Category Archives: CINEMA.

PLANET OF THE APES, A PERSONAL VIEW.

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With the release of the music from the PLANET OF THE APES TV series on La La Land records, I was thinking about the series as a whole, not just the actual movies but the soundtracks of course. The APE films were in most cases pretty entertaining and even when they began to get a little implausible and silly, as in ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES, the musical scores still remained fresh and above all original. One can never forget the sight of an ape soldier clad in black brandishing a rifle on horseback in the HUNT scene of the original APE movie accompanied by the chilling, foreboding and somewhat grotesque sounding rams horn that composer Jerry Goldsmith conjured up for his innovative and iconic sounding score. I think that scene in particular will stay with me forever, I was just twelve years old at the time and I had managed to get into a cinema on a crafty day off school I am not sure what I was expecting but lets just say I was surprised, a little scared but most of all excited and intrigued. Charlton Heston was marvellous as the cynical Taylor an astronaut who with a crew of three others two male and one female had crashed landed in a lake on what they thought was an alien planet sometime in the future. They had been put into a deep sleep and on impact realised that the Female member of the party had passed away, they escape from the space craft and start to explore the inhospitable terrain which is predominately desert they eventually find a green area and take advantage of fresh running water to refresh themselves and bathe, whilst doing so however they become aware that they are not alone on the planet and have their clothes and also their scientific apparatus stolen they give chase but it is too late the apparatus is smashed and they see that the inhabitants of the planet are human like but are mute. Taylor thinks it is not a bad thing as if this is the best that the planet has to offer it wont be long before they will be running the place. But he could not be more wrong, an ominous sounding cry is heard and the mute humans begin to panic and run, not knowing what is wrong the three astronauts do the same, running in the same directions, but from what or whom? It is not long before the watching audience and the astronauts find out and from that moment on the film is a rollercoaster ride in a topsy turvy world where talking intelligent apes are the masters and primitive humans are reduced to being guinea pigs for surgeons or target practise for the ape army. Taylor is injured in the hunt and as a result looses his voice after being wounded in the throat by an ape bullet.

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So the ape elders are not aware that he is different from the others, he becomes close to one of the mute females Nova, played by the beautiful Linda Harrison, and is also befriended by two doctors who just happen to be chimpanzees, Zira and Cornelius, played by Kim Hunter and Roddy McDowall, who were most convincing in their respective roles. The cast list is quite impressive, with Maurice Evans, James Whitmore and James Daly with superb direction from film maker Franklin J Schaffner an entertaining screenplay by Michael Wilson and Rod Serling that was adapted from the writings of Pierre Boulle and produced by Arthur P Jacobs, with that highly original neo avante garde score by Jerry Goldsmith and convincing make up created by John Chambers. Released by 20th century fox it was to be the first of five movies in the first series and also spawned the TV series and an animated series. It was a compulsive motion picture that is not only visually outstanding and intelligently constructed but also sent chills down ones spine when it eventually reached the final scene which along with the sight of the ape on horseback must be one of cinemas most iconic scenes. The sight of the statue of liberty or at least part of the statue rising out of the beach as Taylor makes his getaway with Nova is an imposing and memorable one and one could say it is shocking also as Taylor realises he is actually back on earth back home to the place that he was so desperately trying to get away from, the upside down planet ruled by apes is his planet destroyed by war or some disaster.

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The second film in the ape series was BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES, personally I still prefer the first movie in the series to any of the sequels, but BENEATH was still a good sequel and in many ways I think it would have probably been better to stop here rather than go on into the silliness and embarrassments that were to be included in ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES which was the third in the series. BENEATH was filled with action as we saw the apes preparing for war with the surviving humans who had made their home in the subterranean world beneath the area that the apes referred to as THE FORBIDDEN ZONE. The humans were mutants disfigured by a nuclear war and wore masks to cover these afflictions, they possessed the ability to make communication by thought rather than speech although they did resort to speech when they had to, for example when communicating with lesser beings. The film starred James Franciscus as Brent an astronaut who just happens to land in the same area as Taylor after being sent on a rescue mission from earth to find out what had happened to Taylor and his crew, Heston made an appearance in the movie but was seen at the beginning and also at the finale.

