Soundtrack supplement this time opens with three very entertaining releases from the ever industrious Dragons Domain, in no particular order because all are releases that you should own the label have released Vampirella by Joel Goldsmith, Adventures in Dinosaur City by Frederic Ensign Teetsal and the third instalment of the Mark Snow collection. So I am going to start with Joel Goldsmith’s atmospheric score for the movie Vampirella.
The score has never been released before and it is one that I know many fans were craving. The movie which was released in 1996 was directed by Jim Wynorski, and starred Talisa Soto in the title role. The film also featured the Who rock band front man Roger Daltrey, as well as Richard Joseph Paul, Brian Bloom, Corinna Harney, Rusty Meyers, Lee de Broux, Tom Deters, Lenny Juliano, Angus Scrimm along with John Landis and John Terlesky. The story of Vampirella was already well established before the movie made it to the screen in fact the character made her first appearance in the late 1960.’s in a magazine. She hailed from a distant planet named Drakulon and wore a rather fetching if not racy looking blood red costume that shall we say did not leave a lot to the imagination. The on-screen incarnation of the character was brought to life by Roger Corman who had worked alongside Wynorski previously and as far back as 1981.
The score by Joel Goldsmith seems to be a mix or fusion of both electronic components and a scattering of more conventional instrumentation. The composer has fashioned a score that is filled with a rich and vibrant air and also contains a number of themes. At times I did find myself thinking of past Goldsmith scores such as Moon 44, as the score for Vampirella did evoke this same sound and style on occasion. The opening theme also kind of reminded me of a western flavoured sound, but sometimes you know I hear western music in everything.
It’s a good score and I have to say it kept me interested throughout, I was waiting to hear the next cue at times but was loathed to move it forward in case I missed out on anything in the track I was listening to. Its certainly an inventive and varied score, yes, it is filled with eerie sounds and also laced with dark and affecting atmospherics, but the innovative and inventiveness of the composer make this a soundtrack that you will want to add to your collection. Recommended.
Next up is Adventures in Dinosaur City, I have to say not familiar with this at all, which is a good thing, because hearing something new is always great. The movie was released in 1991 and was a mix of both live action and animation, A group of youngsters are magically sent back into prehistory and meet the real-life counterparts to their favourite cartoon characters: who just happen to be a group of friendly dinosaurs. The kids team up with the creatures and start solving crimes, so a children’s movie but one I am sure appealed to kids of all ages. The mood and sound of the music straight away purveys a sound of urgency and is in the same ilk as music from a vintage horror from the Universal studio, but after its initial opening flourishes the music alters becoming less urgent and taking on the musical persona or style of Danny Elfman, with a jaunty piano (shades of Beetlejuice) providing the foundation of the piece, whilst strings and brass are added and enhanced with percussive elements to make it sound grand in one way and also having to it a comedic quality at the same time. It is a score that I enjoyed, and there are some nice little nuances and interludes where the composer creates several themes that re-occur along the way.
The last score I heard from this composer was also released on Dragons Domain, The Haunting of Morella is excellent, and if you have not already purchased it you should as soon as possible. Adventures in Dinosaur City is a lighter sounding score, but this obviously reflects the subject matter of the project. It is a fun score, and one I think you will enjoy.
The Mark Snow collection-volume three is entitled Southern Gothic and contains two scores from the composer. The first which runs from track one through to track twelve is from the 1994 TV movie Murder between Friends, the score contains some dark and sinister sounding cues that are at times scattered with bluesy or folk orientated nuances, but the overall mood of the score focuses upon the apprehensive and it is filled with a tense and foreboding atmosphere. Mainly electronic in its sound but this I think adds to the dark and threatening mood, the composer adding here and there an unexpected sound or a underlying percussive rumbling. The second score is taken from Shadows of Desire which was shown on the CBS channel in 1994, this score is lighter than the first, with the composer employing solo piano and harmonica on occasion to create a more subdued and calming style, the composer also brings into play some nice string arrangements that compliment and support both piano and harmonica.
The composer is in my opinion highly underrated and maybe the success of his theme and scores for the X Files series and movie have slightly hidden his ample talents from many collectors who just see him as the composer of that series. This is a nice pairing of scores as it displays Snow’s versatility and his ability to create music to suit differing storylines. Again recommended.
Haymaker is a movie that follows a retired Muay Thai fighter who is working as a doorman, one night he rescues an attractive transgender performer from a thug, which leads him to eventually become her bodyguard, and after a while a trusted friend. The relationship between them leads the bodyguard character to make an unexpected return to fighting, risking not only his relationship, but his life. It’s a story that contains elements that look at both human dignity and love. The music is by composer Christopher Thomas, (Woman Rebel, Lost and Don’t Look Back) who has provided the movie with a surprisingly rich melodic and sensitive sounding score. Its one of those soundtracks that one would probably look at and think well this will be all synth tracks and maybe filled with hip hop influenced tracks, but no, check it out, this is an accomplished score and one that is affecting and highly emotive, the use of solo cello and violin at times is quite breath-taking and oozes poignancy. The composers use of percussion in track The Fight/Finale is also inventive and effective. Please check this score out it is wonderful. Available on digital platforms.
Now for something completely different as they say, Barb and Star go to the Vista Del Mar, I did say it was different. Music for this complete nonsense movie is the work of Christopher Lennertz, and although the movie is a complete nonsensical 1 hour and fifty minutes of 100 jokes a minute with approx 99 of them falling flat on their face, the score is well….. the score is Excellent. The composer pulls out all the stops and throws everything and anything he can lay his hands into this mixing pot underlining and supporting chases, madcap scenarios, and other such like unpredictable and outlandish situations. Just listen to the cue Jet Ski Battle if you don’t believe me. The soundtrack is as entertaining as the movie and I mean that in a good way as I have to say the movie was fun, the music is brilliantly well done and because at times its over the top and as mental as the script of the film it works so well, complimenting, enhancing and at times becoming part of the lunacy. Check it out everyone, fantastic stuff. Also wanted to mention the composers score for the new Tom and Jerry movie, again entertaining stuff. Deany Bean is Dead was released in 2018, but the soundtrack by Cindy O’Connor (who shared a credit with Mark Isham on the Once Upon a Time TV series) appeared this week on digital platforms, and as we were talking of a little off beat story line, how about this one. A down-on-her-luck woman tries to win back her ex-boyfriend at his engagement party without revealing that her recently strangled boss is in the trunk of her car. Yep, I did warn you. The score for this movie is brilliantly done, entirely engrossing and totally irreverent. It has cheeky little passages that are filled with apprehension but also tinged with a quirky comedic element.
Lots of pizzicato strings, and fleeting woodwind lines, but there is just something about the music that is appealing and draws the listener in. Once heard I am sure you will be captivated by it and will be returning to it again and again. Check it out…
Star Trek’s Nichelle Nichols’ task to launch a national blitz for NASA, recruiting 8,000 of the nation’s best and brightest, including the trailblazing astronauts who became the first African American, Asian and Latino men and women to fly in space. Ids the subject of this excellent documentary Woman in Motion. Which covers the importance of her role in Star Trek TV series and movies and goes into great depth about her efforts to spearhead STEM in which she dedicated herself to persuading NASA to diversify in the selection of candidates who would become astronauts. The score for the documentary is epic at times and provided by composer Colin O’Malley. It is a smorgasbord of sounds and styles and all I am going to say is just listen to it. Emotive, inspiring, rich, and thematic as well as being filled to overflowing with a sense of hope and integrity. Please do not pass this one by.
