Category Archives: ARTICLES

Articles in this section reflect a personal view of the author only.

From Silent Screams, and Flickering Frights to Sinister Streams.

Not solely an article about music in horror movies although I do mention it from time to time, but a look at early films that maybe led us to where we are now in the horror genre on screen. From silent flickering images that are now considered iconic pieces of cinema to modern day classics with some demons, vampires, werewolves, and devil worship in between. Welcome to the ever evolving, blood-spattered and sometimes cerebral world of.

THE HORROR MOVIE.

So, I do not profess to be an expert, or indeed to know anymore than anyone else about horror films old and new, but here is my take, or nonsensical ramblings and  muddled views of the genre. From early days to contemporary examples.

The horror film, picture, movie, motion picture or flick has always been attractive to audiences, in England we were lucky to have Hammer Films, Tigon, Tyburn, and Amicus to name a handful of studios that specialised in the macabre and the scary and from America there were the productions from AIP who also fed our appetite for any number of unspeakable monsters, creatures, spirits, and phantoms. Plus, the classic black and white images of the Universal horrors were always present or so it seemed and were an inspiration for most of what was produced from the 1950’s onwards within the genre.

All, of the studios mentioned and the images that they created are by contemporary standards tame and rather more watchable for entertainment values than things such as one of the latest offerings Fear Street which is a blood-soaked gore filled series that is now enjoying success on Netflix a series which I thought was maybe just a bit too much because of the axe wielding, limb dismembering, body hacking scenes that it displays. But let us forget about the slashing, the copious amounts of bodies being hacked to pieces and the endless madness of the modern horror and go back a little way and to countries other than America and England.  

But before we do lets refer to the manual of Some of the do’s and don’ts of if you ever find yourself in a haunted house, dark and dank cellar, Deserted Path, or a shady and desolate wood. Right if the sign says do not go in Don’t! just walk away go home get in the car and head for the hills, (as long as they have not got eyes then you will be fine). If you walk up to the door of an abode and it opens on its own, what do you do? Repeat after me “Walk away “ from the place, no, no, don’t go in, oh dear you’re in now, the door creaks and shuts behind you, what do you do?

Go upstairs where you can hear a funny noise? No wrong answer guys you at least try and go back out the door, or maybe through a window even if its closed, ok you are now on the stairs, you hear children’s laughter from down the long dark corridor, again No guys where are you going? OOH look a ladder leading into an even darker attic, and those kids are really having fun listen to them laughing now come on people, surely this is a sign that you should really be leaving.

But nope, you just carry on getting deeper into the house and further away from the front door. You climb halfway up the ladder and hear a moaning from the darkest area of the attic, Run, no, no, our intrepid and incredibly stupid intruder goes up the ladder into the attic. (this will not end well but hey its fine). Oh gosh look a torch turn it on but don’t shine it in your own face ok too late, (that made the audience jump). The moaning gets louder so go back down the ladder and shut the loft hatch now please… No, ok you just carry on. What,s that in the corner, what are you doing? Stay back,,, no oh well don’t say I didn’t warn you. Camera then pans down the ladder and back along corridor and a piercing scream is heard from the attic. Told ya, did you listen well obviously not. I know I am poking fun here, but you know in horror movies the people are pretty stupid don’t you think, it’s like when a vampire hunter goes armed to the teeth (forgive pun) to kill an evil blood sucking vampire, when do they go  yep at night  Duh…….What they should do is go early morning that way you can get to the vampire stake the sucker (Sorry), and be home in time for Homes under the Hammer (other film studios are available). So, if the people in horror movies were not so stupid, I suppose the genre would be incredibly boring and predictable, but it’s a bit of fun, as in fun that we like to be scared by, even if we do know what’s coming next.

The horror film is not the exclusive property of the UK and the United States studios that I already mentioned, there are so many other entries into this genre produced by other countries. We know that Italy had a thriving horror film industry thanks to the likes of Mario Bava etc.

But in France horror movies began life early as in the films produced by filmmaker George Melies, silent movies such as The Haunted Castle from 1896 and The Astronomers Dream from 1898. I think more than any country France produced horror movies in the early days of cinema, and although many have been successful it has always been said by French filmmakers that the Horror film is near impossible to fund and of course because of the funding issue in recent years French directors and producers have been reluctant to become involved with the genre for fear of losing any investment that they may put into a production.

However, France have produced some memorable and scary films, Le Viol du Vampire from 1968 for example, which was an erotic Vampire movie directed by Jean Rollin. The actual story does not make a lot of sense, and maybe because it is subtitled that made it even more difficult for non-French audiences, it was however Rollin’s directorial debut, and he would go on to create many more Vampire themed films.

Films such as those directed by Rollin would be shown in small independent cinemas in the UK and often would be seen as exclusive picture houses that often were open to only members and it was not until probably the 1980’s that certain movies began to be screened in more mainstream cinemas as part of a series or festival.

In 1928 La chute de la Maison Usher, or The Fall of the House of Usher was released, and it must be said that this is quite unique because it is a rare case of French filmmakers utilising material that was based upon American culture. It was it seems filmed as a homage to Edgar Allan Poe. Based upon the short story that is still considered his best work, with the central character Roderick Usher burying his wife in the family tomb only to discover that he has buried her alive and because of a family curse that he was unaware of she returns to terrorise him.

The script or adaptation of the story for the movie was initially written by Spanish born Luis Bunuel, but he had artistic differences with the director of the movie, and it is still unclear. The following year Bunuel teamed up with Salvador Dali and they produced Un Chien Andalou or An Andalusian Dog. Although made by two Spanish artists, the story was filmed in La Havre and Paris and is considered a masterpiece of surreal cinema. It is a silent movie, but is an accomplished one and still manages to draw much attention even today, the opening scene for example shows a cutthroat razor slicing into an eyeball, why?

Well, I do not actually know, but it is a shocking opener that certainly fixes the audience’s gaze. Le Golem, was released in 1936, and was a re-make of the original German film Der Golem that was produced in 1920.

Both movies being the re-telling of a Jewish folk tale about a monster made of stone who sleeps during peaceful times but can be awakened by carving the Hebrew word meaning Truth on his forehead whenever the Jewish community is threatened.

Le Golem.

Let us also not forget Carnival of Sinners or The Hand of The Devil which was a 1943 chiller, and Les Diaboliques from 1955 that was said to be the basis of Hitchcock’s famous Psycho. And the Georges Franju directed Les Yeux Sans Visage or Eyes without a Face from 1960.

French cinema had its own agenda when producing horror movies and also its own innovative and at times grotesque and shocking way of purveying the horror to audiences, producing horror movies may not have been something that was considered worthwhile in France, but they certainly set the levels in inventive storylines and stunning cinematography in many films that were produced there. With these early examples being just the tip of the iceberg as it were and even this handful influencing many productions that would follow.  

From France to Italy, I have already mentioned Mario Bava, as being a driving force behind the genre in Italy. as both director and cinematographer and also often uncredited.

There was a certain style to Italian horrors, especially those filmed in black and white, they seemed to be more eerie in monochrome, and the directors and producers were never scared to push boundaries and introduce greater heights of violence and the mysterious into their movies.

One of the earliest silent horror movies to be produced in Italy was Cuore Di Mamma which was released in 1909, directed by Luigi Maggi it is a short but effective Horror/fantasy.

THE DEVIL ON TWO STICKS 1911.

