Tag Archives: James Bernard




In November 1995, I travelled to London’s Whitfield Street recording studios to sit in on the recording sessions for two albums that were being recorded by the British soundtrack label Silva Screen. These were HORROR and THE DEVIL RIDES OUT music for Hammer films composed by James Bernard. The label had found success previously when they re-recorded music from other Hammer horrors in their landmark album MUSIC FROM THE HAMMER FILMS which was issued originally on both long playing record and compact disc in 1989, the compilation included mainly the music of James Bernard, but also had within its running time a stunning suite from VAMPIRE CIRCUS by David Whitaker and also an equally interesting suite of themes from THE HANDS OF THE RIPPER by Christopher Gunning.


MIKE ROSS TREVOR (seated) PHILIP LANE. (standing).



Based on the success of this re-recording Silva Screens David Wishart, James Fitzpatrick and David Stoner planned further re-recordings of not only Hammer film music but other pieces from the horror genre. On this occasion the first sessions were to focus more upon non James Bernard scores and to my delight WITCHFINDER GENERAL was on the schedule, Philip Lane had reconstructed the music from the score by Paul Ferris and had arranged the principal themes into a wonderful suite, which included the haunting love theme and opening theme from the movie.

horror 2


The recording engineer was Mike Ross Trevor who was a familiar face to many collectors of movie score’s, the orchestra was THE WESTMINSTER PHILHARMONIC who numbered nearly 100 musicians, under the very able guidance of conductor Kenneth Alwyn. I arrived late thanks to British rail, and was met with a crowd of young girls and boys making a bit of a din and holding cameras in hand. Sadly theses were not for James Bernard, Carlo Martelli or Buxton Orr, but for Madonna who was recording an album in the studio next door. I got through the crowd and into the studio, the session had already started and the orchestra were already in full flight giving a thunderous performance of Buxton Orr’s CORRIDORS OF BLOOD,




I have to admit I did not recognise this at first but soon was reminded of what it was by David Wishart. I also did not recognise David Stoner, which was a little remiss of me! I had spoken to David Many times but only met him the once before, I soon however recognised the voice when he told me “It’s going really well”. Also in attendance at that time were composers Carlo Martelli, Buxton Orr plus Dimitri Kennaway (Benjamin Frankels stepson) and also his Mother Frankel’s widow.

 Buxton Orr.orrThe music recorded that first day was mainly that of Buxton Orr and also sections of THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF by Frankel, this I found to be a thrilling experience as Frankel’s music in particular just oozed energy and contained a particularly melodic pastorale theme. Carlo Martelli’s music for THE CURSE OF THE MUMMYS TOMB should also have been recorded in that session but due to a few problems with THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF, which is a very difficult score to perform Martelli’s music was postponed until the next days session.

The Curse of the Werewolf
The Curse of the Werewolf (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Day two and this was a session I was looking forward to because WITCHFINDER GENERAL was on the running order for that day; the session was running late because of THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF which was still proving a little difficult for the orchestra. Frankel’s score for Hammer’s lupine classic was after all a more or less fully atonal work, and the Westminster philharmonic had to have a few attempts at it before they got it sounding the way it should. After approx; 9 takes and the marvellous conducting skills of Kenneth Alwyn everything fell into place and it sounded marvellous.


Carlo Martelli was present once again and I took a few minutes to speak with him, the composer was somewhat worried about how the orchestra would cope with his music for THE CURSE OF THE MUMMY’S TOMB, he felt that this too was a little difficult, however the orchestra took things in their stride and turned out a polished performance which the composer was pleased with. Next up was the classic British horror THE NIGHT OF THE DEMON this surely is one of the most iconic pieces of music from a horror movie, composed by Clifton Parker, it is a terror filled soundtrack for this recording the orchestra performed the overture, and filled the studio with the sound of horror and foreboding and evoked memories of the demon in question seeking out its victims and ending their existence, swiftly and mercilessly.


WITCHFINDER GENERAL was up next, and after a short break the orchestra came back into the studio to prepare for this, the music was composed by Paul Ferris, who had sadly passed away just one month previous to this recording, WITCHFINDER GENERAL or THE CONQUERER WORM as it was entitled in the United States has since its release become a cult movie and has been hailed as a masterpiece of horror film making by critics and fans alike.






The orchestra acquitted themselves marvellously, and special mention must be made of the string section and the beautiful delicate guitar solos of Harvey Hope. The re-construction by Philip Lane is in a word flawless. The cues included in this 6 minute suite included the Prelude and also the love theme which was arranged by Ferris in the movie to accompany Ian Ogilvy’s character as he rode home from the chaos of the English civil war to his fiancée. During this part of the recording I was invited to sit in the middle of the orchestra which is an experience that I will never forget.



Mike Ross-Trevor with David Wishart.



Witchfinder General (film)
Witchfinder General (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia

It was at this point that David Wishart informed me that The Horror album would be dedicated to Paul Ferris, a fitting tribute I think. Also during this session the music of Humphrey Searle was on the agenda, these included his brilliant music for Robert Wise’s chiller THE HAUNTING and also Hammer films production of THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN, both re-recordings went well and even with a full orchestra in a fully lit studio and the assembled company in the recording booth THE HAUNTING still made me feel slightly edgy and uneasy.






