Tag Archives: frankenstein


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1956, was a landmark year for Hammer films, it was in this year that the studio decided to embark on the ambitious task of producing re-workings of the classic black and white Hollywood horror movies, such as DRACULA, FRANKENSTEIN and the MUMMY etc. Hammer films are certainly full of stars as Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and many others but some of the real stars or unsung heroes of cinema were working behind the cameras, one such important and talented figure was director Terence Fisher. It was Fisher who Hammer turned to asking him to helm the first of the horror remakes THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, and after the success of this production Fisher was also given the reins on a movie that would become one of the studios most iconic movies DRACULA.

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Fisher had worked on a handful of movies for Hammer previous to stepping into the world of the Gothic horror, five years before FRANKENSTEIN he had directed THE LAST PAGE and in the ensuing half a decade the filmmaker was involved with a number of productions, STOLEN FACE, BLOOD ORANGE, THE FOUR SIDED TRIANGLE, MANTRAP and MASK OF DUST to highlight just a few. After the success of both FRANKENSTEIN and DRACULA Fisher was to become a much applauded horror director and Hammer returned to the filmmaker many times to make sequels of their first forays into gothic horror territory.

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Fisher however never restricted himself to directing movies that focused upon these two iconic figures in horror history, for example he turned to the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1958 when he directed THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES and also in the same year was responsible for the entertaining feature film THE MAN WHO COULD CHEAT DEATH. As the decade of the 1950,s drew to a close Fisher triumphed again in 1959 when he was the director on THE STRANGLERS OF BOMBAY and THE TWO FACES OF DR JEKYLL, it was also in this year that the director brought to the screen an exciting and dramatic full colour version of THE MUMMY, a year later the filmmaker was responsible for introducing actor Oliver Reed to cinema audiences in the now classic horror movie THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF. The 1960,s was a busy time for the director and he worked on a number of projects which were varied and above all entertaining, THE DEVIL RIDES OUT, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and a number of FRANKENSTEIN and DRACULA projects the 1960,s came to an end with Fisher taking up his familiar position behind the camera on FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED(1969). It was at this time that Fisher was to be involved in two accidents which kept him away from filmmaking for around three to four years, however when he was fully recovered he soon returned to making movies and in 1973 was responsible for Hammer’s FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL.

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Fisher went to sea as a young man, it was thought by his Mother that after the death of his father in 1908 this career would be the making of him and stand him in good stead for what life might throw at him, however Fisher never stayed at sea and after a period of some eight years he decided to return to dry land. He began to work in the textile or clothing industry and became an assistant display manager at Peter Jones. Whilst pursuing this career Fisher began to think of going into films at first he could not decide in what area he wanted to work but eventually became a film editor working his way up the ladder at Shepherds Bush film studios from clapper board operative to the editing room where he began to work on the films of Will Hay. Fisher then changed studios and went to the Teddington Studios which were run by Warner Brothers. In 1947 Fisher was invited to take up a position at the Highbury studios by the rank organisation who were offering an apprenticeship of sorts for aspiring young filmmakers. Fisher made a handful of shorts whilst there and was picked out by Sidney Box, who gave him a chance to try his hand at directing a full length feature. The rest as they say is history. Born in Maida vale, London on February 23rd 1904, Terence Fisher passed away on June 18th 1980, I know that we will never see his like again in the British film industry.

