Category Archives: CINEMA.

1968, A YEAR OF VARIETY.

 

 

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Hitting the big 50 is something of a milestone don’t you think, well it is for certain people, and I thought that I would look back half a century to see what was going on at the cinema and what was in the racks of the record shops for us soundtrack collectors. But please don’t forget this is a purely personal view and my own opinion, Now, in 1968 I was at the tender age of 13, just a teenager, but even then, I knew I loved film music, things as you can imagine were very different in those days. There was no internet, (oh no what did we do) well we sent letters, spoke to people, used a phone in a phone box and collected LP records. Yes, there were shops in those days, yep, shops with doors that you went into and were served by staff behind a counter, and staff who knew what they were talking about. The Soundtrack sections were not that big in local shops, and orchestral scores were in the racks with musicals and albums by the likes of Frank Pourcel, Stanley Black etc who did their own take on popular themes from movies which were invariably released on Phase 4 records (which were very expensive at 42 shillings and sixpence). I don’t know about you if you were collecting in those days that is, but I preferred it then, because it was a day out when buying a soundtrack or even two. Ok let’s look at a random list of titles of movies that came out in 1968 shall we. How’s this for variety.

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THE LION IN WINTER.
THE PLANET OF THE APES
2001 A SPACE ODYSSEY.
WHERE EAGLES DARE.
COOGANS BLUFF.
A PROFESSIONAL GUN.
OLIVER.
FINIANS RAINBOW.
ROSEMARYS BABY.
BANDOLERO.
MAYERLING.
BARBARELLA.
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD.
DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE.
THE ANNIVERSARY.
BLOOD BEAST TERROR.
CURSE OF THE CRIMSON ALTAR.
WITCHFINDER GENERAL.
GIRL ON A MOTORCYCLE.
CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG.
THE CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE.
DEADFALL.
CARRY ON UP THE KHYBER.
BOOM.
THE BOFERS GUN.
ALL NEAT IN BLACK STOCKINGS.
THE KILLING OF SISTER GEORGE.
IF.
MRS BROWN YOU’VE GOT A LOVELY DAUGHTER.
PERFORMANCE.
ROMEO AND JULIET.
PRUDENCE AND THE PILL.
TWISTED NERVE.
SHALAKO.
UP THE JUNCTION.
ANZIO.
THE ASTRO ZOMBIES (what’s that you say, you not seen this)
5 CARD STUD.
YELLOW SUBMARINE.
THE BIGGEST BUNDLE OF THEM ALL.
THE SCALPHUNTERS.
BULLIT.
HANG EM HIGH.
THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR.
ICE STATION ZEBRA.

The-Mercenary
LADY IN CEMENT.
FUNNY GIRL.
NO WAY TO TREAT A LADY.
THE LOVE BUG.
THE WRECKING CREW.
SHOES OF THE FISHERMAN.
STALKING MOON.
STAR.
VILLA RIDES.
THE SWIMMER.
ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST.
WILL PENNY.
VIXEN.

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FIND A PLACE TO DIE.
GUNS FOR SAN SEBASTEIN.
HERE WE GO ROUND, THE MULBERRY BUSH.
THE VENGEANCE OF SHE.
THE LOST CONTINENT.
ONLY WHEN I LARF.
THE BLOOD OF FU MAN CHU.

So, a lot then, well there is more but the space is running out, also in 1968 there were a lot of Italian westerns being shown such as THE BIG GUNDOWN, DEATH RIDES A HORSE, DAY OF ANGER, and THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY which although had been released in Italy one or two years previous had only just reached the U.K. But looking at that list its pretty impressive, Yes? So, we have there 65 titles, great you might think a soundtrack collectors dream, well no hang on, out of the 65 titles only 39 soundtrack albums were released, and most of these were re-recordings, not taken from the actual score.


Some of them such as FIND A PLACE TO DIE by Gianni Ferrio, were hard to find as well, even, A PROFESSIONAL GUN by Ennio Morricone was only available on import, one from Germany and one from France, and both were different,(do you know how infuriating that is) the German release had a different opening track, which was annoying, because you got the French version with the nice cover, then someone got the German edition, with that extra track and the not so nice cover and you had to go find that as well, well you didn’t have to but you did, you know what I mean. Then we had all those track LPS or compilations, THE GREAT MOVIE SOUNDS OF JOHN BARRY, JOHN BARRY PLAYS 007, MOVIE THEMES BY JOHN BARRY, in Super Stereo (what was that). So even then record companies were being devilish and taunting us collectors with extra cues and better-quality sound recordings, and even back then could we resist these, no way could we. Anyway.

