Twenty-nine years ago, Disney released a movie that I think even surprised them because it became so successful and popular so quickly. Hocus Pocus, has over the years attained a kind of cult following, and I have to say I am one of those followers, with the movie being essential viewing at Halloween, for myself and my children, well that family tradition has now been passed onto to them and their children, and Hocus Pocus is probably a film that we all just love unconditionally. It seemed as soon as the end credits began to roll in 1993, audiences all over the world were crying out for a sequel and let’s face it , it deserved to have one.
Alas after hearing so many times that a sequel was in the works, I as did many gave up on Disney. But they say that all good things come to those who wait, and now streaming on Disney + is Hocus Pocus 2, I thought it strange that it should be released a full month before Halloween, but Disney know what they’re doing right? After watching the movie, I did feel that it was a little less affecting as the original, and there were certain scenes and lines I also felt were a little hammy. But its Hocus Pocus guys, its fine. The Sanderson sisters are back, and its about time.
Returning to reprise their original roles are Bette Midler as Winifred Sanderson, Sarah Jessica Parker as Sarah Sanderson, Kathy Najimy as Mary Sanderson and Doug Jones as William Billy Butcherson who was Winfred’s sweetheart and apparently cheated on her with her sister Sarah. Sadly, as you’ll find out when you see the movie, these are the only original characters that have survived, there is no Thackery Binx, no Dani, who was played by Thora Birch, Omri Katz who played Max or Vinessa Shaw who portrayed Allison are nowhere to be seen, but there is a black cat in the cast called cobweb.
There is however a fresh cast of faces and characters, that ably carry on the legacy and the atmosphere that has been established by the original film. I did feel at times that the set piece songs were not necessary, especially when we see the Sanderson sisters resurrected in the forbidden wood, which kind of cheapens the whole coming back to life thing and the witches returning to impose their evil on Salem, turning it into a cabaret. They also perform OneWay or Another, (I hate that song) but that is kind of a clever inclusion to the film’s storyline. Ok, Hocus Pocus (1993) purists, will probably be thinking what’s happened here, but like I always say its horses for courses, and it is an effective updating of the Hocus Pocus franchise.
Three hundred years pass in the movie, with the story opening in the town of Salem in 1653, which I thought worth doing as it tells us more of how the Sanderson sisters became witches, giving us more of a background to their relationship and how it was that Winnie became the prominent one in the trio of spell makers.
Hocus Pocus 2, has to it all the comedic and dramatic content that the original had, plus it has a degree more sensitivity, showing an emotional side to certain characters, let’s just say that you will believe a witch has a heart, even feel sorry for her and that a spell book can shed a tear.
It also effectively opens a new Hocus Pocus chapter as it introduces us to another trio of young witches, and that I hope will be another story that Disney might explore in the future (hopefully before 2051). Could this be the end of the Sanderson sisters? What do you think? Trick or Treat?
The musical score is by the Hocus Pocus composer John Debney, who has rekindled many of his original thematic material to enhance and support the three witches’ new adventure, he also works into the fabric of the new score the haunting theme as composed by James Horner, Come Little Children, as performed by Sarah Jessica Parker back in 1993 as her character Sarah Sanderson calls to the children of Salem.
John Debney has fashioned a wonderfully mischievous, sweeping, and raucous sounding work for the sequel. The now familiar central theme becoming the foundation and the mainstay of the work, the string section working overtime driving the work at pace, whilst the composer adds percussive elements, rasping and powerful brass flourishes and stabs, and heart felt woods.
There is darkness and light purveyed by the music, drama, tension and a jaunty and comedic air. The composer coloring and adding depth, atmosphere, and emotion to the proceedings. The soundtrack album we are told will be getting a compact disc release, but it is already available on the likes of Spotify, a twenty-eight-track recording, which consists of eighteen score cues, and nine songs, some of which are originals such as The Witches are Back performed by Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy. But it is without a doubt John Debney’s music that shines within this movie and makes for great listening away from it. The film and the soundtrack are highly recommended.
After the collapse of Earth’s ecosystem, Vesper, a 13-year-old girl struggling to survive with her paralyzed father, meets a woman with a secret who will force her to use her wits, strengths, and bio-hacking abilities to fight for the possibility of having a future.
The score for this futuristic sci-fi drama, is the work of composer Dan Levy who has created a haunting and at times complex work, which effectively enhances the storyline and punctuates its numerous twists and turns.
Being a story set in the future of the planet one would think that the composer might have realized a score that was total soundscape and had an atonal sound, but instead we are treated to strong and melodious thematic qualities that are fused with electronic sounds and synthetic backgrounds, all of which complement and combine seamlessly to create a soundtrack that is alluring and rewarding. The richness of the core themes is stunning and filled with a wonderment and an aura and style that compels one to listen and go deeper into the music. Both the movie and the score are I think very special, it is a breathtakingly beautiful movie both visually and aurally.
