So many composers so many soundtracks, its hardly surprising that a handful of composers and their scores do get somewhat overlooked, Jeff Grace is a composer I have always thought of as being talented, simply because of the wide range of genres he has written for. I think his score for STAKE LAND was the one that alerted me to his music, which I followed up with THE INNKEEPERS. But I thought a look at his scores might also bring him to your attention if you have not already discovered his musical prowess.
I am going to begin with a 2009 release, I SELL THE DEAD, which was a comedy horror. The movie I thought was a fantastic attempt at combining horror with comedy, which at times we have to admit does kind of fall flat. In this case I think it was successful, mainly due to Ron Perlman and Domnic Monogham who were supported well by the likes of, Angus Scrimm and Larry Fessenden.
The film which was written and directed by Glen McQuaid is set in the 18th century the film relates the tale of a pair of grave robbers, who have been caught by the law and are incarcerated. With only a few hours to go before his date with the guillotine, Arthur Blake (Monogham) tells his life story to Father Francis Duffy (Ron Perlman) an Irish Priest. Before long, Blake has told the listening holy man how he got started in the grim corpse peddling business working for seasoned ghoul Willie Grimes (Fessenden). The story is filled with Blakes experiences whilst engaged in grave robbing combining elements from other such tales as BURKE AND HARE, THE FLESH AND THE FIENDS and THE DOCTOR AND THE DEVIL’s, and adding its own comedic twist in places, there are Zombies, Vampires and other such creatures which he helped to dig up in this entertaining romp. The central characters Blake and Grimes like a comedy duo who managed to get themselves into all sorts of scrapes, the film is more like a comedy version of a Hammer horror film, the sets etc being atmospheric and very well done. The story was accompanied by an energetic and quirky sounding musical score by Jeff Grace, the composer providing the movie and its various horrific/comedic scenarios with a balanced and vibrant work. It is a soundtrack that maybe a few collectors missed when it was released, but the same can be said for the movie, although it is a brilliant film, and one that entertains on so many levels, it is probably something that even horror fans would not instantly think of.
The music is symphonic, which is something I am pleased about, Grace, inventing edgy sounds and adding a romantic atmosphere to these at times, giving the soundtrack a rich and robust style. In fact, I would go as far as to say that maybe the composer had listened to some Hammer scores and took his lead from these. Tremolo strings feature on numerous occasions, with mournful and apprehensive woods creating an eerie and dark mood. There is also an abundance of short sharp shocking passages performed by driving strings that are punctuated by either brass and percussion or laced further by other string instruments. If this is a score you have not yet heard, then I urge you to check it out. It was released by Movie Score Media but is still available on all digital platforms.
Another interesting Horror/thriller is THE LAST WINTER, like I SELL THEDEAD the movie was produced by Glass Eye Pix, and it also starred Ron Perlman, the music is a collaboration or at least it is credited to both Jeff Grace and Anton Sanko, the latter was responsible for the scores for OUIJA, FRACTURED and RABBIT HOLE amongst others, and the cues that he is credited with on THE LAST WINTER are quite complex and atonal in there sound and style, whereas the cues that are credited to Jeff Grace have within them melodic content that is quite rich and even grandiose in places, such as the opening cue NORTH. Grace employing strings and piano to fashion thematic material. Again, released by Movie Score Media, its well worth checking out. Jeff Grace is at times thought of as a composer of horror scores, but this is not entirely true, although he has scored his fair share of films within this genre, what I do like about his music is that it does have to it positive thematic qualities, even if the cue either begins or leads into something that is more atonal. Also each of his scores has their own identity, I do not think that there is a uniform sound or a set pattern to the style of this composers music, which for me is a positive, because with each project one gets a score that is right for the project,
COLD IN JULY (2014) is one such example of the composer writing in a non-uniform way, within this score he utilises electronics, which are highly effective. In fact, the score is all synthetic apart from piano, but the composer still manages to bring to fruition compositions that not only serve the movie well but are listenable away from the picture. The movie which was a tense crime thriller, is a fraught edge of your seat movie, and the soundtrack reflects this atmosphere and mood, Grace building the tension and adding depth and greater impact to certain scenes, with his subtle but dramatic score.
One of my favourite scores by Jeff Grace is from the movie HELLBENDERS (2012), (no not the Italian western), but a movie that focuses upon The Augustine Interfaith Order of Hell bound Saints, which is a team made up of blasphemous ministers who live in a constant state of debauchery, working to drag the worst of demons that are on earth back to Hell. The composers score is superb, with a driving opening theme, that sets the scene for much of the score, it is dramatic, dark and foreboding. Every cue of the soundtrack is entertaining, filled with a robust and vibrant air, each being entertaining and at times harrowing and exciting. Another for your collection, again on most digital platforms thanks to Movie Score Media.
I think the score that many collectors recall when Jeff Grace is mentioned, must be STAKE LAND, this is a horror and a half with a score that is superb. Horror movies in general I feel do not have the power if that is the right word to hold ones attention for the duration, often the plot evaporates or dips, and this is when one starts looking around and your mind wanders a little, but STAKE LAND I thought was an excellent post-apocalyptic movie, well directed and also extremely well portrayed by a not very well known cast. It is a film that has a real story that is alluring and interesting, Think, of the film THE ROAD and add vampires to the equation. Jeff Grace’s affecting score, supports and enhances each moment of the storyline, it not only punctuates and gives a greater impact to the proceedings but is becomes an integral component of the movie. The music of Jeff Grace is something that all of us should experience, he has worked on many motion pictures and television projects, his music has been performed by several well known orchestras and he has worked alongside the likes of Howard Shore as an assistant on THE LORD OF THE RINGS, GANGS OF NEW YORK and PHILIDELPHIA. Several his soundtracks are available from the likes of Movie Score Media and Milan records, as well as being available to stream on digital platforms. The composer has been the recipient of many awards for his work in film.
Other scores by Grace that are certainly worth checking out include, TRIGGER MAN, I CAN SEE YOU, ROOST, THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, MEEKS CUTOFF, NIGHT MOVES, to mention but a few.
Its that time of year again, when the nights draw in and its dark by four in the afternoon, the wind seems chilled and there is a definite musky smell of leaves in the air, pumpkins are harvested and people turn into demons for just one night, Halloween is a fun time for most, but it can also have a more sinister and dark side, especially if you run out of goodies for the trick or treaters, (does anyone know how to get eggs and flour off windows?) Here is SOUNDTRACK SUPPLEMENT TWENTY FOUR, I know its not Halloween just yet, but I thought I would post this so you can decide on your listening requirements for the night.
IT’S JUST A BUNCH OF HOCUS POCUS!
So where to start, maybe with something that is not so scary, and does not take the meaning of Halloween too seriously. A film and also a score I love is HOCUS POCUS, a thoroughly entertaining romp, suitable for children of almost any age. A great looking film with a storyline that at times sometimes seems it could happen. Well, a talking cat, three witches back from the dead and three kids that make sure the witches do not get their evil way and basically save the world on all hallows eve. Yep its credible certainly.
The score for the movie is by John Debney, and it was this soundtrack that first alerted me to the talents of this gifted Maestro. When I first saw the trailers and also publicity posters for HOCUS POCUS I was under the impression that is was just another of those Disney kids Halloween movies, which in a roundabout way I suppose it is, but on going to the cinema to see it the first thing that struck me was the infectious and also powerful music that opened the film and the subsequent score itself. In the impressive opening sequence, we see the silhouette of a witch in flight on her broom reflected upon the coastal waters of Salem as John Debney’s exciting, sweeping and flyaway sounding theme gets proceedings underway. The short but highly effective main title which becomes one of the central themes of the score establishes itself quickly and conjures (forgive the pun) up a fantastic atmosphere that is filled with urgency and also mischief and an impish ambiance. The energetic theme subsides as the Witch lands in the autumnal and colourful countryside near a farm and the audience see that we are in fact in the late 17th Century and not in the present day.
The Witch entices a young girl Emily from her home and Debney laces the beginning of this sequence with the composition entitled, GARDEN OF MAGIC, a haunting and delightfully melodic theme that is introduced on piano and mirrored by glockenspiel and touches from triangle, this is further enhanced by woodwind and a light dusting of strings which then rise to develop the theme fully with horns creeping into the composition changing its mood and atmosphere to something that is far more urgent and dramatic as the abducted girls older brother realizes that she has been taken by the witch and sees that a green smoke is rising from the woodland where there lair is, he sends his friend to summon the elders of the village for help and then follows the witch and his sister into the woods in a desperate attempt to rescue her. The cue, GARDEN OF MAGIC was actually composed by James Horner. Horner had been the composer originally commissioned to write the score for HOCUS POCUS, and had penned GARDEN OF MAGIC when the movie was in pre-production because the character portrayed by Sarah Jessica Parker had to sing it in the movie. Due to schedule clashes Horner found himself unable to continue working on the composition of the score and he had to pull out. Disney then had to find a composer and Horner and producer David Kirschner suggested John Debney to the studio. Debney utilized Horner’s theme and integrated it into the fabric of his own score, arranging it in a number of different ways and also combining it with his own original thematic properties. In fact track number 2, GARDEN OF MAGIC and THACKERY FOLLOWS EMILY are credited to Horner with Debney acting as arranger and conductor.
Debney’s score for HOCUS POCUS is in a word huge, it is performed by a 92 piece symphony orchestra with choral support and is filled with wistful and grand sweeping musical passages that at times give a gentle nod of recognition to John Williams or maybe in the real action set pieces a hint of Wagner. The work literally overflows with dramatic sounding compositions, and oozes poignant segments which are tinged with melancholy, these are perfectly complimented by and interspersed with comedic undertones that at times can really be filed under the Mickey Mousing style of film scoring simply because of their little nuances and strategically timed and placed appearances add much to the screen action and events. This I think is demonstrated to great effect in the cue, WITCHES LAIR, where one of the Witches Winnie Sanderson (Bette Midler) floors Thackery Binx with one gesture of her finger, Debney effectively underlines this action with a synchronized two note stab.
The soundtrack has never received an official release, the score was issued on a promo compact disc, but this is now ultra-rare and has a high price tag attached to it. The original release contained 19 tracks whereas this excellent expanded release from Intrada has a whopping 27 cues from the score and a further 5 labelled as EXTRAS at the end of the CD, it also contains the vocal SARAH’S THEME which has to be a bonus in any ones book of spells. The original promo, ran for 43 mins, here we are treated to 74 mins and 25 seconds of gloriously entertaining and effervescent music. Debney’s score is in my opinion just as entertaining as the film itself, the music being larger than life and as over the top at times as Bette Midler’s highly entertaining performance and as quirky as Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy’s brilliant characters, the music works with the movie and also has an identity of its own away from the images it was written to enhance, it is an imposing and attractive work that is even more impressive because it was the composers first work for the big screen. I cannot recommend this soundtrack enough, my suggestion is that you grab this very quickly, it will be gone before you can say “Trick or Treat” or “I am going to flour and egg your house”. Wonderfully presented with numerous stills from the movie and a thorough set of notes which are a delight to read.
