For more conservative, "classically inclined" fright film soundtrack fanciers, the music featured in Roger Corman's American International Pictures product of the 1950s and '60s would place somewhere near the bottom of the food chain. Such an opinion would tend to discourage interest in some very fine horror movie music composed by Ronald Stein, the in-house Kapellmeister at AIP, whose work extended well beyond horror into Westerns, biker movies, science fiction, hippie freak-out pictures, and other genres. Limiting this disc to just 3,000 copies, Pasadena-based Percepto Records have collected original optical tracks from two great Stein scores and released them on CD as Ronald Stein: The Haunted Palace -- The Premature Burial.
One would like to say that Stein's scores are more effective than the films in which they are featured. In the case of most of the low-budget projects he worked on -- nearly 80 titles from 1955 to 1970 -- this is quite true. However, these two films, The Haunted Palace (1963) and The Premature Burial (1962), are both well-known, and very well loved, entries in Roger Corman's AIP horror cycle. Stein's scores go hand in hand with these films, and separating music from image results in a highly satisfying and enjoyable, if not particularly revelatory, listening experience. When listening to The Premature Burial one misses the sound of Ray Milland's Guy Carrell shouting "Leave Me Alone! Leave Me Alone!" That these tracks fit the films from which they come so well is no small miracle -- The Haunted Palace was just one of eight films Stein scored in 1963, and The Premature Burial was among seven that he scored in 1962. Though seemingly trapped in budget movie hell, Stein was a consummate professional nonetheless, and certain musical gestures on Ronald Stein: The Haunted Palace -- The Premature Burial have a habit of sticking in one's head; sort of like an axe. The sound quality is the only drawback here -- the opticals are tad crispy and shrill, but this is clearly the way that these recordings sounded when made, and they are not going to get "better."
For horror movie soundtrack purists, Ronald Stein: The Haunted Palace -- The Premature Burial could rate anywhere between a godsend and a guilty pleasure. Nevertheless, for non-purists who are simply interested in obtaining some Ghoulish music for a Halloween party, Ronald Stein: The Haunted Palace -- The Premature Burial will certainly fit the bill.