THE HISTORICAL, ADVENTUROUS, FUTURISTIC AND COMIC.
We all are aware of the gothic horrors as produced by Hammer films, and I would think that we too are familiar with a number on non-horror productions that came out of the British film studios. Alongside the likes of Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy and A werewolf or two, the studio also dipped its toe into adventure stories, tales of pirates, roundheads and cavaliers, odd sci-fi stories, and a handful of prehistoric or dinosaur yarns. There were also numerous comedies, some based on popular TV shows from Britain in the 1970’s. It seems although these examples were well made like everything that Hammer did, they did not attain the same level of attention or attraction as the now classic Gothic Horrors.
These non-horror movies also contained wonderfully melodic, thematic, and robust sounding musical scores, sadly none of which have seen the light of day in a full soundtrack release, aside from the On the Buses movies which were represented in part on The Hammer Comedy film music collection, as issued on GDI records, many of the other non-horror movies have instead had their opening themes included onto compilations of Hammer film music again by the industrious GDI.
Roundheads, Cavaliers, Pirates and Vikings.
A composer who I have always thought has been ignored or undervalued over the years is Gary Hughes, when one discusses music for Hammer the names of James Bernard, Richard Rodney Bennet, Harry Robinson, and even John Cacavas etc are always mentioned but it is very rare indeed for Gary Hughes to be included.
Hughes never scored any horror movies for the studio, he did however provide rip roaring, swashbuckling and adventurous scores for Hammer productions such as the John Gilling directed English civil war drama, The Scarlet Blade or The Crimson Blade, as it was known in the United States, which starred Lionel Jefferies and Oliver Reed, this and a handful of other features that were released in the 1960’sthat the composer worked on all contained heroic and dramatic musical works, and it is something of a surprise that none of the composers scores have been given the full credit that they deserve.
Born Gareth McClean Hughes on March 21st, 1922 in Nanaimo Canada, Hughes initially began his working career as a print setter but always had a passion for music. Whilst being employed in the printing industry he began to study music in his spare time, he eventually achieved his goal and became a musician becoming a trombone player and then progressed to doing arrangements and finally to becoming a composer. He re-located to England in 1955 with his wife Grace and settled in Richmond Surrey.
He carried on doing arrangements and writing his own compositions and was asked to arrange some music for Sir William Walton, which threw him into the spotlight, which is when he began to work for several composers who were popular at that time. In 1960, he wrote the music for the Don Sharp directed drama Linda, which was conducted by Muir Mathieson and contained a song written by David Lee. Soon after this he was recruited by John Hollingsworth who alongside many musical duties was also the Musical director for Hammer films at the time.
The composer scored his first Hammer film in 1962, which was The Devil Ship Pirates. Hughes also collaborated with Muir Mathieson again in 1963, when he was asked to score Cy Enfield’s Hide and Seek which was not a Hammer film. In the same year worked on his second feature for Hammer The Scarlet or Crimson Blade.
In 1964 Hughes was back in swashbuckling mood for Hammer’s The Devil Ship Pirates, and in 1967 he scored, Hammer’s version of a Sword and Sandal movie in the form of The Viking Queen and then worked on A Challenge for Robin Hood, which was also released in 1967 and was to behis last assignment for Hammer. Hughes also provided the score for the Stuart Whitman, Elke Sommer movie The Invincible Six which was released in 1970.
At the age of just 56, the composer passed away in Farnham Surrey, on April 25th, 1978, this was after a series of strokes, the fourth of these proved to be fatal. His scores for the adventure films as produced by Hammer films were both lyrical and dramatic, the soundtracks for The Devil Ship Pirates and The Pirates of Blood River being particularly rousing and theme laden, having to them that typical Pirate or seafaring sound.
It was Hammer’s MD John Hollingsworth that thought Hughes was more suited to these types of movies, and it was also Hollingsworth that conducted and supervised many the scores that Hughes penned for Hammer.
It is probably true to say that it was only after the composer’s untimely death that his soundtracks begun to become more appreciated. The films themselves have also attained something of a cult following, and although maybe not the best of the Hammer studios, are still entertaining.