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Music in horror movies has to play a larger role than in most other types of film, but there again this notion is just a personal opinion and one which many will probably disagree with. I always remember seeing the original black and white Universal horrors and even at an early age thinking what an important role the musical scores played. I recall in particular one of the werewolf movies when actor Lon Chaney transformed from meek and gentle human into a fearsome and blood lusting lupine, howling as he ran into the fog shrouded night accompanied by a powerful and driving background score which underlined the ferocity and also the desperation of the creature. It was because of the Universal tales of terror that I progressed to the full colour horrors of the Hammer studio, DRACULA being one of the first that I managed to get into the local flea pit to see. The rich colours and also the dramatic music got me hooked instantly and I am glad to say I have never fallen out of obsession with these marvellous cinematic works of art. However as we all know there were other horror movies produced by the likes of TIGON and also AMICUS in the U.K. plus of course there were the AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL MOVIES, with the Edgar Allan Poe tales and lots of superb and eloquent overacting by Vincent Price. Hammer always insisted on having strong musical scores which was something that was the norm thanks to the companies original Musical Director John Hollingsworth. Musical genius Hollingsworth was instrumental in ensuring that the music for the Hammer horrors and also other genres of film that the company produced worked and supported the action on screen, Amicus who appeared on the scene some years after Hammers first foray into the gothic horrors such as DRACULA and FRANKESTEIN seemed to follow in Hammers footsteps when it came to the music department in their movies, often utilising the same composers as Hammer and even employing Phil Martell who had taken over as MD for hammer after the death of John Hollingsworth. Sadly both Amicus and Tigon films musical scores do not seem to have received the same amount of attention from record labels as Hammer soundtracks have and I realise it took many years for the Hammer gothic horrors soundtracks to make it any kind of recording, but considering the success and amount of positive feedback from collectors that these releases received I am surprised, “NO” ! dumbfounded that there has been nothing issued onto compact disc from the Amicus stable, yes of course the excellent WITCHFINDER GENERAL by Paul Ferris did only last year(2013) at last get an issue on disc by De Wolfe music representing Tigon plus we must not forget the excellent BLOOD ON SATANS CLAW which was finally released onto compact disc by TRUNK records a few years back.


But where are the excellent and richly dark soundtracks from films such as THE CREEPING FLESH, THE BLOOD BEAST TERROR, CURSE OF THE CRIMSON ALTAR etc. Where are the scores from the AMICUS productions such as, VAULT OF HORROR, DR TERRORS HOUSE OF HORRORS, THE TORTURE GARDEN, THE SKULL, THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD, ASYLUM, AND NOW THE SCREAMING STARTS, MADHOUSE, and other such mini horror classics and AMICUS favourites. Languishing in a vault of horror of their own I am guessing. Plus there was also TYBURN films who produced a handful of films that are now considered an important part of the horror cinema genre, THE LEGEND OF THE WEREWOLF and THE GHOUL instantly come to mind because of the actual movies and also because of the excellent musical scores penned by Harry Robinson, truly classic horror music, even if LEGEND OF THE WEREWOLF was a little lack lustre in places.

So I suppose what I am saying is WHY stop at Hammer or why did the record companies stop at Hammer, when there is such a wealth of wonderful music out there somewhere that will tantalise, entertain and delight students of the macabre, the gothic and also the downright scary. We as collectors deserve at least a compilation or two of AMICUS themes, TIGON tracks and TYBURN scores. Silva screen, Tadlow, Prometheus or maybe Chandos please start your expedition into the dark and dusty depths that are the music vaults of terror.

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Tigon British Film Productions or Tigon Films was a film production and distribution company founded by the filmmaker Tony Tenser in 1966. The company is probably best remembered for the now classic Vincent Price horror, WITCHFINDER GENERAL (USA Title-THE CONQUERER WORM). Which was directed by the ingeniously clever filmmaker but somewhat insecure Michael Reeves who sadly died too soon. The studio also produced BLOOD ON SATANS CLAW, which was directed by Piers Haggard in 1971, both WITCHFINDER and SATANS CLAW have since their release attained a status of being iconic and cult movies and both have about them a real sense of authenticity. TIGON also produced a number of other horror pictures, THE CREEPING FLESH, THE BLOOD BEAST TERROR and THE SORCERERS among them all of which were scored by the late Paul Ferris. It also released the feature film version of the popular British TV series DOOMWATCH in 1972 which contained a score by renowned British composer John Scott(or Patrick John Scott as he was known in his early days of composing). The London based Tigon had offices in Wardour street Soho, the company did make forays into other genres of film but it was the Horror genre that it seemed to excel at and in many fans and critics opinions were one of Hammer’s biggest rivals, although saying this Tigon productions did have a very different look from the Hammer gothic horrors, WITCHFINDER especially being given a more realistic appearance thanks mainly to the inventive camera work of John Coquillon who’s somewhat watery and misty looking effects gave the production a touch of realism, this combined with the fresh and at times off beat approach towards direction by Reeves gave WITCHFINDER a persona all of its own.

