Scored to Death: Conversations with some of Horror’s Greatest Composers
Published by Silman-James Press, 2016. 356 pages.
By J. Blake Fichera
There is something to be said about film scores, something that I think most don’t know, don’t recognize, or even worse, don’t even think about. And that is the effect they have on the viewer. Sometimes a very powerful effect. The first time I can remember a film score having an effect on me was John Williams’ score for Jaws (1975), which I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. While it did bring up the tension and scare factor, I don’t think I made the full connection between the music and emotion it caused. That changed when Star Wars (1977) came out. Then it hit me how powerful of an impact a score can make. Star Wars was the first soundtrack I every purchased and I listened to it over and over. Each time, I could visualize the different parts of the film in my head and it would give me the same emotional reaction as if I was watching the film. It was at that point, I started to become more aware of a film score.
It was almost two years ago when I have the joy of watching Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond, one of my all-time favorite films in the theater. But this time it was a little different. Composer Fabio Frizzi was there with his Frizzi 2 Fulci band playing a live score during the film. He called it “The Beyond – The Composer’s Cut”. There was music being played where there normally wasn’t, or maybe the cues were a little longer than originally. Either way, it was an amazing experience to be watching these nightmarish images that Fulci came up with on the big screen, and hearing this chilling score being played live right in front of you.
Now, thanks to Beat Records, you can have a chance to hear that live version over and over again, with the release of The Beyond – The Composer’s Cut: Live in Austin on CD. This release has two different versions here, one by a 51 piece symphonic orchestra and the second one performed by his Frizzi 2 Fulci band.
The CD is has over an hours worth of music and is only $19.95 and will be released Sept. 10th. You can order your copy from Screen Archives by clicking HERE.
Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich
Released by Lakeshore Records, 2018
13 Tracks with a Total Running Time of 31 min.
Music by Fabio Frizzi
I must admit, seeing the offer to review the soundtrack for the latest Puppet Master movie didn’t fill me with excitement. But when I saw the composer was none other than Fabio Frizzi, the Italian maestro who composed the scores for films like Fulci’s The Psychic (1977), Zombie (1979), City of the Living Dead (1980), The Beyond (1981), not to mention a few other classics, I quickly changed my mind. And I’m glad I did because he once showed me that you can never judge a book by its cover. Or a score by its title., as the case may be.
The score for Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich is a smaller and simple score, much like I expected, but Frizzi is still able to create a great mood here. The opening title track is a beautiful piece of music, simple and elegant, and not what you’d think you’d hear for a Puppet Master film. But right when the second track picks up, Third Floor Hallway, the atmosphere kicks in. We have a slow and low sound of the keyboard, with a low pounding in the background. Then a violin (maybe?) kicks in bringing up the eerie factor slightly higher. About halfway through this track, we hear some bells, like from a wind chime or doll’s toy, which at first might sound innocent, but the way it is used along with the already existing sounds, it just makes it plain creepy.
Even though this year had plenty of downer moments, there were quite a few highlights that I think are worth mentioning. I know it is easy to remember the bad stuff that happens in our daily lives that I think we tend to forget all the good things, no matter how simple or small they might be. I think these are the moments that we need to focus on throughout lives, instead of the negative stuff. I think we’ll all find there are more of these high points than we realize. Here are a few of those moments that I’d like to revisit with you.
The Real Picture of Dorian Gray
I’m not sure why it took me so long to actually do this, but I finally made it out the Chicago Art Institute and got to see Ivan Albright’s painting that was used in the 1945 film The Picture of Dorian Gray. I was taking my wife into the city for a little break from reality, knowing that she is a fan of the museum, even though it has been decades since she’d been there. My appreciation of artwork has grown considerably over the last decade or so, which might have something to do with the fact that I have several friends that are professional artists, who always blow my mind with their talent. So I knew this was going to be an interesting tour. Plus, I knew that Albright’s piece from one of my favorite films is on display there, and I’d really like to see it in person.
Wandering through the huge maze that is the Art Institute, we eventually came around the corner and there it was. This piece was just huge, standing just over seven feet tall. This massive painting is just stunning to look at in person. The colors, the details, the darkness to the painting as well as the subject matter, was all just mind blowing. Standing before this masterpiece, it is kind of like standing in the Evans City cemetery, where the opening to the original Night of the Living Dead was filmed. You’re not just looking at movie history through your TV screen, but you’re standing right in front of it. I now know how people can just stand in front of a painting, gazing into it, getting lost in the colors and the brushstrokes. Almost like stepping into an emotion.
I know it is a bit expensive, but if you’re in Chicago and have the chance to go to the Art Institute, I would highly recommend it. I’d say if only to see this painting, but there are some other amazing pieces there as well.
The Beyond (1981)
Starring Starring Catriona MacColl, David Warbeck, Cinzia Monreale, Antoine Saint-John, Veronica Lazar, Larry Ray, Giovanni De Nava, Al Cliver, Michele Mirabella, Gianpaolo Saccarola
The first time I witnessed a Lucio Fulci film was seeing it under a completely different title, the edited American version called Seven Doors of Death. Even the director’s name had been modified, here listed as “Louis Fuller”. This played at the theater I worked at and I remember being very puzzled at just what the hell was happening on screen. I had heard of Zombie, and remember it had been playing at the local drive-in, but I wasn’t driving at that time and couldn’t get anybody to take me to see it. But even then, I had no idea of the connection between the two films. That would definitely come later though.
When this time of year comes around, there is one thing that you can be sure of….busy weekends! With the Halloween season right around the corner, there are plenty of different movie events coming up, from Dusk to Dawn shows at the drive-ins, to 24-hour marathons, to simple movie screenings of classic monster flicks. With so many to choose from, it’s time to start marking them down in your calendar and start making those plans. Here’s a little run down of the events that we know about coming up in the Chicagoland area. I’m sure there are more, but here’s the ones that I know about. Feel free to leave a notice about one near you in the comment section if you’d like. The more word we can get about these events, the more we can help support them!
Last year when Italian composer Fabio Frizzi made a small American tour, playing themes from some of the amazing films that he had scored over the years, to say I was bummed I didn’t make it to one of them is an understatement. But now I have something that will make up for that lost opportunity!