When this movie first hit the cinemas, it was slated and put down by critics, it was seen as a vehicle for Hammer films to try and become hip with the younger generation, which in fact it was, sadly at the time it failed miserably and was to be honest a laugh a minute, with all its so called trendy and groovy talk from the younger members of the cast, if one had lived during the 1970s one would know this. But it has in recent years become something of a cult film, and on viewing it a couple of times more recently I too have warmed to it, OK its certainly no classic hammer horror but it contains some interesting and suitably horrific moments. The score by Mike Vickers does its job and supports and enhances where it needs to, the former Manfred Mann group member provided the film with a funky sounding pop orientated score which although many thought inappropriate at the time, actually works very well in the context of the film adding much atmosphere to the proceedings., It certainly was a modern sounding work for a Hammer movie but also contains and retains that Hammer gothic sound throughout and even has the familiar Dracula theme or a deviation of it at least by James Bernard woven into the fabric of the score. It also seems to include some other composing traits that Bernard employed, these are more prominent within the opening cue, as Vickers utilises growling brass and rumbling percussion to depict the Counts demise.
This was probably because of Hammers MD at the time Phil Martell, who greatly admired Bernard’s music, and was said to be reluctant to have Vickers as composer on the picture. It was also rumoured that some of the composing duties were given to Don Banks who had worked on a number of vintage Hammer productions. The films prologue was an impressive one, and in the tradition of most Hammer movies was a lengthy pre credits sequence, as the movie opens the scene is set in London’s Hyde Park in 1872 and the infamous Count is battling with the fearless Van Helsing on an out of control horse drawn carriage that is travelling at break neck speed, literally hurtling headlong whilst the pair are locked into a fight to the death. Cant say I noticed the music at this point as the scene was so high octane and for those days quite violent, the scene ends in the usual Hammer fashion the Count is taken out by Van Helsing this time with the spokes of a broken carriage wheel, after the Count is dispatched and has decomposed into a steaming and putrefying pile of ash, the scene switches from London of the 19th Century to London 1972, a jet flies overhead and London red buses are in shot as the title credits role accompanied by Vickers infectious saxophone led composition, which are supported by upbeat percussion wild sounding electric guitar and other members of the brass section, to be honest the opening theme sounds more like something Laurie Johnson would have conjured up for TV series like THE PROFESSIONALS or even THE AVENGERS, but its an effective opening, working well within the movie and also standing up on its own as a instrumental cue.
Track 7 is particularly interesting, DRACULA RISING/THE BLOOD RITUAL/LAURA SCREAMS begins with a fearful sounding motif in which Vickers employs some of that James Bernard style, low growling brass introduce the sequence accompanied and embellished by slow and deliberate sounding percussion, which is interspersed with trumpet stabs and also use of underlying saxophone, this soon builds into an upbeat cue performed by electric guitar more saxophone all bolstered by percussion and jazz influenced brass. Track 8 too is an original sounding piece, DRACULA RETURNS/DRACULA BITES LAURA, includes the growling brass motif to accompany the Count, organ is added to give it a more sinister effect, the composer cleverly orchestrating the composition by employing dramatic brass and a hint of female choral that is barely distinguishable amongst the rising brass and menacing strings. On listening to this score again away from the images it is certainly clear that Vickers provided the movie with an excellent and well written soundtrack. It’s a shame that he did not work for Hammer again, as maybe he would have produced some more interesting works for the house of horror. Overall this is a great listen, and the production values as always with BSX are high, notes by the ever popular Randall D. Larson are excellent and informed, with contributions from Mike Vickers and also one of hammers leading ladies Caroline Munro, well packaged with a number of stills and a particularly eye catching inlay illustration of the count about to sink his fangs into the neck of the aforementioned Miss Munro. All this and two bonus cues performed by the group Stoneground, this is a must have, its far out and funky man!