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There have been many releases of Italian western scores over the years and there were so many that it got to the point where it was hard to keep up with the near tidal wave of issues, re-issues and re-releases. Which if you are a fan as I am of the genre and its music is a good thing. However, when it gets to the stage when releases are put out that are sub standard in sound quality I think its time to take a step back look again or even stop. The Digit movies release of CALIFORNIA by Italian Maestro Gianni Ferrio is certainly a contender in my opinion for being given an award for the worst sound quality on a soundtrack. I do realise that with a movie as old as this the tapes would probably be a little worse for wear, so my question is WHY release it in this condition, it is I think a little immoral of the producers or re-mastering people isn’t it ? Or maybe not as they obviously did not spend any time on the sound restoration or re mastering. This is a score that is essentially a good example of the Italian western score from the end of the genres popularity because audiences tastes were changing. I have to say it would probably have been better to leave it in the archives rather than release a score that has terrible sound quality as this does, there is distortion, hiss and all sorts of fluctuation in its duration and instead of being a tribute or a reminder of the genius of Ferrio it is an insult to his memory and also in this case an insult to the harmonica playing of Franco de Gemini. The sound is dull, muffled and resembles the sound one got out of an old LP record after it had been played and damaged by a worn stylus, in fact it sounds as if it is a cheap bootleg,(I said sounds like) the type we used to get many years ago, but wait even they sounded better than this. In fact by the time I got to track number 10, I had just about had enough, what should have been a welcome release turned out to be a pile of garbage in the sound department, this was not re-mastered, edited,digitally selected (what is that anyway-ah maybe they line the tracks up and let a digit select them) or restored by Claudio Fuiano as the credits say (its there in bold print people read it and weep) because nothing has been done or if it has then oh my God those tapes were really bad. Restored????(TO BRING BACK OR RE-ESTABLISH A PREVIOUS RIGHT PRACTISE OR SITUATION) that means to be made as new doesn’t it or restored as in made to sound or look as it did when it was new, it was simply plucked off the shelf and thrown onto a cdr then released on a legiimate disc, once again the collectors are the loosers because they have paid out for a compact disc that is almost useless, I do emphasis that the score is very good, inventive and in places very innovative as most Ferrio westerns are but the sound quality lets it down, I suppose what I am saying is don’t waste your dollars on this piece of un-listenable junk. The compact disc also contains another western score by Ferrio, REVERENDO COLT (1970) or at least selections from it, again the quality of the music compositions, orchestrations and the performances on whistle and guitar by Allessandro Alessandroni are good, as are the fluglehorn performances by Oscar Valdambrini. I have to say that REVERENDO COLT does fare a little better in the sound department but not a great deal, again what should be a joy for collectors is marred by inferior sound quality. I have a suggestion, lets wait for the inevitable re-issue with extra tracks and better re-mastering, there is bound to be one along any day now, but dont worry if we miss that one there is always the definitive edition or the super duper thirty extra track edition with gold lining and free marks and spencer vouchers.

Packaging is colourful and eye catching, but the notes are in two short words, A JOKE. Back to the drawing board Digit Movies, better still recall all the copies apologise profusely and give the collectors their cash back. Then gather all the copies up and dump them in a furnace. There is an old saying, there is no such thing as bad publicity, wanna bet………



Concerts of film music are sadly in the UK a rare thing, so when I saw one advertised and in my home town I booked the tickets. The programme was HEROES AND ALIENS – EPIC GALACTIC SOUNDTRACKS, The orchestra THE BOURNEMOUTH SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA under the baton of conductor, Pete Harrison. I must admit I had seen the BSO before and in Brighton and funnily enough at the same venue THE DOME this was way back though with Ron Goodwin at the helm, playing all his film music themes and lots of pieces from his more easy listening repertoire. This must have been in the 1970,s I am thinking 1976 or around that period and Ron never came back sadly.

Conductor  Pete Harrison.

Conductor Pete Harrison.

The programme consisted of the music of John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, Michael Giacchino, Ron Grainer, Murray Gold, Stu Phillips and James Horner. The concert opened with the Main title from STAR WARS a performance that was greeted with lots of applause from the near capacity audience mixed in were a few whoops of excitement and delight from the younger members attending. I think the conductor was a little taken aback by the reaction of the audience, but this was a well deserved response because the BSO had just played one of the most iconic movie themes and played it well in fact I would say perfect as I found it hard to differentiate between their live performance and the one on my compact discs of the soundtracks of the STAR WARS movies.
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After the applause died away the conductor spoke to the audience welcoming them and talking a little about STAR WARS and John Williams, which led him to the introduction of the next piece LOST IN SPACE the theme from the 1960,s hit TV series which has itself in more recent years become something of a cult series along the same lines as STAR TREK etc. The orchestra launched into John Williams or Johnny Williams quirky and infectious titles theme for the programme and although short lived it still hit the spot with the audience, the older members obviously remembering their childhood days watching the Space family Robinson and their various adventures in deep space as they attempted to find their way home, accompanied or should I say hampered by the erroneous Dr Smith who caused more trouble than all of the family combined. Also on board was a robot who became the star of the series for many the partnership between Dr Smith and the robot was magic, even though the Dr did think he was a BUBBLE HEADED BOOBIE at times. Williams music for the series was perfect it supported and underlined wonderfully the hapless Dr Smith as well as creating a dramatic and memorable soundtrack that is now to this day instantly recognisable to fans of the series.

