Robin Hardy, director – obituary

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robin-hardy,-director –-obituary

Robin Hardy, the director, who has died aged 86, was best-known for the 1973 movie The Wicker Man, whose portrait of a sinister neopagan cult impressed its personal cult following and got here to outline the subgenre of British “people horror”.

The movie started life when the author Anthony Shaffer approached distributors British Lion in 1972 with a brand new challenge, to be primarily based on David Pinner’s 1967 novel Ritual. With the cooperation of Hardy, Shaffer embellished the essential plot – a policeman investigating an occult homicide in a distant village – with hefty doses of intercourse and sacrifice, transferring the motion from Cornwall to the fictional Scottish island of Summerisle.

The Wicker Man’s mesmerising last sequence, by which Edward Woodward’s policeman is trapped inside a burning effigy, additionally differed from its supply materials. The scene’s horror was additional underscored by the selection of filming location, a bleak clifftop in Burrowhead on Scotland’s Machars peninsula. “By no means, ever have I been so frightened as after I was within the wicker man itself”, Woodward later recalled. “The warmth was intense and I felt at instances that I used to be actually burning.”

It was removed from the one problem on set. Woodward’s co-star Britt Ekland remembered Galloway, the place the majority of filming was performed, as “the bleakest place on Earth”. The climactic sacrifice was speculated to be a spring ritual, so Hardy tasked his crew with gluing leaves and blossom onto wind-blasted branches.

Although Christopher Lee, who performed the island’s neighborhood chief, regarded the movie as his finest work, early response was blended. The managing director of British Lion judged it unsaleable and demanded extreme cuts to the full working time. It was lastly launched because the B-feature on a double invoice alongside Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now.

That it didn’t sink into obscurity was largely all the way down to Robin Hardy’s and Lee’s promotion efforts, which ultimately took Hardy to New Orleans to work on a brand new, director-approved reduce. The shiny journal Cinefantastique devoted its winter 1977 problem to the tip outcome, describing it as “The Citizen Kane of horror films”.

The tortured manufacturing and distribution course of solely helped to burnish the movie’s cult credentials amongst its extra devoted followers, dubbed “Wicker-heads” by the British tabloid press. In 2003 hundreds of devotees converged on Galloway for a two-day celebration of “punks, pagans, and pyromaniacs”, that includes reside rock music and a bonfire of a 25-ft effigy. “It’s ironic {that a} movie that was supposed to acerbically dissect the facility constructions and beliefs of cults ought to have gained a cult following,” noticed Dr Benjamin Franks of Glasgow College. Hardy was extra prosaic: “We did an ideal job, actually, for Scottish tourism.”

Christopher Lee in The Wicker Man

Robin St Clair Rimington Hardy was born in Surrey on October 10 1929. His father died when Robin was nonetheless an toddler and his mom travelled steadily. He due to this fact had a peripatetic begin to his profession, finding out artwork in Paris earlier than breaking into movie with numerous documentaries for the Nationwide Movie Board of Canada.

Returning to London within the Sixties, he arrange the promoting company Hardy Shaffer Ferguson Avery with Anthony Shaffer. Maybe the strongest affect on his directing fashion, nevertheless, was the King James Bible, its “terrific language and great imagery” instilling a lifelong fascination with the facility of formality.

The Wicker Man aside, Hardy’s different tasks attracted scant business curiosity. The Dublin-set slasher flick The Fantasist (1986) had little benefit besides as a director’s curio, whereas The Wicker Tree (2011), a companion piece (however not a direct sequel) to Hardy’s earlier basic primarily based on his personal novel Cowboys for Christ, divided critics upon its premiere on the Fantasia movie pageant in Montreal. Hardy later mounted a defence of the movie, contrasting it favourably to a much-derided 2006 remake of The Wicker Man starring Nicholas Cage within the Edward Woodward function.

Robin Hardy is survived by his spouse, Victoria, and by eight kids, one in all whom is the film-maker Justin Hardy.

Robin Hardy, born October 10 1929, died July 1 2016

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