Music in horror movies has to play a larger role than in most other types of film, but there again this notion is just a personal opinion and one which many will probably disagree with. I always remember seeing the original black and white Universal horrors and even at an early age thinking what an important role the musical scores played. I recall in particular one of the werewolf movies when actor Lon Chaney transformed from meek and gentle human into a fearsome and blood lusting lupine, howling as he ran into the fog shrouded night accompanied by a powerful and driving background score which underlined the ferocity and also the desperation of the creature. It was because of the Universal tales of terror that I progressed to the full colour horrors of the Hammer studio, DRACULA being one of the first that I managed to get into the local flea pit to see. The rich colours and also the dramatic music got me hooked instantly and I am glad to say I have never fallen out of obsession with these marvellous cinematic works of art. However as we all know there were other horror movies produced by the likes of TIGON and also AMICUS in the U.K. plus of course there were the AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL MOVIES, with the Edgar Allan Poe tales and lots of superb and eloquent overacting by Vincent Price. Hammer always insisted on having strong musical scores which was something that was the norm thanks to the companies original Musical Director John Hollingsworth. Musical genius Hollingsworth was instrumental in ensuring that the music for the Hammer horrors and also other genres of film that the company produced worked and supported the action on screen, Amicus who appeared on the scene some years after Hammers first foray into the gothic horrors such as DRACULA and FRANKESTEIN seemed to follow in Hammers footsteps when it came to the music department in their movies, often utilising the same composers as Hammer and even employing Phil Martell who had taken over as MD for hammer after the death of John Hollingsworth. Sadly both Amicus and Tigon films musical scores do not seem to have received the same amount of attention from record labels as Hammer soundtracks have and I realise it took many years for the Hammer gothic horrors soundtracks to make it any kind of recording, but considering the success and amount of positive feedback from collectors that these releases received I am surprised, “NO” ! dumbfounded that there has been nothing issued onto compact disc from the Amicus stable, yes of course the excellent WITCHFINDER GENERAL by Paul Ferris did only last year(2013) at last get an issue on disc by De Wolfe music representing Tigon plus we must not forget the excellent BLOOD ON SATANS CLAW which was finally released onto compact disc by TRUNK records a few years back.
But where are the excellent and richly dark soundtracks from films such as THE CREEPING FLESH, THE BLOOD BEAST TERROR, CURSE OF THE CRIMSON ALTAR etc. Where are the scores from the AMICUS productions such as, VAULT OF HORROR, DR TERRORS HOUSE OF HORRORS, THE TORTURE GARDEN, THE SKULL, THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD, ASYLUM, AND NOW THE SCREAMING STARTS, MADHOUSE, and other such mini horror classics and AMICUS favourites. Languishing in a vault of horror of their own I am guessing. Plus there was also TYBURN films who produced a handful of films that are now considered an important part of the horror cinema genre, THE LEGEND OF THE WEREWOLF and THE GHOUL instantly come to mind because of the actual movies and also because of the excellent musical scores penned by Harry Robinson, truly classic horror music, even if LEGEND OF THE WEREWOLF was a little lack lustre in places.
So I suppose what I am saying is WHY stop at Hammer or why did the record companies stop at Hammer, when there is such a wealth of wonderful music out there somewhere that will tantalise, entertain and delight students of the macabre, the gothic and also the downright scary. We as collectors deserve at least a compilation or two of AMICUS themes, TIGON tracks and TYBURN scores. Silva screen, Tadlow, Prometheus or maybe Chandos please start your expedition into the dark and dusty depths that are the music vaults of terror.
Tigon British Film Productions or Tigon Films was a film production and distribution company founded by the filmmaker Tony Tenser in 1966. The company is probably best remembered for the now classic Vincent Price horror, WITCHFINDER GENERAL (USA Title-THE CONQUERER WORM). Which was directed by the ingeniously clever filmmaker but somewhat insecure Michael Reeves who sadly died too soon. The studio also produced BLOOD ON SATANS CLAW, which was directed by Piers Haggard in 1971, both WITCHFINDER and SATANS CLAW have since their release attained a status of being iconic and cult movies and both have about them a real sense of authenticity. TIGON also produced a number of other horror pictures, THE CREEPING FLESH, THE BLOOD BEAST TERROR and THE SORCERERS among them all of which were scored by the late Paul Ferris. It also released the feature film version of the popular British TV series DOOMWATCH in 1972 which contained a score by renowned British composer John Scott(or Patrick John Scott as he was known in his early days of composing). The London based Tigon had offices in Wardour street Soho, the company did make forays into other genres of film but it was the Horror genre that it seemed to excel at and in many fans and critics opinions were one of Hammer’s biggest rivals, although saying this Tigon productions did have a very different look from the Hammer gothic horrors, WITCHFINDER especially being given a more realistic appearance thanks mainly to the inventive camera work of John Coquillon who’s somewhat watery and misty looking effects gave the production a touch of realism, this combined with the fresh and at times off beat approach towards direction by Reeves gave WITCHFINDER a persona all of its own.
TYBURN films was formed by Kevin Francis who was the son of acclaimed cinematographer and notable director Freddie Francis.