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The mood of the music shifted for the next performance which was taken from James Horner’s magnificent score for APOLLO 13, haunting and humbling in its sound and style, a lone trumpet opened the proceedings in a flawless rendition of Horner’s melancholy but at the same time martial motif, underlined by snare drums and then joined by strings in a slow and proud sounding piece that is I suppose the epitome of everything American or what America holds dear.
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The concert continued with such gems as CLOSE ENCOUNTERS which was not only stunning as a composition but as a performance by the BSO. Lets remember this is not an easy score to perform, William‘s created a modern sounding work for Spielberg’s UFO masterpiece which was at times complex. We were also treated to more John Williams in the form of E.T with the orchestra taking on the lengthy composition ADVENTURES ON EARTH in which they again acquitted themselves marvellously.
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Sitting listening to the pulsating and fast paced piece with the familiar sounding central theme rising its head every so often instantly took me back to watching the movie and seeing the chase at the end of the movies where bikes and boys vs. Cops in a desperate pursuit to save E.T. ATTACK OF THE CLONES was also represented in the programme with the beautiful love theme ACROSS THE STARS. Jerry Goldsmith’s scary end titles for ALIEN made an appearance too, and I have to say this was as close to the original as I have heard. Goldsmith was also represented with a suite of music from STAR TREK-NEMESIS, which ended with the composers rousing central theme which he created for the STAR TREK movies. We went back to the small screen with great renditions of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA by Stu Phillips and also a performance of the Ron Grainer penned DR WHO theme which had been arranged by Murray Gold. Then there was ARMAGEDDON by former rock artist Trevor Rabin which I have to tell you got everyone sitting up listening. Composer Michael Giacchino too was represented with two compositions from his STAR TREK score, HELLA BAR TALK and ENTERPRISING YOUNG MEN, which was powerful and moving. The music of the late James Horner also returned in the driving and hard hitting WAR from AVATAR and music from his ALIENS soundtrack. This was in my opinion a great concert and one which I will not forget in a long while, a word to the Brighton Dome More film music please….The concert came to an end but the audience wanted more, and the B. S.O. obliged with SUPERMAN. To the B.S.O and their wonderful conductor Pete Harrison, BRAVO BRAVO ….. Come back soon……..

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I first remember seeing THE DANCE OF THE VAMPIRES as it was called many years ago on TV it must have been a long time ago as I watched it on a black and white set that my parents had. I am sure it was on BBC late at night you know the last movie of the weekend when they played the national anthem and reminded you to unplug the set. The edition of the film I saw that night was the version with the animated introduction, which is the one and only time I have seen this version. One of the things that struck me about the movie was the music, it was certainly atmospheric if nothing else, it was rather different for a horror movie but there again we are talking Polanski here.


Composer Krzysztof Komeda penned a very innovative and original sounding soundtrack to accompany the rather chaotic and madcap adventures of the two vampire hunters which the story focuses upon. Komeda’s score is essentially a serious one, but does however contain a few more slightly comedic interludes. After the animated intro the famous MGM lion turns into a green vampire character with its fangs dripping blood as this imagery begins so does Komeda’s wonderful choral main title at first it sounds off key or slightly out of kilter but as the credits roll and the drops of blood fall the music grows and develops establishing the core theme for the score which re-appears at key points within the movie, and is especially effective as we see Count Von Krolock (Ferdy Mayne) on his way to claim a victim, it is in my opinion a very modern sounding piece and even today sounds like it was written recently and could be the work of Philip Glass, but it is attractive in a sort of weird way. The composer supports the lead vocalising with harpsichord and also percussion which in turn is enhanced further by guitar and a kind of warbling choral sound. On first seeing the movie I must admit I found it a little hard going, I had after all been used to the gothic horrors from Hammer and the old black and white Universal tales of the macabre and the fantastic. Polanski’s approach was totally different from anything I had witnessed before and I have to say that it was not until a few years later when I sat and watched the movie again that I fully appreciated the comic and ironic appeal of the picture and the inventive and highly original score by Komeda. The version of the score I have was released on a Polish label THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE HUNTERS being the second Komeda soundtrack on the disc, the other being his triumph of film scoring ROSEMARYS BABY another Polanski horror movie. THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE HUNTERS contains approx 30 minutes of music, Komeda and Polanski choosing to score the project sparingly, in fact after the main titles the film has no music for at least the first half an hour.

