Category Archives: CINEMA.

A MAN FOR ALL GENRES.

A look at a handful of movies that starred American Actor Charlton Heston.

The Epic movie was one of those genres of film that was so popular during the late 1950’s through to around the end of the 1960’s. Many were Biblical slanted tales such as The Robe, Greatest Story Ever Told, and of course Ben Hur. There were others however which were adventures such as Genghis Khan, which was supposedly based upon true events but also had a lot of elements thrown in that probably never happened, but it was a case of producing an entertaining movie in epic form I suppose. Films such as The Long Ships and The Vikings I also include in the epic genre, but maybe we should look at these differently as it is obvious that many are just stories that are set in historical times and there is not an ounce of truth in them, but the entertainment value was precious and it is films such as these that the stuff of dreams were made of for kids of all ages. One thing that you could be sure of was that if it was an Epic, Biblical story, Adventure or a Sword and Sandal romp then the music would be rousing and most of the time very good. Maybe the quality of the music in some of the Italian made Sword and Sandal tales was not consistently good, but these were movies made on a very tight budget and often the music was the last thing on the mind of the director. But the Hollywood epic, well that was different these were lavish affairs, big stars and even bigger sets, lavish budgets and casts that were in the hundreds if not the thousands. I think my favourite epic film must be El Cid, closely followed by the likes of Ben Hur, The Ten Commandments, and 55 Days in Peking.

All four movies had actor Charlton Heston in common, with two of them the actor playing the central character. Both El Cid and 55 Days at Peking were produced by Samuel Bronston. Heston was always busy he would go on not to be just associated with the Epic movie but become synonymous with sci-fi films such as The Planet of the Apes, The Omega Man, and Soylent Green. The actor also produced memorable performances in movies such as Khartoum, The Agony and the Ecstasy, Earthquake, The Greatest Show on Earth, Major Dundee, and The Buccaneer to name but a handful. Heston had also featured in The Big Country, another box office hit in the 1950’s.

So, lets, look at some of his movies and the music for them. One of Heston’s most worthy movies in my opinion is The War Lord, I came across it on TV late when I was in my teens and was impressed by the entire production with Heston’s performance standing out. The music was composed by Jerome Moross, a composer I had already discovered via his iconic score for The Big Country. The soundtrack for The War Lord, was a highly melodic one, it displayed the composer’s gift for creating emotive and tender interludes but also included robust and action led thematic material. With one section of the score The War Lord in Battle being written by vintage Hollywood composer Hans J Salter.

Directed by American film maker Franklin J Shaffner, who would go onto to work with Heston again on films such as the original Planet of the Apes, which is still in the opinion of many the best incarnation of the tale. The director also helmed Patton: Lust for Glory in 1970, which starred George C Scott in the title role and directed Scott again in the movie Islands in the Stream in 1977.

Heston and Shaffner.

The War Lord was based upon the play by Leslie Stevens entitled The Lovers and set in eleventh Century Normandy. Produced by Walter Seltzer who acted as producer on a number of Heston’s movies, it was released in cinemas originally in the March of 1965. The cast was an impressive one, with Guy Stockwell, Richard Boone, Maurice Evens and Rosemary Forsyth, it tells the story of a Norman Knight who is sent with a small force of soldiers to a coastal village by a Duke that he serves, the area is prone to raids and an attempt to build a castle at the site earlier has already failed.

The Knight (Heston) soon takes charge of the situation and is asserting the duke’s authority and keeping raiding barbarians at bay, until that is he falls in love with a local girl (Forsyth) who is betrothed to one of the men in the village. It is an absorbing and interesting story, and one that is photographed beautifully by Russell Metty. Jerome Moross produced a score that elevated and complimented the storyline and succeeds in underlining both the romantic connection between the Knight and the girl, the building storyline and the action on screen. The opening flourishes of the score employ a fanfare that sets the scene and the tone of the remainder of the movie and score.

The composer fashions an epic and adventurous sounding musical score for the production, brass, strings, and percussion combine to create a proud and noble sound that moves from the epic into a full and lush theme filled with romanticism and emotion. Within the score one can hear small references to the composers work on The Big Country, but The War Lord is I think a far more accomplished example of the composers writing for film, with Moross producing a score that is brimming with rich thematic material that at times has a subdued persona, a style that the composer had employed on previous assignments to a degree in films such as The Mountain Road (1960) and The Five Finger Exercise (1962). It is sadly a score that is often overlooked with many not managing to see past the work Moross had done on the likes of The Big Country, The Valley of Gwangi, The Proud Rebel, and The Jayhawkers.  But one only has to listen to the opening music for The War Lord to know that this is a soundtrack draped in luscious and luxurious themes, the composer writing rich, passionate and opulent sounding music that laced, supported and punctuated delicately the films scenarios.

He also provided some impressive compositions for the rural scenes that took place in the village as in The Druid Wedding, Nocturnal Procession and The Forsaken Village. It is without a doubt one of the composers most inspired works for cinema.

From the coast of Normandy in France to the sun-soaked plains of Spain and El Cid, a movie that really needs no introduction as it is probably one of the best-known movies that Heston starred in. It also starred the beautiful Sophia Loren and featured many well-known faces from film. Released in 1961 and directed by Anthony Mann it had a screenplay by Phillip Yordan and Ben Barzman, that was based upon a story by Frederic M. Frank.

