Tag Archives: Chuck Cirino



THE HAUNTING OF MORELLA is a horror movie which was produced in the style of the Poe films of the 1960.s as released by American International Pictures and either produced or directed by Roger Corman. Released in 1990, it was directed by Jim Wynorski and produced by Corman, this is a movie that certainly oozes the mystery and the intrigue of those vintage horrors. Made in the same year as Wynorski’s TRANSYLVANIA TWIST. THE HAUNTING OF MORELLA is a highly watchable movie because it contains some interesting horrific touches, plus little brushes with lesbianism, nude bath scenes and also a handful of less than elegant period wigs and garments of underclothing. But it is the music we are primarily concerned with here, and the score I have to say for a fairly low budget movie is excellent. Music is courtesy of Frederic Ensign Teetsel with additional material provided by Wynorski’s long-time collaborator Chuck Cirino (seeing Cirino was involved was enough for me to want to listen to it). The movie opens showing us a witch who is executed in the America’s when they were British Colonies. She leaves behind a husband and a young daughter, the film then moves forward some seventeen years, the young girls is now grown up and is in line to inherit a large sum of money which has been put into trust by her Mothers family. It is now that the story begins to become more interesting as we are made aware that the Mother wants to be returned to life via possessing her daughter’s body.


To be fair this is not a bad movie whatsoever, and considering again it was relatively low budget, both the producer and director have managed to create a picture that pays tribute to the earlier works of Corman when he gave us such classics as, THE HOUSE OF USHER, THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM, PREMATURE BURIAL, THE TERROR, THE RAVEN and THE HAUNTED PALACE, ok maybe it is not so polished but there is something present that makes it entertaining and compelling. I think that the musical score aids the movie greatly, in fact it manages to re-create both the atmosphere and the mood of titles I mention. It has to it a gothic and highly attractive sound which is almost luxurious and purveys a sense of foreboding and apprehension throughout. I think it can described as a fusion of the music of the likes of Les Baxter and also composers such as Harry Robinson who worked on a handful of Hammer horrors most notably THE VAMPIRE LOVERS and TWINS OF EVIL, there are also at times shades of James Bernard and hints of the likes of Ronald Stein and David Whitaker.


The score is essentially symphonic, containing trumpet, French horn, cellos, violas and violins make up the string section as well as bass’s, plus brass and percussion are also present, and at key points we are treated to a spidery and icy feel that is conjured up via the use of harpsichord flourishes that seem to delicately trip across the other instruments. The work however does contain a scattering of synth choir, but this just further embellishes the work, giving it a greater depth and filling it with a chilling air. Chuck Cirino was not available to write the score for the movie, so Frederic Teetsal was engaged but director Wynorski had an idea to utilise some themes that Cirino had penned some years before which the director had in his music library. Teetsal, discussed the themes with Cirino and then wove them into the fabric of his score. The result is a work that is driving and powerful but also one that has romantic and melodic interludes. Which is perfect for the genre of movie and for the period in which it is set.


dragons domain


I was impressed with this soundtrack it is filled to the hilt with enticing and beguiling thematic material and has to it a fearful and tense musical aura. The notes by the flawless Randall D Larson are an interesting and absorbing read in which the writer talks to both Chuck Cirino and Frederic Teetsal as well as giving us a synopsis of the movie. Another great release from DRAGONS DOMAIN. Recommended.




Who says that a low budget movie can’t have a great score, well whoever it was obviously never saw the movie THE RETURN OF SWAMP THING and never sampled the musical delights as written by composer Chuck Cirino. Ok I have to say I love this score, always have done and now some 30 odd years on my opinion has not changed, in fact, my admiration and devotion to it has grown. Ok, this is not Oscar material but it is a wonderfully thematically driven work, with the composer pull a theme out for every character in the movie or so it seems, and these are just wonderfully attractive and compulsive themes that are addictive with catchy musical hooks, at every turn. The album opens with ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE SWAMP, which is a subtle and somewhat subdued piece, but it manages to set the scene and purvey an atmosphere of apprehension and uncertainty to the listener. Cirino is a big fan of Morricone and I can hear shades of that composer or at least his style within this brief but entertaining track. In fact, there are gentle nods of acknowledgement to Morricone throughout in some form or another, they maybe fleeting but one can certainly hear them. The score which is mostly via synthetic methods is surprisingly melodic and rich, this is especially noticeable in tracks that are of the more romantic leaning, LOVE IN THE SWAMP for example has to be one of the most alluring melodies I have ever heard, it is an enchanting and fragile sounding piece, again I think containing shades of Morricone, Cirino employs a style and sound that was used widely during the 1980.sby composers such as Alan Silvestri, Richard Band and Jerry Goldsmith, it is a mix of the rich and the lush which is fused with that of the electronic, and when composers such as this, Cirino included did this it worked wonderfully, giving the score a contemporary sound but also allowing the more traditional style of film scoring to shine through.