There are atmospheric and disturbing sounds galore within the next score, composer Gavin Keese serves up a liberal helping of edgy and predominantly unsettling sounds for the movie What Lies Below, which is released by Movie Score Media. In fact, the composer does not take his foot off the sinister or tense button for most of his score for the movie. Its not one for the faint-hearted listener or indeed the collector who leans more towards the melodic and romantic sounding score, it is a relentless collection of sounds that are jagged, startling, and effective. So be warned available on digital platforms.
The same can be said for Vigil which has a score by Michael Yezerski, the music or musical sounds employed here in my opinion are not entertaining but grating, it is a score that I listened to from start to finish, but I have to be honest ad say I wont be returning to it, its certainly atmospheric, but is this music, no I think not, it’s a soundscape a collection of sounds that are mostly jarring and had me reaching for the volume control. Not for me.
But Blood of Zeus is, this is an excellent soundtrack by composer Paul Edward Francis. And is filled to the brim with proud and epic sounding themes, choir, full on strings, thundering percussion, brass the works, if you like your film music big, grand and richly theme led this is for you, enough said go get it. It is an animated Netflix production, so why not tune in too.
Also worthy of mention is Sam Dinley’s score for Romeo and Juliet. Stunning is the word best used to describe it, again available on digital platforms find it and enjoy.
You know that most of us as film music collectors have what is often referred to as a wants list and there are a few titles that are our holy grails, well one score that was mine I managed to get about eleven years ago on a CDR. Yes, it was a bootleg, and I am sorry I even thought about buying it but buy it I did. But, before you all rush to the police station to report me the score was not so they told us ever going to be released, even though a handful of reputable record labels did try and get it an official issue. In fact, I was involved in talking to a publisher for an English label who were very keen to release it, the score in question is Roma Come Chicago or Bandits in Rome, this is a hard hitting and highly dramatic score from two of the most important music Maestro’s in Italian film scoring, Ennio Morricone and Bruno Nicolai. A few tracks did appear on a compilation and 1 or 2 made an appearance on the B side of the Poo records label LP of Hornets Nest, which was like a carrot being dangled in front of collectors, because if there was one track or even two there were surely more around somewhere. As I say the bootleg had around twenty three tracks, and the sound quality was very, very good. The score has now been given an official release, its on the Spanish label Quartet, who these days seem to be very industrious. Fantastic I thought an official release of this iconic score, but stop, wait a minute, let check the time of the boot and the tracks. Ummm, more tracks on the bootleg, five more tracks in fact. Sound, well I don’t, know, I think the boot has the edge, its sharper on many of the cues, whereas the Quartet edition although official is dull sounding in places. Right before anyone shouts witch hunt, this is a review (which is a personal opinion of the reviewer) I am a film music critic and I do not just analyze the score but also the quality of the release as in sound and presentation.
This latest quartet release is in a word disappointing, it’s a score many have been craving, and this is in no way a salute to the great Ennio Morricone, it is not a tribute but in many ways a travesty. I am sure if he were still alive, he would have stopped this release. Like he did so many others that he felt were not his best or reflected his talent.
The opening cue sounded promising, with its rather chaotic sounding percussion, that evokes several other Morricone cues from the same period, this upbeat percussive onslaught is the Main Title, but on looking at the movie, I don’t think it is, this cue is not even on the old bootleg at least not in this form? You all know I am a great admirer of Ennio Morricone and Italian film music in general I have been since I was ten years of age and that was a very long time ago. So, I do get annoyed when a score of his is released and the record label does not do it justice, and there is a lot of examples of those I can tell you.
So, Roma Comme Chicago is added to that list for me it just does not cut it, the sound is at times distorted, this is especially noticeable on tracks number 4 and number 8 which are variations of the dramatic theme, its like it has been recorded at a volume that is far too loud and the meter has gone off the scale, and yes I am aware that in Italy a lot of soundtracks had quite poor quality sound when they were recorded or first released on LP record, one only has to listen to things like Find A Place to Die by Gianni Ferrio and also other releases such as releases on Ariete records back in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. But saying this when Find a Place to Die was issued on compact disc the sound quality was superb. On listening again and again Roma Come Chicago suffers from a distortion or a chatter on the more delicate sounding cues aswell as in I Like My Life lll which is track number eleven.
Look! I am not going to say to you this is a fantastic release, and it has superb sound, because it clearly does not, and if I were to say to you it was flawless then I would not be doing a credible job as a critic, would I? If I said go buy it and you did, you would then hear the obvious flawed sound and think, well I won’t be reading his reviews again, would you not? The score without a doubt is excellent, so for that and that only it is desirable from a Morricone/Nicolai fans point of view, but the audio on this is no better than listening to a bad bootleg, thankfully many already have the boot that was doing the rounds. However, I wont say stick with that, because any official release MUST be supported, especially when its Ennio Morricone and Bruno Nicolai, and I in no way support the bootleggers that are around, but don’t expect this to be crystal clear and fully restored, because it is not, they can say it is but come on just take a listen guys. The annoying thing is that this is a million miles away from the sound quality on other Quartet releases, such as The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly and Midnight Cowboy so why? Roma Come Chicago also suffers along the way from a few volume drops throughout the discs duration, again this seems to occur in the more dramatic cues or the various arrangements of that theme, which again makes me think the problem is in the original recording or mix and maybe could not be improved upon, there are also sections of these cues that speed up, and begin to sound as if they are trying to get to the end of the cue before the tape runs out, sorry for being flippant but that’s it, Rome Come Chicago or Rome like Chicago, or Bandits in Rome, whatever it is called where you are, deserves much better.
My opinion, for what its worth after this review is that this was a rushed release, it became available and the label wanted it out there asap, there’s a saying isn’t there, more haste less speed, in this case it’s more haste less sound quality. The cover art too is wishy washy, but thankfully one can flip it to show a much better cover art. As a Morricone/Nicolai fan of over fifty years, I feel let down, and disappointed, as a critic I am just being honest, I don’t think there is a law against that is there? CD available now, and an LP version is on its way. I wonder whats next on the Morricone front. Looking into my crystal ball i see a western.. no two westerns. Both with same characters and a number 7 involved. If I am right cross my palm with dollars….
To say that British composer Debbie Wiseman is one of the most talented in the world is most certainly an understatement. She has over the years wowed us with her effecting melodies and her succulent rich and beautiful themes. Her scores for both television and feature films are not only emotive, dramatic, and haunting but are in a word stunning. Her latest film score is no exception to this rule and with To Olivia we hear a poignancy and a fragility that has been present in other works, but with To Olivia, I believe there is more of a personal and deeper level of poignancy achieved by the composer, which is not surprising considering that Debbie Wiseman is one of the most melodious film music composers that I am aware of. It is a score that becomes ever more lingering and pleasant as it progresses and grows, the central theme being the foundation on which much of the score is based, with the composer taking her cue from the core melody and creating even more emotive and heartrending compositions around it. The simple but attractive theme entices and beguiles the listener, whilst also enhancing and embroidering the storyline and its images perfectly. The movie I loved, it is one of those films that you will always return to, it is heartwarming, heartbreaking and filled with a glow that cannot fail to touch and affect everyone’s soul and heart. The music underlines the emotions and adds to the storyline a delicate but non-intrusive atmosphere.