The performances from all the cast are flawless and totally believable, it is a sci-fi movie the likes of which we rarely encounter, it has to it emotion, and as well as being meaningful it also has an important message to us all about the future of Earth. Inventive and innovative this is a move you must see, an also a score that you should add to your collection asap.
The star of the show is Raffiella Chapman who plays the titular character Vesper a thirteen-year-old girl, who gives one of the best performances I have seen in a while. Eddie Marsden should be commended for his performance as Vespers rather sinister uncle and Richard Brake is marvellous as the young girls Father. If you prefer a thinking mans sci fi instead of the normal mundane Hollywood blast em kind of thing then Vesper is the film for you, and the soundtrack too will be something that you will return to many times after your initial listen. Available now on digital platforms.
This soundtrack is not yet available, this is an exclusive review of the forthcoming release on Kronos Records as part of the labels famous Gold Collection.
Coming soon from Kronos records is a soundtrack that is a little obscure, although being not that well know for me makes it even more attractive, and to be honest it’s a wonderful sound that has been realised by composers Gene Kauer and Douglas M Lackey for the1972 western The Proud and the Damned. On listening to the score I was impressed at the variety and also the overall sound of the work, at times I was reminded of the work of Jerry Fielding (The Wild Bunch) and also there are moments within the score that evoke composers such as Charles Gross (Valdez is Coming) and to a degree Manos Hajidakis when he scored the Terence Stamp western Blue and Frank De Vol and his work on Alzana’s Raid.
The composers have fashioned a pleasing score that has to it two distinct styles one being a South American or Mexican/Latin persona, the other having to it a more Americanised and dramatic flavour. This is a movie that did not get that much publicity when it was first released back in the early 1970’s in fact I think I am right when I say I do not think it has been shown on TV or if it has this must have been a few years back now. The composing duo scored a long string of films together, which included Agent for H.A.R.M. (1966) Brother of the Wind (1973) Across The Great Divide and Adventure Family (1977). I love the way that the music supports the action within the movie and adds delicate undercurrents to the proceedings. The score is filled with passion and a sense of adventure, it literally overflows with beautiful melodies and Mariachi/flamenco/Latin styled cues that make for a worthwhile listening experience.
Guitar provides the foundation for most of the cues, the composers utilizing the instrument to the maximum to convey a sense of melancholy and drama. The music is beautifully interwoven into the storyline and underlines the growing friendships that are beginning to flourish between the villagers and the band of Confederate soldiers that have crossed over the border from Texas into South America in 1870 to escape the aftermath of the civil war, only to become embroiled in another conflict in Columbia Chuck Connors heads the cast, with support from Aron Kincaid, José Greco, Henry Capps, Smokey Roberds, Peter Ford, Andres Marquis, and Cesar Romero!
Directed by Ferde Grofé Jr who was also responsible for the story The five ex-Confederate mercenaries and American Civil War veterans Sgt. Will Hansen (Connors) Ike (Kincaid), Hank (Cap’s), Jeb (Roberds)), and Billy (Ford)) no sooner ride into Columbia and are ambushed by Columbian government troops who force them to meet General Martinez, the evil, cold-hearted dictator of their country. Martinez sends them to San Carlos, a town where rebel forces are preparing to start a civil war against Martinez’s army. The Texans are instructed to live among the rebels, and report back to Martinez what they discover. Martinez warns them that they’ll be severely punished if they fail him.
The next day, while on their way to San Carlos, the gang run into a family who are on their way to the same town. They offer to escort them to the town and Will takes an interest in the daughter, Mila. They all ride into San Carlos, meet the governor, and rent a cabin. Will and Mila sneak out to spend the night together. Mila’s father becomes angry when he finds out and beats Mila and cuts off her ear. Will in a fit of rage then shoots Mila’s father.
Will and his men are detained over the killing and find themselves unable to report back to Martinez. Will and Mila are banished from the town the townspeople are angry over Will killing Mila’s father. Will and Mila are then taken captive by Martinez, who hangs Will for disobeying his orders. Mila rides back to town to get Will’s friends, who give him a funeral, and vow to avenge his murder. They join the rebels in a battle with Martinez’s army and drive them back. They later ambush Martinez and the rest of his surviving soldiers in a canyon, joined by the rebel army’s captain. During the fight they manage to kill Martinez, but all are gunned down by his soldiers except for Billy, who was thrown from his horse in the mele and knocked unconscious. The film ends with Billy riding off into the sunset.
The soundtrack has never been released before and Kronos records are proud to be able to bring you the premiere release of this exciting score, it will be a limited edition of just 300 copies, so get your pre-orders in ASAP. Highly recommended.