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It is actually Brent that discovers the mutants first and also discovers that they have taken Taylor prisoner but also realises that these mutants worship a god that comes in the form of an atomic bomb. The situation worsens between the apes and their sworn enemies the mutants and the ape army invades the forbidden zone. The ape leaders pushing their soldiers onwards into a battle that no one can win. In the final scenes of the movie Brent is killed by the apes and Taylor is wounded but manages with his dying action to basically push the button and sets off the bomb which destroys the planet. The musical score for BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES was the work of composer Leonard Rosenman, and in some ways was similar to that of Jerry Goldsmith’s work on its predecessor by this I mean it was original and in many ways experimental or modern sounding, Rosenman at times blending certain phrases from Goldsmith’s original work into his own, the composer relying on musical sounds and dramatic action sounding cues rather than anything that was melodic. Nevertheless the end result was rewarding as his score went hand in hand with the action and scenarios that were unfolding on screen. Goldsmith was asked to return to score the second movie but was busy working on PATTON-LUST FOR GLORY. There are for me two outstanding pieces within the score, the lumbering and powerfully unsettling MARCH OF THE APES which accompanies the ape army on their journey from ape city to the barren wastelands of the forbidden zone and then onto the underground city of the mutants. Plus there is also the ingenious and discordant sounding MASS OF THE BOMB which although somewhat offbeat and bizarre was still a stroke of genius.

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The soundtrack was originally released on AMOS records at the time of the films release but was only available as an import from the USA, it was a recording that also contained dialogue, and in fact like many soundtracks that were released at that time was a re-recording of the music which had been adapted or arranged for an LP release, so for example THE MARCH OF THE APES sounded very different from the original version that we had heard in the movie, but beggars cant be choosers as they say and we had to be contented with that until the original score was issued many years later on FSM, a release that not only contained the original score but also had the tracks from the LP release with dialogue, so everyone was happy I guess? The re-recording for the LP release featured a number of the days leading musicians these included Carol Kaye and Paul Beaver who was a pioneer of the moog synth. The part of General Ursus in BENEATH was originally offered to Orson Welles, but he turned it down as he did not want to spend all his time in make up and a mask, the part eventually went to James Gregory. Also the part of Cornelius in BENEATH was played by actor David Watson as Roddy McDowall was unavailable.

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Ok now onto the third movie in the series and probably the one I like the least in the cycle. ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES was farcical an attempt to bring the apes to earth and into the 20th century, Zira and Cornelius accompanied by another chimpanzee Dr Milo (Sal Mineo), land on a beach in the United States (where else). They have taken off from their planet in Taylor’s space ship and see their world destroyed as they go into space, somehow they manage to go back in time to earth and anyway it all gets very silly, very confusing and also well I lost interest after about thirty minutes and the only reason I stayed to watch it was to hear Jerry Goldsmith’s score, which contained elements of his original APES score but elements which he had infused with something more akin to his soundtracks for the FLINT films.

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Electric guitar enhancing and leading jazz influenced cues going side by side with dramatic and action led cues to create a score that I think outshines the film for which it was written. I suppose if you put the Ape movies into something that resembled chronological order it would begin with ESCAPE, then continue with, CONQUEST, BATTLE then PLANET and end with BENEATH at least I think that’s right. Roddy McDowall returned to the series for ESCAPE and reprised his role as Cornelius but at the end of ESCAPE we see both Zira and Cornelius killed and also their newly born baby (Milo) murdered, but all is not as it seems as the baby has unbeknown to the authorities been swapped and given to a circus owner Armando (Ricardo Montalban) to bring up. The film ends with the image of the young primate but with the soundtrack filled with the cooing of a human baby. Which informs the watching audience this is certainly not the last in the series.