There are feelings and moods of happiness, frustration, sadness, and also a sense of darkness and loss purveyed by Debbie Wisemans music, it is a triumph of fragility, and there is at times the underlying feeling of emptiness, and grief. It has to it so many atmospheres and conveys a plethora of moods. The score is performed in the main by strings, with guitar, harp, piano, woodwind and a scattering of percussive elements being introduced. I was surprised that the movie was on Sky movies, but there again it is a Sky original film, I would say to you watch the movie, then watch it again, then buy the CD or download from any of the digital platforms, as this is an endearing and wonderfully alluring work and one that you will return to over and over like the movie.
There’s a number of film soundtracks released in the opening month of this year, some are from 2021 movies others are taken from films that were released in either 2020 or 2019. The first is from a 2021 release, The Shadow of the Wolf, has music by Sandro Di Stefano, and although this has a quite brief running time it loses no time in establishing itself as a score of great worth and quality. The composer creating two core themes on which the remainder of the score seems to be built. It is at times a delicate and quite emotive and haunting, the composer utilizes solo piano throughout to great effect, at times lacing and underlining this with guitar or strings, and at times a solo performance from violin or cello. It’s a pleasing score and can easily be listened to without watching the movie with the listener still becoming mesmerized by the melodic and subdued content of the work. There are a handful of darker moments within the work, such as track number five, Metamorphosis, which begins slowly and calmly, but soon changes direction and moves into a more driving and sinister sounding piece. It is in my opinion for the majority of duration a subtle work but saying this is also able to move into a dramatic musical persona swiftly and seamlessly. Released on Plaza Mayor records, it is available on digital platforms now. It seems that composers these days are more and more working for streaming channels and TV companies and no matter what your opinion of these companies are, I think we should be thanking them for the interesting and must see shows and films that they have produced during this pandemic and days of what seems to be an everlasting lockdown. Netflix for example, have released so many quality productions in the last ten months or so.
The Midnight Sky is one of these and has a wonderfully lyrical and melodic score by award winning French composer Alexander Desplat. The work is a fusion of symphonic and synthetic, but the way in which these are plied together often leaves the listener not knowing which is which. Electronic compliments conventional instrumentation and vice versa. The composer once again delivering a atmospheric and haunting work.
Joseph Trapanese is a composer who is rapidly building a name for himself both in film and TV scoring, one of his latest works is for Netflix and the movie Finding Ohana, which was released at the end of January 2021. The composer further establishes himself as a composer of worth with the score for this. It’s a work of delicate and affecting qualities, the composer providing the movie with fragile and emotive nuances that are complimented and underlined by more strident pieces that have to them a simplicity but at the same time are overflowing with emotions and poignant sounding motifs and interludes.
I have to say that I enjoyed listening to this score more than any of his previous soundtracks, and I hope that he continues to write and deliver scores such as this, his inventiveness is superbly evident and it’s certainly a varied work, that contains full blown and romantic sounding themes which are integrated and fused with ethnic sounding pieces and robust dramatic compositions. It is one I have no hesitation in recommending.
Gordy Haab is a composer that is also becoming more and more popular with his musical scores for the Star Wars video games, his latest is Star Wars: Battlefront, which I think is probably one of his best thus far for the series. In fact, I would go as far as to say I would love to see how he got on with a feature of the Star Wars series or even a spin off movie. This is a grand sound that the composer achieves and is unmistakably a homage to John Williams, there are so many nods in the direction of the Maestro, windswept strings, flyaway woods, booming percussion, driving strings laced with rasping brass flourishes, its all there, and it is fantastic.
One can even hear the early flourishes of those anthem-like horns in TV shows such as Land of the Giants and Lost in Space, that have since become something of a Williams trademark.
This is a wonderfully robust and driving work, its is relentless in its action cues, sumptuous in other areas and filled with the romanticism and adventure of every Star Wars score. The Imperial Advance parodies and purveys elements of The Imperial March from The Empire Strikes Back, and that is just one example of just how much this score evokes the sound, style, and majestic power of John Williams. This is just a rip roaring and commanding score and one you should own.
Next up is a score for a Game, Blue Fire is the work of composer Ariel Contreras-Esquivel who is a composer, orchestrator/conductor, and producer. Born in Argentina, he is the founder and director of the Ostrich Orchestra. He has written music for countless professional video games, films, adverts, and concert music. In 2015 he scored the acclaimed viral short film Grasancrem 2, which was produced by Hecatombe! Producciones and directed by Teodoro Ciampagna and received over 1.5 million vies on You Tube. His music for Blue Rider (Ravegan) was published in a physical edition, together with the game, by PlayStation Asia. His score for Blue Fire is a tantalising, triumph of thematic and dramatic styles, it is a soundtrack that I for one listened too through and through, simply because I just loved its style and overall sound. The composer fuses symphonic and electronic styles with female wordless voice to create a haunting and mesmerising work that not only serves the project well but stands on its own as just music to be listened to and savoured by all. Again, a strong and wonderfully melodic score, and another to add to your collection, available on digital platforms.
Neil Marshall is a name that is strongly linked with the horror genre, and his notoriety with the genre is well founded, he was the filmmaker that gave us The Decent, Dog Soldiers, and directed Game of Thrones. He also brought to the screen the re-boot of Hellboy, which was not as successful but still a worthy addition to his CV. His new movie The Reckoning is a British Witch Hunt story, with shades of Witchfinder General but even more unnerving, and one that takes place in 1665 against the backdrop of the Great Plague, it focuses upon Grace, a recently widowed woman who finds it difficult to pay the rent on her farm and when her landlord offers to take the rent in other ways she refuses, this infuriates the landowner who accuses her of being a witch.
As the plague grips the land the country is also infected with another awful sickness a madness that is witch hunting and the practice of subjecting poor innocents to awful tortures and trials to force them to confess. After being accused Grace is arrested and taken to the town where she is to stand trial, a trial which includes several days of unspeakable tortures at the hands of the witch hunter Moorcroft. The film is not the best of Marshall, but it is not his worst, and it contains some stunning scenes of English villages and countryside,
The musical score by Christopher Drake is what one might expect for a horror movie, but it is also surprising in places where the composer unleashes a true melodic and haunting sound, which for me personally evoked memories of both Christopher Young and Ennio Morricone. The second track on the recording is stunning, The Mourning is a sombre but at the same time highly melodic and affecting piece in which the composer employs solo female vocals, these are laced and supported by a rich string presence that is truly beguiling and wonderfully atmospheric.
The composer also utilises organ and solo stringed instruments to purvey a sense of loss and melancholy, it is truly captivating. The cue builds and builds with the composer adding components and the music becomes even more grand and affecting, this is a cue that must be listened to loud, Drake bringing into play more and more instrumentation as it builds to its climax. Track three is on a similar level to The Mourning, but much shorter, Tending the Land contains a sound that purveys a solitude and a feeling of hopelessness with solo violin being performed against a background of strings which introduce and usher in the solo violin performance, it is a brief cue but one that still manages to bring emotion and poignancy to the proceedings. No doubt about it, this is an accomplished score a highly atmospheric work that although for a horror movie is filled to overflowing with a richness and romantic air, these attributes are heard along side just as many dark and sinister interludes that raise their heads throughout the work.
