Franz Reizenstein.


Franz Reizenstein was born in Nuremberg on June 7th 1911, his father was a doctor and also an excellent amateur pianist, his elder sister was an artist and his elder brother played the violin. Reizenstein’s Mother was also very musical and was astonished when her two year old son could sing back any of the songs that she had just sung to him in perfect pitch and time. At the age of just four Franz began to teach himself to play the piano, and it was also at this time that he begun to compose short pieces of music. When Franz was a teenager the sudden death of his father inspired him to compose a piece in his memory. At 17, Reizenstein decided to study composition under Paul Hindemith in Berlin. Despite opposition from his uncle he eventually went to Berlin in 1930. As the thirties progressed the Jewish Reizenstein relocated to the Royal College of Music in London, where he continued to study composition under Vaughn Williams and also continued his piano studies under Solomon. Reizenstein never returned to Germany, instead he adopted British nationality and remained in London until his untimely death at the age of 57. He left a wife, Margaret, and also a son John.

The Mummy (1959 film)
The Mummy (1959 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Although Reizenstein was thought of as a serious musician and composer, by this I mean he composed mostly for concert hall performance. He did make a number of forays into the world of film music, most notably the composer worked on Hammer films production of THE MUMMY in 1959 which was the composer’s film music debut. His score is sweeping and dramatic but also remains romantic and melodically lush and lavish. The central theme that he wrote for the movie doubles as a love theme of sorts and depicts THE MUMMY’S (Kharis) centuries old obsession for Princess Ananka. Reizenstein, reprised the principal theme throughout his score and it is performed in a number of variations and arrangements an assortment of instrumentation. Although the central theme is essentially the heart of Reizenstein’s score, the composer also created secondary and other minor themes for the soundtrack which are just as important and integral to the movie and the story that is unfolding upon the screen. The images of the Mummy frantically smashing its way into Peter Cushing’s character John Banning’s library and study is underlined and accompanied by rasping brass, which blares out over driving and urgent sounding strings that are themselves supported and punctuated by a chaotic sounding Xylophone. This exciting composition stops abruptly as Banning’s wife Isobel enters the room, Kharis see’s her and believes her to be he lost love Ananka,

The Mummy ceases his attack on Banning and beats a retreat out of the house and into the night. The sense of excitement and atmosphere of Kharis’s ferocious attack on Banning is assisted greatly by Reizenstein’s highly volatile and vibrant musical score. The movies climatic scene is another example of how much the score aided the impact of the images and just how images and music can and should work in film as one. Kharis returns to Banning’s house, this time the evil Mummy is intent on killing him, things however do not go to plan and Kharis abducts Isobel, Pursued by the Police, villagers and Banning, Kharis is chased into a swamp. Booming percussion racing timpani and short brass stabs underline the scene. When Kharis is shot down Reizenstein’s urgent timpani begins to slow as if to be the heartbeat of the Mummy, and as the creature disappears below the swamp Reizenstein’s musical accompaniment fades and eventually stops. Reizenstein was at the top of his musical game when Hammer asked him to write the score for THE MUMMY, His music was quite unique and the composer placed his stylish and original musical fingerprint upon the production, the idiom of his music being unmistakably 20th Century but not avant-garde.


Many composers in the first half of the century became beguiled with the twelve tones series system, but Reizenstein found that the strict system cramped his natural style and he never cared for the tight intellectual music it produced. Reizenstein’s music flows naturally from melodic ideas and harmonies with which the listener can easily identify. He composed concertos for piano, violin and cello with orchestras, and two large-scale choral works, VOICES OF NIGHT and GENESIS. The latter was commissioned for the Three Choirs Festival of 1958, which was held at Hereford Cathedral. The success of VOICES OF THE NIGHT led the BBC to commission him to write the first opera for radio, entitled ANNA KRAUS. It was the British entry for the prestigious Italia Prize. Reizenstein also composed music for a number of documentary films, and provided incidental music for a number of BBC productions.

Cover of "Circus of Horrors"
Cover of Circus of Horrors

Shortly after completing his score for THE MUMMY, he wrote the music for Sydney Hayers shocker CIRCUS OF HORRORS (1959). As a composer Reizenstein was versatile and this became even more evident when Gerard Hoffnung asked him to write two works for the Hoffnung Concerts. At first Reizenstein was reluctant and refused, he argued that he was a serious composer who would be reluctant to let his hair down at the Royal Festival Hall, Hoffnung persevered, however and Reizenstein contributed the witty CONCERTO POPOLARE or (the piano concerto to end all piano concerto’s)and the hilarious LETS FAKE AN OPERA.    