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In CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, baby Milo has grown and has also become Caesar, actor Roddy McDowall took on the role his character discovering mankind’s inhumanity and mistreatment of many life forms that shared planet earth in particular their cruelty and mistreatment of primates, who supposedly resembled man the most. The film was in my opinion probably the most savage episode of the series and showed humans and apes literally battling it out for the planet.

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The music was written by Tom Scott who although primarily known for jazz and jazz fusion produced a serviceable score for the movie, even if the producers did utilise a cue from Jerry Goldsmith’s PLANET OF THE APES at the end of the movie. CONQUEST’S plot is one that has been touched upon more recently in RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, and although it is not a straight remake of CONQUEST it contains many of that movies themes and scenarios. The final instalment of the first ape series is BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES. Directed by J. lee Thompson and released in 1973, it stars Roddy McDowall, Paul Williams, Natalie Trundy and John Huston. Again one can draw comparisons between this and the second in the new series of the ape films DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES but as with CONQUEST and RISE it is not a direct re-make.

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Composer Leonard Rosenman returned for this final instalment, and provided once again a serviceable soundtrack but one that was very similar to his previous outing on BENEATH, largely action fuelled and dramatic rather than melodic. BATTLE is set ten years after the events that we witnessed in CONQUEST and Caesar has taken command and has managed to get humans and apes to live in some sort of harmony, but elements of the ape community led by a hawkish General and also some humans are set against Caesars plans and plot to start a war. Love it or hate it the first ape series is an entertaining one and has as I have already said spawned a TV series numerous comic books, animated series and also a rebooted series of the ape stories. Just on a personal note for me the first film in the series from 1968, remains the best and also for me contains the most original and memorable score.

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ZULU-51 YEARS ON.

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Dwarfing the mightiest, Towering over the Greatest, this was the tag line that I remember for ZULU, and it is 51 years ago that the movie opened to excited audiences in the UK in the January of 1964. Hailed as the greatest British war movie ever made, the film is a classic in every sense of that words meaning, it set Michael Caine on the road to stardom and further established Stanley Baker as the iconic British actor that we all now know and love of course Baker also co-produced the film. I wonder what Baker would have made of the success and also the longevity of the film if he were alive today. Although essentially flawed historically in the storyline department, ZULU still attracted the audiences and I am sure if it were to be re-released today in cinemas it would still pack em in. It was a great adventure movie I suppose the stuff that boys dreams are made of, brave soldiers defending what is thought to be a hopeless position against overwhelming odds but in the end triumphing and managing to hold out. 4,000 Zulu warriors made their way to the mission station at Rorkes Drift on the Buffalo river in Natal Colony South Africa, to basically wipe it out, they aimed to kill the British garrison that was there, a garrison of just over 150 men many of whom were sick.

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It was to be the second victory of the Zulu army or so they thought, the first being the massacre of 1,500 British soldiers on the slopes of the mountain Isandlwana on that morning. Lord Chelmsford had made a fatal mistake and thinking that he was fighting an inferior trained force decided to split his column, leaving one half camped on the mountainside whilst he took the remaining force up country towards the royal kraal of Ulundi, this proved to be one of the biggest military blunders in the history of Great Britain. In fact the battle at Rorkes drift would not have taken place if it were not for the insubordination of the Zulu Kings half Brother, who decided after pursuing survivors from Isandlwana that it would be a good idea to take his impis of warriors over the river into natal and attack the British at the mission station, the Zulu King Cetshwayo had forbidden his army to invade Natal.

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The film was a success no doubt of that but there were many historical blunders in the screenplay, some of which were basically an insult to the memory of both the British and the Zulus. Henry hook for example was a disciplined and model soldier and after the battle became a sergeant, but in the movie was depicted as a lazy good for nothing who had been taken into the army because he was a thief, he was also depicted as drunk, when in real life Hook was teetotal, the performance by James Booth although being an entertaining one for the purpose of the storyline, was totally inaccurate and at the premiere of the movie in London the real life daughter of Henry hook walked out of the cinema in disgust at the films depiction of her Father.