Set in the eleventh Century it tells the story of a time when Spain was overrun by the Moors who burnt Churches, conquered cities, and killed Christians. Spain needed a leader a hero to unite the country so it could rise up and drive the invaders into the sea. Rodrigo de Bivar comes to the realisation that as a divided country Spain can never rid themselves of the invading hordes, it becomes his quest in life to Unite his war torn country against these merciless enemies from Africa even enlisting Moors into his ranks after sparing them from death. The movie charts his life, his loyalty to a Monarch that is not deserving of it and his undying love for Chimene and later his twin girls, taking us up till his death at the battle of Valencia where his efforts to lead a united Spain against the enemy and drive them into the sea and back to where they came finally are fulfilled but at the ultimate cost to himself and his family.

The musical score for El Cid was the work of a giant of film music Miklos Rozsa, of course the Maestro was no stranger to working on Epic productions by the time the decade of the 1960,s dawned. Producer Samuel Bronston however mentioned in an interview at the time of the film being released that he was somewhat nervous about offering or asking Rozsa to create the score for his historical epic as the composer had worked on so many big productions leading up to it, including Sodom and Gomorah, Ben Hur, Quo Vadis and Bronston’s own ill-fated Biblical epic King of Kings. All of which were set Centuries before the time of El Cid. But thankfully Dr Rozsa agreed to work on the score and in my ever so humble opinion created one of the most stirring, romantic, and emotive soundtracks of the 20th Century, and one of his most accomplished and popular. There have been various recordings of Rozsa’s music over the years the most recent being the Tadlow Music 2-disc set, there have also been a number of suites of the music one of my favourites being conducted by Elmer Bernstein that included a number of cues which at the time of its release had never been recorded before.

I however have to say that I still prefer and go back to the original MGM release of the soundtrack and I know it is nowhere near a complete example of the work like the Tadlow release but I suppose it holds a special place in my heart because I first purchased it on the MGM long playing record with the yellow label for the princely sum of one pound and two shillings, then acquired the Compact Disc years later when issued on the MGM/EMI label and although it contains just 11 tracks for me it is the best and most entertaining edition. Rozsa’s score is a triumph and an exhilarating listening experience whilst watching the movie as it interacts and supports, embellishes, and enhances the images on screen and weaves its way into the storyline and accompanies each of the films characters.

But it also stands alone as a rewarding and enriching listening encounter away from any images. It is filled with drama, pageantry, emotion, intimacy and romanticism plus it  contains some of the most powerful and majestic sounding fanfares I have ever heard, it is a soundtrack that is brimming with an inspired and heroic sound which is added to and given more depth and emotion by its poignant and heartrending tone poems and intimate and haunting love themes all of which is further enriched and augmented by some of cinemas most pulsating and ominous sounding battle music, the composer underlines the action with effervescent and thundering passages, but also retains the scores sense of richness, grandiose and lushness, via his proud Hispanic sounding compositions. This I think can be heard most effectively in the cue The Battle of Valencia.

Where the composer enlists an array of percussion and timpani and combines these elements with driving strings that are aided and underpinned by rasping and frantic brass to depict the desperate efforts of the Spanish armies to halt the advance of the Moors, the music is the charging cavalry and the clashing of metal the endless waves of arrows that are launched at the charging Spanish forces, the cacophony and near chaotic sound of battle music is abruptly halted in its tracks by the Cid’s theme being introduced as he is struck by a Moorish arrow, this theme adds emotion and also gives the piece a sense of despair as our hero is wounded and retreats back to the safety of Valencia’s walls. When the theme builds but soon evaporates into a more sombre version of the motif as his troops hear the news and quickly loose morale and are thrown into a despairing and desperate retreat back to the relative safety of the City. The sombre mood continues as the seriousness of the Cid,s wound becomes evident, the composer utilising dark and low strings to depict and elaborate upon the gravity of the situation and its mood.

The MGM/EMI release of the soundtrack on compact disc opens with Overture, which bursts into life via Rozsa’s rousing and glittering fanfares that are punctuated by percussion, followed by strident strings that take on the central theme and are further embellished and accompanied by martial sounding timpani tapping out a riding pace which is laced with fearsome sounding brass, all of these elements combine and build into one of cinemas most appealing and powerful themes setting the scene for what is to follow on the disc. It is an apprehensive sound that is underneath the surface but one that is also proud, majestic and heroic, reaching its conclusion in a tumultuous crescendo of brass fanfares, booming percussion and romantically fervent strings that are embraced by harps.

Track two is The Prelude, but it is the music that was utilised as the opening credits rolled. Spanish influenced with a romantic and highly emotive style filled to overflowing with pride, patriotism and oozing a sense of dedication, faith and spiritualistic in its overall impact. Rozsa’s music is magnificent and highly charged.  The track Fight for Calahorra, is for me one of this score’s highlights, rousing fanfares, galloping percussion and windswept sounding strings bring us one of the soundtracks most appealing and stirring compositions and introduces the fight which Rodrigo must undertake to win the city of Calahorra for his King, a task he volunteers for after he has killed the Kings champion who was the Father of his Bride to be Chimene. This cue really is heard prior to the fight and is performed as both peasants, Knights and Royalty are all summoned to attend what is looked upon as a spectacle but, is a desperate fight to the death.

This is a cue that underlines the joyous atmosphere of the occasion but also introduces dark elements that emphasise the more serious side of the proceedings. The cue Farewell showcases the more tender and fragile sounding elements of the soundtrack and at just over six minutes is one of this disc’s longest tracks, the cue opens with a heartrending version of the Cid’s theme which is performed in the first instant by woodwind, then guitar is brought into the equation and plaintive and subtle strings too underline or mirror the theme. The Love Theme for Chimene and Rodrigo is also given a fuller working here performed by an achingly effecting violin which is beautifully mesmerising. This is a classic score for an iconic movie.