Kevin had a career that led him from slaughterhouse employee to film company tea boy and then a gradual climb up the ladder to become a Hammer films employee, it was he who was responsible for giving the studio the idea for TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA given them the basic idea for the story, he then became a freelance production executive and had a glowing ambition to create a new company that would eventually be as respected as the famed Hammer studio. The problem that Francis encountered was that as the 1970,s dawned the tastes of cinema audiences began to change drastically, they no longer yearned for Gothic horrors but were drawn to the more cerebral storylines of films such as ROSEMARY’S BABY and the gore, realism and thrills that were purveyed by films such as THE NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and the numerous films that followed in the same ilk. Continuing to produce Gothic horrors was to be TYBURN Films eventual downfall and they disappeared from the scene, but before doing so did produce a handful of movies that were deemed to be fair examples of the horror genre. TALES THAT WITNESS MADNESS was in fact Tyburn’s first release but had no mention of the company on its credits, instead it was billed as a WORLD FILM SERVICES release. The movie which had a tag line of AN ORGY OF THE DAMNED, boasted an impressive cast list that included Jack Hawkins, Joan Collins, Kim Novak and Donald Houston to name but four. Helmed by film maker Freddie Francis who was to direct all of the Tyburn horrors, the film was an effective tale but one that lacked real course mainly due to a weak storyline that at times would be amusing rather than disturbing, which in a horror movie could be a problem.
The film was a compilation type movie which had become popular with audiences at the time and included four segments or stories each one concentrating upon a different patient who was secured in an asylum, the music for the movie was written by Bernard Ebbinghouse, who was responsible for the music to PRUDENCE AND THE PILL and penned the theme for the popular TV series of the 1960,s THE HUMAN JUNGLE which was recorded by John Barry and his orchestra who took it into the hit parade in the UK. Ebbinghouse also worked as a musical director for artists such as Cilla Black, Andy Stewart and Cliff Richard as well as working on a handful of movies and some television productions. Tyburn’s first official release was to be PERSECUTION or THE TERROR OF SHEBA, the film starred Lana Turner, and was Tyburn’s attempt to cash in on the trend to install well known Hollywood actress’s in starring roles, which is something that Hammer had done with Bette Davies in THE NANNY. The music for PERSECUTION was the work of Paul Ferris, who if he had not died young would in my opinion been one this countries top film music composers.
Tyburn’s reign of terror was a short one the company never attaining the heights or realising the achievements that its founder Francis had wanted for it and although the company produced some interesting horrors its output paled in the brightness of the Hammer studios output, although saying this TYBURN did return in 1984 with a production for television, MASKS OF DEATH was screened on channel 4, and starred an ageing Peter Cushing in the role of Sherlock Holmes with John Mills as Dr Watson, directed by Roy Ward Baker and with a screenplay by Anthony Hinds it was a polished and entertaining production. The score was by Malcolm Williamson who had worked on Hammers THE BRIDES OF DRACULA, THE HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN and CRESCENDO, Williamson was the first non British citizen to be appointed Master of the Queens music. Peter Cushing was also the subject of a TV documentary in 1990 which was produced by Tyburn entitled, ONE WAY TICKET TO HOLLYWOOD a documentary that is highly regarded and also is considered by many as Tyburn’s finest production. The music was taken from existing soundtracks composed by James Bernard and Malcolm Williamson.
AMICUS was indeed a success story and along with American International pictures was probably the biggest rival company to the mighty Hammer films. Amicus produced numerous movies and many were at times difficult to tell apart from Hammer horrors, the music department for Amicus was almost identical to that of Hammer, the company utilising the talents of composers such as James Bernard, Don Banks, Douglas Gamley, David Whitaker etc. Based at the famous Shepperton studios Amicus was founded by Milton Subotsky and Max Rosenberg, who had previously worked together in the 1960,s on the movie THE CITY OF THE DEAD, Amicus began its life by producing two musicals which were aimed at the younger end of the cinema going public, ITS TRAD DAD! and JUST FOR FUN enjoyed mild success at the box office, the company went on to produce a number of films that contained more than one story, this portmanteau series of motion pictures were particularly popular with audiences the producers basing their ideas upon the Ealing films classic DEAD OF NIGHT. One of these types of movies was THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD, which I personally felt was one of the companies better efforts, directed by Peter Duffell it starred Denholm Elliot, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Ingrid Pitt, Joss Ackland and Jon Pertwee. The film was scored by Michael Dress, who had worked on a handful of films prior to scoring THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD, Dress died in 1975 aged just 40 years of age. Amicus however were not just restricted to horror movies and turned their hand to thrillers and also were responsible for releasing some pretty unusual movies, the company at times co-produced with AIP MADHOUSE and SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN being examples of their collaboration.
Considering the rich and varied musical content of the Horror genre as produced by TIGON, TYBURN and AMICUS it is surprising that an enterprising record company has not seen the market for these scores with collectors of fine film music. Even if the tapes no longer exist a re-recording surely should be worth investigation, a company such as Chandos with the aid of the talented Philip Lane surely could resurrect these classic soundtracks from the depths of obscurity. The compilations would be endless, with AMICUS, TIGON and also TYBURN being the central focus but with music from other classics such as CIRCUS OF HORRORS by Franz Reizenstein, CRY OF THE BANSHEE by Wilfred Josephs, THE FLESH AND THE FIENDS by Stanley Black, THE CORPSE by John Hotchkis, SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN by David Whittaker and THE HOUSE IN NIGHTMARE PARK by Harry Robinson making it into the running order somewhere.
We must also not forget the wealth of music that adorned Italian horror movies and the releases of TITANUS productions, plus the films of Jess Franco especially that directors version of the Dracula story IL CONTE DRACULA was said to be actor Christopher Lee’s favourite version of the tale because Franco stayed so close to Stokers original story often studying the book whilst on set, the music for this movie was the work of Italian Maestro Bruno Nicolai, who became well known via his involvement with fellow composer Ennio Morricone on the Sergio Leone DOLLAR TRILOGY, Nicolai produced a highly atmospheric soundtrack for IL CONTE DRACULA and was also involved with numerous other pictures within the horror genre that were being produced in Italy during the 1960, through to the latter part of the 1970,s either as composer or as musical director. But Italian horrors should and will have a section of their own on this site very soon.