It is such a shame that the late Roberto Pregadio is not more widely represented on compact disc his music after all was an important and vital element of Italian cinema. ERIKA is a soft porn drama that was fairly typical of movies that were being produced in Italy towards the end of the 1960,s and into the early 1970, s. Pregadio created a charming and infectious score for the film and his soundtrack is brimming to overflowing with cool sounding pop shake material, smooth and light easy listening passages and smokey, steamy and erotic sounding compositions. The composer employing soft and wistful woodwind on a number of occasions to set the scene. Light strings and punctuating bass and percussion also play a big part in the creation of the sound and style of the score. It is I suppose text book Italian film score material blending a slightly classical approach with a more upbeat and modern style. Piano, guitar and flute are the mainstays of the score with strings and percussion adding support with fragile flourishes of harpsichord occasionally entering into the equation. A rewarding and entertaining release which is packaged well by BEAT containing a number of stills from the movie and liner notes by Fabio Babini.
SWEDEN HEAVEN AND HELL, is a great soundtrack composed and conducted by revered and respected Italian Maestro and jazz artist extraordinaire Piero Umiliani, BEAT records and Digit Movies have teamed up to bring us this new edition of the score which has wonderfully restored sound. I think the attraction of the soundtrack is the performances of Alessandroni and his distinct sounding singing group IL CANTORI MODERNI, they add so much to the proceedings and yes I know that it is Maestro Umiliani who composed and orchestrated the music but their performances are also an important and integral component of the work. I am pleased that BEAT/DIGIT MOVIES have given full credit to Alessandroni and his singers for the work they did on the score. Too often Alessandroni is ignored which is in a word unforgivable.
SWEDEN HEAVEN AND HELL contains a plethora of thematic material but the outstanding cue has to be the now classic composition MAH NA MAH NA performed so flawlessly by Alessandro and company. It is a composition that instantly lifts the listener and makes smiles break out everywhere. Primarily a jazz score with sweet bossa nova’s and haunting and endearing easy listening cues sprinkled throughout it is a compact disc that one can just pop into the player and let it play, because every track is a gem a delight and piece of Italian film music history. Presented well with numerous stills from the movie and also a selection of publicity posters reproduced throughout. Certainly worth adding to your collection.
This new edition also features the original artwork used for the first album release (of which only several hundred copies were pressed, making it a cult object among collectors) and includes every single note recorded for the movie.
Maestro Piero Piccioni, was one of the great composers who were active in Italy during the 1950,s through to the nineties, his scores were varied and also inventive but as we all probably know he did lean towards the jazz elements when it came to any film score which included his Italian western soundtracks. LE ALTRE is a delightful work and I am so pleased that BEAT records have seen fit to release the full soundtrack on a double compact disc set. The music is light airy and melodic, the composer takes us on a musical journey through pop orientated cues, light and laid back easy listening compositions and also jazz influenced passages that are tuneful and haunting. Piccioni makes excellent use of piano, harpsichord and also choir with the emphasise also on solo female voice in certain cues. The score is a simple but effective one and is easy on the ear, Piccioni creating beautifully melodious pieces that glide and amble along evoking the sound of the late 1960,s steamy saxophone, cool sounding organ, strummed guitar and stroked percussion combine and compliment each other along the way all punctuated and supported by double bass. Plus we have the odd shake track that slips in here and there creating something of a stir in a nice way. This is a score that you should own, presented well by BEAT records with great sound quality and informative notes by Andrea Morandi of CIAK magazine with technical notes written by Claudio Fuiano. Another must have for Italian film music enthusiasts.
The Hammer DVD collection is a box set that consists of 21 movies many of which are arguably the best of Hammer films during their highly productive period from the late 1950,s through to the mid 1970,s. The set is split into volumes or books, of which there are four. Book one opens with SHE which was based upon H.Rider Haggards novel from the 19th Century, the movie which starred Ursula Andress, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and also Bernard Cribbins was one of Hammer’s most lavish and attractive looking productions the interior shots being carried out at Elstree studios in England but the exterior filming was done on location in Israel which was something of a departure for Hammer. The result was an epic production which although popular at the box office did not result in a repeat performance of Andress in the sequel. The music was by Hammer’s almost resident composer James Bernard who wrote a magnificently epic score and also provided the film with a haunting and lush sounding theme that was filled with romantic and emotive content.
