Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Monday, October 30, 2006

Music from the Vaults

Here's one that should please all you library music junkies out there. Though not as well-known as the legendary British lines like KPM, Italy kept many of its composers busy churning out lots of all-purpose compositions ranging from the lyrical to the downright creepy. Here's a fun demo set dating from the early '70s by Carlo Savina, a versatile composer best known in cult circles for his work on Lisa and the Devil and Terror in the Crypt. Watch for more Italian library titles this week!

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Friday, October 27, 2006

The Last Music on Earth

Richard Matheson's classic apocalyptic sci-fi/vampire novel I Am Legend has been adapted for film twice so far, first with Vincent Price as the 1964 Italian-American AIP production, The Last Man on Earth. The film suffered a bad reputation for many years due to awful public domain prints and chopped-up TV screenings, all of which demolished its careful pacing and scope photography; however, in recent years (primarly thanks to DVD and laserdisc) it's finally being appreciated as a chilling, potent visualization of one of Matheson's strongest works. Incidentally, the second adaptation was 1971's cult classic The Omega Man with Charlton Heston, featuring a dynamite score by Ron Grainer (available elsewhere if you check around a bit). A third version is currently in the works, but don't get your hopes up since it already has three huge strikes against it thanks to the star (Will Smith), screenwriter (Akiva Goldsman), and music video-based director (Francis Lawrence). The moody and often striking score for the original film is by Paul Sawtell and Bert Shefter, a pair who, in various combinations, also underscored Vincent Price in The Fly series.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Something Is Sexy In The State Of Denmark

More '60s sexploitation, this time with one of the earliest and most popular Danish sex comedies, 1965's Sytten, released in the U.S. in 1967 as Eric Soya's 17. (Novelist Soya is best known for his book Jenny and the Soldier, incidentally.) The plot is the usual coming-of-age fodder about a turn-of-the-century youth arriving from Copenhagen to a small town where he loses his virginity, and lots of women run around giggling, showing off their lingerie, and luring men into their bedrooms. After this film and I Am Curious (Yellow), Denmark and Sweden basically started a competition to see who could turn out the dirtiest "mainstream" films, which lasted well into the late 1970s. The score by sex-com veteran Ole Høyer is light and elegant, with an emphasis on period flavor and romantic love themes.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Psychopathia Musicalis

In the 1960s, the popularity of psychotherapy revived a number of influential books including Richard von Krafft-Ebing's Psychopathia Sexualis, an 1886 study of aberrant sexual behavior. Swiping the title and little else, exploitation veteran Albert Zugsmith (Sex Kittens Go to College, Dog Eat Dog), who's far better known now for producing Touch of Evil and High School Confidential, decided to write and direct a 1966 "case study" involving the history of a nutball whose shooting spree on a highway is linked back by his girlfriend's testimony to a strange floral fetish. Due to copyright considerations, the film's title was changed to On Her Bed of Roses in many territories and remains its name on the soundtrack, a wild beat-influenced concoction by composer/songwriter Joe Green ("And Her Tears Flowed like Wine") that also reveals occasional hints of the approaching psychedelic music wave.

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Friday, October 20, 2006

Gold Rush

Here's a rip-roaring action/funk score from Elmer Bernstein, sadly neglected since not many people bothered to see the movie. Roger Moore took a break from his series of James Bond films for this yarn about intrigue and backstabbing in the South African gold industry; for some reason the film was never properly copyrighted and has appeared on various public domain editions over the years. Bernstein jazzes things up with a mix of 007-style brass (right down to the Don Black-penned songs) and blaxploitation-era grooves. Great stuff!
(Link removed - commercial CD now available.)

Also, it looks like I can finally strike a few titles off those Italian Blend compilations; the always excellent Digitmovies is answering a lot of prayers on October 31 with three spectacular new releases: Klaus Kinski Horror Trilogy (featuring Death Smiled at Murder, Slaughter Hotel and The Hand that Feeds the Dead), an expanded release of Morricone's 'Tis Pity She's a Whore (with 8 unreleased tracks -- but "Tassilo" from the old vinyl release won't be carried over), and, believe it or not, Bruno Nicolai's complete A Virgin among the Living Dead!