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TYBURN films was formed by Kevin Francis who was the son of acclaimed cinematographer and notable director Freddie Francis.
Kevin had a career that led him from slaughterhouse employee to film company tea boy and then a gradual climb up the ladder to become a Hammer films employee, it was he who was responsible for giving the studio the idea for TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA given them the basic idea for the story, he then became a freelance production executive and had a glowing ambition to create a new company that would eventually be as respected as the famed Hammer studio. The problem that Francis encountered was that as the 1970,s dawned the tastes of cinema audiences began to change drastically, they no longer yearned for Gothic horrors but were drawn to the more cerebral storylines of films such as ROSEMARY’S BABY and the gore, realism and thrills that were purveyed by films such as THE NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and the numerous films that followed in the same ilk. Continuing to produce Gothic horrors was to be TYBURN Films eventual downfall and they disappeared from the scene, but before doing so did produce a handful of movies that were deemed to be fair examples of the horror genre. TALES THAT WITNESS MADNESS was in fact Tyburn’s first release but had no mention of the company on its credits, instead it was billed as a WORLD FILM SERVICES release. The movie which had a tag line of AN ORGY OF THE DAMNED, boasted an impressive cast list that included Jack Hawkins, Joan Collins, Kim Novak and Donald Houston to name but four. Helmed by film maker Freddie Francis who was to direct all of the Tyburn horrors, the film was an effective tale but one that lacked real course mainly due to a weak storyline that at times would be amusing rather than disturbing, which in a horror movie could be a problem.


The film was a compilation type movie which had become popular with audiences at the time and included four segments or stories each one concentrating upon a different patient who was secured in an asylum, the music for the movie was written by Bernard Ebbinghouse, who was responsible for the music to PRUDENCE AND THE PILL and penned the theme for the popular TV series of the 1960,s THE HUMAN JUNGLE which was recorded by John Barry and his orchestra who took it into the hit parade in the UK. Ebbinghouse also worked as a musical director for artists such as Cilla Black, Andy Stewart and Cliff Richard as well as working on a handful of movies and some television productions. Tyburn’s first official release was to be PERSECUTION or THE TERROR OF SHEBA, the film starred Lana Turner, and was Tyburn’s attempt to cash in on the trend to install well known Hollywood actress’s in starring roles, which is something that Hammer had done with Bette Davies in THE NANNY. The music for PERSECUTION was the work of Paul Ferris, who if he had not died young would in my opinion been one this countries top film music composers.

Tyburn’s reign of terror was a short one the company never attaining the heights or realising the achievements that its founder Francis had wanted for it and although the company produced some interesting horrors its output paled in the brightness of the Hammer studios output, although saying this TYBURN did return in 1984 with a production for television, MASKS OF DEATH was screened on channel 4, and starred an ageing Peter Cushing in the role of Sherlock Holmes with John Mills as Dr Watson, directed by Roy Ward Baker and with a screenplay by Anthony Hinds it was a polished and entertaining production. The score was by Malcolm Williamson who had worked on Hammers THE BRIDES OF DRACULA, THE HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN and CRESCENDO, Williamson was the first non British citizen to be appointed Master of the Queens music. Peter Cushing was also the subject of a TV documentary in 1990 which was produced by Tyburn entitled, ONE WAY TICKET TO HOLLYWOOD a documentary that is highly regarded and also is considered by many as Tyburn’s finest production. The music was taken from existing soundtracks composed by James Bernard and Malcolm Williamson.