The genre of Sword and Sorcery movies is huge, filled with good and bad examples, low budgets and blockbuster budgets. What I think is the thing that brings all these movies together is the music that has been penned for them, yes, it is true to say that not all of the scores have been the best, but invariably the musical scores for these thundering, robust and swashbuckling storylines have been grand and memorable.
The 1980’s was it seems a good time to release a sword and sorcery movie, well it certainly looks that way when one looks back over that decade, with films such as Conan the Barbarian, The Beastmaster, Hawk the Slayer and The Sword and the Sorcerer appearing on our cinema screens and then later being issued on video tape and available from your local rental retailer.
Those four examples alone I think are good subjects for an article on this genre, but there are so many more from the same decade, and from previous decades and in the years that followed. The Beastmaster may have looked like a blockbuster, but it was relatively low budget, the score was recorded in Italy, and composer Lee Holdridge was responsible for the epic sounding score,.
He recalled how he became involved on the movie and memories of the recording of the score. “Curiously enough, the director heard my Concerto for Violin and Orchestra and that got me hired. That piece is very different from my eventual score for the film, but, whatever works! The sword and sorcery films were very much the rage at the time. I admired the score for Conan the Barbarian, and it certainly set the tone for those scores. I went that route as well with around 60-80-piece orchestra in Rome and added my own touches to the style. The entire score of over 80 minutes had to be delivered in about 10 days so I got some orchestration help from the legendary Greg McRitchie who orchestrated the Conan score and had worked a ton with Alfred Newman. Between cues I would get him to share his insights into the great film scoring days of the studios. Also, my buddy Alf Clausen (The Simpsons) helped me with orchestration. I would sketch like a madman, and the then the three of us would divide up cues and orchestrate. I finished the last cue in the hotel room in Rome the night before the first session”.
The Sword and the Sorcerer however contained a grand sounding score, but the film failed to impress as the composer David Whittaker recalled when I interviewed him some years ago. “I think one of the last big pictures I did was way back in 1983, this was The Sword and the Sorcerer. Now the film was not that good, but I like to think my music helped it along on its way to being watchable. It desperately needed music; I wrote 75 minutes of score for that film which ran for just over 100 minutes”.
Hawk the Slayer too, had a fairly merger budget, and the producer composer Harry Robertson decided to go for something a little more upbeat for the films score. “I co-produced Hawk the Slayer and of course wrote the score. It was unfortunately not a great success. It was at the same time as things like Krull, and Dragonslayer, were around – both of those flopped as well. Hawk did reasonably well at the cinema because it was a quite low budget film, so we did not have a lot riding on it. I wrote some of the score whilst on location. I would see how the scenes were coming out and then do a bit of writing or just jot down some ideas as and when I got them. It was an interesting experience because I had most of the score ready before the cameras had stopped rolling.
I did try and emulate Kurosawa on Hawk with camera angles and the style of direction etc. but I think we sort of leaned more towards Leone in that respect in the end – Hawk was a fantasy western if you like. That’s why the score has little trills and motifs on it when we see the hero or the villain of the piece; it was my homage to Morricone and the spaghetti western score. I did want to do a sequel, but the film studios were very cautious after the bad ratings of the first picture.
After all, if a big movie like Krull had bombed what chance did we stand with a film with a fraction of the budget. I did not give up though, I tried to get television companies interested in doing a series based on Hawk; we even went to New Zealand to do some location scouting but it never came to fruition”.
The 1980’s was the decade of the sword and the sorcery movie, with Deathstalker entering the fray no less than three times in various adventures. Then at the other end of the budget scale we had the likes of Willow and Krull both making an entry, I suppose at the time of its release Krull was a kid’s dream or fantasy come true, a real swashbuckler which had definite influences from the story of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table as well as being heavily influenced by Greek mythology and tales of a galaxy far far away.
There are also borrowed themes and scenarios that come straight from the imagination of Tolkien, but hey, did we or do we really care, did we embrace it, believe it and love it, yep, we did. Ok let’s go back over thirty-five years now, remember this is pre-internet, in fact pre-almost everything that we today take for granted. I know as well as you all do that Krull was probably not the best movie ever made, but it had its moments of excitement, magic, and romance, and at the centre of it all there was a love story. A tale of a Prince and Princess being kept apart by evil and what we thought was an unstoppable malevolent force.
Krull opens in a similar way to the original Star Wars movie, with what could be a gigantic spaceship floating through the darkness of space, this ominous looking sight sets the scene perfectly for what is to follow with a storyline that is awash with adventure, swordplay, magical steeds, and the Knights, Slayers, Heroes, Villains, Large Spiders and Evil Tyrants. The opening which shows the approach of what we at first think is a spaceship, is in fact a Black and powerful tower, a castle of sorts where an evil beast like ruler resides with his army of slayers, who are not a million miles away from storm troopers in their appearance. The film boasted a glorious score by the much-missed James Horner, which we all must agree is a powerhouse of a score and one of the movies most outstanding attributes.
