Monster Kid Online Magazine #7

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Fahrenheit 451
Complete Bernard Herrmann Motion Picture Score

William Stromberg
conducting the Moscow Symphony Orchestra
Tribute Film Classics CD

Released simultaneously with the complete re-recording of Bernard Herrmann’s score to MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (TFC-1001), Tribute Film Classics’ re-recording of Herrmann’s FAHRENHEIT 451 (TFC-1002) makes for a spectacular musical double feature.  Producers Anna Bonn, John Morgan, and William Stromburg also included a new recording of Herrmann’s score for “Walking Distance,” a popular episode from Rod Serling’s THE TWILIGHT ZONE television program.

After scoring several Ray Harryhausen and Alfred Hitchcock films, Bernard Herrmann may have found himself a victim of typecasting.  From 1960 through 1976 only four of his twenty feature film scores were not for suspense movies or films of a fantastic nature.  And though he would continue to land television assignments, after 1965 Hollywood appeared to have lost interest in his unique musical style.  Later, of course, “the young guys,“ directors like Brian DePalma and Martin Scorcese who were at the beginning of their careers, wanted him and there was a resurgence of interest in his work.

Before that would happen, Herrmann spent a few years scoring foreign films.  First in line was prestigious French director Francois Truffaut who wanted Herrmann for his film adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s science fiction novel “Fahrenheit 451,” a project that would result in Truffaut’s only English language movie.  It would also result in one of Herrmann’s most impressive and beautiful, scores.

FAHRENHEIT 451 takes place in a future which has banned the printed word.  Books are considered dangerous and in this society they ARE dangerous if you happen to own them.  Firemen no longer put out fires, they rush to the site of the latest cache of books and burn them on the spot.  Montag (Oskar Werner), a Fireman, becomes enamored of books despite the warnings of the Captain (Cyril Cusack) and his wife Linda (Julie Christie). 

Truffaut’s film is cold and emotionless, (a risk when dealing with emotionless futuristic societies) something that off put many viewers.  Perhaps it was the language difference (he was not comfortable working in English), perhaps just his directorial vision, or it might have been some of his casting which included some actors -- Werner, Cusack, and Anton Differing -- who were not known for their on-screen warmth.

No soundtrack Lp was issued in conjunction with the film and fans had to wait until 1974 when Herrmann recorded a suite of his music for “The Fantasy Film World of Bernard Herrmann”  Since then, excerpts from the score have been popular and appear on a number of different albums.  In addition to the original soundtrack recording on Sound Stage (1998) and Tsunami (1995), the suite has been re-recorded by Joel McNeely for Varese Sarabande (“Fahrenheit 451,“ 1995) and by Esa-Pekka Salonen for Sony (“Bernard Herrmann--The Film Scores,” 1996).  Until this Tribute Film Classics recording there has been no recording of all the music, including cues dropped or truncated.

“Prelude” opens the album with a dreamlike piece that induces a sense of weightlessness or floating.  The relaxing and gentle mood, strings in the upper register played against bass while a harp glides over it all, is deceptive for we are about to enter not just a dream but a nightmare.  “Fire Station” follows as we begin a descent into madness.  This harsh piece, with agitated strings and insistent xylophone, matches the urgency of the firemen as they set out on their mission.    It will be heard again later in “Fire Alarm.“  The third piece, “The Lamp,” fully sets up the film’s premise as we see the black-suited firemen in action, the harp, glockenspiel and strings in a suspense motif as the men, in sinister black leather peasant hats, search the apartment for books, dump them unceremoniously out the window and burn them. 

“The Boys,” “Home,” “The Bridge,” “The Box,” and “Montag’s Books” keep up the suspense with disquieting themes that set up visions of dread.  “Pink and Gold Pills,” “Recovery,” and “Vertigo,” maintain the dreamlike state of unreality.

Four cues depict a sequence in which the firemen rush to the home of the Book Lady, search her home and systematically gather her books.  In an act of martyrdom she chooses to die with her books, dropping the match that ignites them, the home and herself.  “Fire Alarm” introduces a manic version of the firemen theme, “The Books” begins ethereally, a musical match for the not-quite-of-this-world Book Lady, “The Hose,” reprising some material from “The Lamp,” the first cue associated with the firemen’s odious purpose,  and “Flames,” an emotional piece as the books burn, the harp appearing over inserts of individual titles being consumed

“TV Signals” plays over Linda’s interactive TV program, the ominous quality of plucked strings, harp and glockenspiel a musically mad clockwork mechanism.  “The Novel,” although using ascending musical lines, begins suspensefully, as Montag musically begins to absorb Dickens’ “David Coppefield.”  The music takes on hints of optimism, even nobility before ending with a sense of satiation.  “The Garden” is somewhat upbeat with an air of serenity.  This cue was dropped from the film and would have played in counterpoint to the on-screen Gestapo action as firemen search a park and its inhabitants for contraband books.  “The Reading” is another cue that imparts serenity, peacefulness, satisfaction, and beauty tinged with melancholy.