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AMICUS was indeed a success story and along with American International pictures was probably the biggest rival company to the mighty Hammer films. Amicus produced numerous movies and many were at times difficult to tell apart from Hammer horrors, the music department for Amicus was almost identical to that of Hammer, the company utilising the talents of composers such as James Bernard, Don Banks, Douglas Gamley, David Whitaker etc. Based at the famous Shepperton studios Amicus was founded by Milton Subotsky and Max Rosenberg, who had previously worked together in the 1960,s on the movie THE CITY OF THE DEAD, Amicus began its life by producing two musicals which were aimed at the younger end of the cinema going public, ITS TRAD DAD! and JUST FOR FUN enjoyed mild success at the box office, the company went on to produce a number of films that contained more than one story, this portmanteau series of motion pictures were particularly popular with audiences the producers basing their ideas upon the Ealing films classic DEAD OF NIGHT. One of these types of movies was THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD, which I personally felt was one of the companies better efforts, directed by Peter Duffell it starred Denholm Elliot, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Ingrid Pitt, Joss Ackland and Jon Pertwee. The film was scored by Michael Dress, who had worked on a handful of films prior to scoring THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD, Dress died in 1975 aged just 40 years of age. Amicus however were not just restricted to horror movies and turned their hand to thrillers and also were responsible for releasing some pretty unusual movies, the company at times co-produced with AIP MADHOUSE and SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN being examples of their collaboration.

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Considering the rich and varied musical content of the Horror genre as produced by TIGON, TYBURN and AMICUS it is surprising that an enterprising record company has not seen the market for these scores with collectors of fine film music. Even if the tapes no longer exist a re-recording surely should be worth investigation, a company such as Chandos with the aid of the talented Philip Lane surely could resurrect these classic soundtracks from the depths of obscurity. The compilations would be endless, with AMICUS, TIGON and also TYBURN being the central focus but with music from other classics such as CIRCUS OF HORRORS by Franz Reizenstein, CRY OF THE BANSHEE by Wilfred Josephs, THE FLESH AND THE FIENDS by Stanley Black, THE CORPSE by John Hotchkis, SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN by David Whittaker and THE HOUSE IN NIGHTMARE PARK by Harry Robinson making it into the running order somewhere.
We must also not forget the wealth of music that adorned Italian horror movies and the releases of TITANUS productions, plus the films of Jess Franco especially that directors version of the Dracula story IL CONTE DRACULA was said to be actor Christopher Lee’s favourite version of the tale because Franco stayed so close to Stokers original story often studying the book whilst on set, the music for this movie was the work of Italian Maestro Bruno Nicolai, who became well known via his involvement with fellow composer Ennio Morricone on the Sergio Leone DOLLAR TRILOGY, Nicolai produced a highly atmospheric soundtrack for IL CONTE DRACULA and was also involved with numerous other pictures within the horror genre that were being produced in Italy during the 1960, through to the latter part of the 1970,s either as composer or as musical director. But Italian horrors should and will have a section of their own on this site very soon.

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This interview was conducted in the winter of 1994, it was at a time when Patrick Doyle had just completed the score for FRANKENSTEIN and the film and soundtrack release was being eagerly awaited by fans. My thanks to the composer for allowing me to ask the questions at such a busy time and also thanks to Air Edel Associates in particular Karen Cockerell who’s assistance was vital in the setting up of the interview.





When and where were you born?

I was born in 1953 in a place called Belles Hill, which is not the most glamorous of places in Lanarkshire, which is in Scotland. Then when I was nine months old the family moved to a place called Berkenshaw in Edington, and my parents still live there today.





Your first score, HENRY V, was very well received. How did you become involved on the picture and were you a little apprehensive following in the footsteps of Sir William Walton?



It came about as the result of a working relationship I had with John Sessions, who is very well known as an English satirical comedian and also straight actor. John and I had worked on two projects together and he was a friend of Ken Branagh’s. They had attended R.A.D.A together. Ken was looking for someone to write the music for TWELFTH NIGHT, and had asked John if I would be interested in doing it, which of course I was. As a result of this first encounter I did a tour with him on three Shakespearean plays, and when the film came up I asked Ken if he would like me to have a go at writing the score. It was I must admit a very very frightening experience, but the Walton thing was to be honest the last thing on my mind. This is because the job in hand was for me far more terrifying than following in his footsteps; I had to create my own footsteps I suppose.




What musical education did you receive?