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The colour sergeant Frank Bourne, portrayed by Nigel Green and a popular mainstay of the cast, was also incorrect, Green’s character came across as a seasoned veteran of numerous campaigns with years of experience, in reality Bourne was just 24 years of age in fact he was the youngest colour sergeant at the time in the British army, his subordinates often referring to him as “THE KID”. In the movie the character displayed a number of medals on his tunic, this too was fictitious as he would not have been allowed to do so. After the battle Bourne was offered a commission but because he lacked the money necessary to be a commissioned officer he refused it, but eleven years later he did accept the commission, Bourne was the last surviving member of the garrison at Rorkes Drift and became a full Colonel, before his death which was in 1945. The song MEN OF HARLECH that was used in the movie was also incorrect, in fact at the time of the battle the regiment although based in Brecon was not technically a Welsh regiment, it was the 24th but attached to the 2nd Warwickshire, regiment of foot. They did not become The South Wales Borderers until three years after the battle in 1881. The song did eventually become the regiments song, but at the time of the Zulu war their regimental song was THE WARWICKSHIRE LAD, and of course there was no battlefield singing contest between the British and the Zulus. William Allen who was a corporal and in the movie depicted as a model soldier had in fact been demoted from sergeant for drunkenness just prior to the battle. Corporal Christian Ferdinand Scheiss who was attached to the Natal native contingent was depicted like Colour sergeant Bourne as a seasoned Zulu fighter in the movie despatching a number of the attacking warriors even though he was himself injured, in fact Scheiss was just 22 at the time of the battle. So if the movie was to be re-made nowadays with all the PC that is around maybe it would be a very different tale that it would tell. One thing that remains unblemished and still as fresh and vibrant as the first time I heard it is John Barry’s magnificent score, which although short in its duration is probably the film score that set the composer on the road to becoming one of the worlds leading film music composers. Yes he had already achieved success with the James Bond movies DR NO and FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, but with Zulu we saw another side to Barry, he took traditional Zulu stamps or dances and arranged them converting them into a score that was dramatic, exciting and in many ways as savage as the action that was taking place on screen. The composer very cleverly used his score sparingly, but each time the music was utilised it underlined and elevated the scenes superbly.

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Zulu was my second soundtrack LP, it was released on the Ember record label and was on sale for the princely sum of 39 shillings and 6 pence which in today’s money would be just under two pounds I guess, with the A side being occupied by Barry’s epic score and the B side of the album being taken up by the composers take on some of the other Zulu stamps and dances which he had arranged and given an upbeat sound which was not dissimilar to some of the hits he had enjoyed with THE JOHN BARRY SEVEN it was an essential purchase. Although the movie was historically incorrect in places, it is still a classic film and one which has endured the test of time, an epic production the like of which I do not think we will see again.

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THE HORROR OF IT ALL!!!!

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Music in horror movies has to play a larger role than in most other types of film, but there again this notion is just a personal opinion and one which many will probably disagree with. I always remember seeing the original black and white Universal horrors and even at an early age thinking what an important role the musical scores played. I recall in particular one of the werewolf movies when actor Lon Chaney transformed from meek and gentle human into a fearsome and blood lusting lupine, howling as he ran into the fog shrouded night accompanied by a powerful and driving background score which underlined the ferocity and also the desperation of the creature. It was because of the Universal tales of terror that I progressed to the full colour horrors of the Hammer studio, DRACULA being one of the first that I managed to get into the local flea pit to see. The rich colours and also the dramatic music got me hooked instantly and I am glad to say I have never fallen out of obsession with these marvellous cinematic works of art. However as we all know there were other horror movies produced by the likes of TIGON and also AMICUS in the U.K. plus of course there were the AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL MOVIES, with the Edgar Allan Poe tales and lots of superb and eloquent overacting by Vincent Price. Hammer always insisted on having strong musical scores which was something that was the norm thanks to the companies original Musical Director John Hollingsworth. Musical genius Hollingsworth was instrumental in ensuring that the music for the Hammer horrors and also other genres of film that the company produced worked and supported the action on screen, Amicus who appeared on the scene some years after Hammers first foray into the gothic horrors such as DRACULA and FRANKESTEIN seemed to follow in Hammers footsteps when it came to the music department in their movies, often utilising the same composers as Hammer and even employing Phil Martell who had taken over as MD for hammer after the death of John Hollingsworth. Sadly both Amicus and Tigon films musical scores do not seem to have received the same amount of attention from record labels as Hammer soundtracks have and I realise it took many years for the Hammer gothic horrors soundtracks to make it any kind of recording, but considering the success and amount of positive feedback from collectors that these releases received I am surprised, “NO” ! dumbfounded that there has been nothing issued onto compact disc from the Amicus stable, yes of course the excellent WITCHFINDER GENERAL by Paul Ferris did only last year(2013) at last get an issue on disc by De Wolfe music representing Tigon plus we must not forget the excellent BLOOD ON SATANS CLAW which was finally released onto compact disc by TRUNK records a few years back.