SCI-FI or WESTERN?
Hughes was not the only composer that worked for Hammer that did not score a horror movie for the studio. Don Ellis, was an American trumpet player and composer who worked on Hammer’s ill-fated so called western in space Moon Zero Two, the movie was not a great success for the studio, despite the presence of actor James Olsen, and an array of well-known British actors such as Warren Mitchell, Bernard Bresslaw, Michael Ripper, Sam Kydd and a host of beauties including Catherine Schell and Andriene Corri.
The fairly predictable and lack lustre plot revolved around a space salvage expert and his partner who become embroiled with a group of criminals intent on hijacking a small asteroid made of sapphire and crashing it into the moon for later recovery (simple). The only place that they can bring the asteroid down without drawing attention to themselves is a mining area that is on the far side of the moon. But to do this without being found out they have to dispose of the miners that are working the claim. Unbeknown to the criminals the same salvage team that they are working with have been hired to locate a missing miner at the claim by his sister, which could complicate matters and very often does. It is not a great movie, in fact it’s a bad movie, a kind of poor man’s Space 1999, if you like.
But saying that maybe Space 1999, did base some of their costume design on the Hammer film as there are certainly similarities. The score although serviceable was nothing special apart from the song performed by British singer Julie Driscoll, who had achieved chart success the year before with the song Wheels on Fire. But the song for the movie was memorable for all the wrong reasons, the lyrics being cliched and the vocals being quite brash and shouty. Ellis, had worked on the Mission Impossible TV series in the States previous to Moon Zero Two and two years later went on to score The French Connection. He was born in Los Angels on July 25th 1934, the composer died young at just 44 years of age in Hollywood in 1978.
The composer also wrote the scores for movies such as The Seven Up’s, The French Connection ll, and scored a number of episodes in the TV series Doctor’s Hospital. A track from the Moon Zero Two soundtrack appeared on a GDI compilation, this was the vocal track from the movie that played over the film’s animated opening titles.
A LONG TIME AGO IN A LAND BEFORE JURASSIC PARK.
From futuristic escapades in outer space to the time of Dinosaurs, prehistoric man, scantily clad females and other such things. Hammer produced four of what I would call Dinosaur movies, three come to mind straight away as in One Million Years BC, When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth and Creatures the World Forgot, because they were entertaining and epic like and had Dinosaurs featured within them. The fourth is probably not as memorable, and if you have seen it you will know why. Prehistoric Women or Slave Girls was an oddity, and one that was not exactly given a warm welcome by critics or audiences. Even with composer Carlo Martelli not being impressed by it or the way in which Hammer treated him on the movie, as he explained in interview.
“Slave Girls, was really a favour for Phil Martell, the film was a fiasco, I was deliberately set up on this by Martell, It happened as follows, Phil had not been able to find a composer for the film, I think that Carreras first choice was a European composer (Mario Nascimbene) but they had turned it down.
So, when Phil Martell came to me asking me to score the movie, he purposely misled me about the project, he originally told me that the score he required would only be a very sparing one, 15 minutes at the most. He also said I would have three weeks to complete it. This to me sounded like a schedule made in heaven, it was sheer luxury compared with other scoring assignments. Well in the end it transpired that the movie required 50 minutes of score, and I would have less than 10 days to complete it. As a result of this deceit the music I had already written was totally unsuitable, and I had to start again, thus another session had to be booked, which took us way over budget, and then I had to do some re-writes, which again added more to the cost. By this time Carreras was very annoyed indeed, but obviously he did not know the full facts of the story, Martell made sure I took all the blame for his mistakes. As a result, I never worked directly for Hammer again. Carreras was a total philistine when it came to music. He did not have the remotest feeling for or understanding of it.
