Tag Archives: PAUL FERRIS

WITCHFINDER GENERAL.

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Witchfinder General I think has been many collectors Holy Grail for many years, in fact my memories of the music from the movie go back to when I saw the movie for the first time and also to the 45 rpm single that was released by Roberto Mann and his orchestra, I was lucky enough to speak with the composer Paul Ferris briefly once when he was staying in and bed and breakfast I was given his phone number by a friend of his and just rang it  to my surprise he was there and did speak to me but was reluctant to discuss any of his music for films, at the time he was a truck driver and I found out he had pursued numerous careers and at one point was a sea Captain and a purveyor of fish and chips. A little while after our conversation he must have moved away because he was no longer staying at the address and soon after this I heard that he had died. I contacted PRS who put me in touch with his widow and from there I managed to speak to Nicky Henson who starred in Witchfinder and was a great friend of Paul’s. It was at this point that I began to try and get the score released it had been available on a De Wolfe LP but this was a library disc and was by this time a very rare item, the LP was two sided and also contained music from THE CURSE OF THE CRIMSON ALTAR. A very true to the original score suite of music from Witchfinder General was re-recorded for the Silva Screen HORROR album but this is all that collectors had. I then approached De Wolfe who had the original tapes, but they at the time did not seem interested in releasing it even under license to Silva or GDI, then came the great news De Wolfe would be releasing it, I waited, and waited and waited, but it never appeared, so now finally in 2013,they have released it, was it worth the wait, hell yes, and I am also glad that De Wolfe released it, they have made an excellent job of the CD, it is filled with stills (20) from the movie, packed with notes about the film and also the score and its release by Joel Martin and John Hamilton and the sound quality is wonderful.  Paul Ferris composed a classic sounding score for the movie and even though Witchfinder contained some pretty gruesome and graphic scenes of violence etc, the music for the most part is a romantically led and evokes memories of the familiar and popular standard “GREENSLEEVES”, which we are told Ferris openly admitted to being influenced by when composing his music for Witchfinder. The central theme which Ferris utilizes throughout the movie when we are presented with scenes that include the young lovers Richard and Sara, where the composer employs a lighter and more tender approach with soft sounding woods and subdued strings acting as accompaniment to a solo guitar or in the form of riding or galloping music that follows Richard on his journey back to Sara or in search of The Witchfinder, this romantically laced composition acts as a firm foundation to the remainder of the soundtrack,

 

 

Film poster for the retitled U.S. release version
Film poster for the retitled U.S. release version (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The composer building his more tense and dramatic sounding cues upon this and at times including fleeting snatches of the theme or at least a hint or glimpse of notes from it within these cues. Track number 8, BY THE WATER, is a prime example, we hear the more romantic theme  start to form performed on woodwind as we see Sara by the rivers edge but the mood of the music soon alters and the composer introduces a more dramatic and menacing sounding atmosphere with percussion and swirling strings being introduced into the equation. The theme or at least a permutation of it can also be heard within the films opening titles music, a martial like drum roll opens the cue as the shadowy looking title sequence commences showing somewhat grotesque looking faces under the credits, a muted trumpet opens the proceedings as further brass instrumentation herald in a low passage performed on strings, somewhat sinister sounding strings in turn segue into the composition and these lead into the first performance of the central theme which is given an airing via  subdued woodwind.  As I have already stated the central or love theme is utilized a number of times and the composer treats us to rich and at times lush sounding variations of it as the score progresses. There are as one might think given the films subject matter numerous compositions within the score that are of the darker variety. Ferris achieving a kind of sinewy sound via strings and augmenting these with urgent sounding brass, he also makes effective use of musical stabs throughout the work, and although these are on most occasions fleeting and just seconds in duration they still manage to make a lasting impression upon the listener. On viewing the movie again recently it still in my opinion remains an entertaining piece of cinema and a classic British horror film and one that will be looked upon in years to come as a masterpiece of film making and the score by Ferris is also one of the most outstanding works for a British Horror production, in many ways outstripping anything that was produced by Hammer. As a footnote to this review I would like to also mention composer Kenneth V Jones, the composer told me a few years back that he also contributed to the score for Witchfinder, whether or not any of his music is included on this recording I do not know, but apparently more music was required after Ferris had completed the score and Jones was brought in to write it without even seeing the movie, he told me it was action music, so what that would be I am uncertain of. This is a wonderful release and one that every discerning film music collector should own.