This intelligent and absorbing drama was released in 1978, and starred the ever popular American actor David Janssen. Of course, Mr Janssen had been so well thought of and extremely popular via his TV roles in such series as THE FUGITIVE, O’HARA UNITED STATES TREASURY and RICHARD DIAMOND, all of which were top shows on American TV and also did well when sold to other countries. Janssen began his acting career back in 1945 and did make a number of what can be deemed as good movies, but it was television that was to really bring the actor’s talents to the public at large and by the early to mid 1960s, Janssen was well established as an actor of much worth. Unfortunately the actor’s life was to be cut short by a heart attack which he suffered in 1980. I am certain if he had lived we would have seen many more superior performances from Janssen. As far as I know he only made one movie in Italy which was SONO STATO UN AGENTE CIA (or COVERT ACTION as it was re-titled for release outside of Italy) but he also starred in another European production entitled THE SWISS CONSPIRACY. SONO SATO UN AGENTE CIA was a totally engrossing drama and saw Janssen as a former CIA  agent who had retired and decided to tell his story in the form of a book. The CIA as you can imagine are not too pleased about this and they send Arthur Kennedy to track Janssen down in Greece.  The landscapes are stunning, the photography marvellous and the storyline and the performances by all actors are outstanding.

The musical score is by one of Italy’s foremost composers of film music Stelvio Cipriani.  Cipriani was no stranger to this type of movie when he was commissioned to write the score and had also made a name for himself scoring a number of successful Italian westerns, THE BOUNTY HUNTER, A MAN A HORSE AND A GUN and BLINDMAN among them. Cipriani opens the score with a delightful easy going semi disco tempo composition entitled RELAX. The romantic strings laced with playful sounding harpsichord are just two of the trademark sounds of Cipriani which combine elegantly and melodically; intertwining and complimenting each other to create an almost leisurely piece that is not only entertaining but also serves the movie well – the composer establishing almost immediately a romantic ambience to the proceedings. Track number two, CIA AGENT is another example of the composer’s prowess and originality in creating haunting themes. This restrained and rather downbeat sounding cue is performed by solo flute which is backed by guitar and underlying strings with a restrained use of percussion. Track three, AGENT TALE seems on its commencement to be a pleasant enough sounding interlude, but one which accompanies the murder of one of the stories characters in an old theatre. Track four, JOURNEY IN ATHENS is a gentle nod in the direction of Greek composers Mikis Theodorakis and Manos Hajidakis as it certainly has a number of similarities to both TOPKAPI and ZORBA THE GREEK. Cipriani creates a somewhat authentic sounding composition that is vibrant and full of life. This composition is reprised in track five but the composer arranges it in a slightly different fashion reducing the tempi. Track six, ‘Investigation Rhythm’ is a masterful piece as the composer returns to elements of the CIA AGENT theme but on this occasion interjects and infuses a sense of mystery by using a more brooding approach via different instrumentation and creating an atmosphere that is solitary and singular. Track seven is a reprise of the opening theme ‘Relax’; the composer on this outing commences with pensive piano that leads into harpsichord which picks out the rather lovely theme strings are to present in an arrangement of the theme that is reminiscent of the composer’s excellent theme for THE ANONYMOUS VENETIAN. Overall this is a great soundtrack and one that I am so glad has been released on CD thanks to Chris’s Soundtrack Corner for this gem of a score and I look forward to many more being issued on this particular label. Presented well, with many informative notes and scattering of stills from the movie.



Composer Riz Ortolani has been associated with numerous European / Italian and also American made movies. His style of composition lends itself particularly well to the genre of the romantic variety, but he has also penned a number of films scores that are certainly hard hitting, for movies such as THE VALACHI PAPERS, DAY OF ANGER, THE GLORY GUYS, DAYS OF FURY, THE 7TH DAWN, THE McKENZIE BREAK, BATTLE FOR ANZIO and THE HUNTING PARTY to name a handful of examples. The composer’s career began in 1954 with LA VACANZE DEL SOR CLEMENTE but it was not until 1962 that Ortolani was thrust into the limelight with his score and also the haunting and popular theme for MONDO CANE entitled ‘More’. Ortolani was one of the very few Italian or European composers from the silver age of film music who managed to work outside of his native Italy and become successful.  He was called upon by numerous directors and filmmakers to enhance their films with his beguiling and attractive themes and although at times his scores were a little sparing in quantity, the composer made up for this in the quality department. IL CONSIGLIORI (1973) aka COUNSELOR AT CRIME was directed by Alberto de Martino (BLAZING MAGNUM) and starred Heavyweight American actor Martin Balsam, who played a ruthless San Francisco mob boss Don Maggadino, and popular Italian actor Tomas Milian who is Maggadino’s lawyer or Consigliori. The movie is a prime example of Italy’s Poliziotti genre and contains a couple of terrific car chases and some great visuals of San Francisco and Sicily. Ortolani fashioned a score that works on a number of levels and includes a particularly relaxing and haunting central theme (‘Tomas Theme’) which is in many ways similar to his main theme for THE VALACHI PAPERS; the composer utilising to great effect the string section of the orchestra to create a simple yet enduring and bittersweet sound that has now become associated with the Maestro. The theme can be heard throughout the score, but it surfaces in varying arrangements or as part of another cue creating a continuity to the work. The composer also employs a more laid back lounge or jazz influenced style within the work which for the most part is low key and basically could be used as a background to a dinner party but none the less these interludes are pleasant and also welcomed. Then there is the more dramatic and slightly atonal style that the composer adds to the mix as in track number two, ‘The Advisor’ which begins in an almost sinister style but then launches into an upbeat pop led piece. Again this is a composition that is repeated at various stages of the score.
One particular cue that I think stands out is track number eleven ‘Pupi Siciliani’, and although it is downbeat and even mournful to a degree, it also posses a lilting and near romantic attraction to it. This is an interesting release and one that I know will be welcomed by Euro Score collectors; another solid release from Chris’s soundtrack corner..