As for taking an active role in where any music was to be placed, or what style of music etc, he did unfortunately try and do this, in common with many other composers that work in film, I had to sit and listen to vast amounts of preposterous and ill-informed drivel, and whilst doing this try to keep a straight and serious face. It is a sad fact that nowadays many directors, producers and so-called music supervisors are musically illiterate. Many composers have to suffer a great amount of indignity from these people. There is nothing worse than being engaged to score a film, and when the music is ready being told that it is unsuitable or wrong by someone who is tone deaf”.
I can only admit to seeing Slave Girls once a long time ago, and I do have to say I found it somewhat strange. A mix of adventure and fantasy, for me it was an attempt by Hammer to maybe re-create the success of One Million Years BC (1966) and She (1965).
David Marchant (Michael Latimer), a British explorer accompanies Colonel Hammond (Robert Raglan) and his guide who are pursuing a leopard on an African safari. The Colonel takes aim at the animal but misses his target only wounding it. The guide becomes nervous and warns the two men that it will be dark soon and they should now return to the camp. David however, decides to find the animal and put it out of its misery before following the party back to camp. Walking some way through the jungle he notices carvings and drawings of a white Rhino on trees but pays them no mind as he tracks the Leopard. Finally, the weakened leopard attacks him, and he shoots it dead, whereupon he is set upon by a primitive tribe. They make clear to him he should not be there and accuse him of disturbing the spirit of the white Rhinoceros, he is taken prisoner by the natives and led further into the jungle to their village and to their leader’s temple. As the high priest/leader deliberates over what will be done with the white man. David sees a large, ancient stone statue of a white rhino and realizes this is what the tribe worship. Just as he is about to be killed for his trespassing and disturbing the spirits, David touches the statue and there is random flash of lightning that opens a giant crack in the cave wall where he has been taken.
Marchant, moves quickly and makes his escape into the opening in cave wall as he exits, he finds himself in a lush jungle that sits in a large valley. He walks further into the vegetation but hears a noise and is surprised to see a terrified fair-haired girl (Edina Ronay) fall through the undergrowth breathless and clearly distressed. He reaches out to help her, but the woman struggles and bites his hand and then runs off. David pursues her and eventually tackles her to the ground, but as he fights to try and calm her they are both attacked by dark-haired women.
David is escorted at spear point to their village while the fair woman is bound and taken with them. As they reach the outskirts, David is astounded to discover another white rhino statue, only less ancient looking. So, a little bit of a strange plot, and the direction and acting also was much to be desired. Martine Beswick is probably the best thing about the entire film along with Carlo Martelli’s score which I have to say is far too good for the film. From a less than entertaining movie to three that Hammer produced between 1965 and 1971, that at least managed to hold the attention of audiences in cinemas.
It is probably true to say that the first in this trilogy of sorts One Million Years BC was the best, but that does not mean that When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth or Creatures the World Forgot were inferior in any way. In fact When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth was nominated for best visual effects and was based upon a treatment written by Empire of the Sun author J.G.Ballard, and Creatures the World Forgot introduced us to the ample talents of former Miss Norway Julie Ege.
The music for all three of these prehistoric adventures was composed by Italian Maestro, Mario Nascimbene with selections from all three scores being released on a compact disc on the Legend label in Italy. There was also an LP record which again was released in Italy on the Intermezzo label. Born in Milan, Lombardy Italy as Mario Ernesto Rosolino Nascimbene on November 28th, 1913. He was to become one of the most successful Italian film music composers of the 20th Century. He studied composition and conducting at the Guiseppe Verdi Conservatory in Milan under Ildebrando Pizzetti, after which he began to write various pieces of chamber music and ballet’s, he began to write music for Italian motion pictures in the 1940,s, his first assignment being L‘amore Canta (Love Song) in 1941.
Nascimbene mixed symphonic styles with electronic sounds to achieve the sound within the Hammer prehistoric movies, and music played a very important role in establishing the mood and the atmosphere required for all three movies. He was certainly one of the most prolific and innovative composers to come out of Italy that worked on film. He was never frightened to experiment often fusing strange effects with more conventional musical approaches. He developed a unique process where he would enhance and alter everyday sounds electronically and then place then within his film scores to give them an original and inventive style. He was known to incorporate sounds that he invented from items such as bicycle bells and even typewriters to allow him to invent a greater wealth of sound.
