Perseverance Records' reissue of the soundtrack to the 1971 cult horror film The Abominable Dr. Phibes is neither a straight reissue replicating the original LP, nor one of those expanded versions with bonus tracks so common to the CD age. As the liner notes reveal, the rights to the film, originally released by American International Pictures, changed hands many times over the years before ending up with MGM, and in the process the original master recordings for the soundtrack album, originally released by American International Records, have disappeared. That LP contained music written by Jack Nathan, Sheldon Brooks, Johnny Mercer, and others, in addition to portions of the film score by Basil Kirchin, but the compilers of the Perseverance reissue, who managed to get in touch with Kirchin and discovered that he had some recordings associated with the film, have focused on the composer's work almost exclusively as a result. Only tracks seven, eight, and nine ("Dr. Phibes' Theme," "The Operation," and "Charmaine/Medley"), adding up to less than five-and-a-half minutes, are taken directly from the American International LP. Kirchin provided tracks two, three, four, five six, and 14 ("Dr. Phibes' Waltz/Cage Full of Bats," "Phibes Visits Dr. Longstreet/The Curse of Blood/Injection," "Phibes' Preparations/Locusts," "Phibes Revealed," "Vulnavia" [not the version composed by John Gale], and "Suite of Unused Music"), constituting two-thirds of the CD. "War March of the Priests," the Felix Mendelssohn organ composition that opens the disc, was taken directly from the film soundtrack. The remaining tracks are described as "source cues." The result is an album that at least approximates the actual score of the film, with variations on its main themes. It is surprisingly varied, not the usual overly dramatic score of a cheap horror movie, and it is full of odd experimental passages. Even with its confused heritage, this is music well-worth resurrecting to be heard again.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
|The Abonimable Dr. Philbes, film score|