When GDI records first came on the scene, one has to remember that music from the Hammer horrors had not been that readily available, yes ok admittedly there had been a few compilations that had mainly been re-recordings and some of these were released as stories of Dracula etc with music tracked behind the narration, but I think you will agree with me that it was Silva Screen records in the UK that was the first label to make a concerted effort to release music from the Hammer Gothic Horrors, at first they concentrated upon James Bernard, simply because he was the composer that so many associated with the house of horror, because of his memorable and foreboding DRACULA soundtracks. But Silva also turned its attention to other composers that had written music for Hammer, but of course these were all re-recordings as the label were told that the original tapes were either lost or destroyed. Then up popped Gary Wilson and the GDI label, who had the original tapes to many of the Hammer soundtracks. The logical thing for GDI to do was release a compilation, a sort of best of Hammer if you will. THE HAMMER FILM MUSIC COLLECTION was the first compact disc of many in a series dedicated to the rich musical legacy of Hammer. This first volume which includes 25 themes is a real stunner of a collection, the disc opens with the taught and virulent theme from THE DEVIL RIDES OUT as composed by James Bernard and is a perfect opener for what is to follow, a compilation that thrills, excites and also oozes evil musical renditions which evoke numerous memories of those brilliant yet at times clumsy looking horrors. James Bernard is given the lions share of the disc’s running time, which I suppose is a fitting tribute to the man who was let us remember the studios composer in residence (or might as well have been) he scored movies for them from the mid 1950’s through to 1974 and was also involved on the TV series that the studio produced for ITV. The compilation boast 10 pieces by Bernard, including DRACULA and the aforementioned theme for THE DEVIL RIDES OUT, which is still as threatening in its persona and atmosphere as it was when I first heard it back in 1968. Also included from Bernard we have THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED, THE SCARS OF DRACULA, TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA, THE LEGEND OF THE SEVEN GOLDEN VAMPIRES plus the haunting and mesmerising theme from SHE and the eerie sounding music from THE GORGON and for me what I consider the best of Bernard THE KISS OF THE VAMPIRE, which has a powerful and magnificent piano solo from Douglas Gamley.
So this compilation is worth owning just for the James Bernard material alone, but wait, there is more as they say! Scottish born composer Harry Robinson or Robertson is well represented with four themes VAMPIRE LOVERS, LUST FOR A VAMPIRE, and the glorious TWINS OF EVIL, which are all from movies that feature the infamous Karnstein family of blood suckers. Plus there is also a brief piece from COUNTESS DRACULA which starred Ingrid Pitt who murdered maidens and bathed in their blood to regain her youthful looks. Robinson provided all four of the films with highly atmospheric scores, but it was TWINS OF EVIL that had been on many a collectors wants list to get some sort of release, its brooding opening building into a full blown riding theme that if tracked onto a western would fit like the proverbial glove, a style that composer Robinson turned to again on his HAWK THE SLAYER soundtrack a few years later. VAMPIRE LOVERS had been available before as a re-recording on an EMI long playing record alongside three other themes from Hammer horrors, but it appeared in the form of a suite which was arranged by Hammer’s musical director Phil Martell, what is included here is the films opening theme, a short but effective musical exercise in romantic music tinged with evil seduction. LUST FOR A VAMPIRE is a very lush and opulent sounding theme, full of romantic atmosphere and in my humble opinion was far too good for the film it enhanced. COUNTESS DRACULA was probably the most authentic sounding score that Robinson composed for a Hammer horror, he utilised cimbalom to great effect and further enhanced the film with lavish sounding strings that created an air of mystery.
The film itself was not a great success at the box office, and that is probably why Robinsons score is at times overlooked. Another theme that is most certainly deserved of a mention is THE MUMMY, which was released in 1959 and starred Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, the thunderous, dramatic and vibrant score was the work of German born concert pianist, turned composer Franz Reisenstein. The collection as a whole is magnificent and will delight any fan of Hammer films and the gothic horrors that they produced. This excellent compilation takes us on a musical journey of terror and spans from the 1950’s through to the early 1970’s. Other titles that are also included are, THE BRIDES OF DRACULA, HANDS OF THE RIPPER, BLOOD FROM THE MUMMYS TOMB, MOON ZERO TWO, QUATERMASS AND THE PIT, CAPTAIN KRONOS VAMPIRE HUNTER, WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH, THE CURSE OF THE MUMMYS TOMB, CREATURES THE WORLD FORGOT and DR JEKYLL AND SISTER HYDE. The music is conducted by Marcus Dodd’s, John Hollingsworth, Phil Martell and Franco Ferrara and all taken from the original sound recordings, there are no re-recordings here.
The compilation concludes as it started with the music of James Bernard, and from TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA, we hear the beautiful and typically English sounding pastoral love theme from the score. This is a classic release a must have collection an essential purchase. Packaged wonderfully and the 16 page booklet is crammed with information courtesy of Marcus Hearne and an introduction from Hammer films chairman Roy Skeggs. Colourfully illustrated with posters publicity stills and photographs of some of the composers.