Tag Archives: Bram Stoker’s Dracula


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Although released back in 1992, Francis Ford Coppola’s version of Bram Stokers DRACULA is for me one of the more interesting movies on the subject, ok I don’t think it will ever take the place of the Hammer horrors which had Sir Christopher Lee in the role of the evil bloodsucking Count, but the Coppola version of the story for me hit many of the right spots and also broke new ground at times concerning the myth of the Vampire. One particular area where I thought the production got it right was the musical score by Wojeich Kilar, it is a dramatically driven and exciting soundtrack but at the same time it remains romantically laced which is something of a feat for the composer seeing as the film is crammed with numerous action scenes and violent and horrific sequences, but when one thinks about it DRACULA is essentially a love story, so not to be romantic I suppose would be slightly remiss of the composer, it is a tale of love lost and then re-discovered.

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Kilar was no stranger to film scoring when he was assigned to DRACULA but his scoring projects were in the main for movies in Europe and at the time of DRACULA being released I do remember collectors thinking and remarking on who is this composer, but once they listened to his score were totally smitten with his style and wonderful gift for melody and his grasp of the dramatic. Kilar’s score is as impressive as the films cast and its locations and cinematography, the composer creating a soundtrack that is in many ways traditional with the emphasise on the use of conventional instrumentation as in strings, brass, percussion and woodwind rather than any inclusion of electronic or synthesised sounds. The compact disc opens with DRACULA-THE BEGINNING, which is a brooding and atmospheric cue, giving the listener an insight into the expressive musical content that is to follow, powerful strings and bursts of brass and percussion fuse seamlessly together to heighten the tension, these however subside and give way to a brief respite which comes in the form of female voice, but the quiet interlude is short lived as strings return with choir and whispering voices that are underlined by timpani which quickly sets the pace and urgent mood of the composition.

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As well as the powerful and commanding thematic material created by Kilar there are a number of more subdued and quieter moments within the realms of the work, in fact at times the composer fashions an intimate and mesmerising sound that is alluring and hypnotic, as in track number 4, LUCYS PARTY, which is a charming slightly off beat melody for music box effect, this and other cues written in the same style are slightly unsettling as they are for want of a better description the lull before the storm, the composer inevitably conjuring up an exhilarating and highly charged composition as if from nowhere.

This is displayed in track number 6, THE STORM the cue begins slowly, quietly and with no indication of what is about to burst forth, the piece soon gains tempo and momentum as Kilar treats us to a pounding percussion led composition punctuated by brass stabs, laced with driving strings and menacing sounding choir that acts as a background to a fragile sounding female voice. The booming percussive elements set the tempo and Kilar builds and builds his composition until it arrives at its crescendo. Track number 7, is an example of the artistry Kilar possessed when creating a theme that is not only beautiful but also displays a mood that is uncertain and apprehensive, A LOVE REMEMBERED is a particularly haunting cue, harp and strings combine as a subdued sounding background to a solo woodwind which is poignant and emotive in its introduction of the central fabric of the compositions core theme. Strings and harp then take the theme away from the woodwind to give it an even more romantic sound, this however is short lived and woodwind once again take on the motif giving it something of a Barry-esque sound, this is an emotive and touching tone poem which is a welcome tranquil 4 minutes amongst a sea of more dramatic pieces, Kilar returns to fragments of this particular theme but expands it further in track number 11, MINA AND DRACULA, in which we are given a more lengthy interpretation of the theme plus he manages to infuse a more romantic atmosphere to the proceedings, creating a Max Steiner or Miklos Rozsa moment and evoking memories of scores from the Golden age with lush strings and heartbreaking melodies.


One of the stand out tracks for me is the VAMPIRE HUNTERS cue, it manifests itself early on the compact disc, and acts as an introduction to the many action cues that are to follow, the commanding and forceful percussive tempo raising its head each time there is a moment of horror or tension on screen. Although Kilar’s soundtrack is a very dominant and highly charged affair when listening to it away from the images it was scored too, within the context of the movie it just works and at times is hardly noticeable, which I think is what film music is all about. It enhances, supports, underlines, punctuates and acts as to elevate the scenario on screen. Track number 8, RING OF FIRE is one of the scores more shocking tracks Kilar creates a menacing and atmosphere that is in a word harrowing, with voices, percussion, animal sounds and driving high pitched strings. The love theme motif returns in track number 9, A LOVE ETERNAL but this time it a more sombre rendition of the theme d’ amour, the composer enhances the effect further with a heavenly sounding choir, which extends into track number 10 ASCENSION, which is a calming but brief piece.


The beauty and serene quality of ASCENSION melts away and segues into the scores final cue, END CREDITS which is basically a near 7 minute Overture that integrates all of the scores key themes into a end credit roll. The final track on the disc is LOVE SONG FOR A VAMPIRE,performed by Annie Lennox, why they felt the need for a song is beyond me, the score is indeed more than enough, in a word a classic soundtrack.



