WHERE HANDS TOUCH.

 
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WHERE HANDS TOUCH is a British war drama that was premiered at the Toronto film festival on September 9th, 2018 and has since been screened in selected cinemas in the USA. The movie which is set in 1944 tells a story of a bi-racial teenager who is struggling to survive in Nazi Germany and of her love for a young man who is a member of the Hitler Youth. Directed by Amma Asante the former actress turned screen writer and filmmaker, the films cast includes Christopher Eccleston, Amandla Stenberg, George McKay, Abbie Cornish and Tom Sweet. The moving musical score is by composer Anne Chmelewsky, who’s past works for TV and cinema include, the Emmy and Golden Globe nominated DEREK which was directed by Rick Gervais for Channel 4 and Netflix. She also scored DO WE BELONG and AN ACT OF WORSHIP for director Sofia Khan and as well as writing for the screen she has composed Opera’s and written for theatrical productions. Her third opera PYGMALION 2.0’ was developed with the support of the PRS foundation and is currently being performed in the United Kingdom. The music for WHERE HANDS TOUCH is a rather subdued work for most of its duration, the composer purveying various moods and atmospheres utilising piano, strings and solo performances on cello and violin.

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This is an affecting work that is filled with emotion and underlined by a fragile and delicate foundation on which the composer builds her compositions. The slight but tantalising melodies drifting throughout the work at times being elusively haunting and fleeting. The music is so soft and gentle that it has more of an impact within the storyline of the movie. The composer at times creating small clusters of swelling strings that ooze emotive and melancholy qualities and seem to build out of nowhere to bring heartrending crescendos of sorts to the surface, the themeatic content of the score is stunning and the composer fashions lilting, lush and highly emotional musical poems throughout. It is a score that I found wonderfully fulfilling and one that I did return to a few times after my initial listen. Certainly, worth checking out.

EXORCISING MEMORIES OF THE EXORCIST.

 

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1973, and a new kind of horror was about to hit the screens in Cinema’s all over the world and it is true to say that the Horror genre would never be the same again. THE EXORCIST was at the time of its release controversial to say the least, it told the story of a twelve-year-old girl who is possessed by demons, and even now writing about it I have shivers all over. Maybe by writing about the movie I will be able to shake off my own demons that have stayed with me since that Saturday night in the Astoria cinema when I went to see the movie, a movie I might hasten to add I never did see all the way through, and still have not to this day.(yes I was one of the ones who left) The movie has since its release attained a notoriety and an infamous persona that has earned it the title of being the best horror film of all time, according to many lists of best horror films that is. Based on the book by William Peter Blatty which we are assured was based on true events, director William Friedkin helmed the production, which still freaks many out when they see it for the first time. It is considered buy fans and critics the ultimate horror and one which spawned two sequels, neither of which caused anywhere so much fuss as the original. The film was a pre-cursor also to many productions that attempted to imitate it, but these often were inferior and paled in the graphic scenes and terror filled moments of THE EXORCIST. Even when spoke of people sit up and take notice and because it is without any doubt an iconic movie, the mention of its title sparks discussion and debate. The film not only affected audiences and the way in which horror films would be made after its release but it also made an impact on the use of music within films. Director Friedkin opting to ditch an original score that had been composed by Lalo Schifrin and go for classical music of sorts by modernistic composers and of course it was partly due to the film utilizing a brief section of Mike Oldfield’s TUBULAR BELLS that catapulted that recording into the stratosphere.

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The soundtrack as visualized by Friedkin is itself a terrifying experience without any images to unsettle you. Many people were up until a few years ago unaware that Shcifrin had originally been hired to write the score, and the original work turned up on a compact disc that came as part of a video box set which was released. The story is that the director threw a tantrum over something to do with the trailer that the composer had scored and literally tossed the tapes of the music out of a studio window, whether this is how it happened I can’t say, but let us just say the score was rejected. The trailer that had been put together was shown to audiences with the composer’s music and because the audience had such a violent reaction to it, ie; vomiting or running out of the cinema screaming, it was decided that it was the music that was to blame, even though Friedkin had said ok to it previously. Warner Brothers demanded a new score, which the composer has often said was not a problem, but Friedkin did not pass the studios request onto the composer who carried on writing the remainder of the music in the same style, thus Friedkin rejected it, and replaced it with tracks of his own choosing. Listening to Schifrin’s music today does make me understand why the studio would want a softer approach, as we know films of extreme horror or violence often benefit from having a soundtrack that is shall we say soothing.