Thursday, October 19, 2006

Be Positive

Arguably the last masterpiece of theatrical adult filmmaking, 1982's Café Flesh became a full-fledged midnight cult hit thanks to its striking blend of sci-fi, social satire, and, of course, sex, usually with people dressed up as rats or pencils. (Really.) The story follows the unfortunate souls in the audience and onstage at Café Flesh, a post-apocalyptic club where the few remaining humans with functioning libidos are forced by law to perform for everyone else. Dark humor and numerous plot twists ensue. Scream queen Michelle Bauer stars under the name "Pia Snow," though reports differ on whether she used a body double during some of the big finale. The mad genius behind this one is Stephen Sayadian (under the name "Rinse Dream"), who had already made the almost-as-good Nightdreams and went on to semi-mainstream cultdom with 1990's Dr. Caligari. The outstanding new wave instrumental score comes from the eclectic Mitchell Froom (ex-husband of Suzanne Vega), who went on to fame with acts like Crowded House. (Too bad he'll always bear a certain badge of shame for inflicting the worst James Bond theme ever upon the world, Sheryl Crow's "Tomorrow Never Dies.") Here's the full score (long out of print under the title The Key of Cool), sequenced to play in the original film order and expanded to include some of the more memorable monologues and dialogue exchanges from the film.

Café Flesh
1. Thrill Factor
2. Welcome To Café Flesh
3. Fruto Prohibito

4. Strangle A Girl With Love
5. We Don't Dream
6. Pleasure Is A Widow Maker
7. Face Down
8. The Skull in The Cage
9. Miami Priests
10. Moms
11. Blue Lips
12. Be Positive
13. The Key Of Cool
14. Press The Panic Button
15. Jungle Of Cities
16. Patio
17. The End Of The Line
18. Zip Code
19. Thrill Factor (Reprise)

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

See No Evil

Okay, let's talk about Nico Mastorakis. Greece's premiere master of exploitation, he shocked audiences with his 1975 debut film, Island of Death, and finally went almost-mainstream in 1984 with Blind Date, featuring his first "name" cast. Joseph Bottoms stars as a recently blinded man outfitted with a fancy computer "seeing" machine who goes up against a serial killer, but the sci-fi crowd tends to ignore the plot thanks to the fact that two Star Trek actresses, Kirstie Alley and Marina Sirtis, get naked. (And check out the DVD for an even more gratuitous "love scene" outtake reel.) This film marked Mastorakis' first collaboration with composer Stanley Myers; they later reteamed for such diverse films as The Zero Boys, The Wind, Nightmare at Noon, and The Time Traveller. The score is pretty typical '80s Myers (you can definitely see how much he influenced frequent musical partner Hans Zimmer), which means it's often catchy and atmospheric, though the occasional maudlin songs by John Kongos may have '80s-intolerant listeners fleeing the room. Synths were performed by composer Richard Harvey, who already worked with Myers on The Martian Chronicles. A big thanks to ISBUM for providing the original vinyl for this transfer!

Also, on the video news front, fans of wild late-'60s cinema might be interested to know that, without any fanfare at all, Fox is releasing two very rare, perverse Michael Caine films, Deadfall (featuring a fine John Barry score) and The Magus, on DVD today. Grab 'em while you can!

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Monday, October 16, 2006

The Prime of Rod McKuen

Probably the closest thing we'll ever have to a rock-star poet, Rod McKuen sold out amphitheaters in the '60s and '70s with his groundbreaking poetry readings and translated many successful European songs into English, including the songs of Jacques Brel and, of course, the most downbeat pop standard ever, "Seasons in the Sun." While working on the musical A Boy Named Charlie Brown, McKuen decided to branch off into film scoring with 1968's Joanna, the first feature by actor-turned-director Michael Sarne (who later combusted spectacularly with Myra Breckinridge). Sort of a mod dramatic musical packed with weird fantasies and narrative tangents, the film follows squeaky-voiced Genevieve Waite through a series of misadventures culminating in a big song-and-dance number at a train station.

Apparently Fox was pleased enough with McKuen's songs and score to recruit him the next year for their big award-courting film, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, starring Maggie Smith in an Oscar-winning turn as the socially and sexually groundbreaking instructor at a prim girls' school. McKuen's theme song, "Jean," was nominated for an Oscar as well, and he also wrote a new overture for the film when it was screened for Queen Elizabeth II. (The daring nudity by co-star Pamela Franklin probably own over a few viewers, too.) Despite the warm reception and the film's continued popularity, the score has never seen the light of CD, and McKuen never scored another feature.