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But where are the excellent and richly dark soundtracks from films such as THE CREEPING FLESH, THE BLOOD BEAST TERROR, CURSE OF THE CRIMSON ALTAR etc. Where are the scores from the AMICUS productions such as, VAULT OF HORROR, DR TERRORS HOUSE OF HORRORS, THE TORTURE GARDEN, THE SKULL, THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD, ASYLUM, AND NOW THE SCREAMING STARTS, MADHOUSE, and other such mini horror classics and AMICUS favourites. Languishing in a vault of horror of their own I am guessing. Plus there was also TYBURN films who produced a handful of films that are now considered an important part of the horror cinema genre, THE LEGEND OF THE WEREWOLF and THE GHOUL instantly come to mind because of the actual movies and also because of the excellent musical scores penned by Harry Robinson, truly classic horror music, even if LEGEND OF THE WEREWOLF was a little lack lustre in places.

So I suppose what I am saying is WHY stop at Hammer or why did the record companies stop at Hammer, when there is such a wealth of wonderful music out there somewhere that will tantalise, entertain and delight students of the macabre, the gothic and also the downright scary. We as collectors deserve at least a compilation or two of AMICUS themes, TIGON tracks and TYBURN scores. Silva screen, Tadlow, Prometheus or maybe Chandos please start your expedition into the dark and dusty depths that are the music vaults of terror.

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Tigon British Film Productions or Tigon Films was a film production and distribution company founded by the filmmaker Tony Tenser in 1966. The company is probably best remembered for the now classic Vincent Price horror, WITCHFINDER GENERAL (USA Title-THE CONQUERER WORM). Which was directed by the ingeniously clever filmmaker but somewhat insecure Michael Reeves who sadly died too soon. The studio also produced BLOOD ON SATANS CLAW, which was directed by Piers Haggard in 1971, both WITCHFINDER and SATANS CLAW have since their release attained a status of being iconic and cult movies and both have about them a real sense of authenticity. TIGON also produced a number of other horror pictures, THE CREEPING FLESH, THE BLOOD BEAST TERROR and THE SORCERERS among them all of which were scored by the late Paul Ferris. It also released the feature film version of the popular British TV series DOOMWATCH in 1972 which contained a score by renowned British composer John Scott(or Patrick John Scott as he was known in his early days of composing). The London based Tigon had offices in Wardour street Soho, the company did make forays into other genres of film but it was the Horror genre that it seemed to excel at and in many fans and critics opinions were one of Hammer’s biggest rivals, although saying this Tigon productions did have a very different look from the Hammer gothic horrors, WITCHFINDER especially being given a more realistic appearance thanks mainly to the inventive camera work of John Coquillon who’s somewhat watery and misty looking effects gave the production a touch of realism, this combined with the fresh and at times off beat approach towards direction by Reeves gave WITCHFINDER a persona all of its own.