The score is performed by both conventional as in symphonic instruments and these are enhanced and bolstered by imaginative use of electronic and choral mediums. It is romantic, disturbing, and epic. Outstanding and highly recommended. Available on digital platforms, go there now and listen.
The horror movie above most genres of film is the one category of film that in my opinion needs music, why? Well to make us aware that we will soon need to cover our eyes put our fingers in our ears or hide under the cinema seat or behind the couch if you are home alone watching a spooky scary movie with the lights out. (Why?). But seriously, horror movies do seem to need a lot more music or at least the right music more than other types of film. The composer has a difficult job when scoring a horror flick because he must work out when to score, when not to score and let the silence build the tension or when to just go hell for leather and jolt the audience into a state of panic and chaos. His is a job that is on a thin line between building tension and then enhancing and supporting violence a jump out at you scary moment and an unthinkable unmentionable monster that comes careering out of the woods to attack the central characters of the movie for no apparent reason.
When I started to take an interest in film music, soundtrack albums were obviously around but not in the abundance that they seem to be right now. Film music in my opinion has never been so popular as it is today and it is also accessible to many via digital platforms and also buying online as well as in the high street, nowadays it’s not just the themes for movies that people are noticing but the actual cues within a score that underline a dramatic scene or lace a more tender moment during a movie’s running time. Score’s for Horror movies or indeed sci-fi movies have in my opinion never been given good coverage as in having the scores released. It has only been in the last twenty years or so that we as collectors and fans of the genres have started to see their scores from released on a regular basis, and it seems that in contemporary times the horror score is probably one of the most popular genres for collectors. I think record companies and film studios suddenly realised that there was an interest in the foreboding and edgy sounds that numerous composers provided on the soundtrack of both horror and sci-fi movies and maybe it was an idea to release some of them. And I am pleased to say that these same companies began to take a look back in horror movie history and scores from vintage productions were also made available many years after the memories of some of these movies had faded into the mists of time. I recall seeing the Universal pictures Dracula when I was around ten years of age maybe earlier on TV and loving the film, but it was not until I saw the full colour Hammer Dracula that I noticed the music and the name of James Bernard on the credits.
I had already been bitten by the soundtrack bug at the age of seven with Lawrence of Arabia, and had as a child noticed that there were such things as LP records with film music on them, Zulu, Ben Hur, El Cid, Gone With The Wind, Dr No, etc were all titles that I remember seeing in the shops, but where were the Horror soundtracks? I even had the notion at that young age that maybe the music was just too scary to release. Of course, not true,(or was it) it was just the record companies and the film studios not thinking that music from horror films was not that in demand or indeed important. How wrong were they. In this article I will attempt to explore the Horror, Sci Fi/horror, monster, creature, scores, or at least some of them that have now been released, either as original recordings or as re-recordings.
Long after seeing many black and white horrors on BBC 2 as a kid, I came across an Long Playing record in a second hand shop just thrown in a cardboard box in the corner, It was on Coral records and I was told by the shop owner it was released before I was even born, well not quite true because it was originally released in1959, I scanned the cover and noticed featured a number of selections taken from Horror and Sci-Fi films, these were arranged by Dick Jacobs and performed by The Dick Jacobs Orchestra, the original Coral album did include annoying introductions from Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi sound-a-likes, but the actual renditions of the music were very good.
Themes From Classic Science Fiction, Fantasy And Horror Films was eventually re-issued onto LP by Varese Sarabande in 1978 and then the label re-released it onto a compact disc in 1993, and although these are not the original recordings they are surprisingly interesting, if you can get by the insertion of screams and such like that is. The Varese editions did cut these considerably.
The running order included, Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Deadly Mantis, The Incredible Shrinking Man, The Creature Walks Among Us, The Mole People, Tarantula, The Horror of Dracula, The House of Frankenstein, This Island Earth, and so much more. In fact, it is about time it was re-issued onto compact disc. If you are curious there are editions of the recording on digital platforms, but they all vary in sound quality and content. Some of the Sci-Fi cues do appear in their original forms on another digital compilation entitled Destination Moon-1950’s Original Science Fiction Film Scores.
BEAUTY DID KILL THE BEAST.
I suppose the best and most logical place to start when talking of classic scores for Horror movies is with the most well-known monster of all King Kong, I say monster, but was he? Or was he just a creature that was different and therefore seen as a threat by man, it is a weird thing in most monster, creature, or alien sci-fi movies the first thing that man does when confronted with something different or from another world is blast it to kingdom come. In the case of Kong, I suppose it was greed that drove humans to try and capture, contain, and exploit the huge ape, what for? Well for money that is what for.
The music for King Kong (1933) was the handiwork of the renowned father of film music Max Steiner, his way of scoring the movie broke new ground, as the composer abandoned the ways that films had been scored, as in wall-to-wall music that ran continuously under the movies storyline without really altering pace or direction and adding little atmosphere or creating any moods. It had been nothing, but a background and Steiner could see that music could be so much more. The composer wanted the music to enhance the action or add emotion to a certain scene etc.
KingKong is looked upon as the first true film score by many and I for one would have to agree with that. Filmmakers and studios were reluctant to add music to non-musical films, they felt it was correct to have music in the early talkies that had musical numbers in and dance routines etc, but to add music to dramatic movies and under dialogue was something that they at first refused to entertain. Steiner however had other ideas and worked out a way of underscoring scenes with dialogue without the music getting in the way as it were. He invented a new grammar in musical terms and a whole new way of making films more atmospheric.
His style music and of scoring has endured, forming the blueprint or foundation for the contemporary film scores that we are hearing now. The score for King Kong has been released on both LP record and onto compact disc, but in my opinion the re-recordings of this classic soundtrack seem to yield more in terms of the quality of performance and the sound achieved being new recordings.
The Charles Gerhardt conducted suite from the RCA Classic Film Scores series, which features on the Now Voyager -The Classic Film Scores of Max Steiner collection, is certainly a contender for being one of the most faithful re-recordings, the nearly eight-minute suite, performed by the superb National Philharmonic Orchestra features The Forgotten Island, Natives Sacrificial Dance, The Gate of Kong and Kong in New York.
However, the version that I favour is the Marco Polo records release which is performed by the excellent players of the Moscow Symphony orchestra under the baton of William T. Stromberg. The re-construction of the score is the work of composer John Morgan, and this recording I look upon as the complete score from the movie, because it includes material that other releases do not contain. The compact disc has twenty-two cues and a running time of seventy-two minutes. It even includes the jaunty King Kong March, which is somewhat out of step with the remainder of Steiner’s score but is still an interesting piece. Its an odd thing when listening to the score for King Kong because one can hear within it snippets of later Steiner scores such as They Died With Their Boots On, The Charge of the Light Brigade, The Searchers, and The Treasure of The Sierra Madre, to highlight a few. But saying this, it does display the beginnings of Steiner’s innovative style and sound and a new approach to scoring pictures in Hollywood. A method that was to be put into practice gracing, enhancing, and supporting hundreds of movies plus setting a precedent for all other movie music composers that followed.
The final four cues on the re-recording are spectacle, drama, and excitement, personified, Kong Escapes, Elevated Train Sequence, Aeroplanes, and The Finale underscore and support the action on screen making it even more exciting and tense all four cues seem to melt into one as the action rams up. Steiner’s growling brass and rumbling, booming percussion are laced and enveloped by driving strings and flyaway woods, but even amongst all the commotion the composer keeps the music thematic intertwining his theme for both the heroine and the ape in a desperate and pulsating headlong race to the film’s conclusion. I am sure it is Steiner’s surging score that makes one feel sorry for Kong during the final scenes of the movie even though he mercilessly drops a woman to the street from a tall building and smashes an oncoming train from the tracks killing hundreds.