Horner was just thirty years of age when he scored the movie, and his music is magnificent, the cue Riding of the Fire Mares is outstanding as is his Love Theme for the movie, and when you think that he scored this as well as Brainstorm, and Gorky Park in the same year it something of a major feat for a composer who was so young.
Krull, the movie may have faded away into the mists of time and is now doomed to a life of late night airings on obscure satellite channels but the music is without a doubt one of the composers most popular works and in many ways one of his most complex, and to this day remains a firm favourite with film music devotees around the world.
Then there is Willow, released in 1988 the movie was produced by George Lucas and directed by Ron Howard, it’s a rip roaring, swashbuckling fantasy adventure, that I adored when I first saw it.
I am not however saying it’s the best of George Lucas or indeed Ron Howard, but it’s an entertaining romp for kids of all ages, that is exciting, action packed and has numerous emotional interludes, filled with mystical and magical moments it was and still is a movie that many count as one of their favourites. And from a film music fans point of view it has one of the most powerful and thematic scores that was penned in the 1980’s. I think alongside Horner’s Krull it is one of my most listened to soundtracks by the composer.
And so, to the ill-fated Dragonslayer, I say ill-fated but I kind of enjoyed it and Alex North’s complex score was also something special. The plot focuses upon a young wizard apprentice named Galen, and a King who has made a pact with a dragon to sacrifice young virgins to the creature in return for the dragon not turning his kingdom into a raging inferno. An old wizard, and his keen young apprentice Galen volunteer to kill the dragon and attempt to save the next virgin in line, the King’s own daughter. It’s a rather slow-paced movie, but I did enjoy it when I first saw it and have grown even more fond of it as the years have passed. Many did not like North’s score, but I found it to be weirdly attractive, wonderfully inventive, and totally supportive of the movie.
Highlander, Red Sonja, Hundra, Masters of the Universe, and of course Conan the Destroyer and the animated Disney feature The Black Cauldron should also be mentioned.
So, as you can see, we are gathering a nice little collection of films and scores to talk about. The nineties also brought to the screen further adventures for The Deathstalker, The Beastmaster, and Highlander. And introduced us to Kull the Conqueror, The Bride with White Hair, and new adventures for an oldie but a goodie Hercules.
Composer Robert Folk scored The Beastmaster ll through the portal of time, in 1991, which like Masters of the Universe attempted to bring the warrior Dar into the 20th Century, did it work well I will let you see the movie and reach your own conclusions. The composer recalled working on the movie after I enquired if he was asked to use any of the music from the original Beastmaster movie. “You know, I love working on sequels. It’s almost as good as working on the original films. But to be honest, whenever I can I try to create a fresh score rather than utilizing themes and other materials from the original instalment of these franchises. So, I wrote a completely original score with little or no reference at all to the past score for Beastmaster ll”.
As the 2000’s dawned, we saw three Lord of the Rings Movies, all wonderfully brought to life by director Peter Jackson and given an ethereal and dramatic symphonic score by composer Howard Shore. It was also in the 2000’s that Dungeons and Dragons came to the big screen, as did Beowulf, Dragonheart, and Eragon. But even with the much more sophisticated FX that were then available except for the Lord of the Rings trilogy these new entries did not really have about them the excitement and the raw energy of those eighty’s movies. So, lets go back to before the 1980’s and see what sword and sorcery tales inspired the filmmakers of the 80’s. Whom the Gods wish to Destroy 1 and 2, were produced in Germany and released in 1966 and 1967 respectively, both were successful in Europe, but less so outside of the continent. The music for both movies was the work of Rolf A Wilhelm, and as far as I can see there were never any recordings of the soundtrack issued.
On watching both movies they I do not think can be called sword and sorcery, although there are elements of fantasy incorporated into the storylines, but instead they can be likened more to an Arthurian tale, with different characters.
Still both films were impressive with the music standing up well to the passing of time. The Magic Sword (1962) was a Hollywood production that starred Basil Rathbone, again a movie that was entertaining enough and at the time of its release attracted a fair amount of attention, the music was by Richard Markowitz, who provided the movie with a serviceable soundtrack,
Markowitz was more associated with TV rather than feature films working on popular series such as Mission Impossible during the mid-sixties providing a few episodes with supportive scores. He also worked on several popular series for television including Hondo, Wild Wild West, Custer, Ben Casey, and Dr Kildaire, all being aired during the 1960’s. He went onto to score episodes of The FBI, Streets of San Francisco, Murder She Wrote, Quincy M.E., Police Woman, Tales of the Unexpected, Dynasty, Columbo, Hawaii Five O, and many others.