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Having lighter more calming music often elevates the moments of horror making them have a greater impact. Lalo Schifrin spoke of the Exorcist assignment and what happened about the music.

What happened is that the director, William Friedkin, hired me to write the music for the trailer, six minutes were recorded for the Warner’s edition of the trailer. The people who saw the trailer reacted against the film, because the scenes were heavy and frightening, so most of them went to the toilet to vomit. The trailer was terrific, but the mix of those frightening scenes and my music, which was also a very difficult and heavy score, scared the audiences away.

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So, the Warner Brothers executives said Friedkin to tell me that I must write less dramatic and softer score. I could easily and perfectly do what they wanted because it was way too simple in relevance to what I have previously written, but Friedkin didn’t tell me what they said. I´m sure he did it deliberately. In the past we had an incident, caused by other reasons, and I think he wanted vengeance. This is my theory.

 

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So strong stuff from the composer, the soundtrack that was issued on Warner’s at the time of the films release was one that you did not see around that much, I can remember it being on an import LP but is was not something I actually purchased at the time, the music did not register for me in the movie, yes I knew their was a score but it was not one that you walked out of the cinema whistling or humming. In fact, the only piece of music that stuck with me was TUBULAR BELLS and that was an album I already owned, (did’nt everyone?). The actual album of the soundtrack as issued by Warner’s I suppose you could say was a classical album or compilation conducted by Leonard Slatkin, on listening to it now I have to say it is a rather sinister sounding collection, dark and unsettling, ominous and fretful, but is that because one is aware that the music was used to track this particular movie, and is it the memories of the movie rather than the atmospherics and moods created by the music that makes it so, if you understand what I am saying?

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If Friedkin or Warner’s believed Schifrin’s score was too frightening, then why did Warner’s then allow the director to track the film with the music he did? Because in my opinion it is equally as harrowing as the original score that Schifrin penned. Maybe the composer’s thoughts and comments on the whole episode about the score are well founded, who knows, not me or any of us mere mortals.

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The soundtrack as compiled by Friedkin included the piece entitled, POLYMORPHIA, which is a composition for forty-eight stringed instruments, Violins, Cello, Viola and Basses feature within the piece, it was composed by Krzysztof Penderecki in the latter part of 1961, he was commissioned to write it by a German radio station and it was premiered in 1962 under the baton of Andrezej Markowski. POLYMORPHIA was one of the first compositions that the composer worked on whilst he was experimenting with his own graphic notation which had been inspired by Electroencephalograms, POLYMORPHIA is from the Greek which means MANY SHAPES OR FORMS. The sharp and brooding dissonant sounds being perfect for conjuring up a mood that is virulent or foreboding. NIGHT OF THE ELECTRIC INSECT also features on the soundtrack, written by George Crumb who was a well known avant garde composer, it is part of the BLACK ANGELS, which is referred to as an electric string quintet, and subtitled THIRTEEN IMAGES FROM A DARK LAND composed between 1969 and 1970. It is something of a mystery as to why Friedkin decided against using Schifrin’s score, but as I have already said we are mere mortals and are not privy to this, why did Kubrick not use Alex North’s superb music for 2001 A SPACE ODDYSSEY? I guess because he did not like it. The actual score written by Schifrin is a complex and highly disturbing one, When, listening to it as just music it does have the ability to make one feel uneasy and unsettled. It is said that the composer re-used some of the music in THE AMITYVILLE HORROR which was released in 1979 another shocking horror for which the composer received an Oscar nomination for best original score. So lets look at the Schifrin score and whilst we are re-visiting it also let us delve into the abyss that is the EXORCIST. Lalo Schifrin was already a well-established film music composer when he was hired to score The Exorcist, he had already big movie scores to his credit which included, BULLIT, COOL HAND LUKE and was well known because of his infectious theme for the TV series MISSION IMPOSSIBLE. From what we hear on the CD of the score that was made available there is a theme entitled ROCK BALLAD, which is something of a misleading title, because it is anything but rock orientated or led. The theme instead could be something that is used as source music in any number of movies.

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I think it does not even have the normal Schifrin sound or style, and it is to be fair more easy listening than music for a horror movie, but remember what I said earlier about scoring a horror with a lighter or softer sounding score, it lulls the watching audience into a false sense of security, soothes them and calms them then BANG the film opens up and hits them square between the eyes and they had no idea it was even coming. But this is the only piece within Schifrin’s score that remotely resembles anything that is calm, the remainder is complex and hard hitting, the composer utilizing dark and shifting piano, underlined by swirling strings that sound as if they are creating a maelstrom that will pull you down and down deeper into darkness and the unknown. The strings create a grating and scratchy sound, and these are underlined and punctuated by lower sounding strings as in basses and maybe cello.