After lunch composer James Bernard arrived. His THE DEVIL RIDES OUT was to be recorded, but as the session was running late it was not recorded until the session had almost finished, they decided to just go for it and try and get it in one take, so after a very quick run through Kenneth Alwyn raised his baton and the orchestra launched into the virulent sounding composition THE POWER OF EVIL from the score. This concluded the session, we would all return in two weeks for more dark delights.




James Bernard
James Bernard

If I was asked what James Bernard score was my favourite I would find it very difficult to single one out. Obviously his DRACULA theme looms large because it conjures up an atmosphere and feeling of pure evil. The composer’s music adds perfectly the sense of menace to the proceedings of any horror film that he has written for. So when I saw what was to be recorded during these sessions I was in seventh heaven, DEVIL RIDES OUT, KISS OF THE VAMPIRE, SHE and music from QUATERMASS. KISS OF THE VAMPIRE I think was the main attraction for these sessions. The wonderful piano music from the score had been arranged by the composer for this re-recording into THE VAMPIRE RHAPSODY, Bernard told me that the solo piano part had originally been performed by Douglas Gamley, but for this session it would be played by Paul Bateman, who produced a flawless performance par excellence. This stunning performance will be one of the highlights of THE DEVIL RIDES OUT compilation, without sounding clichéd or corny I was literally mesmerized by Bateman’s performance.



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Also recorded over the weekend were sections from James Bernard’s SHE which he had arranged into a suite, Bernard confessed this was one of the hardest scores he had composed and had more problems with it than all of his other works for Hammer, but it also turned out to be his own personal favourite. The suite included AYESHA THEME, DESERT RIDE, BEDOUIN ATTACK, IN THE KINGDOM OF SHE and also the music for the end sequence where Ayesha enters the flames and perishes. An additional treat was a suite of music from all the QUATERMASS movies that Bernard scored. THE QUATERMASS SUITE is in the words of David Wishart “Real Horror stuff” and after hearing it I totally agreed. The suite is terrific, tense and dramatic music that is performed on strings and percussion only, this rivals the work of Herrmann in my opinion and is more complex and certainly more harrowing in its overall sound than PSYCHO or VERTIGO, and seeing as Bernard penned QUATERMASS before either of these two Herrmann scores, one has to ask the question who influenced who, if indeed anyone did. The sessions had gone well and we had time to record additional tracks which were destined for THE HORROR album.








Gerard Schurmann’s KONGA and HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM plus Buxton Orr’s THE FIEND WITHOUT A FACE.  As the sessions ended I was confident that both these compilations would do well for Silva Screen and also that the label had once again restored and preserved some wonderful music from film, which might have been lost forever.




A few weeks later the HORROR album dropped through my letterbox and to my surprise and also delight I saw that David Wishart had used my photographs from the sessions and also had given me a credit in the CD liner. It was also at these sessions that James Fitzpatrick played to me a few cues that he had recorded with another orchestra, these were FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN and THE SCARS OF DRACULA, which sounded brilliant, the orchestra was THE CITY OF PRAGUE PHILHARMONIC, who as we all know have become a driving force in film music.










Night of the Demon
Night of the Demon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many thanks to,

David Wishart, David Stoner, James Fitzpatrick, Philip Lane, Buxton Orr, Carlo Martelli, James Bernard, Fiona Searle, Dimitri Kennaway, Kenneth Alwyn and the ladies and gentlemen of THE WESTMINSTER PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA.



©1995/96 JOHN MANSELL.



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..



hammer vol 1When 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.


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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.

Taste the Blood of Dracula
Taste the Blood of Dracula (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


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.

James Bernard

James Bernard
James Bernard

Muir Matheson once said something along the lines of “Films need music, but music does not need films”. Which I suppose is true to a certain degree, but one could argue that if it were not for films, then some of the most popular and finest music ever written would probably not have seen the light of day. As film music enthusiasts we are probably more aware of the need for music in a movie, and if placed correctly, the score for a film can add a whole new dimension to the images that are appearing on the screen.

Horror movies in particular tend to use a great deal of music, and the films as produced by Hammer from the late 1950’s through to the 1970’s relied quite heavily upon the use of dramatic orchestral scores. The Hammer studios used various composers for their Gothic horrors, but one in particular stood out above the others and his scores were and still are highly regarded by collectors of film music throughout the world. Continue reading James Bernard

The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires

The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires
The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires

I remember getting this soundtrack years back in the form of the Warner Bros. long playing record, this disc contained the story of the movie as narrated by the brilliant Peter Cushing. The album also contained sound effects and an introduction by David de Keyser and music composed by James Bernard and opened with a wonderfully pompous and anthem like Chinese march, which was actually composed especially for the LP release after musical director Phil Martell suggested to Bernard that the album needed something to both open and close it. Track 12, THE LEGEND OF ANCIENT CHINA is a proud and majestic sounding composition which always put me in mind of something that the late great Bernard Hermann might conjure up for a Sinbad movie or some other fantastic tale. There had already been a similar type of recording released a couple of years previous on the EMI label Continue reading The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires