Ronald Stein was arguably the king of low-budget horror and sci-fi film music, but like most denizens of the B-movie world, he had to wait decades -- even past his death in 1988 in the case of this CD -- to get any acknowledgement for the quality of his work. The 62 minutes of music here represent some of the best of his music, originally written for seven feature films produced over a period of eight years, from 1957 through 1964. The opening suite, from Attack of the 50 Foot Woman is an extraordinary body of work, the orchestral writing (for a relatively small body of instruments) conveying a dark and (no pun) larger-than-life story, everything that Nathan Juran's pitifully small budget couldn't convey on the screen, and even finding room for some credible rock & roll dance music in the background scoring of two scenes. The music from The Terror is bolder and more confident still, stringing together dozens of dramatically disconnected scenes -- past the Wagnerian-scale overture, the highlight is the track "Meet Helaine," with its eerie, oscillating passages for strings and percussion, which was tracked into other films for a decade after, so much so that the "ghost theme" became associated with all manner of unrelated science-fiction material requiring atmospheric accompaniment. The suite for Dementia 13 is highlighted by a harpsichord-driven main title theme that plays like a mad minuet. The music for Not of This Earth was one of the quietest scores that Stein wrote during the '50s, making its impact by muting the orchestra for extended stretches before throwing in the "stings" that leap out at the listener. Attack of the Crab Monsters is built principally on a single horror motif, a theme that is carried principally on the trumpets with the strings and an organ providing accompaniment in different spots, and with an oboe and bassoon coming into play at strategic moments for atmosphere. The music from The Devil's Partner, a lesser known film produced by Roger Corman, is fascinating for the relative lushness of its title theme, given the dire poverty of its budget -- this was another case of Stein very subtly adding a high-rent component to producer Roger Corman's threadbare screen ventures. And, finally, there is the score from Spider Baby, which features some bold, thick horn passages; the real highlight of this set of tracks, however, is the rehearsal of actor Lon Chaney, Jr. stumbling over his lines from the movie's one song, and then the song itself, which defies description. The whole disc is a fitting tribute to a man whose talents were never sufficiently heralded in his own time, in excellent sound accompanied by decent if not terribly informative annotation.
AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder
feat: Lon Chaney Jr.