If you're like me, you watch monster movies with little in mind other than entertainment. The technical aspects, such as lighting, camera work, and direction are subordinate to our main reason for watching -- to get a thrill, and if we're real lucky, the creeps.
That's not to say that the movie experience is not without making observations aside from merely watching the images and the story that they portray. For instance, I do sometimes scrutinize how the cameraman has photographed a scene, and I have examined the set decorations, as well as marvelled over make-up and special effects. These are all things that make monster movies, and films in general, what they are.
Likewise, the soundtrack can either make or break a movie. It's role is to support the film without taking it over. If we're lucky, it will be well-scored enough to even make it memorable. Who can forget the thrilling themes by composer Hans J. Salter from the original Universal horror films, or Herman Stein and Co.'s three-note staccato of fearful warning when The Creature From the Black Lagoon was about to strike?
I hope that you will agree with me that, since music is such an essential component of monster movies, it's worth delving into the subject a little deeper. I've been wanting to begin a series of soundtrack reviews for sometime now here at MONSTER MAGAZINE WORLD, but haven't been able to quite pull the trigger. Then, as providence oftentimes allows, along comes a fellow by the name of Tim Ferrante to offer some of his writings to get the series kick-started.
You may recognize his name from the pages of The Phantom of the Movies' VIDEOSCOPE magazine, that amazing tome of wall-to-wall reviews. After a couple of emails back and forth, Tim offered to share some of the movie soundtrack columns that he has written in the past for the magazine. How could I refuse?
Tim has been a long-time monster lover and has been writing about them for ages. I am honored that he is helping me to provide you with yet another aspect of monster movies that we have known and loved.
So, welcome to THE SOUND OF HORROR, where every couple of weeks or so you'll see a new post covering the soundtrack of a monster movie, as well as monster music of all kinds.
And, thanks again, Tim Ferrante!
SOUND OF HORROR: THEY WON'T STAY DEAD!
by Tim Ferrante
(This review originally appeared in The Phantom of the Movies’ VideoScope magazine.)
THEY WON’T STAY DEAD! Music from the Soundtrack of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD Music composed by William Loose, Ib Glindemann, Jack Cookerly, others. 41 tracks, 48 mins. Zero Day Releasing. ZDCD21, $24.99 ppd via www.autopsyofthedead.com
Expert stitching of pre-existing music to a film or TV show is a craft unto itself. For example, Richard Strauss’ Einleitung (extracted from his 1896 Also sprach Zarathustra symphonic poem) has, since 1968, evoked immediate association with Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. The same can be said for Eerie Heavy Echo (L-1204) from Capitol Library Services Hi-Q Series; more famously recognized as the Main Title music for the original Night of the Living Dead. Acting as the film’s sole music source, the Hi-Q library would become a prominent stock music supplier with cues heard in such diverse settings as The Donna Reed Show, The Hideous Sun Demon and Hanna-Barbera cartoons. They Won’t Stay Dead! is the first near-complete appearance of NOTLD’s tracked Hi-Q music. Portions previously available on Varese Sarabande’s 1982 LP (STV 81151) fell considerably short. Aside from missing cues, the label processed the music in ersatz stereo and re-titled cues to coincide with the film’s scenes! Producer Jim Cironella has digitally restored the tracks from original vinyl and magnetic tape sources, presenting all “in ghoulish monophonic” and as originally composed. The film’s crowning musical set piece (deemed by yours truly), is Romero’s choice of Heavy Agitato (TC 416) to underscore Barbara’s horrific cemetery-to-farmhouse ghoul chase. It’s a hair-raising and exhaustive composition featuring rattling and clashing cymbals, raking harps, rolling tymps, frantic strings, screaming brass and menacing bass lines. They all collide in a grand spectacle that so brilliantly conveys Barbara’s terror that its use for any other purpose before or since is inconceivable. And that is the remarkable nature of the director’s deft cue selection. They carry a unified thematic purpose, none straying into silliness or applied in an uninspiring way. It’s a splendid musical totality, as if all were exclusively written for NOTLD. Cironella’s CD does not include Karl Hardman’s electronic cues (believed to be lost), but does feature an unlisted bonus track -- a one minute NOTLD radio spot. The handsome 12-pg. booklet contains essential background data and cue breakdowns for the scenes in which they were used. The laminated Digi-pak packaging features excellent original art by Mark C. Owen. His front and back cover fold-out perspective of Ben’s discovery of the upstairs corpse is of special mention. Soundtrack releases such as this one will make a person’s a day…or night.
[Article copyright (C) Tim Ferrante. All rights reserved.]