The Wicker Man
Musical Score By: Paul Giovanni
Distributed by: Silva Screen Records
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
In 1973, a British horror film entitled The Wicker Man, based on the David Pinner novel, Ritual, hit the theaters. The film starred Edward Woodward as Police Sergeant Neil Howie who receives an anonymous letter suggesting he investigate the appearance of a young girl on the island of Summerisle. Upon visiting the island, Sergeant Howie discovers that all of the occupants of the island are participants in a Celtic cult, believing in reincarnation, worship of the sun, fertility rituals, etc. The islandís inhabitants insist that they have never heard of the missing girl, but Howie vows to dig deeper until he gets the answers he seeks. Also starring in this film were Christopher Lee, Diane Cilento, Ingrid Pitt and Britt Ekland. The Wicker Man eventually became a cult classic and was eventually remade.
American playwright, actor, director, singer and musician Paul Giovanni created the music for the film but reception for The Wicker Man at the time was dismal and plans to release a soundtrack for the film were scrapped. Shortly after Giovanniís death, Silva Screen Records was approached about releasing the soundtrack Giovanni created, but at the time (1992), the music was contained on cassettes and were found to be of poor quality with a key song missing. In 1998, Trunk Records releases the same materials listened to by Silva Screen as The Wicker Man Soundtrack and the album sells well in spite of the poor quality and missing track. Eventually, Silva Screen obtains the original album master plus previously unreleased music from the Associate Music Director for the film and in October 2002, a digitally re-mastered version of the soundtrack is released in the U.K. Now, eight years later, The Wicker Man Soundtrack has made its debut in the United States.
When I listened to the soundtrack of The Wicker Man, I was completely baffled. The only thing I knew about the film was that it was some sort of horror film that had something to do with pagan rituals. I was expecting truly spooky music designed to scare the hell out of the listener. What I found instead were tracks that sounded distinctly like Celtic folk music. Having conducted some research on the film and the composer, I completely understand the reasoning behind the use of this musical style.
With music and lyrics written by Paul Giovanni, each track is an ode of sorts to the religion and rituals of the people of Summerisle. Giovanni actually performed vocals on some of the tracks and uses instruments like guitars, harmonicas, concertinas, violins, recorders, tamborines, Nordic lyres and the like to create the Celtic sound he was looking for. Many of the songs have some explicit lyrics and would probably be best kept away from the youngsters.
My favorite track is The Landlordís Daughter in which the Wicker Man Chorus led by Paul Giovanni sing the praises of The Landlordís Daughter - her generosity with ale, her lack of impropriety and the affinity of all men who come in contact with her. Although a great many of the tracks were interesting to say the least, this is the one that grabbed my attention and actually made me laugh.
Perhaps itís because I never saw the film that I canít fathom the need to release this soundtrack. I really find it difficult to see the importance of the music in this score. It doesnít really inspire fear and, although one might find the lyrics a bit strange, the songs on The Wicker Man Soundtrack donít do much to spook the listener, thus enhancing the storyline of the film. Fans of the cult classic will enjoy the Silva Screen release of The Wicker Man Soundtrack simply because it contains the music of the film they adore, but people who have never seen the film will shake their heads in wonderment when told that this is the soundtrack of a horror film. They might get a laugh out of The Landlordís Daughter, but they will be wondering, as was I, how this could possibly be the soundtrack for a film in this genre.