Maggi also made The Witches Ballad and The Devil on Two Sticks a year later which were both shorts, in 1912 however the director made a full feature entitled Satan, which was a four-chapter film including Satan vs the Creator, Satan vs the Saviour, The Green Demon/Satan during the Dark Ages and The Red Demon/Satan in modern times. He also directed The Maniac in the same year, which had an engrossing and tense storyline, which focuses upon a madman who escapes from an asylum taking his chess board and pieces with him, the escapee boards a train and finds a compartment where just passenger is sitting. He engages in conversation with the man in the compartment and soon they begin to play chess, the events take a sinister turn when the madman suggests that they should play for each other’s lives. It’s an interesting plot and a well-made movie that holds one’s attention throughout.

Luigi Maggi.

The director was also responsible for The Mask (Masque) of the Red Death in 1911. Set in the City of Naples, which is caught in the grips of a devastating plague with its population living in fear of the disease. The King leaves the city and its rising death toll for a castle some distance from Naples. It is here behind locked doors that the monarch and members of his court basically mock death, but death is not something that you can make fun of and it soon becomes apparent that Death with its shadowy appearance and carrying a long scythe is stalking the castle in search of victims and inflicting the  plague upon all except a poor woman and her two little children, whose pleadings moved the King to take them along, and who, alone, prayed to be spared.  

The style employed in many silent Italian productions often crossed over into horror films that came out of Cinecitta in the 1960.s and after. Slaughter of the Vampires (1962) is a good example, the low budget affair is still looked upon by many as one of Italy’s most notable horror films from the 1960’s. Directed by Roberto Mauri when released outside of Italy it was heavily edited and in the USA was entitled Curse of the Blood Ghouls.  One of the films striking attributes was its score, which was written by composer Aldo Piga and was recently made available on a long-playing record. Piga is an underrated composer and in the same year scored Lette Di Sabbia which was totally different in its style, the composer employing a jazz big band sound as opposed to the dramatic and romantically laced sound he created for Slaughter of the Vampires which included a piano solo. From Italy to England and films before Hammer and their like. I suppose the most notorious horror at the time of its release would have been Dead of Night in 1945.

But let’s go back just little further shall we to 1901 and The Haunted Curiosity Shop, where the elderly proprietor is shocked and unsettled by the discovery of a skull. He is taken aback by his discovery and moves away from it but as he does the door to an old wardrobe flies open, and a hand begins to prod him and poke him with a sword. He turns to see who his attacker could be but as soon as he does the hand disappears at the same instant the skull flies to the other end of the room. He tries to grab the skull, but it then turns into the half form of a girl from the waist up, suspended in mid-air. As he is fixated by the image the other half of the girl, fully dressed from her waist down, walks across the room, and the two halves of the figure join, making the girl complete. In an amorous fashion the old man folds his arms around the girl’s waist with the intention of stealing a kiss, but the girl immediately changes into an old woman, who grins in evident delight at the old man’s disappointment. This angers the shop owner, and he throws her into the wardrobe and locks the door. Unseen by him, the woman has again become a girl. Through the doors, which are solid and closed, the form of the girl appears through the woodwork. Opening the door, the old man is then confronted by an Egyptian mummy.

Other weird and wonderful things occur but really this is tame compared with later scenarios in short films that were produced in the UK in this period from 1901 through until the late 1920’s. Some shorts produced which were of course silent as well at that time, were more laughable than frightening. It was not until the 1930’s and into the 1940’s that British horror movies began to become established, and a style also began to become evident. Many of these movies would arguably be the foundation on which Hammer and other Horror film producers in the 1960’s and 1970’s would build their now classic movies upon.

Dead of Night (1945) was a compilation of stories that were told in one movie, each tale being either horror or a cerebral psychotic episode, the films within in films as it were also started to become something of the norm in the 1960’s onwards with examples such as Vault of Horror etc standing out as entertaining pieces of horror/comedy themed cinema that often-parodied classic horror films.

Of course, music in horror movies has always featured large, and horror films most certainly needed a greater degree of musical accompaniment, even silent examples of the genre requiring some music even if it was just a lone piano player in the theatre pit often improvising as he or she went along.  

still from The Mistletoe Bough.

So back to 1904 for another example of early British horror on celluloid, The Mistletoe Bough, was produced by Gaumont pictures, and released in the December of 1904, directed by Percy Stow, it is the first film version of the story which is thought to have originated in Italy during the 1800’s.

With a song also having the same title. This early gothic tale was filmed both on location at a castle in England and in the studio with purpose-built sets. The movie short has a duration of just nine minutes and has recently been restored by the BFI but sadly the ending of the film is missing, which I am told is something that occurs often with ends of reels from early films. The film tells the story of a game of hide and seek in a castle with a bride hiding in a chest but not being discovered for some thirty years. Stow who was born in 1876 was quite a prolific filmmaker, producing nearly three hundred shorts and movies in his career which began in 1901, with The Gluttons Nightmare.  Now I am just scratching the surface with Euro Horrors, as there are so many worthy productions out there that really do deserve the title of classic. These are either early silent movies the majority of which were shorts, or productions from the golden age of horror which I suppose runs from the late 1930’s through to the late 1970’s in my humble opinion that is. Plus, the 1980’s and 1990’s also gave us so many great shockers, slashers, and demonic tales, which themselves were based upon long standing tales of horror. Horror movies never get boring even when done on a budget and maybe not that well produced, they still hold a certain level of entertainment for devotees of the genre and attract the attention of new fans who start out being curious and end up getting hooked.

I Think that horror does attract as does the unknown, we are all curious creatures and we all for some reason thrive on being scared, when we are told don’t look as a child what do we do? Yep, that’s right we look and end up sleeping with the light on and a baseball bat under the bed or a cricket bat if you are in the UK, stakes, Holy water, garlic, and anything else we might think will come in useful to battle the devil and all his works.  But horror movies effect different people in different ways,

I think it was The Exorcist that had a profound effect upon me, but there again so did Bambi, (they shot his mum) and Watership Down (violent Bunnies are not good news and did that seagull really say that). I did not want to go see The Exorcist, but if I said no maybe I would be thought of as being a wimpy teenager. Well guess what I went to see it (well some of it) and yes, I was wimpy teenager, but I was not the only one and surprisingly most people exiting the cinema that night whilst furniture and other things began to fly around Regan’s room were Male. Yet I watched it recently on my own to Exorcise (forgive the pun) the demons the film had set in my mind, and thought it was a good movie as in interesting and looking at it now did think that maybe in certain areas it could have been done better. and no, I did not turn it off, but I did leave the lights on. (they are still on now but why are they flickering and what’s that banging in the attic). I know I make light of it now and I did sit through it but was I totally comfortable, no I was not, so I suppose I am still a wimpy teenager in a 60 somethings body. I kept on waiting for something to jump out of the screen or a section of the movie I had not seen be totally freaky, but I got through it (this time) and at the end was relieved. When the movie was on in cinemas some people ended up getting spiritual support and help from the church because it affected them so badly, I remember our local priest being angry at a film such as this being released and telling me that this is not something dreamt up by Hollywood this was real and it was happening now behind closed doors of homes, which made things even more unsettling. The church offered counselling and Vicars and Priests walked up and down outside cinemas giving out leaflets about the dangers of meddling with the dark side, no I am not joking.

There were warnings about Ouiji boards, and I have to say I would never even look at one of those things. The Exorcist was one of the first of a new breed of films and its legacy is still being felt to this day with its influences being seen in contemporary movies and now TV shows, in the opinion of many it still ranks as the scariest film of all time. But is it? Well, you tell me, I suppose its scary if your scared of it or allow it as I did all those years ago get inside your head. But enough now, let’s move on and rapidly please, that knocking in the attic is getting louder (not to self-Leave old Xmas decs in attic buy new treat yourself).

Thinking, of The Exorcist I also got to recalling other Horror films that influenced me or friends, there are only really a handful, but boy did they make us think.

