Nymphomaniac librarian in ‘The Wicker Man’

That post title should get some visits for sure!ūüėČ

The 1973 British cult classic, The Wicker Man, is a slow-burning (hah!) mystery, a film that slowly builds tension and horror as the central character, Sergeant Howie, along with the audience, slowly put all the pieces together behind the mysterious disappearance of a young girl. The screenwriter, Anthony Shaffer, wanted to craft a more literate kind of horror film, and he definitely succeeded! 

Sgt. Howie is played by¬†Edward Woodward, a stick-up-his-ass policeman who travels from the mainland by boat¬†to a remote island to investigate the girl’s disappearance, and is frustrated¬†by the villagers’ attempts to mislead or thwart his efforts. Something’s rotten in the state of Denmark… er, I mean, Summerisle.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot of title screen from 'The Wicker Man' (1973)

Title screen from ‘The Wicker Man’ (1973)

When first released, the film did receive an “X” rating from the British Board of Film Censors, now the British Board of Film Classification. The BBFC site explains¬†why the film received that rating; the film is now classified as “15.”

Reel Librarians | Screenshot of X rating card for 'The Wicker Man' (1973)

X rating card for ‘The Wicker Man’ (1973)


Ingrid Pitt, a¬†well-known star of the Hammer horror films of the early 1970s, is listed 5th in the credits as simply “Librarian.” But Pitt herself,¬†in a¬†documentary about the film, stated, ‚ÄúMy part isn‚Äôt very much, actually. What can a nymphomaniac librarian do? Not very much. But I thought it would be interesting to be involved in this type of film.‚ÄĚ

In another video interview, she states (with a wink), “It was a nymphomaniac librarian I was playing, and I always liked the librarian bit, because I’m really into books.

The Wicker Man : Ingrid Pitt Interview (1998),” uploaded by¬†Blackdog TV – Cinema, Standard YouTube license.

When I first watched the film, back in college, I thought this film was incorrectly listed as having a librarian, despite the “Librarian” credit for Pitt. Why? Because in one scene, Howie visits an office with a sign on the door that reads, ‚ÄúRegistrar of Births, Deaths, and Marriages. Authorised Registrar for Civil Marriages,” and he researches the Index of Deaths. I had written back then that “The credits list Ingrid Pitt‚Äôs role as ‚ÄúThe Librarian,‚ÄĚ even though she works in a office clearly marked as Registrar.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'The Wicker Man' (1973)

Registrar sign in ‘The Wicker Man’ (1973)

But¬†there’s more to it than that! It is confusing, as there are two separate scenes, and two separate sets or locations: ¬†one scene in the Registrar’s office and another scene in the public library, when Sgt. Howie researches May Day rituals. It adds to the confusion that Ingrid Pitt does appear in the Registar’s office scene but¬†not¬†appear in the¬†actual library scene. The film’s Wikipedia entry splits the difference, stating, “Ingrid Pitt, another British horror film veteran, was cast as the town librarian and registrar.”

So let’s dig a little deeper.¬†It’s “nymphomaniac librarian” time!ūüėČ

A little over a half-hour¬†into the 90-odd-minute film, Sgt. Howie goes to an office with a¬†sign on the door, ‚ÄúRegistrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages. Authorized Registrar for Civil Marriages,‚ÄĚ as seen in the above screenshot. He walks into a shabby, disorganized office, with cubbies full of leaning books and folders, and paperwork littering a desk, where a blonde woman sits, eating lunch.¬†

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'The Wicker Man' (1973)

Registar’s office in ‘The Wicker Man’ (1973)

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'The Wicker Man' (1973)

Registrar’s tight-lipped smile in ‘The Wicker Man’ (1973)

He asks to see the Index of Death, and she immediately responds, ‚ÄúDo you have authority?‚ÄĚ He has to get permission from Lord Summerisle, played by Christopher Lee.¬†Sgt. Howie threatens her with jail on the mainland, and she reluctantly opens a drawer and hands him a thin ledger, accompanied by¬†a curt, thin-lipped smile. This scene showcases the “Information Provider” part of her role.

She answers his questions with¬†civility ‚ÄĒ but no more ‚ÄĒ and there are a few closeups of her face, buttoned-up clothing, and braided bun hairstyle.¬†This scene serves a purpose, to provide a contrast with how we later see the librarian/registrar. (The Registrar’s messy, cluttered office, also provides a contrast with the clean and tidy library we see later.)