He was born in 1926 and passed away on December 6th, 1994, in California.
Going back even further for the next movie that I feel should be mentioned and to 1956 and the Russian fantasy adventure Ilya Muromets (The Sword and the Dragon), although the movie was made in 1956 it was not released until the middle of 1960 outside of the Soviet Union, many versions that were shown in the UK being heavily edited and badly dubbed. It was shot in vivid colour, with the Ukranian born director Aleksandr Ptushko utilising stunning locations and employing a cast of thousands literally. The battle scenes were impressive, and the action almost constant throughout, so much so that one can even forgive the use of a somewhat unconvincing three headed dragon but remember this was the mid 1950’s.
Music was by Igor Morozov, who was born on May 19, 1913 in Luhansk, (Ukraine) Yekaterinoslav Governorate, in the then Russian Empire. He died on November 24, 1970 in Moscow, RSFSR, USSR. His score was epic in its style and sound and gave weight and substance to the storyline as it unfolded. It’s a film that maybe now seems dated and cliched, but also one that I think many would still enjoy.
I suppose there is also a fine line between Sword and Sorcery and just Knights in armour and adventures set in medieval times, But I think that the tales of Hercules can be easily regarded as sword and sorcery, and also a bit of strong arm stuff too and not forgetting the Gods which are always in attendance, films such as Jason and the Argonauts too has that element of the mystic, but this is I suppose more due to the involvement of the Greeks Gods rather than sorcery, (many might argue it’s the same thing).
In 2014 there were two versions of the story of Hercules doing the circuit in cinemas, sadly neither did that well at the box office, one of these entitled Hercules starred the Rock or Dwayne Johnson in the title role, directed by Brett Ratner the cast also included Ian McShane and John Hurt, but even the presence of these two distinguished actors failed to save it, set in 1400 B.C., a tormented soul walks the Earth that is neither man nor god. Hercules is the powerful son of the god King Zeus. But being the offspring of a god did him no favours as he receives nothing but suffering his entire life. After twelve arduous labours, and the death of his family, this dark, world-weary soul turned his back on the gods finding his only solace in bloody battle. Over the years, he warmed to the company of six similar souls, their only bond being their love of fighting, and the presence of death. These men and women never question where they go to fight, or why, or whom, just how much they will be paid.
Now, the King of Thrace, Lord Cotys (Sir John Hurt) has hired these mercenaries to train his men to become the greatest army of all time. It is time for this alliance of lost souls to finally have their eyes opened to how far they have fallen, when they must train an army to become as ruthless and bloodthirsty as their reputation has become. I found this version to be too modern in its approach, many of the lines being something that would be heard on the street in any modern-day metropolis and sounding out of place within the setting of this particular storyline.
Spanish composer Fernando Velazquez provided an epic sounding score for the movie, which was symphonic, and anthem like in places, filled with romantically laced themes enhanced and bolstered by driving and adventurous passages it is a case of maybe the score is far superior to the movie it is intended to support?
The other version of the tale entitled The Legend of Hercules, was scored by Tuomas Kantelinen, and contained probably the better score, with the composer engaging fearsome brass, driving strings, choir and ethnic sounding instrumentation and vocals throughout, it is a score that is a mix of both symphonic and synthetic elements, the composer creating a highly adventurous and theme led work that oozes dark and fearsome flourishes which stands as one of his best film scores. He spoke about working on the movie just after completing the score.
“The Legend of Hercules was completed in record time. I don’t usually get involved that early in a process, but for this film we started right away, by making a sort of teaser for which I wrote some music, it was shown to buyers at the Berlin market in 2013. I also composed some cues for the set so they could have action music or music for some emotional scenes while they were filming. I was also working on the temp score of the movie, both helping to choose temp music and writing little atmospheric and transition pieces while they were editing the movie. We spotted the movie around the beginning of October, and then I started composing in earnest. Recording was in the beginning of December, final mix from the second week of December, and the movie came out on January 10th. All in all a very compact schedule, especially since the release was changed to an earlier date fairly last minute”!
Directed by Renny Harlin, the movies story is set in Ancient Greece in 1200 B.C., a queen succumbs to the lust of Zeus to bear a son promised to overthrow the tyrannical rule of the king and restore peace to a land in hardship. But this prince, Hercules, knows nothing of his real identity or his destiny. He desires only one thing: the love of Hebe, Princess of Crete, who has been promised to his own brother.
When Hercules learns of his greater purpose, he must choose: to flee with his true love or to fulfil his destiny and become the true hero of his time. The story behind one of the greatest myths is revealed in what is a fast paced and action-packed epic that is also a tale of love, sacrifice and the strength of the human spirit.