The Changeling is one, especially the scene with the ball, but ultimately it was sad, but still a little unsettling. The score by Howard Blake certainly aided the movie and is considered as one of his finest.

The Anglo-Spanish movie The Others was a bit jumpy, old house shadowy-rooms, weird servants you know what I mean I think and a storyline that involved children. Then there was The Nightcomers (1971), starring Stephanie Beecham and Marlon Brando which The Others I think might have been inspired by. The Nightcomers itself being an adaptation of some of the themes within The Innocents from 1961 which was I think more unnerving because it was shot in black and white.

Both The Nightcomers, and The Innocents being based upon the story by American author Henry James entitled The Turn of The Screw, the 1971 movie being a prequel and showing events leading up to the James story. The musical scores for all three movies were outstanding in their own unique way, the 1961 release being scored by George Auric who also worked on films such as The Lavender Hill Mob, Passport to Pimlico, and the already mentioned Dead of Night, which is quite an uncharacteristic style and sound for the composer, but one that worked. He also scored Beauty and the Beast in 1947.

The 1971 picture had an atmospheric soundtrack penned by American composer Jerry Fielding, fresh from his success two years earlier with The Wild Bunch and in the same year scoring Lawman with Fielding producing a moody and tense soundtrack. The most recent movie The Others being scored by its director, which in most cases does not seem to work, (don’t tell the directors this) but Alejandro Amenábar wrote a more than serviceable score for his movie.

These were all examples of shadowy and apprehensive horror a thinking man’s scary movie if you like, none resulting to gory scenes and gratuitous blood-letting or body parts being lopped off etc to terrorise or disgust the watching audience but relying upon getting inside the audiences heads and letting their own imagination scare the hell out of them, and let’s be honest we are all at some time a victim of our own imagination. This can also be said for movies such as The Haunting and the later movie The Legend of Hell House, which is another film that really freaked me out. There is a line in a more recent horror that is What’s your favourite Scary Movie? Well, I don’t know, but there are a few and would I say they are my favourites, how can something be your favourite if it scares the life out of you?  Its, all back to that thing about we love to be scared whether its dodging behind the sofa to block out tame stuff as in the original Doctor Who series with Cybermen and Daleks (I quite liked the Daleks actually) or TV shows such as Adam Adamant, Children of the Stones, and their like, or more harrowing material like The Exorcism of Emily Rose, horror is horror and we do adore it.

There was in the mid seventies an abundance of TV movies that were produced in the States, which had a mysterious or horror theme, many of these were in my opinion essential viewing and TV movies such as the Dan Curtis directed The Norliss Tapes (1973) were so good, one movie that was shown a few times late on TV was about a woman who moved into a house and on the wall there was a painting, it was a witch being burnt, she then started to have dreams about the witch burning and it was her being burnt at the stake, for the life of me I can’t remember the title and I have not seen it since the 1970’s. So, if anyone knows what it is Please tell me, I can then get it on DVD or whatever and scare myself all over again. I could go on and on about the horror genre  the films, the TV movies the TV series and even the books etc which are associated with it, but maybe I should stop here and one day pick up this thread again and see if I feel different about it. Until then, I am off to lock the doors, bolt the windows, turn on the electric fence, let the guard dogs out and watch The Waltons…..night night.  

TALES FROM EUROPE AND BEYOND.

During the 1960’s as a child I saw many programs on the TV which were produced in Europe and some were dubbed into English others were in the language of the country that had produced them and a narrator told the story over the images, this was more prevalent in the series Tales from Europe, which had tales from all over the European continent and also from the Eastern European or Warsaw Pact countries as they were referred to at that time. Many of these tales had a strange and at times ghostly appearance which I suppose was to be expected as many were based upon Fairy Tales and Folklore, as in the DEFA East German production The Singing Ringing Tree (1957).

Which was more of a horror than a fairy tale, written in the style of the Brothers Grimm, and partly based upon their “Hurleburlebutz” the film which was serialized by the BBC was directed by Francesco Stefani and contained a score by composer Heinz-Friedel Heddenhausen who was born on August 8, 1910 in Langenhagen, Lower Saxony, Germany as Heinz-Friedrich Heddenhausen. As well as a composer he was also an actor, and is known for Philharmonic (1944), Ballade (1938) and  Hans im Gluck  (1936). In the 1960’s he scored a handful of movies and TV productions one of these being Acquittal for Old Shatterhand – A documentary about the trial of Karl May against Rudolf Lebius (1964). His music for The Singing Ringing Tree became an important and an integral part of the film, creating a magical and mysterious atmosphere throughout. He died on August 12, 1992. Tales from Europe, gave us an insight into the style of filmmaking outside of England and the United States, at times these tales would not really make a lot of sense but remained entertaining for “children of all ages. The series began in 1964 and ran for five years on and off until the latter part of 1969.

It opened with The Tinderbox from Germany, which was a three-part story, the series continued with Heidi from Switzerland and then came The Singing Ringing Tree, that was followed by the likes of The Boy and The Pelican from Russia. With films from Poland, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, The Netherlands, France, Hungary, Mongolia, Sweden, and Yugoslavia also being included. The initial reason for the BBC showing fairy tales from European and predominantly Communist countries at teatime in England at what was really the height of the cold war, was because there had been an upset at the BBC because they were unable to make children’s dramas of their own at the time, so they desperately needed something to plug the gaps as it were and it was thought that these tales would be suitable. The series included many traditional fairy tales such as Snow White as well as the stories that came out of Eastern European folklore. So basically, a mistake or a slightly misguided decision of the BBC turned into a runaway success for them and some of the tales were even repeated because they were so popular.  

There seemed to be an abundance of shows from France at this time as well, Belle and Sebastian, Desert Crusader, The White Horses, The Aeronauts and The Flashing Blade, and one of the most well known being The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, the latter was for myself and a handful of friends essential viewing and I remember getting home from school to watch it not even changing out of uniform. It is a weird thing also that it was the music for Robinson Crusoe,

The Flashing Blade and The White Horses theme sung by Jacky that have stayed with me forever. As soon as I hear the opening notes to any of the themes or songs, I recognize them straight away and I am taken back to the 1960’s and those black and white images on the BBC, Ok, they might have been in colour but we only had a black and white TV so they will be forever monochrome in my minds eye. The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, I remember a single being released in the UK as I had seen it in a record shop on the wall being displayed as the record of the week, the theme being on the A side and the track Adrift on the B side or flip side. That was the thing about the 1960’s there was such a variety of music being played on the radio and the TV too. The series was first aired in Germany in 1964, but it was screened as four ninety-minute episodes, the BBC however, thought that this would be too much for their audiences and decided that they would take the series and dissect it into thirty-minute episodes which they would show on a weekly basis. The BBC also stipulated that the original music by vintage French movie score composer Georges Van Parys should be removed from the series.

Van Parys had written the scores to many what are now considered classic French movies, but the BBC wanted a more melodic sounding work, which was eventually written by Italian born Gian Piero Reverberi and Ukrainian/American music mogul Robert Mellin and it is this haunting score that many associate with the series without even looking at any images on screen. It is not certain if Mellin actually wrote any music for the series as he was known at this time primarily as a music producer/publisher but he had been successful writing music and lyrics since the late 1950’s with many of his songs being recorded by the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and Louis Armstrong. He had also been credited on A Fistful of Dollars alongside Ennio Morricone, but again there is no evidence that he wrote a single note of music for this either.

