On Friday night, I finally sat down with my teenagers and saw what is reportedly the third most popular British horror film of all time, The Wicker Man, released in 1973. The only reason I bothered to buy the dvd was because the film is based on David Pinner’s 1967 novel, The Ritual, which I have yet to read, and Pinner’s play The Potsdam Quartet is being produced at Jermyn Street Theatre in October and November, so I will need to talk about Pinner’s work and interview him for the production.
Being a Yank and rather inured to American horror films, I did not anticipate how utterly gorgeous and unpredictable a horror movie could be. There were naked women everywhere, and they were largely dancing, and the whole thing was suffused with this adoration for past rituals, with a kind of joy that, for several sequences, did not seem sinister. The film kept you forever off balance. Sex was treated like this normal thing that every child should contemplate as soon as possible and then concentrate on as the most important act in life. Scene after scene was coloured with flowers, fruit, cakes or festive ribbons. The ending was completely shocking and managed to be horrible and beautiful at the same time, with no scary music leading up to it, as I remember, just simple group singing.
I need to read The Ritual now and somehow try to get my head around the idea that the playwright who wrote this novel also wrote plays about Isaac Newton, Charles I, Lenin, Richelieu, vampires and a quartet who entertains Truman, Stalin, Atlee and Churchill while they are carving up Europe. All I can say is that, having met Pinner last week and chatted with him and his wife in their sunflowered garden and looked at his bright paintings, he wears his creative genius lightly and seems very much full of life’s wonder. I find it difficult to associate the notion of “horror” with his work, but it’s there, all the same, however much fun he has dressing it up and luring us in.