CD REVIEW: MONSTROUS MOVIE MUSIC

Film Music Institute > Film Music Magazine (Current) > CD Reviews > CD REVIEW: MONSTROUS MOVIE MUSIC

Composers: Various
Label: Monstrous Movie Music
Suggested Retail Price: $ 19.95
Grade: B+

Who can forget the shrieking, lurching orchestras that accompanied every behemoth, killer robot, homicidal alien, cave-dwelling mutant and super-powered maniac that flooded double bills through the 1950’s and 60’s? Certainly not producer David Schecter, whose label Monstrous Movie Music has done a better job than an atomic bomb blast of re-awakening the musical likes of Them, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, The Creature From The Black Lagoon, This Island Earth and It Came From Outer Space. Their wonderfully bombastic scores have previously been re-conducted by Masatoshi Mitsumoto, who did an amazing job of capturing every lumbering, ooo-wee-ooo nuance that have burned these larger-than-terror melodies into our youthful memories.

Now with MMM’s new releases of The Blob and The Intruder, Schecter takes a giant stride backwards – releasing the original source material instead of reperforming it. And the result is every bit as much fun, even if the scores’ sonic tentacles have an understandable age to them. Yet perhaps the most famous musical thing about 1958’s The Blob is its jazzy title song, penned by none other than Burt Bacharach and Mack David, whose career beginnings had them dealing with devilish gelatin as opposed to the latter likes of Dionne Warwick and Dusty Springfield. It’s an infectiously fun ditty for mouth pops, handclaps and chorus, a song that might be the coolest pop hit next to Bobby Pickett’s “Monster Mash.”

However, the Bacharach-David tune is almost misleadingly fun when it’s followed by Ralph Carmichael’s actual Blob score. Effectively done with a budgetarily restrained orchestra, Carmichael gets across an appropriately grim vibe here – one that’s unexpectedly subdued when compared to other frenetic monster scores of the period. And even though most of the music slithers along effectively with ominous brass and strings, Carmichael’s Blob score does offer some nice romantic detours. It’s the kind of lush music best experienced in a hot rod’s back seat before getting devoured.

But what really steals the show on the Blob CD is the inclusion of cues from the Valentino Production Music Library. Written by such composers as Mario Nascimbene (One Million Years B.C.) and A.F. Lavagnino (Gorgo), these often goofily eerie numbers were meant to provide musical horror by the pound, letting the low-budget likes of The Brain That Wouldn’t Die and Daughter Of Horror “compose” their scores out of stock music. So chances are you heard these library selections a zillion times on the Creature Feature, which accounts for the nostalgic thrills of “Aggression,” “Celestial Wonder” and “Spell of the Unknown.” The titles literally had to say it all for perspective buyers. And while many these tracks are undeniably goofy, cues like the harpsichord-driven “Birds in Flight” and the Batman-esque rock jazz of “Mob Scene” work nicely in their own right. They have just the right stuff to entice music-hungry hacks that have about a hundred clams to buy a score with.

Though Roger Corman’s The Intruder can’t exactly be called a horror film, its story of a racist rabble-rouser (played brilliantly by William Shatner) was a hell of a lot more frightening than most of the producer-director’s genre efforts. This unique 1961 offering also gave the equally prolific composer Herman Stein a welcome break to do something outside of his stalwart work on such exploitationers as The Mole People, The Creature Walks Among Us, Tarantula and Love Slaves Of The Amazon. And Stein’s talent for fearsome melody served The Intruder well, beginning with its driving, anxious theme that tells of a very bad man arriving in the small-town south. It’s a superb piece of relentless menace, worthy of Herrmann’s work for Hitchcock. And Stein continues to build his tension, but with a real sense of humanity to it – no more so than in music that has the kind of stirring, religious nobility that wouldn’t be out of place in The Ten Commandments. Topping his dramatic score off are some cool jazz pieces, whose session players include no less than Benny Carter and Buddy Collette.

By the time that melodic nobility wins over hatred, The Intruder’s score proves itself to be a real highlight in Stein’s cannon. And it’s a tribute to MMM that they’ve opened their horizon beyond Saturday matinees to release this powerful score (as well as including such addition Steiner treasures as his wonderfully pokey score to the industrial film Career For Two, and a newly performed piano concerto). But if anything connects the albums of The Blob and The Intruder, it’s a sense of true geek love that MMM infuses its releases with, from their surprisingly good production values to Schecter’s exhaustively hilarious liner notes for them. I look forward to MMM’s continuing countdown of my Creature Feature favorites, even as they look beyond it.

Lurk your copies of THE BLOB and THE INTRUDER here.

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