1. Joanna (Vocal)
2. I'll Catch The Sun (Vocal)
3. Run To Me, Fly To Me (Waltz For Joanna)
4. I'm Only Me (Two Girls Bathing)
5. When Am I Ever Going Home
6. Ain't You Glad You're Living Joe (Vocal)
7. Till We're Together Again (Cass's Theme)
8. Joanna And Clyde
9. Peter's Theme (Before I Die)
10. Joanna Hits Town
11. Saturday Night In Knightsbridge
12. Morocco
13. Some August Day
14. Hello Heartaches
15. Harpsichord Concerto (4th Movement)
16. Twenty Four Rue St. Benoit
17. I'll Catch The Sun (Reprise)
18. Joanna (Reprise)

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
1. Jean (Vocal)
2. Winter Like My Life Is Passing
3. Flanders Field
4. Bend Down And Touch Me (Vocal)
5. Athletic Supporters
6. The Other Tango
7. A Red, Red Rose (Vocal)
8. Edinburgh Morning & Jean (Vocal)
9. The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie Overture

10. The Ivy That Clings To The Wall
11. Lloyd's Room (Petula In Green Waters)
12. The Favourite Sweet Of Little Princess Margaret Rose
13. Flanders Field (Reprise)
14. Goodbye Jenny (Bend Down And Touch Me)
15. Jean (End Title)

Friday, October 13, 2006

Gypsies and Tramps

At the height of the sexual revolution, moviegoers were going crazy for movies based on scandalous English literature (Ulysses, The Fox, etc.), a trend that reached its peak with Ken Russell's film of D.H. Lawrence's Women in Love in 1969. One year later, Lawrence's novella, The Virgin and the Gypsy, was turned into a film with Franco Nero starring as a swarthy wanderer who awakens funny new feelings in a prim English country girl. In typically subtle Lawrence fashion, it all climaxes (ahem) with her being deflowered while her house is consumed by a flooding river. The film was mostly forgotten soon after and has been maddeningly difficult to see ever since, but it's worth checking out on one of its rare TV showings. The soundtrack by future British TV staple Patrick Gowers is spare but haunting, with a great main theme and a few dashes of period tunes for additional flavor.

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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Around the World on a Night Train

Same theme, two very different movies! In 1974, Raymond Peynet's whimsical book Il giro del mondo degli innamorati di Peynet (or "Peynet's Loves around the World") was adapted as a seldom-seen animated feature. Though the film runs less than an hour and a half, its soundtrack features a huge amount of music with full scores written by both Ennio Morricone and his frequent collaborator (and choir leader), Alessandro Alessandroni (the whistling guy on many Morricone spaghetti westerns). Morricone's pieces are numbered variations on "Forse Basta," with the first a particular standout. Its memorable vocal version, "A Flower's All You Need," is performed in the film by Egyptian-born crooner Demis Roussos, who's still a big international favorite. The score by Alessandroni (who did The Devil's Nightmare around the same time) is equally good, with the stunning "San Pietro" especially worthwhile.

Well, since nobody bothered to see the movie, Morricone was fond enough of the Roussos theme to use it again one year later when he was brought on board for Night Train Murders, a particularly savage and effective Italian riff on Last House on the Left by director Aldo Lado. This time the song plays out over the opening credits, with two ruffians mugging Santa Claus! The other two score cues are eerie stuff, with a harmonica used to particularly chilling effect.

Ennio Morricone
Night Train Murders
1. L'Ultimo Treno Della Notte
2. Coincidenze
3. A Flower's All You Need (Vocal: Demis Roussos)
Il giro del mondo degli innamorati di Peynet
4. Forse Basta 1
5. Forse Basta 2
6. Forse Basta 3
7. Forse Basta (Original Main Titles)
8. Forse Basta 4
9. Forse Basta 5
10. Forse Basta 6
11. Forse Basta 7
12. Forse Basta 8
13. Forse Basta 9
14. Forse Basta 10

Alessandro Alessandroni
Il giro del mondo degli innamorati di Peynet
1. Amore E Birra
2. Sirtaki Die Colonelli
3. I Pattinatori Di Bruegel
4. Invito A Corte
5. I Baronetti
6. Marinara
7. Fiori Gialli
8. Dal Tirolo Con Affetto
9. Deserto Di Elam
10. Serata Al Bolscioi
11. Tramonto Romano
12. Montmartre
13. Bethlem
14. Latino Americana
15. Venerd Santo A Siviglia
16. Chi Vuol Esser Lieto Sia
17. Made In USA
18. San Pietro
19. Piazza Rossa
20. Deserto Di Elam (Movie Version)
21. Sirtaki Dei Coloneli
22. Invito Al Corte (Alternate Version)
23. Bethlem (Alternate Version)
24. Fiori Gialli (alternate version)
25. Made in USA (alternate version - Spaghetti Western)
26. Made In USA (Alternate Version)
27. Made in USA (alternate version)
28. I Pattinatori Di Bruegel (Short Version)
29. Made in USA (alternate version) 2
30. I Baronetti (Alternate Version)