The Halloween theme in movies has been paired with comedy storylines on many occasions, and for the most part these have worked, remember ABBOTT AND COSTELLO meet FRANKENSTEIN, THE WOLFMAN or DRACULA or indeed any monster or creature that Universal deemed it was ok for them to liaise with. There have also been a number of Haunted house comedic excursions, which are paired with a Halloween setting, but lets now focus on the scarier side of Halloween, So, who’s up for apple bobbing? I warn you I am extremely competitive. But seriously, this time of year we do tend to concentrate on the horror genre, and on all hallows eve many of us sit down to watch the best and at times the worst of this genre for our entertainment, but maybe we should. As I said the tradition in our house is to watch HOCUS POCUS, but maybe we should not be so light and flippant about this time of the year, Halloween is after all a time to be on our guard, it is a time that the dead the evil and the demonic have the upper hand and we are told once again walk the earth. So lets be careful out there, be cautious when you answer your door to trick or treaters, that cute little demon in a pumpkin suit, might be the kid from number thirteen, or is it actually a little demon with designs on taking over your soul and dragging you screaming to Hades.
It’s a season or holiday that we do make light of, even to the extent of the Pound shop in the UK selling Ouija boards, I kid you not, and they have sold out. We humans are pretty stupid when it comes to the unknown, the occult and the world of demons and spirits, so I know lets go to a pound shop buy this thing and conjure up some demonic individuals shall we?
Composer Christopher Young, has as we all are aware of composed his fair share of scores for Horror related movies, HELLRAISER being I think his most popular and well known, and his score for the sequel being equally as famous. The first soundtrack for the HELLRAISER series has remained within my top horror score line up for many years, this year however it has a rival and a recent score too.
It’s the Newton Brothers elegant and unnerving score for the Netflix series THE HAUNTING OF BLY MANOR, which I reviewed recently in Soundtrack Supplement twenty-three. Suffice to say it is a score you must own, no arguments. Another score I have been listening to recently is from a 2019 movie entitled THE LAST HEROES, it is an Italian production, and mixes a half comedic scenario with serious levels of horror, that are a homage to the many Italian horror movies that have been produced over the years.
The musical score is by composer Aurora Rochez, who recently wrote the atmospheric music for the horror picture CALEB, she employs an array of musical elements including samples, synthetic instrumentation and also uses conventional instruments throughout, each section supporting and embellishing the other to create an at times pop orientated work. However, there are some genuinely interesting moments of dark and sinister scoring present, and I have enjoyed returning to this score a few times during the past weeks. The film is an enjoyable romp and like the score has some genuinely affecting scary moments that are paired with just as many lighter sections. The film draws on the rich heritage of Italian made horror flicks, and begins in a very serious mode, but I would say around mid-way through I became a little confused as to if this was a real scary horror film or a spoof. But the score is effective, and also is a work that one can listen to away from the images and storyline.
Another score worthy of a listen from Aurora Rochez is THE WICKED GIFT, which like CALEB and THE LAST HEROES, are available on digital platforms. Do yourself a favour have a Rochez, Halloween/horror fest. Also look out for the interview with her which is coming soon to Movie Music International.
Lets go back to the 1980’s in fact to 1985, DAY OF THE DEAD is an American made zombiehorror film written and directed by George A. Romero and produced by Richard P. Rubinstein. The film was to be the third in the directors NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD series. Romero described the film as a “tragedy about how a lack of human communication causes chaos and collapse even in this small little pie slice of society. Music was by composer John Harrison, who also performed the music, it is a surprisingly effective score, and the composer manages to not only purvey a tense and nervous atmosphere, but also includes some foot tapping eighties stylised synth tunes along the way.
It’s a score I have always liked, mainly because of the up-beat moments, but it also has some great mood and action cues, which Harrison fashioned on keyboard whilst throwing into the mix short and urgent sounding crashes and stabs for added effect. It is a soundtrack that is easy to listen to, which is rather odd seeing as its from a horror movie. Its still a good one to pop into the CD player or seek out on digital sites and just let it play. Harrison was also responsible for writing the music for CREEPSHOW again a score which he performed.
A STEP TOO FAR?
CANNIBAL HOLOCUASTwas released in 1980, it achieved notoriety because of the graphic use of violence within it. The movie was banned in Italy and all copies were seized by Italian Magistrates, the director Ruggero Deodato was also arrested, initially on obscenity charges but later was charged with multiple counts of murder, because he had said that a number of actors were killed on camera during the filming. Although the director was later cleared of these charges, the movie remained banned in Italy and many other countries. This being due to sexual abuse and cruelty to animals. It’s not a film I would choose to watch and personally I am of the opinion that all copies should be destroyed.
The score by Riz Ortolani has achieved a certain amount of popularity, simply because of the infamous persona of the movie. Its not his best, and it is a score that I have but to be honest do not really listen to, I am surprised that a Maestro if his standing would have even considered scoring this, the composer providing the project with a lacklustre soundtrack, its only saving grace being a lilting central theme, which is in my opinion a direct rip off of Michael Holm’s sugary sounding theme for MARK OF THE DEVIL, which was written a decade before Ortolani supposedly penned this. Other than that, no thanks to the score and the movie, the music be vastly overrated and underwhelming in all departments, the film being a sickening and worthless piece of celluloid, which I would rather forget. In fact, when trick or treaters knock the door, trick them and give them this movie and its soundtrack, they won’t be back. But that is just my opinion.
DRACULA is a character that has featured in numerous movies, he is also a character that has inspired the creation of numerous other Vampiric Lords and Ladies, Vampires I think are probably one of the most popular creatures associated with Halloween, alongside Werewolves and monsters. The first official film to be based on the Stoker story, was as far as I know, the Universal Pictures version from 1931 which starred Bela Lugosi as the Count. Directed by Tod Browning the part of the films central character proved somewhat difficult to cast. Bela Lugosi had already played the infamous Count on stage and had been given rave reviews from theatre critics. But this did not assure Lugosi the part in the movie as Universal were already looking at several actors who they thought were more suited to the part and possibly would bring more to it. However, Lugosi was not one for giving up, he was on tour with the stage play in Los Angeles at the time that the studio was casting for the film and presented himself to the producer continuously putting himself forward for the part. Against all the odds, including the actor not being fluent in English, Lugosi was given the part, it was probably something to do with the actor taking a pay cut and agreeing to be paid just 500 dollars a week for the duration of filming.
The film’s producer Carl Laemmie Jnr instructed his writers to take their lead from the stage play and based most of the films screenplay upon it, he also told them to study the unofficial silent movie from nine years previous and create sets similar and get inspiration for the script from this. He wanted his vision of DRACULA to be something of a sensation when it was released, however things did not quite turn out that way, the normally meticulous and highly organised director Tod Browning seemed to be devoid of any of his normal down to earth organisational skills and also was rather lack lustre in his approach and attitude towards the project often passing directing duties to Karl Freund who was Cinematographer on the movie, Freund more or less took over the directorial duties and it was more like Browning was his assistant. The film never had an original score instead it was tracked with classical music, which was at that time nothing unusual, but seeing as this was supposed to be a landmark film, maybe the studio should have at least considered investing in an original score. It did however get an original soundtrack when it was restored and re-issued in 1998 when composer Philip Glass wrote music to accompany the movie.
The picture was premiered in 1931, but the studio arranged a showing two days previous to its official release, again nothing unusual as studios did this from time to time to get reactions of the audience, but this was something that was done more in advance of the films premiere, Universal used the early showing as an opportunity to orchestrate a publicity campaign, convincing certain reporters to say that members of the audience fainted in shock from the horror they were witnessing on screen. This of course was a shrewd PR move and it created a lot of interest in the movie, with many people deciding to go and see it out of curiosity rather than out of wanting to see the film. Whilst DRACULA was in production an alternative Spanish version of the story was being filmed at the same time as Browning was shooting his. The Lugosi version was being filmed during the day-time, the Spanish version of the film being made during the twilight and night time hours.
It was nothing unusual for an alternative foreign language version to be made in Hollywood at that time, often in Spanish, but also there were versions of certain films made in German, French and Italian. Directed by George Melford, again it is an adaptation of the Stoker novel and based upon the same stage play which starred Lugosi in the role of the infamous Count. Carl Laemmie Jnr was also one of the producers for this alternative version, with the screenplay being provided by Baltasar Fernandez and assisted by writer Garrett Ford who was not credited for his efforts. The part of Dracula was taken by Carlos Villarias who arguably delivered a more believable performance in the role, the actor being encouraged to look at the rushes from the English language film and to study Lugosi in the role and also to imitate his mannerisms.
A more recent incarnation of Stokers DRACULA came in the form of John Badham’ s DRACULA which was in cinemas in 1979. Dracula was played by Frank Langella and he certainly made the part his own, cutting an impressive and striking figure as the Count. This is probably my own personal favourite of all Dracula movies, there is just something about the film that is believable, plus it has good performances from all the supporting cast with standout performances from Sir Laurence Olivier as Van Helsing and Trevor Eve as Johnathan Harker and Donald Pleasance as Dr. Seward, this was a Dracula film that was not only horrific and graphic in places but it was all underlined with a sub plot that was filled with romance, and I for one was on the side of the Count more often than not as the story unfolded on screen. This is an impressive production that I never tire of. The music is by film music royalty, in the form of John Williams.
The composer providing a windswept sound that is filled with flyaway flutes, booming percussion, snarling brass and surging strings that punctuate, enhance, envelope and ingratiate each frame of the film. The music is filled with a lavish and romantic sound that is urgent but at the same time mesmerising, beguiling and attractive. I cannot recommend the film and score enough. The films screenplay was based on the Stokers novel but also took inspiration from the stage play that had been so successful back in the 1930’s. The storyline was altered as the makers of the film wanted this to be a story that revolved around romance and a love lost, the films tagline, A LOVE STORY says it all and this stylish offering is still enthralling and attractive when viewed today. The locations were also ruggedly beautiful and added much to the overall impact of the picture. The movie won The Saturn Award for best horror film in 1979, with Badham being nominated as best Director and Langella also being nominated as best actor.
The film is photographed by Gilbert Taylor whose camera at times caresses the characters and locations. The movie also has convincing make up created by Peter Robb-King. It is probably because the film was a serious and highly dramatic version of the Dracula story that it was successful and highly regarded by most, as audiences had become tired of the Hammer deviations and examples such as LOVE AT FIRST BITE, NOCTURNA and MONSTER SQUAD which were also released in 1979. Badham’s DRACULA was not popular with everyone, but it has in recent years become appreciated more.