 

What I am saying is the quality of the films released back then, were they better? I think they were probably more entertaining, or maybe it was because they had not been filmed before, not sure, but I for one think movies from the 1960,s through to the early 1980’s were more a lot more entertainment based, it is like the filmmakers back then set out to ensure that the audience had a great time when they sat down in front of their movies, entertaining or fresh I am not sure? But television was the same, there was certainly more variety back in the late 1960’s maybe not all of it was politically correct or was top class in the acting department, but that’s another story. All I am saying is if I ever see another show like Wedding Winners, Big Brother, All Together Now or Thru Keyhole wiv that Keith Lemon bloke again I am going to retire to a cave in the hills of Menorca and make sandals.

 

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Ok let’s, look at some of the titles on the list, are you sitting comfortably, then I will begin. 1968. Was a good year for Alistair McClean, two of his novels were transferred to the big screen, WHERE EAGLES DARE and ICE STATION ZEBRA, and both did rather nicely thankyou at the box office, WHERE EAGLES DARE was one of those movies that you just had to go and see, believe it or not I went to the Astoria cinema to see this, now the Astoria was the palace of cinemas in Brighton, plush seats nice carpet, and an organ player at the start of the movies and also at the intermission, yes I said intermission.

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Ok, hang on intermission, that was when the movie stopped half way through, for a short break, ICE CREAMS, POPCORN, KIA-ORA SQUASH and sweets with hard to open bags that made so much noise you could not hear the film, etc, remember? Right, so at the beginning of WHERE EAGLES DARE, the organist was playing some light music before the movie started, he stopped and got up and introduced the movie, he was wearing a white jacket and a big bow tie, he said he felt privileged because he was a great friend of Ron Goodwin who had written the music to the film. Which was good because it drew the audience’s attention to the music, I say this because, did you know a lot of people do not realise there is music in films, No I am not kidding its true.
So, the film opened, curtains back or was that up, not sure? The MGM lion delivered a ferocious and full roar and off we went, snare drums tapping out, a rhythm, one snare, then two, then joined by another until they are in full flow and introduce Goodwin’s dark and stirring theme for the movie, with that ominous brass, backed and punctuated by timpani, underlined by strings, and we are in, drawn in by the music which builds the tension and expectation of what will follow as it accompanies a lone what we think is a German plane manoeuvring careful through a mountainous terrain.
The film was not short on acting talent, Richard Burton, Clint Eastwood (minus his poncho), Patrick Wymark, Michael Horden, Donald Huston, Peter Barkworth, Mary Ure, Ingrid Pitt (minus her fangs).

 

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All put in great performances as did Derren Nebitt as a German SS officer. There was also an appearance of a helicopter during the movie, which is not a machine that we normally associate with the second WW, but the German military did develop them and were quite advanced compared to the allies. I have to say I loved the movie and the score, but nowadays when I re watch it I do tend to lose interest around about half way through, maybe I need a Kia-Ora laced with Red Bull, (other energy drinks are available). I am not going to mention all the movies on the list, if I did that I would need a lot of time and a lot of Kia-Ora too. But what I will do is select just a few maybe 10 or 15 that I think were important releases or had outstanding scores, so next, has both, PLANET OF THE APES.

 

 

This was a movie that you just had to see, it was an important movie I think, ground breaking and thought provoking, brilliant direction by Franklin J Shaffner, highly creative make up by, John Chambers and a inventive and innovative musical score by Jerry Goldsmith, The Hunt scene still sends a chill up my spine when the image of the Gorilla soldier on horseback rifle in hand is accompanied by that rams horn on the soundtrack. Its one of those moments in cinema history that is iconic and will remain so forever more.

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As is the final scene when we see Charlton Heston’s character Taylor realise that he has been back home on earth all the time after seeing the top half of the statue of Liberty on the beach. The other memorable scene is where Heston’s character escapes and causes chaos, Taylor is finally re-captured in a net and suspended in mid-air, an ape soldier walks up to him and touches him, and this is where Taylor speaks for the first time after his initial capture during the hunt where he is shot in the throat. TAKE YOUR STINKING PAWS OFF ME, YOU DAMN DIRTY APE. And Intermission.