ATLI Örvarsson talking about MORTAL INSTRUMENTS.


You recently completed THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS-CITY OF BONES, and I understand there are six novels in the series; the second movie is already in pre production, how did you become involved on the movie?

– I actually ran into the director, Harald Zwart, at the premiere for my last film, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters and he expressed an interest in me taking this one on with him.

What size orchestra and choir did you utilize for the score, and did you use any specialist instruments or soloists?

– The orchestra and choir were about 90 pieces and I used all kinds of special instruments ranging from bass duduk to the viol, which actually plays a pretty big role in the score.

The soundtrack album will be issued on MILAN records shortly, have you been involved with the sequencing of the soundtrack and also what cues will be included etc?

Yes, I did the sequencing of it myself and decided to completely disregard the order of the cues in the film and simply make the most listenable album I could.

I have been lucky enough to hear just two cues from the score, CLARYS THEME which is very lush and romantic sounding and also THE CLAVES CURSE, which is certainly epic and full of drama in it’s sound and style, when you begin work on a score do you like to start with a central theme and build the remainder of the score around it, or do you begin with smaller cues firstly?

– My mantra is that there’s a big difference between writing music and writing cues.  I believe that for the cues to be built on a strong foundation you must have your themes and musical ideas worked out before scoring the picture.  Of course, that’s plan A and there are exceptions but I usually want to start that way.


At what stage of proceedings did you become involved on THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS, and did the director Harald Zwart have a hands on attitude to the style of music and where it would be placed etc?

I came in quite late and had about 2 months to do the score which meant that there wasn’t much time to let ideas gestate.  Harald is the kind of director who loves music and he was very hands on which was great.

You recorded the score at Abbey Road, do you have any personal preferences as to where a score is recorded and why, and how many sessions did it take to record the score?

There are great players and great places to record in both London and Los Angeles.  Abbey Road has a wonderfully rich history and very beautiful ambient acoustics which I thought would fit nicely for this score.  We recorded the score in two sets of sessions, the first one was four days and the second was three days.

Did you conduct the score and do you conduct all of your film scores, or are there some where you have used a conductor and supervised from the recording booth, likewise do you orchestrate your scores?

– I did conduct this score.  I have only recently started conducting and find that it’s something I enjoy very much.  I feel that there’s a different relationship with the musicians when you’re out there with them than in the recording booth.  That does have its advantages too though so I might go back and forth but at the moment I’m really enjoying conducting.  Orchestration is a bit different than it used to be because nowadays, at least the way I work, the music is mocked up so extensively that it’s almost fully orchestrated as it is being programmed.  Having said that, I worked with a brilliant orchestrator, Julian Kershaw, on this film and when he extracts my sketches into a written score it adds another level of quality to the music.


How many times do you like to watch a movie before you get a more or less fixed idea about what music you will write and where you think it would be best placed to serve the picture, obviously use MORTAL INSTRUMENTS as an example?

– I didn’t have a whole lot of time to watch the film before I got started!  I did watch it a few times to get familiar with it and get a feel for the tone but I more or less had to just jump in and start writing!  One thing I have learned though is that it’s very important to keep watching the film as a whole, or at least big chunks of it, as you’re scoring to get a good feel for the overall arch of the score.  In a way, be mindful of the both the forest and the trees.

As this is the first in a possible series of movies, do you think you will be involved with the other films if and when they are made?

– I certainly would love to be invited back!


The soundtrack compact disc will be released on Milan records on August 20th.