Tag Archives: SILVA SCREEN



Originally released back in 1989 by Silva Screen Records, MUSIC FROM THE HAMMER FILMS was indeed a groundbreaking release, the compilation which was firstly released on long playing record in a gatefold cover later received a compact disc issue and has remained an iconic and popular release amongst collectors of fine movie music. Remember this was in the days before any of Hammers film music had been released in full soundtrack editions by GDI/BSX records and I think I am correct when I say that the only music that had been released was in the form of background music to story version from Hammer movies such as THE LEGEND OF THE SEVEN GOLDEN VAMPIRES and CHRISTOPHER LEE,S DRACULA album on EMI, which did have four tracks on its flip side that were promoted as THE FOUR FACES OF EVIL, these being the romantic and haunting SHE by James Bernard, the sensual and malevolent sounding THE VAMPIRE LOVERS by Harry Robinson, the gloriously dramatic and romantic DR JECKLE AND SISTER HYDE by David Whittaker and the jagged and chilling FEAR IN THE NIGHT by John McCabe all of which were conducted by Philip Martell.

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Hammer films from the 1950,s through to the late 1970,s always boasted strong musical scores and it was something of a surprise to many when the scores were not issued onto any recording format whatsoever. James Bernard’s iconic and fearsome sounding DRACULA theme surely deserved an entire release to its self, alas not. So when SILVA SCREEN announced this re-recording fans of Hammer went into raptures. The compilation features mainly the music of Hammer’s almost composer in residence Bernard and also boasted David Whittaker’s powerful music for VAMPIRE CIRCUS and Christopher Gunning’s beautiful but at the same time unsettling music for THE HANDS OF THE RIPPER. The music was performed by the world renowned Philharmonia orchestra under the baton of Neil Richardson, the whole thing being supervised by Hammer films MD Philip Martell. Silva Screen had obviously put a lot of time thought and effort into bringing the re recording to fruition and presented the release with glowing art work and informative liner notes, giving collectors a chance to see James Bernard, at the recording sessions with engineer Mike Ross Trevor and producer Eric Tomlinson at the mixing desk, the booklet also featured pictures of David Whittaker listening intently to the playback of VAMPIRE CIRCUS and Neil Richardson conducting the orchestra. The compact disc opens with THE DRACULA SUITE, which is such a fitting way to start any compilation of Hammer film music, James Bernard’s foreboding, dark and evil sounding DRA-CU-LA three note motif setting the scene for the Prince of chaos.

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The suite which is in five sections is made up from music that is taken from the original 1958 DRACULA and also DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS from 1966, the opening is instantly recognisable and still strikes a little terror into the hearts of anyone who hears it, Bernard’s simple but highly effective musical motif is as recognisable as Monty Normans, JAMES BOND THEME, as terrifying as Herrmann’s PSYCHO and as menacing as the JAWS theme by John Williams. After the familiar and dramatic opening the suite segues into the music that Bernard used to accompany Jonathan Harker on his investigation of the lofty hallway of castle Dracula, where he encounters a young woman, unbeknown to him she is one of the undead and attempts to turn Harker into one of her kind, this is interrupted by the appearance of Count Dracula who ferociously attacks the girl and also lashes out at Harker. Part three of the suite THE KISS OF THE LIVING DEATH is a piece of masterful scoring by Bernard his music acting as a hypnotic and alluring background to Dracula’s attempt to seduce his victims. Part four of the suite is FUNERAL IN CARPATHIA, which is a slow but menacing piece for strings woodwind and subdued brass that are all punctuated by a slow and deliberate sounding drumbeat. Part five is the finale sequence music from DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS, which takes place on a frozen river, where the infamous Count is dispatched by Father Shandor (Andrew Keir) with a single gun shot into the ice that releases pure running water, the vampire lord falls into the icy depths and is destroyed, but I think we all realise at this point that he will return. Bernard’s music is dramatic and feverish in places, supporting and underlining wonderfully the confrontation between good and evil and the Counts demise. The next section is from the 1971 Hammer production HANDS OF THE RIPPER, this starred Eric Porter and also Dora Bryan, with Anghard Rees as the beautiful but deadly Anna, who is supposedly the daughter of Jack the Ripper and is from time to time possessed by his spirit and goes on a killing spree, the movie was actually very entertaining and the score by British composer Christopher Gunning had within its make up a kind of James Bernard sound, but also had at its core a mesmerising and haunting theme for the films central character Anna that is luxurious and affecting. In my humble opinion this is probably one of Hammer’s best non James Bernard scores, Gunning unfortunately did not return to work on any other horrors for the studio, which is a great pity. For the next section we return to the music of Bernard and also to DRACULA. DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE was the third in the Christopher Lee DRACULA cycle of movies, and for this outing the Count becomes locked in a battle of wills and also stamina with a Monsignor played by the excellent Rupert Davies.

