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Soundtrack Review

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The Hammer Legacy
The Frankenstein Collection


Composers: James Bernard, Don Banks, Leonard Salzedo and Malcolm Williamson
Silva Screen Records
RRP: £6.99
Available 28 March 2011

Here we go with the third of three music CDs, released by Silva Screen, which showcases the music of the Hammer horror film classics. This time it’s Frankenstein, and what better way to start than with the super dramatic 'Opening Titles' from The Curse of Frankenstein, from 1957. This is the one which saw Peter Cushing’s debut in the role he would return to bathed in success. Oh, and some virtually unknown bloke called Christopher Lee played the creature with real sympathy. But this is about the music; mainstay James Bernard created the score, producing a style markedly different from his earlier Quatermass pieces. Such was the trust in him by now, that he was pretty much left to his own devices. You can actually summon up Lee’s monster in your mind with this higher and higher pitched string-dominated short.

Taking of short, the 'Closing Credits' for The Revenge of Frankenstein, from 1958 - this time by Leonard Salzedo - has no sooner begun that it’s over, well before you are able to get a grip on the mood. Benard had been unavailable. The Evil of Frankenstein’s 'Opening Titles' features one of the most striking and memorable pieces of music, with a hook theme which it returns to every several seconds, thereby giving the score a necessary grounding point. This comes from the talent of Don Banks, commissioned by then Hammer musical supervisor Philip Martell. James Bernard was back to compose the music for Frankenstein Created Woman, from 1967. 'The Opening Titles' and 'Closing Credits' consist of low, threatening undertones, with a high, calming string piece over the top. A suitable clash of tones.

There are five tracks lifted from the 1969 film Frankenstein Must be Destroyed. James Bernard again creates the correct balance of musical light and shade; however, without the cinematic action to capture the imagination, this mainly incidental music soon fades into the background and loses your interest. The Horror of Frankenstein, this time scored by Australian Malcolm Williamson, is represented by just the opening titles, but it’s enough. The piece lures you into a false sense of security, with almost twee penny whistle-like twitters. A sharp contrast to other opening credit sequences, and particularly curious for a more light-hearted film venture.

We conclude with four tracks from Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell, from 1972. This was tantamount to a reconvening of the old school, with James Bernard and Peter Cushing returning, along with other mainstays from the time. It proved a fitting conclusion to the Hammer Frankenstein films. The music is mainly string-prominent; a dark mood builds steadily, in the old tradition.

This is probably the best of the three CD releases, although it does have its tedious moments. This is fine for film music collectors, but my advice would be to buy some of the DVDs so that you can appreciate both the film and the music.


Ty Power

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