Gretel and Hansel, is a reworking of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale Hansel and Gretel, but with a rather macabre and frightening twist. This already dark and sinister tale has via this re-working been made even more unsettling. There is no trail of breadcrumbs that are eaten by the birds and there is certainly no house made of sweets and gingerbread in the middle of the woods. There is however a hose that is deep in the woods and inside is a witch who craves the flesh of children. So that part is still in there at least. The part of the cannibal Witch is played wonderfully by Alice Krige who was also very good indeed in SILENT HILL. But it is not just the storyline or the acting performances that make this an alluring watch, it is the sets, the locations and the incredibly captivating cinematography, which itself makes one shudder and begin to feel just a tad uncomfortable with how things are developing.
To pick out any moment during the movie as outstanding is difficult, because once this rollercoaster ride of horror begins to set off it does not relent. This is probably everything that the original tale was not, it plays with your mind and oozes with an atmosphere that is apprehensive and at times terrifying. The movie is helped along by an inventive and superbly supporting musical score by Rob. (Robin Coudert). His style and sounds are well suited to this dark and unnerving style of film, and the composer fuses music as in melodies and leitmotifs with electronics and soundscape. The composer fashions a shadowy and virulent musical persona for the movie, which underlines and at times jolts the audience with its jagged and heart stopping stabs.
There are some haunting melodies present also, that can be fleeting and are like have heard sounds but still manage to catch the attention of the listener. I would not say that this is a grand or richly symphonic score in any way, but it is an effective one and works well within the context of the movie, with the majority of the cues also standing on their own as music that can be savoured on its own. It has a subdued urgency and energy, if that makes any sense. One thing that you can say about Rob is that he is always original and always delivers soundtracks that are interesting as well as innovative. This is certainly a score worth checking out.
The 1960.s was a fruitful and interesting decade for films and film music as I have already outlined in parts one and two of this ongoing series, in which we look at four movies from the 1960’s from a particular genre. In part three I thought that I would concentrate on Horror, a genre that is always popular amongst film buffs and film music collectors. The 1960’s was a wonderfully fruitful time for the horror genre. It was after all the decade that Hammer films really established themselves as a leading light within the genre of the Gothic horror and also it was a time when composers such as James Bernard (DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS, 1967), Don Banks (THE REPTILE, 1966) and others became the mainstay of Hammer’s music department, it was also a time of rising musical stars such as Richard Rodney Bennet (THE WITCHES, 1967), who was given the opportunity to work on a Hammer production by the then MD John Hollingsworth. Plus, the Master of the Queens music Malcolm Williamson also entered the film music arena via his first Hammer films score THE BRIDES OF DRACULA (1960).
In fact, there are so many great examples of movies and scores from the house of horror that it was difficult to select just two to represent the studio. I say two because I wanted to also include two other films from the genre to discuss, after all Horror movies were not the property of Hammer alone. Amicus films, American International Pictures, Tigon, Titanus, Tyburn etc all made worthy contributions to the genre of the horror film and with these productions came several outstanding musical contributions by composers from all backgrounds. So maybe we should go to these first before focusing upon Hammer. But you may not necessarily agree with my choices.
For the first movie I would like to go to Italy and also to director Mario Bava, this filmmaker is still today looked upon as innovative if not slightly controversial, he made numerous movies the majority of which had to them a distinct and instantly recognisable style. LA MASCHERA DEL DEMONIO or BLACK SUNDAY is one of the movies that many associate with him, it was a terrifying film and one that was filmed in such an atmospheric and effective way that when viewed today it still makes one feel slightly uncomfortable, to say it is an iconic horror movie is certainly something of an understatement. Like many Italian produced movies from the 1960’s when released in the United States they were often re-scored, but the original Italian release had a highly effective soundtrack penned by vintage Italian Maestro Roberto Nicolosi. Who was responsible for scoring a handful of movies directed by Bava. BLACK SABBATH, ERIK THE CONQUERER, THE EVIL EYE, MASK OF THE DEMON- LA MASCHERA DEL DEMONIO (aka-BLACK SUNDAY) amongst them, many of Nicolosi’s scores for Italian productions would be replaced by the Stateside distributor American International Pictures. AIP deemed them unsuitable for American audiences and often turned to their almost resident composer at the time Les Baxter to fashion what they thought to be effective soundtracks.
