There have been numerous movie versions of the Gothic horror story penned by Bram Stoker about the infamous and evil Count Dracula, and along with these cinema incarnations of the Vampire Count have come just as many musical interpretations for the lord of the un-dead, the most familiar is possibly James Bernard’s three note motif that spelt out DRA-CU-LA to herald the appearance of the gaunt figure complete with cloak at the top of the staircase in the now classic Hammer films cycle of movies, then there was the more romantic and windswept sounding approach when the subject matter was handed to composer John Williams for the Frank Langella DRACULA with Sir Laurence Olivier as Van Helsing. Italian Maestro Bruno Nicolai also got in on the act with a haunting and highly atmospheric soundtrack to IL CONTE DRACULA which was directed by Jesus Franco and had in the starring role Christopher Lee, complete with moustache as described in Stokers novel. This version was supposedly actor Lee’s favourite version of the story as the director would often stop filming and refer to the original book, Nicolai utilized surging strings and cimbalom to create his score. Then we had the Coppola version of the story with Gary Oldman as the Count pursuing his long lost love Mina/Elizabeta portrayed by Winona Ryder whilst Anthony Hopkins as Van Helsing attempted to stop him aided by Keanu Reeves as Johnathan Harker which was accompanied and punctuated by a mesmerising and powerful soundtrack from Woljeich Kilar. There have also been a number of TV adaptations of the story, one that comes to mind is the BBC serialisation of the story in the 1970’s with Louis Jordan as the Count and Frank Finley as Van Helsing this too contains an original sounding musical score by composer Kenyon Emrys Roberts. Then coming up to date there is the TV series filmed by NBC, which relied more upon violence than actual storyline to make its point at times somewhat dismissing the Stoker story all together. Music for this was by Trevor Morris and the role of Dracula undertaken by Jonathan Rhys Meyers, let us also not forget DRACULA 2000, although I think we would like to, in fact the only thing worth remembering about the movie was Marco Beltrami’s vibrant score.
The version of the story I am refering to for this review is from 1973 in the title role was Jack Palance, the director was Dark Shadows creator Dan Curtis with Nigel Davenport putting in a believable performance as Abraham Van Helsing, the movie also starred Simon Ward and Murray Brown. Music for this TV movie was by Robert Cobert who had worked on the Dark Shadows series for Curtis providing the music for some 1,225 episodes, the composer also worked on THE HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS, THE NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS, THE STRANGE CASE OF DR JECKLE AND MR HYDE, THE NORLISS TAPES and THE NIGHT STALKER to name but a handful. It was Cobert who also worked on the sprawling TV epic series THE WINDS OF WAR in 1983 and provided the music for the sequel series WAR AND REMEMBERANCE in 1988.
The composers score for DRACULA or BRAM STOKERS DRACULA to give it it’s correct title was as far as I know never released on a recording until Silva Screen made available a suite of music from the score on one of its many compilation compact discs, so to have Cobert’s score complete on a recording is certainly a welcome sight. Straight away I have to remark that I found Cobert’s music within the movie effective and very haunting I also have to remark that I also found his style of scoring to be evocative to that of Scottish born composer Harry Robertson (Robinson), especially when listening to Robertson’s VAMPIRE LOVERS (1970) soundtrack, this is most prominent within LUCY REAPPEARS where slow and slightly urgent deliberate brass flourishes introduce romantic but apprehensive strings which after a while swell and become more and more emotive being supported by horns to give the composition an atmosphere which is both luxurious but foreboding. Cobert’s use of strings, brass and woodwind in particular is ever so slightly similar to that of Robertson’s but this is not in any way a negative as the Cobert score is one of the best I have heard for a DRACULA movie. The composer utilizes to great effect sinewy sounding strings, ominously dark sounding oboe and shrill woods alongside sharp and jagged brass stabs, scatterings of piano and subdued percussion to create a feeling of uneasiness and also to emphasise a jump or a start within the films scenario. Cobert also manages to infuse within his work a sound and a style that is akin to music from Eastern Europe thus giving the music a degree of ethnic credibility. The score is also a quite richly romantic sounding work, underlining the Counts inner feelings his sad memories of his wife dying and his despair and grief on loosing the only thing he really cherished and loved. There is a delightful sounding Music Box cue within the score, the track DRACULA END TITLE-MUSIC BOX THEME which is in a word mesmerizing and also achingly poignant, charming and emotive.
The CD opens with DRACULA AT DUSK, which is a highly dramatic piece performed in the main by strings and woodwind that gradually build to a crescendo of sorts that is filled with drama and a fearsome atmosphere which is relayed via urgent sounding brass. Track number 2, LETTER FROM THE COUNT, has an air of mystery about it, the composer keeping a mystic air prominent with the use of spidery sounding strings and oboe that seems to intertwine with the strings to create a mood that is unnerving. Track number 3, is the actual MAIN TITLE from the movie, and this is the first time that we hear the composers infectious and central melody from the score, carried by the string section it is romantic and sweeping but also holds within it a feeling of apprehension. As with all of his scoring assignments Cobert produced a wonderful score to enhance the dark and evil Count but also gave the vampire a soundtrack that was lush and emotional. Highly recommended.