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TYBURN films was formed by Kevin Francis who was the son of acclaimed cinematographer and notable director Freddie Francis.
Kevin had a career that led him from slaughterhouse employee to film company tea boy and then a gradual climb up the ladder to become a Hammer films employee, it was he who was responsible for giving the studio the idea for TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA given them the basic idea for the story, he then became a freelance production executive and had a glowing ambition to create a new company that would eventually be as respected as the famed Hammer studio. The problem that Francis encountered was that as the 1970,s dawned the tastes of cinema audiences began to change drastically, they no longer yearned for Gothic horrors but were drawn to the more cerebral storylines of films such as ROSEMARY’S BABY and the gore, realism and thrills that were purveyed by films such as THE NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and the numerous films that followed in the same ilk. Continuing to produce Gothic horrors was to be TYBURN Films eventual downfall and they disappeared from the scene, but before doing so did produce a handful of movies that were deemed to be fair examples of the horror genre. TALES THAT WITNESS MADNESS was in fact Tyburn’s first release but had no mention of the company on its credits, instead it was billed as a WORLD FILM SERVICES release. The movie which had a tag line of AN ORGY OF THE DAMNED, boasted an impressive cast list that included Jack Hawkins, Joan Collins, Kim Novak and Donald Houston to name but four. Helmed by film maker Freddie Francis who was to direct all of the Tyburn horrors, the film was an effective tale but one that lacked real course mainly due to a weak storyline that at times would be amusing rather than disturbing, which in a horror movie could be a problem.

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The film was a compilation type movie which had become popular with audiences at the time and included four segments or stories each one concentrating upon a different patient who was secured in an asylum, the music for the movie was written by Bernard Ebbinghouse, who was responsible for the music to PRUDENCE AND THE PILL and penned the theme for the popular TV series of the 1960,s THE HUMAN JUNGLE which was recorded by John Barry and his orchestra who took it into the hit parade in the UK. Ebbinghouse also worked as a musical director for artists such as Cilla Black, Andy Stewart and Cliff Richard as well as working on a handful of movies and some television productions. Tyburn’s first official release was to be PERSECUTION or THE TERROR OF SHEBA, the film starred Lana Turner, and was Tyburn’s attempt to cash in on the trend to install well known Hollywood actress’s in starring roles, which is something that Hammer had done with Bette Davies in THE NANNY. The music for PERSECUTION was the work of Paul Ferris, who if he had not died young would in my opinion been one this countries top film music composers.

Tyburn’s reign of terror was a short one the company never attaining the heights or realising the achievements that its founder Francis had wanted for it and although the company produced some interesting horrors its output paled in the brightness of the Hammer studios output, although saying this TYBURN did return in 1984 with a production for television, MASKS OF DEATH was screened on channel 4, and starred an ageing Peter Cushing in the role of Sherlock Holmes with John Mills as Dr Watson, directed by Roy Ward Baker and with a screenplay by Anthony Hinds it was a polished and entertaining production. The score was by Malcolm Williamson who had worked on Hammers THE BRIDES OF DRACULA, THE HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN and CRESCENDO, Williamson was the first non British citizen to be appointed Master of the Queens music. Peter Cushing was also the subject of a TV documentary in 1990 which was produced by Tyburn entitled, ONE WAY TICKET TO HOLLYWOOD a documentary that is highly regarded and also is considered by many as Tyburn’s finest production. The music was taken from existing soundtracks composed by James Bernard and Malcolm Williamson.