“The feeling of James Nicholson was that the Italian scores were dreadful. The ones that I heard were quite terrible and the ones I rescored almost unacceptable, both from a fidelity standpoint and a picture standpoint. I don’t know how much improvement I made because I had such small orchestras, but at least we improved the fidelity”.
This is probably something that aficionados of Italian cinema would disagree with strongly, but to each his own as they say. I do however agree with the sound quality comment, as often Italian sound was rather dull and muffled, why this was I do not know, but the music at times played thinly at times wavering and sounded as if it could have been recorded under water at times. In my opinion the Nicolosi score for MASK OF THE DEMON was wonderfully atmospheric, and apart from the quality of the recording enhanced greatly the films moody and frightening storyline perfectly. As a footnote to Baxter’s comments I would like to add that there was also an Italian composer named Italo Fischetti (1911-1989), who made a good living out of re-scoring American B movies for Italian cinema release, maybe some being originally scored by Les Baxter, who knows? Nicolosi, was a much in demand composer and between 1954 and 1989 he scored in excess of thirty feature films and at least ten documentaries.
Born in Genoa Italy on November 16th, 1914. He initially was destined to be a dentist and graduated from University with a degree in medicine. But he was also attracted to music and showed a definite talent for jazz, so whilst studying medical things Nicolosi also undertook a course on music composition at the Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory of music in Milan from which he gained a diploma. Nicolosi, decided to enter the dentistry profession but after a few years he began to perform jazz music and during the 1940’s he became a popular performer at first performing on piano and then conducting and arranging for radio and recordings by other artists. The musician was very talented and was able to play, Trumpet, Vibraphone, Double Bass and Violin. During the mid to late 1940.s he re-located to Rome where he worked in nightclubs and the theatre as well as becoming a music critic.
The composers break into writing for cinema came in 1954, when he scored a documentary entitled THE SIXTH CONTINENT which was directed by Folco Quilici. It was during this period of his career that Nicolosi moved into scoring Epic movies that were produced in Italy, SWORD AND SANDAL films as they became known or were also categorised under the PEPLUM genre banner. The composer excelled when writing for these movies which was surprising considering his jazz musical roots and interests. Nicolosi’s grand and symphonic style adding much in the way of atmosphere and mood to the movies that he worked on.
His musical style could I suppose be likened to that of other Italian composers such as Carlo Rustichelli, Angelo Francesco Lavagnino and Carlo Savina who were also very active within the genre of the Peplum. Nicolosi utilising strong and vibrant string led themes and underlining or punctuating these with brass flourishes, percussive elements and at times jarring musical stabs to heighten the drama alongside romantic and lush sounding leitmotifs. Nicolosi would also experiment with synthetic sounds within his scores as in ROME AGAINST ROME which although predominantly symphonic contained passages and sounds that were electronic. At times many collectors confused the composer with fellow Italian Maestro Bruno Nicolai thinking that Nicolosi was an alias for Nicolai, of course this was not the case. Roberto Nicolosi passed away on, April fourth, 1989, but his music continued to be utilised on movies after his death. THE MASKOF THE DEMON starred Barbara Steele who as we all know is still looked upon as the Queen of Horror by many. The movie was known under a few titles, BLACK SUNDAY, THE MASK OF SATAN, REVENGE OF THE VAMPIRE and its original Italian title LA MASCHERA DEL DEMONIO.
