London-born Benjamin Frankel scored over 100 films including
The Seventh Veil, The Importance of Being Earnest, Night of the
Iguana and Battle of the Bulge (nominated for Best Original Score at
the 1966 Golden Globes). During the 1930s and 1940s he was also busy in the
musical theatre, as musical director and arranger working for such famous names
as C.B. Cochran and Noel Coward.
Frankel’s Werewolf (1959) music is some distance
removed from the conventional Hollywood horror score. It is more imaginative,
has more depth and characterisation. Its wildness, screaming horror and garish
colouring are summed up in the ‘Prelude’; its hammering ostinato a
tongue-in-cheek play on the Hammer studio nomenclature? A fear-simulated,
teeth-chattering opens a calmer cue ‘The Beggar’ which is a very close relative
of Frankel’s So Long at the Fair music. ‘Servant Girl and Beggar’ is a
conversation piece before cruelty overtakes pathos as the servant girl is raped
by the crazed beggar and becomes pregnant with Leon (Oliver Reed) who will be
cursed and afflicted with lycanthropy causing him to change into a werewolf at
each full moon. ‘Baptism’ is full of foreboding and things that screech and
flutter eerily, contrasted with measures of pathos suggesting Leon’s essential loneliness. ‘Pastoral’ is just that -Beethoven-like countryside serenity. The rest
of this 34-minute, 12-movement suite from the 1959 film contrasts these
pastoral and pathos elements with tense and savage music as Leon’s encounters
away from his kindly foster parents lead to the inevitable trail of carnage. My
colleague, Rob Barnett, in his review for MusicWeb, has rightly suggested that
Frankel’s music reminds him of Cesar Franck’s Le Chasseur Maudit.
Indeed the six-minute ‘Finale’ vividly suggests the hunting down and eventual
slaying of the wolf-man with the obligatory silver bullet and the music,
besides that of Franck also echoes Vaughan Williams, Benjamin Britten and
Bernard Herrmann. A most exciting cue.
So Long at the Fair (1950) concerned a brother and
sister (David Tomlinson and Jean Simmons) who travelled to Paris for the great
1889 Exposition. Consternation follows when the brother disappears
mysteriously. The six-minute suite includes besides the celebrated ‘Carriage
and Pair’ music, that became a much-requested light music favourite,
sentimental music and breezy sea voyage (across the channel) that captures the
essence of the period. The Net (1953) was about a team of scientists
working on experimental aircraft at a top secret installation. Frankel’s
beautiful love music scored for piano and orchestra adds a note of tenderness
in a tense drama.
The Prisoner (1955) starred Alec Guiness as Roman
Catholic priest arrested and interrogated (by Jack Hawkins) and ultimately
brain washed into confessing in a show trial before the world’s media. This
score is bleak and pessimistic, the music poignant and sympathetic to the
priest’s plight but with with cruel crushing measures signalling the
intolerance of the regime (shades of Shostakovich) and despairing bell tolls.
Carl Davis leads the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
in committed performances of some fine British film music of the 1950s.