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'The Wicker Man' (1973)

Closeup of Registrar/Librarian character in ‘The Wicker Man’ (1973)

So let’s get to when Sgt. Howie visits the public library, an hour into the film, where he¬†researches May Day rituals. There’s a closeup of the stone sign, “Public Library,” and a well-lit, tidy room full of bookcases and tables. We hear an overlay of narration as he reads about the May Day rituals of sacrifice.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'The Wicker Man' (1973)

Public Library sign in ‘The Wicker Man’ (1973)

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'The Wicker Man' (1973)

Research scene in the public library in ‘The Wicker Man’ (1973)

What’s confusing about this scene, as I mentioned before, is that Ingrid Pitt is NOT in this scene very clearly set in the public library, even though her character is listed as the librarian. But there IS¬†another woman in the scene, an older woman with grey hair, who is clearly annoyed at Sgt. Howie when he reads aloud a few lines. When I first watched the film, I thought this woman must be the librarian, but that’s what I get for assuming!ūüėČ

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'The Wicker Man' (1973)

A patron’s frown in the library scene

When do we next get to see the librarian? Sgt. Howie goes searching for the missing girl, vowing to search every house in the village. Upon entering one house and¬†bathroom, we get a glimpse of the “nymphomaniac” side of this reel librarian. Ingrid Pitt lounges in a half-tub of water, clearly naked, with her hair loosely pinned up. One hand covers her¬†breasts while the other hand rests in-between her legs. She reaches up to bite her thumb in a coquettish way — much different from her earlier, tight-lipped smile in the Registrar’s office! This visual contrast definitely emphasizes¬†the part of her role that is the “Naughty Librarian“!

Reel Librarians | Collage of contrasts for librarian character in 'The Wicker Man' (1973)

Collage of contrasts for librarian character in ‘The Wicker Man’ (1973)

Sgt. Howie is clearly embarrassed and stammers, ‚ÄúI‚Äôm sorry.” As he closes the door, we can see a lacy negligee hanging on¬†the hook.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'The Wicker Man' (1973)

Librarian’s negligee in ‘The Wicker Man’ (1973)

And we get yet another clothing change for our erstwhile librarian. No lacy negligee but this time a peasant blouse and flowing yellow skirt, as well as flowing, loose hair, for her part in the May Day ritual.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'The Wicker Man' (1973)

Another look for the librarian in ‘The Wicker Man’ (1973)

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'The Wicker Man' (1973)

The librarian’s May Day costume in ‘The Wicker Man’ (1973)

The librarian gets one more scene, toward the end, blocking Sgt. Howie atop¬†the cliffs. In again fulfilling the “Information Provider” part of her role, she helps explains why he’s¬†‚Äúthe right kind of adult‚ÄĚ they’ve needed and researched for their May Day ritual of sacrifice.¬†

Even though this is a reel librarian role that is never actually seen in the library — isn’t it confusing¬†that she is only seen, in a professional capacity, in the Registrar’s office, and not in the library?! — Ingrid Pitt does appear in scenes throughout the film. It is obvious, therefore, that she is an important person in the community, part of Lord Summerisle’s inner circle.

The story was inspired by David Pinner’s 1967 novel Ritual, but the novel was¬†uncredited in the film. I haven’t read the novel, so I don’t know if there’s a librarian character or not in the book. I also haven’t seen the 2006 American remake of the film starring Nicolas Cage and how closely it aligns (or not) to the book or the 1973 original film.

Has anyone else read the book or seen the 2006 remake? If you have, please leave a comment and let me know if a librarian character is in either one.

Scary clowns + reel librarians

I had another scary movie post all lined up and ready to go this week, analyzing the 1973 cult classic¬†The Wicker Man, but then I got a “creepy clown hoax” email from my workplace (for real! it was urging us NOT to wear clown costumes this year, for safety reasons). That’s when I decided to address the “scary clown phenomenon” on this blog, because there IS a connection to reel librarians.

That connection is the 1990 TV miniseries,¬†Stephen King’s It. Every article I have read about the scary clown phenomenon that is sweeping the country right now mentions Stephen King’s 1986¬†novel and its title character, Pennywise the Clown. For the record, I have¬†always found clowns scary, and I’m not the only one. Read this Time.com article, “The Surprising History Behind the Scary Clown Phenomenon,” and this more in-depth article from Smithsonian.com, “The History and Psychology of Clowns Being Scary.”¬†Stephen King himself has weighed in¬†on the clown craze¬†and hysteria!

