May 2000 Film Music CD Reviews Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

index page/monthly listings/May/


Collection: A History of Horror from Nosferatu to The Sixth Sense    The City of Prague Philharmonic and Crouch End Festival Chorus conducted by Nic Raine. Electronic music realised by Mark Ayres. Also featuring The Westminster Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Carl Davis, Neil Richardson & Kenneth Alwyn    2CD set with Dolby Surround and HDCD encoding   SILVA SCREEN FILMXCD 331  [Disc 1: 72:43 Disc 2: 65:57]

Music from Nosferatu, Dracula, The Devil Rides Out, Taste the Blood of Dracula - James Bernard * The Phantom of the Opera, Frankenstein Unbound - Carl Davis * The Bride of Frankenstein - Franz Waxman * The Thing - Dimitri Tiomkin * Godzilla - Akira Ifukube * Peeping Tom - Brian Easdale * Horrors of the Black Museum - Gerald Schurmann * The Exorcist - Mike Oldfield (from Tubular Bells) * Young Frankenstein - John Morris * Susperia - Goblin * Halloween - John Carpenter * The Omen, Alien, Poltergeist, The Haunting - Jerry Goldsmith * The Shinning - Wendy Carlos & Rachel Elkind * Dressed to Kill - Pino Donaggio * A Nightmare on Elm Street - Charles Bernstein * Hellraiser - Christopher Young * Bram Stoker's Dracula, The Ninth Gate - Wojciech Kilar * The Sixth Sense - James Newton Howard * Lighthouse - Debbie Wiseman

There are 28 tracks spread over 138 minutes on this double-CD. As usual with Silva Screen releases, the set is heavily biased towards the last three decades, with only 10 tracks from 1921-1968, and 18 tracks covering 1970-2000. Perhaps time filters out the chaff, but generally the older the films, the more indisputably their classic status. It is difficult to work out the rationale behind some of the selections. Many of the films - Nosferatu (1921), The Thing (From another World) (1951), The Haunting (1963), Halloween (1978) and Hellraiser (1987) are true genre classics. Others, from Horrors of the Black Museum (1959) to Lighthouse (2000) are not. The music from these is certainly good, but there are much more important horror films with equally good, or better scores.

Some of the films might not be considered horror movies at all: Young Frankenstein (1974) is a comedy and Dressed to Kill (1980) a violent Hitchcockian thriller. The whole range of horror is explored, from traditional vampires and ghosts, through serial-killers and monsters, but one might wonder, given some of the inclusions, about the absence of King Kong (1933), Psycho (1960), Rosemary's Baby (1969), Don't Look Now (1973), Jaws (1975), Carrie (1976), The Silence of the Lambs (1990) and Se7en (1995). However, if we consider what we have, rather than ruminating about what we might, or perhaps should, have had, we find an impeccably assembled anthology which will more than reward not only the horror buff, but the general film music fan. Fear not, this is a well-balanced programme which sensibly sets some melodic and attractive music against the more determinedly 'scary' music. There are unsettling atmospheres and supernatural terror aplenty, but with welcome breaks for some dark romance, and even a jaunty march.

The first great horror film is, by more or less common agreement, the 1921 production of Dracula, made as Nosferatu for complex copyright reasons. Although the original score has been reconstructed and recorded, for a recently restored version of the film a new score was commissioned from James Bernard. This was a great choice, because Bernard was the man behind the famous Hammer Dracula, introducing his unforgettable three note fanfare which all but sung the Count's name. Disc 1 opens with his 'Overture: Omens of Nosferatu', and it has the composer's romantic yet biting sound. Next is a short 'Faust Ballet: Gallop' from one of Carl Davis' excellent Thames Silent's scores, the restored version of the 1925 The Phantom of the Opera. As far away from 'horror' music as one can imagine, this attractive piece shows the diversity of genre. The 30's are represented by just one track, but as it is the 'creation' sequence from The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) one can hardly complain. Having recently seen the film on the big screen for the first time, I was disappointed to find that the music is barely audible in the film, and makes no impact at all. However, in this powerfully recorded set-piece Franz Waxman's great music comes to life once more. From Dimitri Tiomkin's marvellous score for The Thing (From Another World) (1951) we have only the main title. Will someone please, please, please record the complete score.

