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.