Another version of the tale was released in 1983. Hercules was directed by Luigi Cozzi and starred Lou Ferrigno (the incredible hulk) in the title role, this bombed at the box office and Italian Maestro Pino Donaggio’s triumphant and over the top score was probably the best thing about the entire movie.
It was something of an odd entry into the Hercules collective of films, filled with really awful fx and a terrible script and acting standards that were rock bottom. Then there was the TV series Hercules, The Legendary Jouneys but that was just too painful to even talk about here, the musical scores for this were by Joseph Lo Duca.
Prince of Persia the Sands of Time, (2010) also involves swords and sorcery, but again was not a popular movie, with rogue prince (Jake Gyllenhaal) reluctantly joining forces with a mysterious princess (Gemma Arterton) and together, they race against dark forces to safeguard an ancient dagger capable of releasing the Sands of Time – gift from the gods that can reverse time and allow its possessor to rule the world. Nice work if you can get it that is. Music was the work of Harry Gregson Williams, again a serviceable score, and in the opinion of many far better than the movie.
A film that many often forget when thinking of this of genre of film is Ladyhawke, Captain Etienne Navarre (Rutger Hauer) is a man on whose shoulders lies a cruel curse. Punished for loving each other, Navarre must become a wolf by night whilst his lover, Lady Isabeau (Michelle Pfeiffer), takes the form of a hawk by day.
Together, with the thief Philippe Gaston (Matthew Broderick), they must try to overthrow the corrupt Bishop (John Wood ) and in doing so break the spell.
This is a great movie, and one that I for one never tire of watching, the excellent score is the work of Andrew Powell, who combined upbeat compositions with dramatic and romantic symphonic performances to bring to fruition a score that can I think be referred to as iconic. Directed by Richard Donner Ladyhawke was released in 1985.
Staying in the 1980s and to 1981 for Clash of the Titans, I often wonder if this is sword and sorcery or just Greek mythology, but I suppose it is a little of both. A quirky and entertaining movie, in which we follow Perseus (Harry Hamlin) wh o must complete various tasks including taming Pegasus, capturing Medusa’s head, and battling the Kraken monster. Music was courtesy of Laurence Rosenthal, who fashioned an epic work. The story was given a new lease of life in 2010 and scored by Game of Thrones Maestro Ramin Djawadi. There are so many movies and TV series that are firmly within the Sword and Sorcery genre, in fact so many that it would be impossible to incorporate them into an article all at the same time. But for now, I hope you enjoyed my selection.
More scores for your collection released recently and a few you might have missed, (well one at least) again there is a nice mix of symphonic and electronic, with a liberal sprinkling of horror coming out on top. The Tyler Bates and Timothy Williams score for Pearl has been released in full now on digital platforms, and Andrew Scott Bell’s terrific score for Psycho Storm Chaser too is available to stream on the likes of Spotify, with the CD available now from Howlin Wolf Records which contains some nice extras that are not on the digital release.
A soundtrack release has been announced for Hocus Pocus 2, which should be available in November, music is by John Debney who penned the score for the original movie back in 1993. Hocus Pocus 2, premieres on Disney + on September 30th.
Another old horror favourite is also getting a re-boot, as Rob Zombie’s The Munsters will be in cinemas this month just in time for Halloween, when I say a horror it’s not really, it is a bit of fun and from what I have seen could be a popular movie. Music is by Zeuss or Christopher Howard. Who is a producer, guitarist, songwriter, and composer. The soundtrack for The Munsters is available now on digital platforms and comes as a two disc set the first disc being dominated by songs, which are all included in the film even a particularly novel version of I Got You Babe, performed by Lillie and Herman.
The second disc is mainly music from the score but also has snippets of dialogue included, these are very short lived and much like those old Horror music LP records that were released by the likes of the Dick Jacobs orchestra back in the day break up the music tracks nicely.
I found the music for this fun farce enjoyable, with so many references to standard horror film music, take a listen to Dr Wolfgang and the creation of Herman and you will get what I mean. It’s an inventive and clever musical journey which the composer must be congratulated upon as he manages to balance the dramatic and the comedic wonderfully.
Even including the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor at one point and does his own take on that quirky and infectious Munsters theme written by Jack Marshall that many of us (of a certain age) grew up listening to.
The composer also utilizes an arrangement of Also Sprach Zarathustra which was used in 2001 A Space Odyssey, in the track entitled Child of Electricity. Zeuss or Christopher Howard I think pays homage to almost every horror film score that has been written within his soundtrack and some, but he also infuses layers and degrees of originality which range from the tongue in cheek horror sound to the comedic and then to the dramatic and chilling. Although I was not that keen on disc 1, disc 2 certainly made up for it, take a listen recommended. In case you are wondering this is a PG unlike many of Rob Zombie’s other movies which were certainly not child friendly.
