hammer comedy

Hammer films and comedy, sounds a bit of an odd combination, but in fact some of Hammer’s most successful movies were comedies and also comedy was something that Hammer were doing long before they resurrected DRACULA or FRANKENSTEIN. The studios most lucrative movie of the comedic variety was actually a film that was based on a popular ITV show called, ON THE BUSES. This was the first of three films that Hammer produced that centred on the cheeky and somewhat unlucky bus driver Stan Butler and his sidekick bus conductor Jack who were forever in it up to their necks or chasing woman, and always hotly pursued by the grinning inspector Blake or Blakey who’s mission in life was to get the better of the dodging duo. So quite rightly GDI decided that their comedy compilation of music from Hammer films should commence with selections from all three of the ON THE BUSES films, let us say straight away the music for these comedies was very tongue in cheek and was more often than not a musical wallpaper rather than an actual film score, but saying this it did it’s job and was an integral part of each and every movie and also every gag or comedy caper that was taking place on screen. So the collection kicks off with the title song from the first movie in the series, “ITS A GREAT LIFE ON THE BUSES” which was performed by singing group Quinceharmon. This is a very jolly sounding vocal in fact you can almost see the singers broad smiles as they perform it, shades of BROTHERHOOD OF MAN. This jaunty, cheeky and bouncy little ditty sets the scene perfectly for much of what is to follow. The end title makes an appearance in track 2, but is shorter than the opening track, but more or less the same. Track 3, is taken from MUTINY ON THE BUSES the music here is by well known British composer Ron Grainer, who of course found a place in music lovers hearts with his theme for DR WHO and later wowed soundtrack fans with his wonderfully atmospheric score to THE OMEGA MAN, the music that he has penned here is serviceable and pleasant enough but lets say its no Oscar winner as far as film music goes. Tracks 4 through to track 7 are taken from the final instalment of the Buses trilogy, HOLIDAY ON THE BUSES, composer Denis King was responsible for the score to this, and although it is fairly easy going material and pleasant enough it is far from memorable, King of course too found fame in writing for the small screen, remember BLACK BEAUTY? So the buses trilogy out of the way we move onto the next movie, it too started out as a TV show and became very popular with audiences in the UK during the 1970,s LOVE THY NEIGHBOUR would certainly not be given air time nowadays, lets just say it was a tad racially motivated and would be frowned on in this day and age if the TV company decided to repeat it. The score for the movie version of the series was the work of another well known British composer, Albert Elms, Three cues are included on the compilation, these are THE TITLE SONG,THE QUIZ and THE CRUISE, With most of the music included on this collection, there is not a lot that one can say about it other than it is serviceable and also that it was well suited to the movies it was written for, they say comedy is one of the hardest things to get right when you are an actor or a director, and I think that also can be said for the composer too, it must be difficult not to go over the top musically, because a splurge of music here or a little too much volume there could in affect ruin the scene or spoil the punch line, the carry on movies seemed to be able to get the mix right in all departments, and I think that Hammer were in a way trying to emulate the masterful comedy that radiated from that particular series of movies when they embarked on making comedy films during the 1970,s. At times it worked on other occasions it fell a little flat. Vintage Hammer comedy is up next in the running order as we are treated to Tony Lowry’s typically British sounding comedy musical flourishes from the 1958 naval caper UP THE CREEK, which starred David Tomlinson and peter Sellers and was directed by Val Guest.



Back to the 1970,s for the next four tracks, all of which come from MAN A BOUT THE HOUSE, music here is by Christopher Gunning, who also worked on Hammers HANDS OF THE RIPPER, again the music is fairly easy going and light, with two of the cues easily fitting into the Musak category of the dentist waiting room variety, the selections from the score do however include some up tempo chase music and a catchy title song performed by Annie Farrow. Two characters that featured in MAN ABOUT THE HOUSE the TV series and also the movie were George and Mildred, and as it transpired these proved to be more popular than the series they first popped up in, thus they were given their own TV series and also a feature film was produced, but not by Hammer, but GDI felt that they could not omit the odd couple from their compilation, so we have music from GEORGE AND MILDRED by Les Reed  and also another Cinema Arts inc production RISING DAMP with the repulsive Rigsby and the sex starved Ruth being musical accompanied by composer David Lindup. Back to Hammer next, and Stanley Blacks music for FURTHER UP THE CREEK, which is obviously the sequel to UP THE CREEK. The compilation also includes two vocals from NEAREST AND DEAREST, with THE MORE YOU LAUGH being performed by Hilda Baker, in true Nellie Pledge fashion. Plus I ONLY ARSKED which was an adaptation of the TV series THE ARMY GAME, that is represented by the vocals of Bernard Bresslaw on the song, ALONE TOGETHER. The final selection is by composer David Whitaker and is taken from THAT’S YOUR FUNERAL, which was released in 1973,and it has to be said is nowhere near as interesting as the composers other Hammer scores, i.e.; VAMPIRE CIRCUS and DR JECKYLL AND SISTER HYDE. But wait there is more, three bonus tracks are saved right until the end, and you know the saying save the best till last,    well no actually forget that,,, these are just a bit of fun really, they include The ON THE BUSES title song, performed by those nice smiley folks, Quinceharmon, but this time its Accapella, and two cues from RISING DAMP one of which is a version of the title song performed by Leonard Rossiter.  Without a doubt this is a collection for true Hammer devotees, and yes there are some pleasant enough compositions within its running time, but I think Hammer should really stick to scaring people.






