PENNY DREADFUL is a TV series that is a bringing together of all that is dark and evil, I found the series to be very disturbing in places and its sometimes offbeat and weird storylines did at times leave me sleeping with one eye open and looking under the bed or in the wardrobe for anything grotesque or malevolent that might be lurking. The series is set in London in the Victorian age, and it brings together some of gothic horrors most well know characters in again some weird and wonderful ways. The series storylines are based loosely upon the ideas that were originally spawned by authors such as Bram Stoker, Oscar Wild and also Mary Shelley, the series creator John Logan combined all of these macabre and chilling ideas and also added a few of his own along and took input from the Penny Dreadful magazines and came up with these thrilling, ingenious but highly disconcerting storylines. The central plot is that an American gunslinger Ethan Chandler played by Josh Harnet who is visiting England is persuaded by Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) to assist an African explorer Sir Malcolm Murray portrayed by Timothy Dalton, who’s daughter Mina has been taken prisoner by what he believes to be a vampire. Murray also enlists the help of Victor Frankenstein. The fast paced and at times convincing storylines are marvellously put together and the performances by all the principal actors and supporting cast are a triumph. This is a dark and horrifying series but also is an attractive and engrossing one. The music for PENNY DREADFUL is courtesy of composer Abel Korzeniowski, who has over a relatively short period of time made quite a name for himself and is now considered by many as a film music composer of great talent and worth. One only has to take a fleeting listen to a handful of his scores to realise that we are in the presence of brilliance here, A SINGLE MAN, ESCAPE TO TOMORROW and ROMEO AND JULIET are but three titles that I can think of that have brought forth sheer musical genius from the composer. PENNY DREADFUL is no exception to this rule, the composer providing the series with numerous themes and a multitude of highly listenable and haunting compositions that not only are entertaining and enjoyable away from the images but enhance, support and underline each and every frightening, grotesque, erotic and alluring moment of the series. It was only a few years ago that many film music collectors seemed to look down their nose at music for television, but in recent times I think that TV soundtracks have come into their own and PENNY DREADFUL is a prime example. The score which is symphonic with choral support and also with maybe a little assistance from the synthetic department is brimming with opulent and darkly luscious musical passages in fact it literally oozes evil and is filled with a dark and resounding vibrancy that is a compelling listen.
The score is performed in the main by the string section, with the composer introducing piano, brass and other sections of the orchestra as the score progresses and builds, the opening track sets the scene wonderfully for what is to follow, DEMIMONDE, which is the opening music for each episode of the series is a short lived but vibrant and jumpy sounding piece, strings leading the way stridently and in forthright fashion but soon giving way to a more melodic violin solo that is pure Eastern European in its style and sound. Korzeniowski I think has got the balance just right when scoring PENNY DREADFUL, his score is chilling and unsettling but at the same time it remains melodious and attractive with its sweeping strings and its fearsome brass flourishes and dark piano and unnerving choral parts it is a triumph of film/television scoring and a compact disc that you should as a discerning film music collector own.
Available on Varese Sarabande Records,