Much less familiar to most Western listeners will be Akira Ifukube's music for the original 1955 Godzilla. We are given a 6-minute suite which includes a very catch main theme and a rousing march. It's far too much fun to be 'scary', but time for that next, as James Bernard returns with the 'Main Title/Finale' from Hammer's Dracula (1958). Wonderfully over-the-top in the best possible way, this is true spine-tingling Gothic, and a great evocation of the sound of 50's British cinema. As I mentioned Psycho (1960) is missing, but this may not be altogether a bad thing, given as most people will probably have at least one recording of music from this film, and the space saved does make room for the classic British serial killer movie of the same period. In-fact, the only classic British serial killer thriller. Brian Easdale's score for Peeping Tom (1959) is for solo piano. Using nervously repeating figures and dissonant patterns the music evokes both a sense of a world dangerously out of mental alignment. Humphrey Searle employed serial techniques to the original 1963 version of The Haunting and the result was a classic score for the definitive haunted house movie. There is yet more James Bernard, with cues from The Devil Rides Out (1967) and Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970), before a real change of pace. Lalo Schifrin wrote a score for The Exorcist (1973), but which, taking a cue from Stanley Kubrick's music book, director William Friedkin rejected in favour of assorted pre-existing selections. The one everybody remembers is the extract from Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells instrumental rock album. The version here is not from the original album, which might be as well because it is sounding terribly dated now, but an astonishingly authentic re-recording by Mark Ayres. Re-recording complex rock music must in some ways be even more difficult than re-constructing orchestral music, because each of the often unique studio manipulated sounds of the original must be mimicked. Ayres has done a fantastic job: his six minute version of the famous opening theme sounds all but identical to the original, but far better for being recorded with excellent modern sound. Disc 1 ends with Silva Screen's now well recycled almost 12-minute suite from The Omen (1976) by Jerry Goldsmith: presumably the same recording will soon show up on discs devoted to Decades in Film Music: The 70's, and Great Oscar-Winning Film Scores. I don't know what it says about Hollywood, that from around 200 scores over 40 years, the only time Jerry Goldsmith has been rewarded with the highest honour is for an evocation of absolute evil incarnate. Perhaps the devil really does have all the best tunes, because Goldsmith does his job so well that the music is all but unlistenable. Essentially a 'black mass', with profound disturbing chanting over a blistering orchestral score, the only relief is the plaintive love theme. As someone much more hip and cool than I might say: wicked.

Disc 2 opens with the rock band Goblin's score for Dario Argento's reputedly greatest film, Suspiria (1976). Mark Ayres is back with a suite that plays like a malevolent musical-box lullaby, complete with something that sounds uncannily like a car-alarm going off. Highly effective, and at high-enough volume, genuinely spine-tingling, it is followed by Ayres fine version of John Carpenter's iconic Halloween (1978) theme. Next is a comparatively rare opportunity to hear Jerry Goldsmith's original End Title from Alien (1979). This is a marvellous piece, an orchestral miniature epic that is both elegiac and uplifting. Director Ridley Scott replaced Goldsmith's music with part of Howard Hanson's Symphony No. 2: The Romantic, and in a way I'm glad that he did, because I might not otherwise have come to know the music of this great American composer. Why Scott did so though, remains a mystery.

Mark Ayres is back again, with a majestically cold realisation of Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind's icily grand music from the opening of Kubrick's The Shinning (1980). Brian De Palma almost always has a fine musical score accompanying his wildly uneven films and sometimes derivative films: Dressed to Kill references both the Hitchcock / Herrmann collaborations Vertigo (1958) and Psycho (1960). The 6-minute 'The Gallery' accompanies a wordless set-piece which closely mimics James Stewart's trailing of Kim Novak in Vertigo, and Pino Donaggio provides one of his most memorable musical sequences, a lushly escalating romantic vortex, vertiginous strings building to an impassioned climax. Christopher Young wrote an unexpectedly large and darkly romantic score for novelist Clive Barker's debut as a film director, Hellraiser (1987), such that the cue here, 'Resurrection' is so good it leaves one wanting more. Rather surprising is the inclusion of an almost ten-minute suite from Carl Davis' score for Roger Corman's adaptation of Brian Aldiss' novel Frankenstein Unbound (1990). Very good it is too, a worthwhile companion to Patrick Doyle's Kenneth Branagh's Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994), absent from this set. However, that film's predecessor, Francis Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) is represented by Wojciech Kilar's 'The Storm', a dramatic choral treatment that might well be considered a descendent of The Omen. Kilar also closes the album with the beautifully atmospheric 'Vocalise' from the OST album for Roman Polanski's return to the horror genre, The Ninth Gate (2000). Before that we are offered an opportunity to 'compare and contrast' Goldsmith's 'The Carousel/End Titles' from the wretched 1999 version of The Haunting with the music from the original on original on Disc 1, the veteran composer being the only one to emerge from the latest Jan De Bont disaster picture with credibility still intact. Also present is a selection from The Sixth Sense (1999) by James Newton Howard, which seems to make rather more of an uncannily haunting effect on disc than it ever did in the cinema. Be warned: if you haven't yet seen the film, don't read the title of the track. Then there is Lighthouse (2000) by Debbie Wiseman. Still unreleased, this is a UK serial killer thriller to which Wiseman contributes a cold, vast percussive score (here taken straight from the soundtrack album, also released by Silva Screen) of great brooding power.

Horror fan or not, this is a great sounding album presenting a considerable quantity of outstanding film music at a bargain price. As usual for Silva Screen, the music is encoded with Dolby Surround, and also offers Pacific Microsonics HDCD. If Silva can do this, why not everybody else?


Gary S. Dalkin



Gary S. Dalkin


Reviews from previous months

You can purchase CDs, tickets and musician's accessories and Save around 22% with these retailers :

Concert and Show tickets 

Musicians accessories
Click here to visit


Return to Index