Just when you thought it was safe to return to the CD player along comes another terrifying collection of themes from the Hammer House of horror. Yes those nice people at GDI who brought you THE HAMMER FILM MUSIC COLLECTION VOLUME 1, were not content with leaving you with just a taster of the Hammer musical heritage, so they have put together another 25 themes to delight, tantalise and terrorize. If you thought that volume one was awesome, then volume two will most certainly entertain and wow you. In many ways I think that this second volume of music is better than its predecessor, not because the music is of a higher quality or sound quality is better, but because it seems to me to be a more varied selection of music a wider musical palette if you will. James Bernard is represented, but this time by just 6 tracks, but these half a dozen entries do represent some of the composer’s musical triumphs for Hammer, FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL, DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE, THE PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES, FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN, QUATERMASS 2 and THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES are all present and showcase Bernard’s evident gift when it came to the scoring of gothic horrors. But the remainder of the collection, is a varied, vibrant and thoroughly entertaining listening experience and like volume 1, this disc’s contents evoke many memories of seeing these wonderful Hammer productions for the first time, Whether that was at the cinema or on many of the late night showings on the BBC. As I have already said the variety of music on this compilation is stunning and the composers that are represented read like a who’s who of British film music. Harry Robinson, with his lilting and bittersweet theme for DEMONS OF THE MIND, John McCabe, with his superbly edgy music for FEAR IN THE NIGHT. Richard Rodney Bennett, with his brief but highly atmospheric opening music for THE WITCHES, Malcolm Williamson, with his beautiful and haunting piano led opening for CRESCENDO, which for me personally evokes musical classics as THE WARSAW CONCERTO and THE LEGEND OF THE GLASS MOUNTAIN, Don Banks, for his thundering and robust music for THE CURSE OF THE MUMMY’S SHROUD and also his equally driving theme for THE EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN and his swirling and tormented opening theme for RASPUTIN THE MAD MONK. Paul Glass, makes an entry with his TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER, which is one of the latter Hammer movies and this is reflected in the modern sounding approach that was taken with the score.
Gary Hughes, is represented by his rousing theme from THE PIRATES OF BLOOD RIVER, which was an interesting and fairly fast paced adventure and contained a musical score that was even more adventurous, filled with numerous references to what is or were perceived to be salty sea dog Pirate music and being more YO Ho Ho, and shiver me timbers than Long John Silvers parrot. It is a shame that Hughes has not more entries on this collection, his soundtrack for THE VIKING QUEEN for example is one that in my opinion should be issued in the form of a full score compact disc or indeed the composer should have a compilation dedicated to his Hammer film music, THE SCARLET BLADE, THE VIKING QUEEN, A CHALLENGE FOR ROBIN HOOD and DEVIL SHIP PIRATES would I know attract soundtrack collectors like flies around a honey pot. Benjamin Frankel, Humphrey Searle, Mike Vickers, David Whitaker, Carlo Martelli, Edwin Astley, all put in appearances, as do Italian Maestro Mario Nascimbene and American composer John Cacavas, the latter’s modern take on DRACULA being a solid and infectious sounding theme. The composer adding an upbeat almost pop sounding theme to the proceedings to accompany the infamous Count when he was resurrected in 20th Century England. But that was the beginning of the end for DRACULA as far as Hammers film cycle was concerned, because the idea of having Dracula roaming the streets of a 20th Century London did not quite gel or impress cinema goers, and quite often the gasps and screams that one associates with Hammer horrors were replaced by sighs and sniggers at the lack-lustre attempts by Hammer to bring them selves in the 1970’s. Plus once the Count was resurrected in the 20th Century how would you send him back in time, (where is that time lord Dr Who when you need him). Now there’s a project for Hammer THE TIME LORDS OF TRANSYLVANIA !
The music however never suffered and was never wanting in any department, in fact at times it was surprising that Hammer’s production contained such wonderful music because of the budgets that were allotted to the music, but because of accomplished composers and also inventive and clever use of instrumentation these scores are now considered as classics, everyone of them..