The style employed within the series is however certainly something that we can associate with Reverberi on listening to some of his earlier and later works for both TV and cinema, the latter works being co-written with  his musical associate and brother Gianfranco Reverberi, which included a handful of Spaghetti westerns soundtracks from the mid to late 1960’s, the Italian western sound manifesting itself in tracks such as Smugglers and Scanning the Horizon/ flashback-Escapades in York. Gian Piero Reverberi also became associated with the popular orchestral performers Rondo Veneziano during the 1980’s acting as composer and arranger for them on a number of recordings. The orchestration and the style employed was refreshing with rich and romantic and adventurous sounding strings being combined with upbeat percussion, harpsichord and organ the many themes on the soundtrack soon becoming haunting and popular and firmly placed within the sub-conscious of any watching audience. Considering when the series was aired the music is quite modern and almost pop orientated in places. Silva Screen records in the UK released a CD of the score back in the late 1980’s originally and then re-issued the score in 1997 with a re-recorded suite performed by the Prague Symphony Orchestra included to flesh out the re-release but many felt that this was not required and added little to the attraction of the score, as it was already a firm favourite. The same label is now about to re-issue the score again with even more music that has been found from the series.

The compact disc will be available in July 2021, with striking new artwork as well as extra cues and greatly improved sound quality. There is an edition available on digital platforms, but I think it will be great to have this expanded version on compact disc. The score is filled with emotive, and poignant themes that become an essential part of the scenes involving the island on which Crusoe has made his home, the discovery of Friday’s footprints in the sand and accompany the realization that Cannibals use the island for sacrificing their victims, plus it underlines and supports the solitude experienced by Crusoe and punctuates the flashbacks and memories that he also has about his life before being marooned.  

The music is still as quirky, melodic, and attractive as it was back in 1965 when I first heard it, the rumbling percussion at the start of the score still making my stomach flutter in anticipation of what is to follow. This is one for your collection.  Certainement un Classique.

As far as I am aware a full soundtrack recording of The White Horses was never released, the song however did well and was in the British pop charts back in 1968, reaching number ten in that year, the title song was performed by Irish born Jackie Lee, and released on the Phillips label. The song was written for the UK version of the series, which was dubbed, and aired on the BBC. Written by Michael Carr and Ben Nisbet the song became so popular in the UK that the producers of the series decided to add it to the opening of all editions of the series including the French production.

BARBARELLA’S SONG sung by JACKIE LEE by Michel Magne – with Jackie’s story of the recording – Bing video

In 1968 Jackie also recorded the original song for the sci fi sex movie Barbarella with composer Michel Magne which was written to accompany the opening sequence and titles of the movie, but the song and most of Magne’s music were replaced when Roger Vadim the Director of the movie decided it was unsuitable with a score by Charles Fox and Bob Crewe being utilized instead, however some of Magne’s score can still be heard in the movie. I think it is the title song for The White Horses that I remember more than the series or its scores to be honest, as the series was like a French version of Skippy with the kangaroo being substituted with a horse and the scores for the series were just like source music or musical wallpaper. The Lyrics are as follows.

On white horses let me ride away

To my world of dreams so far away

Let me run – to the sun

To a world my heart can understand

It’s a gentle, warm and wonderland

Far away, stars away

Where the clouds are made of candyfloss

As the day’s born

When the stars are gone

We’ll race to meet the dawn

So when I can only see the grey

Of a sad and very lonely day

That’s when I softly sigh

On white horses, snowy white horses

Let me ride away

Where the clouds are made of candyfloss

As the day’s born

When the stars are gone

We’ll race to meet the dawn

So when I can only see the grey

Of a sad and very lonely day

That’s when I softly sigh

On white horses, snowy white horses

Let me ride away

Away, away.  

Which were accompanied by a sugary but melodic instrumental arrangement. The song is available on digital platforms on a Jackie Lee compilation of hits.

The Flashing Blade was a rip-roaring French period drama, based loosely upon tales of musketeers or at least elements of various famous stories that involved them, and events that took place in France in the same period. The fictional story is also based upon historical events during the War of the Mantuan Succession which began in 1628 and lasted until 1631 between France and Spain.

Originally aired in France in 1967 Le Chevalier Tempête, to give it its original title was first shown on the BBC in 1969, and would make a return on a few occasions throughout the 1970’s. The original French series was shown in four seventy-five-minute episodes, but like they had done previously with The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe the BBC edited these down on this occasion to twelve, twenty two minute episodes, which worked better for the British audience, although at times the editing was much to be desired. The series had a fast-paced song that would open and close each episode. The English lyrics being.

You got to fight for what you want,
For all that you believe.
It’s right to fight for what we want,
to live the way we please.

As long as we have done our best,
then no-one can do more,
and life and love and happiness
are well worth fighting for.


And we should never count the cost,
or worry that we’ll fall.
It’s better to have fought and lost
than not have fought at all.

Let’s always take whatever comes
and never try to hide.
Face anything and anyone
together, side by side.

You got to fight for what you want,
For all that you believe.
It’s right to fight for what we …

Sung in an upbeat pop style by a group who called themselves The Musketeers with racing timpani and harpsichord flourishes and a catchy harpsichord rift punctuating and lacing the proceedings. “Fight” was released in 2014 by Trunk records on a single and is available on digital platforms. I think like The White Horses the opening song was possibly more popular than the series itself and has attained something of a cult status with collectors.

With no other music from the soundtrack being released.  The Desert Crusader had much in common with The Flashing Blade, as in several cast members from The Flashing Blade appeared in this series from 1968. In fact, apart from The Desert Crusader or Thibuad being set during the 12th century it was almost identical to The Flashing Blade.

The series contained a dramatic and eloquent soundtrack from talented composer Georges Delerue who wrote a powerful theme for the series opening titles sequence, which in all honesty was probably the best bit of any of the episodes and there were over twenty of them. Although many of these foreign dubbed series were not made as children’s entertainment, they became firm favourites in children’s programming in the UK and are recalled with much fondness by British adults of a certain generation.

The series Thibuad aired in the UK in the early part of 1970, and like other French shows soon became essential viewing.

The Aeronauts, first screened in France in 1967 its original title being Les Chevaliers du Ceil, and ittoo proved to be popular with British audiences and had a run of three years from 1968 to 1971 on the BBC.  The music was courtesy of Bernard Kesslair and Francoise De Roubaix. Kesslair scoring series one and Roubaix replacing him on series two. Both composers providing an upbeat and jazz orientated soundtrack for the series. With De Roubaix collaborating with vocalist Johnny Hallyday on a song for the series. The list of popular shows from foreign lands is endless, and even today there are many superb series being aired on the BBC and other channels. However, I don’t think that these will ever match the series from the 1960’s through to the late 1970’s, at least not for this kid anyway.

YORGA’S UNRELEASED SCORE.

I think that the 1970’s was a decade that gave us several fantastically good horror movies, some examples of the genre began to explore new ways to scare via the more traditional means but more often than not the Horror movies from the 1970’s began to experiment with quirky twists in plots and storylines and it was around this time that we began to see various degrees of real gore and shock creeping into productions, some say gratuitous violence was also making a more pronounced and regular appearance. But the gothic and traditional horror scenarios were still the mainstay of the genre. At times these established and familiar horror elements and tales were updated and moved into a more modern timeline. The decade that also gave us disco also brought to screens some made for TV affairs but even though they were produced for the small screen with at times extremely low budgets their quality still shone through. In the 1970’s we were treated to movies such as Count Yorga Vampire, which although in the UK was shown as a B feature (I saw Yorga with Vincent Price Poe influenced movie The Cry of The Banshee) was well made and had to it an interesting and at times even thought-provoking storyline.

Yorga, I think is one of the more classier vampire movies that was produced in the 1970’s. It seemed that almost everyone at that start of the seventies wanted to uproot the Vampire from its more traditional Gothic settings of Transylvania or Eastern Europe and place it into a more contemporary one.