From eleventh Century Europe let’s move forward a little way and shift continents to the Americas and to to The United States of America in 1864 where the movie Major Dundee is set, released in 1965 and directed by Sam Peckinpah. The movie had mixed reviews when it was initially released, most of them being negative although Peckinpah was praised for his direction. The movie tells the story of raids by renegade Apache’s into the U.S. from Mexico which are becoming more frequent and bloodier with white children being abducted by the Apache. A U.S Cavalry officer Major Amos Dundee played by Charlton Heston decides that he will lead a force of volunteers illegally into Mexico to track them down and wipe them out.

He oversees a prisoner of war camp which houses Confederate prisoners who have been incarcerated there after being captured in the Civil War, their officer in charge is Captain Ben Tyreen played by the wonderful Richard Harris. Because he cannot get a large enough force to undertake this expedition Dundee decides to enlist the help of the Confederates and civilian mercenaries. The mix of these and Union troops including black infantry soldiers, becomes like a simmering pan ready to boil over and tensions run high. But although the rag tag army of sorts have their differences, they are united in tracking the Apache and unite to fight the elite French lancers who are also standing in their way.

The movie had a good cast which included, Jim Hutton, Senta Berger, James Coburn, Michael Anderson JR, Mario Adorf, Brock Peters, and three actors who would also feature in another Peckinpah western The Wild Bunch L.Q Jones, Warren Oates, and Ben Johnson. The original score for the 1965 release was by vintage Hollywood composer Daniele Amfitheatrof, who provided a more than rousing set of themes for the movie which included a title song performed by Mitch Miller and the Gang The Major Dundee March and another vocal which acted as a love theme entitled To Be with You also performed by Mitch Miller and his singers. However, when lost footage of the movie was discovered it was re-released onto DVD and re-scored by composer Christopher Caliendo, his score was welcomed by some but dismissed by as many who favoured the original music. Amfitheatrof’s music was thought even at the time of the films original release to be out of kilter with the movie, and some said was dated even in the 1960’s.

I believe both scores work within the movie but on different levels and as a collector of a certain age I cannot watch the movie without Amfitheatrof’s dramatic and jaunty score, especially the music he penned for The French Lancers. Major Dundee may not have been popular when first released but has since become something of a cult movie and as always Heston produced a credible performance in the title role.  

As well, as Epics and westerns Charlton Heston also starred in his fair share of Sci-Fi movies, one is probably one of the most iconic motion pictures of the 1960’s, Planet of The Apes. 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 won’t 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 loses his voice after being wounded in the throat by an ape bullet. Kim Hunter and Roddy McDowall, also star who were most convincing in their respective roles of Zira and Cornelius two chimpanzee scientists. The cast also includes Maurice Evans, James Whitmore, and James Daly and introduced Linda Harrison to audiences in the role of Nova. 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 (Monkey Planet) and produced by Arthur P Jacobs, with a highly innovative and 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 original series and not only spawned a TV series, and an animated series but acted as inspiration for the series of re-boots which continue to entertain today. It was and remains a compelling motion picture that is not only visually outstanding and intelligently constructed but also one that sent chills down one’s spine when it eventually reaches the final scene which must be one of cinemas most sobering sights.

The decaying statue of Liberty or at least part of it rising out of the beach as Taylor makes his getaway with Nova is an imposing and memorable image. Taylor right at the end of the movie realising that he is back on earth, back to the place that he was so desperate to get away from, the upside-down planet ruled by apes is his planet, destroyed by war or some disaster natural or man-made. Jerry Goldsmiths inventive and highly original soundtrack played a large part in creating the mood and setting the scenes for the movie.

The composer utilising Rams Horn, and synthesised sounds that mimicked ape noises along side more conventional symphonic instrumentation. Dark and ominous sounding piano and percussive elements all playing their part to create a score that was just as unsettling as the mood of the movie. The composer created what seemed to be a whole new style and fashioned a sound that had not been heard before by using conventional instruments in a less than conventional way. With echoes and reverb effects enhancing pizzicato strings and interesting steel percussion being employed. The most impressive section of the score is without a doubt The Hunt and the sequence in the movie too is impressive and unforgettable. The images and the music work flawlessly together, with Goldsmith adding tension, chaos and shock via his racing and highly powerful composition. The same can be said for the cue No Escape, which is another triumph of musical sounds and passages and a tour de force of that displays the composer’s sheer genius, in which he combines, pizzicato strings, trumpet and xylophone at one point to create a apprehensive atmosphere.

Planet of the Apes was a milestone movie, for Heston, Schaffner, and Goldsmith. It was a movie that has in my opinion never been bettered and remains the go to version dismissing all others.

Heston returned to the Apes franchise in Beneath the Planet of the Apes, but it was not what one would call a starring role more like a featured performance, appearing at the beginning of the movie and towards the end of the film. The movie which was directed by Ted Post had a score by composer Leonard Rosenman which again was highly original, but somehow paled in the significance and excellence of Goldsmith’s original.

At times the Rosenman work becoming a noisy and tangled affair as opposed to having any real thematic direction. Heston never returned to the franchise apart from appearances done in flashback which were taken from the first two movies. Schaffner also did not direct another Apes movie and after Beneath the Planet of the Apes the franchise seemed to decline and have the appearance of TV movies with at times terribly cheesy screenplays, wooden acting, and poor direction.    

