Dragons Domain have announced their first releases of the new year I thought I would start with this one, which has always been a firm favourite of mine.

First published in 1842, Edgar Alan Poe’s The Pit and The Pendulum, is a macabre and brutal tale of torture and execution told by a forsaken narrator sentenced to death for heresy by the Spanish Inquisition. This 1991 adaptation follows a pair of young bakers who are intoxicated with the love they have for each other. Whilst the pair attempt to sell bread in the town square Maria (Rona De Ricci) and Antonio (Johnathan Fuller) are separated by an incensed mob while a battered woman is paraded into the square to be burned at the stake as a witch by the authorities. Maria and Antonio reunite only to be forced by church authorities to stand and witness the grotesque act of execution unfolding before their eyes. The expression of Maria’s disgust and her pleas for Christian mercy at the feet of Grand Inquisitor Torquemada (Lance Henriksen) convinces the fearsome witch hunter to arrest, torture and prosecute Maria as a ward of Satan.

This is the basic outline for the movie, which was released by Full Moon films, and directed by Re-Animator creator Stuart Gordon, the cast also featured Oliver Reed as The Cardinal. Now as horror films go it was not that bad, and considering it was relatively a low budget affair the director producers and cast achieved a respectable level of production etc. One of the most striking elements of the film was the driving score which was composed by Richard Band, this is in my opinion without a doubt the composers best score or at least in the top five at least, Band was and still remains busy and in demand, his ability to score low budget movies with large sounding symphonic soundtracks was at times breath-taking and The Pit and The Pendulum is no exception, I remember at the time of the score being released back in 1991 the composer said that he was ill whilst scoring the movie and had a high fever, after recording the score and receiving so many accolades from critics and fans alike he said “Maybe I should get sick more often”. Band fashioned a dark and gothic sounding work, with romantic nuances and authentic sounding passages that all blend together flawlessly to create a score that is inventive and entertaining, the composer utilising both symphonic and synthetic elements to realise the sound and style that he has achieved.

The score or sections of it at least were released in 1991 by Moonstone records onto CD, Moonstone being the music depart of Full Moon Films which was the company that Charles Band had formed to release a plethora of low budget horror movies and sci-fi films.


Like the film company the record label was successful and fed the insatiable appetite of film music collectors who craved music from films of the sinister and chilling variety. The score was released onto digital platforms a few years ago, and did include extra cues, but thankfully for collectors who love the CD format Dragons Domain have re-issued the score in a 2-cd set which is an essential addition to any film music collection.


The composers unsettling and foreboding Latin choruses are a relentless and virulent feature within the score, and not only support and enhance the story as it unfolds on screen, but add depth, atmosphere and invent a cadaverous musical persona to the proceedings.


The composer also fuses electronic components that underline the Gregorian style chants supporting them further with low dark strings and cymbalom that weave in and out adding layers of apprehension and tension. Percussive elements play a major part in the score, thundering kettle drums empower the strings, choir and brass further giving the music an even greater impact. In many ways Band’s atmospheric work rivals the excellence and commanding aura of Goldsmith’s The Omen, and it is without any doubt whatsoever the best of Band.  Recommended.   

Another Dragons Domain release is Alan Howarth’s atmospheric score for the 2012 horror movie BRUTAL. The film openswith Carl Gibson (A. Michael Baldwin) waking up in a dark and uninviting basement, he is  naked from the waist up and chained to a chair. The basement belongs to a stoical dungaree-wearing loner named Brutal. Subjected to a seemingly endless game of torture, Carl wonders if he will ever see his family again.

BRUTAL was the writing, producing, directing, and acting debut of Michael Patrick Stevens. And has an affecting and effective score. Alan Howarth, in addition to being a composer, is an accomplished sound designer and editor, having worked on films such as Star Trek the Motion Picture, Poltergeist, Total Recall, Army of Darkness, Bram Stokers Dracula and so many more.  


He has collaborated on numerous occasions with with John Carpenter on his films beginning with Escape from New York, in 1980 and including Halloween II & III, Christine, Big Trouble in Little China, They Live, and Prince of Darkness. Howarth has also scored many films on his own, including Retribution, Halloween four and five, Boo! And The House at the end of the Drive.

The score for Brutal is a malevolent and sinister sounding affair which is composed and performed by Howarth. It has to it a virulent and unsettling sound, which is realised electronically with the composer repeating a central four note motif theme that builds throughout the work and creates a menacing and apprehensive air. Limited to just 500 copies this will be sold out soon, available now from BSX records.

