In the many years that I have been collecting film music I thank heaven for composers like Richard Band, he has I think more than many other composer manages to maintain a high standard of music within films that maybe did not deserve music of such great quality, if you understand what I am saying. With many of the composers scores it is a case of the music actually being far superior than the films they were written for. Take THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM for an example, great pulsating and powerful score, one of his best in my opinion, but the film well, I can take it or leave it, and when I say leave it I mean actually leave it somewhere in the hope that it gets lost.
One of Band’s most recent assignments that gets a release on DRAGONS DOMAIN records is EXORCISM AT 60.000 FEET, an obvious in flight version of the EXORCIST, with the composer even poking fun at the original films score via the use of a TUBULAR BELLS type motif which at times raises its head throughout the score. But Band, I have to say has written a superb soundtrack, it has a wonderful driving theme that carries the work along at pace, the composer introducing various takes on it throughout the score. With the remainder of the soundtrack being just too good for this movie. It is filled to overflowing with a real sense of the dramatic and also has to it a cheeky and impish style that is comedic and at the dame time quite patronising as in it parodies the sound of the horror movie from the 1950’s through to more contemporary examples including Band’s own work within the genre and the likes of Danny Elfman on BEETLEJUICE etc. What I love about Band’s music for film is that it never really takes itself seriously, and I think therefore it works so well and is also so appealing. To be quite honest if I saw this movie was on at the local picture house I don’t think I would even bother, but after hearing Richard Band’s excellent music I may be persuaded to try and sit through it. Richard Band also has a few other releases that are popping up on digital platforms, which although not ideal is quite useful for anyone not familiar with his music for film.
CASTLE FREAK is one such title, no not the 2020 remake but the original from 1995 directed by Stuart Gordon of RE-ANIMATOR fame. It’s a creepy tale of a man who attempts to protect his family against an evil that is resident in a castle that he has inherited. Again Band did a brilliant job for a low budget movie with an evil and spiky sounding violin solo weaving its way through the score, a dark and mischievous sound that is enhanced and supported by equally devilish sounding strings, brass and strategically placed percussion. I always have thought that his music for this production was quite evocative of Jerry Goldsmiths menacing, unsettling and virulent sounding score for the MEPHISTO WALTZ. Plus, I am of the opinion it also has to it elements that resemble Carol Anne’s theme from Goldsmiths POLTERGEIST. Amongst all the atonal and creepy sounding material Band has created a score that aids the movie greatly, but it also one that rewards the listener when heard on its own, it is an inventive work, again one of Richard Bands finest.
THE HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW (1982) is yet another gem of a horror score, Band in a lyrical mode for the opening theme, which kind of lulls one into a false sense of security, a mood that I will say does not endure for long, its not too long before the composer begins to introduce icy sounding passages, sinewy sounding strings, tinkling piano that is more menacing than calming and also he utilises female voice in certain cues that purveys a sense of uneasiness and adds a chill to the proceedings, but there is still maybe a semblance of calm and warmth within it, in the same way that Morricone did in films such as BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE. Again, a low budget affair, but still Band produces a top-notch soundtrack. After a prank goes terribly wrong a group of sorority Sisters are stalked by a killer and murdered one at a time in the house whilst a party is being held that is to celebrate their graduation. The score is an accomplished one for a low budget horror and contains a few interesting themes and again is something of a homage to the scores of Jerry Goldsmith.
THE RESSURECTED was released in 1991, directed by Dan O Bannon, its one of those movies that you probably begin to watch will a modicum of interest, and by the end of the film you find that you really enjoyed it. Well that’s how it was for me anyway, I also like the score by Richard Band a lot, I think its classy and accomplished, and has about it a style and sound that radiates sophistication, yes I realise it’s a horror and I can’t say its particularly original, but there are many interesting points within it, it is in fact more like a film noir score than a horror, the subtle menacing nuances wash over the listener and also add a chilling and apprehensive dimension to the story being acted out on screen. It is for the most part dark and malevolent, but there are hints of romanticism and a lush almost opulent style that emerges albeit briefly at key moments with the soundtrack, entertaining movie, and score.
MUTANT or NIGHT SHADOWS as it was originally entitled contains a score that outshines the movie it was intended to enhance. I never did like the movie, but just love the score. Directed by John Cardos it focuses upon two Brothers who find out that the residents of a small town in the Southern States are slowly being infected by a Toxic waste, the substance apparently turning them into bloody lusting Zombies. The score is performed by the NATIONAL PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA with some electronic support, it is certainly one of the composers more powerful works, again inventive, and innovative in the way the string section is utilised. There is just something attractive about this score maybe more than any other Richard Band soundtrack, the sound and the style is robust and vibrant, there is more of a commanding feel to this with the composer creating a superbly dark and foreboding set of atmospheres, that delight and chill all at once.
SHRUNKEN HEADS was a comedy horror movie released in 1994, the score had a theme provided by Danny Elfman, but the main score was the work of Richard Band, in many ways this is very similar to Band’s work on TROLL which he scored in 1986, the composer making effective use of choir that he seamlessly fuses with quirky but dramatic musical passages and adding a touch of melancholy here and there for effect . The opening theme by Elfman I think also influenced Band as he seems to take his cue from the offbeat and slightly demented sound created by Elfman. Imaginative orchestration and inspired writing, this is an enjoyable listening experience, and a soundtrack that I think will be returned to many times after the initial listen.