I haven’t read King’s original source novel, but I have seen the TV miniseries a few times. I won’t go into¬†an exhaustive analysis of the miniseries right now in this post — there’s not time enough for me to do that — but I will point out that one of the main characters, Mike Hanlon (played by Marlon Taylor as a youth and by Tim Reid as an adult), grows up to be the town librarian. Although other characters get more screen time, Mike essentially serves as the catalyst for the entire second half of the plot, as HE¬†is the one who contacts his friends to return to Derry, Maine, and fight “It” once more. Since Mike is the only one of the seven lead characters to stay behind, he becomes¬†the “institutional memory” for the havoc Pennywise¬†wreaked on the town. Also, being a librarian and archivist, he has resources to help¬†his friend research and confront the evil plaguing their town.

Stephen King’s It 1990. Bill Denbrough and Mike Hanlon” video uploaded by¬†Gunnar Andersson,¬†May 20, 2013. Standard YouTube license.

Mike is a classic Liberated Librarian character, as I point out in my¬†‚ÄúThe Liberated Librarian (guys, it‚Äôs your turn)‚ÄĚ post from 2012. He may start¬†out weak, a member of the self-proclaimed “Losers Club” — and¬†his friends continue to sarcastically refer to him as “the answer man” — but he does find personal release from the town’s nightmarish history. I included the character of Mike Hanlon¬†in my “Heroes/heroines” list on my “Victims or villains? Librarians in horror films &¬†thrillers” post from 2013. He is a hero who unites everyone to fight against evil. (Also, in King’s 1994 novel,¬†Insomnia, that¬†is also set in Derry, we learn that Mike continued to work as a librarian, yay!)

There are a few scenes in the miniseries set in the library, and you can see one of them here in this short video that rounds up the “Best of: Stephen King’s IT.” The library scene clip starts at 3:03.

Best of: Stephen King’s IT” video uploaded by¬†Gorey Bits, Aug. 29, 2016. Standard YouTube license.

Next week, I’ll be back with MORE creepy clowns¬†in my¬†film analysis post of¬†The Wicker Man.¬†(There’s a harlequin clown character central to¬†the May Day celebrations.) Stay tuned!

Positive portrayal of a reel librarian in ‘Curse of the Demon’

It’s October, which means it’s scary movie time!

I recently rewatched the 1957 black-and-white minor cult classic, Curse of the Demon, directed by Jacques Tourneur and starring Dana Andrews as psychologist John Holden. The film is based on the story “Casting the Runes,” written by Montague R. James.¬†The film begins with Holden learning of a colleague‚Äôs sudden¬†death, and he decides to continue his colleague’s research¬†‚ÄĒ and unwittingly¬†becoming the next target of a satanic cult!

Reel Librarians | Title card of 'Curse of the Demon' (1957)

Opening title card of ‘Curse of the Demon’ (1957)


The film, which is more a psychological thriller, still holds up quite well. The special effects of the demon monster (which even made it onto¬†some of the movie posters!), however, detract from an otherwise-good film. It came as no surprise to me when I learned that Tourneur didn’t want to show the monster at all; after all, it is a psychological film, and showing the monster undermines the whole point of the film. The studio insisted on including the monster and, allegedly, added the effects in post-production without Tourneur’s knowledge or consent. It’s the only clunker in the film.

What is NOT a clunker, thankfully, is the depiction of the reel librarian!ūüôā

About 15 minutes into the 95-minute film, Holden goes to the British Museum to research books mentioned in his colleague’s¬†research notes. The entire scene in the museum’s Reading Room lasts about 4 minutes, although the librarian appears in less than a minute total in the scene.

The Reading Room, also highlighted in Hitchcock’s 1929 film¬†Blackmail,¬†served as the model for the Library of Congress Reading Room (but was,¬†alas, relocated in 1997). The library is so well-known that at the beginning of this scene, the cabbie drops him off and directs to the library, which is “straight through.”