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Next film is, OLIVER, I really like Oliver the musical, and the movie version is one of the best musicals ever made as far as I am concerned, it has everything, lavish sets, a cast of thousands well hundreds, great songs, brilliant performances, and its Charles Dickens. What more could you want in a film, this is pure entertainment from start to finish, with wonderful performances from all concerned, Ron Moody stands out above all I must say, and Oliver Reed is just perfect as Bill Sykes, even the dog Bullseye puts in a good performance, just think the part of Bill Sykes was originally going to be given to Richard Burton with Nancy being played by Elizabeth Taylor. The part of Nancy was also rumoured to being offered to Julie Andrews and Shirley Bassey after Georgia Brown who played the role on the west end stage version, was not even considered and Fagin was offered to Dick Van Dyke, (thank you Lord for not giving it to him), it was also offered to Laurence Harvey and Peter Sellers.

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The song WHO WILL BUY, I think you will agree is the showstopper, or at least one of the biggest numbers in the movie. They filmed it in Bloomsbury square, London and it took six weeks to shoot. And finally, just to spoil your illusions of the angelic voice coming from Mark Lester’s mouth, it wasn’t him, it was Kathe Green daughter of Johnny Green the musical director on the movie, but I am sure Lester did not mind, especially when he got his pay cheque a few years later on his 18th Birthday, it had been put in trust for him. The first thing he did was buy a Ferrari. (Good boy Oliver, Good boy).

 

Let’s move away from the dirt and decay of Victorian London and go back in time to the days of Oliver Cromwell and the British Civil War, where Royalists fought the Parliamentary forces for the control of this green and pleasant land, and whilst all this was going on, THE WITCHFINDER GENERAL was going about his business, you know drowning innocent women, burning the odd witch here and there, accusing innocent people of being in league with the devil, torturing priests and women, nice work if you can get it.

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Vincent Price took the role of THE WITCHFINDER GENERAL, and I have to say did a really good job, but director Michael Reeves, did not necessarily agree with my opinion whilst the film was being shot. He and Price did not hit it off, Reeves had wanted Donald Pleasance to play the central character Matthew Hopkins, but the American production company who held the purse strings insisted on Price, Reeves found it hard to conceal how disappointed he was and Price sensed this, the director apparently criticised the actor after a scene had been filmed, Price was furious, and shouted at the director, “YOUNG MAN I have made 84 films, What have you done”? Reeves replied, “I made three good ones”.


The film starred British heartthrob and long-time friend of Reeves, Ian Ogilvy and included some strong supporting roles by Nicky Henson, Hilary Dwyer, Rupert Davies, Patrick Wymark, Wilfred Brambell and Robert Russel. One of the most attractive things about the movie was the musical score by Paul Ferris, originally most of the score was intended as library music, and to this day it is still the property of DE WOLFE music in London. Ferris penned a theme which many say is based upon GREENSLEEVES, and there are certainly similarities, the romantic sound achieved by the composer was completely the opposite to 90 percent of what was taking place on screen, but it worked and the music for WITCHFINDER was on many film music collectors WANTS list for decades and was not given an official release until 2013. Although a handful of promotional LPS were pressed for radio stations at the time of the film’s release, with music from THE CURSE OF THE CRIMSON ALTAR (also released in 1968) on the B side. Veteran composer Kenneth V Jones also contributed a few cues to the score after the producers deemed that the film needed more music for the action sequences. Ferris was also in the movie and used a stage name which was Morris Jar, a homage to the composers favourite Maestro.

When the film was eventually released onto DVD the company who owned the rights to the film refused to pay Ferris royalties, so they commissioned another score which was not appreciated by fans of the movie. The film appeared in several watered-down guises because the censors never seemed to be happy with how it was edited, WITCHFINDER GENERAL is in my opinion a classic piece of British Horror, and a movie that stands head and shoulders above most of the Hammer productions of that period, it has to it a reality a gritty and stark outlook, which shocks but at the same time attracts the watching audience. From the grizzly goings on in the dungeons of rural Suffolk we head up, up and away into the beyond for.