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AMICUS was indeed a success story and along with American International pictures was probably the biggest rival company to the mighty Hammer films. Amicus produced numerous movies and many were at times difficult to tell apart from Hammer horrors, the music department for Amicus was almost identical to that of Hammer, the company utilising the talents of composers such as James Bernard, Don Banks, Douglas Gamley, David Whitaker etc. Based at the famous Shepperton studios Amicus was founded by Milton Subotsky and Max Rosenberg, who had previously worked together in the 1960,s on the movie THE CITY OF THE DEAD, Amicus began its life by producing two musicals which were aimed at the younger end of the cinema going public, ITS TRAD DAD! and JUST FOR FUN enjoyed mild success at the box office, the company went on to produce a number of films that contained more than one story, this portmanteau series of motion pictures were particularly popular with audiences the producers basing their ideas upon the Ealing films classic DEAD OF NIGHT. One of these types of movies was THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD, which I personally felt was one of the companies better efforts, directed by Peter Duffell it starred Denholm Elliot, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Ingrid Pitt, Joss Ackland and Jon Pertwee. The film was scored by Michael Dress, who had worked on a handful of films prior to scoring THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD, Dress died in 1975 aged just 40 years of age. Amicus however were not just restricted to horror movies and turned their hand to thrillers and also were responsible for releasing some pretty unusual movies, the company at times co-produced with AIP MADHOUSE and SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN being examples of their collaboration.

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Considering the rich and varied musical content of the Horror genre as produced by TIGON, TYBURN and AMICUS it is surprising that an enterprising record company has not seen the market for these scores with collectors of fine film music. Even if the tapes no longer exist a re-recording surely should be worth investigation, a company such as Chandos with the aid of the talented Philip Lane surely could resurrect these classic soundtracks from the depths of obscurity. The compilations would be endless, with AMICUS, TIGON and also TYBURN being the central focus but with music from other classics such as CIRCUS OF HORRORS by Franz Reizenstein, CRY OF THE BANSHEE by Wilfred Josephs, THE FLESH AND THE FIENDS by Stanley Black, THE CORPSE by John Hotchkis, SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN by David Whittaker and THE HOUSE IN NIGHTMARE PARK by Harry Robinson making it into the running order somewhere.
We must also not forget the wealth of music that adorned Italian horror movies and the releases of TITANUS productions, plus the films of Jess Franco especially that directors version of the Dracula story IL CONTE DRACULA was said to be actor Christopher Lee’s favourite version of the tale because Franco stayed so close to Stokers original story often studying the book whilst on set, the music for this movie was the work of Italian Maestro Bruno Nicolai, who became well known via his involvement with fellow composer Ennio Morricone on the Sergio Leone DOLLAR TRILOGY, Nicolai produced a highly atmospheric soundtrack for IL CONTE DRACULA and was also involved with numerous other pictures within the horror genre that were being produced in Italy during the 1960, through to the latter part of the 1970,s either as composer or as musical director. But Italian horrors should and will have a section of their own on this site very soon.

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FRANCO NERO.

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Probably one of the most well known actors in Italian cinema, Franco Nero was born Francesco Sparanero was born in San Prospero, Emilia-Romagna and spent much of his early life in Bedonia and Milan. He originally had decided to study economy and trade at University but then made a decision to study the piccolo Teatro di Milano. His first role in a motion picture was in 1964 when he was given a small part in LA RACAZZA IN PRESTITO, this was followed by a few more small roles but he was propelled to fame in 1966, when director Sergio Corbucci gave him the leading role in DJANGO. This was to be the role that set Nero off on his busy acting career and one that established him as an actor of much presence and talent. In the same year Nero starred in no less than eight movies, TEXAS ADDIO and TEMPO DI MASSACRO among them.

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In 1967, Nero was asked to take the part of Lancelot in the Hollywood produced movie of the Lerner and Lowe musical CAMELOT, starring alongside Richard Harris and Vanessa Redgrave, it was here that he and Redgrave became attracted to each other and thus began their long time partnership which was to last some 40 years. The role in Camelot was followed by an appearance in a mafia laced story entitled IL GIORNO DALLA CIVETTA (1968) which also starred Claudia Cardinale.