The composer creates a panic filled montage of music underlining the creatures desperate and hectic efforts to escape and the hundreds of people that are scattering in the streets to avoid him. It is still today an affecting piece of cinema and a shining example of how music and images should work together. When Kong is mortally wounded by machine gunfire from Aeroplanes that are circling him at the peak of the newly constructed Empire State Building, he realises he is dying and places the heroine in a place of safety, he looks at her with love and disbelief in his eyes, maybe thinking of his island. He then falls to the street below. Steiner’s end music is sad and reflective, with the composer offering a tragic arrangement of Kong’s theme which he fuses with the theme for the heroine.
BY THE LIGHT OF THE SILVERY MOON.
From Kong to a slightly smaller but maybe more savage horror movie icon, the werewolf and some of the musical scores from classic movies that have this lupine character as their focus. I suppose it is Lon Chaney jnr, that we mostly think of when werewolf films are discussed, the Universal classics depicting a sad character that is made to roam the night of the full moon in search of blood to satisfy his appetite. But it was Hammer’s The Curse of the Werewolf that I leaned towards during the 1960’s its an odd thing that this is the only werewolf movie that Hammer decided to produce, and with this production came the wonderful Oliver Reed in the title role and a pulsating and rather Avant Gard or experimental sounding musical score by composer Benjamin Frankel.
Frankel’s music added much to the overall impact of the movie and especially in the closing scenes was invaluable to underline the rampaging werewolf, again like in so many Hammer films the music seemed to be the driving force of the storyline, Frankel’s urgent and discordant style becoming a lumbering and ferocious force that was filled with apprehension, terror, and tension.
Frankel seemed to be more at home or at least more comfortable when writing complex and even more extreme sounding music for film, but even within the extreme music for The Curse of the Werewolf, the composer does return to a more simple and more melodic style in a delightful pastoral piece that he utilises at certain points within the movie which in many ways echoes the composers work on other films such as So Long at The Fair. Apart from and as well as his music for film the composer has written extensively for the concert hall and based many of his compositions of serious music on a personal version of the twelve-tone serial technique, which he also employed within several his scores for the cinema, TheCurse of the Werewolf amongst them, stretching the tonality of his music to the limit, with effective and resounding results. His music for The Curse of the Werewolf, like many of the Hammer classics was never released onto a recording, and the original score remains un-released,
Silva Screen did however include a suite of music from the score on their Horror compact disc, and a few years later Carl Davis conducted the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra on a recording of the score which was released in 2006 on Naxos records. Which contains most of the score including the savage and relentless final sequence music that included the death of the werewolf and the up-lifting end title flourishes as we see Reed’s character Leon as the werewolf at last killed by a silver bullet and at peace, released from his torment. The Curse of the Werewolf is probably one of Hammer’s best scores for a horror movie and it is certainly one its most complex.
THE WOLF MAN AND FRIENDS.
But let us not forget that the Werewolf or Wolf Man had been the subject of motion pictures before as I have already mentioned, with Lon Chaney jnr, taking on the role of the troubled soul who turns into an animal at the sight of the full moon and is drawn to the thing or person he loves the most to destroy it or them. The Wolf Man (1941) is for me one of the most appealing Universal horrors, I found it to be more of a horror than both Frankenstein or Dracula, it was at times savage without showing any real violence, and the musical score for the movie helped greatly to create this atmosphere and elevate the sense of dread and heighten the feeling of menace.
The score for The Wolf Man was by three composers who collaborated on enhancing the tale of horror. Hans J Salter, Frank Skinner, and Charles Previn. The latter contributing just a few pieces to the score. Salter and Skinner had worked together before and were also sought-after composers to write for film as individuals. Salter is probably the more widely known composer that is associated with Universal pictures from the 1930’s and 1940’s. But Skinner too was a much-revered composer. The score for The Wolf Man, has an abrasive, aggressive and raw sound, something that is wild and untamed every so often is let loose within the music, with jagged brass and pounding percussion driving the proceedings, then it curtails and reverts to a more serene,melancholy or calm persona, mirroring the central character’s struggle with his inner self as his attempts to contain the savage and evil creature that lurks within him. This feeling is purveyed perfectly within the track The Kill, which in the movie underlines and supports superbly the rampage of the Wolf Manas he claims yet another victim. I remember feeling sorry for the WOLF MAN as the powers of the full moon drive him to kill indiscriminately. The music which was made available on a re-recording by The Moscow Symphony Orchestra conducted by William T. Stomberg and was issued by the marvellous Marco Polo records as a part of the great series of Stromberg/Morgan releases, which itself has now become an iconic set of re-recordings, featuring so many classic film scores from all genres of film. The compact disc also contained, music from Son of Frankenstein, (Skinner). and The Invisible Man Returns, (Salter). The Wolf Man was Universal’s most lucrative release of 1941, but this was not the studios first foray into the legend of the Werewolf, they had earlier produced The Werewolf of London, in 1935, which starred actor Henry Hull in the title role.
Hull was not a horror actor or at least was not as well-known as Lugosi or Karloff within this genre and this is probably why the movie did not fare as well as Frankenstein or Dracula at the box office. It was also the first sound motion picture that dealt with the Werewolf legend. The screenplay was not based upon one single story or incident, but instead was compiled from numerous tales that had been described and passed down from generation to generation within folklore. The musical score for the movie was by Hungarian composer Karl Hajos. Sadly, the music from this Universal classic has never been released.
Marco polo also released the compilation entitled Universal’s Classic Scores of Mystery and Horror, which included the score from the 1942 movie The Ghost of Frankenstein by Hans J Salter and the main title from Salters Son of Dracula (1943), one cue from the composers score to Black Friday (1940) and two excerpts from his soundtrack for Man Made Monster (1941).
The recording also featured Frank Skinners excellent music for Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror (1942). This an excellent compilation of music that perfectly showcases the versatility of both Salter and Skinner again reconstructed by John Morgan and conducting by Stromberg, with the music being performed on this occasion by The Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra.
Composer John Morgan who was responsible for much of the reconstructive work for the Marco Polo releases, remarked.
“Those Universal horror scores by Skinner and Salter have been favourites since I first saw the films on television in the fifties. I just loved the music and it really became part of me and my musical taste. I was so happy we could do these as I am convinced no others in the music world would tackle them as the films, for the most part, were considered B material. But they had A scores. It was difficult too, as none of the orchestration survived, so I had to use the abbreviated piano-conductor sheets and orchestrate the music from top to bottom. I was glad Hans Salter was still alive when we started on his project”.
After the success of his initial Frankenstein venture, director James Whale returned to the story of in 1935 with his movie The Bride of Frankenstein. This was a more humorous approach to the story which was still based upon original characters created by Mary Shelley. In TheBride of Frankenstein, Whale seemed to be trying to parody the style and convention that he and his collaborators had created a few years previously.