Other cues of interest include “The Nightmare,” a relentless piece during which Montage sees Clarisse as her friend the Book Lady, “The Captain’s Death,” a variation on “Fire Station” and “Fire Engine” without the insistent xylophone, and “Freedom,” very much a chase piece with foreboding bass and agitated strings.  TFC records the complete cue, restoring :50 seconds cut from the film.

Two favorites of most fans are “The Road” and “Finale,” on some recordings combined as one piece.  They are beautiful pieces associated with the Book People who live in the forest, where each individual memorizes a book.  The tranquility of the piece, the harp representing the falling snow, holds some hope that someday books will be allowed again.   Except that the coda, like a question mark, makes that future unsure.

The original Herrmann recordings sound harsher, more strident. This recording, under the controlled baton of William Stromberg, is nuanced and a bit sweeter. It should be noted that Herrmann’s original “Prelude” is definitely conducted at a brisker tempo. Herrmann’s original quotes the thematic material only once. Commonly, most recordings repeat the majority of the material. Also, “Finale,” as played here, also reflects what has become the standard. However, this also departs from what is heard in the film by adding a third measure to the ending. Perhaps these reflect changes made in the score on the soundstage by Herrmann or later during the final sound mixing, but this should not be construed as a criticism since, in both cases, a) as mentioned, this has become the standard, and b) frankly, it is more musically satisfying.

As if this full recording of FAHRENHEIT 451, complete, with restored music and missing cues weren’t enough, TFC has included over fourteen minutes from Herrmann’s score for THE TWILIGHT ZONE.  “Walking Distance,” starring Gig Young, is a much loved episode of the classic show featuring the actor as a man yearning nostalgically for his past.  Be careful what you wish for in “The Twilight Zone”…  Herrmann had no compunction in writing music for television in a day when the medium either got you on the way up or the way down.  Possibly he hurt himself professionally in doing so but he wrote a great deal of library music for CBS which was tracked into various television programs.  For THE TWILIGHT ZONE, he wrote original scores, such as this one.  The original soundtrack for “Walking Distance” (1959) was released as part of Varese Sarabande’s Lp collection of TZ music and later on their first “The Best of The Twilight Zone” (1985) CD.  Here TFC has gone Herrmann one better by expanding the size of the orchestra to produce a rich, full sound.

Clever cover art depicts Herrmann’s music score through raging fire, perhaps a nod to his score for HANGOVER SQUARE.  Like TFC’s MYSTERIOUS ISLAND, the sound is lush, instruments spread across the soundstage for a rich stereophonic effect.  A 32 page booklet, illustrated with frame grabs, advertising materials, and a page from the score is quite handsome, full of information, and includes a word from Ray Bradbury.  As with MYSTERIOUS ISLAND, collectors will want Herrmann’s original tracks, his own re-recording and this new album.  Yet, if it must come down to one, then this TFC edition is the one to have.  It truly doesn’t get much better than this.

Ryan Brennan





20th Century Fox


There are some classic films that even the most devoted horror fans have never been able to find in watchable condition, having to settle for murky dupes that only hint at the wonders within.

That's why it is such a revelation to view the jaw-dropping restoration (yes, I know that's a cliche but your jaw WILL drop), of the 1932 science fiction thriller, CHANDU THE MAGICIAN, released as part of the FOX HORROR CLASSICS, VOL. 2 collection, along with DRAGONWYCK (Vincent Price), and DR. RENAULT'S SECRET (J. Carroll Naish and George Zucco).

More than 103 hours of digital work has been done on the film, which has been frustratingly dark and scratchy in previous versions available on the fan-to-fan market. The result is a bright, sometimes stunningly crisp and quite enjoyable version of a classic that has too long been overlooked or underappreciated by fans.

This is the original feature film with Edmund Lowe as the radio-era magician and Bela Lugosi as the evil Roxor, not the tedious serial with Lugosi in the title role that followed. For Lugosi fans (or his detractors), this is must viewing, because this is Bela in full post-DRACULA bloom, evil to the core, torturing his victims and leering at women in ways that would make Dr. Mirakle himself look away in shame.