This stylish gothic horror, was based very loosely upon the classic VIY by Nikolai Gogol. The plot focuses upon a Witch who is put to death by her Brother but return two centuries later to have her revenge on her descendants. It was Mario Bava’s first recognised film as director, although he had made a handful of feature films previously without being credited, THE GIANT OF MARATHON, I VAMPIRI and CALTIKI-THE IMMORTAL MONSTER amongst them. Barbara Steele was the perfect choice for the central role as Princess Katia Vajda/Asa Vajda and supported by actors John Richardson as Dr. Andrej Gorobec, Ivo Garrani as Prince Vajda and Arturo Dominici as Igor Javutich Asa Vadja.s lover. The film at the time of its release was considered to be rather gruesome and subsequently was banned in the United Kingdom and also the United States until 1968 and even then, was edited by American distributor A.I.P. When released in the U.S it was shown as art of a double feature, the other movie being THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS which was a Roger Corman movie.
Although censored it eventually got the acclaim it so richly deserved and brought Director Bava and the films star Barbara Steele to the attention of the world. There is a famous scene which takes place at the beginning of the movie, where a man (Igor) and a woman (Asa) are found guilty of witchcraft and condemned to death by burning at the stake, but there is much worse in store for them as a metal mask with spikes on the inside is placed overreach of their faces and then hammered into them, even today this is a scene that can be hard to watch, but it is an important opening and a vital part of the storyline. After this violent act takes place the villagers involved prepare to burn the bodies at the stake, but a storm begins, and they are unable too. Before the metal mask is driven into the face of Asa, she curses her Brother and his descendants. It’s a sensational and shocking opening that has been said to be one of the most brutal scenes from a horror movie.
From Italian horror and Mario Bava, to something that is I suppose quintessentially English, if you can call Witch hunting, Burning people at the Stake and various other acts of torture that might get a supposed Witch to confess their devotion to the Devil or the Black Arts.
THE WITCHFINDER GENERAL
Opening statement from the movie.
The year is 1645, England is in the grip of bloody Civil War. On the one side stand the Royalist party of King Charles, on the other, Cromwell’s Parliamentary party: The Roundheads. The Structure of law and order has collapsed. Local Magistrates indulge their individual whims, justice and injustice are dispensed in more or less equal quantities, without opposition. An atmosphere in which the unscrupulous revel, and the likes of Matthew Hopkins take full advantage of the situation. In a time where the superstitions of country folk are still a powerful factor, Hopkins preys upon them, torturing and killing in a supposed drive to eliminate witchcraft from the country and doing so with the full blessing of what law there is. However, his influence is confined largely to the Eastern Sector of the country: East Anglia, which is held firmly in Cromwell’s grasp, but not so firmly that Roundhead cavalry patrols have everything their way. For here persists an ever-present threat of the remnants of the Royalist armies, desperately foraging for food, horses and supplies.”
One horror movie that stood out for me that was made in the 1960’s movie that stood out and still does is THE WITCHFINDER GENERAL. This was in my opinion the ultimate horror film. It had an interesting storyline contained great performances from its leading actors and a beautifully haunting musical score by composer Paul Ferris who also made an appearance in the film. Directed by Michael Reeves, WITCHFINDERGENERAL also looked stunning on the screen and for the most part was an accurate account of what was going on in England during the Civil War years. Whilst Royalists battled it out in the Counties of England with Cromwell’s Roundheads, Matthew Hopkins appointed himself as THE WITCHFINDER GENERAL and travelled the Suffolk countryside exposing and burning supposed Witches. Directed by Michael Reeves, who was a gifted young filmmaker who showed much promise. WITCHFINDER GENERAL was Reeves first feature film, although he had already worked on various movies after he left public school. Reeves carried out various minor duties for Don Siegal and then also worked for Jack Cardiff and Henry Levin on films in Europe such as THE LONG SHIPS and GENGHIS KHAN which were both Yugoslavian/UK/GERMAN co-productions that had mild success at the box office, but more recently have become regarded by many as classics.
