Archive for The Wicker Man


Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 23, 2013 by dcairns


Amazing! Picked up the special edition of Positif from 1964 in Lyon for two measly euros. This was a FIND, partly because it intersects with NATAN, the film Paul Duane and I made. Bernard Natan has been falsely connected with several pornographic films, and one of the “sources” for this is a short list of early smut films in the back of this magazine. Many of the films are unattributed, but a few have the name “Nathan” attached. The anonymous author probably did mean Natan, since earlier publications like a 1938 edition of Match also attributed some of the same titles to Natan. But repeating the allegations strikes me as dodgy, since the Positif “article” gives no sources, offers no evidence, and getting the guy’s name wrong doesn’t exactly fill one with confidence. (Natan’s name is spelled “Nathan” all over the place — Georges Sadoul does it in his Histoire General du Cinema, despite getting it right elsewhere in the same book. This is odd, since the title Pathe-Natan appeared ahead of all Natan’s thirties films, often with his signature.)

Anyway, the magazine has a few other things of interest, as you’d expect, including the following piquant questionnaire, which I think we can have some fun with.

MR INDIA. Invisible man musical sexiness,

1) What is the most erotic movie you ever saw? Give your reasons.

2) What seems to you to be the perfect example of a non-erotic movie? Limiting yourself, of course, to films that deal with love.

3) Has the cinema had an influence on your erotic life?

4) What situations, scenes, objects or attitudes in the cinema, seem to you to have the greatest erotic significance?

5) Who is the actress (or actor) who, for you, embodies eroticism? Why?

6) Of  those who are supposed to embody eroticism on screen, which actor (or actress) is for you the negation or eroticism? Why?

7) What erotic work would you like you see adapted (or would you like to adapt yourself) to the screen? With who?


Fellini’s last drawing: on the bottom of a model in a magazine.

A few notes on the questions and answers.

I love the “(or actor)” and “(or actress)” which are positioned with a hilarious assumption that most of the respondents will be straight men. In film criticism, has this ever been true? At any rate, they at least allow for exceptions, but they want to make it very clear, via parenthesis, that they ARE exceptions. At any rate, the only women quoted are France Roche (respected screenwriter, still with us at 91) and critic Grace Winter.

The aforementioned Sadoul puts Dovzhenko’s EARTH at the top, which surprised me as I didn’t hear swooning over its sexiness at Pordenone, but maybe I didn’t have my ear to the right patch of ground. And maybe I should see for myself. Sadoul is also very keen on Louise Brooks, who was undergoing rediscovery.

Raymond Durgnat is fascinating, as you’d expect. Lots of top choices for erotic film, including but not limited to BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, 42ND STREET, PICKPOCKET, KING KONG, HAXAN and ARTISTS AND MODELS. Polymorphous perversity! But I have to admit, Shirley MacLaine looks cute as Bat Lady.

Private Property (1960) Directed by Leslie Stevens Shown: Kate Manx

The little-known PRIVATE PROPERTY (1960, above) appears on Durgnat’s non-erotic list, and on Grace Winter’s erotic list. Makes me want to see it!

Michel Ciment champions QUEEN KELLY (a popular choice), Sternberg and Bunuel. The ideal erotic film, he says, would stand at an equal distance between Stroheim, Sternberg and Bunuel.

Ciment and several people mention BRIEF ENCOUNTER as a film about love without sex appeal. One critic hasn’t even seen it, and says it’s a good thing too.

Roche on unerotic actors: “Cary Grant: old young man with still-young arteries, but dry elsewhere. Rex Harrison: furry slippers and lumbago.” Mean! This question is apt to get VERY mean, so let’s try not to turn into John Simon when we approach it. John Simon is not a good look.

Poor Brigitte Bardot gets cited as an answer to question (5) by several correspondents. Vadim is chosen as an unerotic director, but Gerard Legrand disagrees and puts ET DIEU CREA LA FEMME at the top of his sexiness chart. Clearly, the negative feeling about BB was simply a reaction against the prevailing fashion, as if there’s one thing she is for most people, it’s sexy. It’s perfectly legitimate to disagree, but so many erotic nay-sayers?