This type of experimentation he would pass onto Ennio Morricone who worked with Nascimbene on a handful of film soundtracks, most notably the 1961 epic Barabbas. Nascimbene was also one of the very few Italian composers that worked on non-Italian movies, with his scores for The Vikings, The Barefoot Contessa and Farewell to Arms being successful. He would also work with Hammer again on The Vengeance of She and scored other successes with films such as the Richard Burton movie Alexander the Great, and the Hollywood Biblically slanted film Solomon and Sheba which starred Yul Brynner. His style was also varied as he displayed in movies such as Romanoff and Juliet and Room at the Top.
Hammer also produced a handful of movies that focused upon the tale of Robin Hood, these adventures were like the Pirate movies that the studio released full of swash and buckle and a fair amount of thigh slapping etc. All were entertaining and had their own quirkiness and appeal. The first time Hammer entered the realm of Robin Hood and his merry men was in 1954, with The Men of Sherwood Forest. Don Taylor took on the role of the robber of the rich who gave to the poor and the film, which was a passable version of the classic tale, was directed by Val Guest. It is 1194, and upon his return from the Crusades, Richard King of England known as the Lionheart is taken prisoner in Germany, where he is being held to ransom. Disguised as a troubadour, Robin Hood formulates a plan to rescue Richard from his dungeon but is captured himself.
The musical score is probably one of Hammer’s best non-Horror soundtracks and was written by Doreen Carwithen (Mary Alwyn). Her score was thematic and robust filled with a sense of adventure and fun, sweeping passages and proud sounding brass flourishes adorn the movies and the music drives the storyline and embellishes and underlines the action, the drama and the romanticism that surrounds the legend of Robin Hood. A suite of music from the score was made available a few years ago on the Vocalion record label along with more of the composer’s film music, it is the suite from The Men of Sherwood that opens the compilation. Carwithen’s music is maybe not as glamorous or shall we say as anthem like or lavish as Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s famous foray into writing for the famous long bow archer in tights, but nonetheless it is a score that is certainly more than just interesting, it has to it a depth and substance that oozes character and also possess subtle but affecting melodies that are fleeting but attractive.
The central themes from the score were taken by Philip Lane and arranged into an overture which can also act as a concert piece, the majority of the more melodious parts of the score came from the opening trumpet flourishes which Lane took as his starting point, ironic really because it was a well-known fact that Carwithen always wrote the main title or opening themes for her film scores last, firstly concentrating on the main fabric of the score or individual themes for certain characters and then fashioning her main credits theme from all aspects of the score. The Men of Sherwood Forest is regarded as Carwithen’s finest score and an important milestone in her career which outshone the movie for which it was composed, in fact the composer thought that the film was and I quote, “Ghastly”.
The second Hammer Robin Hood adventure was released in 1960, The Sword of Sherwood Forest, was directed by Terence (Dracula and The Curse of Frankenstein) Fisher and had Richard Greene in the central role, Greene also produced the movie, he was reprising his performance of Robin Hood from the TV series the Adventures of Robin Hood, which had a successful run between 1955 and 1959 on the ITV network. The movie also starred Peter Cushing as the infamous Sheriff of Nottingham and Sara Branch as Maid Marian, Nigel Green as Little John, Niall Macginnis as Friar Tuck and an uncredited Oliver Reed as Lord Melton. The musical score was by Welsh born Alun Hoddinot and contained songs which were the work of composer Stanley Black.
The score was lyrical and romantic, and as well as having to it a Celtic style in places was also filled with dramatic interludes, it was fully symphonic and written in a style that evoked the works of composers such as Bruce Montgomery or Malcolm Arnold. Hoddinot also fashioned a folk sounding score which he fused with the more dramatic parts. The music was conducted and supervised by John Hollingsworth. Alun Hoddinott was born in Bargoed, Glamorganshire, in 1929. His talents in composing were to surface early in his life, and he won a university scholarship at the age of just sixteen. After his studies and graduating from University in Cardiff, he continued to study music and worked under the composer and concert pianist Arthur Benjamin. Hoddinot was awarded the Walford Davies prize for composition when he was twenty-four, and a year later, when his Clarinet Concerto was given its first performance at the Cheltenham Festival by Gervase de Peyer and the Hallé Orchestra, under Sir John Barbirolli the composer gained much recognition.