It is in this opening 30 minutes or so that the audience is introduced to most of the leading players in the movie, Komeda’s score does not return until the scene where the hunchback who is the Count’s assistant and bodygaurd takes the Vampire to attack the innkeepers daughter Sarah played by Sharon Tate, as the beautiful girl sits in a bath tub filled with bubbles she notices that snow is falling indoors and looks up to see the evil Count coming through the skylight to abduct her. All that is left after he has gone is the bubbles that are now tainted with blood. Komeda’s music is highly effective within this scene and gives it a certain chilling atmosphere which is greatly aided by the utilisation of the Japanese bamboo flute called the Shakuhachi. Sarah’s Father played by Alfie Bass is bereft at the abduction of his daughter and chewing handfuls of garlic sets off into the frozen night to rescue her, in the morning he is found frozen and drained of blood. The vampire hunters decide it would be best to stake him there and then, but the innkeepers wife wont have any of it.

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The vampire hunters decide to go down in the dead of night to finish him off, but they bungle the job and the now vampire innkeeper escapes and makes a b line for the maid, shocked at her once employer being a vampire and wanting to bite her she shows him a crucifix, the innkeeper laughs because being Jewish the crucifix has no power “YOU’VE GOT THE WRONG VAMPIRE” he says. Then there is the obviously Gay vampire who is the son of the Count, who chases Alfred the vampire hunters apprentice in the hope of turning him into one of the un-dead.


The chase is hilarious, and is masterfully scored by the composer who utilises choir, harpsichord and guitar which are all punctuated and supported by timpani. The timing of the music within this scene is crucial and without it the sequence would probably not have worked again we can hear certain similarities to the music of Morricone. This is a master class in how to score a movie, the music is certainly striking in places but then at other times it is subtle and understated. Komeda was a great talent and his working relationship with Polanski was a fruitful one.

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PRIDE PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES ? Yes that’s correct I have not gone mad and got two genres or stories mixed up, well I haven’t but director Burr Steers seems to have. Released this week in the UK PRIDE PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES (lets not forget those flesh eating varmints) Is an odd fusion of horror with the highly acclaimed and sophisticated story as penned by Jane Austen in 1813. It is actually based on the 2009 novel by Seth Grahame Smith who via his writings provided us with this parody of established English romanticism and mashed it up with the gory and manic world of the ZOMBIE. So here we are in 19th Century England and a mysterious plague has fallen upon the country the entire land being overrun and decimated by the un-dead hordes who lust after human flesh and more. Who can stop these I hear you scream, well our fearsome and somewhat highly strung Heroine Elizabeth Bennet of course silly you.


She is a supreme master of the martial arts and has all sorts of weaponry at her disposal. She joins forces with Mr Darcy and together they set about ridding the land of this Zombie scourge and whilst doing so discover that they are truly in love with each other. A highly unlikely scenario yes, but it’s a bit of fun isn’t it. The musical score is the work of Spanish born composer Fernando Velazquez who is certainly no stranger to horror movies, his score to DEVIL for example just oozed a virulent and foreboding atmosphere and was hailed by many as a masterpiece of film scoring which tilted its hat to the style of the great Bernard Herrmann within its perimeters on more than one occasion. I love the way in which the composer manages to balance the music equally within its respective genres, by this I mean that the score remains elegant and romantic throughout but at the same time the composer infuses the correct amount of action led cues and horror laced passages whilst introducing a certain amount of comedic writing which lightens the mood at times. The score is quite large scale, the composer utilising to great effect the string section which is ably supported and enhanced by percussion and imposing sounding horns. Velazquez also employs to great effect lilting solo piano and a spidery sounding harpsichord at times which effectively sends shivers down the listeners spine giving the work a chilling aura.



This is a score that is filled with numerous sharp and searing string stabs, pounding percussive passages and an ample helping of rasping and growling brass performances, in short it is a great horror score but even though the majority of the music is what can be deemed as KNOCK EM DOWN AND DRAG EM OUT cues it still remains highly thematic and entertaining. Full of stirring heroic material which is supported by touches of the mysterious and full blown mayhem this is a soundtrack that I recommend to you, a truly old fashioned sounding horror score, that is relentless and unyielding, it’s a blast.


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Here at MMI we do not have the facilities or budget to give out actual physical awards or certificates to composers or record labels etc, but we would like to recognise the following for their contributions to the art of film music over the past 12 months.



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It is always difficult to reach a decision on record label of the year and this year it is a tie between.

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