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It is a harrowing and tense listening experience, but at the same time one must realize the amount of work and just how original and innovative the score is, especially at this period in the history of cinema. Many movies contained scores that were a collection of catchy little tunes, rather than being actual film music, movie studios were opting to use more songs and the original score was beginning to fade slightly, it was the era in which the so-called music supervisor began to get a credit on screen and directors and producers played at being composers by tracking their movies with already recorded material. Schifrin however, remained busy as did composers such as Jerry Goldsmith, John Barry and Jerry Fielding, Schifrin scored two other movies in the same year as working on the EXORCIST. ENTER THE DRAGON and MAGNUM FORCE were both big box office hits. Schifrin’s rejected work probably would have served the movie better, but Friedkin obviously had other ideas. The production itself was beset by various difficulties and was edited on many occasions on instruction from the film censor and also by Friedkin. But, despite the warnings from various organizations which included none other than the Catholic Church it still attracted the audiences, most of whom managed to stay and watch the entire movie.

 

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What ever your opinion of the film, it is without a doubt, an iconic production and one that will in my opinion will have a notoriety for ever within Cinema history and will also maintain  the tag of being the scariest horror movie of all time, no matter what else Hollywood serves up for consideration. Does it still scare you? It does me.

 

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DEAD MEN.

 
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I had read a few reviews on this score before writing my own. Many critics compared the composers style to the music that appeared in Italian westerns during the 1960’s and the 1970’s, and although I agree to a certain extent I feel that the musical score for DEAD MEN by Gerrit Wunder, is an original work, of course there are many slices of instrumentation and also sounds that will probably evoke memories of the Spaghetti western era, but honestly this is an original and innovative score for an exciting and at times unusual western. It certainly is not expansive in the sense that it has Copeland-ish, Bernstein or Moross qualities (as in the big country or the magnificent seven) and neither does it boast great sweeping themes, but there is an attraction and a quality to this score that certainly is appealing. The composer utilises an interesting percussive line up and adds to the mix driving and ominous sounding strings which move the score along at pace and add a certain amount of tension and apprehension to its overall sound. If I were to compare it to any other western score I think I would be inclined to say that DEAD MEN is more akin to HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER rather than anything that either Morricone or Nicolai penned for the Spaghetti westerns, in fact it also has affiliations with the style of Guido and Maurizio De Angelis, with their folk/country sounds that were blended with a dramatic style. DEAD MEN has a dark and sinister musical persona, which is relayed via Wunder’s effective use of both percussion and woods which is utilised to underline scenes that include the Apache Indians in the storyline. The composer also makes an effective use of guitar which is featured throughout in one form or another, the instrument can at times be soft and calming and also have to it an almost bluesy or folk orientated sound, but occasionally it takes on a more sinister sound and creates an ominous or uneasy mood. I suppose it is a little like the harmonica in Once Upon A Time in the West, where Ennio Morricone takes a traditional sounding western instrument or a harmless instrument that is associated with the western genre and gives it teeth as it were, twisting and mutating its sound so that it purveys a more threatening identity. Brass too is woven into the work which is blaring and rasping at key points when the action gets into full swing, the composer combines this with percussive elements and relentlessly forthright strings to underline and support the many action sequences within the movie. DEAD MEN is an interesting score, its not your normal western soundtrack, but this by no means detracts from its quality and its effectiveness within the movie and its ability to remain entertaining away from the images on screen. Gerrit Wunder, has scored a handful of movies and each project he has been involved with has benefitted from his talent and ability to successfully enhance and support the images and the storyline without being intrusive, his scores for KISS THE DEVIL IN THE DARK and CREATURES OF WHITECHAPEL both being wonderful examples of what many refer to as being proper film music.

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For DEAD MEN the composer employs three differing styles, there is a more country music sound and the music that represents the Native Americans which is mysterious and at the same time melancholy. Then the more traditional side of things highlighted by using the strings, percussion and brass. DEAD MEN tells the story of a young man who sets off on a journey to find his Fathers killers with vengeance on his mind and at the same time finds himself trying to protect the Apache tribe that he has grown to love and cherish and fights to re-claim the land and the gold on that land that has been taken from them. It is a nonstop action western, and one that I am sure will become a firm favourite amongst audiences. The score too is an enriching and enjoyable listening experience. One for your collection, available on Spotify and also soon to be released on to compact disc by Kronos Records.