Another big feature of Halloween are monster’s all sorts of them, and one lumbering and violent such monster is the creature that Frankenstein created. Hammer films were particularly active in bringing fresh stories of this monster to the screen, between 1956 and 1972, the studio produced seven Frankenstein films, selections from the scores were made available on a stunning compilation released by GDI records a few years ago.
Four of which were scored by the companies more or less resident composer James Bernard. Bernard was a protégé of the great composer Benjamin Britten, in 1956, THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN introduced the composer to the gothic horror, although he had already had an encounter of sorts with this type of story when he scored Webster’s THE DUCHESS OF MALFI for BBC radio.
Bernard went on to score numerous films for the Hammer studio among them was a trio of further Frankenstein’s: FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN (1966) FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED (1969)and FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL (1973).
For the 1958 release of THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN Hammer turned to Leonard Salzedo to compose the music. Salzedo was born in London on September 24th, 1921, his interest in music began at the age of just seven and he started to experiment with composition at the age of twelve. On leaving school the young Salzedo began to study piano as well as continuing his violin lesson which he had started whilst attending school. He later took lessons in harmony with William Lloyd-Webber and finally enrolled at the Royal college of music in 1940. Whilst there his violin tuition was provided by Isolde Menges, plus he was tutored by Herbert Howells in composition, Sir George Dyson in conducting, Dr Gordon Jacob in orchestration and finally received lesson in Chamber Music from Ivor James.
Salzedo remained at the college throughout the second world war and completed his studies in 1944. Between 1950 and 1966 Salzedo composed a number of works for concert hall performances well as performing as a violinist with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. It was also during this period of his career that Salzedo acted as musical assistant to Sir Thomas Beecham, and it was Beecham who conducted Salzedo’s first symphony in 1956.
Two years before this, however Salzedo had completed his first film score for the Hammer studios, which was THESTRANGER CAME HOME which was directed by Terence Fisher. “I got THESTRANGER CAME HOME because of Malcolm Arnold” Salzedo explained. “I had told him I was very keen to write music for the cinema, so Malcolm spoke with John Hollingsworth who was Hammer’s musical director at the time”. Salzedo continued his association with Hammer for several years but THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN proved to be his final Hammer credit for over two decades. “I was asked to score the Frankenstein movie because James Bernard was not available at the time. It was John Hollingsworth who approached me to work on the movie and he would direct the music, but during the scoring process john became very ill and was unable to work he had been told to rest by his Doctors, so it was Muir Mathieson who conducted my score of course he was another great talent in the film music arena”. Although Salzedo wrote the music for six Hammer movies and one episode of Hammer House of Horror for television the composers music does appear in THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF (1960), which contained an original score by Benjamin Frankel, for some reason a short sequence of the movie contained music by Salzedo for which he was not credited.
“I am not quite sure how this happened” said Salzedo. “I think maybe the producers wanted a particular sequence scored and it was easier to just track my music to the movie rather than got back to Ben Frankel and ask him to provide more music”.
For their second Frankenstein sequel THE EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN (1964) Hammer hired composer Don Banks to write the score, Banks who was Australian had previously worked with John Hollingsworth on CAPTAIN CLEGG and NIGHTMARE, but his foray into Frankenstein territory was his first encounter with Hammer’s new musical director Phil Martell who would conduct a further five of Banks scores for Hammer up until 1966. Born in Melbourne in 1923 Banks began to study piano in 1928. During the second world war he served in the Australian medical corps but found time to continue his piano studies along with harmony and counterpoint. After being demobbed in 1946 banks went to study at the music conservatory at the university of Melbourne. He remained there for two years and studied under Dorian Le Gallienne and Wademar Seidel. During the early 1950, s Banks visited England to receive further tutelage in composition from Matyas Seiber.
He also went to Florence in Italy to study further under the watchful gaze of Luigi Dallapiccola and then finally to Salzburg where he was schooled by Milton Babbit. Banks got into scoring movies in 1957 his first assignment being for a documentary entitled ALPINE ROUNDABOUT, scoring his first feature MURDER AT THE SITE directed by Francis Searle in 1958. His Frankenstein music is probably some of the most melodic in the Hammer series and led to his involvement in the movie HYSTERIA for which the composer provided a jazz score and also to the more conventional music for THEREPTILE, RASPUTIN THE MAD MONK and THE MUMMYS SHROUD. Banks was also reportedly responsible for arranging much of Mike Vickers music for the movie DRACULA AD 1972 for which he received no credit. He also worked on the Amicus production THE TORTURE GARDEN in 1967 the other half of the score being composed by James Bernard. In 1972 banks returned to his native Australia and remained there till his death in 1980. According to Phil Martell Banks worked on films to live, the revenue providing a much-needed supplement to the meagre income that the composer received from composing music for the concert hall or serious music.
Hammer’s penultimate Frankenstein movie was released in 1970. THE HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN contained a score by Malcolm Williamson who had previously worked on THE BRIDES OF DRACULA and CRESCENDO for Hammer. Phil Martell had always wanted to utilise Williamson more on Hammer productions, but the composer’s other commitments made this impossible.
Another Australian, Williamson began his studies in 1942 at the age of eleven. He attended the Sydney Conservatory where he studied piano, violin and French horn. His tutor for composition was Sir Eugene Goosens. In 1950, Williamson visited England where he continued to concentrate on composition, this time under Elizabeth Lutyens and Erwin Stein. He decided to settle permanently in the United Kingdom in 1951, Williamson had his first two works for concert hall performance published under the guidance of Benjamin Britten and Sir Adrian Boult. In 1960 Williamson was asked to score Hammer’s THE BRIDES OF DRACULA, “ I remember after I was initially asked to score the Dracula move being sent along to see a handful of movies that had been scored by Jimmy Bernard, I feel that he is faultless, really polished. I would love to be able to compose in the way he does for horror films. I also went on set and watched David Peel in action and I was very privileged to meet Peter Cushing, a very dedicated man, loved and respected by all who knew him”.
After BRIDES, Williamson became involved in writing music for many films and documentaries as well as symphonic music for ballets, culminating in 1975 with his appointment as Master of the Queens music. His second Hammer assignment was for CRESCENDO (1970), after which Phil Martell asked him to write the score for THE HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN. “I have to say that working on the Frankenstein movie was not enjoyable at all, it was a feeble attempt to re-create the original Hammer Frankenstein, but it sadly lacked the presence of the original film. It was criticised by most people who saw it and at the time I felt that I had not provided the film with an adequate musical score. I used a tuba to represent the lumbering of the monster, but it just seemed to make the monster more clumsy and awkward; in fact, I would say that it was a ridiculous and ludicrous combination. It made the horror element somewhat farcical. But having said that I have recently watched the movie on the TV and it seems to have improved with age, the music and the film both, It doesn’t seem quite so awful now “.
DON’T GO IN THERE!
NO, I mean it do not go in there, don’t go into the unlit cellar, venture into the dark woods and as for opening that door, well just don’t do it. But guess what we always do, and in films you would think they would know better because the music is saying to them, run get out of here, do not go any further, or you will be sorry. If only they could hear the music, but there again they would probably still carry on the path they had set out on. There is just no telling certain people is there? Films that go in this kind of direction as in jumpy movies where the killer or the ghost jumps out at the central characters are not in short supply, I suppose the SCREAM movies could be put into this category of film, as well as being placed in the category of slasher movies. The SCREAM series of films were popular amongst a younger generation of horror fans, maybe because they were in a contemporary setting. WHATS YOUR FAVOURITE SCARY MOVIE? Well she should have said SCREAM, don’t you think? There have been four movies in the series plus a TV series. The music for the movies was the work of composer Marco Beltrami, it is probably true to say that it was Beltrami’s music for SCREAM that got him noticed by fans and also critics, it was because of the way in which he scored the first SCREAM film that he began to become much in demand, firstly on horror movies but then this extended to all genres.
The composer wrote a score that was at times almost operatic, it was an integral component of the movie, and lent much to the storyline that was unfolding on screen. The SCREAM series in my mind created an interest in horror movies, but this is the thing is it a horror movie, ok yes murder mayhem and a demented killer/slasher on the loose. But is it a horror or a thriller, mystery? Either way and whatever you think, its exhilarating and Beltrami’s scores have stood test of time, and who does not love wearing a SCREAM mask at Halloween?
VAMPIRES OR VAMPYR’S?
From a recent horror to something a little more seasoned, and a film and score that I do not recall covering before here on MMI. VAMPYR was released in 1932, its original German title being, Vampyr – Der Traum des Allan Gray,( Vampyr: The Dream of Allan Gray’) Directed by Danish film maker Carl Theodor Dreyer. The film was written by Dreyer and Christen Jul based on elements from J. Sheridan Le Fanu‘s 1872 collection of supernatural stories entitled In a Glass Darkly. Vampyr was financially backed by Nicolas de Gunzburg who starred in the film under the name of Julian West among a mostly non-professional cast. Gunzburg plays the role of Allan Gray, a student of the occult who enters the village of Courtempierre, which is under the curse of a vampire.
Vampyr was a challenging project for filmmaker Dreyer, as it was his first sound film and had to be recorded in three languages, thus this is why the movie has very little dialogue and the director decided to resort to silent movie style title cards that appeared throughout. The film was shot entirely on location and to enhance the atmospheric content, Dreyer opted for a washed-out cinematic technique, utilising soft touch lenses and filters The soundtrack was created in Berlin where the character’s voices, sound effects, and the musical score which was especially written for the film by Wolfgang Zeller, were all recorded.
Vampyr’s release date was delayed, and when it finally opened in Germany it was met but mostly negative reactions from audiences and critics alike. The director decided that he would re-edit the film and when he released it in France, the reactions were more positive. VAMPYR was looked upon at the time of its release as one of Dreyer.s weakest efforts, but in more recent years the film has attained something of a following, with much more positive reactions from critics, who often praise the way in which the movie is photographed and its ground breaking visual effects.
The score by Wolfgang Zeller, is a serviceable one and had to work hard to support the storyline mainly because of the decision to keep the dialogue to the minimum. Zeller was born in Biesenrode, which was part of the Kingdom of Prussia and the then German Empire. He was the son of a vicar, and at an early age studied violin, showing great promise and an aptitude for composition. After leaving high school Zeller continued to study violin Felix Bergerin Munich. He also studied composition with Jean Paul Ertelin Berlin. The composer fought in the first world war and after being discharged due to an injury he began to focus more upon music and made a living out of performing violin. From 1921 through to 1929 Zeller became the in-house composer for The Berlin Volksbuhne Orchestra.
