Soundtrack Review: House of Usher

houseofushercdHouse of Usher
Released by Intrada
15 tracks with a total running time of 1:02:39 min.
Music composed and conducted by Les Baxter

Les Baxter has made so many great scores to so many great movies, it really hard to comprehend. Just look at all the work he did for Roger Corman and AIP alone, not to mention all the other genre titles he scored, and see that it is very impressive. There were quite a few Italian pictures that AIP acquired for US distribution that Baxter was hired to re-score. So if you’re a fan of AIP and Corman’s work, then you’ve heard his work… several times I would guess. Continue reading

Book Review: The Dr. Phibes Companion

Dr Phibes CompanionThe Dr. Phibes Companion
Published by BearManor Media, 2018. 274 pages
By Justin Humphreys

One of the first movies I rented when I bought my very own VCR was one of my all time favorite films, The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971), starring the amazing Vincent Price, and it still remains the same to this day. How could you not love this movie about this evil genius who sets out to get revenge of those who he believes caused the death of his wife, each one in a very creative way? It’s one of my favorite character’s that Price brought to life and is always a treat to watch. So when I first read about the news that there was going to a book dedicated to the Phibes films, I was more than a little excited.

With contributions by Mark Ferelli, Sam Irvin, and David Taylor, and a forward by Phibes co-screenwriter William Goldstein, author Humphreys has compiled so much information about the first Phibes movie, its sequel Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972), as well as the many proposed sequels that never got off the ground. Humphreys has done an amazing job compiling information about these titles from the original screenplays, letting us know the differences between them and the final product, finding and hiring the director, the art direction, casting, makeup, the score, and just about everything you could want to know about them! As a Phibes Phan, you’ll learn more here than you thought you could.

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Horror History: Les Baxter

lesbaxterLes Baxter
Born March 14th, 1922 – Died January. 15th, 1996

Baxter was a composer that started in the film business in the early ’50s cranking out score after score in record time. In his career, he has score more than 120 films, with 15 titles in 1957 alone! He worked in many different genres, but for us horror fans, we remember him from his work that he did for AIP, especially the Roger Corman / Edgar Allan Poe films. He also re-scored a lot of foreign films that were being picked up and released here in the states, such as Mario Bava’s Black Sunday (1960) and Black Sabbath (1963), or even titles like Reptilicus (1961)

Baxter started his musical career at a very young age, learning the piano at the age of 5. In his early 20’s, he joined Mel Torme’s band, worked on radio shows including Bob Hope’s show, and even had a hit record in the 50’s.

But it is for his film scores that I learned of his name. Since these movies will always live on for fans like us, so will his music. Baxter always gave us something different and unique that always highlighted the film even more.

Horror History: Ronald Stein

ronaldstein.jpgRonald Stein
Born Apr. 12th, 1930 – Died Aug. 15th, 1988

He started his musical career writing scores in college, working with different opera houses and orchestras in throughout the early ’50s. It was in the mid ’50s that he started working for American International Pictures (known then as American Releasing Company). His first film was the Roger Corman directed western Apache Woman (1955). He worked for them for many years, scoring classic horror and sci-fi films like It Conquered the World (1956), The She-Creature (1956), Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957), Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957), Dementia 13 (1963), and many more. He even composed the theme song for Jack Hill’s Spider Baby (1968) with Lon Chaney singing, as well as the rest of the score for the film.

Stein was obviously a perfect match for AIP since he worked fast and cheap. Between the years of 1956 and 1958, he scored 8 films each year. Not a lot of time when you think about the way it is done these days. Thankfully quite a few of his scores are still available today on CD and are really fun to listen to.

New AIP Book Coming from Hemlock

RocknRoll MonstersWhat better way to start off the new year than talking about a new book! I don’t really have much information about this new title coming from Hemlock Books over in the UK, other than it should be out sometime in June, and is being written by Bruce G. Hallenbeck. Of course, that should be enough info to wet your appetite and to put it on your future want list!

While I’ve already got a couple of books on American International Pictures, I think the more information and stories about this production company the better. They cranked out some of the most entertaining movies of that era, thriving at the drive-in market and beyond.

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