Disc two in book one is the Bette Davies movie THE NANNY, which was released in the October of 1965, the film which was to be Hammer’s final black and white movie, was certainly a chilling and disturbing one, with an excellent performance by Miss Davies and also wonderful performances by child actors Pamela Franklin and William Dix the movie was directed by Seth Holt who brought the adaptation of Evelyn Pipers novel to the screen giving it life and realism. Disc number three in the first volume of films is the 1966 production DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS, Christopher Lee returned as the infamous Vampire Count for the first time after making the role his own some seven years previous in the studios adaptation of DRACULA. Filmed at Hammer’s Bray studios with Terence Fisher helming the production, however the films storyline replaced Van Helsing who had been portrayed so convincingly in the previous movie and substituted his character with Father Sandor played by stalwart British actor Andrew Keir. In fact the only reference to Van Helsing as played by Cushing is seen in the opening footage of the movie where we see him engaged in a life or death fight with Dracula which was in fact the end scene of the previous movie. Music is courtesy of James Bernard who re-invented his famous and foreboding three note motif DRA-CU-LA within the score.
Disc number four is from the 1966 production THE PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES, this was screened as a double bill with DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS and in later years was considered as being the better of the two productions, it was Hammer’s one and only foray into the mysterious and evil world of the Zombie but is a superior production which is considered by many fans and critics alike as one of the house of horror’s finest moments. Music again was by James Bernard who produced a driving and highly percussive score.
Disc number five, RASTPUTIN THE MAD MONK, was released in the March of 1966, although a historical epic the movie was filmed on a meagre budget but Christopher Lee’s performance as the central character shone through the actor researching his part extensively to ensure he got it right, this research certainly paid off as Lee is more than convincing in the role. The movie contained a vibrant score by Australian born composer Don Banks who also wrote the music for THE REPTILE which is disc number one in book two of the set, THE REPTILE was filmed just after THE PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES and the studio utilised many of the sets that had appeared in Plague, THE REPTILE proved to be one of Hammer’s most difficult productions, they had various problems with the reptile make up and in the end had to rely on dim lit sets and shady scenes to disguise these. The film was shown as a support feature for RASPUTIN THE MAD MONK.
Also released in 1966 was THE WITCHES, The film was an adaptation of the novel THE DEVILS OWN by Peter Curtis and starred Joan Fontaine who also owned the rights to the book. Directed by Cyril Frankel with a screenplay by Nigel Kneale the movie although totally convincing and entertaining failed to achieve success at the box office and has only in more recent years established itself as a classic. Disc number three in this second volume was promoted as Hammer’s 100th movie, ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. was filmed on location in the Canary Islands, with Don Chaffey directing, it catapulted its female lead Rachel Welch into the public gaze and gave us the iconic of her in an animal skin bikini. The film contained some convincing stop go action in the form of Ray Harryhausen’s dinosaurs; and an atmospheric score by Italian Maestro Mario Nascimbene, it was Hammer’s biggest box office earner.
Because of the success of ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. Don Chaffey was given Hammer’s next historical project, THE VIKING QUEEN was released in 1967, and starred the Finish actress/model Carita Jarvinen in the central role of Queen Salina who was apparently based upon the Queen of the Iceni Boadicea who led her people in a revolt against the Romans in the first century AD. Both the leading lady in the film and her co-star Don Murray were unconvincing in their roles and the critics were also sceptical about the films historical accuracy, thus the film failed to gain much attention at the box office. The musical score was by Gary Hughes, who also wrote the music for Hammer’s English civil war drama THE CRIMSON BLADE as well as providing rousing soundtracks to THE PIRATES OF BLOOD RIVER, DEVIL SHIP PIRATES and A CHALLENGE FOR ROBIN HOOD. Hughes who died in 1978 is sadly under represented on recordings of film music.