I suppose it was Yorga that led the way for the updating of the Vampire legend as it was released in 1970, and its sequel The Return of Count Yorga (Vampire Story) followed in 1971. Dracula AD 1972, and The Satanic Rites of Dracula made by Hammer films soon hit the cinema screens in 1972 and 1973 respectively, but I think that once Hammer had committed to placing their star Vampire into a modern environment the franchise became tired and woefully inadequate for audiences, with even Christopher Lee becoming disenchanted with the way the studio were going in the cycle,  the thing was that once they did it how could they go back? (Dracula meets Dr. Who maybe?)  Yorga however was different why? Well because audiences had not seen him in any other setting so the timeline for this vampire seemed fitting and I think there could have been maybe at least another in the series easily. Other releases such as Blacula (1972) and Scream Blacula Scream (1973) also made it to the big screen, with the first movie being quite successful but its sequel falling under the radar after its initial release. Then there was an often-forgotten movie, Vampira or Old Dracula which starred David Niven in the role of Count Dracula, who was attempting to bring his bride Vampira back to life and make here even more beautiful by using the blood of several highly attractive models.  

But his plan goes slightly off the tracks as the blood he has collected turns Vampira from a beautiful white vampire into an even more stunning Black Countess. The trend of updating the vampire legend continued into the 1980’s with movies such as Fright Night (1985) and more recently in the not so atmospheric re-make of that movie and in the odd and rather annoying Twilight Saga where vampires shimmer in the daylight (what’s all that about).  Then there was Blade and its subsequent sequels, which brought the tale of the vampire right up to date including a trance music soundtrack as well as the original score. Vampire movies will always hold a special place in the hearts and minds of cinema audiences, they seem to be fascinated by the legend of the living dead as they were called, fixated and mesmerized even and drawn to the mysterious and complex personas of these blood sucking predators.

For me personally any updating of the Vampire legend had not been successful and had failed to work until Yorga came on the scene that is. The movie which was low budget in comparison to other horrors around at the same time and on occasion looking as if it could have been a TV movie made for late night viewing in certain scenes. But the movie its plot and cast were superb, and the film was like a breath of fresh air as Vampire movies went. The score by Bill Marx was too something of an eye opener, rather than a full-on booming, grandiose, and thundering soundtrack all’a say Hammer films, the music was visceral and more avant garde than what we had come to know as a typical horror score. But it suited the film wonderfully and created nerve jangling tension and even added a greater depth of atmosphere and created a mood that was undeniably effective.

Sadly, the superb score for Count Yorga Vampire has never been released and the only way you can hear Bill Marx’s atmospheric music is to either watch the movie or buy the Blu ray edition that contains the isolated score. It seems a bit unfair in a way that this movies score remains unreleased the Marx soundtrack being superior to so many others that were around during this period. Listening to the music from Count Yorga without the images is just as chilling and harrowing as it is when underlining the action on screen, in fact I would go as far as to say maybe it’s a little more unsettling.

Marx who is the adopted son of Harpo Marx scored the movie under the name of William Marx. The composer penned a sinister and suitably virulent sounding work to punctuate and enhance the Count as he went about his deadly business in 1970, s Los Angeles.  Scored for a chamber orchestra or a relatively small ensemble, it is in my opinion one of the most innovative soundtracks for a horror movie that was released in the early to mid 1970’s.

The composers rather sparse and forward-looking approach worked wonderfully and the musical score at times became the driving heartbeat of the action, and it was the music that would make the audience gasp or jump out of their seats, rather than any of the actual horrific jolts that were happening on screen.

Of course, the film contained shocking scenes and turbulent twists and turns but these were all aided greatly by the music. The movie itself was successful in the US, the UK, and Europe so it was a surprise that the score was not released at the time of the film’s release, but there again the soundtrack market was a little different in those days, with record labels not really being interested in music from horror movies. Bill Marx, is in my view an underrated composer, and his score for Count Yorga Vampire is proof of the composers incredible talent and obvious gift for underlining scenarios and making them work more effectively and specifically in the case of Yorga making various doubly harrowing. So, I thought why not review the score from the isolated score tracks on the Blue Ray DVD, because I doubt very much if the score will now ever be released onto a CD or even made available on digital platforms but saying this it could still pop up somewhere one day. I must mention and thank critic and radio presenter Tim Ayres who was kind enough to record the isolated score for me and also subsequently put me in touch with Bill Marx for the purpose of an interview which Movie Music International will be running someday soon we hope.

The score opens with the brief but highly atmospheric Main Titles track, (M1) which commences with organ chords and a central theme that ushered in the titles of the movie being performed by two violins and punctuated by a plucked piano,  the violins then announce the beginning of the movie by literally rushing into a crescendo, I remember the title coming up on screen and the audience gasping and literally jumping, because of the urgency of the violins there is also a short performance by oboe, that makes a statement after the initial violin performance, which adds a calmness to the proceedings and allows the audience to recover slightly, the calmness that the composer realizes here is why the opening music is so effective. One knows that this is a horror movie, but the music is subtle and sinewy initially not announcing anything urgent. It is so effective because it easily lulls the watching audience into a false sense of being safe and secure. But this introduction is nothing and little did they know what there was in store for them, both visually and musically.

The Vampire Legend, (M102-T1) is the music that underscores the opening scenes where we se Yorga’s coffin being transported from the docks on the back of a station wagon driven by his faithful servant Brudah, the music is in the background to a narration about the Vampire legend.

(M103-T1) The Séance, is a mysterious piece for Harps and I think I can also detect the subtle use of organ in the background, but it is just a hint that underlines and embellishes the performances of the harps. Understated but again like the remainder of the score effective and affecting, creating a nervous tension and an apprehensive air.

Erica’s Apartment is an interesting piece, it begins with timpani, just a lone snare drum tapping out a beat that increases in tempo, but soon slows to single taps and just when one thinks the cue is coming to its end, the track erupts with string stabs that are edgy and taught creating an excellent and striking wake up call for the audience or listener, the strings are punctuated by sparse but noticeable percussion which adds a sense of foreboding and urgency to the piece.

Yorga’s Mansion (M403 T2) is a brief cue, with organ and breathy woodwind, that establishes an atmosphere that is thick with a mysterious mood. Yorga’s Storm (M501 T1) is hypnotic with the composition being for organ and strings, the strings becoming spidery and at the same time slightly sensual.

Whilst listening to the score as just music I was amazed how Marx was successful in realizing music that although was not that thematic still had to it an alluring and attractive persona, which I suppose is like the films central character, as in we know he is evil but are unable to resist his mesmerizing charms for want of a better phrasing.

This is something that is more noticeable in the cues Erica at the Window (M502 T3) which is basically an introduction to the more developed and expressive sounding Eternal Love, (M503A T2) with its romantically slanted melody for solo violin woods and harp initially being played at a slight kilter.  

Count Yorga: Vampire (imdb.com)

As the composer emphasizes the woodwind and adds a second violin the cue  becomes even more romantically laced being utilized in the love scene between Erica and Yorga. as it is utilized to enhance a love scene of sorts between Yorga and Erica, but at the same time it conveys a sinister and darkly menacing undertone as we know that the Count is about to add Erica to his growing harem of Brides. The score is filled with numerous short, sharp but effective cues, which underline and support the scenarios being acted out on screen. I can only guess that at the time of the film’s release a soundtrack album was not even considered, because if at this time the Hammer scores had not seen the light of day on a recording what chance did Yorga have? And studios simply were not interested in the “Background Music” as they referred to it. I think the attraction to the score for Count Yorga Vampire is its originality, its freshness, and vibrancy, with the composer placing a unique musical stamp upon the film, never over scoring but always supporting.

