The new Netflix movie Slumberland takes audiences to a magical new place, a dreamworld where precocious Nemo (Marlow Barkley) and her eccentric companion Flip (Jason Momoa) embark on the adventure of a lifetime. After her father Peter (Kyle Chandler) is unexpectedly lost at sea, young Nemo’s idyllic Pacific Northwest existence is completely upended when she is sent to live in the city with her well-meaning but deeply awkward uncle Phillip (Chris O’Dowd). Her new school and new routine are challenging by day but at night, a secret map to the fantastical world of Slumberland connects Nemo to Flip, a rough-around-the-edges but lovable outlaw who quickly becomes her partner and guide.
She and Flip soon find themselves on an incredible journey traversing dreams and fleeing nightmares, where Nemo begins to hope that she will be reunited with her father once again.
The magical and atmospheric musical score is the work of Turkish composer Pinar Toprak, who has created a symphonic work that is wistful, mysterious, whimsical, and sweepingly grandiose to accompany the many escapades of Nemo and Flip, the music is bright, robust, and rich with soaring themes and poignant interludes that are complimented by dark and foreboding moments.
The composer has penned a soundtrack that is as adventurous and affecting as the movie itself, the action cues such as The Storm are wonderfully driving yet remain melodic, her use of Soprano voice at certain points within the score too is effective and totally mesmerizing, the score also contains a Gaelic lilt in various cues, such as Notification, which is a particularly emotive sounding piece.
With woods carrying the theme whilst being underlined and enhanced by subtle strings, giving it just the right amount of melancholy. It is an accomplished score, which evokes the style of John Williams in Hook and Home Alone mode, and one I think will become popular with film music fans once heard. Available now on digital platforms. When I say do not pass this one by, I mean just don’t. My only regret with all these great scores coming out of Netflix is most are restricted to digital releases, why is that? Compact discs would be nice.
Often mentioned in the same breath as Hammer, Amicus and Tigon, Tyburn Films were at the time they were producing movies probably the least successful of Hammer’s rivals.
But saying this they were responsible for movies that have now gone on to become icons of the horror genre. The Ghoul, The Masks of Death (TV) and The Legend of the Werewolf amongst them. All of which I am sure you will agree had their flaws, whether in the script, the acting or even in the production departments. But even now when shown on TV are essential viewing.
Tyburn film productions was formed by Kevin Francis, who is the son of six-time Hammer films director Freddie Francis, who was working as a freelance production manager. His ambition, it seemed, was to be the new Hammer. There was only one problem – by 1973, the market for the more traditional Hammer Horror had rapidly expired, mainly due to Hammer imploding upon itself with less and less innovative ideas and scenarios for their new productions. Hammer I think was responsible for its own inevitable demise, because they mistakenly took one of their main characters Count Dracula from his Gothic surroundings and placed him into contemporary settings in the swinging or not so swinging London of the early 1970’s. Thus, bringing the Dracula cycle to a rather undignified and dissappointing end. After all, once placed in modern times how could they then take the vampire lord back in time? (A Tardis maybe)?
The first horror film to emerge from producer Kevin Francis didn’t have the Tyburn name attached to it.
Tales That Witness Madness was released in 1973 with a tag line saying An Orgy of the Damned and was seen as a take on the Amicus multiple tale productions such as Dr Terrors House of Horrors, Vault of Horror and From Beyond the Grave. Tales that Witness Madness was made under the World Film Services banner, the movie was directed by Freddie Francis, who would also helm later Tyburn horrors. The film had a score by British composer Bernard Ebbinghouse who worked on numerous films and TV series from the early 1960’s through to the mid 1970’s, one of his most memorable themes being for the TV series The Human Jungle which was recorded by John Barry and his orchestra and released as a single 45rpm record. Tyburn went to great lengths to make their productions look like Hammer films, and utilized composers to pen their film scores who were either previously or at that time associated with Hammer films. Composer’s such as Malcolm Williamson and Harry Robinson being utilized to provide suitably horrific sounding soundtracks, alongside other names that were already familiar within the horror genre.
