Benjamin Frankel was born in London in 1906, he had originally served as an apprentice to a watchmaker, he became a proficient pianist and also played violin, he began to study music composition at the Guildhall School of Music in London in 1923. His career in music began as a jazz violinist, mainly in night clubs and he also performed with bands aboard ships. He worked as a musical director in London’s West End which included working on productions and shows by Cochrane and Noel Coward. In 1949 Frankel scored the thriller NIGHT AND THE CITY but his music was removed from the film outside of England because of contractual disputes and the movie was re-scored by Franz Waxman, it was not until 2003 that Frankel’s music was heard outside of the U.K. and it is thought that if his music had remained intact on the American print of the movie it would have been the breakthrough that the composer so richly deserved. One of his best loved pieces of music was actually an enchanting number which is essentially light music but was featured in the movie SO LONG AT THE FAIR which starred a fresh faced jean Simmons and a handsome young actor named Dirk Bogarde in 1950. When the film was first released it was this particular piece that attracted most people and because of its popularity was recorded by Charles Williams and his orchestra and more recently has appeared on a recording from the Marco Polo stable. The composer also wrote a similar haunting piece for A KID FOR TWO FARTHINGS, which was an enchanting British movie from 1955, which starred Diana Dors and David Kosoff, again Frankel’s music was recorded by another orchestra and George Melachrinois probably the composer who most think wrote the charming piece.
Frankel worked on a number of Ealing comedies one of the most prominent being THE MAN IN THE WHITE SUIT(1951). But it is probably the composers more robust and complex writing for cinema that he is best remembered for, BATTLE OF THE BULGE,CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF,NIGHT OF THE IGUANA etc all contained striking and vibrant scores. Frankel seemed to be more at home or at least more comfortable when writing complex and even more extreme sounding music for film, but even within the extreme music for CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF the composer does at one point return to a more simple, more melodic style in a delightful pastoral piece which itself in many ways echoes the composers work on SO LONG AT THE FAIR and A KID FOR TWO FARTHINGS. Apart from and as well as his music for film the composer has written extensively for the concert hall and based many of his compositions of serious music on a personal version of twelve tone serial technique, which he also employed within a number of his scores for the cinema stretching the tonality of his music to the limit, with effective and resounding results. He died on February 12th 1973 in London.
HE FOUGHT THE HIDEOUS CURSE OF HIS EVIL BIRTH. BUT HIS RAVISHED VICTIMS WERE PROOF THAT THE CRAVINGS OF HIS BEAST-BLOOD DEMANDED HE KILL…. KILL…KILL!!!!!!
(TAG LINE FOR THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF)
Hammer films from the late 1950,s and the 1960,s certainly made their mark upon the cinema going public all over the world, the music for these Horror classics also hit the right spot with collectors of soundtracks, sadly when the films were at their most popular the music from them was not available. Thanks to recording companies such as GDI many of the original scores have been saved and preserved forever on compact disc, and also labels such as Silva Screen put a lot of time and effort into having many musical excerpts from Hammer scores re-recorded. The latest hammer score to receive the re-recording treatment is THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF, this is most certainly a classic horror movie in every sense of the word, released in 1959, it was this movie that marked the starring role debut if a very young almost unknown Oliver Reed, who was to become one of Britain’s most respected actors. Reed was paid the princely sum of £90.00 per week on this movie, at the time he was heard to say that this was a fortune. Directed by Hammers star filmmaker Terence Fisher, the film tells the story of Leon who is born on Christmas day to a mute servant girl, the girl who was raped by a beggar dies giving birth to the child and he is taken in by Don Alfredo, played by the excellent Welsh actor Clifford Evens. After a while Leon begins to realize that he has something of an attraction to the taste of blood, and is afflicted by Lycanthropy which makes him change into a werewolf at the cycle of the full moon. The child’s first victims are animals a goat and a kitten, but he soon progresses to larger victims in the human form. The films scenes of savage violence were a cause for concern to the censors, they cut over 4 minutes from the original version of the movie, John Trevelyan felt obliged to cut the footage, but at the same time wrote to Anthony Hinds at Hammer apologizing for doing so, the full version of the movie was screened in the United States and that unedited version returned to the UK in the early part of 1990, and is thankfully now available on DVD. The musical score was almost as harrowing and violent sounding as the content of the movie, composed by the London Born composer Benjamin Frankel, this is one of the finest scores written for a Hammer production, and has been on the wish list of many a film music enthusiast to be released in its entirety. The score for THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF is a significant and very important one, as it is the first score for a film that is composed using the twelve notes of the chromatic scale,Frankel based his score for the movie on sections of his Symphony number 1.
Frankel’s music on THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF is highly original and at the time of it’s composition was thought of as being something of an experimental and modern approach to scoring a movie, but it supported, punctuated and embellished superbly the scenes of horror and mayhem that were unfolding up on the screen, driving the action and underlining the terror and almost chaotic and frenzied marauding of the werewolf in its search for blood. Frankel’s score also i thought created a greater atmosphere of urgency and also a sense of sadness and frustration. This 35 minute re-recording of the score is certainly well worth investing in, it is performed with an abundance of energy by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, who launch themselves into the performance under the baton of world renowned composer/conductor Carl Davis. The compact disc also contains a suite of music from Frankel’s score to the 1950 movie SO LONG AT THE FAIR, the love theme from THE NET (1953) and over thirty minutes of music from the 1955 movie THE PRISONER which is a world premiere recording. The disc is presented well with striking art work and contains some very informative notes by the composers step son Dimitri Kennaway. This is a compact disc that should be in your music collection and is worth a lot more than it’s meager £5.99p price tag.
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