Born in Vienna on May 12th 1897,Erich Wolfgang Korngold, was destined to become one of the worlds most celebrated and revered composers of music for the cinema. His musical aptitude being so advanced that he was able to play piano proficiently by the age of just five. He found it relatively easy to play melodies and tunes on the instrument after hearing them just moments beforehand. By the time he had reached his seventh birthday Korngold was able to write music, he was looked upon as a genius by many and hailed as a child prodigy. His Father took the advice of a number of composers such as Mahler, that it would be a waste of time to send the young musician to study at a conservatory, he was so advanced in his musical knowledge that it was highly improbable that he would actually learn anything or gain anymore knowledge from doing so. At just eleven years of age Erich Korngold had his first important musical work performed, it was entitled THE SNOWMAN. This was in Vienna at the Court Opera, in the presence of honoured guests which included, Emperor Franz Josef. After this Korngold composed works for chamber orchestra and also symphonic works. In 1915, at the age of eighteen, Korngold wrote two operas. Four years after this he composed his first score for the theatre, this was a production of William Shakespeare’s MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING. In 1920, his opera THE DEAD CITY made it’s debut, this transpired to be the composers most successful work and is regarded even by today’s musical experts as one of the major operatic works of the twentieth century. Korngold’s first foray into writing for the cinema came in 1934, this is when the composer went to America and in Hollywood supervised the music for Max Reinhardt’s cinematic version of A MIDSUMMER NIGHTS DREAM, the play had been a huge success at the Hollywood bowl and Warner brothers films were keen to have it transferred to celluloid. Reinhardt told the film company that he would agree to do the movie, but only if he could retain the stage score by Mendelssohn and also told Warner’s that Korngold was the only person he trusted to adapt it and enlarge the score for the film, he also wanted Korngold to conduct the music, Warner’s agreed. Korngold’s work on the production assisted its impact and also its overall presentation. The composer received much recognition for his work on the production and it was this that prompted Warner Brothers to offer the composer another scoring assignment which was CAPTAIN BLOOD.


Cover of
Cover of Captain Blood


The scoring schedule on BLOOD was very tight indeed, the movie needed an hour of fully symphonic music and Korngold had just three weeks to create it. Because of the scoring timetable that Warner’s had imposed on Korngold for the film, the composer decided to utilize sections of symphonic poems by Franz Liszt. The composer using the sections, PROMETHEUS, for the final sword fight between the films two main protagonists, played by Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone, he also used Liszt’s MAZEPPA for the films sea battle sequence with the French fleet which came at the end of the movie. Warner Brothers were more than pleased with the score that Korngold had written for their swashbuckler, and the composer was almost immediately offered a contract with the studio. Korngold was to become the first composer known internationally to have a contract with a film studio, and Warner’s were so pleased that they had managed to secure the composers services that the contract might as well have been written by Korngold himself. It stipulated that he did not have to do any movie he did not like, also it stated that he would only have to work on three scores during a two year period, and that his music would remain his property at all times. The composers contract with the studio came to an end in 1946,and after scoring the Bette Davies movie DECEPTION, Korngold decided to retire from scoring films. Because his last few movies had been less than runaway success’s at the box office the composer began to loose interest in film.






In 1956 Korngold suffered a stroke and was almost completely paralyzed, just over a year later on November 29th 1957,the composer had a heart attack and died, he was sixty years of age. Korngold’s film music career may have been short lived, but in a handful of years the composer created numerous scores that would become an important part of film music history and also a part of the history of cinema, his music is grand, operatic and oozing with vibrant and passionate themes, ANTHONY ADVERSE, JUAREZ, THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD,THE SEA HAWK, KINGS ROW,THE CONSTANT NYMPH,OF HUMAN BONDAGE,THE SEA WOLF and numerous others all benefited greatly from the lush and highly romantic and dramatic music of Korngold, film music has been a poorer art form since his passing.

…E poi lo chiamarono Il Magnifico-aka. MAN FROM THE EAST.