Looking at the films that Heston starred in during the 1960.s I think he must have made Planet of the Apes and Will Penny back-to-back as they were released around about the same time which was between February and April 1968. Will Penny was a classy western but at the same time quite a brutal one. With Heston taking the title role, ably supported by Joan Hackett, Donald Pleasance, Lee Majors, Anthony Zerbe, Ben Johnson, Slim Pickens and Bruce Dern. Zerbe would feature in The Omega Man (1971) alongside Heston, portraying Matthias the head of the dreaded family and Neville’s (Heston’s character) nemesis. The music for Will Penny was composed by Hollywood Maestro David Raksin, five cues from the score (approx:18 minutes) were featured on a Dot records LP and have in recent months been made available on digital platforms being included in a compilation of themes from movies as scored by Raksin such as Sylvia, and Too Late the Blues. Will Penny contained a song The Lonely Rider which was performed by pop and big band vocalist Don Cherry,who had a hit in 1955 with Band of Gold.

The LP is now something of a rarity and both the LP release and the digital edition contain dialogue from the movie featuring Donald Pleasance on the track An Eye for an Eye. Raksin composed a romantic sounding score and one that evokes memories of the film music of the golden age of Hollywood. The movie was directed by Tom Gries, who also provided the screenplay. The movie was based upon an episode of the 1960 TV series The Westerner, entitled Line Camp which was produced by Sam Peckinpah and again written by Gries. Heston often said that Will Penny was one of his favourite movies.  

Composer Ron Grainer wrote an atmospheric and symphonic/pop sounding music for The Omega Man in 1971, the Australian born Grainer’s music worked well with the storyline and the images on screen, the composers use of organ in-particular was striking and gave the movie greater depth and created an eerie atmosphere that became the motif for the infamous Family. It was also perfect for the various action sequences and underlined the spookier sections to great effect. As soon as the movie was released and fans heard Grainer’s score, they began to request that the soundtrack should be released, sadly it was not forthcoming and they would have to wait many years before the score eventually got a release on compact disc by film score monthly, the original release soon so. ld out and a re-press followed a little later. Which too, soon became sought after and is now a rare release changing hands on the internet for inflated prices.

Thankfully it is now available to stream on the usual sites, so everyone can sample its delights. Many had already experienced the music of Grainer through Doctor Who on the BBC and another British TV series The Prisoner which was popular in the late 1960.s. In fact, one could hear elements and certain nuances and orchestration styles within The Omega Man that the composer had experimented with in the theme and several the scores for The Prisoner. A driving score that matched the action and created wonderfully atmospherics. The Omega Man was directed by Boris Sagall and was based on the novel I Am Legend by Richard Matheson, the story or at least a version of it had been filmed previously in 1964, entitled The Last Man on Earth with Vincent Price in the central role. It has also been given a more contemporary setting in I am Legend which starred Will Smith.

The Omega Man remains one of those movies that you just must watch over and over and stands as one of Heston’s more interesting sci-fi films alongside Soylent Green.

Which brings us to that movie, released in 1973, this ecological dystopian thriller was directed by Richard Fleischer, with Heston in the lead role supported by Leigh Taylor-Young, Chuck Connors, Joseph Cotton, and Edward G. Robinson in his final film role. The film was based partly upon the 1966 novel Make Room! Make Room! which was written by Harry Harrison, the film successfully combines police procedural and science fiction elements: that includes an investigation into the murder of a wealthy businessman and a dystopian future of dying oceans, high temperatures, pollution, poverty, overpopulation, euthanasia, and resources that are running out. It won the Nebula Award for Best Dramatic Presentation and the Saturn Award for Best Science Fiction Film. Looking at it now its like it  was a pre-cursor to events that are now taking place in the world on a daily basis, let’s hope however it does not come to this.

The score was by Fred Myrow, who is probably best known for his music to Phantasm and Scarecrow. I must comment that I did not notice any music in the movie, apart from the rather quirky and upbeat main titles, but I suppose that is the sign of a good score and composer, the audience not being aware that the music is even there, but it still does its job. It was not until I got the soundtrack on compact disc many years later that I was able to fully appreciate Myrow’s affecting soundtrack.

Composer John Scott has contributed much to world of film music both as a composer of film scores and in his early days as a performer playing on soundtracks for the likes of John Barry. The composer has scored numerous movies some of which have been high profile releases and successes at the box office, however I as a collector of soundtracks feel that this great British Maestro still has not received the applause and recognition he so richly deserves, I am not entirely sure why this is, but it seems that this talented and versatile music-smith is almost ignored or shall we say overlooked.

His musical triumphs for the big screen include movies such as Antony and Cleopatra, which was directed by and starred Heston in the role of Mark Antony. Scott’s score is sumptuous and melodic, the composer fashioning beautiful and at the same time powerful thematic materials to enhance this story of romance, deceit, and war.  The movie also starred with the alluring Hildegard Neal as his Cleopatra, released in 1972 the film did not fare well at the hands of the critics, in later years however it has been given the acclaim it so rightly should have received upon its release.  Scott’s own label JOS records decided to release a full version of the score from the movie and this was finally released in 1992. It was a long-drawn-out process and a labour of love for Scott, he approached the publishers of the music and told them of his idea to release the complete score, but his words fell upon near deaf ears the publishers telling the composer that it would be too costly to record. So over the years the composer would record sections of the score at the end of sessions for other recordings, the process began in Berlin or East Berlin as it was then called in 1987, it was at this time that Scott managed to find time to record the Overture from his score, he returned in 1988 and recorded more sections and after a while he managed to finance a session and complete the recording of the soundtrack. The completed recording was then assembled, mixed, and edited in Los Angeles almost twenty years to the day after the original recording sessions in London. This is a superbly lyrical work and is one of the composers finest. The movie too although not appreciated by the majority is still worth watching. 