I went to the Royal Scottish academy of music and drama, where I studied piano and singing, harmony and counterpoint and all the usual things. I didn’t study composition as such, we only dabbled with it. My family were all singers; they had always been singers through the Irish side of the family. I was also encouraged to sing; in fact everyone in our family had to sing. It was not until I reached the age of about twelve that I started to take up the piano, which I suppose is rather late to start any kind of formal instrumental playing. I was a member of the junior academy and played in the Lanarkshire Youth Orchestra. I spent three years at the Academy and then I taught music for about twelve months or so. So I had a fairly extensive musical background.  





What would you identify as your musical influences?

I suppose everyone has influences and I think that probably everybody influences me because I listen to everything, whether its music that comes from the radio at home or in the car, or even music from a car passing me in the street, I will say however I do listen to a lot of classical music. I listen to every composer imaginable, so everyone goes in and I suppose subconsciously influences me, but I would not say that one composer or artist dominates.



 MV5BMTc1MzQ5NTA3MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDUzNDIyMQ@@._V1_SY317_CR5,0,214,317_One of this years big movies is MARY SHELLEY’S FRANKENSTEIN, again this is a Kenneth Branagh movie. You must have just completed work on this, can you tell us something about the assignment. Did you look at any other versions of the story on film to get any ideas what musical direction that you might take?

I didn’t look at any other version of the story; in fact I have to say I have never seen any other versions of it at all. I think that would be a bad idea anyway, because obviously each re-make or re-telling of the same story has got its own approach. Indeed that should apply to all the elements within a picture, including the score. FRANKENSTEIN has a very large scale score, both Ken and I decided that thematically it should have a religious quality about it, I attempted to capture the obsessional behaviour of Victor Frankenstein, the love relationship between him and Elizabeth and also the loneliness of the monster, plus there are obvious things such as the chase sequence, the glacier scene and there is an ice cave scene, so it is a very varied score, but on the whole it is very grand and operatic, as opposed to gothic.

How long do you get to score a movie, or does it vary between projects and the individual requirements of each movie, maybe you could use MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING as an example?

It does vary, but on MUCH ADO ABOT NOTHING, I spent about six weeks on the final scoring, I had been writing off and on throughout the filming, when I was there. I was developing a lot of thematic ideas whilst on set, so when it came to scoring the picture it was quite luxurious to have the six weeks from then to the scoring sessions to start developing all of these pre-conceived ideas. It’s different when you have to start from scratch, from that point it is very difficult. Normally I like to get a couple of weeks at least before actual serious writing starts, to develop thematic material once I have seen the picture.   





My own personal opinion is that you are a great talent within film music today, so are there any composers that write for the cinema that you find particularly original?


That’s a very difficult question to answer, because there are so many out there doing a great job….The obvious ones always spring to mind. For instance Jerry Goldsmith, John Williams, the late Henry Mancini, Bernard Herrmann, and from the old days David Raksin. I would not say that these people influenced me in any way, because to be very honest I only became of film music composers when I started to work on movie myself. Up until this time I never was aware who had actually written the music, so that is why I am never offended when people don’t know who I am (laughs).






What are your feelings about the increased usage of electronics within film scores?

Well, electronics are very useful to bump up the bass sections of the orchestra, or to add particular colours throughout the orchestral palette, but they will never replace the sound of real musicians playing real instruments.



 Some collectors of film music have said that your score for DEAD AGAIN is very reminiscent of the style employed at times by the late Bernard Herrmann, was this something that you set out to achieve when working on the movie, or did the sound just develop as you worked on the score?



Not in the slightest, As I said I was not aware of any particular film music composers until I became one myself, well maybe that’s not completely true, of course I was aware of STAR WARS but that was because of the movies sheer enormous success and because of this success I became aware of John Williams. As for being compared to Bernard Herrmann, now of course I have listened to his music and the reason why I think people have made this comparison between his music and mine is because it is very bold. He pulls on Eastern European influences. I feel he was influenced by people such as Barton, Prokofiev, and the Russian school of music. And likewise I suppose I am influenced to an extent by the same people , but what makes me I would hope my own man in terms of my own style is that I came from a very strong Celtic musical background and that pervades all my scores.  