The music that Marx wrote to accompany the character of Brudah played by actor Edward Walsh, is filled with an ominous air, the composer utilizing low strings, that are punctuated with harp and given added menace by the introduction of additional strings some of which are plucked that make an appearance alongside a scattering of percussion and a line here and there from subdued and breathy woodwind. The music captured perfectly the lumbering and raw mindless brutal actions of the Counts servant, who is loyal to his Master at all costs. This type of scoring manifests itself in Brudah and Donna (M803 T3) and in Michael Finds Paul/Brudah Attacks with the composer also working timpani into the latter track to increase the tension.

There are some electronic stabs and effects within the score, but I am not sure if this is something that was the work of the composer or something that was added after the scoring session had finished.  also working timpani into the latter track to increase the tension. These are short and sharp mainly and feature in Paul’s Death (M603 T1) and Michael Opens Coffin. The end scenes of the movie are scored almost continuously in Final Fight (M1002 T4) as Michael attempts to escape with Donna after he has driven a stake into Yorga.

But little do we know or indeed is Michael aware that Donna does not really want to be saved. The brides of Yorga are even more terrifying with the score underlining their actions, as they rush towards Michael hissing and fangs bared blocking his way on the staircase.

The score for Count Yorga Vampire is in my opinion a gem of a soundtrack, its tones, motifs, nuances, and phrases are accomplished, and its overall sound and style has to it a sustained and malevolent atmosphere that is perfectly suited to the storyline. Check out the DVD with the isolated score tracks, and why not re-visit both the Yorga movies.

ZOMBIE NATION.

I do not think that I have ever been what you call a real a fan of Zombie movies, maybe it’s the memories of those Abbot and Costello Universal comedy/horrors that put me off this genre of films within an even bigger genre of Horror flicks. I probably dismissed the Zombie movie as something that was comical rather than being horrific because of these movies which were fun but not exactly the best of Universal. 

As the years passed the Zombie has evolved and become ever more gruesome, gory, and brutal. I for one found that this was not really entertainment but just a blood fest because filmmakers could make things more graphic for the sake of doing so and invariably and did if you know what I am saying. Apart from the Abbott and Costello films I really had no or truly little experience of movies involving flesh eating blood crazed Zombies, except of course for The Plague of the Zombies from Hammer films and snippets of The Day of the Dead, The Night of the Living Dead, and their like. But in recent years it has been hard to avoid movies that have focused upon Zombies in one form or another, and even TV series such as The Walking Dead too brought these unfortunate and psychopathic crazed creatures more and more into the public gaze.

And of course, we  were also treated to Shaun of the Dead, and I use the term treated loosely here, as I was also not a fan of this, although many were and apparently still are.

But with the release in recent years of movies such as The Evil Dead in 2013, which was a remake of the original film of the same title which hit the screens in 1981 that itself spawned sequels which became ever more outlandish as the cycle progressed, so maybe it is time to start taking this blood soaked, brain spattered Zombie carnage filled genre a little more seriously. But really The Evil Dead was not a Zombie movie or was it?

The story concentrated upon a group of people who unwittingly find the book of the Dead and are one by one possessed by demonic entities, so it is a possession movie, right? Ok, maybe a possession Zombie, horror movie? Anyway, my focus in any movie is the musical score, and I have to say that Zombie tales have contained some very inventive soundtracks. The score written by Spanish composer Roque Banos for The Evil Dead, is probably one of the most accomplished and effecting contemporary soundtracks for a horror film that I have heard in recent years. It is somewhat complex and certainly more developed and involved than scores for previous movies from past decades as in The Plague of the Zombies by James Bernard, which was effective but was also quite simple, with the composer arriving at his opening theme by spelling out musically “Zombies, Plague of Zombies”, as he had done previously on his “Dra-cu-la” soundtracks for Hammer.

The score for The Evil Dead was in a word malevolent. The visceral, virulent, and sinister music did much to enhance and support the harrowing scenes that were appearing on screen and the music too created an atmosphere that was highly apprehensive and filled with dread. The composer providing a sound and a style of music that fitted the production like the proverbial glove, his score at times alerting the audience to a moment of violence or a scene of horror before it had even occurred, it was the music that at times scared the audience, with the use of a menacing off key horn sound (shades of James Horner) or the integration of a hand cranked siren being particularly gut wrenching and foreboding, because this is a sound that tells you that something is out there and its getting closer and it is coming for you.

We are a long way from the music of Hammer gothic horrors and the black and white Universal horrors of the 1930’s now and although the music for those classics were of a high standard and still remain so to this day. I think as the horror film has developed and become more violent and realistic so too has the music for them evolved and dare, I say become far more complex and a lot more integral to the various plots and scenarios unfolding on screen. The score for The Evil Dead, is operatic in parts, grandiose, lumbering, chaotic and melodic in both a melancholy and emotive fashion. Banos created a meticulously precise and innovative work, with choir and icy sinewy strings setting the scene or at least adding layers of tension to every scene within the movie. His choral pieces are magnificent and realise a dark and ominous sound that at times outclasses Jerry Goldsmith’s Ave Santani from The Omen but also pays homage to its shadowy and guttural sound. Combining the choral work with the urgent sound of strings, rasping brass flourishes, wailing siren, and driving percussion was a master stroke by Banos.

Evil Dead

The choir at certain points becoming a mad and chaotic cacophony of discordant screams and shouts, which made things even more formidable and gloriously disjointed and terrifying.

Cockneys vs Zombies

Zombie movies or movies that included Zombies can range from the sublime to literally the ridiculous, Zombies on Broadway for example, or even the Return of the Living Dead trilogy and what about   Cockneys Vs Zombies? This, 2012 British made zombie comedy was directed by Matthias Hoene and written by James Moran and Lucas Roche. The plot focuses upon a group of Cockneys who arm themselves to the teeth to go and rescue their grandfather and his friends from their retirement home as a zombie apocalypse takes place in the East End of London. Its offbeat, and highly implausible but it’s also funny and thoroughly entertaining, and is I suppose a fusion of the dark comedy that we experienced in Shaun of the Dead with elements of films such as 28 Days Later, the movie never quite takes itself seriously even though there is a large body count as the story moves forward and develops (which puts Django to shame).  Even the score by Jody Jenkins (son of Carl Jenkins the composer) provides the movie with a soundtrack that is upbeat and at times spaghetti western flavoured. Jenkins told me about the score and the movie.

Jody Jenkins

The film is really a mash-up of several genres and it doesn’t take itself too seriously dramatically, so we thought it would be fun to make various homages to key ‘B’ movie score genres. When the project came along there was a temp track attached that already quite a diverse set of pieces in the cut. When you see the cues within the context of the film, they all have some reasoning for their various pastiches. I had even more ingredients in there initially, but we went through and toned it down a bit before recording.  We used plenty of live elements but often recorded at different times over the scoring period. We did a small string session [20 players], some trumpets and a guitar band. The choir was recorded out in Latvia where I often visit to take advantage of the really great choir. They are basically the state radio choir, and they sing together every day. Some of the basses go incredibly low [bottom D/C], as in the Eastern European tradition so it seemed a logical step to give them these demonic zombie chants”.

Cockneys vs Zombies was a real rollercoaster ride of horror, action, and comedy. It was a low budget production but remained a bit of fun that in the end was entertaining. The score by Jenkins is one that I return to regularly as it evokes many other composer’s styles and pays homage to music from past horrors and even westerns, with the references to Morricone’s Once Upon a Time in the West wailing and menacing Harmonica theme being the most prominent. But it also has within it an inventive and vibrant originality.