In closing here is a brief bio of Charlton Heston.

Which is taken from Wikepedia.

Born John Charles Carter on October 4, 1923, Charlton Heston was an American actor and political activist.He appeared in almost 100 films over the course of 60 years. He played Moses in the epic film The Ten Commandments (1956), for which he received his first nomination for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama. He also starred in The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), Secret of the Incas (1954), Touch of Evil (1958) with Orson Welles, The Big Country (1958), Ben-Hur (1959), for which he won the Oscar for Best Actor, El Cid (1961), The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), Planet of the Apes (1968), The Omega Man (1971) and Soylent Green (1973). In the 1950s and 1960s, he was one of a handful of Hollywood actors to speak openly against racism and was an active supporter of the Civil Rights Movement. Heston left the Democratic Party in 1971 to become a Republican, founding a conservative political action committee and supporting Ronald Reagan. Heston was a five-term president of the National Rifle Association (NRA), from 1998 to 2003. After announcing he had Alzheimer’s disease in 2002, he retired from both acting and the NRA presidency.  He died on April 5, 2008.

YORGA’S UNRELEASED SCORE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Count Yorga: Vampire (imdb.com)

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

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

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

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

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

DEMONS OF THE MIND.

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

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

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

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

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

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

CAPTAIN KRONOS-VAMPIRE HUNTER.

Now I always felt that this was a movie that was a little odd, mind you any movie which has a mythical creature or being at its core must I suppose be looked upon with some trepidations don’t you think, after all do vampires exist, well I have never met one and I know quite a few odd balls. I saw the film initially on TV and at the time thought ummm, well that was different, but did I think this because I had already been somewhat conditioned about the folklore surrounding the Vampire by previous Hammer and Universal movies? When I thought of a vampire straight away, I had a mental image of Dracula or at least Christopher Lee as the Count, simply because of the generation I am from and the films that I grew up with. It may come as a surprise when I tell you that I saw the Hammer incarnations of Stokers famous Count before viewing the Lugosi movies as produced by Universal in glorious monochrome. I remember well seeing my first Dracula which was the 1958 Hammer production which was entitled The Horror of Dracula in the U.S.A. As the credits rolled and the music thundered, I felt scared I know it sounds silly, but I was just fifteen and had manage to persuade the lady on the ticket office I was old enough to see an X cert movie. The sight of the coffin being spattered with blood in the opening credits of the film made me think maybe this was not such a good idea. The thing is it was showing with Dracula Prince of Darkness, so I sat literally frozen to the itchy cinema seat in the Duke of York cinema Brighton, fixed on the screen. After a while it was ok, I was used to it or was I? I don’t think we ever fully grow out of being apprehensive around horror movies and I still find that those early Hammer movies with the rich colours, the wonderfully atmospheric sets, day for night sequences and the music a little bit scary, don’t you? 

I think this is why I found Kronos a bit harder to swallow, the way in which the vampire killed was different, the way in which the vampire could be dispatched and vanquished was also different although there were certain methods from the more traditional movies included within its storyline. This I think was something to do with the way in which the story was conceived and also because of the production team and director. Even the musical score was different, and the lead actor too was more of a swashbuckler and mercenary than a professor or expert on the occult, although he was surrounded by a team of people who seemed to know what they were doing.

At times I even noticed a style that maybe would have been inspired by the films of Kurosawa or Leone, especially in the scenes involving Kronos and the character Kerro played by Ian Hendry who was supported by his band of cutthroats who are paid to murder Kronos. But initially as I say I was a little confused and decidedly unimpressed on my first viewing. Until I sat down one evening and watched the movie on DVD and ended up loving it because of its inventiveness and its innovative approach to the tales of the vampire. Mixing mystery, with adventure and sword play with vampirism certainly worked and the performances by the impressive cast were also a bonus.

This although offbeat compared with other Hammer vampire movies was a polished and wonderfully dramatic production. Directed by Brian Clemens who also penned the story, as well as acting as co-producer on the movie with Albert Fennel whom he was already associated with via their collaborations on popular TV series such as The Avengers and The New Avengers and had also produced Doctor Jekyll and Sister Hyde in 1971 for Hammer which was an interesting take on the original story by Robert Louis Stephenson.

The score for Captain Kronos was by Laurie Johnson, who was the third member of the partnership with Clemens and Fennel. Johnson of course was a well-known figure in the world of TV and film music as well as being an important figure in British music as a composer and an arranger. His themes for the already mentioned The Avengers and New Avengers are still popular today, but unless you are a Hammer fan or a film music collector one would probably not associate Johnson with a Hammer Gothic horror and it was to be the only Hammer movie that the composer worked upon, and in interview he spoke to me about the film and his score.

“I became involved on Kronos, because it had been written and directed by Brian Clemens, who had also been the main script writer on The Avengers, and at around the time of Kronos he had become a partner with myself and Albert Fennel. The movie was a quite different approach to a vampire. Which I found refreshing, I was given about six weeks to score the film or thereabouts I cannot recollect the exact amount of time that I had to score the picture, but I always specified a minimum of one month. The orchestra on the score consisted of a large string section, horns, and solo trumpet. Philip Martell was musical director for Hammer, so it was he who conducted Kronos. I found him to be a very able and affable person, and I had in fact employed him myself on several occasions as associate conductor. This is an arrangement that I found extremely helpful, as it enabled me to either conduct or supervise from the control room, as I felt necessary. Over the years this was an arrangement that also suited my long-term friend and business partner Bernard Herrmann and myself on both our film and recording sessions.”