Originally released on LP in 1972, this is an expanded and complete version of the soundtrack and in my opinion has to be one of the best scores by the brothers De Angelis. Normally their music for westerns is something of an acquired taste, KEOMA and MANNAJA being prime example.  MAN FROM THE EAST, is i have to say slightly more diluted and more or less conforms with the norms of an Italian western score,if indeed there are any norms within this genre and its musical scores. The work contains some really lovely melodies that are orchestrated marvelously and contain a fusion of styles that cross over from Italian to Hollywood western,in other words it has in places a rawness that we associate with the Italian produced western,but it also has within its boundaries a sound that is more akin to the American produced movies that were so popular in the 1950,s and early 1960,s, They still however make effective use of that sort of bluesy slide guitar sound, but the string and wind arrangements are definitely more accomplished and broader than in many of their other works for the spaghetti western genre. I would say that this a slightly more sharp and melodious version of THEY STILL CALL ME TRINITY which of course is one of De Angelis landmark soundtracks. The score also contains some rather effective and well performed banjo interludes, as in cue six, ‘Arrivo In Treno’, and its title song  ‘Don’t Lose Control’ is an appealing composition which is performed on three occasions by vocalist Gene Roman, who has worked with the composers on many soundtracks.

The choral performances on the score are by Nora Orlandi, who again has been a close associate and collaborators of this composing duo on a number of soundtracks.  So all in all a worthwhile release, that I am sure will be returned to many times after the initial listen. Good sound quality also, which again is due to the work put in by Professor Roberto Zamori, nice cover art and full cast list and film credits are included inside the liner cover. Take a chance on this even if you have not exactly been over joyed with the De Angelis sound before and I think that you will be pleasantly surprised.

Ballata Per Un Pistolero.


ballata-per-un-pistoleroAn Italian made western from 1967, Ballata Per Un Pistolero received only a limited release in cinemas outside Italy. The music by composer Marcello Giombini was never actually released on a recording at the time of the film’s screening. However, a single 45rpm disc was issued, which contained the film’s title song performed by Peppino Gagliardi. This, like many other songs from Spaghetti Westerns, was successful in the Italian hit parade, and has been included on a handful of Spaghetti Western music compilations that have been issued in Italy and Japan. This, then, is the first time ever that Giombini’s wonderful score has been available to collectors in its entirety and, in my humble opinion, it has been worth the wait of nearly 40 years. Ballata Per Un Pistolero is in some ways similar to Giombini’s Sabata soundtracks, but maybe not quite as bouncy and quirky, The music is possibly more varied as it contains a more diverse mix of compositions that are not so repetitive.

The central theme is in many ways akin to Nicolai’s Indio Black theme, minus the chorale parts, with racing snare drums providing backing to an electric guitar solo which is enhanced by the use of solo trumpet and wistful sounding flutes and piccolos. There are also a number of cues where the composer utilizes organ, which are interesting and entertaining. The central theme crops up a few times throughout the score, but in numerous and varying arrangements, which keeps the listener engrossed and the music remains fresh and vibrant. Giombini also throws in a few of the obligatory saloon/cantina tracks and even these are not as irritating as normal.

 Overall, Ballata Per Un Pistolero is a soundtrack that is a must-buy item for any collector of Italian film music, and contains many of the now stock trademarks that we associate with the music for the Spaghetti Western genre; electric guitars, solo trumpets, racing snares, Mexican-sounding dance music and urgent sounding cues for the action sequences. The sound quality of the song, which appears at the end of the soundtrack, is strangely not as good as the rest of the CD – maybe this came from the original single tapes and not the film masters? Other than that I recommend this soundtrack highly.



Any spaghetti western score is always welcome on compact disc as far as I am concerned. Anything from this genre of films invariably contains some outstanding cues and pleasant surprises. But when it’s a re-issue I do tend to be slightly dubious about whether or not it should be re-released etc, in this case however I am glad to report that Digit movies have served up an outstanding soundtrack with lots of extra cues and also rich and full blooded sound quality, is there nothing that these guys can do wrong, everything they seem to touch is gold. Maybe I am going over the top a little, but this is a really wonderful soundtrack, its got all the ingredients of a classic spaghetti western score, guitar solos, choir, trumpet, saloon piano tracks, whistling and a fantastic title song (YOU’D BETTER SMILE) what else could we ask for. The soundtrack originally got a release on RCA paired with Rustichelli,s A MINUTE TO LIVE A MINUTE TO DIE and up till now I was content with the handful of tracks that were included on that disc, but on hearing this version I don’t think I will ever play the RCA disc again. Apart from the actual quality of the music I am blown away by the re-mastering techniques and standards on this release, and we should all thank Digit-movies for restoring and saving this score for collectors to listen to over and over again. There are no less than 27 cues on this release, the first 11 are stereo tracks and the remaining 16 are in mono and among these are a number of alternate takes. The packaging is as always very colourful and stands out. So its hats off to Digit Movies once again, this is a must have compact disc, and a great addition to any soundtrack collection.