicker Man redux

Ammong Gilbert at Arrow in the Head alerts us to the news that director Robin Hardy and star Christopher Lee are re-teaming to make a film version of Hardy’s novel, Cowboys for Christ. Hardy previously directed Lee in the 1973 cult film The Wicker Man, written by Anthony Shaffer (Sleuth). The mystery-horror film, which told of an hard-nosed Christian police officers attempt to find a missing girl on an island inhabited by pagans intent on human sacrifice, was called “the Citizen Kane of horror films” by Cinefantastique’s creator, publisher and editor, the late Frederick S. Clarke.

Hardy’s novel is not a direct sequel, but it does cover similar territory. The story follows a young conservative Christian couple from Texas who head overseas to preach in Europe. In Scotland they encounter a local fiefdom presided over by Lachlan Morrison (presumably Lee’s role, corresponding to Lord Summerisle in Wicker Man). They receive a warm welcome, but are the locals really interested in their message of the gospels, or do they have their own agenda?

Frankly, the story sounds a tad condescending in that British-looking-down-their-noses-at-the-naive-Yanks kind of way. I’m curious to see what the result will be, but I’m not altogether sure that the world needs another trip to Wicker Man territory just for the sake of revisiting the scene of the old crime.

Shaffer’s script for the original film was a clever take on a familiar genre trope: a clash of cultural belief systems. Horror films usually focus on science versus superstition (with superstition winning out in the end!), but Shaffer gave us Christianity versus paganism, taking a cynical, detached view in which neither side was held in particularly high regard.

Certainly, the basic idea will continue to fuel horror stories, but do we really need more conservative Christians trapped in against sinister, isolated British community?

The official web-page for Hardy’s novel is here. It contains a link to an exclusive video interview with Hardy and Lee, speaking about the proposed film version of the book.

Nicolas Cage starred in a recent remake of The Wicker Man that no one went to see. Coincidentally, Shaffer’s Slueth has also become the subject of a remake, starring Michael Caine (who starred in the first film version) and Jude Law.

About the Author

Steve Biodrowski

Cinefantastique's Los Angeles Correspondent from 1987 to 1993 and West Coast Editor from 1993 to 1999. Currently the webmaster of Cinefantastique Online, I also run a website called Hollywood Gothique that covers Halloween Horror and Sci-Fi Cinema Events in the Los Angeles area.

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