Halloween Head


by Tony Maygarden

Dark Shadows LP cover

Dark Shadows, music composed by Robert Cobert

When you watch multiple episodes of a TV series you become very familiar with the recurring soundtrack themes. It helps when they are as cool as the "Dark Shadows" theme, with its instantly recognizable theremin riff. Robert Cobert's music "encompasses the widest range of styles and sounds; electronic, rock, weird, dramatic, popular and classical" state the liner notes. Actor Jonathan Frid's voice over on "Ill Be With You Always" is effectively creepy. "Back at the Blue Whale" rocks like something The Cramps might have covered (if they had done instrumentals).

The LP came with a not particularly attractive mini-poster insert with pictures of Barnabas and Quentin. Released on the Philips label, 1969 (shown).


Dracula LP cover

Dracula, music composed John Williams

If you like your film score orchestrations big and bold, then you like the scores of John Williams. The score for this 1979 version of Dracula works quite well, sweeping the listener up in broad symphonic brush strokes.



The Swarm, music composed and conducted by
Jerry Goldsmith, orchestrations by Arthur Morton

One can only imagine that when Jerry Goldsmith got the assignment to compose a score for The Swarm, a movie about a giant swath of killer bees attacking a city, he immediately hit upon the idea for the "swarm" sound -- taking "The Flight of the Bumblebee" and multiplying it by an entire orchestra's string section. That's pretty much what he did, which is not to say it doesn't work.

Beyond that, the film producers really got their money's worth out of the orchestra, with the string, brass and percussion sections playing presto and fortissimo throughout most of the score. The serene "A Boy's Story" near the end comes as a relief. Released in 1978.


Poltergeist LP cover

Poltergeist, music composed by Jerry Goldsmith

Goldsmith employs running piano figures, lots of syncopated percussion, slashing strings and blaring brass in a score similar in places to his arguably more original score for Planet of the Apes.

Producer Stephen Speilberg writes in the liner notes: "Jerry's music conjures many classical impressions of ferocious drive and at the same time, cathedral beauty..." Right. Not subtle, but why should it be? Released in 1982.


The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, music
composed and conducted by Ennio Morricone

Ennio Morricone's reputation was already made with his captivating, original and very popular spaghetti-western scores, culminating in 1967's The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. A few years later he worked some of the same transformational magic with horror film scores, one of the first and best of which was his unique work for Dario Argento's The Bird With the Crystal Plumage.

The main them features a jazzy bossa nova sound, and is immediately memorable -- classic Morricone. Creepy minimalist "la-la-la's" in the "Theme for Julia" are outdone by the heartbeat rhythm, breaths and moans of "The Breath of Death." The avant-garde inspired chaotic drums and dissonant woodwinds of "Black Glove Underground (Part 1)" sound like 1970's Frank Zappa at his most way-out. Cover scan is the original 1970 Capitol Records release.


Il Gatto a Nove Code LP cover

Il Gatto a Nove Code, music composed by
Ennio Morricone

Il Gatto a Nove Code (Cat O'Nine Tails) was Ennio Morricone's second collaboration with Italian horror director Dario Argento."Ninna Nanna In Blu" is a beautiful theme, with the rest of the score utilizing a nervy, syncopated jazz motif with a prominent string bass. Unsettling and masterful. The cover shown is of a recent import reissue.


Exorcist II The Heretic LP cover

Exorcist II: The Heretic, music composed by
Ennio Morricone

Ennio Morricone just has a way of writing great film scores. From the hauntingly beautiful "Regan's Theme," to the frenetic voodoo ceremony sounds of "Pazuzu," to the driving hard rock sound of "Magic and Ecstasy," it's all great. A much better soundtrack then this film deserved.

Released 1in 1977 on Warner Brothers.



John Carpenter's The Thing, music
composed and conducted by Ennio Morricone

Director John Carpenter had scored or co-scored the music for most of his earlier films, but what we get here in this 1982 remake of the '50s sci-fi classic is an odd Ennio Morricone score that features both live orchestra and synth compositions. "The Thing: Humanity: Part 1" is an unmemorable orchestra atmosphere, but "The Thing: Shape" utilizes strangely modulating chords in the string section. The one minute "The Thing: Contamination" starts with finger plucked bass quickly augmented with congested, frantic pizzicato strings. Wild! "The Thing: Bestiality" puts an eerie bass line and strings to effective use. "The Thing: Eternity" ushers in blinking, pulsating synth tones layered with atmospheres. Not Morricone's best score, but not Carpenter's best film, either.