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Curse of the Demon' (1957)

Outside the British Museum in ‘Curse of the Demon’ (1957)

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Curse of the Demon' (1957)

The iconic Reading Room of the British Museum, as filmed in ‘Curse of the Demon’ (1957)

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Curse of the Demon' (1957)

Researchers in the British Museum Reading Room in ‘Curse of the Demon’ (1957)

The scene cuts immediately to Holden at a library desk, books and notes scattered about, and an older white male brings him a stack of books. As he sets them down, the librarian tells him that one book he requested, The True Discoveries of Witches and Demons, is not available.

Side note: ¬†I looked up that title in WorldCat, an online catalog of libraries worldwide — y’all knew that I would right?! — and there is no book by that title. There, is, however, a listing for a 2015 music CD of that same title, of instrumental chamber music by¬†John Zorn and others. Interesting!

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Curse of the Demon' (1957)

First glimpse of the librarian in ‘Curse of the Demon’ (1957)

Holden: ¬†What does ‘not available’ mean?

Librarian:  It should be in our restricted section. The only known existing copy. Over 400 years old, you know. It seems to be missing. Most peculiar. I’m having it checked.

The librarian promises that he’ll do his best to trace it, writing down information on a card, which he puts in his pocket before turning and walking away.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Curse of the Demon' (1957)

A positive portrayal of a librarian in ‘Curse of the Demon’ (1957)

I included a clip of this scene in my Reel Librarians conference presentation this past spring, as an example of a positive onscreen depiction of a reference librarian! The librarian is polite, very knowledgeable, and efficient.

The library scene continues after the librarian walks away and Holden turns back to his notes. The film’s antagonist, Dr. Julian Karswell, has been watching Holden in the library and takes the opportunity to introduce himself.

Karswell: ¬†I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation with the librarian. You’re interested in seeing The True Discoveries of Witches and Demons, is that it? I have a copy I’ll gladly put at your disposal.

Holden: ¬†Then the British Museum didn’t¬†have the only copy?

Karswell:  Apparently not, Dr. Holden. I have what is perhaps the finest library in the world on witchcraft and the black arts.

At this point, another patron shushes them!

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Curse of the Demon' (1957)

Getting shushed in ‘Curse of the Demon’ (1957)

Karswell then takes the opportunity to invite Holden to his place in the country, saying, “The book’s there.” He then¬†purposely pushes a folder off the table (planting a piece of paper that will be a crucial plot point later on!) and then¬†hands Holden¬†his card.

When Holden examines the card, he sees shiny writing on it, including the name of his colleague. He rubs his eyes, and that’s when the same librarian comes up and asks if he can help him. (Such a conscientious¬†librarian!) Holden asks the librarian about the handwriting on the card, but he doesn’t see any writing. He walks away, holding two thick books in his arms, and that’s the last we see of the librarian or British Museum Reading Room library.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Curse of the Demon' (1957)

The librarian inspects a card in ‘Curse of the Demon’ (1957)

John Salew plays the role of Librarian in this Class III film, and he fulfills the role of¬†Information Provider.¬†This library scene serves many purposes: it helps start off the film’s plot, provides means to introduce the protagonist and antagonist to each other, and propels the plot forward with the card and the paper Karswell secretly put into Holden’s folder of research notes. The librarian also serves as a kind of control group amongst the group of scientists and psychologists; he is the “normal” person who represents a rational point of view, undisturbed and unperturbed by any supernatural influence.

One last note: ¬†The original short story, “Casting the Runes” by Montague R. James, is available to read in full online. The story was first published in 1911 in James’s second collection of ghost stories, entitled¬†More Ghost Stories. The story does include several mentions of the British Museum, its Manuscript Room, and “the British Museum people” (those would be, ahem, librarians).

Reel Librarians | End credits of 'Curse of the Demon' (1957)

End credits of ‘Curse of the Demon’ (1957)

Thank goodness the role in the film is correctly listed¬†as “Librarian” — instead of “British Museum person” — and we get to enjoy a positive, although brief, portrayal of a reel librarian in¬†Curse of the Demon.

Announcing the winner of the 5th blogiversary giveaway

Thank you all for helping celebrate the 5th anniversary of this Reel Librarians blog and website! To help mark the occasion, I announced last week a personal giveaway for a $25 Out of Print Clothing e-gift card, as a small token of thanks for my readers.

There were 16 valid entries for the giveaway, and thank you all for participating! It was quite nice to see a variety of entries, from both new and returning readers.

I used Random.org to select the random winning entry:

Random number generator and winning entry

Entry #2 belonged to Emily Scott, a longtime reader of Reel Librarians.

giveaway winning entry

Congratulations,¬†Emily! I’ll be in touch soon via email to send the $25 Out of Print e-gift card your way!