Robinson was synonymous with the Hammer Karnstein vampire trilogy as in the movies Vampire Lovers, Twins of Evil and Lust for a Vampire, which were all successful in their own unique way, the latter title however becoming known more for the scantily clad females rather than any horror content. All were released at a time when the Hammer studio had changed direction slightly and began to introduce more risqué scenarios and nudity within their movies. Which arguably made the horror genre more attractive in the eyes of some. Robinson also worked on the Hammer releases Countess Dracula, and Demons of the Mind. The latter title being a more cerebral horror and Robinson’s music also being more mature and melodic in its overall construction.
Harry Robinson put his own musical fingerprint upon Tyburn’s The Legend of the WerewolfandThe Ghoul.
Tyburn also commissioned composer James Bernard to scoreMurder Elite in 1986, Bernard being Hammer’s unofficial composer in residence from the mid 1950’s onwards, providing fearsome and powerful soundtracks for Dracula, Frankenstein, Quatermass,and others.
Composer Paul Ferris also worked on a Tyburn release, Persecution was released in 1974 and starred Lana Turner and rising star Ralph Bates, who Hammer were promoting as a possible new Peter Cushing. Ferris had become known via his association with director Michael Reeves with his atmospheric and romantic sounding score for the Tigon films release Witchfinder General, garnering him much acclaim.
Another composer who wrote scores for Hammer Malcolm Williamson scoring classics such as The Brides of Dracula,andCrescendo,being two of note. Williamson scored the Sherlock Holmes TV film The Masks of Death for Tyburn which starred Peter Cushing as Holmes and John Mills as Dr. Watson.
With so much rich musical wealth connected to Tyburn it is quite unbelievable that not one Tyburn film score has ever been released on any recording, why is this? Well, I am not totally sure. Because the music is without a doubt superb in every release. But let’s not forget it did take the original score for Witchfinder General over forty years to make it onto compact disc.
And it was as long for some of the Hammer film scores to see the light of day on recordings at first as re-recordings by Silva Screen and then later via GDI and BSX records who released the original scores.
With Tadlow releasing re-recordings of James Bernard’s Dracula and The Curse of Frankenstein in 2019. Maybe there is no demand? But I think that surely cannot be the case, as music for Horror movies is now one of the most popular genres being purchased by film music fans of all ages. And music from classic British horrors is most definitely revered with scores for many Hammer,
Tigon, Amicus, and Tyburn films being hot topics on numerous film music message boards and forums. GDI were the most industrious label when it came to releasing Hammer soundtracks, with two compilations beginning their release schedule and later entire scores being issued onto CD. So why not Tyburn? Or even the scores from Tigon movies, like Tyburn many cinema goers looked upon the Tigon Productions as being Hammer films, or at least made in the same style of the Hammer studios.
The company were even ironically based in Hammer House in Wardour street London. But unlike Tyburn Tigon released not just horror films, they were responsible for producing a wider range of subject matter that at times mixed genres. These ranged from Sexploitation films through to television productions, which included Zeta One (The Love Factor) and August Strindberg’s Miss Julie respectively.
The latter starring a fresh-faced Helen Mirren in 1972. However, the company’s bread and butter so to speak was the production of low budget horror movies, which they did in direct competition to Hammer and Amicus. Witchfinder General, Blood on Satan’s Claw, The Beast in the Cellar, and Virgin Witch amongst them. These and other Tigon films were made available in a DVD box set back in 2005, which has since become something of a rarity.
The driving force behind Tigon was Tony Tenser, who oversaw productions and introduced fresh vibrant talent such as Michael Reeves to the British cinema going public.
The studio was also responsible for the spaghetti western influenced Hannie Caulder (1971) which starred Rachel Welch, Robert Culp, Ernest Borgnine, Strother Martin, Jack Elam, Diana Dors, and Christopher Lee and was directed by Burt Kennedy. Arguably this was the inspiration and forerunner to movies such as A Man Called Noon and also to a certain degree The Hunting Party which were also British made westerns. Tigon also acted as a distribution company and ensured films such as The Nude Vampire, Castle of the Living Dead and classics such as Hell Cat Mud Wrestlers came to a screen near you in the UK.