Lugosi's Roxor is totally over-the-top. He jokes about killing millions with his Kenneth Strickfaden death ray, heats up pincers to take out eyes (offscreen, thankfully), and leads a band of merciless thugs who climb trees, hang on walls and pop up everytime the plot needs a jolt. In contrast, the doe-eyed Edmund Lowe can only conjure up magic tricks that in their time were startling (a rope rises to the ceiling, a horse is made miniature, attackers are rendered helpless).

CHANDU THE MAGICIAN was the work of movie magicians -- William Cameron Menzies was co-director, Strickfaden's machines from FRANKENSTEIN crowd Roxor's lab, the cinematographer is the great James Wong Howe. Even Ralph Hammeras worked behind the secens.

Eerie lighting effects make the miniature shots come alive. There's a full-size climb across the face of a mountain where a giant wall opens to swallow up the heroes. One plucky adventurer looks down and sees skeletons scattered across the rocky shoreline below. (It's that kind of detail that is missing in previous duped versions. Before, you just didn't see how precise and numerous the skeletons are. In this version, wow).

But most of all there's Roxor's death ray, a giant 30s-era machine that sends pulsating doom on the cities of the world. Given a digital tweak here, the destruction is almost worthy of Darth Vader.

The result of all this is a happy blend of children's radio show excitement and surprisingly adult sadism, all just months after the releases of DRACULA and FRANKENSTEIN kicked off a multi-studio horror boom. Boris Karloff (and Strickfaden), were filming MASK OF FU MANCHU at about the same time, but CHANDU THE MAGICIAN could go toe-to-toe with that Doctor of Philosophy in every way.

As for the restoration, it appears much of the digital work was brightening and contrast management, with specks removed and sharpness heightened. Vertical film lines show up here and there, and there are some awkward jump cuts where parts of the film itself apparently were lost in years past. Some scenes retain that 30s' 'seen-through-a-telescope' effect where the main action is framed by a circle of grayness (purposeful at the time?); other scenes are full frame dazzling.

I have spent years looking for a watchable copy of CHANDU THE MAGICIAN, and this is the first one to deliver a full viewing experience. There is stuff here you have never seen (hieroglyphics on the walls, the eyes of living statues), simply because in previous versions you couldn't see them!

As an added bonus, horror historian (and occasional CHFB visitor), Gregory William Mank offers a terrific commentary on production details, the careers of Menzies and Howe and all manners of minutia. Did you know that the wizened Nigel De Brulier, who plays the Yogi Teacher here, also was Shazam in the CAPTAIN MARVEL serial? I know now. (Mank even thanks Tom Weaver for his assistance in rounding up some of the details during a joint viewing they had of the film).

All in all, this CHANDU THE MAGICIAN makes FOX HORROR CLASSICS VOL. 2 a must-buy for any classic horror fan. Like SHE and THINGS TO COME, the original CHANDU shows Hollywood science fiction and adventure pushing the limits during the depths of the Depression and promising a world very different from the gloom of the day. And now, almost 80 years later, we can see it too.

David Colton





Swingin' at the Séance
The Moon-Rays

It's always been a little hard to describe the music of The Moon-Rays to the uninitiated. It's a blend of so many things that it can't really be categorized unless "cool" is a musical category of its own. Their past releases have been mainly rooted in the sounds of the '60s lounge and surf music, but always with a slant toward the unusual and spooky. Songs with titles like Blues for Vampira, The Grim Creeper, Thrillville, Drag Fink, Mysterion, Sophomore Werewolf in Love and The Devil in Nylons gives you some insight into the thematic direction of the group.

In The Moon-Rays' newest collection of spooky selections titled Swingin' at the Séance, the band trades in their bongos for brass and they explore some of the more macabre pop songs from the '30s and '40s. If you're a fan of Big Band music you might recognize the title song as a piece originally recorded by Glenn Miller and his orchestra in 1941. Other selections were recorded by well-known swing-era artists like Artie Shaw, Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey, Louie Armstrong and Bing Crosby.

The complete track list includes You've Got Me Voodoo'd, Mr. Ghost Goes to town, The Headless Horseman, Nightmare, Jack You're Dead, Swingin' at the Séance, Mysterioso, Skeletons in the Closet, The Spooks Jump In, Shuffle of the Damned, Creepy Charlie and Haunted House Blues (the oldest number on the CD with was recorded by Bessie Smith in 1923). Unless you're a devoted fan of old jazz and swing music, you're probably not familiar with these songs. The most well-known of the bunch is probably The Headless Horseman which is featured in Walt Disney's 1947 animated classic ICHABOD AND MR. TOAD and sung by the aforementioned Mr. Crosby.

