Thursday, October 13, 2011

HAMMER STUDIOS OF THE GODS... of the Horror Soundtrack

Hammer Studios is known for a few things. They have remade or reimagined some of the greatest monster pictures of all time mostly taken from the Universal Monster era during the 1930’s. They’re formula of an increase in the blood cell count and a decrease in the neck line had led Hammer into infamy in England and into the annals of horror history for the entire world. When you ask the question, “who is Dracula?” only one answer was acceptable before the 1950’s: Bela Lugosi of course. After Horror of Dracula, the definition began to skew and suddenly you might hear Chris Lee’s name. Still, beyond their uncanny ability to tell and retell tales of some of our classic monster foes, they have imagined new monsters; scary monsters.

Beyond the blood and the boobs and the twice told tales

of gothic horror there were horror movie scores that rival both the diversity and intensity of any John Williams tune or Howard Shore masterpiece. Before there was Goblin there was a group of dedicated composers working for a sleeping giant. One day the monster known as Hammer work up and let loose a might roar. Let’s find out just who the vocal chords were behind the horrifying bellow. I’ll post the opening sequences or some of the more dramatic scenes from the selected films when available; if not available I’ll use trailers.

Before we get down to it I want to tell you about a little book called Music from the House of
Hammer: Music in the Hammer Horror Films 1950-1980. It’s over 200 pages of history revolving around the 35 composers of music from this legendary studio. Below we’ll just nip at some of the highlights from the studio and what little we can gather about the composers. This book is the absolute perfect supplement to this article and I strongly urge you to search it out. While I do not own it, it’s on my Halloween list and if I don’t get it by then… Santa will leave it in my stalking… if he doesn’t cut me down with an axe.

Buy it HERE! Buy it NOW!

Revenge of Frankenstein

We recently posted Curse of Frankenstein on our Horror Movie Music Appreciation blog. Here’s the music from the sequel with music by Leonard Salzedo. He wrote 18 film scores this among them in 1959.

Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed

James Bernard scored this classic Hammer entry (with one of the best posters in horror movie history). This will not be the only score you see from this composer in this entry. Bernard worked on several other scores including Horror of Dracula, Curse of Frankenstein, The Plague of the Zombies and The Devil Rides Out. This man might be the John Williams of horror scores.

Taste the Blood of Dracula

With music that almost seems to give its queues to the Shining at times, James Bernard crafts another of his infamous classic pieces of horror composition. Subtle at first but with dangerous crescendos that will either make you jump out of your seat or lose control of your bowels.

Dracula Prince of Darkness

This opening sequence of this film will have your heart racing. You must defeat the count and Bernard (again) knows it.

The Mummy

From 1959 this author, for one, finds this version of the Egyptian tale of the undead superior to even Karloff’s incredible work. Christopher Lee strikes again. Franz Reizenstein is your composer. He died at age 57 but didn’t contribute to this powerful work of horror before he left the mortal coil.

Curse of the Werewolf
I love Oliver Reed. I love werewolves. This is not my favorite performances in either arena, however the score that underlies this picture is very ambitious and action packed. Benjamin Frankel gets the composition credit on this one among many other film pieces.

Quatermass and the Pit

Timpani on top of timpani and horns screaming turn back. This classic entry into the Quatermass series does very well by the hand of Tristram Cary. He’s also responsible for Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb and the original Lady Killers.

The Reptile

If you are unfamiliar with this particular entry into Hammer’s collection of horrors please take a look back through the Dr. Terror’s previous double review of The Gorgon and The Reptile. It’s a fine score by Don Banks.

Plague of the Zombies

Another work by James Bernard (seeing the pattern yet), this film is not my favorite even if the zombies do have a bad ass look. I’m afraid I just can’t get over the slow burn. Enjoy the tribal elements of this work.

Horror of Dracula

We’ll leave you with the ultimate soundtrack to a Dracula picture. Brutal pulse drumming with the norn equivalent of blast beats and a melody that is as minor as they come. The Name that should strike fear should be James Bernard… and Chris Lee of course.

Now that you’ve taken in some of the finer moments in Hammer music history and hopefully learned something feel free to go buy some for your home collection. They’ll make a great addition to your haunted attraction or Halloween set up. You might also find some of the tracks soothing enough to fall asleep to. Sweet, strange dreams my dearest ones.

-Dr. Terror (And Amicus said to Hammer, “Can’t we just, Get along”).

One last note on our beloved Hammer. As you well know this company has emerged recently with a few films that have done fairly well and really impress. Wake Wood and Let the Right One In are two films I can’t say enough good things about. Well, they’re very interested in preserving their heritage and have posted the schedule to see some of the classic Hammer horror on Turner Classic Movies.

Stop by their website to see what they’ve been up to and here is the listing of dates for each airing. Not sure where they’ll make these available but please try to catch a couple if you are unfamiliar.

TCM are airing a salute to Hammer with their October schedule in the US and Canada. A number of classic Hammer horrors will be screened during the month, including seven premieres for the channel.

US and Canadian schedules may vary slightly, so please check the TCM website for up to date listings for your region.

The season includes confirmed broadcasts of the following:

Horror Of Dracula (aka Dracula) - 17 October
Dracula Prince Of Darkness - 31 October
Dracula Has Risen From The Grave - 31 October
The Devil's Bride (aka The Devil Rides Out) - 24 October
The Reptile - 31 October
The Gorgon - 31 October
The Mummy - 31 October, 26 November
The Curse Of The Mummy's Tomb - 31 October
X The Unknown - 7 November
The Curse Of Frankenstein - 5 & 31 October
Frankenstein Created Woman - 31 October

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