The third Dragons Domain release is The Peter Bernstein collection Vol 3, which includes two scores Fifty Fifty and Miracles. Released in 1992, FIFTY/FIFTY tells the story of Jake (Peter Weller) and Sam (Robert Hays), two mercenaries who run into each other on Tengara, a remote South Seas island where a revolution seems to take place every other day. Recruited by the CIA to overthrow a power-mad dictator, they are tasked to raise an army. But the choices are few and the odds against them are high, until they meet Suleta (Ramona Rahman), a beautiful freedom fighter who helps them get started.

FIFTY/FIFTY was directed by veteran actor Charles Martin Smith, who also co-stars as Martin Sprue, the CIA handler in charge of Jake and Sam. Filming was split between the island of Penang and the Central Malaysian state of Perak, according to the production notes. FIFTY/FIFTY is an orchestral score, recorded with an orchestra of 65 musicians. Bernstein’s music is based around a single primary theme, energized by propulsive brass attacks and powerful intonations of full orchestra.

Released in 1986, MIRACLES tells the story of Jean (Teri Garr) and Roger (Tom Conti), a newly divorced couple who learn the hard way that when you are meant to be together, nothing can keep you apart. As the film continues, Jean and Roger keep running into each other, literally. A robbery gone wrong results in a police chase, with the robber crashing into Jean’s car and then Roger’s car, which happens to be nearby. The robber kidnaps both Jean and Roger and forces them to drive, leading to an elaborate madcap chase across international borders, multiple crazy situations and ultimately to Jean and Roger’s reunion.


For MIRACLES, Peter Bernstein provides an exhilarating musical score which underlines and punctuates this comic but exciting romp. Bernstein’s breath-taking soundtrack ranges from the exotic percussive elements and synths for the opening jungle sequence to a richly arranged triumphant and driving finale. The score was recorded at the old CTS Studios in Wembley, England, on the world’s first DSP digital mixing console and performed by members of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Listening to both scores one can pick out little nods to the composers Father Elmer Bernstein, and they both also include a style and sound and quirks of orchestration that we all still readily associate with Elmer Bernstein. A great collection, looking forward to volume four please.




(The soundtrack for The Old Way will be released by BMG in February 2023.).

The Western genre in film is probably one of the most enduring, and its also one that has been re-invented and returned to so many times with varying amounts of success. The Hollywood western such as The Big Country, The Searchers, Vera Cruz, The Magnificent Seven, andtitles such as High Noon, Shane, etc now being referred to as classics. The German film industry had some success with the genre when they began to produce sagebrush sagas in the 1960’s after which Italian film studios put their own edge on proceedings via films such as The Good The Bad and The Ugly, Django, and The Big Gundown, to name just three. During the period of the 1960’s and through to the late 1970’s Italy produced so many great, quirky examples of western stories. And these in turn seemed to rekindle the interest in the genre as Hollywood once again got into the saddle and started to return to the prairies and wide-open spaces. And also dealt with the western heroes of the old days dealing with the ever-evolving world in films such as The Wild Bunch. Clint Eastwood who was an example of the success of the Italian made western began to direct horse operas during the latter part of the 1970’s, and received much acclaim for his work on films such as High Plains Drifter, The Outlaw Josey Wales, and continued having box office triumphs in the 1980’s and 1990’s with movies such as Pale Rider and The Unforgiven. The western is a genre that seems to fade away for a while then it returns and comes back even stronger than before and so do the scores for them, we had the Copeland magnificence and Americana in the westerns produced in Hollywood pre-Sergio Leone, and then the rather easy listening examples as penned by German composers, plus the inventive and original content and approach of Italian composers such as Ennio Morricone which began in the mid 1960’s with A Fistful of Dollars and spawned so many scores that were totally detached from what had gone before but at the same time instantly screamed (literally) this is a western score. Then composers such as Jerry Goldsmith introduced their own brand of western film music in movies such as Rio Conchos and The Hour of the Gun, and as the 1960’s drew to a close we were treated to Jerry Fielding’s The Wild Bunch, which still stands head and shoulders above the majority of western scores that came before and after it. Of course we cannot forget the inventive style of French composer Maurice Jarre when he scored westerns such as Villa Rides, The Professionals, Red Sun, El Condor etc. And Greek composer Manos Hajidakis for his innovative music for the western Blue. An example of the western becoming in vogue once again was Silverado (1985) it was a movie that certainly spurred on the cinema going public’s appetite for more cowboys on the big screen. And was greatly aided by Bruce Broughton’s rousing and action-packed soundtrack.

