This double-CD set is a serious treasure trove for horror movie and horror movie music buffs, offering as it does the first close-up listens we've ever had to the original scores for The Return of Dracula, I Bury the Living, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, and The Vampire, all of which were scored by Gerald Fried. Released by Film Score Monthly, the music has held up extremely well on a technical level, the tapes -- all now nearly 50 years old -- are evidently in excellent shape. The music from The Return of Dracula (which essentially brings the vampire to a setting akin to Thornton Wilder's Our Town) makes such extensive use of the Dies Irae, that at times one will feel like they're listening to a vicious parody of the "Witch's Sabbath" segment from Hector Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique; another section, presenting a three-note theme associated directly with the presence of the vampire, is almost a satire of opening of Richard Strauss' Also Sprach Zarathustra. Strangely enough, the score, dominated by growing upper brass and alternately raspy and swooping bass instruments, is never repetitive and, if anything, is so animated as to be a dazzling listening experience in its own right, though those who remember the film will have some seriously creepy associations with it. The music from I Bury the Living is a not-too-distant cousin to the Dracula movie's score, with the same aggressively stinging brass and ominous bass parts, but with a very prominent, eccentric harpsichord part added to the mix of sounds, along with some richer, more mournful horn parts. It's every bit as creepy and fascinating as its companion piece, without any real repetition, and makes for a killer listening experience, even if you don't know the movie. Fried's music for Roger Kay's remake of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, by contrast, offers rich string and reed passages, and long, lush lyrical melody lines, at least in its title music -- the rest is a strange mix of brassy "stings" and odd, percussion-dominated and string-driven misteriosos, all in glittering resolution. The music for The Vampire (also released as Mark of the Vampire) returns to a reliance on brass growls and stings, augmented by highly busy percussion and upward-leaping figures on the violins (and, in two sections, deeply evocative parts for cellos and basses). The scores are augmented by the jazzy "source music" from Caligari and I Bury the Living, and two vocal cues -- "The Sounds of the Night" -- featuring male and female singers, respectively. The source tapes are in excellent shape, and the annotation is extremely thorough, helped in no small measure by the fact that Fried himself was able to comment on his own work.
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