As well as Johnson’s score there were sections of music utilized within the movie which had been composed by Malcolm Williamson, but I am unsure if these were additional cues or used as fillers or maybe sections that were added after the actual scoring had ceased and the producers wanted more music? But this was not unusual and had happened both before and after Kronos on other Hammer films, the MD whoever they were at the time selecting cues to add to the original score for greater effect. Johnson’s score is an accomplished one, with the driving main title theme being one of the many highpoints of the work. The ten note theme performed by solo trumpet which is used throughout and is a vital component of the pulsating central theme, has I have to say has similar attributes to the theme that Johnson wrote for The Belstone Fox in 1973, which manifests itself in that scores core theme and becomes more prominent in the Hunt sequence of the movie. This trumpet solo for Kronos is at times given a softer rendition via faraway sounding horns in a handful of cues, thus making it more of a gentle and calming effect in non-action scenes. Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter is probably one of Hammers best film scores, the composer creating a mystical and malevolent sound throughout. The music was released onto compact disc by the BSX label in the United States under license from the UK label GDI (who released several Hammer soundtracks) and has subsequently been made available on digital platforms such as Spotify. It has to it an uneasy but at the same time martial sound, with certain nods of acknowledgement to the style of composer Bernard Herrmann, with low woods and percussive elements being integrated into the soundtrack and evoking Herrmann’s Mysterious Island and Jason and the Argonauts. The composer also provides some more melodic and even religious, and romantic flourishes which come as a welcome respite to the remainder of the score which is action themed. There is also subtle use of cymbalom in a handful of cues, which adds atmosphere to the story that is unfolding up on the screen. But it is a four-note, then five-note motif which seems to be constantly present that the composer builds his score upon, with the motif being executed by varying instrumentation and acting as a calling card for Kronos.

The movie was given a late release in 1974 after several concerns being raised by censors in both the UK and the US. In America it was given an R rating and in the UK an X certificate. Because it was thought that the movie contained too much violence and had scenes of a sexual nature with a script that hinted at sexual acts. The movie was to be the first of a series of films to feature the titular character, but sadly this did not come to fruition.

Set in 16th Century England during the European or Protestant Reformation. Dr. Marcus played by the excellent John Carson decides that he has to call in Captain Kronos portrayed by Horst Janson, with whom he served in the army to his village which is plagued by mysterious deaths which are a linked by the victims passing away with accelerated aging. Kronos and his companion, the Hunchback Professor Hieronymus Grost  portrayed by another wonderful actor John Cater are professional Vampire Hunters.

Grost explains to the initially sceptical Marcus that the dead women are victims of a Vampire who drains not blood but youth, and that there are “As many species of vampire as there are beasts of prey”. The discovery of another victim soon after the Vampire hunters arrive in the village confirms Grost’s explanation. On their travels Kronos and Grost  meet and take in a local Gypsy girl, Carla played by the beautiful actress Caroline Munro, has been put in the stocks for dancing on the sabbath, the duo release her and she decides to repay their kindness by becoming an assistant of sorts and later a romance between her and Kronos develops and they become lovers.

The intrepid vampire hunters begin to carry out tests in the area to try and find out if there is a vampire roaming the countryside. But they are at first thrown off the scent when told that the person or being responsible for the killings is an old person, which does not fit the persona of a youth draining vampire, who theoretically would become younger after each victim, rather than aging.  

Dr.Marcus decides that he will visit the family of a deceased friend, Lord Hagen Durward, where he speaks with Durward’s son, Paul played by Shane Briant and his beautiful sister Sara (Lois Daine). He however has to make his departure before having an opportunity to talk to his friends widow, the bed-ridden Lady Durward  portrayed by actress Wanda Ventham. While on his return journey Marcus is confronted with a dark figure who is wearing a cloak riding through the woods, Marcus encounters a cloaked figure which leaves him shaken and shocked as he discovers fresh blood on his lips.

Meanwhile Kronos and Grost are at a local inn when they are confronted by a handful of brigands led by Kerro (Ian Hendry). They have been paid by Lady Durward to kill Kronos. They fail as Kronos far outmatches all of them. This is one of the scenes where I was reminded of both the genre of the Italian western and the films of Kurosawa, Kronos killing all three of the thugs with two swipes of his sword. After Kerro ridicules Grost for being a hunchback. The scene is moderately violent, but it is the barman and bar maid ducking down behind the bar that reminded me of the delicate balance between an act of violence and comedy think of the mule scene, in A Fistful of Dollars for example. Whilst this is taking place Marcus enlists the help of Carla and together, they rig up a network of traps in the form of bells on strings and ribbons in the woods so if the vampire touches them, they are all connected and will alert them.  

A giant bat then kills a young girl in a horrific and bloody attack, and Marcus then realises he is a vampire or at least is turning into one. He pleads with his old friend Kronos to kill him, after which follows a horrendous and painful to watch sequence where both Kronos and Grost attempt to kill Marcus, with a stake, by hanging, and other such methods, by accident Kronos pierces his friend’s chest with a metal cross. After determining the way to kill a vampire Kronos and Grost take a metal cross from the graveyard and after fighting off the villagers manages to turn the metal from the cross into a sword, a sword that will kill vampires and in the hands of the Captain it is indeed a deadly weapon.

After waiting and watching Kronos ends up in the Durward mansion and is faced with a youthful looking Lady Durward who has hypnotised both her children and Carla, she has resurrected her dead husband Hagen (William Hobbs) and offers Carla to him, Kronos then steps into the picture and a deadly duel begins between Hagen and the Captain.