Also: those who put Delphine Seyrig or Grace Kelly in their hot spot, are correspondingly apt to dismiss BB and all the busty Italians of the era.

Lotte Eisner has the best choice for work of fiction to be adapted: William Beckford’s Gothic novel Vathek, under the aegis of Luis Bunuel. Don Luis crops up as preferred adaptor on several lists. The Gothic fiction he really wanted to do was The Monk, of course.

Someone called Debourcieu chooses a science-fiction novel by someone called Pierre Versins, and wants Minnelli, Sinatra, Novak and choreography by Jack Cole.

OK. Harumph. Now, it behooves me to answer the questions myself, and honestly. Rather than just knocking everyone else’s choices. In theory I have an advantage, since I have almost fifty years more cinema to draw upon, and it’s a half-century that’s enjoyed more latitude than the earlier era. On the other hand, I have a disadvantage: shyness.


Evidence: I was just in a room with Dominique Sanda, who meant a lot to me as a youngster and still does. Now, at her age, would she be horrified if I said, as Jonathan Ross did to Britt Ekland, “Thank you for helping me through those difficult teenage years?” I think not. But instead I just gave her a small salute. She saluted back, perhaps slightly bemused.

1) Impossible to pick a single most erotic film: too self-revealing. But

(a) I had my young mind blown by Robbe-Grillet’s TRANS-EUROP EXPRESS. It’s very dodgy, though;

(b) BETTY BLUE, for all its serious problems, did combine explicitness and photogenics, and if the story had some nasty, unexamined retrograde aspects, the sex was good (everyone seemed to enjoy it);

(c) SOME LIKE IT HOT: kissing as hard porn (fleshly, leering, over-extended), and a film which refused to go as far as I wanted it to, but teetered on the brink like an expert tightrope walker;

(d) GIRL WITH A SUITCASE: the power of enforced chastity: the young hero is home alone with Claudia Cardinale, who seems eminently available. It’s like RISKY BUSINESS for the DOLCE VITA generation. But as he’s a realistic teen not a Hollywood concoction, he doesn’t know what the hell to do so nothing happens. For two hours! It’s hell, I tell you.

(I didn’t see La Cardinale in Lyon, though she was apparently there — the encounter could only be disappointing, in the sense that I would be disappointed in myself.)

(e) THE WICKER MAN had a lot of impact on my b&w portable TV in the bedroom, fuzzy signal picked up from Grampian Regional Television, and probably would’ve “worked” even without the nudity — the singing, the drumming, and the torment, plus the extreme duration

A theme is emerging here in spite of my best efforts: the theme of intense frustration. And yet THAT OBSCURE OBJECT OF DESIRE and the other versions of La Femme et le Pantin don’t do that much for me.

2) Non-erotic movie? I just visited Venice so DON’T LOOK NOW is in my mind. The justly celebrated sex scene is sensitive, intimate, frank, tender, emotional, and beautifully played and rendered. Of course, as a male person I can obviously be stimulated by anything with a naked woman in it as long as she’s not actually Michelle Bachman, but for me what is impressive about the scene is how it doesn’t particularly need the audience to become excited about sex or skin (and as for the age-old “Are they really doing it?” — PUH-LEEZE). It’s beautiful, and not in a vapid way, just not in a way that’s strictly sexual. And it’s one of very, very few films to show married people having sex. With the possible intent of having a child. And the censors still went after it. THAT’S the obscenity.


3) Yes, cinema has influenced my erotic life. It has BEEN my erotic life for more of the time than I care to discuss. It seems unfair to blame any kinks or hang-ups on the movies, though — although James B. Harris, at Lyon, stated unequivocally that the theme of his deeply weird SOME CALL IT LOVING is that people get sexually imprinted by their first encounter with sex, in which case BARBARELLA has a lot to answer for and the continuing unavailability of an affordable Excessive Machine is a major problem.

I am trying to master that thing Donald Sutherland does with his arm in DON’T LOOK NOW. Am certain it’ll revolutionize my bedroom existence when I’ve got it down.

I am extremely lucky to be wed to a very impressive Louise Brooks type, and an even more impressive Fiona Watson type, Fiona Watson. Our shared love of movies is part of the bond.