 Have you ever turned down a project or for any reason pulled out of a project?

Never pulled out of a project, that’s very unprofessional, would never dream of doing that. Once you start a job you are committed, I have however turned down a few scripts in my time, I felt that I would not be able to add anything to them with my score, and I turned down a project in the past because they asked me to use material from another project; I felt I could not do that, it would have to be uniquely my own music.



Do you see yourself as a composer solely of film music, or are there any other musical avenues that you would like to become involved in?

Well I suppose one day I would like to sit down and write a ballet or an opera, but to be honest it would take years out of my life. One day I intend to do something like that. At the moment I’m quite happy earning a good living being a film composer. The minute I get bored or start to find it strenuous or it is not challenging any longer, then clearly I would have to re-address the situation. For the time being I enjoy what I do.


 Are there any scores that you have written that you have found particularly hard to compose?

They’re all hard, every single one of them. Let’s say it’s just as difficult writing for 25 musicians as it is for 75 musicians. They are all hard because I worry as much about writing a solo oboe line as I do about writing for a full symphony orchestra.



 MV5BMTA4ODEyMTQ4MjVeQTJeQWpwZ15BbWU3MDIzMzE2MjE@._V1_SX214_INTO THE WEST was a charming movie, it was heart warming and I thought very entertaining, but it did not do that well at the box office, Your score was certainly a varied one and most enjoyable, it included Gaelic, classical, and western styles, it also had a very effective and haunting female voice solo. How did you become involved on this picture?


Mike Newell (FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL) who was the director asked to see me. I don’t actually know how my name came into it. We got on fine, and he offered me the job. The singer was my sister, Margaret, who I felt was perfect for this song, because it needed an innocent, young youthful woman’s voice, and she was has that untrained quality. If you listen to her you will see why I write the way I do: She has a natural inherent feeling for that kind of music, she was brought up listening to it ,she can still remember her great auntie and grandmother singing, people from that generation used to sing unaccompanied.






SHIPWRECKED was your second movie score, this was a Disney film, what was your working relationship like with Disney as they are know to be a little controlling?

I had heard stories of Disney being very controlling, but they were nice to me, the relationship was great, mainly because Chris Montan and Andy Hill from the music department were very supportive of me and are supportive of film composers in general. I am still very good friends with them both. It was a good experience for me.












INDOCHINE, contains a score that I suppose can be called luxurious and romantic. I was however surprised how little Eastern orientated music was in the score, considering the location in which the story was set.






 The characters in the film are quintessentially French, living and imposing themselves within another culture. The story was really about a French woman a French soldier and a Vietnamese child that was brought into a world that was totally dominated by a French western culture. The obvious elements of the woman’s engagement the opening of the picture where there is a Vietnamese funeral, and these were the elements that both the director and I felt absolutely cried out for music which spoke of that culture. Because of the colonial umbrella that hung over the entire picture, it was felt that the music should be much more western, to encapsulate that feeling.






Have you a favourite score of your own or by another composer?

 That is a Very difficult question. Each film score that I have done contains certain cues that I feel very proud of. There is no particular film score that I would say is my favourite, because I generally don’t listen to a lot of them.  As to other peoples score, Occasionally I might buy something, people might send me something, but I don’t go out of my way to buy film scores, this is no way meant as a disrespect to other composers, it’s just I tend to concentrate listening to the great classics, as I sure all the great film music composers do themselves. I suppose I am much more aware of a score when I go to the cinema to see a film, but not that conscious, because if the score is doing its job I watch the movie. The other day I watched a picture on video, MALICE— it’s just a terrific the way that Jerry Goldsmith manages to capture the feelings that each subject requires.    





What do you do to relax, if indeed you do relax?

I’ve got four kids so there is very little time for relaxation, I enjoy swimming, and I go for the odd little walk. I’m very fortunate to have a place in Scotland and I go there to just “chill out” as they say in America, I go for walks when I am there and of an evening I’ll just sit and read and stew in front of a big log fire.