Unlike Tyburn there are a handful of soundtracks from Tigon movie productions available, these include the superb Blood on Satan’s Claw by Marc Wilkinson on Trunk records, and digital outlets. Hannie Caulder by Ken Thorne on a composer promo disc, and digital platforms. The Magnificent Seven Deadly Sins, by Roy Budd, available on a Castle communications Roy Budd compilation on CD and on digital platforms. Witchfinder General by Paul Ferris, on De Wolfe music and digitally available.
Other scores from movies that were distributed by Tigon are also available such as The Nude Vampire, which is on the likes of Apple music and Spotify. Tigon probably more so than Tyburn had a rich musical content for their movies, and in keeping with the musical heritage as established by Hammer and the likes of AIP and Universal before them mostly insisted that their movies contained symphonic scores, even the library music in some Universal horrors was classically grounded. Tigons The Curse of the Crimson Altar by composer Peter Knight, is a perfect example of quality horror film scoring the film starred Boris Karloff, Mark Eden, Christopher Lee, and Barbara Steele. The soundtrack or sections of it were released back in the 1960’s on an LP record and was the B side to selections from Witchfinder General, the recording was not a commercial release but a promo sent out by De Wolfe music for radio stations.
Other Tigon films with scores of note include The Blood Beast Terror and The Sorcerers both by Paul Ferris. And Haunted House of Horror with a score by Reg Tilsley. Tilsley also scored such movies as The Body Stealers, Love in our Time and What’s Good for the Goose. Haunted House of Horror was released in 1969, directed by Michael Armstrong and starred Frankie Avalon and Jill Haworth as young adults looking for a thrill by spending the night in an old mansion in the English countryside. The film’s tagline was “Behind its forbidden doors an evil secret hides!”
Another title with a score that is worth mentioning is The Beast in the Cellar which had music by Tony Macaulay, who was probably better known as a song writer with a string of hit singles to his name that included Build me up Buttercup, Don’t Give up on Us, Love Grows Where my Rosemary Grows and Last Night I didn’t get to Sleep.
Amicus films too employed what I would say were classically trained, although the studios first two productions were both comedy musicals, Ring a Ding Rhythm (1962) directed by Richard Lester and Just for Fun (1963) directed by Gordon Flemyng. The companies first real horror came in 1965, in Dr Terrors House of Horrors, which starred Peter Cushing, and was a compilation of tales directed by Freddie Francis and scored by Elizabeth Lutyens.
Who also wrote an atmospheric score for the Amicus movie The Skull in the same year a film also directed by Francis and starring Cushing. 1965 also saw the release of Dr Who and the Daleks, with Cushing becoming the first big screen incarnation of the Doctor, the score was by Malcolm Lockyer, his score was released a few years ago on CD by Silva Screen.
As was the music for its sequel Daleks invasion Earth 2150 AD which was scored by Bill McGuffie, who in 1972 wrote a wonderful score for the horror film The Asphyx. (which is another work deserving of a release). Amicus, were as masterful as Hammer when it came to creating horrors, and it was probably Amicus more than any other studio that were the most successful at releasing the anthology movies which contained four sometimes more tales of terror.
Amicus also released other genres of film but like Hammer they are remembered mor for the horror films that they produced. And now the Screaming Starts, Madhouse, Torture Garden, The House that Dripped Blood, I Monster to name but a few. And all containing superb symphonic scores. By the likes of Douglas Gamley, Carl Davis, Michael Dress, James Bernard, and Don Banks. So, Hammer have a lot to be thanked for, the way they shot their movies, and had them scored, the stars they introduced to us and the directors who brought us so many macabre and horrific stories. Even today in some contemporary horrors we see glimpses of the sophistication and the genius of the House of Horror. But the days of the horror tale as originally told by Hammer are sadly long gone, and the way in which horror movies are scored now is also so different from the days when Hammer was flying high. Hammer however have resurfaced and produced a number of quality movies, but the glory days of gothic horror I feel are over.
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