I am certain that first Zombie movie proper was White Zombie which was released in 1932, and things have come a long way since then, so we now move from comedy/horror to something more in the classic horror tradition and to the Hammer production The Plague of the Zombies, as with all Hammer films from this time (the early to late-sixties) the film was a classy one and contained great sets, vibrantly coloured photography, credible performances from all the cast, a solid script, a thundering and driving musical score, plus creative make up for the Zombies with spine chilling and at times quite brutal scenes of horror and violence.

Directed by John Gilling this is in my humble opinion one of Hammers finest, and an anomaly in the studios output being the only Zombie movie that they produced, Hammer never again returning to this sub-genre of horror film. The score by James Bernard in the opinion of many rivals the composers work on other Hammer classics such as The Curse of Frankenstein and the early Dracula productions that were made by the British studio.

The music literally exploding and driving its way through the storyline, adding a fearful and harrowing atmosphere to proceedings. I think if I were asked what ten Hammer film’s I would take with me to a desert island or a haunted house, The Plague of the Zombies would be one of the first that came to mind. Set in the early 19th Century, (1806) the movie focuses upon a mysterious epidemic which breaks out in a small village in the county of Cornwall. The doctor in the village is overwhelmed and unable to find a remedy for so many cases of the strange illness, so he contacts a colleague professor James Forbes for help.

Brook Williams talks with another zombie in a scene from the film ‘The Plague Of The Zombies’, 1966. (Photo by 20th Century-Fox/Getty Images)

The professor and his daughter Sylvia travel to the village but as soon as they arrive things take a turn for the worse, with sightings of people who are known to have died from the illness being sited near an old mine. Forbes soon realises that this is the work of powerful black magic that is being used to resurrect the dead via a voo-doo ritual which transforms lamented villagers into mindless Zombies who serve their power crazed Master.

The film was shot on a set that was soon after re-used for another Hammer horror directed by Gilling entitled The Reptile, which was shot back-to-back with The Plague of the Zombies. Zombies being released in January 1966 and Reptile making it to cinemas in the March of that year. The Plague of the Zombies has a particularly chilling and sinister air to it, and although at the time of the films release it was meet with something of a tepid reception from critics and audiences alike, the film went on to become a cult classic.

The dream sequence is stunning and contains some real shocking apparitions, with Zombies bursting out of graves to attack Professor Forbes which was effectively filmed by director Gilling. It is a masterpiece and a classic horror movie.

From Hammer to another British made Horror, released in 2002. Directed by Danny Boyle, 28 Days Later, was not considered to be a Zombie film by Boyle, but it did much to rekindle the interest in the Zombie movie genre, depicting zombies as fast-moving creature as opposed to being lumbering and slow moving, which made them even more frightening and threatening. The post-apocalyptic horror drama was written by Alex Garland with the plot depicting the rapid breakdown of society after the “accidental” release of a deadly rage virus that is highly contagious. It concentrates upon the struggle of four survivors who must come to terms with the destruction of life as they knew it, whilst at the same time attempting to stay clear of others who have been infected by the virus. The movie received critical acclaim for its direction and screenplay and soon became a must-see movie and highly popular with cinema goers all over the world. It was in fact one of the most successful horror films from 2002 taking over eighty-two million dollars worldwide, which was a surprise to Boyle seeing as the movie cost just eight Million dollars to produce. There was a sequel made in 2007 entitled 28 Weeks Later (not directed by Boyle) and a graphic novel 28 Days Later the Aftermath with a comic book series also produced under the title of 28 Days Later.  The atmospheric soundtrack was the work of a collection of artists some of the score being written specifically for the movie and other cues being utilised or tracked onto the film’s soundtrack. Composer John Murphy I think wrote the majority of the affecting music, which was superbly supportive and well suited to the films plot, but even some of the music from the composer had been composed before and not specifically for the picture, even so the score is wonderfully melodic but at the same time apprehensive and affecting. With Adagio themed pieces adding even more depth, atmosphere and a melancholy to an already alluring and fascinating plot. The 28 Theme is haunting and uneasy with the composer introducing the piece via piano and then adding various elements both symphonic and electronic as the composition develops, at times evoking a Morricone-esque style. Murphy’s score is tantalising and hypnotic at times repetitive but always effective and haunting as in the cues Kiss of Death and Leaving England. John Murphy has composed and produced music for commercials, including campaigns for Reebok, Nike and Apple. He has won a number of awards for his music, these include the Silver Award (1st Prize) at Cannes, a British D & AD Award, and a BMI Award. He has been nominated for an Ivor Novello, an RTS Award, and the BRIT Award for Best Soundtrack. He was born on March 4th 1965 in Liverpool, He began composing music scores for films in the early 1990s, working on several successful British movies, enjoying success with the soundtracks to Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) and Snatch (2000). Both directed by Guy Ritchie.

Since the year 2000. Murphy has resided in Los Angeles, where he has worked with several leading filmmakers included the aforementioned Danny Boyle and also the likes of Michael Mann and Stephen Frears.  

The name of George Andrew Romero is one that is readily connected with Zombie movies, the American/Canadian filmmaker has been responsible for some of the most successful and arguably some of the most iconic horror movies ever. Romero was a writer, and editor as well as a producer and director. His series of Zombie movies began in 1968 with Night of the Living Dead which was about a zombie apocalypse and is often considered to be a ground-breaking and iconic movie and the highlight of his Zombie series. It is also considered as the film that altered the attitudes of cinema goers towards Zombie movies and the first of a new type of movie that dealt with Zombies placing them in a modern culture. Other films in the series included Dawn of the Dead (1978) and Day of the Dead (1985) with Diary of the Dead making an entry in later years.

As well as this successful series the filmmaker was also responsible for The Crazies (1973), Martin (1978), Knightriders (1981), Creepshow (1982), Monkey Shines (1988), The Dark Half (1993), and Bruiser (2000). He also created and acted as executive-producer for the television series Tales from the Darkside during the 1980’s. He died in 2017 aged seventy-seven. The music for Night of the Living Dead was made up from stock or library music, some of which was written by composers such as Fred Steiner and Phillip Green, the use of library or stock music reflected just how tight Romero’s budget was on this now sixties classic horror, with the film having a music supervisor rather than a central composer that was commissioned to write an original score, this was something that happened a lot during the 1950’s and into the 1960’s with studios and filmmakers drawing from vast music libraries that had been compiled by various film companies. With a music supervisor or musical director selecting pre-composed pieces that they deemed suitable to enhance and support the movies in question.

The sequel Dawn of the Dead which was released a decade later in 1978 had a score that was the work of Italian rock band Goblin. Goblin are a well-respected band who like Tangerine Dream were involved in writing music for movies, Goblin are probably better known for their atmospheric music for the films of Dario Argento, front man of the band Claudio Simonetti worked on films such as Proffondo Rosso in 1975 and then in 1977 Suspiria. Initially the band recorded under the name of Cherry Five and had also performed live under the name of Oliver. The band changed their name to Goblin, rewriting most of the Proffondo Rosso score, which was originally composed by Giorgio Gaslini, this included the now iconic sounding main theme from the movie, fans of the film also soon became devotees to the band and sales of the soundtrack album soared.

The band decided then to focus more upon soundtracks and changed their line up a little to accommodate this, but firstly releasing a fully instrumental progressive rock album entitled Roller.