In which Lord Durward is killed after which Kronos despatches Lady Durward, and releases both her children and Carla from her grasp. The end sequence is an impressive one and vastly different from any of the other vampire movie as produced by Hammer. The film concludes with Kronos and Grost heading off into the sunrise bidding Carla farewell and moving onto more adventures, so the producers left the audience wanting more and maybe expecting more, but sadly, these adventures have never been filmed, because it was during this period the 1970’s, that Hammer developed financial problems which forced them to stop production.

There were however sequels in the form of comic books as published by The House of Hammer in 1976 and 1977 also Kronos rode again in Hammers Halls of Horror in1978 and in 2018 in the Titan comics publication. There was also a novelisation of the film published in 2011 penned by Guy Adams. Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter maybe different, but its an attention-grabbing motion picture, and because it is so different it has over the years attained a cult classic status.  

 

DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE.

There can be truly little doubt that the Dracula cycle of movies as produced by Hammer films have been the most successful or at least the most popular when it comes to audience reaction. Of course, there have been many other filmic incarnations of the infamous Count, but none seem to have even touched the look or the appeal as the Hammer productions. Most Hammer productions that involved the Lord of the Undead have starred the wonderful Christopher Lee in the titular role, but of course the studio did produce The Brides of Dracula (1960) with David Peel taking the central role, even though his character was had certain affiliations to the Count created by Bram Stoker,

Hammer I think wanted to create their own vampiric character and at the time of the films release I felt personally that maybe Peel could have gone onto make more appearances as the blood sucking as he was excellent in the role, but sadly it was not to be as Christopher Lee once again donned the black cloak and Dracula ring to walk the halls of castle Dracula in Dracula Prince of Darkness some six years later.

 Brides of Dracula was Hammer’s sequel to Dracula or The Horror of Dracula as it was titled in the United States, and as well having a different lead actor the film also had a musical score that was by Malcolm Williamson and not James Bernard who had created the infamous and now familiar Dracula theme, Williamson’s score was at times softer than the style employed by Bernard, but it also had to it an edgy and malevolent sound which suited perfectly the films storyline and assisted in fashioning a malignant and foreboding air. Bernard however returned in 1966 to score Dracula Prince of Darkness, and two years later realized a fearful and unnerving soundtrack for Dracula has Risen from the Grave.

Which in true Hammer tradition began where the previous movie had finished, well to a degree anyway. All three of Hammers first Dracula themed movies had been directed by Terence Fisher, who also helmed The Curse of Frankenstein in 1957, which was I suppose the film that began Hammer’s links with Gothic horror. Dracula has Risen from the Grave was directed by Freddie Francis, who was already a respected cinematographer and had worked on movies such as A Town Without Pity, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, Room at the Top, Sons and Lovers, and Never Take Sweets from a Stranger. Dracula has Risen from the Grave, is in my opinion an underrated Hammer movie, and I am also of the opinion that it was probably the last credible gothic horror involving Dracula that Hammer released. With Taste the Blood of Dracula and The Scars of Dracula paling in its presence.

The movie opens with the Warner Brothers Seven arts logo, that is followed by A Hammer films Production in purple, the vivid colors of the opening titles that are near being psychedelic are a combination of a blood red background and purple shapes and images, this vibrant use of color is something that is noticeable throughout the movie, which is probably due to the director being a cinematographer. These vibrant and menacing titles which evoke something from a Bond movie are accompanied by the foreboding sound of composer James Bernard, who for this movie adapted and arranged his original Dracula theme to sound I think even more virulent and contains shades of the composers The Devil Rides Out theme from the same year, or at least evokes the sinister and broodingly evil style within it. It is also noticeable that the end theme for Dracula has Risen from the Grave also shares similarities with the Awakening and Absolution cue from The Devil Rides out.

The story begins in a remote village in Eastern Europe, with a young altar boy discovering a body of a young girl crammed inside the church bell with the mark of the vampire upon her. The priest of the village played by Ewan Hooper has turned to drink because his congregation has forsaken the church and they live in fear of the spirit of Count Dracula who had been destroyed a year before, succumbing to the icy waters of the moat around his castle.

Monsignor Ernest Mueller (Rupert Davies) arrives in the village on a routine visit, to find that all is not as it should be. With the altar boy being reduced to a scared and mute child in a state of shock because of the gruesome discovery and the priest doubting his faith in God. The villagers tell the Monsignor that they will not attend mass because the shadow of Castle Dracula touches the church, to try and alleviate the villagers fears and restore some form of normality in the village the Monsignor decides that he will climb the mountain to the castle and perform the ceremony of exorcism to banish the evil that emanates from it. The priest reluctantly agrees to accompany him but is terrified and will only go so far before becoming frozen with fear. The Monsignor continues alone and reaches the castle but as he begins the exorcism a storm gathers with high winds and thunder and lightning all around. He manages to complete the ceremony and attaches a large golden cross to the door of the castle before making his way back to the village. The priest by this time is hurrying down the mountain to escape the castle and the storm but he falls and hits his head being knocked unconscious. The blood from his wound is seen to trickle into a frozen stream via a crack in the ice and finds its way to the body of Dracula and to the lips of the vampire reviving him. The Monsignor returns to the village and reassures them that there is no longer any danger, but after being given false information from the landlord of the tavern that the Priest has returned the Monsignor returns home which is in the city of Keinenberg.  