Reeves got his first break into making films himself when he travelled to Italy to work with Paul Maslansky, firstly on NIGHTMARE CASTLE in 1964 and then two years later on LA SORELLA DI SATANA (THE SHE BEAST) where he not only co-wrote the screenplay but directed the film. THE SHE BEAST was a low budget horror movie but saying this it was a robust and entertaining production that had an inventive script, Reeves displaying a maturity as a filmmaker for one so young. The films witch hunt scene was particularly impressive and watching it now one can see that this was a precursor or the inspiration for the opening sequence of WITCHFINDER GENERAL as there are marked similarities. In 1967 Reeves worked on THE SORCERERS which starred Boris Karloff and was a Tigon production. Despite this having a very low budget Reeves was able to create a movie that stood out. His next project which was also for Tigon was WITCHFINDER GENERAL (1968) again the budget for this was not huge but Reeves once again rose to the challenge and created a film that is arguably one of the finest British horror movies of the 1960’s.
Although the film was set during the English civil war, Reeves avoided including any of the battles in that conflict, but as I have said the budget was meagre and probably did not allow for this, however Reeves did include certain aspects of the Roundhead and Royalist war, which given the storyline and the direction of the main thread of the film is enough. Vincent Price was eventually cast in the role of Matthew Hopkins although Reeves originally wanted Donald Pleasance, who could not take up the offer due to other commitments at the time.
Price was given the role because of his connections with American International Pictures, who had a substantial investment in the production. He did turn in a wonderful performance as he always did, and although he and Reeves had many verbal altercations and disagreements whilst filming took place which stemmed from the director’s resistance to having Price play Hopkins. The actor was most definitely destined for the part, with Reeves being responsible for extracting an unsettling, subtle but at the same time malevolent performance from him which was probably due to the pair not getting on. The production started filming in the Autumn of 1967, and when Price arrived in a damp and cold Suffolk, Reeves refused to greet him, and avoided the actor off set, this dismayed Price who was astounded at the lack of respect Reeves had shown which led Price to refer to Reeves as an “Anti-social Limey screwball”.
WITCHFINDER GENERAL is one of the very few movies that has transcended the confines of its genre and been applauded to gain a wide critical acclaim. This happens very rarely especially within the horror genre, and it is probably true to say that only THE WICKER MAN has done this to the same level. The cast of the movie was impressive although most were relatively unknown, except for Patrick Wymark, Rupert Davies and Wilfred Bramble who made a brief appearance in the role of Master Loach. Hilary Dwyer, Ian Ogilvy, Nicky Henson and Robert Russell all play their parts with conviction and are convincing in their roles. Both Ogilvy and Henson were friends of Reeves as was the composer on the movie Paul Ferris who incidentally was given a small part in the film. But it was not just the superb acting and edgy direction that made WITCHFINDER an outstanding motion picture, John Coquillon’s extraordinary cinematography, Jim Morahan’s art direction and Paul Ferris’s haunting soundtrack all combined to bring us this disturbing but at the same time attractive slice of horror. Plus, the locations played a major part, the action being set against the background of a quiet English village and the tranquillity and sheer beauty of the British countryside, because of these idyllic locations and the combination of the soothing music and magical photography, the story and images on screen became even more shocking and disturbing, when moments of violence or horror took Centre stage.
The film underwent a number of cuts under the gaze of the censor even after Reeves’s fighting for the film to be released uncut, but it was not only the censor that Reeves had to fight over the movie, American International wanted the ending of the film altered so that the young lovers played by Dwyer and Ogilvy literally rode off into the sunset happy, which is something that Reeves would not allow, AIP also changed the title of the film for its USA release to THE CONQUERER WORM. This was so that audiences would associate it with Edgar Allan Poe on which so many of the studio’s films were based on.