LADY IN WHITE.

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In a film about ghosts, what  is scarier? When you see the ghost or when we can’t see the ghost, I think it’s the latter, because we know there is something going on or something is about to happen, but we are not sure when or what it is. I also think that a less gory or violent horror movie is scarier than the slasher type films or even flicks like SAW for example. It’s the mystery and the apprehension or the uncertainty that is lingering that makes an audience sit on the edge of their seats. Director Frank LaLoggia got the mix just right when he made THE LADY IN WHITE back in 1988. When it was released I don’t think that many really took a lot of notice of it, but since the release of this independent production I am of the opinion that the film is a thinking man’s horror picture, it does actualy make one stop and think about what is going on in the story and relies upon the mystery rather than any violence to create a superb atmosphere that is thick with tension. The story is about Frankie a nine-year-old boy who lives in a small-town Willow point Falls, the story unfolds as the now adult Frankie who has become an author is returning to his home town and tells the story of THE LADY IN WHITE.

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The nine-year-old is locked in the school cloakroom by two bullies at the school and is left in the dark room on Halloween, it is whilst locked in the room that Frankie witnesses a murder, but the murder victim is a ghost of a young girl who has red hair. The murder is brutal and upsetting for Frankie who tries to get out of the room but is himself attacked and strangled by a shadowy figure who comes from the darkness, Frankie passes out and as he becomes unconscious he see’s the young girl again, who speaks to him and asks him for help to find her Mother. Frankie is suddenly awoken by his Father Angelo who has gone looking for him, the boy is taken to hospital and the Police arrest the school janitor thinking that he is responsible for the attack on Frankie. Whilst recovering Frankie is given a newspaper article and via this he learns that there were eleven child murders and one of them was the girl who spoke to him, he learns that her name is Melissa Ann Montgomery.

 

 

Frank LaLoggia  director, actor, producer and composer.

 

The young girl continues to appear to Frankie and the boy and the phantom become friends. Frankie returns to the cloak room as he has remembered hearing the air vent grille being unscrewed just before he was attacked, he opens the vent up and finds several items, one of them being a hair clip which it transpires belonged to Melissa. Frankie takes the hairclip and a class ring and leaves the cloak room. THE LADY IN WHITE is much more than a ghost story, it is a mystery a murder story and also a tormented story of love between a Mother and daughter that has extended beyond their time in the world of the living, and that’s all I am saying, I think you should find the movie and watch it, you will I know be engrossed and intrigued. Produced and directed by LaLoggia it makes for compelling viewing.
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LaLoggia also composed the musical score for the movie, and I have to say it has been among my top fifty film scores ever since I got the LP record on Varese Sarabande back in 1988.
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I later picked up the CD version on South West records which is a must have as it contains over 70 minutes of music and includes the electronic score that was not used for the film. Both are by LaLoggia, but I am so glad that he decided to utilise the symphonic edition of the work, This a delight to listen to and within the film it creates so many wonderful atmospheric moments, it is dramatic, sinister and also has to it a child-like content that is attractive and enriching, I have to say that the electronic version is somewhat jagged and soulless, but with the compact disc version you can make up your own minds. The CD also contains lots of stills and info on the movie including an interview with the director/composer LaLoggia. Frank LaLoggia is a multi-talented individual, actor, producer, writer, director and composer, the score he wrote for LADY IN WHITE in my opinion is outstanding, it is a theme laden work, and a soundtrack that is not only engrossing but entertaining. The compact disc is split up into seven cues all of which are suites, each suite has a generous running time of twenty minutes plus, the symphonic score occupying the first six suites and the unused electronic score is represented within track number seven. LaLoggia weaves a motif led score which utilises small orchestra comprising of woods, brass, timpani and percussion which are all acting as support to strings that are embellished by a scattering of synthetic support and further enhanced by the affective utilisation of adult and children’s voices.

 

 

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Right from the start the composer makes wonderful use of the string section and creates haunting and mesmerising tone poems with the woods that are enveloped and engulfed by sweeping string passages that are vibrant and bright in their sound and style. There is no way of comparing the style employed by the composer in the score as it is fresh and original. LADY IN WHITE is a thought-provoking movie and one that has a wonderfully lyrical sounding soundtrack, I for one can’t ever get enough of both and return to both score and film regularly. Why LaLoggia did not create more music for films I do not know, however I can also recommend his score for FEAR NO EVIL. LADY IN WHITE is an energetic work, the composer fashioning atmospheric and gorgeous sounding pieces throughout, from comedic sounding chase sequences to dark and sombre tracks which melt into exquisite sounding themes that have a melancholic or romantic feel to them. This is a score that has something for everyone, got it in your collection? No, why not?