2001 A Space Odyssey (1968) Space Station One by Robert McCall

 

2001 A SPACE ODYSSEY. I saw this when I was fifteen and not when it was originally released in 1968, and to be honest, I did not really get it, don’t get me wrong the film is a masterpiece of direction and cinematography, made by a Master of his craft Stanley Kubrick, but I just did not understand it, for me it was overlong, and even the Kia-Ora at half time did not revive my interest, and the trip at the end, well it gave me a headache, ok I hear you all shouting WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU but I am being honest, didn’t like it never seen it since. Music was good or at least I thought it was a good use of classical music in a movie, but in later years after hearing Alex North original score that had been rejected by Kubrick, I was astounded, that the director saw fit not to use it. Maybe it’s a case of the filmmaker not wanting to hand his film over to the composer for fear of the composer diluting it or even overpowering the images, I don’t know. So, 2001, hailed as a classic by all, apart from yours truly.


Now off we go to Italy, the home of spaghetti, ice cream, the Vatican, madmen on scooters and Nino Rota. Rota is for me the most important Italian composer next to Morricone when it comes to film music, his collaborations with director Federico Fellini, have given us some of the most beautiful themes for cinema and in 1968 the Maestro wrote what is now an iconic love theme for Franco Zeffirelli’s version of ROMEO AND JULIET, this was a visually stunning movie, every frame lovingly put together by the master filmmaker, and underlined perfectly by Rota’s haunting soundtrack music. The star-crossed lovers portrayed wonderfully by Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting. This is, Shakespeare’s classic tale of romance and tragedy. Two families of Verona, the Montagues and the Capulets, have been squabbling and fighting with each other for generations, the young Romeo Montague goes out with his friends to make trouble at a party that the Capulets are hosting, but while there he spies the Capulet’s daughter Juliet, and falls hopelessly in love with her. She has similar feelings, but they both know that their families will never allow them to follow their hearts. Rotas score and Zeffirelli.s direction gave new life to the Bard’s writings and gave us the understated but emotive love theme that still today can be recognised by many after hearing the opening three or four notes. Its unbelievable that so many movies that were produced in 1968 went onto become classics, and even now 50 years on are still considered as entertaining as they were when first released, and that’s not just by us old fossils. Ok I feel a Ki-Ora break coming on, yes, its Pearl and Dean time or maybe, Pathe News So Whilst I have my juice and my Ice Cream tub, with a wooden spoon, here is next weeks coming attraction, for your approval.

 

Well that looks good doesn’t it. THE CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE, was directed by Tony Richardson, who is probably as controversial a figure in filmmaking as the charge itself. Was it an act of valour, courage and heroic daring do, or was it simply a military blunder? The movie is very different from other versions of the story, it is more of an anti-war movie than a film that promotes the glory of war, instead it lays bare the bones of the futility of conflict and the suffering and pain that conflict causes. During the ill-fated charge of British troops at Balaclava in the Crimean War, loyal soldiers who blindly followed orders were led to certain death.
This is the fifth time the story has been told on film, but the actual event of the charge is in fact an afterthought to the films main storyline. We see inept generals who have paid for their commission rather than earned it alongside politicians making decisions from a far that will affect the lives of many ordinary men who have become soldiers to fight for their Queen and country, These, pompous officers end up standing thigh high in dead bodies, because of their own in fighting and their ill-informed and inept ways and even after the battle still continue to argue and pass the blame from one to another. The director, manages to vividly transfer this to the screen, and highlights the high degree of fanaticism and total disregard for the ordinary foot soldier and cavalryman by the higher arcy of the army. Which led to the wanton slaughter of hundreds on the day of the charge. The movie cost some five Million pounds to produce, with its lavish costumes and sets alongside hundreds if not thousands of extras. After the movies initial release, it re-couped just a million pounds, which was disappointing to say the least for the director, and almost as disastrous as the charge itself. However, it has since its release become something of a cult movie being shown on TV regularly and being transferred to both video and more recently to DVD and Blu Ray.

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Trevor Howard, John Gielgud, David Hemmings and Vanessa Redgrave head the excellent cast. With a supporting cast made up of a plethora of faces that read like a who’s who from British cinema. The music was by John Addison, who was a composer that worked steadily within the British film industry, scoring pictures such as TOM JONES, TORN CURTAIN, THE HONEY POT, THE AMOROUS ADVENTURES OF MOLL FLANDERS, GUNS AT BATASI, START THE REVOLUTION WITHOUT ME and A FINE MADNESS to name but a few from the 1960’s. He continued to write music for films and TV up until 1996, with films such as A BRIDGE TOO FAR and THE CRIMSON BUCCANEER benefiting greatly by the Maestro’s magical touch. His most popular and recognizable theme for TV being MURDER SHE WROTE.