This was successful due to the over-the-top Gothic sets and also a musical soundtrack that was not only highly dramatic but at times annoyingly intrusive, but still the formula worked. The musical score for The Bride of Frankenstein, was composed by the soon to be Hollywood giant Franz Waxman. Waxman was born in Upper Sielesia in Germany on Christmas eve 1906. Waxman’s score for The Bride of Frankenstein, the original recording from 1935 is available on digital platforms, but it was reconstructed and re-recorded in 1993 and released on U.K. based record label Silva Screen.
As composer conductor Søren Hyldgaard who worked on the re-construction, explained.
“The Bride of Frankenstein, the movie as well as Waxman’s music, is part of my backbone in terms of film music. When I approached Silva Screen Records around 1990, it was out my own frustration with not being able to find anything from Bride, apart from the splendid but over-orchestrated ‘Creation of the Female Monster’ on the Charles Gerhardt Classic Film Scores LP/CD series. James Fitzpatrick and Reynold da Silva took up the challenge and got John Waxman, Franz’s son, on board. It was a baptism of fire to me – having limited experience and working with a mixture of piano sketches and all the work he has done with reconstructing the scores of Dimitri Tiomkin. Or John Wilson and his behemoth feat of building from scratch the old, lost MGM musical classics. It’s a huge undertaking, huge! doing takedowns of orchestrations, based on a low-fi VHS tape. Therefore, I hugely admire people like Patrick Russ. I must say I haven’t looked back much since completing the BRIDE project, but on the other hand I am much more experienced now, and if another pet project came by, I might be tempted”.
AFTER UNIVERSAL, A NEW ERA OF HORRORS/SCI-FI.
From the soundtracks from Universal classics to horror films and scores produced in the United States and released by American International Pictures and their like. This was a company that was in many ways a rival to the U.K. based Hammer films. A.I.P. Released a good number of movies that are now referred to as classics and quite rightly so. The company were also responsible for importing movies from Europe, mainly Italy and released several films that starred Barbara Steele, and movies directed by the likes of Mario Bava. What the studio would do is edit the movies and dub them but also on many occasions the musical scores by Italian composers would be removed and replaced by A.I.P. and composers such as Les Baxter would then be asked to compose a new score. Black Sabbath for example.
Some of these scores are thankfully available on compact disc and have been made available more recently on digital platforms. The Italian scores too have been released so collectors are spoilt for choice and are able to compare the original scores to that of the new scores by American composers. I think filmmaker Roger Corman was responsible for so many classic horrors and each one it seemed had a pulsating and powerful score, The Terror is one of my favourite scores, although I can take or leave the movie. Composer Ronald Stein provided the movie with what many think is an over the top musical score, but it is such a great bombastic and thundering sounding work, totally in keeping with the style and persona of the movie and its director Corman.
Themes from the score were released on a compact disc compilation which was on the Varese Sarabande label, including five cues from the soundtrack and also included selections from six other Stein scores, Attack of the fifty-foot Woman, Dementia 13, Not of this Earth, (which was also the title of the compilation), Attack of the Crab Monsters, The Devils Partner, and Spider Baby-aka Cannibal Orgy. Its an entertaining collection of the composers work for film, but pales in comparison to the ten volumes of the composer’s music that is now available on Spotify.
Stein was a composer who always seemed to be able to adapt his musical style and skill to any genre, but he certainly excelled in the Sci-Fi and Horror department, even when faced with a non-existent budget at times, on films such as Frankenstein’s Aunt Tillie. Stein is quite well represented on compact disc, thanks to labels such as Percepto records who released his music from The Haunted Palace (1962) and The Premature Burial (1963) on one disc and issued Invasion of the Saucer Men (1956) and It Conquered the World (1957) on another.
Monstrous Movie Music is a label that specialises in music from vintage movies as in anything from the 1930’s through to the mid to late 1960’s. Their catalogue is amazing and there are titles within it that one would have only dreamed of being available a few years ago. There is one compilation that stands out in my view and that is Monstrous Movie Music Vol 1, this is a horror/sci-fi soundtracks fans ultimate collection. Music from no less than four classic tales of sci-fi/horror, that include the musical input of seven composers.
The disc commences with three brief but worthy cues from the 1956 movie The Mole People. Musical duties for the film were the responsibility of Herman Stein, Hans J. Salter and Heinz Roemheld; the latter being responsible for the score to All Quiet on the Western Front for Universal studios in 1930. Roemheld was also involved on a number of cues for the classic western Gone With The Wind, which included the dramatic and driving music that accompanied The Burning OfAtlanta, but he received no credit for his work on the movie. The music for The Mole People is, I suppose, somewhat typical of the scores that were being composed during that period for the veritable onslaught of sci-fi/horror movies that were being produced by Hollywood. But there was one difference with this score; it was a totally original work, composed specifically for the picture, whereas many of Universal’s other productions had music cues from other movies tracked onto their soundtracks. The Mole People was included on the Dick Jacobs and his orchestra compilation mentioned previously, but this re-recorded version is certainly more faithful to the original score. Music from the movie Them, is the next selection and we are treated to eleven cues from this tale of mutant giant ants that go on the rampage and end up in the sewers below Los Angeles, where they are eventually destroyed!
I remember seeing the movie as a child on TV, and then later at one of those late night or all-night cinema shows that were popular during the 1970s, where a number of films were shown throughout the night and mid-way through you were served up a cup of something that tasted like coffee but was really vegetable soup with a rock hard bread roll. I remember thinking how sorry I felt for those ants, it wasn’t their fault that they got nuked or radiated it was the scientist’s human scientists, then the taste of the drink kicked in and I thought serves them right. The music for the movie was written by Bronislau Kaper who went on to compose the stirring and memorable soundtracks for Mutiny on the Bounty, Lord Jim, and The Way West amongst many others. Kaper’s music is most definitely in the category of true classic sci-fi horror and is arguably one of that genre’s finer examples. It is a pity then, that the composer did not get an opportunity to make a return to this type of movie, as his writing skills were well suited to it. One of the highlights of the score has to be the urgent and fraught-like sounding Military Takes Over/Through The Tunnels, which is track number twelve on the disc and for me was the forerunner to John Williams action cue in CETK where we see the military take over around the area of the mountain.
The next section on the CD is made up of fourteen tracks dedicated to the excellent score for It Came From Outer Space, which have a combined running time of just over twenty minutes. Released in 1953, the movie has the combined creative talents of Henry Mancini, Irvin Gertz and Herman Stein working on the music department and the pooled artistry of these accomplished music-smiths certainly paid off for the movie. Much of the music is library material and the three composers possibly did not actually collaborate in the true sense on the project, it is however possibly the best section on the CD but saying that the compilation is overflowing with quality music.
The final section on the disc is made up of music cues from the 1953 production, It came From Beneath The Sea, by Mischa Bakaleinikoff and the sections run for just under 10 minutes. The Russian born composer penned a suitably dramatic and mysterious sounding work for the picture that relies heavily upon the use of rasping brass and highly charged strings which perfectly enhance the story which is unfolding upon the screen. There are also a few lighter moments within the score, but these are brief interludes in what seems to be a sea of music dominated by tense and enigmatic pieces. In the cue, Love By The Sea the composer utilises a solo violin, played in almost a gypsy style, which is as surprising as it is fleeting within a score such as this. Many of the cues in this final section are very short and many of them seem to melt into each other, but this makes for some great listening, and just adds more to the enjoyment of the music. Tracks thirty-eight through to forty-two are billed as bonus material and are varying versions of cues that have already been heard on the CD. The compilation is presented extremely well, with interesting, informative and above all easy-to-read notes by David Schecter. The booklet is so thick that I had trouble getting it back into the jewel case after I had finished reading it. This collection gets my vote.