A new western which is released is The Old Way, it stars Nicolas Cage and is directed by Brett Donowho, now the reviews that are in on this are not that complimentary, but the proof of the pudding as they say and one mans meat is another man’s poison are sayings that spring to mind, in other words don’t dis it till you have seen it. What I do know is that the musical score by talented composer Andrew Morgan Smith is in a word superb.

The music is commanding, melodic, action led and just so impressive. The score is fully symphonic and features solo instruments such as fiddle, guitar, and banjo, in many ways I was reminded of the style of Jerry Goldsmith, because of the use of strings, percussion and brass.

The composer utilising the elements effectively providing the action sequences within the movie with a relentless yet thematic underscore. One track immediately stands out during one’s initial listen to the soundtrack, The Ambush, is everything a western score should be, its powerful piece, that just does not let up, maintaining a strong and vibrant persona, via the orchestral elements I have detailed.

Andrew Morgan Smith.

The score however is not all driving and action, there are numerous quieter and even lilting and haunting moments. The composer putting the banjo to work in cues such as Jellybeans, which is a cue that I think gives a gentle nod to Copeland as it builds and progresses. The composer adding textures and layers via solo violin, warm sounding strings and subdued brass that act as a musical punctuation.

The composers use of banjo within his score is affecting, as it is not just used to relay comedic, jaunty or melancholy emotions, it is also an important component within cues that are darker and purveys wonderfully a sense of apprehension within these, Morricone did this in Once Upon a Time in the West, he took an instrument in that case a Harmonica that was normally associated with jaunty or homely sounding ditties and used it in a completely new way to convey a sense of foreboding.

There is also a sense of the highly dramatic in cues such as Still Good Man-I owe you More, in which the light and subdued meets the more ominous sounding parts of the score, the composer again bringing in banjo towards the track’s conclusion. And in cues such as Ruth’s Demise we hear the instrument again, this time surrounded by sinewy and tormented sounding strings, with woods and dark string layers with occasional glimpse of solo fiddle. This is a score that shouts classic western soundtrack, and one I recommend that you check out asap.  


The Old Way is a western that has just been released, the music which is exceptional, is by composer Andrew Morgan Smith, who scored movies such as Jeepers Creepers 3, You Might be the Killer, and more recently has worked on the film Presence and has just completed scoring The Old Way and Bunker, which is coming to cinemas in February. The composer spoke to MMI about The Old Way.

When you were asked to score The Old Way, did the producers have a specific sound or style in mind for the movie, or did you pitch them the idea of having a more traditional sounding score?

Initially the team was thinking about going in a more modern guitar driven direction. That’s what the movie was temped with, but it wasn’t giving the scope and feel they wanted. It ended up making the movie feel smaller in size than they needed.  Once I was officially on the film, they had started to experiment with some other older western scores in the temp.

Following that, I pitched going for a “Classic Studio Western” sound with an updated edge to it. Then it became my challenge to figure out what that actually meant.

It’s a symphonic score very much in a style that we readily associate with westerns from the 1980’s and 1990’s. I am thinking Silverado in particular. In the score you utilise banjo, guitar and fiddle (violin), to great effect who were the soloists. And what size orchestra did you have for the score?

Yes, trying to create that “Classic Studio Western” was definitely a reference to these 80s and 90s movies. I wanted to do something that still gave us that feel, but had a modern edge. After brainstorming I came up with pulling inspiration from Rocky Mountain Folk music. Since this takes place in Montana in the late 1800s, I went back and listened to period music for inspiration and thought, ‘Why not try adding in some of these instruments and idioms into the score?’.

That’s when I brought on Stephen Rees on fiddle. He’s a tremendously talented instrumentalist and long-time friend who I’ve collaborated with on numerous occasions. Stephen suggested using Seth Taylor on banjo and guitar and he was amazing!

We recorded with the Budapest Symphony Orchestra and they did a fabulous job under Francois Rousselot. The final group was about 60 player’s total.

The soundtrack is due for release on BMG is this CD or digital or hopefully both?

As of right now, I think we’re only releasing on digital, but hey maybe if there are enough letters we’ll get a small run of something.

How much music did you write for the movie and is the complete score going to be on the soundtrack release?

In total there is about 1 hour and 8 minutes of score in The Old Way. I usually try to make soundtracks more digestible than the unabridged score. The soundtrack release is going to be about 48 minutes long. Hitting all the big themes and moments with a few other things here and there.