There have been numerous movie versions of the Gothic horror story penned by Bram Stoker about the infamous and evil Count Dracula, and along with these cinema incarnations of the Vampire Count have come just as many musical interpretations for the lord of the un-dead, the most familiar is possibly James Bernard’s three note motif that spelt out DRA-CU-LA to herald the appearance of the gaunt figure complete with cloak at the top of the staircase in the now classic Hammer films cycle of movies, then there was the more romantic and windswept sounding approach when the subject matter was handed to composer John Williams for the Frank Langella DRACULA with Sir Laurence Olivier as Van Helsing. Italian Maestro Bruno Nicolai also got in on the act with a haunting and highly atmospheric soundtrack to IL CONTE DRACULA which was directed by Jesus Franco and had in the starring role Christopher Lee, complete with moustache as described in Stokers novel. This version was supposedly actor Lee’s favourite version of the story as the director would often stop filming and refer to the original book, Nicolai utilized surging strings and cimbalom to create his score. Then we had the Coppola version of the story with Gary Oldman as the Count pursuing his long lost love Mina/Elizabeta portrayed by Winona Ryder whilst Anthony Hopkins as Van Helsing attempted to stop him aided by Keanu Reeves as Johnathan Harker which was accompanied and punctuated by a mesmerising and powerful soundtrack from Woljeich Kilar. There have also been a number of TV adaptations of the story, one that comes to mind is the BBC serialisation of the story in the 1970’s with Louis Jordan as the Count and Frank Finley as Van Helsing this too contains an original sounding musical score by composer Kenyon Emrys Roberts. Then coming up to date there is the TV series filmed by NBC, which relied more upon violence than actual storyline to make its point at times somewhat dismissing the Stoker story all together. Music for this was by Trevor Morris and the role of Dracula undertaken by Jonathan Rhys Meyers, let us also not forget DRACULA 2000, although I think we would like to, in fact the only thing worth remembering about the movie was Marco Beltrami’s vibrant score.

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The version of the story I am refering to for this review is from 1973 in the title role was Jack Palance, the director was Dark Shadows creator Dan Curtis with Nigel Davenport putting in a believable performance as Abraham Van Helsing, the movie also starred Simon Ward and Murray Brown. Music for this TV movie was by Robert Cobert who had worked on the Dark Shadows series for Curtis providing the music for some 1,225 episodes, the composer also worked on THE HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS, THE NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS, THE STRANGE CASE OF DR JECKLE AND MR HYDE, THE NORLISS TAPES and THE NIGHT STALKER to name but a handful. It was Cobert who also worked on the sprawling TV epic series THE WINDS OF WAR in 1983 and provided the music for the sequel series WAR AND REMEMBERANCE in 1988.

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The composers score for DRACULA or BRAM STOKERS DRACULA to give it it’s correct title was as far as I know never released on a recording until Silva Screen made available a suite of music from the score on one of its many compilation compact discs, so to have Cobert’s score complete on a recording is certainly a welcome sight. Straight away I have to remark that I found Cobert’s music within the movie effective and very haunting I also have to remark that I also found his style of scoring to be evocative to that of Scottish born composer Harry Robertson (Robinson), especially when listening to Robertson’s VAMPIRE LOVERS (1970) soundtrack, this is most prominent within LUCY REAPPEARS where slow and slightly urgent deliberate brass flourishes introduce romantic but apprehensive strings which after a while swell and become more and more emotive being supported by horns to give the composition an atmosphere which is both luxurious but foreboding. Cobert’s use of strings, brass and woodwind in particular is ever so slightly similar to that of Robertson’s but this is not in any way a negative as the Cobert score is one of the best I have heard for a DRACULA movie. The composer utilizes to great effect sinewy sounding strings, ominously dark sounding oboe and shrill woods alongside sharp and jagged brass stabs, scatterings of piano and subdued percussion to create a feeling of uneasiness and also to emphasise a jump or a start within the films scenario. Cobert also manages to infuse within his work a sound and a style that is akin to music from Eastern Europe thus giving the music a degree of ethnic credibility. The score is also a quite richly romantic sounding work, underlining the Counts inner feelings his sad memories of his wife dying and his despair and grief on loosing the only thing he really cherished and loved. There is a delightful sounding Music Box cue within the score, the track DRACULA END TITLE-MUSIC BOX THEME which is in a word mesmerizing and also achingly poignant, charming and emotive.


The CD opens with DRACULA AT DUSK, which is a highly dramatic piece performed in the main by strings and woodwind that gradually build to a crescendo of sorts that is filled with drama and a fearsome atmosphere which is relayed via urgent sounding brass. Track number 2, LETTER FROM THE COUNT, has an air of mystery about it, the composer keeping a mystic air prominent with the use of spidery sounding strings and oboe that seems to intertwine with the strings to create a mood that is unnerving. Track number 3, is the actual MAIN TITLE from the movie, and this is the first time that we hear the composers infectious and central melody from the score, carried by the string section it is romantic and sweeping but also holds within it a feeling of apprehension. As with all of his scoring assignments Cobert produced a wonderful score to enhance the dark and evil Count but also gave the vampire a soundtrack that was lush and emotional. Highly recommended.

Wojciech Kilar has died.


Polish pianist and composer Wojciech Kilar, who was Bafta-nominated for his score to Roman Polanski’s Oscar-winning film The Pianist, has died aged 81.


He passed away in his hometown Katowice in  Southern Poland, following a prolonged illness.


“The power and the message of his music… will stay in my memory forever,” said Jerzy Kornowicz, head of the Association of Polish Composers.




Although he cited his first love as writing symphonies and concertos, he won worldwide attention as a film composer, writing scores for more than 130 films and working with celebrity directors such as Jane Campion (Portrait of a Lady) and Francis Ford Coppola on Dracula. Bram Stoker’s Dracula won him the best score composer award from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers in 1992. He was a powerhouse of a composer and one that enhanced many films with his distinct and original music, but that music also had a life of its own away from the images it was intended to support, he will be sadly missed.




Cover of "The Pianist"
Cover of The Pianist