His career as a film music composer began in 1926, when he wrote the music for the ADVENTURES OF PRINCE ACHMED, which was an animated movie directed by Lotte Reiniger. He then scored the first full length German film with sound in 1929, which was entitled MELODIE DER WELT and then in 1932 worked on VAMPYR. During the days of the third Reich and the second world war the composer was employed to write music for a number of propaganda films, After the war, the composer continued to write for the cinema, scoring anti-fascist films such as MARRIAGE IN THE SHADOWS which was released in 1947. The composers last scoring assignment came in 1959, for Bernhard Grzimek’s SERENGETI SHALL NOT DIE. The composer died in 1967.Sadly, his subtle and quite unassuming score for VAMPYR is not available on a recording, although there are selections from a handful of his film scores available on a compilation that is available on digital platforms. There are also short cues from VAMPYR on you tube, which will give you an idea as to the style the composer employed on the movie.
Another classic movie dealing with the vampire in this case was NOSFERATU. This is a movie that is so atmospheric, a silent classic that has over the years been restored and musically re-scored on a few occasions, the most memorable I think is the channel four version which contained a specially composed score by British Maestro, James Bernard. The soundtrack was released on Silva Screen, and contains a romantic sounding score in parts, but there is the unmistakable style of Bernard present throughout and the dark foreboding that he created for the infamous Count Dracula in the 1950’s through to the late 1970’s for the Hammer classics, he manages to fashion and formulate for the evil Count Orlock portrayed convincingly by actor, Max Schrek.
Bernard’s score for NOSFERATU-A SYMPHONY OFHORRORS is a masterpiece, the dark and foreboding chords are complimented by subtle and romantically laced interludes, it is a score to be savoured and appreciated, which it can be both within the movie and away from it. I would say that it is as good as the composers works for Hammer and is a score that sometimes is overlooked by fans and critics.
PSHYCO, but without the shower scene.
Often Horror movies old and new mange to instill a fear and dread in watching audiences without the use of gore or buckets of blood. The psychological horror is a sub-genre of film that I for one think are more disturbing than Horror movies showing graphic violence and scenes of copious bloodletting and such like. SAINT MAUD is one such movie, now this is unsettling to say the least and literally released just a few days ago. Writer and director Rose Glass has made a classy and complex psychological horror for your delight and delectation.
It centres upon a young nurse who works in a hospice, and after a deep religious experience and conversion, she takes it upon herself to secure her terminally ill patients salvation.
The musical score for the movie is an intense and mainly atonal listening experience, the music is the work of Adam Janota Bzowski, and I will be honest and say its not the easiest work for a horror movie to listen to, but within the film it is superbly edgy and chilling, maybe music would be the wrong way to describe the majority of the score, because it is more of a soundscape and sound design exercise, but one that works so well for the movie. Listening to the score away from the images and scenarios, is somewhat difficult, but at times there are glimmers of themes, notions of melodies and fleeting nuances that do catch one’s attention.
It is a sinister sounding work, and contains a real foreboding and guttural sound, darkness prevails throughout, and these half-heard melodies and hints of themes make it an even more uneasy listen. So, is it a good horror score, No… it’s an exceptional one, the composer experimenting with combinations of instrumentation and utilising conventional instruments and synthetic elements to create a foreboding and at times totally absorbing sound, the use of various percussive components too makes the work even more interesting, maybe put this on at Halloween, open the door to the trick or treaters and say TRICK!!!! and maybe add a manic laugh to boot.….and watch them run.
Let us go back to 2019 for the next psychic piece of horror, a disturbing watch with an equally disturbing score. DANIEL IS’NT REAL, music by producer and composer Clark, who with every new project seems to alter his style and approach. The score for DANIEL IS’NT REAL is again not an easy work to listen to in places, but I have to say I was surprised in a nice way by the inventiveness and the originality displayed within the score, the composer utilises varying styles, drawing on techno and house elements, to fashion and effective soundtrack, there are also a number of symphonic sounding cues within the score and tracks that I would probably call new-age music, but to be fair its hard to categorise or Pidgeon hole this score at all, there are some realy powerful and driving string effect pieces within the score, one of which SPIRAL CRACKERJACK put me in mind of the style employed by Johnny Greenwood in the film THERE WILL BE BLOOD, specifically the cue entitled FUTURE MARKETS. Which to me was Herrmann-esque to say the least.
The score for DANIEL IS’NTREAL is perfect for the movie, it underscores and enhances the more than unsettling scenario that is taking shape on screen, and because the composer provides the project with such an array of sounds and styles, it is also a soundtrack that remains not only fresh but entertaining in a twisted kind of way. I would recommend a listen, available on digital platforms, also why not try and catch the movie, it focuses upon a young boy (Luke) who is having problems because he witnessed a mass shooting at a coffee shop. Whilst at the scene he meets another boy (Daniel) about the same age and they soon become friends, but adults like Luke’s Mother is unable to see his friend. The boys become good friends and Daniel helps Luke through his parents divorce, the friendship comes to an end when Daniel tells Luke to mix his Mothers medication into a deadly cocktail which he says to Luke will give her superpowers. But, the cocktail of pills nearly kills her, the Mother convinces Luke that Daniel should be sent away and persuades him to lock him up symbolically in a dolls house that belonged to Luke’s Grandmother. The years pass and Luke is now at college but struggling over which way he should go to secure his future, his Mother is ill and has paranoid delusions, including an aversion to seeing her own reflection. Luke is concerned that he will become like his Mother so confides in his therapist. Whilst staying at his childhood home, Luke opens the dolls House and a now adult Daniel return’s. It is a thought-provoking movie, which is aided greatly by Clark’s atmospheric soundtrack. I hope that I have given you a few ideas about what films you might want to watch at Halloween or indeed what musical selections you might pop into the CD player on October 31st.
There are in cinema many collaborations as in writers, directors, producers, special effects etc. But there are many important collaborations between directors and composers, of course the obvious ones do tend to leap out at you as in Williams and Spielberg, Jackson and Shore, Leone and Morricone, Edwards and Mancini, Brooks and Morris, Lean and Jarre, Herrmann and Hitchcock, and also Forbes and Barry. Its sometimes annoying because the collaboration between Barry and Forbes, never seems to be discussed at any great length, but Bryan Forbes was responsible for many great British movies and more than a handful of these were scored by the incomparable John Barry. So, I thought I would explore and delve into the area of director/composer collaborations, but as I say let us steer away from the obvious. Michael Reeves was a rising star in the world of film, sadly he left this world far too soon.
But he made his mark upon the world of cinema with movies such as WITCHFINDER GENERAL and THE SORCERERS, both of which were scored by composer Paul Ferris. Reeves made just three movies, the other title being THE SHE BEAST, also scored by Ferris, but the score was removed when the movie was released in the United States and replaced by another by composer Ralph Ferraro. This was something that also happened on WITCHFINDER GENERAL, when the movie was released in the United States not only did they change the title to CONQUERER WORM ? but after a while the film was re-scored for a DVD release with a largely synthetic score, which for me just did not gel with the story on screen, the new score being instantly forgettable when compared with the Ferris original work. Ferris provided a romantic score for the now classic horror and based his central theme upon the traditional tune GREENSLEEVES, Ferris and Reeves were friends, and I suppose this is why the director turned to the musician to write the scores for his movies.
Ferris too appeared in WITCHFINDER, but you probably are aware of this fact, it is a great pity that both Reeves and Ferris died so young. They both had a bright future and Reeves in particular, had been hailed as the genius of British cinema. Out of the three scores for the movies mentioned only WITCHFINDER has been released, and this took over forty years to come to fruition. Hopefully, the music tracks for both THE SORCERERS and THE SHE BEAST will one day be uncovered in some dusty archive and released for all to hear, in the meantime we have to be content with hearing the music within the film.
Composer Paul Ferris was born Richard Paul Ferris on May 2nd, 1941 in Corby, Northamptonshire, England. Ferris had acted previous to beginning to score movies, and was a regular in television shows such as the police series, NO HIDING PLACE and DIXON OF DOCK GREEN as well as a small part in the 1967 James Bond spoof CASINO ROYALE. He also became a regular in THEBARON in which he portrayed David Marlowe, who was John Mannering’s assistant.
During the 1960, s Ferris also penned the hit VISIONS for Cliff Richard, and his theme for MAROC 7, was performed by The Shadows in 1967. His career as a composer continued in 1970, when he scored CLEGG but after this he worked mainly on shorts until 1973 when he wrote the soundtrack for THE CREEPINGFLESH, two years later he worked on PERSECUTION and that is the last movie he scored. I was told by actor Nicky Henson a few years ago, that Ferris, worked as many things after this, at one time he was a sea captain and also drove articulated lorries for a living, he even sold fish and chips, “Paul always worked, and whatever he did he did well” recalled Henson. Ferris became ill and was diagnosed with the debilitating and depressing disease Huntington’s Chorea, which meant in his last few years of life that he was unable to work. On October 30th, 1995 the composer was found dead in his Bristol flat, at an inquest which was held on January 30th 1996, the coroner arrived at a verdict of suicide by drug overdose he was 54.
To attempt to break into the movie making business, Michael Reeves began by carrying out various minor duties for his favourite filmmaker, Don Siegal and then he worked with Jack Cardiff and Henry Levin on films in Europe such as THE LONGSHIPS and GENGHIS KHAN which were both Yugoslavian/UK/GERMAN co-productions and had mild success at the box office. Reeves got his first break onto making films himself when he travelled to Italy to work with Paul Maslansky, firstly on NIGHTMARE CASTLE in 1964 and then two years later on LA SORELLA DI SATANA (THE SHE BEAST) where he not only co-wrote the screenplay but directed the film.
THE SHE BEAST was a low budget horror movie but saying this it was a robust and entertaining production, with an inventive script and Reeves displaying his maturity as a filmmaker for one so young. The films witch hunt scene was particularly impressive and watching it now one can see that this was a precursor or the inspiration for the opening sequence of WITCHFINDER GENERAL as there are marked similarities. He died on February 11th, 1969, he had been asked to direct a movie entitled THE OBLONG BOX for A.I.P.(eventually scored by Scottish composer Harry Robinson) but sadly died before filming begun.
Composer James Bernard is well known to any fan of Hammer Gothic horror, his scores for the studios DRACULA cycle being most prominent and popular. Bernard collaborated with another master of horror many times, Terence Fisher was Hammer’s star director and brought the now classics DRACULA and THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN to the screen. Both scored by Bernard, Fisher was also responsible for Hammer films such as THE GORGON, THE STRANGLERS OF BOMBAY, THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES, FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED, FRANKENSTEIIN CREATED WOMAN, DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS, FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL and the sublime THE DEVIL RIDES OUT all of course containing the music as penned by James Bernard.