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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Idol

In this mod '60s relic you don't see mentioned too often, Jennifer Jones (filling in at the last minute for a departed Kim Stanley) and Michael Parks star in the oh-so-edgy tale of a beautiful matron who starts having an affair with one of her son's best friends (a plot later rehashed in the '80s as Class). The ultra-smooth score comes from library music favorite John Dankworth, who was busy at the time scoring lots of Joseph Losey films (The Servant, Modesty Blaise, etc.) as well as bits of studio fluff like Fathom. His wife, vocalist Cleo Laine, gets to sing two songs, and the whole score has a fun Mancini-style vibe perfect for a lazy weekend. (Note: sorry for the occasional distortion in some of the early tracks, but this was taken from the rare stereo LP pressing and sounds as good as I could make it.)

The Idol
1. Empty Hands And Empty Heart (Vocal: Cleo Laine)
2. The Idol (Vocal)
3. The Seducer
4. The Party
5. Empty Arms And Empty Heart (Instrumental)
6. Title Music
7. Won't You Believe Me
8. There's A Fight Outside
9. The Houseboat Set
10. The Idol
11. End Title Music


Monday, October 09, 2006

Rise and Shine

One of the more high-profile studio horror films in 1980, The Awakening quickly ticked off a lot of mummy fans with its poster image of a cloth-wrapped fiend emerging from a pyramid. However, this adaptation of Bram Stoker's The Jewel of Seven Stars (previously filmed by Hammer as Blood from the Mummy's Tomb) -- meant to cash in on the still-active public interest in King Tut -- skimps on the mummy mayhem, instead focusing on a series of bloody deaths and possessions unleashed after Charlton Heston opens an Egyptian princess' sacreb tomb. This was the feature directorial debut of Mike Newell, who went on to a series of high-profile British dramas and comedies before eventually returning to fantastic cinema with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. One of The Awakening's strongest assets is its fine, lyrical score by jazz favorite Claude Bolling, who turns in a rich orchestral work with a beautiful, shimmering main theme.

The Awakening
1. Main Title
2. She Has A Name
3. Night Drive
4. The Big Revelation & Descent

5. Kara Takes Control
6. The Eclipse
7. Margaret's Decision / The Mirror
8. Corbeck's Party
9. Inside Kara's Tomb
10. Canopic Jars
11. Jane's Discovery / Jane's Betrayal
12. The Big Drop
13. The Ceremony
14. Queen Kara

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Friday, October 06, 2006

Stick 'Em Up!

Now back to more gangster fun from AIP, this time with the first solo score from Barry De Vorzon, who went on to do some outstanding work for Walter Hill (The Warriors, Hard Times) as well as that guilty pleasure favorite, Looker. (And if anyone out there has that scarce promo LP, please share it!) This violent, entertaining gangster biopic was also the directorial debut of John Milius, arguably the most macho writer/filmmaker on the planet, whose subsequent work ranges from the sublime (The Wind and the Lion, Conan the Barbarian) to the ridiculous (Red Dawn). And check out that cast: Warren Oates, Ben Johnson, Harry Dean Stanton, John P. Ryan, Cloris Leachman, Richard Dreyfuss... Crank it up the next time you visit your local bank.

1. We're In The Money
2. Just One More Chance
3. Honey

4. Square Dance Medley
5. Homecoming
6. Happy Days Are Here Again
7. Honey
8. Theme From Dillinger
9. It's Easy To Remember
10. Hoe Down
11. Honey
12. Beyond The Blue Horizon
13. Super Gang Blues
14. One Last Time
15. Honey (End Title)

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Thursday, October 05, 2006

Who Was That Masked Man?

And so this week's John Barry trilogy comes to a close... One of the biggest box office duds of its decade, The Legend of the Lone Ranger was intended as a big prestige summer release to appeal to the action crowd in 1981; unfortunately, a different kind of nostalgia piece called Raiders of the Lost Ark quickly trounced it. Many laid the blame on newcomer lead Klinton Spilsbury, a football player whose performance had to be redubbed in post by James Keach; however, it did earn some loyalty among afternoon HBO viewers thanks to constant screenings for years afterwards. Always willing to give his all even when the movie's a flop (see: The Scarlet Letter, Mercury Rising, etc.), John Barry cooks up a series of rousing action cues with a pleasant western feel, kind of a dry run for his later work on Dances with Wolves. The occasional spoken bits by Merle Haggard are jarring but kind of work in the actual film.