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The glamour in the movie was provided by Veronica Carlson who took the role of the Monsignors Daughter who was a prime target for the Count. Bernard’ s music was just as dramatic as his two previous works for Dracula but on this occasion the Dracula theme did not seem to be used as much the composer opting for an arrangement of the theme on which he based the remainder of his score.

VAMPIRE CIRCUS comes next in the running order a vampire movie with a difference and one that took the traditional vampire tale and twisted it slightly to come up with an ingenious and also an entertaining movie. The opening pre credit scene is one that must go down in Hammer history as being one of the most exciting and dramatic. Helped along by the powerful, sensual and mesmerising music of composer David Whittaker. The music for this compilation and re recording is represented by a near 10 minute suite that is just glorious. Whittaker’s darkly rich and evil sounding waltz like theme weaving its way through the suite and acting as the basis of the work, effective use of cimbalom that is strategically placed adding an authenticity and giving the music a greater depth and increasing the atmospheric effects of it within the film, bombastic sounding brass that is supported by thundering percussion and punctuated by strings making this a candidate for the best Hammer vampire soundtrack ever penned. I hope that one day the entire score will be released as only sections have since made it onto compact disc, within the excellent GDI series. For the final section on the compilation we return to the master of the Counts music James Bernard, for TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA the composer was asked by producer Aida Young to provide a more romantic sounding score, I remember Bernard telling me in interview that initially he was a little cross at the request, but then could see that the movie did need a love theme for the two young central characters in the story, thus was born the beautiful and quintessentially English sounding pastoral piece THE YOUNG LOVERS, which has endured over the years as one of the scores most haunting themes. In fact it ranks along side the composers romantic and mysterious theme for SHE, which was his own personal favourite. Of course Bernard utilised his DRA-CU-LA theme within the score and because of the presence of the love theme this already familiar and fearful sounding theme seemed even more threatening and ominous. The suite of music contained in this re-recording runs for just over 17 minutes, with ROMANCE AT DUSK being the highlight cue, beautiful and subdued woodwinds open the track that are underlined by a light strings, the central theme is then taken on by the string section who give it a more sustained working, the theme gradually builds and emerges into a poignant and attractive composition.

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The final cue THE VICTORY OF LOVE is a triumphant sounding version of the love theme the composer adding brass and percussion to the proceedings, telling the audience that evil has once again been defeated and love and good has prevailed. This is a collection that you as a Hammer fan should not be without, and yes I know these are not the original recordings, but they were arranged by the composers and also supervised by Hammers own Phil Martell, the compilation which was deleted was soon after resurrected with alternative art work the only difference being that the suite from HANDS OF THE RIPPER was a shorter version on the re release, if you can find a copy of the original release it would be far better, but if not settle for the re-issue an essential purchase.

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Charlie Chaplin is probably one of the most iconic and famous figures from cinema. Chaplin was just not well known in front of the camera as an actor but also became just as well known behind them as a director, writer, producer and eventually as a composer of scores for his motion pictures. Because sound was not something that was around in films when Chaplin first began to make a name for himself, many of his scores were composed years after a movies original release date for example, THE GOLD RUSH which was released in 1925 was scored by Chaplin in 1942, THE KID which was released in 1921 received an original score by Chaplin in 1971.