Thanks to The Moon-Rays, new listeners can now enjoy these forgotten spook songs for the first time. Band member Scott Mersching explains in the liner notes that he became familiar with most of these songs through his father who played in bands during the '40s and recalls them as "Halloween songs" performed by many bands of that era.

Scott says, "This CD is for my dad, his generation of musicians, people that have never heard these songs and the people who both know and embrace the music of their fathers and grandfathers."

Although a stylistic departure from their previous CDs (Thrills and Chills , The Ghouls Go West and Sinister Surf) with more musicians and more vocals than before, Swingin' at the Séance hits the target it strives for dead on and conjures up a crystal ball full of swingin' and spooky listening fun. And special kudos for the CD's packaging. It's beautifully designed and provides some appropriate tricks and treats with its period-style graphics and Halloween images.

You can sample the music at the Moon-Ray's Myspace page and order the disc from the Moon-Rays website. Then grab your ghoul and get ready to hit the dance floor.

Kerry Gammill





The Lost World
Special Edition DVD (1960 & 1925)
Fox Home Entertainment

The theatrical release of Irwin Allen’s THE LOST WORLD (1960) must have been a Monster Kid’s dream come true. A brand new CinemaScope adventure in color with an all-star cast and, most importantly, dinosaurs! The timing was certainly right. Universal had just three years previously begun releasing their great classic horror films to television for the first time. A monster fad was started, horror hosts in seemingly every major (and some minor) cities, bubblegum collector’s cards at every register checkout, magazines devoted to cinematic horror on every magazine stand, and plastic model replicas of the most famous movie monsters in every hobby and toy store. Now, every Monster Kid can own both the 1925 and 1960 versions of THE LOST WORLD on a double disc DVD release (Fox Home Entertainment; Anamorphic; 2 discs; Region 1; released 9/11/07; $19.95).

Of course, the entire decade of the 1950s had been dominated by a variety of science fiction films which often featured monsters from outer space, from under the sea, inside the Earth or as the result of experimentation -- atomic testing was a favorite -- gone wrong. In 1954 Walt Disney released TWENTY THOUSAND LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA, a big budget version of the Jules Verne novel filmed in the still relatively new widescreen process CinemaScope and Technicolor. It was a huge hit. Later in the decade 20th Century-Fox tried to make lightning strike twice by filming another Jules Verne novel, JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH (1959). It, too, was a success. Then, came Allen’s THE LOST WORLD.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1913 novel, “The Lost World,” tells the tale of Professor Challenger and his discovery of a tropical plateau where evolution has ceased and dinosaurs continue to proliferate. The book had been cinematized (officially) only once before, but quite famously, in 1925 in a film starring screen legends Wallace Beery (as Challenger) and Lewis Stone (as Roxton). One of the biggest hits of the silent film era, THE LOST WORLD employed the art of stop motion animation to depict the prehistoric denizens. Although stop motion had been employed sporadically in the past, this more realistic use of the process was as every bit as startling and captivating to the public as JURASSIC PARK (1993) would be to later audiences. In fact, one oft-repeated, but no doubt apocryphal, story tells of Doyle running some of the dinosaur footage for a roomful of magicians, including Harry Houdini, who all thought the animals real.

As a kid I had read Doyle’s book. More than once, in fact. I yearned to see the silent film which was often mentioned in the pages of “Famous Monster of Filmland“ magazine. Photos of the several different dinosaurs featured in the film only whetted my appetite. Eventually, one Christmas morning I would open my gifts to discover an 8mm five reel version of the film, what is now known as the Kodascope version, a greatly shortened edition of the film prepared for exhibition in schools and other institutions and all that would be available until near the end of the century. In those days long before home video many enthusiasts collected 8mm and 16mm copies of their favorite movies. I had my projector permanently set up and I created a special screen that I taped over the dead picture tube of an old television inside a mahogany cabinet. I ran the film over and over again in solitude and for anyone who evinced the slightest interest in seeing the movie magic.