Next week puts us into October, and that means¬†I’ll be continuing¬†my annual tradition of analyzing scary movies that feature¬†librarian portrayals! Stay tuned for all the thrills and chills of reel librarians!ūüėČ

5th blog anniversary + giveaway

Reel Librarians just turned five!!!!! (One exclamation point for every year, and many more…ūüėČ )

Scroll down to the bottom of this post for GIVEAWAY info, or take the scenic route and soak up some blogiversary stats.

Reel Librarians | Lego Librarian

“Summer of Nostalgia” round-up

Click the links below if you’d like to catch up on all the previous posts in my “Summer of Nostalgia” blog tour and revisiting favorites from five years of analyzing and blogging about reel librarians.

I ended up choosing 2 posts from 2011; 3 posts from 2012; 3 posts from 2013; 2 posts from 2014; and 1 post each from 2015 and 2016.

Quick stats comparison:

Looking back over the previous “blog anniversary” posts, I decided to do a little comparison to see how this blog has grown:

(1 year)

(5 years)

Total views:  19,000+  155,000+
Total views on busiest day:  219 (April 10, 2012) 2,448 (August 22, 2013)
Total comments:  165 628
Total posts:  153 posts + 21 pages  366 posts + 21 pages
Total shares: 121 3,794
Daily visits, average:  65 107
Total followers:  45  367

Previous blog anniversary posts:

Top 10 most popular posts this past year:

  1. The Killing Kind vs. The Attic¬†‚ÄĒ still going strong with¬†over 10,000 total¬†views
  2. Librarian t-shirt collection¬†— over 1,700 views this past year and over 4,000 total views
  3. Marian or Marion?¬†‚ÄĒ over¬†1,400 views this year and almost 4,500 total views (and one of my personal favorites!)
  4. Naughty Librarians (ladies, take it away)
  5. The Jedi librarian
  6. You, Me, Dupree, and the Naughty Librarian (another one of my personal favorites!)
  7. First impressions:  Monsters University
  8. Harry Potter and Madam Pince (another one of my personal favorites!)
  9. Reel librarians with ‘A Bone to Pick’
  10. How to spot the difference between a bookstore and a library onscreen

5th blog anniversary GIVEAWAY:

To help celebrate five years of reel librarian fun and film analyses, I am also personally hosting a giveaway, to help say THANK YOU to all the readers and followers of this website and blog.

One lucky reader will win a $25 e-gift card from one of my favorite online stores, Out of Print, which offers literary-themed t-shirts, tote bags, coffee mugs, and other items.

Out of Print e-gift card

Out of Print¬†has¬†items with artwork from¬†classic works, like Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (I have the purple P&P tee), literary terms (my husband owns the “Plot” tee), as well as collections like the Library Collection¬†(I have the library stamp¬†tee, library card socks, and library card pouch from this collection) and the Banned Books Collection (I also have the banned books pouch).

Note: ¬†Out of Print is not sponsoring this giveaway or this site. I’m¬†just a personal fan! The e-gift card giveaway prize is coming out of my¬†own pocket, as a personal thank you to readers.

This giveaway opens today and will be open through next Tuesday, Sept. 27, at 10 p.m. PST. This giveaway is also open to international readers. The winner will be chosen at random, and I will contact the winner by email soon after the giveaway closes. I will post the winner and winning entry on this blog on Wednesday morning, Sept. 28.

Mandatory entry:  

Leave a comment on this post to let¬†me know how you follow the Reel Librarians website and blog (via email, WordPress reader,¬†Pinterest, Bloglovin, visiting weekly, or some other way — or even if this is your first time!).

(Please note that the comment box requires an email address, but this info is not open to the general public.)

Bonus entries (3 more chances to win!):

  • Leave¬†a separate comment on this post about one of your favorite posts on this blog. In your comment, please include¬†the post link and a bit about why it’s one of your personal faves.
  • Share this giveaway via Twitter and/or Facebook, and leave a separate¬†comment on this post with applicable links.
  • Browse the Out of Print website and leave a separate comment on this post with a favorite item from the site.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for entering the giveaway! Good luck, and I’ll be back next week with the winner of the 5th anniversary giveaway!ūüėÄūüėÄūüėÄūüėÄūüėÄ