There is also a volume two, which is just as entertaining and Monstrous Movie Music has an easy to navigate web site where I know you will discover so many treasures. The Monster that Challenged the World for example, It the Terror from Beyond Space, Mighty Joe Young, The Intruder, This Island Earth, and Perfect Moon Base, amongst others. I know the label does lean more towards Sci-fi movies as opposed to the Horror genre, but this is a stunning catalogue and deserves to be explored.
THE BEST OF BRITISH.
From American produced Horrors and their soundtracks to British classic horror’s, and when I say classic and horror in the same sentence you must realise when I throw in the word Gothic there is only one studio that will be on my mind and that is Hammer films. I have an affectionate connection with Hammer movies, I became friends with composer James Bernard after interviewing him in the late 1980’s. I also kept in contact with Harry Robinson David Whitaker and Chris Gunning after doing interviews with all of them to discuss ther film music and focus on their works for the Studio that dripped Blood. Music for the Hammer horror’s was something that I and many others desperately wanted to be released, but sadly no-one seemed interested, until that is enter Silva Screen, who re-recorded a collection of music from a handful of the studios movies. released 1989 Music From The Hammer Films was indeed a ground-breaking release, the compilation which was initially released on long playing record in a gatefold cover later received a compact disc issue and has remained an iconic and popular release amongst collectors of fine movie music.
The collection has recently been made available on vinyl once again as a two LP set and was also re-issued numerous times by Silva Screen with differing artwork or included as part of more extensive compilations. It is a recording that I constantly return to, and includes suites from Vampire Circus, Hands of the Ripper and a selection of James Bernard’s Dracula music, such as Dracula, Dracula Prince of Darkness, Dracula has risen from the grave, and Taste the Blood of Dracula.
Conducted by Neil Richardson, it is an interesting and entertaining compilation, with the recording of the album being supervised by Hammer’s own musical director Phil Martell. The compact disc is a little hard to find these days, but there are several of these cues available on digital platforms. It was a few years after this release that a new company GDI records made an entry with a compilation that included many of the themes from the classic Hammer moves.
A few years after the Silva Screen release a new label GDI surfaced in the U.K., and they released a compilation entitled The Hammer Film Music Collection. We did not realise it but these were the original themes from the films, and although not all were in the best audio quality, they were better than anything we had heard before. This was the first compact Disc of many in the GDI Hammer series, and a volume two soon followed. Volume one was an outstanding release and contained twenty-five Hammer themes, opening with the powerhouse opening music from The Devil Rides Out by James Bernard, which was a perfect opener and set the scene for the delights that were to follow, it is a compilation that thrills, excites, and oozes discordant evil musical renditions which evoke numerous memories of those brilliant looking horrors.
James Bernard is given the lion’s share of the disc’s running time, which I suppose is a fitting tribute to the man who was the studios composer in residence (or might as well have been) he scored movies for them from the mid 1950’s through to 1974 and was also involved on the TV series that the studio produced for ITV. The compilation ‘s ten pieces by Bernard, including Dracula, The Curse of Frankenstein, Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed, The Scars of Dracula, Taste the Blood of Dracula, The Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires, She, The Gorgon, The Kiss of the Vampire, and the already mentioned The Devil Rides Out. Scottish born composer, Harry Robinson is also well represented on the disc, with four themes, The Vampire Lovers, Lust for a Vampire, Twins of Evil, and Countess Dracula. Robinson provided all four of the films with highly atmospheric scores, but it was probably Twins of Evil, that had been on many a collector’s wants list to get some sort of release, its brooding opening building into a full- blown riding theme that if tracked onto a western would fit like the proverbial glove, a style that composer Robinson turned to again on his score for the sword and sorcery movie Hawk The Slayer, which he also produced. Lust for a Vampire, was a movie that suffered a little in the plot department, but it made up for its lack of storyline with the bevvy of beauties that were paraded on screen during the movie. Robinson provided the film with a very lush and opulent sounding theme, full of romantic atmosphere and in my humble opinion was far too good for the film it enhanced. Countess Dracula,too had a haunting score and is without a doubt the most authentic sounding score that Robinson composed for a Hammer horror, he utilised cimbalom to great effect and further enhanced the film with lavish sounding strings that created an air of mystery. Another theme that is most certainly deserved of a mention that appears on the compilation is The Mummy, which was released in 1959 and starred Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, the thunderous, dramatic, and vibrant score was the work of German born concert pianist, turned composer Franz Reisenstein.
The collection is magnificent and will delight any fan of Hammer films and the gothic horrors that they produced. This excellent compilation takes us on a musical journey of terror and spans from the 1950’s through to the early 1970’s. Other titles that are also included are, The Brides of Dracula, hands of the Ripper, Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb, Moon Zero Two, Quatermass and the Pit, Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter, When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth, The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb, Creatures the World Forgot, and Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde. The music is conducted by Marcus Dodd’s, John Hollingsworth, Phil Martell and Franco Ferrara and all taken from the original sound recordings.
The GDI record label soon followed these two compilations with full releases of soundtracks from hammer classics these included the wonderfully rich and atmospheric score for The Mummy, The Vampire Lovers, Twins of Evil and The Devil Rides Out as well as compilation which included music from comedy films that the hammer studios had produced such as the film versions of the popular TV series, On the Buses.
The label also released The Lost Continent and added to the catalogue Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb and The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb.
Composer James Bernard was also represented within GDI’s catalogue with full score releases from Taste the Blood of Dracula and The Scars of Dracula, the label also issued a handful of compilations these included The Vampire collection, TheFrankenstein Collection, The Quatermass Collection and She and The Vengeance of She, which were released on one compact disc.
The Hammer Frankenstein Collectionwas in my opinion one of GDI’s best compilations, it had such a wealth of music and contributions from a number of composers, including James Bernard, Leonard Salzedo, Malcolm Williamson, and Don Banks and included music from, The Curse of Frankenstein, The Revenge of Frankenstein, The Evil of Frankenstein, The Horror of Frankenstein, Frankenstein Created Woman, Frankenstein Must be Destroyed, and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell. The label’s Hammer Vampire Collection too was wonderful compilation, with contributions from James Bernard, Harry Robinson, Laurie Johnson, and David Whittaker. It was a little surprising that the label did not include one cue from Malcolm Williamson’s excellent score for The Brides of Dracula.
The Hammer Vampire Collection, did in my opinion suffer slightly in the sound quality department, with some of the cues being lifted from DVD or from the films themselves. This manifested itself in the selections from Vampire Circus in-particular, with some distortion and the tracks cutting off abruptly or fading swiftly in certain cases. And therefore I am always thankful for the Silva Screen re-recorded suite from David Whitakers powerful soundtrack.
It was somewhat surprising that GDI seemed to just stop there, they did license three compilations that were re-issued on a budget label, but there were no more full score releases, until that is the label began to work alongside BSX records in the United States, the two labels released Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter, Dracula AD 1972, The Satanic Rites of Dracula, and The Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires, in quick succession.
Sadly, since these releases there has been nothing else, but it was hinted that GDI would again soon step into the fray maybe this time with Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde, who knows. The Horror soundtrack release has certainly come a long way, and being able to buy horror scores from these iconic movies certainly beats sitting in front of the TV late on a Saturday night recording the music onto a reel to reel tape recorder through a microphone.