 

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Staying with the theme of the Empire and the pomp ceremony and stiff upper lips of the British from the Victorian age, we move to India, or at least the Khyber Pass, of course I am referring to that classic British comedy, CARRY ON UP THE KHYBER. This was yet another comedic romp for a cast that was instantly recognizable, and a few new faces in the form of Roy Castle for example. Sir Sidney Ruff-Diamond (Sid James) looks after the British outpost near the infamous Khyber Pass. A pass which has led to the defeat of many a foreign army, but in the hands of the kilted Third Foot and Mouth regiment, you would think that it was in safe hands. But the Khazi of Kalabar (Kenneth Williams) has other ideas. He wants all the British dead! But his troops fear these “skirted-devils”; they are rumoured not to wear anything underneath. Then one is caught with his kilt down and his pants on…and all mayhem breaks loose.
This I think is one of the more interesting CARRY on movies, of course it still contains all the seaside postcard humour that the other Carry on films do, but that is all part and parcel of things, its saucy, hammy, suggestive and dare I say the word again, ENTERTAINING. The musical score by resident carry on composer Eric Rogers was in fact dramatic and contained a slice of Elgar-esque tone when the movie required it. At the time of the films release no soundtrack was available, but in recent years a suite of music from the movie has appeared on various compilations of Carry on music. I think that the 1960’s were a little too easily labelled as being the swinging era of Britain, yes of course there was a certain element of risqué and sexual freedom in movies, but I also think that in the 1960’s especially the latter part of the decade, films were just purely entertainment, there was no hidden agenda behind any of the scenes, it was simply entertainment, I am also of the opinion that as the 1960’s reached their end, audiences seemed to be easier to please and were a lot less critical. But that is a personal view. We are off to the world of horror once again for the next movie, it’s a Hammer film, s we know it will be good, don’t we?

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DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE, was the fourth movie in Hammer’s Dracula cycle, if you include THE BRIDES OF DRACULA which starred David Peel as the bloodsucking Count. It is for the most part typical Hammer Horror fodder, and thankfully it had not yet sunk to the employment of too much sexual content to keep the storyline interesting, the first half of the movie plodded along and had no real direction or substance, but, thankfully the plot becomes more interesting as the pace quickens mid=way through the proceedings with a strong and memorable finish. I think I am right when I say it was the first Christopher Lee, Dracula movie where the Count had dialogue, this was when the enraged Count screams at a priest when he finds a crucifix attached to the door of castle Dracula, “WHO HAS DONE THIS THING”. Stalwart star of stage, screen and TV, Rupert Davies is convincing as the Monsignor who becomes Dracula’s nemesis and Veronica Carlson adds the glamour throughout as Maria, the Monsignor’s Granddaughter, who is the object of Dracula’s attention. Music is courtesy of the great and sadly missed composer James Bernard, who worked on numerous films for the House of Horror. Again, the music from this and previous Dracula movies from Hammer was never made available in their full version, there were a few compilations which offered watered down arrangements of the themes, by Dick Jacobs and his orchestra etc, but we had to wait until the early 1990’s for Silva Screen to take a step into the unknown and release MUSIC FROM HAMMER FILMS on which there was a suite of music including the Finale from DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE.

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Then a few years later enter GDI records and that opened the flood gates for a wealth of marvellous Hammer soundtracks to be made available on compact disc, this was a wonderful series, and I suppose an historic one for British film music. 1968, was a bumper year for great movies, and it must be said that even the not so good releases are probably better than what is being aired in cinemas these days. We were treated to classy westerns such as, 5 CARD STUD, BANDOLERO, SHALAKO, THE SCALPHUNTERS and FIRECREEK. Plus, HANG EM HIGH which was Hollywood’s answer to the success of the Italian western, with Clint Eastwood in the leading role. Ironically Italian western FIND A PLACE TO DIE was also released and took its storyline from the more traditional American or Hollywood made western. But Spaghetti westerns were on the up as well, with one film in particular that year attracting audiences,

A PROFESSIONAL GUN was directed by Sergio Corbucci, and starred Franco Nero, Jack Palance and Tomas Milian, it was what became known as a Zapata western, which was a sub-genre of the Italian made western, and set in the days of the Mexican Revolution, thanks to an inventive screenplay by Luciano Vincenzoni who worked with Sergio Leone on THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY, and strong performances from all of the main characters, it was a roaring success, it contained what is now regarded as a text book Italian western soundtrack, which was penned by Ennio Morricone and Bruno Nicolai and contained performances by Alessandro Alessandroni as a whistler and guitarist. Musicals too were still in demand, FINIANS RAINBOW for example with Fred Astaire, Petulia Clark and Tommy Steele. FUNNY GIRL with Barbara Streisand and Omar Sharif, STAR with Julie Andrews and CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG, with Dick Van Dyke. Lionel Jefferies, Gert Frobe, Robert Helpmann and Sally Ann Howes.

