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Anyone who's read the reviews on Planet Buffy will know that I tend to have a low opinion of novelisations. Maybe reading all those Doctor Who novelisations in the seventies put me off reading adaptations of the TV script with "he said"/"she said" tagged on the end. Of course, at least the Who novelisations had the advantage of being based on TV stories that most of us thought we'd never see again...

Fortunately, Robin Hardy's adaptation of Anthony Shaffer's script for The Wicker Man is far more than your average novelisation. (And in true Wicker Man style, neither can agree about it - Hardy says he started work on a novelisation while Shaffer was still working on the script, but Shaffer says the script came first and is almost certainly correct).

In his foreword, Allan Brown (author of Inside the Wicker Man), says that Sergeant Howie has one major advantage in the film version: he's not played by Christopher Lee - all the baggage of Lee's horror film past meant viewers would automatically assume that Summerisle was wrong and Howie was therefore right. The novelisation is therefore more ambivalent on this score, as Shaffer originally intended his script to be.

The Wicker Man also has another major advantage over your average Who or Buffy novelisation - the amount of material cut from both the 102 minute version of the film (and the even greater amount of material missing from the 86 minute version we usually get in the UK). Hardy is therefore able to significantly flesh out what we saw on screen. So, for example, we learn about Howie's interest in bird-watching (not the Willow variety!) and his relationship with Mary Bannock, while the character of Summerisle's gillie is reinstated.

It's not completely perfect, though. There's a strange bit that hints that Howie's seaplane has been spotted on the morning of May Day, but this is simply left hanging.

However, that's a minor quibble, and The Wicker Man is an excellent companion to both Allan Brown's history of the film and the recently released DVD. BACK TO THE TOP

THE WICKER MAN

Written by ROBIN HARDY
and ANTHONY SHAFFER

PAN

£5.99


RATING: 9/10