Back to re-recordings that have been released and the most recent isDracula and The Curse of Frankenstein released on both double LP set and a compact disc from Tadlow Music is certainly worthy of a mention. I am pleased that at last both the scores for these two Hammer classics have now be heard in their full glory, and Tadlow music should be congratulated for persevering on this project to breathe life back into the chilling and virulent music for the infamous Vampire Count and the lumbering and tormented creature created by Baron Frankenstein. The project was announced some time ago, but then things went a little quiet because the label were busy with other re-recordings. The Tadlow re-recordings conducted by Nic Raine and performed by The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra were probably the most anticipated and talked about by film music collectors. I am of the opinion that James Bernard would have been very pleased with the performance on this recording, to be honest it is a fairly faithful re-creation of the glory days of Hammer film music, and once again I am experiencing chills down my spine as I hear that formidable DRA-CU-LA theme. However, at certain points within the recording I found myself thinking, is it really a faithful recreation of the music? I noticed slight differences in tempo within some of the cues compared to the original score, but I suppose we should be grateful for the recording, or we would be once again back in front of the TV microphone in hand trying not to breathe to heavily.
Silva Screen records is a label that has championed the release of many horror soundtracks, and commissioned numerous re-recordings, their Horror album is superb and offers many pieces from movies which would probably still be unreleased if it were not for the likes of David Stoner, James Fitzpatrick and Mr. De Silva himself. These projects were not all dedicated to Hammer scores, the recording featured the first re-recording of Witchfinder General in the form of a suite, and also featured the music of Benjamin Frankel, (The Curse of the Werewolf,) Buxton Orr, (Corridors of Blood and Fiend without a face) Gerard Schurmann, (Horrors of the Black Museum and Konga), Clifton Parker (Night of the Demon), and Humphrey Searle,(The Haunting and The Abominable Snowman) its one of those albums that you should own and you will return to it so many times.
A perfect companion album which is also on Silva Screen is The Devil Rides Out-The Film Music of James Bernard. This included selections from The Devil Rides out, She, The Quatermass Experiment, The Kiss of the Vampire, X the Unknown and Quatermass ll. The selection from The Kiss of the Vampire is the concert piano piece, which on this recording was performed flawlessly by Paul Bateman in one take at the recording session in London.
In 1995 Cloud Nine Records-or CNR, which was part of the Silva Screen family and guided by the late David Wishart, released The Curse of The Cat People-The Film Music of Roy Webb. The impressive compilation contains not only Webb’s music for horror movies, but a few tracks taken from the soundtracks of other types of movies. Including, Out of the Past -(Build my Gallows High) (1947), Journey into Fear (1942), Notorious (1946), The Locket (1945), Sinbad the Sailor (1947), Crossfire (1947), Cornered (1945), They Won’t believe me (1947), Dick Tracy (1945) as well as Bedlam and Mighty Joe Young (1940), The Ghost Ship (1942), and of course The Curse of the Cat People (1944).
The compilation charted the music of Webb for the silver screen between the years of 1942 through to 1949, and considering the age of the recordings, the sound quality is outstanding, and the quality of the music is stunning.
The Curse of the CatPeople also features on a superb recording from Marco Polo, again in the Stromberg/Morgan series and performed by the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, this is a beautifully presented collection which was originally released onto a compact disc but is now available on digital platforms, the collection entitled, Roy Webb-Music from the films of Val Lewton, is simply a must have item, and a perfect extension to the CNR release, there are twelve cues from the score on the recording, plus this too includes selections from Bedlam, but there are also other interesting selections from, I walked with a Zombie, The Body Snatchers, and The Seventh Victim. It is a powerful and absorbing compilation, which showcases perfectly the talents of a composer who many consider as the forgotten man from the Golden age of Hollywood film music. Another Marco Polo release that has now recently become available on sites like Spotify and Apple Music is The Classic Film Music of Victor Young, Which includes music from four motion pictures, The Uninvited (1944) being the main focus and represented by eight cues from the score.
The film is a 1944 American supernatural horror film directed by Lewis Allen, It, starred Ray Milland, Ruth Hussey, and Donald Crisp. Based on the novel Uneasy Freehold (1941) and published in the United States as The Uninvited (1942), its plot follows a brother and his sister who purchase a house in Cornwall which is plagued by paranormal events.For a film about a haunting, the music that Young composed was surprisingly romantic and light-hearted, the composer employing a particularly attractive piano melody within his score, the music having to it a lush and rich style, as well as also containing an underlying sound that is apprehensive, that at times bursts into urgent and dramatic flourishes, but all the time retaining that highly melodious and luxurious Hollywood sound.
To come up to date just a little for our final entry, we again go to Silva Screen and another compilation, Fifty Years of Classic Horror Film Music, is an interesting collection of suites and themes from a handful of movies, it features a suite from Jerry Goldsmith’s Oscar winning score to The Omen, which on this occasion is conducted by Stanley Black, the compilation also treats us to four suites from Hammer horror’s, Fear in the Night by John McCabe, She by James Bernard, Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde by David Whitaker and The VampireLovers from Harry Robinson, it also features, Rosemary’s Baby-Christophe Komeda, Exorcist ll-Heretic-Ennio Morricone, King Kong-Steiner, Hellraiser-Christopher Young and a suite from the 1941 movie Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Franz Waxman. All round entertainment as I am sure you will agree, initially released on an LP record in 1988 and then onto compact disc, it is not streaming anywhere at the moment, although individual tracks included are available digitally.
I hope I looked at what are the key soundtrack releases of classic Horror score’s and you have enjoyed the look at these and my personal overviews of them. Of course, Horror scores are released on a regular basis nowadays, which is good news for aficionados of the musical side of the macabre. And items such as Psycho have always been around or at least it seems that way. In closing I think I must make mention of some releases on Varese Sarabande and United Artist’s LP’s that were in the shops during 1970’s and early 1980’s and were something of an oddity plus they were all penned by Italian Maestro Pino Donaggio,
Carrie (1976), Tourist Trap (1979), Pirahna (1979), The Howling (1981), and also not forgetting Don’t Look Now (1973), on the Italian Carosello label. All great horror scores, which were deservedly released and have since made it onto compact disc most in an expanded form.
I think it was from here on that we started to see music from horror movies getting released, and fans also starting to add them to their collections. Varese Sarabande seemed to be one of the main labels to do this with scores such as Silver Bullet by Jay Chattaway, The Nightmare on Elm Street movies too were released by the label, with companies such as Silva Screen and GNP Crescendo following with, Hellraiser and Hellraiser ll.
Dracula by John Williams too saw the light of day (which the Count was not too pleased about) on MCA. And with the introduction of the compact disc the releases kept coming. So, its common place now when a horror movie is released that the score is too issued either digitally or on CD and ironically nowadays onto vinyl. There are so many I could mention that have been released both old and new. But think about this, back in the 1960.s and 1970’s if a film such as The Conjuring was released the soundtrack album probably would never have been issued or the score been given a second thought. The same can be said for scores such as Saw, Jigsaw, Scream, A Quiet Place I’m sure you get the idea. But saying that, it was not just horror scores that were ignored as we all know and that is why the soundtrack wish list still exists. And on that wish list is the horror scores from the likes of Tyburn, Tigon, Amicus etc productions. Maybe soon.
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