Reeves could not do anything about this and on American posters the story was credited to Poe as well as Author Ronald Bassett. The film was criticized for its graphic violence and also for not being historically correct, well we can say that about a great number of movies that are supposedly based upon historical events or true stories, ZULU for example is a classic of British cinema, yes the battle of Rorke’s Drift took place yes the Zulus, outnumbered the British and yes there were many examples of bravery on both sides, but was the film historically correct? No, it wasn’t, does it make the movie any less of a classic, any less entertaining, no it does not. WITCHFINDER came under fire from many directions, Matthew Hopkins for example was in his early 20’s, when he roamed the English countryside seeking out Witches, Price was 53 when he took on the role. Matthew Hopkins presided over many trials of so-called Witches, in the movie no trials were mentioned or seen, just the grisly punishments. The scene where we see Patrick Wymark as Cromwell is supposedly before the battle of Nazeby, at this battle the Parliamentary forces numbered nearly 14,000, in the film we see just a handful of Cromwell’s troopers. The rights to WITCHFINDER GENERAL are supposed to have been sold with view to a Re-make, is this a good thing or a bad thing? Only time will tell.
Composer Paul Ferris was born Richard Paul Ferris on May 2nd, 1941 in Corby Northamptonshire, England. He became involved in writing for films in 1966, when he penned the soundtrack for, SHE BEAST which starred screen icon Barbara Steele who had featured in numerous Italian horror movies and was a favourite of Mario Bava. Director Michael Reeves followed Bava’s way of working and wanted Steele to have the central part in his first motion picture. Reeves shot the movie in Italy and asked his good friend Ian Ogilvy to be one of the films main characters. The score that Ferris composed was not an outstanding one, but it served the picture well. This led to Ferris scoring THE SORCERERS again starring Ogilvy with Reeves at the directorial helm and vintage actor Boris Karloff taking a leading role. In 1968 director Vernon Sewell enlisted the musical expertise of Ferris on his BLOOD BEAST TERROR, which starred Peter Cushing, Robert Flemyng and Wanda Ventham. The next assignment was WITCHFINDER GENERAL, the composer providing the film with a beautiful central theme that also doubled as a love theme. Ferris also starred in the movie, a minor role in which he portrayed the husband of a young girl that The Witchfinder burns at the stake, his character Paul Clark goes to the inn where Hopkins (Price) is staying with the intent to kill him, but Hopkins shoots Clark in the chest close range killing him. Ferris adopted the name of Morris Jar for the part as a homage to his favourite composer Maurice Jarre.
Actor Nicky Henson who was a great friend of both Ferris and Ogilvy told me that when the scene was shot it was hard for the actors to keep a straight face, “There was Paul covered in blood laying at the bottom of the stairs supposedly drawing his last breath and we were laughing, if you look at the film very closely you may even catch us smiling”Henson told me in interview many years ago. Paul had acted previous to this, and was a regular in television shows such as THE BARON in which he portrayed David Marlowe, who was John Mannering’s assistant and also had parts in the police series, NO HIDING PLACE and DIXON OF DOCK GREEN as well as a small part in the 1967 James Bond spoof CASINO ROYALE. During the 1960, s Ferris also penned the hit VISIONS for Cliff Richard, and his theme for MAROC 7, was performed by The Shadows in 1967. His career as a composer continued in 1970, when he scored CLEGG but after this he worked mainly on shorts until 1973 when he wrote the soundtrack for THE CREEPING FLESH, two years later he worked on PERSECUTION and that is the last movie he scored. I was told by Nicky Henson that Paul worked as many things after this, at one time he was a sea captain and also drove articulated lorries for a living, he even sold fish and chips, “Paul always worked, and whatever he did he did well” remembers Mr Henson. Paul became ill and was diagnosed with the debilitating and depressing disease Huntington’s Chorea, which meant in his last few years of life that he was unable to work. On October 30th, 1995 the composer was found dead in his Bristol apartment. Later at an inquest which was held on January 30th, 1996, the coroner arrived at a verdict of suicide by overdose of prescribed drugs. He was 54. Nicky Henson spoke of this. “Paul was on medication for his condition, and I know he did not take his own life, this was an unhappy accident. I think Paul had simply forgotten that he had taken his medication and took it again”.