The noted film maker did also make movies that were not scored by Bernard, but it seemed the Fisher/Bernard collaboration worked and worked well. The images on screen being perfectly complimented by the music, the sight of Frankenstein’s monster made even more disturbing and terrible by Bernard’s growling and virulent chords and the sight of the gaunt looking Count Dracula being so much more threatening and foreboding with that familiar DRA-CU-LA motif. I am not sure if Fisher had any say in what composer he actualy got to score his films as they were after all Hammer productions, and the studio did have a music supervisor or supervisors such as John Hollingsworth and then later Phil Martell. But the results in the end when Bernard was on board were always memorable and effective.
Terence Fisher went to sea as a young man, it was thought by his Mother that after the death of his father in 1908 this career would be the making of him and stand him in good stead for what life might throw at him, however Fisher never stayed at sea and after a period of some eight years he decided to return to dry land. He began to work in the textile or clothing industry and became an assistant display manager at Peter Jones. Whilst pursuing this career Fisher began to think of going into films at first he could not decide in what area he wanted to work but eventually became a film editor working his way up the ladder at Shepherds Bush film studios from clapper board operative to the editing room where he began to work on the films of Will Hay. Fisher then changed studios and went to the Teddington Studios which were run by Warner Brothers. In 1947 Fisher was invited to take up a position at the Highbury studios by the rank organisation who were offering an apprenticeship of sorts for aspiring young filmmakers. Fisher made a handful of shorts whilst there and was picked out by Sidney Box, who gave him a chance to try his hand at directing a full-length feature.
The rest as they say is history. Born in Maida vale, London on February 23rd, 1904, Terence Fisher died on June 18th, 1980, I know that we will never see his like again in the British film industry.
James Bernard was born in the Himalayas, the son of a British army officer. He spent much of his early life on the northwest frontier. His career as a film music composer began back in 1955, when he scored the QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT, for Hammer. The movie which was re-titled THE CREEPING UNKNOWN in the United States, was a very successful picture for Hammer, and it was this initial encounter with the studio that would lead Bernard into a career as a composer of film scores and an association with the house of horror that was to last some nineteen years. In 1947,
Bernard left the Royal Air Force and enrolled at the Royal College of Music in London. Bernard had met Benjamin Britten during his last term at school in 1943, and Britten had advised him that if he wanted to write music as a career, he would have to get a proper grass roots musical education. To get this, Bernard would be advised to enrol into one of the better music colleges, so when the time of Bernard’s de-mobilisation was approaching, he contacted Britten, who suggested the Royal College of Music,
Comingup to date for the next collaborative partnership and we look to America and the work of both director Stuart Gordon and composer Richard Band. THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM, RE-ANIMATOR, FROM BEYOND, CASTLE FREAK, are just a few of the titles that the director and composer worked upon together. Band’s music in my opinion is of a high quality, the composer often creating effective and grandiose sounding musical accompaniments for low budget movies, and not only enhancing and underlining the stories up on the screen but in many cases fashioning music that is appealing, interesting and rewarding away from those stories and at times disturbing or menacing images.
CASTLE FREAK is one such title where this applies, no, not the 2020 remake but the original from 1995 which Stuart Gordon helmed. It’s a creepy tale of a man who attempts to protect his family against an evil that is resident in a castle that he has inherited. The composer did a brilliant job for this fairly low budget movie with an evil and spiky sounding violin solo weaving its way through the score, a dark and mischievous sound that is enhanced and supported by equally devilish sounding strings, malevolent brass and strategically placed percussion.
I always have thought that his music for this production was quite evocative of Jerry Goldsmith’s menacing, unsettling and virulently disturbing score for the MEPHISTO WALTZ. Plus, I am of the opinion it also has to it elements that resemble Carol Anne’s theme from Goldsmiths inventive work on POLTERGEIST. Amongst all the atonal and creepy sounding material Band has created a score that aids the movie greatly, but it is also one that like so many of the composers works for cinema goes further and rewards the listener when heard on its own, it is an accomplished and interesting score, and one of Richard Band’s more accomplished works for the Horror genre. THEPIT AND THE PENDLUM, in my opinion is probably one of the composers most outstanding scores and is certainly in his top five best scores, the film however I did not like, it was a typical cheaply made gruesome and gory tale, but as a horror it was serviceable, having a few moments that might be of interest to some.
Probably one of the best bits was that Oliver Reed made a brief appearance. The score is moody and at times almost epic, with period stylised pieces, and grand symphonic themes that are sweeping and lavish in their sound and construction. The movie went straight to video or DVD but that was no surprise for me personally. But the quality of the music and the scale of the score is magnificent, and it is a work that has endured with many film music collectors marking it as a thrilling and amazingly dramatic soundtrack. So that is a brief look at the Gordon/Band collaboration, a partnership that yielded many a fine moment on screen and also in the music department.
If I were to say Polanski and Komeda what would you think of? I am guessing it might be two movies, THE DANCE OF THE VAMPIRES (aka-THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE HUNTERS) and ROSEMARYS BABY, Am I right? Thought so. Both excellent movies, each having their own brand of horror. Composer Krzysztof Komeda penned a very innovative and original sounding soundtrack to accompany the rather chaotic and madcap adventures of the two vampire hunters which the story focuses upon. Komeda’s score is essentially a serious one but does however contain a few more slightly comedic interludes. After the animated intro the famous MGM lion turns into a green vampire character with its fangs dripping blood as this imagery begins so does Komeda’s wonderful choral main title at first it sounds off key or slightly out of kilter but as the credits roll and the drops of blood fall the music grows and develops establishing the core theme for the score which re-appears at key points within the movie, and is especially effective as we see Count Von Krolock (Ferdy Mayne) on his way to claim a victim, it is in my opinion a very modern sounding piece and even today sounds like it was written recently and could be the work of Philip Glass, but it is attractive in a sort of weird way.
The composer supports the lead vocalising with harpsichord and percussion which in turn is enhanced further by guitar and a kind of warbling choral sound. On first seeing the movie I must admit I found it a little hard going, I had after all been weaned on the gothic horrors from Hammer and the old black and white Universal tales of the macabre and the fantastic. Polanski’s approach was totally different from anything I had witnessed before and I have to say that it was not until a few years later when I sat and watched the movie again that I fully appreciated the comic and ironic appeal of the picture and the inventive and highly original score by Komeda. The version of the score I have was released on a Polish label THE FEARLESS VAMPIREHUNTERS or THEDANCE OF THE VAMPIRES which I think is a far better title, being the second Komeda soundtrack on the disc, the other was his triumph of film scoring ROSEMARYS BABY another Polanski horror movie. THE DANCE OF THE VAMPIRES contains approx.; thirty minutes of music, Komeda and Polanski choosing to score the project sparingly, in fact after the main titles the film has no music for at least the first half an hour.
It is in this opening thirty minutes of the movie that the audience is introduced to most of the leading players. Komeda’s music does not return until the scene where the hunchback who is the Count’s assistant and bodyguard takes the Vampire to attack the innkeepers daughter Sarah played by Sharon Tate, as the beautiful girl sits in a bath tub filled with bubbles she notices that snow is falling indoors and looks up to see the evil Count coming through the skylight to abduct her. All that is left after he has gone is the bubbles that are now tainted with blood. Komeda’s music is highly effective within this scene and gives it a certain chilling atmosphere which is greatly aided by the utilisation of the Japanese bamboo flute called the Shakuhachi. Sarah’s Father played by Alfie Bass is bereft at the abduction of his daughter and chewing handfuls of garlic sets off into the frozen night to rescue her, in the morning he is found frozen and drained of blood. The vampire hunters decide it would be best to stake him there and then, but the innkeeper’s wife won’t have any of it. The vampire hunters decide to go down in the dead of night to finish him off, but they bungle the job and the now vampire innkeeper escapes and makes a b line for the maid, shocked at her once employer being a vampire and wanting to bite her she shows him a crucifix, the innkeeper laughs because being Jewish the crucifix has no power “YOU’VE GOT THE WRONG VAMPIRE” he says. Then there is the obviously Gay vampire who is the son of the Count, who chases Alfred the vampire hunters apprentice in the hope of turning him into one of the un-dead. The chase is hilarious and is masterfully scored by the composer who utilises choir, harpsichord and guitar which are all punctuated and supported by timpani. The timing of the music within this scene is crucial and without it the sequence would probably not have worked again we can hear certain similarities to the music of Morricone.
This is a master class in how to score a movie, the music is certainly striking in places but then at other times it is subtle and understated. Komeda was a great talent and his working relationship with Polanski was a fruitful one.
I have vivid memories of seeing ROSEMARY’S BABY. It was a classy movie as far as I was concerned; it dealt with the occult but was an intelligent and informed take about Satanism and devil worship in a contemporary setting. Polanski’s direction, as always, was good and the script etc all stepped right up to the mark and made it an entertaining experience. One vital component of the movie was the music score. Komeda was a highly original composer who sadly died far too early in 1969 after an accident involving a head injury. Komeda was as they say, in advance of his time in the music world. His combination of jazz, dramatic and mood music within the context of a movie was quite breath-taking and for ROSEMARY’S BABY the composer certainly wrote an inspired and highly innovative soundtrack. One cue in particular “What Have You Done?” has always stood out for me and that comes near the end of the movie when Mia Farrow’s character says those immortal words, “What have you done to him? What have you done to his eyes?”
Komeda’s music is chilling and harrowing with a near frantic ambience as he utilizes forceful strings to underscore a mutated sounded trumpet which fades to be overridden by a hypnotic piano solo, backed up by bass and even more hypnotic strings, acting as a backdrop to a chilling soprano saxophone, played in unison with synthesisers. The opening theme or “Lullaby” is also hauntingly beautiful but contains and underlying atmosphere that is warning the listener that maybe all is not right here.; the use of Mia Farrow’s wordless vocal is stunning and almost calming.
This understated rather frail sounding vocal, sets the scene perfectly for the remainder of the score and immediately creates the atmospheric style required for the story. We have the innocence of Rosemary but at the same time there is a sense of unease and uncertainty, relayed perfectly to the listener or the watching audience via this cue which tells them that there is evil here. Komeda worked with Polanski on both KNIFE IN THE WATER and CUL DE SAC, but in my humble opinion, the music for the two discussed movies is probably the composers most inventive and appealing.
There are many film music composers that I feel do not get the full attention of collectors, in many cases these are composers that work steadily and more often prolifically within the area of music for film. But maybe because they are not from the United States or even the UK they don’t seem to get the full recognition that they so richly deserve. Philippe Sarde, I feel is one such composer, yes, we as film music collectors all know his name and I for one love his varied and innovative sounding soundtracks. Sarde, is a composer who cannot be letterboxed or type cast, because his styles are many-fold and he always will rise to the occasion creating interestingly original and highly melodic soundtracks. His music is melodic, beautiful, affecting, at times up-beat and contains a richness that extends and develops into becoming epic, exhilarating, and grandeur.