4) I’m not at all sure how I’m supposed to define “erotic significance”. But I could list objects: The Excessive Machine (one wants to call it an Orgasmatron but it’s not); the windscreen in COOL HAND LUKE; the chair in CABARET; Joel Cairo’s cane in THE MALTESE FALCON; the boa and the numbered cards in IL MAGNIFICO CORNUTO; actually, this is harder than I thought — I guess I’m not much of a fetishist.

5) The embodiment of eroticism? My screen harem is too extensive to enumerate (picture Guido’s mental farmhouse in EIGHT AND A HALF but extending for at least a city block). Cardinale and Bardot both drive me berserk for reasons hard to justify on any higher plain. Ann-Margret in her (extensive) prime also. On a subtler note, Grace Kelly was my first love on the big screen. Louise Brooks is an obsession. For some reason, Elsa Martinelli is leaping unbidden to the forefront of my mind, but on another day it might be the Geeson sisters. Clara Bow. Romy Schneider.

Embodiment of male beauty: Horst Buchholtz. My idea of un vrai homme: James Coburn.


6) The opportunity to be mean: the negation of erotica… Bo Derek never did anything for me. Her breasts seemed boring. Sharon Stone too artificial: la Welch a blushing ingenue by comparison. Madonna, always and forever unappealing, though Fincher tried in the videos. I see the glamour of Garbo and Dietrich but not only don’t want to but can’t even imagine engaging in any kind of passionate interaction with them. They are abstract creatures of light and I admire them enormously. Mickey Rourke always seemed disgusting. Tom Cruise never projects any sense of desire or desirability. Most of these people have other good traits though.


7) At one point, Roman Polanski wanted to adapt the porno comics of Milo Manara as an animated feature. This strikes me as the worst combination possible, but Manara’s comics might be a suitable source. The lousy Jean-Louis Richard film of CLICK is quite good, even though it’s totally lousy, if you know what I mean. Unfortunately, Manara is a deeply sexist idiot, and there’s a nastiness to his work I’d prefer to avoid — plus his real talent is his drawing, so why adapt him to another medium? His adaptation of unfilmed Fellini scenarios was a better way for him to engage with cinema.

Bertrand Blier and Alain Robbe-Grillet were both masters of the perverse who really get into their fantasies and make even the most obnoxious imaginings photogenic, but can they be trusted? Nic Roeg was more sound, you could even hand him something like The Story if the Eye. Jane Campion has a wonderful erotic imagination which can create powerful effects out of small, seemingly almost innocent things. Given her flair for the Gothic, Geoffrey Lewis’s The Monk?

The glimpses seen of THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND suggest that Welles could have been a great director of sexy stuff.

Plans for another version of Jean-Claude Forest’s Barbarella have stultified for years, and by the way Robert Rodriguez is the wrong man. Incidentally, if you read the original comic, the lines that sound most like Terry Southern scripted them (the best lines) are already there. I’d love to see a BARBARELLA that had to aim for PG-13, so there was something to struggle with and smuggle through, some necessity for restraint. The original’s combo of American star, Italian design and French director was a neat selection, but they had the wrong Frenchman. Clouzot would have been better!

Keanu would have been a great Pygar.

Imagine Von Sternberg’s DRACULA, with Charles Boyer.

John Barrymore as CASANOVA for Cecil B. DeMille.

Now I want to hear from YOU. Regular commenters and people I never heard from before. Shadowplay just became the Kinsey report of the movie blogosphere. Spill it!

Flames of Passion

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on January 1, 2013 by dcairns

Happy New Year!

Your Pathe-Natan film of the week. Raymond Bernard, who made the truly great PN films WOODEN CROSSES and LES MISERABLES, started his career at the company with FAUBOURG-MONTMARTRE, which somewhat defeated my benshi translator David Wingrove since the copy I’d obtained had pretty cruddy sound. Add to that the vagaries of early thirties recording and early thirties French slang, and you have a film that’s pretty hard to understand — and it might be hard to understand even if you had perfect audio and spoke 1930s French like a native.