 

SILVA SCREEN AWAKEN THE HORRORS.

THE SESSIONS   PART ONE.

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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.

 

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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.

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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,

 

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KENNETH ALWYN.

 

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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

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CARLO MARTELLI and JAMES BERNARD.

 

 

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.

 

 

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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.

 

 

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LAST MINUTE CHECKS ON THE DEVIL RIDES OUT.

 

 

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.

THE SESSIONS   PART TWO.

 

THE DEVIL RIDES OUT COMPILATION.

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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DAVID WISHART, PHILIP LANE, MIKE ROSS TREVOR and standing to right composer JAMES BERNARD.

 

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.

 

 

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COMPOSER JAMES BERNARD, CONDUCTOR KENNETH ALWYN.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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DAVID WISHART AN UGLY DAY AT THE STUDIO. 

 

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.

 

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PHILIP LANE, MIKE ROSS TREVOR and DIMITRI KENAWAY with back to camera. 

 

 

 

 

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PHILIP LANE AND KENNETH ALWYN. 

 

 

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.

PAUL FERRIS.

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Composer Paul Ferris was born Richard Paul Ferris on May 2nd 1941 in Corby Northamptonshire, England.  It is probably true to say that Ferris is better known as a composer for his beautiful but also sinister sounding soundtrack to the Vincent Price horror movie THE WITCHFINDER GENERAL which was directed by filmmaker Michael reeves and released in 1968.  The movie has since its release attracted much attention from cinema goers, film buffs and critics alike and when discussing this classic British movie the musical score by Ferris is always mentioned. The score and the film reaching cult status in recent years. The film which was set in the uncertain times of the English civil war tells the story of Matthew Hopkins a self appointed official who rides around the English countryside exposing so called witches and their accomplices or servants of the Devil was at first frowned upon by many but also was hailed as a masterpiece by others, and has in recent years emerged as one of the more credible horror movies of the 1960,s and certainly one of Vincent Price’s best movies. The film also starred a fresh faced Ian Ogilvy, Nicky Henson, Rupert Davies and introduced to cinema goers the beautiful Hilary Dwyer. Other actors involved were Robert Russell, Wilfred Brambell and in the role of Oliver Cromwell. Patrick Wymark. A few years ago, more than 20 actually, it was revealed the De Wolfe music had the entire score for the movie within its vast archive, an LP record of the music had been released previously but only to radio stations etc for promotional purposes. The album which also contained sections from THE CURSE OF THE CRIMSON ALTAR by Peter Knight, soon became a rarity and a holy grail for many collectors of film music, probably more for the Ferris score if the true be known.  A single record was released which included a cover version of the theme from the movie by Roberto Mann and his orchestra, but this too faded into obscurity and was deleted from the catalogue too soon. In 1995 Silva Screen commissioned Philip Lane to reconstruct parts of the score and to create a 7 minute suite of themes from the Ferris soundtrack for inclusion on the labels HORROR compilation. I was present at the recording of this suite and was amazed at the sound that was achieved by the orchestra who were performing it, which was THE WESTMINSTER PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA under the baton of seasoned conductor and arranger, Kenneth Alwyn.  I sat in the middle of the orchestra and just listened, it was a great experience and one I will never forget. The music kind of drove me to learn more about the composer, who had sadly passed away just a month previous to this recording.