In the early part of 1951, he took up the position of Lecturer in Music at the Welsh College of Music and Drama, and later also became lecturer at University College, Cardiff being made Professor and Head of Department in 1967. He is better known for his music for the concert hall opposed to scoring movies, and was prolific in this area, his first composition being a cello concerto in 1948, and his last piece being 2007.
He composed the fanfare for the marriage of Prince Charles to Camelia Parker Bowles and also wrote music to celebrate the Prince of Wales sixteenth birthday and his investiture. For TV and film, the composer wrote music for The TV series, Wonderful World of Disney in 1961, this was for one episode entitled, The Horse Masters: Follow your Heart. He also scored another TV project and again for just one episode, this was for the series Border Country the episode being, The Shining Pyramid which was aired in 1979. And the documentary Pembrokeshire My County, in 1960. He died in 2008, in Swansea, Wales.
Staying with the tale of Robin Hood as filmed by Hammer, the next foray being A Challenge for Robin Hood which we have already mentioned in the part of the article discussing composer Gary Hughes. Hammer waited another six years before airing the Lincoln green again when they returned to Sherwood in Wolfshead; The Legend of Robin Hood in 1973.
The film had originally been destined to become a TV series in 1969, but instead was released in cinemas. It was also released on VHS as The Legend of Young Robin Hood. The film starred David Warbeck in his acting debut as Robin and was directed by John Hough, the musical score was courtesy of Bernie Sharp, and was his only venture into scoring movies. He was better known as a writer and for producing scripts for several comedians as well as writing the material for TV shows such as The Larry Grayson Show, Bless This House, Doctor in the House and The Dave Allen Show.
FROM LITTLE SCREEN TO BIG SCREEN, HOLD ON TIGHT NOW.
From the green wood of Nottingham, we now head to more non-horror fare from the studio that dripped blood. And to a Bus depot somewhere in England and to the main garage of Town and Country Buses. On the Buses was the first in three big screen adaptations of the highly popular TV series from the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. The only thing that really changed was the name of the bus company, in the TV series it was called Luxton and District. The first in the trilogy was which was titled after the series was directed by Harry Booth and released in 1971.
Then came Mutiny on the Buses in 1972 which was followed by Holiday of the Buses in 1973.The films were full of saucy innuendos and very much evoked the style and language of the more successful Carry On movies.
The central character of all the storylines was played by Reg Varney who portrayed the downtrodden Stan Butler who always seemed to be having bad luck. The plot for the first in the series of films revolves around Stan who is getting increasingly annoyed at his Mum and his Sister Olive, who keep buying expensive items on hire purchase, but the money he earns for overtime working as a bus driver means that he can afford it…or at least so he thinks. His job is secure, because there is a shortage of bus drivers so all the time this is the case his overtime prospects are good. Until that is the bus company decide to employ women drivers. Stan gets worried that he will lose all his overtime and then he will not be able to make ends meet, and with no help from his family including his work-shy Brother in Law Arthur.
So, he and his conductor and friend Jack, decide to sabotage the company’s plans and make life difficult for the new Female employees. It was one of Hammer’s most successful films, and that is why two sequels were produced in quick succession, but both the sequels although successful, were outshone by the original movie, maybe it was the novelty of seeing the TV series on the big screen that attracted audiences initially. In every show and the subsequent movies, both Stan and Jack are hotly pursued by the grinning inspector Blake or Blakey who, s mission in life was to get the better of the work dodging, scam planning duo. His, catchphrase became nearly as popular as the characters, “I hate you Butler”. Is a sentence that went down in TV history and also transferred to the big screen well.