The romantic plot inexplicably yields sway to a riotous fire festival in a small town, in which the lovers are burned in effigy by no less a figure than Antonin Artaud — if you’re going to have a burning at the stake in your movie, qua THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC, Artaud will turn up, it seems. I suspect his toothsome shade mingled among the crowds attending Edward Woodward’s immolation in THE WICKER MAN, perhaps pausing to pinch Britt Ekland’s bum.

Bernard flings himself into the festivities, concocting an expressionistic frenzy that ends with an anthropomorphic building like something from a Fleischer brothers cartoon. Then the film goes back to normal, the villagers say they didn’t mean any harm, and shortly afterwards the film just kind of stops. Was the director wrong to build this sequence up so much that it ruptures the surrounding movie? Perhaps not, since the surrounding movie is kind of dull by comparison, and this sequence is AMAZING.

The Mysterious Mr If, Part the Th*rt**nth

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on August 22, 2011 by dcairns

This week’s truly exciting episode of my unexplainably unproduced screenplay is the most British thing ever — we have a high speed pursuit featuring characters named after leads in PERFORMANCE and THE WICKER MAN, and an exciting rooftop chase, without which no British thriller, be it THEY MADE ME A FUGITIVE or HELL IS A CITY, can be considered complete.

And I was pleased to morph a reference  from MARY POPPINS into a William Blake quote. Apart from the Disney JUNGLE BOOK bit I think it’s all as Brit as can be.

This was also the point where I discovered Howie’s true comedic function, which is not as romantic interest during the “boring, sub-Bill Forsyth bits,” but as someone to annoy Inspector Turner. And, thematically, as a sort of Everyman for Mr. If to oppose.

But what impresses me, if I do say so myself, is just how damned gripping it all is!

Now read on…


Sheena watches TV news with Edward Woodward in her lap.


The headlines today. A wild west-style schoolmarm has been tormented by scallops in Muirhouse. A nun has been fired out of a toilet. And Scotland’s oldest fireman has given birth to a stone desk.

Sheena boggles. The work of Mr. If is everywhere.

There is an innocent-sounding knock at the door.


Sheena comes through and approaches the door.


Doctors are baffled by a giant leg found on a small man.

Sheena looks through the spy hole. Howie.


And scientists at NASA have discovered what they are calling a “joke planet”.

Sheena considers.

Starts to walk away.

Then changes her mind and undoes the latch.


The man outside is not Howie. A black-gloved hand holds a photo of Howie up to the spy hole.

The door opens…


Swing doors BASH open.

Doctor lectures Nurse while pushing Howie on a gurney.


Brain damage, as medical science pretends to understand it, is simply injury to the meat radio entrusted with receiving the consciousness signal. A mechanical brain, correctly tuned to the ineffable transmission, would serve just as well as our fleshy transponders.

Howie looks somewhat mauled. In the gurney behind him, a stunned fox.

Turner runs alongside Howie.


A fox, inspector, can you believe it? In the reptile house. The last thing I would have expected in a reptile house. It’s a bloody mammal. A rodent or something. They don’t even keep them in the zoo. They’re too boring. Anyway, this one wasn’t, it was positively frisky. It was going for my throat when I managed to knock it unconscious with this…

He holds up his tattered and bloodstained hardback.


The Unbearable Lightness of Being. An ironic title for a hefty hardback.

They pass a smoke-blackened NUN in a tattered habit, walking with the aid of crutches.


Anyway, it’s not me you should be worried about, it’s your own people. There’s been some pretty weird shit going down at Sheena’s place.

They pass an incubator being wheeled by MEN in surgical scrubs. WAILING BABY sound. Inside the incubator – a trout.


You mean Miss McQueen?


A lot of this nonsense seems to be focussed on her. Like she’s the epicentre or something.

They pass an OLD TESTAMENT PROPHET carrying a stone slab.


Epicentre! Epicentre!

He turns the slab to face them. The word COCK is carved on it. Then he raises his robe and shows them his wrinkly arse before scampering away, tittering like a big jerk.


Did she tell you she took the If File?

Turner’s face darkens ominously.


Stay here and heal. I’m going to check on Miss McQueen.

He hurries off.

Howie cranes his neck after the departing cop.