The composer is also well known for his use of a more contemporary style within his film scores, utilising jazz and a pop orientated sound for example. Maybe we should examine or look at a handful of his scores, I thought I should select four or five, but this remember does not even scratch the musical surface of this eloquent, talented, and original composer. He is considered as being one of the most versatile Maestro’s working on film scores within his generation and also is revered by younger generations of composers who also write for the cinema and television. The composer has worked on well over two hundred projects, these include feature films, shorts, television programmes as in miniseries, and has on numerous occasions been nominated for as well as receiving an array of awards for his unrelenting and highly unique approach to scoring these.
His beautiful score for Roman Polanski’s TESS for me still stands out as one of his best, as well as his music for THE JUDGE AND THE ASSASSIN and BAROCCO.
Born in France on June 21st, 1948, his Mother was a singer at the Paris Opera, and it was because of her encouragement that he became interested in music. At the age of just four years old, Sarde conducted a short piece from the opera CARMEN which was being performed at the Opera house in Paris, Sarde was drawn towards both film and music and at the age of five began to experiment with sound and producing his own short films. So, when it came to choosing a career path the composer was torn between the two mediums that he loved, thankfully for us he chose music. During his illustrious career the composer has collaborated with filmmakers such as Bertrand Tavernier, Pierre Granier-Deferre, Georges Lautner, André Téchiné, and Jacques Doillon, to name but a few. However, it was director and screenwriter Claude Sautet, who asked Sarde to write the music for his film THE THINGS OF LIFE in 1969. That was the beginning of the composers’ career as a film music Maestro, with this first collaboration leading to a life-long partnership that spanned nearly three decades and involved eleven movies.
The composer has also worked with many renowned recording artists, at times often composing pieces of music for a film with a particular performer/artist in mind to perform it. On the recording of PRINCESSES and UN FRERE for example, we hear the artistry of musicians such as Herbie Hancock, Raphael Pidoux, and Ron Carter. Sarde is a gifted musical tour de force, and a composer who never fails to deliver, mesmerising via his lilting melodies his up-tempo compositions and his grand and powerful musical statements that are at times neo-classical in their sound and construction. I think if I were asked to select my favourite, Phillippe Sarde film score, I would be hard pressed to select a solitary title, as there are so many that I have discovered grown with and savoured.
So maybe I could choose four, FORT SAGANNE, QUEST FOR FIRE, LORD OF THE FLIES, and LA FILLE DE D’ARTAGNAN. But there are so many others, all of which contain something that is memorable or has had an impression upon me.
THE MANHATTAN PROJECT and GHOST STORY for example. The endless list of credits is impressive to say the least, with QUEST FOR FIRE in my opinion being one of many masterpieces that the composer has penned. The music for QUEST FOR FIRE created essential atmospheric moods for the movie which aid its development and support the storyline and images, giving them more weight and substance. The central theme is magnificent and emotive, the composer fashioning an apprehensive but at the same time wonderfully lyrical piece, that is filled with a rich thematic persona and has to it a haunting aura. It is moody and poignant and possesses an eloquent and enriching quality.
The score is overflowing with varying distinctive pieces, again the composer enhancing, supporting and underlining the events on screen, the music in QUEST FOR FIRE is more of an integral component of the movie, rather than just a film score, it conveys fear, uncertainty, sadness, solitude, despondency and romance, plus a multitude of emotions that are being felt by the main characters within the film. The composer utilises choral performances within the score, which also bring forth a style that is at times foreboding, and evoked the music of composer Gyorgy Ligeti, Sarde bringing to fruition a mixture of raw emotions and creating sounds and music that befit the harsh and unknown landscapes in which the film is set. He combines the vocal performances at times with music that could be referred to as atonal, but even in the most dramatic sections there are still fragments of themes that shine through.
As a new language was invented for the actors to speak in the movie, Sarde constructed a sound and a style that complimented and gave life to the storyline, his use of pan pipes, inventive percussive elements, subtle woods, solo trumpet, faraway sounding horns and other brass combined with the soaring and surging strings is genius.
I remember buying the gatefold LP record which was on the Phillips label in the UK, and playing it over and over, it is a score that I never tire of and the theme is something that has to be listened to regularly, because of its sheer brilliance and grandness. Thankfully, Universal France released the score onto Compact disc, in their LISTEN TO THE CINEMA series, which is something that they should be congratulated for. This is a gem and treasure, a pleasurable listening experience, and a brilliant score in the context of the movie and a resounding and accomplished work. From one beautiful and affecting score to another in the form of FORT SAGANNE.
This is another Sarde classic in my opinion, it is overflowing with a richness and totally absorbing air, the opening theme itself is gracious and consuming, the composers use of cello bringing an overwhelming sense of both romance and melancholy to the proceedings, I am of the opinion that the music is so touching and so beautiful it is very difficult to put into words the emotions and the feelings it conveys and creates. It is a score I never ever tire of because there is so much melodic content and poignancy within it. I do not think that I use the word Masterpiece lightly when describing the musical stature and the prolific output of Philippe Sarde, he touches peoples emotions and fashions delicate and fragile musical nuances that are effective within the films they are employed in, but when listened to as just music are also highly affecting. FORT SAGANNE is an outstanding work, with the compositions, MADELINE, FANTASIA, ROMANESQUE, L’ERG CHECH, JULIET, and the principal theme (FORT SAGANNE) that opens the recording of the score, being particularly effectual. The composer weaves this haunting theme throughout the remainder of the score and presents it in various guises by arranging and orchestrating it differently, thus keeping it fresh and maintaining its effectiveness.
LORD OF THE FLIES (1990) is yet another example of intelligent and precise scoring from the composer, the music compliments and supports aswell as enhancing the story unfolding on the screen. The cue THE ISLAND is grand and impressive, the composer employing choristers andfaraway sounding horns to open the cue, which are then joined by strings and crashing timpani, setting the scene for most of the score.
Sarde, utilises a jaunty and at times scratchy sounding violin or fiddle solo, which is also highly affecting creating tantalisingly mischievous sounding passages. As with QUEST OF FIRE the composer presents us with a daunting and overwhelmingly powerful work, performed to perfection by the London Symphony Orchestra, the score oozes apprehension, uncertainty and also is filled with a mood of hope and mystery both at the same time as the story unfolds, and the group of schoolboys that are marooned on an island revert to being savages. Sarde’s musical score perfectly underlines and punctuates the storyline, with rasping brass flourishes, choir and expressive driving strings that are bolstered by timpani throughout.
LA FILLE DE D’ARTAGNAN. Is a score that I have to admit I did not add to my collection until about two years ago, I had always seen it in shops and online but would always side step it for some reason, finally I purchased it and am so glad I did. Again, the composer displays a unique talent and an adept connection with the subject matter. The score is classical as in renaissance sounding, with the composer employing a string ensemble or chamber orchestra, or at least it sounds as if this is who is performing. I love the use of solo trumpet in certain places and the added inclusion of organ, authentic period woodwinds and choir with subtle but effective and inventive percussion. There are also performances from guitar, or maybe it is a lute, either way it perfectly suits the movie, its storyline and the period in which it is set. An enjoyable listen.
Philippe Sarde, has fashioned, created and brought to fruition, scores for movies that have become a part of cinema history, his intricate tone poems lacing and ingratiating scenes and passages from films, making them more memorable because of the placing and the impact of his music. He is a specialist, a Maestro and a music-smith of immense talent.
With the passing of Il Maestro Ennio Morricone earlier this year, I began to look back over his career, and also re-discover many of his scores mainly from the 1960’s and 1970’s. Inevitably one then drifts onto other composers who were a large part of our lives as collectors and are now sadly no longer with us. Jerry Goldsmith, Henry Mancini, Maurice Jarre, Elmer Bernstein, John Barry, and FrancisLai amongst them, I grew up with the music of these composers, and it became an important piece of my life and still is. So I thought I would dedicate some of this soundtrack supplement to the memory of these great film music icons and look at just a few of their scores, maybe you have them maybe you missed them, if it’s the latter where have you been?
If like me, you began to become involved with the collecting of film music in the early 1960’s then you will probably be familiar with most of the titles in this article/review. Jerry Goldsmith, was always my go to composer alongside Morricone and it is probably true to say that if there was a new Goldsmith soundtrack released and I saw it in the rack in the shop next to something by say, Goodwin or even Barry I would inevitably or should I say predictably go for the Goldsmith. There was just something about Goldsmith that you knew as a collector would make any of his score’s worth having.
My first soundtrack by Goldsmith was PLANET OF THE APES, which I got on a gatefold LP on the project 3 label, this was followed by THE BLUE MAX, which is a movie that brings back quite a few memories for me, it was the first time I was introduced to the stunning beauty of Ursula Andress and also it was the first time that I heard Jerry Goldsmith’s sweeping and dramatic soundtrack, it was also one of the first import long playing records that I purchased, which was around four years after I first went to see the movie. I think I was about eleven years old when I first saw the picture and then at fifteen managed to get the music on a mainstream recording that boasted that eye catching and colourful art work and all for the Princely sum of £3.15p including postage (thank you Michael Jones).
The score remains one of my favourite Goldsmith works to this day and this latest edition of the score on a two CD set is breath-taking. LA LA LAND records should be given a great big pat on the back for bringing us the complete score from this now classic WW1 movie. Goldsmith’s vibrant, melodic, and wistful sounding music is timeless and is still as moving and stirring as it was when he first composed it over forty years ago. The compact disc set is split into THE INTENDED FINAL SCORE which is represented on disc number one by twenty five cues, these are in the correct running order of how they appeared in the movie, and the sound quality is wonderful.
The second disc contains twenty eight cues; these are in sections of one to fifteen THE 1966 SOUNDTRACK ALBUM, Tracks sixteen through to twenty-two ADDITIONAL SOURCE MUSIC and tracks twenty three to twenty eight are categorized as ADDITIONAL MUSIC, so this is most certainly the most complete edition of the score ever produced. Scores such as THE BLUE MAX led me to seek out more by Goldsmith and soundtracks such as THE HOUR OF THE GUN followed, this is a score I still play regularly even now. STAGECOACH, THE TROUBLE WITH ANGELS, ONE HUNDRED RIFLES, RIO CONCHOS. IN HARMS WAY and PATTON followed, even though some were not at the time released.
There were also the likes of OUR MAN FLINT, LILLIES OF THE FIELD, WILD ROVERS, etc, as they often say the list is endless, but in this case it is. It was always the more epic or dramatic Goldsmith material that I was drawn too, and with the advent of the compact disc came the re-issues and also during the1980’s and 1990’s the composer seemed to be even busier than he had been in previous decades and his music (apart from MR BASEBALL ) I always found entertaining. But to be fair even MR BASEBALL has grown on me a little. So where to go next with Goldsmith?