GDI records in the UK had already released two compilations of themes from Hammer movies and thought that it was fitting to commence their Hammer Comedy film music collection with selections from all three of the On The Buses films, let us say straight away the music for these comedies was very tongue in cheek and was more often than not a musical wallpaper rather than an actual film score the music being constant, active and very busy in the background of the antics on screen, but saying this it did its job and was an integral part of each and every movie and also every gag or comedy caper that was taking place on screen.
So, the collection kicks off with the title song from the first movie in the series, “It’s a great life on the Buses” which was performed by singing group Quinceharmon. This is a very jolly sounding vocal in fact you can almost see the singer’s broad smiles as they perform it, shades of the 1970.s group The Brotherhood of Man. This jaunty, cheeky and bouncy little ditty sets the scene perfectly for much of what is to follow both in the movie and on this compilation. The actual score for the movie was the work of Max Harris and was very much in the same vein as the musical backing for the song, being jaunty and more like a travelogue than a score for a movie, however it served the film well.
The end title makes an appearance in track 2, but is shorter than the opening track, but is much the same. Track 3, is taken from Mutiny on the Buses the music here is by well-known Australian born composer Ron Grainer, who of course found a place in music lovers hearts with his theme for Dr Who and later wowed soundtrack fans with his wonderfully atmospheric score to The Omega Man, the music that he has penned here is serviceable and pleasant enough but its no Oscar winner as far as film music goes. Tracks 4 through to track 7 are taken from the final instalment of the Buses trilogy, Holiday on the Buses, composer Denis King was responsible for the score to this, and although it is fairly easy going material and pleasant enough it is far from memorable, King found fame in writing for the small screen, remember his Galloping Home cue from Black Beauty? Hammer had produced comedy films in the past The Ugly Duckling for example, but during the 1970’s they were successful at turning TV sit coms into popular box office draws at the cinema. Man About the House for example from 1974, and Love Thy Neighbour too. Both were given a new lease of life when they opened on the big screen. The music for Man About the House, was composed by Christopher Gunning, who also worked on Hammers Hands of the Ripper, and well known for his many TV themes and scores, Wild Africa and Poirot among them.
Again the music for the big screen version of Man About the House is fairly easy going and light, with two of the cues easily fitting into the Muzak category which we hear in the dentists waiting room or as elevator background variety, the selections from the score do however include some up tempo chase music and a catchy title song performed by Annie Farrow.
The film includes two characters that were also popular on British TV George and Mildred Roper, a film was produced revolving round this rather odd couple, but it was not a Hammer production. Hammer also produced a movie version of Love Thy Neighbour, and three cues from the score from this are also included on the GDI compilation, the music was by British composer Albert Elms who had already created an impressive musical CV via his music for TV mainly, he scored episodes of Man in A Suitcase and The Prisoner, as well as providing the incidental music for The Adventures of Robin Hood and another popular television series William Tell during the 1960’s. The compilation also contains music from vintage Hammer comedy in the form of Up the Creek, and it is a treat to hear Tony Lowry’s typically British sounding comedy musical flourishes from the 1958 naval caper, which starred David Tomlinson and Peter Sellers under the direction of Val Guest. The film was a popular one and spawned a sequel, Further Up the Creek, which contained a score by Stanley Black, the packed compilation also includes two vocals from Nearest and Dearest, with the song The More you Laugh being performed by Hilda Baker, in true Nellie (he knows you know) Pledge fashion. Plus, there is a cue from the movie I Only Arsked, which was an adaptation of the TV series The Army Game, that is represented by the vocals of actor Bernard Bresslaw on the song Alone Together. The final selection is by composer David Whitaker and is taken from the not so good movie That’s Your Funeral, which was released in 1973. I feel I have but scratched the surface here, but I think I have maybe highlighted the more popular non-horror movies of Hammer studios and also their musical scores. Hammer was certainly more than a producer of Horror films, and some of the titles mentioned are a testament to the creativeness of the studios and their writers, directors, producers and composers.