Cirino, in my opinion is one of the more inventive composers who works on low budget movies, and he has created a substantial back catalogue of scores that are original as well as being entertaining , plus they serve the movies well and in some cases dare I say outshine the pictures that they have been created to enhance. THE RETURN OF THE SWAMP THING is a score that I know collectors will engage with and love as I did and do, time to check it out if you have not already. But please get the 30th Anniversary edition, for the 27 tracks.



A low budget sci fi/ contemporary western ? Well that’s what this is, I caught the movie late one night on the horror channel, and even though it is a low budget affair its not a bad yarn, the action is served up in the bucket load and certainly has originality about it. The score by composer Chuck Cirino is also something of an action packed and powerful item. It has everything that a collector of film music, (sorry that should have read quality film music), requires. High octane powerhouse action cues that ooze pure drama and propel forward at break neck speed creating tension filled musical passages that have the listener sitting on the edge of their seat even without the images present that the music was written for. But this score has many aspects to it and contains numerous musical styles and an equal number of twists, turns, as well as the hard headed action material we are treated to a fair amount of softer and more poignant moments, as in track number 3, The Train Station, which utilizes solo guitar played in unison with vibes and underlying strings supported by synths and a hint of piano, which is a welcomed haunting and touching melody within a score that is in the main a action work. Track 4, THE DIG too has to be mentioned, it is in this cue that we hear for the first time the composers gentle but obvious homage to the Spaghetti western score, a Good The Bad and the Ugly drumbeat is present underneath an opening of atonal sounding woods which soon segues into a more threatening and ominous sounding composition, complete with martial sounding percussion and urgent use of woods, rasping brass and low sounding almost guttural choir interlaced with strings that reaches a crescendo and then melts away back to the drum beats. Track 5 SABLE RANCH has a definite spaghetti feel to it, the composer utilizing chorale sounds and a harmonica which are enhanced by percussion, this is a short lived but highly atmospheric composition. Track 6. POW WOW, is a return to a softer sound, again solo guitar takes forefront supported by underlying strings that act as a perfect backdrop to a haunting melody, this is one of the longest cues on the compact disc running at almost 4 minutes. It is not really until track number 7, GHOST RIDER that we hear the full extent of Chuck Cirinos homage to the spaghetti western score, racing snares, whips and full blown electric guitar are heard backed up by exciting brass and growling voices in this wonderfully exhilarating tribute to the music from the genre of the Italian western.

The composers attention to authentic sound on this is fantastic as the guitar sounds as if its straight out of a score by Nico Fidenco, Francesco de Masi or Bruno Nicolai, it has that 60,s rawness to it.
Other sounds from the Italian western can be heard on the score i.e., bells, whistles, choir, trumpet, guitar and fuzzy sounding electric guitar, and are probably more prominent in tracks 12 and 16, and it is track 16, THE SHOWDOWN that is for me the highlight of the work, and what a showdown this must be too, the music is double high octane, triple powerhouse and must have references to more than a fistful of spaghetti musical trademarks within its 6 minute running time. It begins with a rousing opening, then the return of the GBU drumbeats that themselves develop into a more frenzied and substantial piece, these melt away and are replaced by a lone trumpet supported by strident sounding strings and determined and proud brass, add to this woods and choir with that electric guitar and a piano picking out the theme and we have one hell of a cue here, and it does not end there things get upbeat and more forthright, Cirino goes to town and throws everything into this track, it’s a spaghetti fans dream come true. To say I recommend this release is something of an understatement, lets just say, if you don’t go and buy it you must be loco, it’s the most entertaining thing I have heard for a long while. There is so much music here and good music too, its hard to think it all comes from one movie.

Chuck Cirino

Chuck Cirino
Chuck Cirino

Composer Chuck Cirino, has carved out a career for himself composing the scores for movies with low budgets. Many of these productions do not actually make it to a theatrical release in cinemas, but in 99% of cases are issued straight to video or nowadays DVD. This however does not mean that these movies are in any way inferior to some of the productions that do make it to the big screen, and composer Cirino’s music is as vibrant and striking as anything that has been written by some of tinsel town’s best. Chuck’s talents are manifold, he is a writer and also a director as well as being a composer, so he knows more than one aspect of the filmmaking process. Mr. Cirino was born in Florida in the United States. “I am a thirteenth generation Floridian” the composer told me.  “My family can be traced back to the early St.Augustine, which is America’s oldest city”. Continue reading Chuck Cirino