Although released back in 1992, Francis Ford Coppola’s version of Bram Stokers DRACULA is for me one of the more interesting movies on the subject, ok I don’t think it will ever take the place of the Hammer horrors which had Sir Christopher Lee in the role of the evil bloodsucking Count, but the Coppola version of the story for me hit many of the right spots and also broke new ground at times concerning the myth of the Vampire. One particular area where I thought the production got it right was the musical score by Wojeich Kilar, it is a dramatically driven and exciting soundtrack but at the same time it remains romantically laced which is something of a feat for the composer seeing as the film is crammed with numerous action scenes and violent and horrific sequences, but when one thinks about it DRACULA is essentially a love story, so not to be romantic I suppose would be slightly remiss of the composer, it is a tale of love lost and then re-discovered.
Kilar was no stranger to film scoring when he was assigned to DRACULA but his scoring projects were in the main for movies in Europe and at the time of DRACULA being released I do remember collectors thinking and remarking on who is this composer, but once they listened to his score were totally smitten with his style and wonderful gift for melody and his grasp of the dramatic. Kilar’s score is as impressive as the films cast and its locations and cinematography, the composer creating a soundtrack that is in many ways traditional with the emphasise on the use of conventional instrumentation as in strings, brass, percussion and woodwind rather than any inclusion of electronic or synthesised sounds. The compact disc opens with DRACULA-THE BEGINNING, which is a brooding and atmospheric cue, giving the listener an insight into the expressive musical content that is to follow, powerful strings and bursts of brass and percussion fuse seamlessly together to heighten the tension, these however subside and give way to a brief respite which comes in the form of female voice, but the quiet interlude is short lived as strings return with choir and whispering voices that are underlined by timpani which quickly sets the pace and urgent mood of the composition.
As well as the powerful and commanding thematic material created by Kilar there are a number of more subdued and quieter moments within the realms of the work, in fact at times the composer fashions an intimate and mesmerising sound that is alluring and hypnotic, as in track number 4, LUCYS PARTY, which is a charming slightly off beat melody for music box effect, this and other cues written in the same style are slightly unsettling as they are for want of a better description the lull before the storm, the composer inevitably conjuring up an exhilarating and highly charged composition as if from nowhere.
This is displayed in track number 6, THE STORM the cue begins slowly, quietly and with no indication of what is about to burst forth, the piece soon gains tempo and momentum as Kilar treats us to a pounding percussion led composition punctuated by brass stabs, laced with driving strings and menacing sounding choir that acts as a background to a fragile sounding female voice. The booming percussive elements set the tempo and Kilar builds and builds his composition until it arrives at its crescendo. Track number 7, is an example of the artistry Kilar possessed when creating a theme that is not only beautiful but also displays a mood that is uncertain and apprehensive, A LOVE REMEMBERED is a particularly haunting cue, harp and strings combine as a subdued sounding background to a solo woodwind which is poignant and emotive in its introduction of the central fabric of the compositions core theme. Strings and harp then take the theme away from the woodwind to give it an even more romantic sound, this however is short lived and woodwind once again take on the motif giving it something of a Barry-esque sound, this is an emotive and touching tone poem which is a welcome tranquil 4 minutes amongst a sea of more dramatic pieces, Kilar returns to fragments of this particular theme but expands it further in track number 11, MINA AND DRACULA, in which we are given a more lengthy interpretation of the theme plus he manages to infuse a more romantic atmosphere to the proceedings, creating a Max Steiner or Miklos Rozsa moment and evoking memories of scores from the Golden age with lush strings and heartbreaking melodies.
One of the stand out tracks for me is the VAMPIRE HUNTERS cue, it manifests itself early on the compact disc, and acts as an introduction to the many action cues that are to follow, the commanding and forceful percussive tempo raising its head each time there is a moment of horror or tension on screen. Although Kilar’s soundtrack is a very dominant and highly charged affair when listening to it away from the images it was scored too, within the context of the movie it just works and at times is hardly noticeable, which I think is what film music is all about. It enhances, supports, underlines, punctuates and acts as to elevate the scenario on screen. Track number 8, RING OF FIRE is one of the scores more shocking tracks Kilar creates a menacing and atmosphere that is in a word harrowing, with voices, percussion, animal sounds and driving high pitched strings. The love theme motif returns in track number 9, A LOVE ETERNAL but this time it a more sombre rendition of the theme d’ amour, the composer enhances the effect further with a heavenly sounding choir, which extends into track number 10 ASCENSION, which is a calming but brief piece.
The beauty and serene quality of ASCENSION melts away and segues into the scores final cue, END CREDITS which is basically a near 7 minute Overture that integrates all of the scores key themes into a end credit roll. The final track on the disc is LOVE SONG FOR A VAMPIRE,performed by Annie Lennox, why they felt the need for a song is beyond me, the score is indeed more than enough, in a word a classic soundtrack.