I like to think that if Paul Ferris had lived, he would have returned to writing music for film.
Our next port of call is Hammer studios or at least one of their Gothic Horrors, but which one? There were so many great Hammer productions and it’s a forgone conclusion which ever one or two that I choose that someone will disagree with the choice. The films that Hammer produced during the 1960’s were not just good horror movies, but they were also stylish, colourful and luxurious. The scripts were well written, they were photographed meticulously, the acting was of a high standard and the musical scores were always excellent.
I have selected two films which are both obviously horror but are different if you see what I mean, they are also both from the 1960’s but there are two composers involved and two musical directors/conductor. I did this because I wanted to explore the early 1960’s rather than the latter part of the decade, when Hammer productions started to slip into scenarios and storylines that became more about the sexual content rather than the Gothic horror. For the first example of Hammer Horror, I decided to opt for the less obvious as in Dracula or even Frankenstein, instead I will explore the world of the Lupine or in this case.
THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF.
It’s a little surprising that Hammer produced only one Werewolf movie, which was in 1961, it starred a young Oliver Reed in the role of the Werewolf. Reed, who was to become one of Britain’s most respected actors was paid the princely sum of £90.00 per week on this movie, at the time he was heard to say that this was a fortune. Directed by Terence Fisher who by this time had become something of a star in the Hammer stable. It was an impressive and at times brutal movie, which followed a young boy Leon who was born on Christmas day in Spain. His Mother had been raped by a beggar and dies in childbirth, the boy is adopted by Don Alfredo (Clifford Evans) and raised as his own son. But as he gets older Leon begins to experience strange feelings and is affected by the full moon, it is soon apparent that he is a werewolf and begins to terrorise the town where he lives and the surrounding countryside. Don Alfredo tries to protect him, but as Leon grows into an adult it becomes more and more difficult.
HE FOUGHT THE HIDEOUS CURSE OF HIS EVIL BIRTH. BUT HIS RAVISHED VICTIMS WERE PROOF THAT THE CRAVINGS OF HIS BEAST-BLOOD DEMANDED HE KILL…. KILL…KILL!!!!!!
After a while Leon begins to understand the awful truth that he has something of an attraction to the taste of blood and is afflicted by Lycanthropy which makes him change into a werewolf at the cycle of the full moon. The child’s first victims are animals a goat and a kitten, but he soon progresses to larger victims in the human form. The films scenes of savage violence were a cause for concern to the censors, they cut over 4 minutes from the original version of the movie, John Trevelyan felt obliged to cut the footage, but at the same time wrote to Anthony Hinds at Hammer apologizing for doing so, the full version of the movie was screened in the United States and that unedited version returned to the UK in the early part of 1990, and is thankfully now available on DVD. The musical score was almost as harrowing and violent sounding as the content of the movie, composed by the London Born composer Benjamin Frankel, this is one of the finest scores written for a Hammer production, and has been on the wish list of many a film music enthusiast to be released in its entirety.
The score for THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF is a significant and very important one, as it is the first score for a film that is composed using the twelve notes of the chromatic scale. Frankel based his score for the movie on sections of his Symphony number 1. Frankel’s music on THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF is highly original and at the time of its composition was thought of as being something of an experimental and modern approach to scoring a movie, but it supported, punctuated and embellished superbly the scenes of horror and mayhem that were unfolding up on the screen, driving the action and underlining the terror and almost chaotic and frenzied marauding of the werewolf in its search for blood.
Frankel’s score I thought created a greater atmosphere of urgency and a sense of sadness and frustration. It contains a wonderfully lyrical Pastoral piece which is like a tranquil oasis within a plethora of jagged and harsh sounding themes. It was also an unusual thing that Hammers MD would not conduct the score, but Frankel has Malcolm Arnold as conductor on THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF with John Hollingsworth supervising.