It is something of an oversight by many collectors of film music when they maybe side step the scores that were penned by Chaplin, I have to admit that up until I saw a screening of THE KID with Carl Davis conducting Chaplin’s score live that I too was guilty of not actually taking the time to listen to any of Chaplin’s film music apart from maybe SMILE but not in the context of being actual film music but more as an evergreen song that cropped up every so often on the radio etc, but this changed after having a conversation with Carl Davis and seeing how passionate the composer was about the music, in fact so much so that Davis went onto score a number of Chaplin’s silent and now classic shorts himself, drawing inspiration from Chaplin’s music.


One Chaplin score in particular that I listen to over and over is THE GREAT DICTATOR (1940) the film which was rather controversial when it was released contains a score that in my opinion displays Chaplin’s diversity and talent as a composer who was able to adapt his musical expertise to suit many varied genres and situations and maybe at times Chaplin rivaled the most talented and respected of Hollywood composers from the same period. This double compact disc set was issued in 2006 by Silva Screen the first disc being dedicated to the original music that Chaplin penned for his movies both silent’s and talkies and disc two includes the music written for twelve shorts by Carl Davis.

the kid
the kid

The first disc CHAPLIN BY CHAPLIN opens with THE REEL CHAPLIN which is described as a symphonic adventure and includes themes and cues from a number of Chaplin’s soundtracks which are woven into an entertaining and vibrantly flowing suite which in effect acts as an overture of sorts to the first disc. Performed by The City of Prague Philharmonic conducted by Davis this is a compilation that will please, mesmerize and maybe even make the listener shed a tear or two of joy and also of sadness. Filled with energetic themes, lilting and fragile sounding tone poems and comedic sounding interludes this is a wonderful collection that enables one to experience and savour the musical magic of Chaplin.


The second track on the first disc is from THE KID Chaplin’s lush and heartfelt opening theme being purveyed luxuriously by the string section of the orchestra, with woodwind adding a certain delicate ambiance to the proceedings. Chaplin’s music is presented here in an almost 9 minute suite, which obviously encompasses and includes the works principal themes, it sumptuous central theme leading the way and becoming the backbone of the score. Track number three is from the 1922 movie PAY DAY again the composers music has been arranged into a suite, the music here is rather more robust and upbeat compared with THE KID but after a brief introduction of comedic sounding flourishes from both the brass and strings we are treated to a more subdued and melodic sounding theme that is delicate and at the same time affecting, the opening theme returns and ambles along at a jaunty pace until the slow and plaintive theme returns and is given a more expanded working by the strings and woodwind sections the two styles which are totally opposites to each other compliment each other and create a colourful and highly entertaining sound and atmosphere.


Disc number one includes 14 tracks many of which are suites of music from the respective score, THE GOLD RUSH I think is one of the most outstanding pieces within the compact discs running time, Chaplin’s haunting and melancholy sounding strings creating a sense of sadness and romance throughout. Other films represented are, THE GREAT DICTATOR, CITY LIGHTS, MODERN TIMES, MONSIEUR VERDOUX, A KING IN NEW YORK and A COUNTESS FROM HONG KONG.


The latter being one of my own personal favourites with Chaplin weaving an oriental style into his thickly romantic sounding soundtrack, with his gloriously familiar “THIS IS MY SONG” making an appearance which I know will melt the hearts of many. The last cue on the disc is part 2 of THE REEL CHAPLIN, on this occasion the music included is restricted to THE CHAPLIN REVUE, from which we hear the jaunty and foot tapping GREEN LANTERN RAG which comes to an abrupt end and segues into the core theme from MODERN TIMES “SMILE”. Performed by a solitary oboe with underlying strings in the first instant but gradually building into a full string arrangement of the now famous theme which I suppose could be taken as Charlie’s signature tune, and a fitting conclusion to the first disc. The second disc CHAPLIN BY DAVIS includes 13 tracks all composed by Carl Davis and are for short films from 1916 and 1917, which include THE FLOORWALKER, THE FIREMAN, THE VAGABOND, ONE AM, THE COUNT, THE ADVENTURER plus others. Davis manages to create music that sounds very much akin to the style of Chaplin’s own musical style, but at the same time one can hear certain quirks of orchestration and styles of composition that can be associated with Davis. Overall this is a wonderful compilation and has an abundance of musical styles within its running time. Contains informative notes and some interesting photographs of Chaplin on the sound-stage conducting etc. Worth a listen.