The Legend of the Lone Ranger
1. The Man In The Mask (Main Title) (Vocal: Merle Haggard)
2. The Legend Begins
3. John And Amy Meet
4. The Valley Chase
5. Brothers
6. The Cavandish Gang Strikes
7. The Man In The Mask (Instrumental)
8. The Breaking Of Silver
9. Ambush
10. Dynamite
11. The Final Attack
12. William Tell Overture
13. The Man In The Mask (End Title)

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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Hollywood or Bust

One of the best films from the erratic but often brilliant John Schlesinger, The Day of the Locust shocked a lot of viewers in '75 with its vision of the early days of Hollywood as a breeding ground for corruption, depravity, and despair, with a finale that veers straight into horror territory. Paramount probably didn't make much money from it despite the impressive cast (Karen Black, Donald Sutherland, Geraldine Page, etc.), but it's well worth seeking out and features stunning photography by the late Conrad Hall. However, one of its strongest attributes is the haunting, restrained score by John Barry, who had just come off his reunion with James Bond for The Man with the Golden Gun. A mixture of elegiac instrumentals and quirky period song adaptations, it still holds up as a solid soundtrack; and if you've seen the film, track 12 will definitely make you shudder.

The Day of the Locust
1. Jeepers Creepers
2. The Storyteller / Garden Of The Locust
3. Isn't It Romantic (Vocal: Michael Dees)
4. The Flying Carpet
5. A Picture Of Love
6. I Wished On A Moon (Vocal: Nick Lucas)
7. Soft Shoe Salesman
8. Fire And Passion
9. Hot Voodoo (Vocal: Paul Jabara)
10. Fashion And Fantasy
11. Sing You Sinners (Vocal: Pamela Myers)
12. The Day Of The Locust
13. Finale

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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Barry Go Boom!

Here's the first in a triple-post salute to one of the all-time great film composers, John Barry. This classy, subtle score was written for the not-so-classy, not-subtle-at-all 1968 Joseph Losey film, Boom!, a wildly excessive adaptation of Tennesse Williams' play, The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore. A scenery-devouring Elizabeth Taylor stars as "Sissy" Goforth, an ailing drama queen whose life is turned upside down by the arrival of mysterious poet Richard Burton at her remote island estate. One of John Waters' favorite movies (watch for the prominent poster in Pink Flamingos), it's screaming out for a widescreen DVD release. Get on it, Universal!

1. Boom
2. Urgentissimo - Like Everything This Summer
3. Of A Year Unknown
4. Pain Gone Til Tomorrow
5. Have I Changed Very Much Since You Last Saw Me?
6. You've Got More Things Going for You than Teeth, Baby
7. Mister Death Angel Flanders
8. Through Caverns Measureless to Man
9. Capito
10. Which Way Is The Sun?
11. A Mobile Called "Boom"
12. The Shock Of Each Moment Of Still Being Alive
13. Hideaway (Georgie Fame)

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Monday, October 02, 2006

Feminist Fear

Sometimes, Mr. Freud, a drill is just a drill... Lots of critics have spilled ink over the years trying to find clever gender-related messages in 1982's indie slasher hit, The Slumber Party Massacre, which was written and directed by two women, namely noted feminist writer Rita Mae Brown (Rubyfruit Jungle) and Amy Jones (future writer of Indecent Proposal and Beethoven -- yes, the dog movie). The movie's packed with the usual gore, T&A, and awful acting, but it's fast-paced and full of retro goodness; for any deeper meaning than that, well, you're on your own. The nutty electronic music score is loaded with pseudo-organ riffs that would be more at home in a William Castle movie, and there's even a seven-minute droning freakout piece ("Meditation on the Mind of Russ Thorn"-- that's the killer, natch). It was composed by Ralph Jones, presumably related to the director somehow (brother? husband?), who went to score her Love Letters for Roger Corman as well. Attentive viewers may also note that the actual movie comes sprinkled with a bit of Pino Donaggio's Piranha score for some reason, too. It later inspired two unrelated sequels, both of them completely insane.

The Slumber Party Massacre
1. Main Title
2. Stalking The High School
3. Confrontation In The Gymnasium
4. Russ Dreams
5. Snail Hunt
6. Valerie Does Battle
7. Uninvtied Guest
8. Meditation Of The Mind Of Russ Thorn
9. End Titles

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