MV5BMTYyMDYzNjc5MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTYzNjkxMQ@@._V1._SX148_CR0,0,148,200_Information was a little sparse to say the least, but eventually thanks to PRS I received a phone call from the composers widow, who helped me to gather some information and then I approached DE WOLFE MUSIC, asking them if the score could be released as a fitting tribute to the composer, the obvious label at that time to release the score was of course Silva Screen and David Stoner of the label was more than enthusiastic, but all efforts on my behalf and also by David on behalf of Silva Screen failed and De Wolfe were adamant they would release the score themselves very soon. 1998, still no release of the score, enter then GDI with its Hammer compilations and also full score releases, again I went to De Wolfe about WITCHFINDER, but to no avail, 15 years on and we are still waiting, true it is now more likely that the soundtrack will be released by De Wolfe as they have advertised this fact on their website. So maybe after a wait of 45 years, this classic score will be available to collectors, we will see.

Witchfinder General
Witchfinder General

Paul Ferris became involved in writing for films in 1966,when he penned the soundtrack for SHE BEAST a Michael Reeves low budget affair which starred screen icon Barbara Steele who had starred in numerous Italian horror movies and was a favourite of Mario Bava, Reeves followed Bava’s way of working and wanted Steele to have the central part in his first motion picture. Reeves shot the movie in Italy and asked his good friend Ian Ogilvy be one of the films main characters. The score that Ferris composed was not an outstanding one, but it served the picture well. This led to Ferris scoring THE SORCERERS again starring Ogilvy with Reeves at the directorial helm and vintage actor Boris Karloff taking a leading role. In 1968 director Vernon Sewell enlisted the musical expertise of Ferris on his BLOOD BEAST TERROR, which starred Peter Cushing, Robert Flemyng and Wanda Ventham. The next assignment was WITCHFINDER GENERAL, the composer providing the film with a beautiful central theme that also doubled as a love theme. Ferris also starred in the movie, a minor role in which he portrayed the husband of a young girl that The Witchfinder burns at the stake, his character Paul Clark goes to the inn where Hopkins (Price) is staying with the intent to kill him, but Hopkins shoots Clark in the chest close range killing him. Ferris adopted the name of Morris Jar for the part as a homage to his favourite composer Maurice Jarre.

MV5BMTQxMDUwNTcyNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjM3MjcxMQ@@._V1_SY317_CR5,0,214,317_Actor Nicky Henson who was a great friend of both Ferris and Ogilvy told me that when the scene was shot it was hard for the actors to keep a straight face, “There was Paul covered in blood laying at the bottom of the stairs supposedly drawing his last breath and we were laughing, if you look at the film very closely you may even catch us smilingPaul had acted previous to this, and was a regular in television shows such as THE BARON in which he portrayed David Marlowe, who was John Mannering’s assistant and also had parts in the police series, NO HIDING PLACE and DIXON OF DOCK GREEN as well as a small part in the 1967 James Bond spoof CASINO ROYALE. During the 1960,s Ferris also penned the hit VISIONS for Cliff Richard, and his theme for MAROC 7, was performed by The Shadows in 1967.  His career as a composer continued in 1970, when he scored CLEGG but after this he worked mainly on shorts until 1973 when he wrote the soundtrack for THE CREEPING FLESH, two years later he worked on PERSECUTION and that is the last movie he scored. I was told by Nicky Henson that Paul worked as many things after this, at one time he was a sea captain and also drove articulated lorries for a living, he even sold fish and chips, “Paul always worked, and what ever he did he did well” remembers Mr Henson. Paul became ill and was diagnosed with the debilitating and depressing disease Huntington’s Chorea, which meant in his last few years of life that he was unable to work. On October 30th 1995 the composer was found dead in his Bristol flat, at an inquest which was held on January 30th 1996, the coroner arrived at a verdict of suicide by drug overdose. He was 54. Nicky Henson spoke of this. “Paul took medication for his condition, and I know he did not take his own life, this was an unhappy accident. I think Paul had simply forgotten that he had taken his medication and took it again”.

The Baron.
The Baron.

If Paul Ferris had lived, who knows what he might have done,i would like to think that he would have returned to writing music for film.

Cover of "The Creeping Flesh"
Cover of The Creeping Flesh
Film poster for the retitled U.S. release version
Film poster for the retitled U.S. release version (Photo credit: Wikipedia)