The last disc in book two is FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN, which was an interesting take on the original FRANKENSTEIN story. Released in 1967 the movie starred Peter Cushing and was to be one of the last to be filmed at Bray studios. Directed by the studios ace film maker Terence Fisher with Austrian born actress Susan Denberg taking the lead female role, the cast also included the inimitable Thorley Walters in the role of Frankenstein’s awkward assistant. The musical score which had at its centre a romantic and fragile theme was written by James Bernard whose subdued and melodic score lulled audiences into a false sense of security in a movie that contained a number of vicious and bloody scenes. Book number three opens with QUATERMASS AND THE PIT, which premiered in the November of 1967, the script which was the work of Nigel Kneale was commissioned by Hammer in 1961, but due to production problems and also financial difficulties the movie was postponed. Directed by Roy Ward Baker the film was shot at the Metro Goldwyn Mayer Borehamwood studio, the movie was well received and is still regarded as one of Hammers most accomplished productions. Composer Tristram Carey provided the film with a score that was partly symphonic and partly electronic which added greater atmosphere and depth to the story unfolding on screen. Up next is THE VENGEANCE OF SHE unfortunately this sequel to SHE never lived up to its predecessors success and was to be honest a major box office failure for Hammer. Disc number three in book three is a film that many regard as Hammer’s best production, and I have to say I agree with all who are of this opinion, THE DEVIL RIDES OUT is a masterpiece of horror. At the time of its release the film was not well received by American audiences, it was thought to be too old fashioned in its approach with a typical British appearance including rather lack lustre special effects, directed by Terence Fisher, THE DEVIL RIDES OUT is now seen as a classic and also a movie that actor Christopher Lee regards as his favourite Hammer movie. The powerful and malevolent musical score is by James Bernard his music simply oozing evil and foreboding.
Disc four in book three is PREHISTORIC WOMEN I think the less said about this movie the better, let us just say Hammer’s finest hour it certainly was not. Composer Carlo Martelli who wrote the score for the movie told me in interview that he was more or less tricked into writing the music and preferred not to be associated with it. Disc number five in book three is SCARS OF DRACULA. Directed by Roy Ward Baker, this was the fifth movie with Christopher Lee as the evil Count and took Hammer into the 1970,s and was shown alongside THE HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN in cinemas which was also released in 1970, and is disc number one in book four of this magnificent DVD collection.
Ralph Bates took over the role of Baron Frankenstein for this particular outing and the monster was portrayed by David Prowse who would come to be known as Darth Vader in later years. The music for THE HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN was written by Australian born composer Malcolm Williamson, who was at one time Master of the Queens music and had also worked on Hammer’s THE BRIDES OF DRACULA (1960) and CRESCENDO (1970). Williamson thought that his use of tuba within the score made the monster seem clumsy and farcical at the time of the films release, but this was an opinion he altered in later years.
Book four also contains BLOOD FROM THE MUMMYS TOMB (1971), STRAIGHT ON TILL MORNING (1972), FEAR IN THE NIGHT (1972) and the underrated DEMONS OF THE MIND or BLOOD WILL HAVE BLOOD (1972) the final movie in book four is TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER, which was a new breed of horror movie to be produced by Hammer and sadly the studios last. Loosely based on the novel by Dennis Wheatley this was far removed from previous productions such as THE DEVIL RIDES OUT and DRACULA it was an intensely more realistic production and owed much of its success to the performance given by Christopher Lee, directed by Peter Sykes this final horror movie from the Hammer studio’s now stands as a beacon in style and direction and inspired many productions that were to follow by other studios and film makers. Each disc in this set contains extras these are either in the form of trailers, stills galleries or interviews plus many of the discs have commentary by principal actors and directors/producers who were involved with the films, eg; Rachel Welch, Jimmy Sangster, Ray Harryhausen, Roy Ward Baker, Veronica Carlson, Valerie Leon, Rita Tushingham and Peter Sykes. DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS for example contains a 57 minute documentary THE MANY FACES OF CHRISTOPHER LEE. This is a highly desirable set and one that will delight Hammer aficionados. With informative notes by Hammer expert Marcus Hearne and a lavish booklet filled with info and stills. Highly recommended.
FILM AND TELEVISION MUSIC FROM AROUND THE WORLD. WITH MOVIE REVIEWS AND NEWS FROM ALL OVER THE GLOBE.