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His awkwardness and apparent difficulty to master the English language seemed to limit the roles he was offered, although he did land parts in other English language productions such as FORCE 10 FROM NAVARONE, THE VIRGIN AND THE GYPSY, DIE HARD 2 and ENTER THE NINJA. Nero has been somewhat typecast during his career in movies such as KEOMA-THE VIOLENT BREED AND DEAF SMITH AND JOHNNY EARS, but he has also managed to perform well in some quite demanding roles, i.e.; THE BIBLE, STREET LAW and QUERELLE. He has appeared in some 160 movies to date and also had a hand in the writing and production of JOHNATHAN AND THE BEARS in 1993, more recently he has starred in CONQUEST (1996) and HOLY CROWN (2001) for Hungarian filmmaker Gabor Koltav. His partnership with Vanessa Redgrave produced a son, who is now a screenwriter and a film director who goes under the name of Carlo Nero. Nero is rumoured to be starring in the forthcoming western, DJANGO LIVES which should be released in 2014.

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SERGIO CORBUCCI.

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Sergio Corbucci was born on December 6th 1927 in Italy. Most of this directors movies have the reputation for containing copious amounts of violence, but at the same time his films were intelligent and inventive examples of Italian cinema. He is probably best known for his work within the Italian or Spaghetti western genre. But he was at home within any genre, a number of his action films contain social criticism of left wing politics as Corbucci never hid the fact that he was a communist. The art direction he employed within his films was mostly apocalyptic and surrealistic which became one of the filmmakers trademarks and a mark of his black humour. Corbucci began his career in film within the Sword and sandal days of Italian cinema, and it is probably true to say that he learnt his craft from many Hollywood film directors that had travelled to Italy,s Cinecitta to work on Biblical epics during the 1950,s and 1960,s. He did however contribute a number of examples of the Sword and sandal variety to the genre. These included SON OF SPARTACUS, which although nothing remotely like the original SPARTACUS was an enjoyable adventure romp. In 1965 he directed MASSACRE AT GRAND CANYON, which was a spaghetti western of sorts, by this I mean it belongs to the genre, but really contained non of the trademarks that we now so readily associate with the Italian produced sagebrush sagas. In the same year he worked on MINNESOTA CLAY again an Italian western, but one which still contained many of the clichéd trademarks of the Hollywood produced western.
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He entered 1966 full of ideas of how to shape the western all’Italiana and it was in this year that he directed RINGO AND HIS GOLDEN PISTOL which was one of the earlier real spaghetti westerns, containing a gimmicky storyline , but still had some connections with the Hollywood version of the western. It was DJANGO an ultra violent western that he also filmed in 1966 that was to be the directors first major break into the commercial film market, the movies leading actor was Franco Nero who was to be the leading figure in many of Corbucci’s later movies.

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The film became an instant hit in Italy and also a cult film throughout Europe, it was and still is notorious for its scenes of violence and also the amount of killings it contained, which led to it being banned in the UK for some 20 years. In many ways it was a more brutal version of A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS. With Ku Klux Clan and Mexican bandito’s taking the place of the Rojo’s and the Baxter’s and Django being stuck in the middle playing both sides off against each other. In the same year Corbucci directed NAVAJO JOE, which was a vehicle for young American actor Burt Reynolds, but it was the success of DJANGO that put Corbucci firmly on the filmmaking map, after this success Corbucci went onto become a director in demand and made numerous other westerns during the period from 1966 through to 1971 that remain to this day original and iconic examples of the genre.

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These included, THE GREAT SILENCE which was perceived to be so violent that it too was banned from a number of countries. The movie had two endings shot one happy and one gruesome and dark. Other westerns that Corbucci directed include, HELLBENDERS, THE SPECIALIST, COMPANEROS, BANDA J AND S and WHAT AM I DOING IN THE MIDDLE OF THE REVOLUTION. Corbucci became the most successful director in Italy after Sergio Leone. When the genre of the Italian western had run its course and the ideas for the genre had been explored fully and more or less exhausted by filmmakers, Corbucci concentrated mostly upon comedies which was a genre that he also excelled in. These movies often starred the singer/actor Adriano Celentano, many thought that Corbucci.s contributions were not important examples of Italian cinema at the time of them being produced, but over the years he has become an extremely significant and highly regarded figure within the world of film making. Sergio Corbucci died on December 1st 1990.

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