Arhynn Descy has produced an affecting soundtrack for the movie Blank which is available via Plaza Mayor on digital platforms. She is a French/South African composer and pianist who divides her time between London and LA. She has written music for feature films, shorts, documentaries, the stage as well as for orchestra and a variety of solo instruments. Blending orchestral and electronic elements, she enjoys bringing different genres and styles together, creating a sound world which is unique to each project. The movie focuses upon a desperate writer who signs up for a fully A.I. operated retreat to cure her writer’s block, but when an unforeseen software glitch occurs, she gets trapped inside her unit with an unstable android and no communication with the outside world. It’s a low budget movie but is an interesting if not rather slow-paced watch.
The music for the sci-fi/drama is a combination of conventional instrumentation and synthetic elements that colour and bring effective atmospheres to the storyline. The composer merges and mixes seamlessly the symphonic and the electronic mediums creating dark and shadowy moments as well as interludes and passages that are melodious and uplifting. The score which runs for just over fifty minutes contains a tense apprehensive air for most of its duration which at key points intensifies, becoming harrowing, and menacing, there are however lilting and haunting sections that do rise to the surface occasionally as in the short-lived cue Running, and A Routine Develops, it is an accomplished and inventive work, which augments and enhances the images and unfolding storyline superbly. Check it out.
Movie Score Media again treat us to a trio of new releases, all from differing genres and all are soundtracks that I am sure you will enjoy. The Automat by Hummie Mann (A much underrated composer) is released as part of the labels Reality Bytes series, the film which is a documentary focuses on the vending machine which was popularized in the 20th century that offered fresh cooked meals in a commissary-style eatery mostly in the United States. It includes contributions from Mel Brooks, Ron Barrett, Elliot Gould and others and is subtly and sensitively scored by composer Mann.
The score contains beautifully thematic compositions which are entertaining as well as supportive, having to them a charming and at times delicate side.
42 Segundos, is biographical drama, in which the Spanish National water-polo team hires that toughest world trainer looking to win the gold medal in the Olympic Games of Barcelona 92. The score is by Oscar Araujo, and is a combination of styles and sounds, the more upbeat sections being thrilling and hard hitting, as with most movies that have sport as their subject the music is at times inspiring and anthem like, check out the cue Match End to see what I mean.
The composer penned the score for the animated movie El Cid in 2003 and was also responsible for the epic sounding scores for the Castlevania video games. His music is always haunting and thematic, and 42 Segundos is no exception.
The third release from MSM is Zeppos Het Mercatorspoor which has music by composer Steve Willaert, this is an exciting and fast paced score for most of its running time with a gentle nod to maybe the 007 movies or even Mission Impossible, it’s that kind of vibe, but also contains a handful of lighter and more melodically based pieces that seem to come from nowhere but are always affecting and welcomed.
Check all three of these new MSM releases on digital platforms, they are all available now.
A composer who has been busy recently is James Cox, he has scored three movies that have been released this year, Pterodactyl, Looks Can Kill, and Six Years Gone, all are available on the likes of Spotify, Amazon and Apple and all three are worth listening to, the composer is classically trained as a pianist and clarinetist and a graduate of the University of Chichester, in Sussex England.
James draws on his background, mixing small ensembles/piano-based palette with an array of electronic and instrumental textures, always working tirelessly to build a distinctive sound for each project. Which he achieves in all the three scores I have mentioned. Pterodactyl in particular is filled with typically action led cues and shady sounding sinister moments which one would expect from a horror soundtrack.
I think my favourite out of the three is Six Years Gone which has to it a more of a melancholy sound and style, but all three you should check out.
Ravens Hollow is new to Shudder and is exclusively streaming there, the basic outline is West Point cadet Edgar Allan Poe and four other cadets on a training exercise in upstate New York are drawn by a gruesome discovery into a forgotten community. With the Name Edgar Allan Poe involved one just knows this is going to be a superior and consuming story, and the producers etc on this have done it justice. It’s totally original and intriguing plot is probably something that you may have witnessed before, but what is attractive about this movie are the various aspects of its plot that are fresh and pristine making it stand out somewhat from other movies or TV shows that have gone down a similar route. It’s a tale that smolders rather than dives straight into the shock and horror, it is a gradual and progressive ascent into something that will certainly send shudders through you and make you gasp and even scream out.