The score was finally re-constructed by Dimitri Kennaway who is Frankel’s stepson and a recording of thirty-five minutes of the score was released onto a compilation compact disc on the Naxos label, with Carl Davies conducting the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. That also included other Frankel film music.
THE KISS OF THE VAMPIRE.
The movie THE KISS OF THE VAMPIRE in my opinion ranks amongst Hammers most polished and entertaining non-Dracula cycle vampire movies. Directed by Don Sharp who’s approach to the subject matter was refreshing and enlightening. The movie which was released in 1963 was a classy piece of gothic horror, there was a virulence and pure sinister malevolence to the picture and its storyline. Again, the studio produced an impressive and luxurious looking movie, and although the budgets for the Hammer horrors were not grand, the effects and the camera work as in cinematography were outstanding for this period. The production was greatly assisted by the acting talents of the impressive cast and James Bernard’s hypnotic and mesmerising score.
Bavaria 1910, honeymooning couple Gerald and Mirianne Harcourt are stranded when their motor car runs out of petrol. The Harcourts finding lodging as the only guests in a run-down hotel, and accept a dinner invitation from Dr. Ravna, the owner of a nearby chateau. That evening Ravna’s son plays a bewitching piano rhapsody that has a profound effect upon Mirianne. The following day the Harcourt’s return to the chateau to attend a masked ball, but Gerald is drugged. He awakens to find that his wife has vanished and that all her possessions have disappeared from their hotel room. The mysterious stranger Professor Zimmer (Clifford Evans) presents Gerald with the uncomfortable truth: Dr. Ravna is the head of an obscene vampiric cult, and he has claimed Mirianne as his latest victim. James Bernard’s score for THE KISS OF THE VAMPIRE is arguably more impressive than the ground breaking work that the composer carried out when scoring DRACULA for Hammer, this was after all the film that initiated the publics love affair with the various blood suckers that the house of horror would introduce during the years that followed.
The music for THE KISS OF THE VAMPIRE combines both unsettling and romantic styles, one of the undoubted highlights of the score being the piano piece that is seen to be performed by Ravna’s son, Carl. In later years the composer arranged the popular piece into a concert work entitled VAMPIRE RHAPSODY and performed a section of it in the closing moments of the 1987 BBC documentary HAMMER THE STUDIO THAT DRIPPED BLOOD.
“I decided to give (Carl’s) music a sort of perverted Lisztian flavour” remarked composer James Bernard. “John Hollingsworth, Hammer’s musical director at the time, called the piece ‘THE TOOTH CONCERTO’. John was always fun to work with but sadly KISS OF THE VAMPIRE was the last score that he conducted of mine. On KISS OF THE VAMPIRE I was asked to write a sequence of waltzes which were to be used in the scenes of the masked ball, these had to be in the Viennese style, and also had to be composed in advance of the main score so they could be played whilst filming of the scenes took place. My deadline was tight, so I asked John to get somebody else to work on the orchestration of these. He engaged Douglas Gamley, who not only did a marvellous job on the orchestrations but also performed piano on the score”.
The score has never received a full release, but elements of the soundtrack (2 short cues) were made available by GDI records on their VAMPIRE collection and also Silva Screen recorded the piano piece for one of their superb Hammer/James Bernard compilation, with the piano solo performed by Paul Bateman. I am guessing that the original masters for the score are either in very poor condition or incomplete. Which is a shame as it I think is one of British cinemas most beguiling and attractive soundtracks for a horror movie.
There are certainly more examples of Horror films and outstanding musical scores from them that were produced in the 1960’s, and maybe I will return to some of these in the near future, THE BLOOD BEAST TERROR for example or even movies such as THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER, ROSEMARYS BABY, THE HAUNTING, THE HAUNTED PALACE and others that include ATOM AGE VAMPIRE from Italy and KWAIDAN from Japan. Or maybe BURN WITCH BURN which contained a score by composer William Alwyn. The list is endless. TO BE CONTINUED……………..
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