Count Dracula is resurrected by the Priest’s blood, and gains control of him, Dracula is enraged by the cross attached to the castle doors and asks the Priest “Who has done this”. The Priest tells Dracula “It was the Monsignor”, and the Count then forces the priest to defile a coffin for him to lay in and take him to Keinenberg to exact his revenge upon the exorcist.

Dracula soon becomes aware that the Monsignor lives with his widowed sister-in-Law and she has a beautiful daughter, Maria (Veronica Carlson) who becomes the object of the Counts evil attention. As the story unfolds tha music of James Bernard becomes more central and integral to the films plot, the style of Bernard was well suited to the Gothic horrors all’a Hammer, and his thundering and booming theme for Dracula has Risen from the Grave, is I think one of the composers best Dracula scores. Bernard was of course almost Hammer’s composer in residence as he worked on so many of the studio’s releases, his music has supported, underlined and punctuated films such as Kiss of the Vampire, The Gorgon, Plague of the Zombies, She, Frankenstein Created Woman, The Curse of Frankenstein, and so many more.

Bernard was one of the very few composers at Hammer who collaborated with all three of their musical directors, John Hollingsworth, Marcus Dodds and Phil Martell. His score for Dracula Has Risen from the Grave was even more urgent and dramatic than the music he wrote for the two previous Dracula movies he scored, it contained a more pronounced atmosphere of fearfulness with the composer employing booming percussion and rasping brass to a greater degree. He also wrote a closing theme that was hopeful and celebrated the triumph of good over evil. Bernard also scored Taste the Blood of Dracula, and Scars of Dracula, in which he utilised a variation of his original Dracula theme that became the foundation of both scores. Bernard’s music for Dracula has Risen from the Grave has not yet been released in its entirety, however there is a short suite on the Silva Screen release Music from Hammer films and the subsequent spin off compilations that the label released. With a new vinyl double LP set recently becoming available.

The storyline of Dracula has Risen from the Grave becomes more and more intense as the movie progresses, with the Count enslaving a young girl Zena (Barbara Ewing) who works in a tavern, she is given the task of delivering Maria to the Count and very nearly succeeds but is stopped by Maria’s boyfriend Paul played by Barry Andrews. Dracula then kills Zena and tells the priest to destroy her body in the fire of the bakery under the tavern so that she cannot become one of the undead.

Undeterred Dracula helped by the Priest finds Maria and after making his way over the rooftops of the city enters her room and bites her, but he is disturbed by the Monsignor, Dracula makes his escape, and the Monsignor pursues him but is stopped by the priest who knocks him down allowing the Count to escape. The Monsignor realises he needs help and calls for Paul. He gives Paul a book of rites that are protection against vampires, and also details the way in which they can be defeated he does this as he finally gives in to his injuries.  Paul decides to ask the Priest to help him but does not realise that he is still under the influences of Dracula.

The Priest attacks Paul but being younger and fitter Paul soon defeats him and forces him to take him to where Dracula is lying in his coffin. Where they attempt to drive a stake through the vampire’s heart, but the Priest is unable to say the prayer that is required to kill the vampire and results in Dracula waking and rising from his coffin and removing the stake from his body. Dracula then abducts Maria and makes his way to the castle. Both Paul and the Priest are in pursuit desperate to save Maria and also to finally kill Dracula.

They reach the castle to find that Dracula has forced Maria to remove the gold cross from the door so that he may enter, Maria throws the cross into a rock ravine below the castle where is lodges into the ground sticking upwards. Paul confronts Dracula on the parapets of castle Dracula and the pair enter a desperate struggle to the death, but it is Dracula who is thrown from the castle walls falling into the ravine and being impaled onto the cross. At last, the Priest is set free from the vampires influences and begins to say the Lord’s prayer as we see Dracula gradually turn to dust. Paul is re-united with Maria and both stand looking at Dracula’s remains. Paul seemingly has regained his faith and crosses himself. As the scene comes to its end James Bernard’s driving music becomes almost a religious and celestial sounding work, with strings, brass and percussion joining in a final crescendo of victory.

The movie was filmed at Pinewood studios, in Buckinghamshire, which is why the appearance of Castle Dracula is somewhat different from as it appeared in the two previous Hammer horrors, Dracula and Dracula Prince of Darkness, the moat from the latter is absent as is the approach road and the path on which coaches entered the castle. The two previous movies being filmed at the Bray studios. I mentioned earlier the vivid colour in the movie, and this was due to certain filters that belonged to director Freddie Francis being utilised by cinematographer Arthur Grant for the movie. These were the same filters that Francis used when he shot The Innocents in 1961, scenes of the castle were enhanced with frames that were edged with amber, yellow and crimson, giving the castle a malevolent appearance. Terence Fisher should have directed the movie, but due to ill health he had to step down and Francis was brought in.

Dracula has Risen from the Grave was to be the first Hammer film to be released in Australia that was not heavily edited by the Censors, both previous Christopher Lee, Dracula movies had been banned. But Dracula has Risen from the Grave was only censored slightly and was screened at the Sydney Capitol Theatre for a season in the January of 1970.  The movie met with a mixture of critical comments, one saying that it was Short on Shock Sequences, but did have a Nice Gory opening, and a Suitably horrific finale.

The film however was a winner with audiences, and this is largely due to the adventurous direction of Francis who was to become associated with directing mainly low budget horror movies, in his career as a director working for Hammer, Tyburn, and Amicus. He later returned to cinematography and was responsible for creating stunning photography for movies such as The Elephant Man, Dune and Glory from the 1980’s and The Straight Story, The Man in the Moon and there-make of Cape Fear in the 1990’s. He died at the age of 89 as the result of a stroke.