The attention to detail in the settings and the camera work and the overall appearance (including FX) of the movie is tremendous, although at times the acting is a little shaky. The musical score did much to enhance the proceedings at times creating greater tension and adding atmospherics to the plot as it unfolded. Music is by Robert Ellis Geiger, who has fashioned a harrowing but also a subtly sinister sounding work, he also utilises phrases from Lavenders Blue ( “Lavender’s Blue” which is sometimes called “Lavender Blue” an English folk song and nursery rhyme dating to the 17th century). Which opens the recording and has the effect of lulling one into a false sense of security, but the pleasant lilting melody is short lived as the composer introduces a more chilling and sinister sound into the equation a sound and style that then dominates the remainder of the score.
Volume one of the soundtrack is available on digital platforms, it’s an eerie and effectively malevolent sound that the composer has realised, and a score that I think works so well within the context of the film, but as a listening experience away from the images and scenarios maybe not, but this is film music and I have said so many times before the music is to serve the film not to please someone sitting at home listening on a Sunday afternoon. Good score and an interesting movie.
New to Netflix is the miniseries Dahmer Monster:The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, which is a ten part series, It tells the story of what was one of America’s most notorious serial killers, largely told from the point of view of Jeffrey Dahmer’s victims, and dives deeply into the police incompetence and apathy that allowed the Wisconsin native to go on a what seemed to be unstoppable killing spree. The series dramatizes at least 10 inOne of America’s most notorious serial killers, largely told from the point of view of Jeffrey Dahmer’s victims, and dives deeply into the police incompetence and apathy that allowed the Wisconsin native to go on a multiyear killing spree. The series dramatizes at least 10 instances where Dahmer was almost apprehended but ultimately allowed to walk free. The series also touches on Dahmer the man, who looks like an ordinary guy in the street, clean cut, and on the outside respectful and unassuming, who was on many occasions given a free pass by the authorities including many judges who were lenient when he had been charged with petty crimes. The atmospheric music for the series is the work of Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, Cave of course is known for his work away from scoring movies but has worked on his fair share of film scores, the music for Dahmer is haunting and at times tormenting, The composers utilising a more electronic and synthetic approach, to underline and support the storyline as it develops. Available on digital platforms.
Fates of the innocent and guilty collide on the night of America’s deadliest rock concert. It could fairly be said that music and rock culture drew one hundred innocent people to their deaths in the Station Night Club Fire. The Guest List is a documentary that explores how that same music and culture became sources of healing and comfort, at least for some, in the years that followed the tragedy. The original score is by composer David James Nielsen, who has fashioned a score that is emotive, stirring, and supportive but never gets in the way or swamps the core purpose of the documentary. His score enhances and gives depth to some of the accounts but allows the story to breathe and be heard. It’s a sensitive piece of scoring that does occasionally burst into a more up tempo and action led (if that’s the correct wording) compositions. It is a soundtrack that is well worth your time and is available on digital platforms.
Composer Nanita Desai has crafted a highly tense score for the BBC one series Crossfire which is although is not about a true-life event does have similarities with several tragic terrorist attacks that have taken place throughout the world. The composer, s music perfectly underlines and compliments the harrowing events of a shooting at an out of the way tourist resort. And focuses upon the guests of the hotel as they attempt to survive the dangerous and violent situation before help arrives. The series is currently airing with all episodes available on the BBC I Player. The soundtrack will be available digitally via Silva Screen Records very soon.
Going back a few years to 20018 for the next score and to a movie that maybe not many people saw, Remi Nobodys Boy, which tells the story of the adventures of young Rémi, an orphan raised by the gentle Madam Barberin. At the age of 10 years, he is snatched from his adoptive mother and entrusted to Vitalis, a mysterious travelling musician. At his side, Rémi begins to learn the harsh life of an acrobat and sings to earn his keep.
Accompanied by the faithful dog Capi and the small monkey Joli-Coeur, his long trip through France involves for meetings, friendships, and collaborations, and leads him to the secret of his origins. The delightful and charming music is the work of composer Romaric Laurence, who created a score that is filled with fragility, emotion and drama, the magical sounding work contains sweeping and driving compositions as well as delicate and marvelously haunting and melodic passages which at times feature the vocals of Thibault Salles.
This is one you should own, if you missed it there is even more reason to acquaint yourself with this poignant and affecting work, available on digital platforms.
From an early age, Romaric Laurence was determined to become a composer of image. Being self-taught on the piano, he preferred to have a solid background in musical computing, which led him to return to the SAE Institute in Paris to train in sound professions. At the age of 20 shortly after the end of the course, he signed with Universal Music as a composer and arranger. The various Universal Music labels asked him to work on several albums by various artists, these included Faudel, Téri Moïse, Stomy Bugsy, and Christophe Willem, to name but a handful. Because of his work on these projects the dream of scoring movies took a back seat but he decided to use all his relationships in the music industry to take his chances in music for cinema and TV. It was by working closely with the synchronization department of Universal Music that he wrote his first scores. To date, he has worked on nearly twenty feature films. Well that’s it for now, see you all next time…
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