Maybe not the 1960’s but a little more up to date THE THIRTEENTH WARRIOR for example or his breath-taking and foreboding score for THE OMEN lll-THE FINAL CONFLICT, maybe HOOSIERS (BEST SHOT), or how about AIR FORCE ONE, EXECUTIVE DECISION, NOT WITHOUT MY DAUGHTER, BASIC INSTINCT, SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY, like I said the list is endless.
So, lets go forTHE FINAL CONFLICT, which was the third and final instalment of THE OMEN trilogy, in this we see Damien grown to adulthood and played convincingly by Sam Neil. THE OMEN will always be my favourite score from the trilogy, simply because when it was released it was so fresh, vibrant and original, but THE FINAL CONFLICT is I think very close to that soundtrack, Goldsmith creating a more grand sound for the final instalment of the series and also giving the music a more religious and epic sound. Again it is the AVE SANTANI chorus on which Goldsmith lays his musical foundations, with the composer replacing choir in the opening bars of the films main title with imposing brass flourishes, then introducing choir that is supported by brass, strings and percussion, and moves to a gloriously tumultuous crescendo before segueing into a reverent and almost celestial interlude which takes the cue to its near calming conclusion.
This is a score that is filled with grandiose set pieces as in track number 7, THE SECOND COMING, Goldsmith creates a beautiful piece build around a variation of the AVE SANTANI but in this case it is a heavenly and triumphant sound that we hear, although it is at times interspersed with icy whispers and threatening voices, these give way to the splendour of Goldsmiths vibrant and awe inspiring music that announces the second coming of Christ, the cue ends with the AVE SANTANI motif performed on French horns, giving the cue a fearsome and commanding finish.
THE FINAL CONFLICT is filled to overflowing with rich thematic material, imposing, and affecting fanfares and flourishes plus there are still present the evil sounding verses that we recognise and relish from both THE OMEN and DAMIEN OMEN ll. This I think is probably Goldsmith largest score from the trilogy, the composer developing fully all of the elements that he may have touched upon in previous scores and adding to them, it is also a more reverent work and one that also contains a greater urgency. The highlight cues for me personally are THE MAIN TITLE, THE SECOND COMING, THE HUNT and the excellent end sequence music, which underlines Damien’ s eventual demise and heralds the appearance of The Nazarene in all his glory. It is an inspiring soundtrack an accomplished one and now an iconic work that will be recorded in film music history, for its innovative, dark and inventive persona.
From a horror scored by Goldsmith, to a tense and relentless thriller in the form of AIR FORCE ONE. From the first cue on the recording PARACHUTES there is no doubt that this is the work of the Master Jerry Goldsmith, the proud anthem like horns accompanied by timpani and string is one of his trademarks, patriotic and filled with passion the theme opens the score, but soon segues into something that is more dramatic and tense with a martial sounding aura to it, there is also hints of the theme for Gary Oldman’s character as we see the action unfolding on screen, with the music taking on a more Russian flavour. AIR FORCE ONE is one of the composers most intense scores in my opinion, it like the movie is relentless and unstoppable, Goldsmith employing his percussive elements that work alongside dark sounding piano and are laced with strings and interspersed by jagged brass stabs, in cues such as EMPTY ROOMS, THE HIJACKING, and ESCAPE FROM AIR FORCE ONE that add so much to the atmosphere of the movie, giving it a heightened sense of the frenzied or at some points emphasising the hopelessness of the situation. Then there are the triumphant flourishes as the President (Harrison Ford) fights back, as in FREE FLIGHT. It’s one Goldsmith score you should own, and if you have not managed to add to your collection as yet, well it is available on digital platforms, but I would recommend the compact disc release on LA LA LAND Records, because the digital versions are the original VARESE SARABANDE release which is considerably shorter in duration.
Finally two more Goldsmith’s I would say take a listen to are the composers unused score for TIMELINE, which was eventually scored by Brian Tyler and Goldsmith’s epic soundtrack for THE WIND AND THE LION for which he penned a magnificent and grand sounding work. It is in my opinion one of the composers best works for cinema. Its brass flourishes and pounding percussive elements add authenticity and stature to the movie, with Goldsmith’s edgy by also sweeping strings evoking the sound and style of bygone days from film music history.
It also manifested strong thematic properties and styles that were to influence the composers later work on movies such as MULAN, THE 13TH WARRIOR and FIRST KNIGHT. Its majestic but at the same time menacing horns and driving strings which were already a trademark of Goldsmith become even more prominent and effecting within this movie, the score becoming not just a background or an accompaniment to the action, but an integral and essential part of the film itself. The love theme from the score I REMEMBER is too text-book Goldsmith, with eloquent and effecting strings that tug at the emotions, with their sumptuous and lush sound overwhelming the listener whilst also enhancing and supporting the scene being acted out on screen.
THE WIND AND THE LION is an inspiring adventure an tale, and the composer stepped up to the mark when writing the score, it is a thrilling work, and one that I know is so popular amongst connoisseurs of expressive, exciting and lavish film music.
From one great film music Maestro to another, John Barry, what can you say about Barry that has not already been said, exactly, he was the ultimate film music composer, talented, innovative and highly sought after, so what scores if any might you have missed? THE WHISPERERS, was the fourth film that Barry had scored for the filmmaker Bryan Forbes, and at the time of the film being released Forbes was of the opinion that it was the best score the composer had written for one of his projects. Released in 1967,this British drama was based upon the 1961 novel by Robert Nicolson, it starred the excellent Edith Evans and was filmed in the rather run down town of Oldham in the north of England an area that was once a thriving industrial Centre for the textile industry.
The score by Barry is an affecting one and employs lilting themes and also jazz infused pieces, but it is the emotive and poignant cues such as THE LETTER that tug at the heartstrings, with Barry utilizing solo violin and subtle woods that are enhanced by vibes to purvey a sense of loneliness and fragility. Considering this was a score that came early in his film music composing career it is surprisingly mature and sophisticated. Barry, tailoring his touching and melancholy music to suit the unfolding scenario on screen.
There are also dramatic interludes, which have that unmistakable Barry musical fingerprint as in THE RAZOR ATTACK and THE THREE ATTACKERS, plus there is the central or opening theme which Barry realizes via the use of subdued harpsichord that is eventually supported by woods. This is a soundtrack that is masterfully written and also one that is precisely placed to support without being intrusive. The soundtrack was issued on LP record in 1967, on United Artists records in both the UK and the U.S.A. it was later re-issued on the MCA Label with LP and also Cassette being available, finally it was released onto CD by Ryko-disc in 1998.
THE SCARLET LETTER had been scored by both Elmer Bernstein and Ennio Morricone, with their music not being used, enter then John Barry.Who provided the movie with a soundtrack that was fragile and delicate somewhat like the subject matter of the movie. Like so many of Barry’s scores from this period, the mid-nineties, it contains wonderfully lyrical and beautiful sounding themes, which manifest themselves more prominently in the form of the cues HESTER RIDES TOTOWN and THE LOVE SCENE THE. it’s a score that I love to listen to and just sit eyes closed headphones on and allow the music to wash over me, allowing some escapism which I think we all need these days. For Barry at his melodic and romantic best, with themes that make your heart ache, this is one I have to recommend, classic John Barry. MY LIFE is another score by Barry that I recommend, again filled with eloquent and sensitive thematic material, that tugs at the heart strings both within the context of the movie and away from it.
Barry creates another superbly melodious and haunting score, that contains that unmistakable John Barry sound, in the form of a lilting and affecting MAIN THEME and also again is present in the cues, THE LOVE THEME and A CHILDHOOD WISH, in fact it is throughout the entire score, its one of those films that I defy anyone to say that they sat through and never shed a tear, I know I did and it was most of the time the music that created these emotions, the music is delicate, playful and just so poignant. Let’s, move on before it sets me off again shall we.
This time to Maurice Jarre, I have fond memories of Maurice Jarre, because we became friends after a few years and it was Jarre that was responsible for me catching the film music bug as it were when I heard his soundtrack for LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, which was in 1962 at the Regent cinema in Brighton, I was 7 years of age and all I remember really was the itchy seats and the music I was hearing from the screen, I think it was the overture that got to me because in those days the overture would play before the movie had started the curtains remaining closed.
The thundering percussion and the romantic and mysteriously alluring strings that were emanating from behind the curtains did it for me and its an obsession that I have never given up on now for the past 58 years in fact I think my enthusiasm and my passion for film music has become more intense, so thank you Monsieur Jarre, Merci, Maestro. But LAWRENCE OF ARABIA is a score everyone has heard I guess, so what other Jarre scores would I say were must haves. TAI PAN is one but mainly for its stupendous theme, which for me is four minutes of sheer delight, sweeping and sumptuous thematic and driving, it is a wonderful opening and sets the scene for a story of epic proportions. Then there are the western scores as penned by Jarre, now Morricone and many other Italian composers were credited for re-creating the sound of the western, but look at the western scores as penned by Jarre and we have here another innovative selection, RED SUN, THE PROFFESSIONALS, EL CONDOR, VILLA RIDES, all classics, with that special Jarre sound.
Like in many scores by Maurice Jarre, the Main Title for the movie EL CONDOR begins with an array of percussive instruments, in this case it is tambourines being vigorously shaken and beaten supported and punctuated by piano and castanets, these are joined by various other members of the percussion section, strumming guitars and underlying strings that build to a crescendo that ushers in the catchy central theme from the score performed on harmonica mirrored by cimbalom. The theme moves along at a brisk pace developing and picking up additional instrumentation along the way until it segues into an arrangement of the theme performed on Mexican sounding trumpet supported by strings and up tempo strumming on guitars, this returns swiftly to a full working of the theme which is taken on by the string section, and brings the opening cue to its conclusion. Stirring material which sets the scene perfectly for the remainder of the score. Track 2, BALLAD FOR TWO GUITARS, is just that, a lazy but melodious sounding composition performed on two Spanish guitars, that pick out a plaintive and pleasing ballad, the guitars are later in the cue augmented by the delicate placing of a solo flute, which although short lived has the desired effect of adding a touch of melancholy to the proceedings. Track 3, BEFORE THE ATTACK, is another arrangement of the scores central theme, this time the composer utilizing harmonica, minimal brass and woods to begin with then adding cimbalom and plucked strings combined with an almost fuzzy guitar sound with harpsichord flourishes and stabs, these components combine to build an atmosphere that is tense but one that also has an air of mischief about it. This eventually leads into a more martial sounding version of the theme that in turn develops further into a short sharp up tempo working of the central theme, performed on strings, brass and supported by percussive elements.