He tries to dismount the moving gurney. The doctor shoving it won’t slow down and Howie’s bandages hamper him.

He falls.

The doctor disappears around a corner, ignoring him.

In a nearby room, dogs bark.

A tramp with flowers for hair shuffles past sadly.


…and so, Nurse Sheep, what you call telepathy is merely a crossed wire, a case of one brain receiving a signal intended for another. We are all hooked up to the great universal mind, but some of us have bigger satellite dishes.


Sheena flees into her flat and throws a dirty plate at the caped, top-hatted man pursuing her.


I am If! If I am! Am I if?

She grabs her gun and shoots If’s hat off.

The next two bullets hit him in the chest.

He staggers. Then rights himself.

He steps in front of the window. Daylight shines through the little round holes in his body.


Gosh durn it, I likes a wumman with spirit.

If holds out his hand to her.


Join me, and rule at my side in the domain of nothingness.

Sheena shoots him again.


You sadden me.

He produces a banana and begins to peel it.

Sheena backs away in alarm.


Turner’s car SKIDS round a bend.


Step on it, man! You drive like a lemur. If lemurs could drive.

Howie sits up in the back of the car. Turner is startled, then irate.


You’re supposed to be convalescing. Go and convalesce. I’m a policeman. You’re just some nob-end from the zoo.


I’m an interested party and you still drive like a twat. Where’s your blue flashing light?


Some bastard’s nicked it and left me this egg timer instead.

They SCREECH round another bend and Howie falls over.


Sheena wakes up tied to a rocking chair by what looks like hair. She’s clad only in a grass skirt and a pair of coconut shells.

A rope hangman’s noose hangs from the ceiling above her.

If strides into view. Under his cape he wears Sheena’s clothes. He strokes Edward Woodward in a sinister, master-criminal-type way.


Is it safe?

Sheena struggles with her bonds.


What the f-?


Wigs, Miss McQueen, wigs! Nature’s baldness defamed, and now – a young minx restrained in their silky fronds! Ironic, is it not?


Let me go and give me back my cat, you mad bastard. And take my clothes off!


(gesturing at her near nudity)

I already have. And now, you will tell me where I can find what I seek, Miss McQueen – or should I say – HECTOR BABENCO?

He waves at her with Edward Woodward’s paw.


What the hell do you want, you great weirdo?


A touching display of innocence and nudity, but it will avail you nothing. I shall have my druthers or die trying, and so I reiterate: where? Answer swiftly or pay with your pussy!

He waves the cat at her.


The car speeds on. Sand cascades through the egg-timer.


If moves gracefully towards the noose in the room’s centre, carrying Sheena’s cat.


Maybe if you’d tell me what it is you’re looking for –

If stuffs Edward Woodward through the noose and secures the rope around the animal’s waist. Then he picks up a carpet beater.


Where? Where? WHERE?

WHACK! He wallops the cat’s arse and sends it arcing round the room on its rope, yowling.


Turner and Howie arrive. Respectively bounding and hobbling from the car they find the Nurse from the hospital wearing a blindfold and an usherette’s tray full of oranges standing with her feet in a basin of water by the door.


This is a bad sign.

He barges on.

Howie stares at the immobile Nurse.



She gives a little theatrical jump. Howie hurries on.


Turner dashes upstairs only to be faced with Sheena’s neighbour, Miss Hing. What she lacks in depth she makes up for in width.

Turner steps aside to let her by. She side-steps in the same direction to let him by. He steps the other way. She does too.

Howie appears behind Turner, snarls savagely, Miss Hing collapses against the railing in terror, and the two men hurry past.


Edward Woodward continues to orbit the room.



She frees an arm, and a coconut falls off, exposing a breast. She shrieks and covers herself. If prepares to wallop Edward Woodward again.


Your womanliness cannot save you now, Mr. Babenco. The file, please.

He swats Edward Woodward’s backside again.


The file? It was on the back of the sofa –

A hammering at the door.



I like you, you’re a nice lady.

He looks at the sofa. Bare-backed. If is indignant.


Trifle with me and you’ll get your desserts!


Turner shoulders the door open. They burst in.