 

CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT.

 
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CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT was a contemporary take on the vampire, released in 1991, the film was directed by,  Tony Randel, and was scored by  Daniel Licht.  The plot is basically about the fight between good and evil and focuses upon Cindy and Lucy who  are eighteen and going away to college. As a ritual they must rid themselves of the dirt of their small  home town (Allburg) by swimming in an abandoned church crypt. They jump in and begin talking about sex when Lucy’s crucifix falls into the water and drifts down to land on Czakyr’s (an ancient vampire) head, apparently waking him up.  Later Mark who is a school teacher from a nearby town  gets directed to Allburg to help Lucy and her grandmother, who are suspected to be in trouble. Lucy becomes the target of a town turned into vampires, who crave her ‘virgin blood’. Mark, Lucy and an old wino shack up in an abandoned building outside of town but eventually get lured back to Allburg by the locals. There, with a giant glowing cross spearing the front of their Toyota, they take the town on and battle Czakyr. They win and life is restored to normality.
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The composer/musician Daniel Licht was born in Detroit, Michigan, USA. And grew up in the suburbs of the city. He attended the ROEPER SCHOOL as well as a summer school at BERKLEE SCHOOL OF MUSIC in Boston. He began playing music at the age of around eight his first instrument being the clarinet. He took up the guitar aged just twelve years and started his career in music while still in high school, often performing with a small jazz ensemble at clubs in the area. He finished high school, and went onto attend Hampshire College in Massachusetts and graduated in composition, jazz and world music. Licht moved to New York City and established himself as a musical artist in the Lower East Side creative music scene. He travelled to Germany, the Netherlands and Northern Europe to perform and compose music for theatre and dance companies. He created scores for such companies as Mercedes Benz and Sony.
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He then re-located to Los Angeles and decided to take his old class mate Christopher Young’s advice and started to score motion pictures. The composer first major score for a feature film came in 1991, when he wrote the soundtrack for the horror movie CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT. The soundtrack was a popular one and was issued onto compact disc by Bay Cities records. The composer scored several horror movies during his career, these included, THINNER, BAD MOON, AMITYVILLE A NEW GENERATION and HELLRAISER-BLOODLINE.

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It is probably true to say that Licht was one of the most underrated composers working in Hollywood throughout the 1990.s and into the 21 Century, his most prominent work in recent years being for the TV series DEXTER with the composer scoring all seasons of the series. In 2012 Licht started work on the video game series SILENT HILL and remained the principal composer on the project up till 2015. It was also in 2012 that Licht worked on the video game DISHONOURED and later its sequel DISHONOURED-DEATH OF THE OUTSIDER, which was released after he passed away in 2017. Licht died in Topanga, California aged just 60. His score for CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT was hailed as a triumph by soundtrack collectors and critics alike, and it was not long before the score was issued onto CD, it is a highly dramatic score and draws on the style and influences of Christopher Young and James Horner for its principal themes.

 

But, there is another side to the score which can only be Licht, the composer fashioning and creating his own musical identity and stamping it firmly upon the movie a style that would manifest itself in future projects such as THINNER and BAD MOON. CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT was quite a low budget movie, but this did not deter Licht from utilising full orchestra and choir to create a soundtrack that is grand and sweeping in its style and overall sound.

 


THE GIRLS THEME is a particularly romantic and melancholy cue, which does evoke the style of James Horner his theme for COCOON coming to mind instantly. The MAIN TITLE is a homage to Vampire movies of a bygone age, with its brisk pace and urgent sounding brass and strings, it could be the opening titles for any of the Universal classic horrors, the titles of the movie are even in black and white and throughout the movie there are many set pieces or even parodies of scenes from earlier horror flicks, likewise Licht at times kind of sends up what audiences have gotten used to as being music for horror movies, but the formula and the approach works and works very well indeed. A highlight cue on the score is track number six, BLOODSUCKERS BALL, Licht introduces a quirky percussive opening and to this adds chanting choir, more percussion, brass and sweeping strings, it is an impressive piece, that works well in the movie but is also affective away from the film’s images.

 
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The track races to its conclusion with snare drums being introduced that set a swifter pace to the proceedings, before it eventually thunders off into the night as it were. CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT may not have been the most illustrious of vampire movies, but rest assured the score by composer Daniel Licht is a grandiose and powerful one. Hopefully one day it will be re-issued for more to savour and enjoy.