Other film soundtracks and a concept album Il Fantastico Viaggio Del Bagarozzo Mark followed and led to them working on the European edit of Dawn of the Dead for Romero. In both this and the opening titles for Suspiria they are credited as “The Goblins with Dario Argento”. With their music featuring in the American version of the movie as well as the European release.  Day of the Dead followed in 1985 and had a score by filmmaker, writer, and composer John Harrison, who had begun his career as a director of Rock Videos, as well as working as first assistant director for George A Romero on Night of the Living Dead and later would collaborate with Romero as assistant director on Creepshow in 1982as well as writing the score.  He also wrote and directed numerous episodes of the later TV series Tales of the Darkside for Romero between 1983 and 1988 and in 1990 directed the big screen version of the series which was released by Paramount. In 2006 Harrison and Romero re-united on the movie Diary of the Dead, with Harrison taking on the role of producer and the score being provided by Canadian born composer Norman Orenstein (Robocop the Miniseries and American Psycho 2). Harrison’s atmospheric and unsettling synthesised score for Day of the Dead has recently been made available on digital platforms, this edit of the score containing just seven instrumental tracks by the composer, whereas previous releases also included vocal tracks by various artists.

Phantasm is another movie that delves into the depths of Zombie tales, the first movie introduced us to the gaunt and mysterious Tall man, who converted the dead he was dealing with as an undertaker and transformed them into dwarf zombies which he sent to his distant planet to become slaves. Released in 1979, this American production had the look of an Italian horror and could easily be mistaken for a movie that could have been directed by the likes of Fulci or Argento.

The score by Fred Myrow and Malcolm Seagrave too, was very much in the style of Claudio Simonetti, Goblin, and Fabio Frizzi, blending electronic elements and textures with that of conventional instrumentation to achieve a nightmarish and harrowing ambience that becomes an integral part of the picture. The central theme could be seen as a variation of Goblins core theme for Profondo Rosso from 1975 or indeed evocative of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells which was released in 1973. When first in cinemas the movie was greeted with a mixed reception, this was mainly because of the way in which the movie was filmed, it had a surreal and dreamlike appearance with many critics returning negative reviews. However, the movie has since attained a cult status and has been the inspiration for no less than four sequels.

The original movie is like a bad dream, with stabbings, metal spheres drilling into people’s brains, hooded figures, a mysterious lady in lavender, dwarves, and so much more, it is the stuff that nightmares are indeed created from. Directed by Italian/American filmmaker Don Coscarelli who went onto direct all four sequels and the sword and sorcery Conan-esque The Beastmaster in 1982.  Coscarelli performs most of the duties on Phantasm, the remainder being executed by amateur or semi-professional filmmakers. In fact, it is something of a surprise when we see the music credit is not down to him as most other things were. The movie is one that has grown on many after their initial viewing and is on many horror fans lists of the best of the genre. The score was issued onto LP record at the time of the movie’s release on the Varese Sarabande label. In later years Silva Screen licensed the score for release in the UK on compact disc. The release soon became deleted and is now highly sought after at times selling for more than three hundred pounds on selling sites on the internet. It is a score that is crying out for a re-issue, and hopefully it will not be too long before we are treated to one.

The sub- genre of the Zombie movie within the horror genre has in recent years thrived and become even more popular. In this article I have literally scratched the surface and highlighted a few that I thought were worthy of a mention. As the genre has evolved has it improved? I am not sure about that, but one thing is certain cinema audience’s appetite for gore, bloodletting and crazed creatures that feed on human brains and other body parts shows no sign of curtailing and whilst the demand for these movies is there, Zombie’s will continue to walk the earth (even if it is only on screen in a cinema). With films such as World War Z adding to the Zombie movie obsession and new productions like Army of the Dead, Brain Freeze, Zomblogalypse, and the ultra-low budget Steel-Man released this year, plus Outbreak Z and 86 Zombies on the not-too distant horizon it looks as if Zombie fans will always have new productions to feed their addictive appetites allowing them to be fully paid up members of the ever growing Zombie Nation. And if those are too gory for you there is always Scooby doo Zombie Island.

DEMONS OF THE MIND.

There is certainly no doubt whatsoever that by the time the 1970’s dawned that Hammer films were indeed struggling financially and also finding it difficult to maintain the standards that they had done in the glory days of the studio which many agree was in the late 1950’s and throughout the 1960’s. They had in fact probably been responsible for their own slow demise because of their insistence on up-dating the Dracula cycle, which many have never agreed with, myself included. Because how do you go back when you have placed a Gothic horror character into a contemporary setting? However, amongst numerous movies that the studio did release in the seventies, there were some shining examples that had a feint glimmer of vintage or classic Hammer productions as in Vampire Circus and The Vampire Lovers, even if they did have to resort to exposing certain parts of various ladies anatomies to get audiences interested. However, one movie that they released in the early 1970’s that was different and well, quite intelligently made was Demons of the Mind, that was in UK cinemas in 1972. I cannot really say that this is a movie that has a cult like following, but I do look upon it in a similar way because it is a polished and also thought-provoking motion picture.

Demons of the Mind is also different from what we would ordinarily expect from Hammer, and that is probably why it was less than a runaway success at the box office, it seemed that many people were saying it’s a great movie, but it’s a Hammer horror. Well, yes, it is a Hammer film and yes it has degrees of the horror element, but there is so much more to this motion picture that provokes interest from the audience. When I think of Demons of the Mind, I also remember films such as the studios excellent Fear in The Night also from 1972, which I think is the closest we will get to a British version of a Giallo movie all’a Argento etc. With films such The Bird with the Crystal Plumage coming to mind. And Crescendo again from 1972, which is a truly underrated movie. Hammer were great at Gothic horror’s but were also exceptionally good at the psychological or cerebral tale. Demons of the Mind was a favourite of composer Harry Robinson who worked on the movie.  As he said in interview.

“I think out of all my Hammer scores I prefer Demons of the Mind, to anything else I did for the studio. I also thought the film was particularly good. It was a horror I suppose, but it was also a film that made you think a little. It was to be called Blood will have Blood, but the censors decided that you could not have blood in the title twice – why I am not sure? The film called for a score that obviously matched its storyline, but I also had a chance to be melodic on this picture which was a nice change from all the atonal and loud non- musical stuff. I used traditional instrumentation and enhanced this with a moog synthesiser”

Demons of the Mind was directed by Peter Sykes, who had before this directed the experimental psychedelic movie The Committee in 1968, which was probably better known for its soundtrack by Pink Floyd. He had also directed a handful of The Avengers TV series from 1966 through to 1969. Sykes went onto work on several movies but none that exactly fired up cinema goers, the big screen version of Steptoe and Son for example, and The House in Nightmare Park, which starred Frankie Howard and Ray Milland. Both movies being released in 1973. He also helmed Hammer’s To the Devil a Daughter in 1976, and in 1980 directed several episodes of the popular UK TV soap Emmerdale Farm, now called Emmerdale. Demons of the Mind focuses upon a well to do widower Baron Zorn, played by Robert Hardy, who keeps his adult children Emil (Shane Briant) and Elizabeth (Gillian Hills) under lock and key, locked away from everything. He lives in constant fear that they will go mad as their Mother did.

He then decides to invite doctor Falkenberg (Patrick Magee) to stay and see if he can help his children who are kept sedated and apart because of their incestuous attraction to each other. The doctor’s unorthodox ways do not however improve matters and when there are murders locally the villagers call in a holy man to track down the murderer. The role of Gillian was originally to be played by Marianne Faithful, but she eventually declined, the part played by Robert Hardy, was also offered to both Dirk Bogarde and Paul Schofield who both declined.

The film also starred Yvonne Mitchell as the housekeeper and Michael Hordern as the Holy man. With Paul Jones as Carl Richter. Writer Christopher Wicking was not pleased about Hardy being given the lead role, as he wanted either Bogarde or Schofield, but when they turned down the part Hammer films felt that they could not ask their leading actors Christopher Lee or Peter Cushing to even consider the movie. Thus, enter Hardy. The film has definitely improved with age if that is at all possible.