– and then the two men are staggering, dazed. Something has happened, but what?

The only sound is the TV news:


A dentist in Queensferry has become a small sun. Spokesmen said they didn’t like it, it was a bad colour.


Too late. Sheena and If are gone.

Edward Woodward is wearing a sombrero, poncho and Zapata moustache. Meow.

Scrawled on the wall in red paint, the word cat.

Another moustache is pasted to the TV screen, decorating the newscaster.

A Polaroid camera sits atop the set.


Two Scottish Members of Parliament have been dressed in plate armour and fellated by blacksmiths –

Turner switches off the TV, picks up the camera. An undeveloped snap depends from its undercarriage.

An image emerges. Howie and Turner, posing merrily with Sheena and If in the hall – thumbs up. Howie strumming a ukulele. Hawaiian flower garlands all round.


Who took this? And why don’t I remember it?

Edward Woodward pads out the door, full of purpose. Howie and Turner look at each other, then follow.


Edward Woodward stops and sits at the top floor landing. A ladder leads up to a hatch into the attic.


I don’t like heights.

Turner starts up the ladder.


I’m not wild about them myself.

Howie follows a few steps, then freezes in fear.


Turner emerges from a skylight.

Mr. If stands on the summit of the roof, a large burlap sack slung over one shoulder.

A moan that could be Sheena’s.


Howie slowly nears the top of the ladder, but finds it very difficult to transfer himself into the attic.


Turner edges up the steep slant of the roof towards the pinnacle. If nonchalantly saunters away from him.


Howie makes it into the attic space. A musty rocking horse in a dunce’s cap nods at him rhythmically. A cardboard sign hung round its neck advises STAND UP OR GIVE UP.

Through a skylight he sees blue sky. He closes his eyes and jumps up –


Howie hauls himself through the hatch and immediately rolls down the roof. He opens his eyes and screams like a woman.

Turner, balancing on the tip of the roof, loses concentration and stumbles. He does the splits over the crest of the building.

If reaches the edge of infinity. Below him, the street.

Howie’s legs dangle over the drainpipe as he scrambles to get back onto a solid surface. With scrabbles back up the roof-slope.

Turner takes out a pair of handcuffs.


Now. Now.

If turns, grins and throws his big sack over the side.



The sack explodes on Turner’s car, caving in the roof. The sack is full of potatoes.

If strides towards Turner. A brief scuffle and Turner falls, his hands cuffed together. He rolls helplessly down the roof towards an imminent death.


Oh bollocks.

Howie has just reached the tip of the roof and backs away fast as If bears down on him.


Take me home, Daddy!

Turner catches the gutter and dangles.

Howie backs into a chimney. He grabs a TV aerial and swings himself round so that the chimney is between him and If.

If points into the street.

A struggling Sheena, dressed for some reason in a decorator’s paint-stained dungarees, flippers and a giant foam stetson, is being shoved into a car by four Ballerinas.SwanLakeplays on the car stereo.

Turner manages to drag a knee up onto the gutter.


It’s a pleasure to take your acquaintance. You must be the human element everybody’s talking about. You know, on a bright blue day like this it almost seems a pity to be ending the world.

Howie blinks at him.


You’re absolutely right, Miss Streisand. It’s a dirty job but somebody’s got to do it. Hoppla!


A chimney sweep’s brush ERUPTS from the chimney pot nearest Howie. He steps back in alarm and falls, bumping into Turner who has just climbed to his feet at the roof’s brink.

They teeter together.


A sweep is as mucky

As mucky can be,

And so I cry,

“Weep weep! Weep weep!”

The ballet dancer car putters off erratically.

Howie and Turner fall on their faces onto the roof tiles.

They gasp like landed fish for a moment, then look up.

If is gone. Only a yellow flag gesticulates in the wind.


Historically, the sign of quarantine. Plague!


A red X is painted on Sheena’s front door. Turner and Howie descend. Howie grips the banister and moves very slowly. They meet Miss Hing, quite recovered.


Hello, loves. He had a message for you. He said he would see you in Bolivia.

They look blank.


No, that wasn’t it. Not Bolivia — oblivion. That’s the one.

To Be Continued…