The music that Murray Gold has written for the Dr Who series is magnificent; it would be hard I think to select any one score and even harder to pick a particular cue that I could name as my favourite or preferred listen. His scores are so varied and fresh, like the series itself.  The composer reinvents his music on every outing and maintains a high standard and consistent quality within his vibrant and highly dramatic soundtracks that accompany the Doctor on his time travels encountering strange and often malevolent aliens and beings. This latest release from Silva Screen has made it even more difficult to say this is my favourite cue etc, simply because there is so much music crammed into the two CD set, it includes music from no less than 13 episodes from the seventh series of the programme, and I have to say it is a very impressive collection of tremendously melodic, poignant and also dramatic sounding music. The composer I have always said should be working on big budget movies, his music for Dr Who, surely must have reached the ears of Hollywood film makers or European directors and producers. I was particularly pleased that A TOWN CALLED MERCY was represented on the disc, as I for one enjoyed this immensely. Gold makes more than a gentle nod in the direction of Morricone and also parodies Elmer Bernstein’s now classic Magnificent seven theme briefly within the six cues that represent this particular episode. He also brings into play a robust and equally expansive sounding western theme which although short lived is certainly attention grabbing, then he launches into a more Italian or spaghetti sound, in the track GUNSLINGERS, which includes choir and horns that are all brought together and underlined by an upbeat backing track giving it a slightly more contemporary atmosphere. Then we have the excellent and haunting cue THE SALVATION OF KAHLER JEX, which has again the sound of spaghetti about it, but also Gold enhances this with his own highly original style to create a piece that makes the listener sit up and take notice, female vocal is supported by sparing use of banjo and percussion, and as the track progresses the composer adds strings and brass plus he increases the tempo and underlines this with rumbling percussive elements which culminates in a rousing and highly effective crescendo of sorts.

English: Murray Gold in his studio.
Murray Gold in his studio. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The composer’s utilization of voice within his scores for the Dr Who series in particular has created a wonderfully ethereal atmosphere to his music and also has indeed created some magical and at times shuddering and icy moments. I think that this is demonstrated to a higher degree in Gold’s superbly effecting music for THE ANGELS TAKE MANHATTAN, this particular score for me demonstrates the composers ability to write quite large scale pieces and also within this episode I felt that he provided a highly vibrant soundtrack that in many ways evoked the work of Jerry Goldsmith within the action led sections and also echoed the melodic style of John Barry at the same time. Track number 28, TOGETHER OR NOT AT ALL-THE SONG OF AMY AND RORY is a sheer delight, tender and emotive but in the same instant  it is proud and brimming with drama, plus track number 29, GOODBYE POND, is heartbreakingly beautiful and filled with so much emotion and melodic lushness, one cannot fail to be moved by its overwhelming and captivating presence. But let us also not forget to mention the opening section on disc one, ASYLUM OF THE DALEKS,a great storyline for this particular outing of the Doctors most dreaded enemy, and the composer underlines this with a score that reflects perfectly the ominous and fearsome foe that the time lord must face. The opening track, THEY ARE EVERYWHERE, is certainly a dark and fearsome piece, which at times again evokes a certain Barry-esque persona, with Gold employing faraway sounding horns, but in a threatening fashion rather than a subdued or melodic way. Track number 3, DALEK PARLIAMENT is a manic and furious sound, which is urgent and inescapable; strings, percussion and jagged brass combine to generate this wild and uneasy piece. This latest release from Silva Screen is a Dr Who fans dream come true and also a real treat for any film music enthusiast. There are so many themes here, in fact this is a Tardis like release because it is amazing that there is so much musical wealth contained on just two discs. I urge you to buy this it is a treasure trove of thematic excellence, and one that should be in every film music fans collection.




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.

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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,




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.



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)