Track 4, HIGH TENSION AND BROKEN WALTZ, is a veritable smorgasbord of instrumentation and styles, Mexican flavours are fused with a comic air at the offset of the cue, but the mood changes quite quickly as the composer employs a slower tempi to the proceedings and treats us to another version of the haunting main theme, harmonica, trumpet, piano, strings and percussion all take part creating an entertaining and inventive composition. Track 5, is one of my personal favourites on the compact disc, it is a bouncy version of the theme, performed by trumpet which is played in unison with cimbalom enhanced and embellished by tambourines being shaken, the rack develops in volume and also the tempo is increased as the strings are added to the mix punctuated by the use of castanets as a jaunty Mariachi trumpet solo takes the lead. EL CONDOR is a gem of a score, and it was far too long getting released, but it was worth waiting for in my opinion. Available on CD if you can still get it that is, it was released as part of the listen to the cinema series on the Universal France label. A fantastic series that includes also Jarre’s RED SUN score.
Let us also not forget the brilliant score for the western THE PROFFESSIONALS, which starred Robert Ryan, Burt Lancaster, Lee Marvin, Claudia Cardinale and Jack Palance. Directed by Richard Brooks this was a rip-roaring western. That had a score that matched the action frame by frame. Released in 1966, it was essentially an American or Hollywood western, but it did contain certain scenes and scenarios that were influenced by the then up and coming Italian made western. Two years later Jarre scored VILLA RIDES, which was released on the same CD as EL CONDOR a perfect duo of Jarre’s western music, each score complimenting the other. The movie starred Yul Brynner with hair, and Hollywood legend Robert Mitchum. Again, Jarre provided a more than adequate score, and even incorporated the rather cheeky sounding, La Cucaracha into the fabric of his original score, thus giving the work shades of authenticity.
The composers triumph sounding central theme which opens the score, (track 11) Comes complete with whistling, strummed guitars, slow building percussion and builds to an inspiring crescendo which is patriotic and stimulating is the foundation for the entire work, it is heard in various arrangements throughout but it remains fresh and invigorating the whole time. The composer also treats to a handful of what I call secondary themes but they are in no way second class, as in Track number 12, MUCH MORE MONEY, this is a lively and highly entertaining cue, which contains a delightful mariachi style that is contagious listening. Track 13, WALTZ IN THE CLOUDS is just a wonderful listening experience with Jarre employing strings to accentuate and carry a rousing theme to accompany Pancho Villa on his revolutionary path.
THE LOVE THEME, track 16, is a variant of the central theme, but Jarre gives it a light airy waltz treatment, which is followed by a delicate and emotive Mexican serenade performed by guitar and male vocal embellished and underlined by strings. The grand piece of the score must be track 20, THE BATTLE, Jarre squeezes everything possible into this track, arranges and links all the major themes within the score together in a masterful and high energy piece which thrills and inspires. Again, Jarre delivers a work of much quality and also a score that is exciting, stirring and entertaining, overflowing with sweeping almost epic themes and energetic passages to accompany a turbulent but thrilling period in history.
Henry Mancini for me was a great source of listening to film music because he not only wrote movie scores but was responsible for releasing so many compilations that included film music by him and other composers. But I always looked forward to anything new from Mancini, he was the master of melodies and fashioned so many hit songs with the assistance of the likes of Johnny Mercer, but there is a side to Mancini that many rarely hear, the dramatic and darker side of Mancini is worth seeking out, because it is wonderfully driving as well as being melodious at the same time. Take his score for CHARADE for example, when we think of this score or soundtrack we invariably think of the nice little song, but investigate the actual score and the powerful main title in the movie, this is Mancini at his best, also remember PETER GUNN, EXPERIMENT IN TERROR, MASTER OF THE ISLANDS,THE MOLLY MAGUIRES and more up to date LIFEFORCE.
All contained powerful scores and commanding themes, which proves that Mancini was not all DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES while you sat under THE SWEETHEART TREE having BREAKFAST AT TIFFANYS on the banks of MOON RIVER. His score for the movie SUNFLOWER, is awash with romantic musical poems, and is an emotive and affecting work.
Elmer Bernstein is a composer who figured large in the early days of my collecting, his iconic score for THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN being one that was always on the turntable of the record player in my bedroom as a youngster. But it was not just this western score that attracted me to Bernstein’s unmistakable musical fingerprint and his distinctive sound. THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, THE SCALPHUNTERS, WALK ON THE WILD SIDE, THE CARETAKERS, and THE CARPETBAGGERS are just a handful of titlesthat all contained that resounding style and vibrant musical aura that the composer was able to create, and from the first bars of each composition one instinctively knew that this was an Elmer.
I remember getting his rousing score for THE BUCCANEER and being blown away by the sheer melodic and sweeping content of the work, and being touched emotionally by the overwhelming quality and fragility of his score or TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD and his affecting music for THE BIRDMAN OF ALCARAZ still to this day mesmerises and haunts me.
His jazz scores too were a source of great entertainment with the composer utilising at times complex jazz vibes and dance or big band sounds, but at the same time integrating and cleverly combining these with sweeping or intimate sounding symphonic elements. ANNA LUCASTA, STACCATO, and THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN arm being just three examples that come to mind. Bernstein was a composer who I think bridged the Golden age and the Silver age of cinema and film music, because he worked within both era’s and beyond. His later scores from the 1980’s etc often being parodies of some of his more familiar and classic soundtracks, such as AIRPLANE, STRIPES, SPIES LIKE US and GHOSTBUSTERS.
It was however, with scores for THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, THE COMMANCHEROS, THE SONS OF KATIE ELDER etc, that Bernstein became a driving force within the film music arena, and he was still in demand in his later career when he scored movies such as TRUE GRIT, THE BLACK CAULDRON, THE AGE OF INNOCENCE, FAR FROM HEAVEN, TRADING PLACES, THE THREE AMIGOS and THE GRIFTERS. A score that I do like a lot is KINGS OF THE SUN, I alsoenjoy the film each time I re-watch it, its an unusual storyline, which I think makes it even more attractive and entertaining, and Bernstein’s music enhances, supports and underlines every single piece of action that unfolds up n the screen eloquently and perfectly. The score also contains an air of romance and grandeur. Its one I never tire of.
From Elmer Bernstein to the composer Francis Lai, this French music-smith, was responsible for creating some of the most thematic and romantic sounding scores during the late 1960’s and into the 1970’s and 1980’s. His music for MAYERLING being one of my personal favourites, Lai’s music was always melodic with the composer creating sublime tone poems that fully immersed the listener and at the same time mesmerised the watching audience, often taking storylines to another level. His at times delicate approach was moving and ingratiating, but he was also able to provide movies with highly dramatic and action led music. Lai, was a composer who became known via his most popular themes as in LOVESTORY, A MAN AND A WOMAN and LIVE FOR LIFE all of which became themes or songs that had a life of their own in the popular music market. Some being recorded by well-known international artists.
Lai often utilised electronic support within his scores such as BILITIS which is a jaw droppingly beautiful soundtrack. He also worked on movies such as HANNIBAL BROOK’S, I’ll NEVER FORGET WHATS HIS NAME, INTERNATIONAL VELVET, and THE BOBO, which I think are scores that are at times overlooked.
THE HANNIBAL BROOKS MARCH is a brilliant piece filled with melody and a driving but at the same time easy listening musical persona. There is so much more though to the music of this much missed composer. Just take a few minutes to find HANNIBAL BROOKS on Spotify or any of the other digital music platforms and listen to the artistry the sheer gift of melody and the inventive expressive style of this composer, which is not just supportive of the film and its storyline, but also becomes an entertaining and compelling listen away from the movie. Lai like the other composers I have mentioned was a rare talent, and all of them will be sorely missed.
So onto something more contemporary, or new releases, and there are again a handful that are certainly worthy of a mention, and also are well worth checking out and maybe adding to your collection. These include ANTEBELLUM, which is an American made psychological horror thriller, written, and directed by Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz in their feature directorial debuts. The musical score isby Nate Wonder and Roman GianArthur. I am bringing this score to your attention because in my opinion it is one that you should add to the collection, wonderfully atmospheric, with enticing and effective use of choir and percussion, that is supported at times by grand sounding brass laced with epic and tense sounding strings, and this is just the cue entitled THE PAST IS NEVER DEAD, its grandiose, developed and richly thematic. The remainder of the score I found to be interesting, as in I never felt the need to skip forward or come across anything that I thought, was not just quality film music. THE OPENING is a cue that makes you want to delve further into the work, it entices and beguiles with a fascinating and compelling air, the composers layering strings and adding textures via solo violin as they build a tense but at the same time forthright and attractive piece. It is symphonic and draws from the classical, did I say it was good? Well I lied; it is great. The cues HORSE PURSUIT and BATTLE CHOIR in my opinion being brilliantly fashioned fearsome action pieces, and by contrast the final cue on the recording DAY BROKEN is gorgeously affecting, with inventive use of strings, that hint at a theme but we never quite get there, it just hovers but never fully comes to fruition. The score is a triumph and if you do not just buy this well, I don’t know what is wrong with you. Highly and I mean Highly recommended.
Other scores that you should investigate include Frederik Wiedmann’s touching and emotive soundtrack for WISH UPON AUNICORN which is attender and emotive soundtrack, it is a pleasant and delicately melancholy work that for me evoked the style of James Horner in places.
Anne Nikitin’s tense and highly atmospheric score for THE PALE HORSE too is one to check out, it is a disturbing listen, very edgy and filled with apprehension, the composer making effective use of voices combined with sinewy strings and dark musical colours throughout. It seems that Anne Nikitin is becoming a regular in the soundtrack supplements, but her inventive and innovative style can only be admired.
Now to multiple award-winning Cristobal “Cristo” Tapia de Veer, who is a Chilean born, classically trained musician, producer, arranger, multi-instrumentalist and composer for film & TV based in Montreal, Canada. One of his most recent projects includes the new TV series that stars Jude Law entitled THIRD DAY-SUMMER. I watched the first episode which has music also credited to composer Dickon Hinchcliffe, and I was attracted to the score because of its originality, with diverse and unusual instrumentation making it difficult not to try and listen rather than watch the harrowing scenes that were being acted out on screen, maybe this is the wrong way to do this, but I found the drama more compelling because the score was so unusual. I am pleased that the soundtrack has been issued only on digital platforms for the moment, because it is a work that deserves to be listened too. The composer experiments with female voice, birdsong and guitar at times, but there are also more apprehensive and foreboding and disturbing passages, with synthetic and conventional instrumentation coming into the equation. It is however the use of the female voice in a lullaby sounding piece that re-occurs which is the most unnerving and memorable, think ROSEMARYS BABY and it’s that kind of atmosphere that evoked, but in this case many times more disturbing.. It is a chilling work, filled with sinister and malevolent elements, but I also found it wonderfully original. Recommended. Also check out the composers score for the 2018 Netflix production, BLACK MIRROR-BLACK MUSEUM.
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