House of Usher/Baxter

February 16, 2011

Usher main title

As a soundtrack reviewer I pick up on some of the most worthless trivia information that has to bore even the best of my friends. As I’m quickly going through the liner notes to the 159th Intrada Special Collection Volume of House of Usher, limited to 1200 copies I came upon they shortened the title of the story so it would fit on a standard movie marquee. Could I remember a birthday or my next doctor visit unless I write it down? Not a chance. But this is a fact that is now permanently engraved in the brain forever along with the fact that this is the fifth release of welcome Baxter material in the last 6 months and perhaps the best effort of the lot.


Baxter, like me enjoyed Ravel and Stravinsky and you can hear some of the influence in this score. The difficulty Les had when he did pictures for AIP and he did over a 100 was time, budget, and small orchestra most of the time (Master of the World Intrada ISE1029 and exception). If allowed to fully explore his classical talent one can only ponder what sort of direction it might have taken him.


For the collector today a further problem is the archiving of his material. In the case of Usher there are no tapes as the material was recorded directly to the soundtrack. Any music tracks were thrown away or erased. I’m sure at the time, Corman, who loved to make money, would have exploited it.


The “Main Title” opening certainly doesn’t sound like a horror movie but a theme that could have come from any kind of genre. The theme is a memorable one, easily recognizable, and one that is used throughout the score. It can also be heard in “Tormented” as a yearning melancholy arrangement, a lush somewhat romantic version in “Reluctance” “Pallbearers” as an elegy and “Vault.” It isn’t until (audio clip included) Les shifts gears 45 seconds into the cue does the material become downright creepy. Baxter makes good use of the Lute in “Lute Song” and other cues to add to the horror of the score. The thirteen plus minute “Fall of the House of Usher” is the finale of the soundtrack. What horror movie wouldn’t be complete without at least a reference to Dies irae and he incorporates a contrabassoon to perform it. The wordless choir enhances the horror and the thirteen minutes passes by quickly.


This is a mono recording that has somewhat limited dynamic range and there are a couple of annoying spots but this is to be expected with the release of this kind of soundtrack. High quality speakers aren’t necessary for this one. It is a miracle it has survived as well as it has and we should be grateful for yet another release of our ever growing Baxter collection. As a fan of his material I heartily recommend this latest release.



Track listing

1. Overture (03:03)
2. Main Title (02:00)
3. Roderick Usher (04:02)
4. Madeline Usher (02:50)
5. Tormented (02:24)
6. Lute Song (01:00)
7. Reluctance (03:58)
8. The Sleepwalker (04:12)
9. The Vault (02:36)
10. The Ancestors (02:58)
11. House Of Evil (04:53)
12. Catalepsy (04:13)
13. Pallbearers (02:03)
14. Buried Alive (08:14)
15. Fall Of The House Of Usher (13:50)

Total Duration: 01:02:16