 

Based on the novel by Ian Fleming, yes, the James Bond guy, this was great entertainment for kids of all ages, just watch out for that pesky child catcher, (I never could resist a lollipop). Horror movies were also popular, maybe the days of the typical Gothic horror was on its way out, but in 1968, THE BLOOD BEAST TERROR and THE BLOOD OF FU MAN CHU (not technically a horror), hit the screens, but it was also a time of a new breed of horror, which came in the form of THE NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and the harrowing ROSEMARYS BABY. Both movies went beyond the horror that we had become accustomed too and acted as a blue print for many chilling tales that were to follow, and still to this day influence what we see in the cinema. There were also examples of the genre, that maybe we really can’t take too seriously THE ASTRO ZOMBIES for instance. Hammer were active in 68, with the previously referred to, DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE and THE VENGEANCE OF SHE, with their rivals AMICUS films having success with THE TORTURE GARDEN. Then there was THE HOUR OF THE WOLF (VARGTIMMEN) a phycological horror from Sweden, which starred Max von Sydow and Liv Ullmann. So again, a wide variety of films even if they are all from one genre. It was a year when stars of the silver screen such as, Robert Mitchum, Dean Martin, Henry Fonda, Lucille Ball, Marlon Brando. Richard Burton, Steve McQueen, Tony Curtis and their like were regulars on both the big screen and on TV.
There were also movies that were maybe looked upon as being a little seedy, as it were, in other words they dealt with the more delicate, racier or sensitive areas, these included, IF, ALL NEAT IN BLACK STOCKINGS, THE KILLING OF SISTER GEORGE, PRUDENCE AND THE PILL, UP THE JUNCTION, HERE WE GO ROUND THE MULBERRY BUSH and their like. A time of wonderful movies great soundtracks and life that was as I remember, not so complicated.

It was the year of the 41st Academy Awards, with OLIVER!! Winning Best Picture, and also receiving Academy Awards for Art Direction-Set Decoration (John Box, Terence Marsh, Vernon Dixon, and Ken Muggleston), Directing (Carol Reed), it also won best Score for a Musical Picture, original or adaptation by John Green, (an Award that I don’t think exists anymore) it also won for Sound (Shepperton Studio Sound Department), and Onna White received an Honorary Award for her outstanding choreography on the movie. Katharine Hepburn became the first person to win three Academy Awards in either the Best Actor or Best Actress categories. This year, she won for the LION IN WINTER. That however was a tie with, Barbra Streisand, for her role in Funny Girl. This was at the time the second time in Academy history two performers had tied for an Academy Award. Hepburn also became the third individual to win the honor in consecutive years. Her 11 acting nominations were also a new record. Martha Raye was presented with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, making her the first woman to be so honored, and the Honorary Award went to John Chambers for his outstanding and highly creative makeup achievement for PLANET OF THE APES. Other movies that are worth a mention from 1968, include, YELLOW SUBMARINE (only coz its yellow and it’s a submarine), ANZIO, THE BIGGEST BUNDLE OF THEM ALL, MAYERLING, PERFORMANCE, THE BOSTON STRANGLER, BULLIT, and COOGANS BLUFF. Plus, we should not forget, HOW TO SAVE YOUR MARRIAGE AND RUIN YOUR LIFE, HELLFIGHTERS, FOR THE LOVE OF IVY, THE PRODUCERS, LADY IN CEMENT, THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER, NO WAY TO TREAT A LADY, THE STALKING MOON and BARBARELLA. (who could forget Barbarella), and then there was THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR, yes there was a version in 1968, long before the not so interesting recent version in 1999, the original directed by Norman Jewison, oozed charisma and charm, and starred Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway, with an outstanding soundtrack by French composer Michel Legrand.

The score boasted an array of luscious jazz numbers and a whole lot more with two songs from the movie becoming hits, THE WINDMILLS OF YOUR MIND and HIS EYES, HER EYES. So, 1968, was it a good year for film, and film music oh yes it was, and I am so glad I was there to witness it.

 

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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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