I did not see the Allen film theatrically. It was a few years later that I would first see the film on NBC’s SATURDAY NIGHT AT THE MOVIES. Movies on network TV were a new thing, pioneered by NBC with this movie series. It was here that many of 20th Century-Fox’s hits of the early 1950s would be first telecast (like THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL [1951]). I don’t know why there was such a short wait between theater and television for THE LOST WORLD but this would become a trend in the 1960s as many movies went to television in a mere two or three years. None of these thoughts were on my mind as the program began. Beginning with a teaser montage, stills and/or frame grabs from the movie would be edited to synchronize with Richard Shores ’ music composition “Nervous.” The images would flash by, chronicling the entire movie in under one minute. It was an exciting night despite watching a black & white telecast of a pan & scan print. What did I know then of such things?

Well, now I know better and after many decades it is finally possible to see THE LOST WORLD in widescreen and stereophonic sound with 20th Century-Fox’s DVD release of the Irwin Allen film and the original 1925 film in a clean print that has been color tinted, newly scored and restored to near its original length.

Frankly, Allen’s film isn’t very good. But it’s a lot of fun. The director, who became better known as the producer of TV programs like LOST IN SPACE, THE TIME TUNNEL, LAND OF THE GIANTS and big budget disaster movies like THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE (1972) and THE TOWERING INFERNO (1974), used the earlier Verne films as his template, incorporating and tweaking elements (just as he would in another Verne adaptation he did, FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON (1962).

20,000 LEAGUES, JOURNEY and Allen’s film were designed as family fare, had multiple characters, and featured an animal -- Disney had a seal, JOURNEY had a duck -- so Allen has a poodle. Character dynamics were retained -- one curmudgeon (James Mason in both earlier films), usually at odds with at least one person (Kirk Douglas, Peter Lorre, Paul Lukas, Arlene Dahl) if not the whole cast. All three were set in exotic, isolated locales and were reliant on special effects. JOURNEY, in particular, utilized dinosaurs. The same film added a female to its band of explorers, and Irwin spices his cast with Jill St. John. JOURNEY also included a villain with his own agenda. Whereas his intentions are spelled out early, in Allen’s film the “villain” is kept a secret, his agenda uncovered at the end, when, even then, he redeems himself.

Allen’s film bears almost no resemblance to Doyle’s novel and takes not a great deal from the earlier movie. Professor Challenger (Claude Rains) arrives in London to give a lecture on his latest discovery, the existence of dinosaurs in South America. Rather quickly, an expedition is financed by reporter Malone’s (David Hedison) newspaper publisher with the proviso that he and great white hunter Roxton (Michael Rennie) accompany the Professor and his scientific nemesis Summerlee (Richard Haydn).

In short time they are in South America with their local guides (Fernando Llamas, Jay Novello). Once on the plateau their helicopter is destroyed by a dinosaur stranding them in a Lost World. They encounter a big green spider, a beautiful native girl, and her tribe. Diamonds figure into the plot, also.

Claude Rains is a good Challenger if a bit older than Wallace Beery in the original film. He’s blustery and bombastic, his red hair adding to the concept that he’s under pressure and ready to explode. Michael Rennie makes a fine Roxton, younger than Lewis Stone. And David Hedison is easily as good as Lloyd Bacon. Richard Hayden (the poor man’s Clifton Webb) is his usual supercilious self, a role that typecast him but was employed perfectly in the TV series THE TWILIGHT ZONE in the episode “A Thing About Machines.” Fernando Llamas plays his role as the guide with a dark earnestness while Jay Novello provides humor as the comic coward.

Jill St. John, as lovely as she is, is simply a ridiculous presence in her pink stretch pants and booties. The poodle doesn’t help, either. One amusing scene occurs when her poodle wanders off only to confronted by a dinosaur. Somehow, Jill doesn’t see the giant lizard until she picks up the dog. And when she does she stands frozen in terror, her screaming bringing the others to save her.

Despite the use of lizards and alligators decked out with fins, the dinosaurs are kind of fun on their own level. It was a thrill back in the day to watch them battle each other but now it’s just animal cruelty. Still, there are some nice tracking shots as one of them moves through the jungle and the scene with Jill St. John is nicely composed and composited. Also, the water monster that appears late in the picture is fairly cool, too, until they jam a human puppet down its throat. What really carries these images are the booming sound effects. These dinos roar magnificently in impressive stereo. Of course it’s strictly comical to hear these lizards referred to as a Brontosaurus or Tyrannosaurus. Unlike the 1925 film, which brings the Bronto to London and lets it wreak havoc on the city, this films ends with the hatching of a dino egg. It seemed to promise a sequel but one was not forthcoming.

The score by Paul Sawtell and Bert Shefter is one of their better efforts. It’s available on CD with their score for FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON at Screen Archives here:

Ryan Brennan


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