Curse of the Werewolf/Frankel

August 15, 2006

 

If Benjamin Frankel were to come up in a film score conversation how many of you would know who it is? Maybe there are select few who would recognize the name from his Golden Globe nominated score to the film “Battle of the Bulge” from 1966 or maybe “Night of the Iguana” but that is likely the only two films you might recognize the name from. Yet Benjamin did soundtracks for well over a 100 films. Classical listeners might be somewhat more familiar with Frankel but even this group doesn’t have a lot of choices when it comes to a particular work like it would with a Tchaikovsky Symphony.

The release celebrates the 100th anniversary of the birth of Benjamin Frankel and offers music from (4) films, “The Prisoner” (1955) being given its World Premiere Recording and “Curse of the Werewolf” (1961) its first complete recording as well as selections from “The Net” (1953) and “So Long at the Fair” (1950). One can only speculate as to why Benjamin would get involved with a film such as “Curse of the Werewolf” and Hammer Films. Could it have been the opportunity to experiment and explore the serial or twelve tone technique? The score itself is almost entirely serial and Benjamin is credited with having done the first feature film in Britain using the twelve tone method for this film. The “Prelude” sets the mood with a series of dissonant chords from the brass and string section, creating the eerie mood for the score. When you listen to this score you instantly realize how superior the soundtrack is to the film. While the film offered Oliver Reed his first starring role, there is little else it has to offer except the music. “The Beggar” and later on “Pastoral offers a wonderful melody conjuring up a wonderful frolic in a meadow, a carefree and happy tune, a little bit of good time in this gloomy film. “Finale” concludes this soundtrack, a cue that uses the entire orchestra with several things going on at the same time from the strings, woodwinds, and brass all at the same time. This is an excellent example of how the 12 tone system works and why it is so effective! Frankel learned well from Schoenberg!

The other work which is somewhat complete, offering 30 minutes and 11 tracks of material is “The Prisoner” Unfortunately, this wonderful Alec Guiness and Jack Hawkins tale, based on the true events of Hungarian Cardinal Joseph Mindszenty and his arrest for treason had little impact on US audiences and has virtually disappeared. But the music is quite good again, making me ponder as to why it has taken 51 years for it to be released! This was a film nominated for 5 BAFTA awards and banned in certain places because of the subject matter of the catholic church and communism. Usually when a film is banned people can’t wait to see it so I am a bit confused. This is a score that perfectly complements the psychological thriller and also allows Frankel to experiment with the twelve tone system 6 years before “The Curse of the Werewolf”.

“So Long at the Fair” is a very upbeat and very British starting with a Sea Prelude reminding me of Sainton and his “Moby Dick” score moving on to a wonderful melody called Carriage and Pair followed by a charming delicate minuet Long Forgotten Melody, and finally returning to the Carriage and Pair theme. This I warn you will be quite a radical departure from “The Prisoner” and “Curse of the Werewolf”.

“The Net” entry, while only a scant 3 minutes is a wonderful love theme showing us yet another side of the versatility of Benjamin Frankel. The delicate piano and lush strings are superb and while it was written over 50 years ago still stands up as well as other American standards.

As far as the sequencing is concerned it would have made more sense to this reviewer to have put “The Net” and “So Long at the Fair” together at the end of the CD. To go from this lush love theme to the dissonance of “The Prisoner” is well? The overall recording and mixing are fine as well as the liner notes. It’s nice to have notes that provide you with some really good background information about both Frankel and the films he wrote for. The orchestra under the baton of Carl Davis performs the material well. If you have read my reviews over the past few years you are aware of the fact that I usually recommend the OST. It might be mono, little or no dynamic range, and even scratchy but better because of the composer conducting and tempo. Since there is no OST for this one, you only have two choices. This recording or nothing. In the case of this recording I would much rather have it. Besides on the Naxos label the price is always very very reasonable. Recommended.

Golden Scores Rating ***

Naxos # is 8.557850

Performed by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic conducted by Carl Davis

Produced by Tim Handley

Engineer is Phil Rowlands

Track Listing

1. Prelude (01:49)

From “Curse of The Werewolf”

2. The Beggar (01:59)

From “Curse of The Werewolf”

3. Servant Girl and Beggar (02:14)

From “Curse of The Werewolf”

4. Revenge and Escape (02:59)

From “Curse of The Werewolf”

5. Baptism (03:43)

From “Curse of The Werewolf”

6. Pastoral (01:51)

From “Curse of The Werewolf”

7. Leon’s Assignation (01:49)

From “Curse of The Werewolf”

8. A Deadly Transformation (02:22)

From “Curse of The Werewolf”

9. Leon Confronts The Horror (03:28)

From “Curse of The Werewolf”

10. Leon Imprisoned (01:58)

From “Curse of The Werewolf”

11. Final Transformation (03:21)

From “Curse of The Werewolf”

12. Finale (06:49)

From “Curse of The Werewolf”

13. Introduction – Sea Prelude – Carriage and Pair – Long Forgotten Melody – Carriage and Pair (06:25)

From “So Long At The Fair”

14. Love Theme (03:09)

From “The Net”

15. Prelude (01:28)

From “The Prisoner”

16. The Prison (02:53)

From “The Prisoner”

17. Cat and Mouse (02:51)

From “The Prisoner”

18. Cardinal and Interrogator (03:06)

From “The Prisoner”

19. Mind Games (01:52)

From “The Prisoner”

20. Civil Unrest (03:16)

From “The Prisoner”

21. Solitary Confinement (06:30)

From “The Prisoner”

22. The Dark (01:48)

From “The Prisoner”

23. The Confession (03:32)

From “The Prisoner”

24. Last Meal (01:51)

From “The Prisoner”

25. Finale (01:23)

From “The Prisoner”

Total Duration: 01:14:26

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