I was raised on horror films. Back in the halcyon days of the BBC2 'Horror Double Bill' or ITV's 'Appointment With Fear' (complete with continuity announcer doing spooky, echoing introductions) teenage boys with fervent imaginations would be introduced to the delights of Universal monsters, Hammer blood and busoms and, if we were really lucky, some of the greatest British horror films of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Films like Michael Reeves 'Witchfinder General', Robin Hardy's 'The Wicker Man' or Piers Haggard's 'Blood On Satan's Claw'. British horror was changing at the time and these films, amongst many others, ushered in a frankness about sexuality and violence and made an attempt to inject realism into what had become tired, formulaic Gothic adaptations. There was a whiff of the exploitation movie about them that echoed the then liberalisation of cinema but coupled with a rediscovered love for the English landscape. Both 'Witchfinder' and 'Satan's Claw' are as much about the pastoral Romanticism of the English countryside and its defilement by anarchistic forces as they are about gore, occultism and boobs.
What also makes these later explorations of British horror so powerful are their respective scores. Paul Ferris' score for 'Witchfinder' is really quite beautiful and now deserves a full release on CD, Paul Giovanni's extraordinary songs and score for 'The Wicker Man' have been issued in a wonderful CD set from Silva Screen, I believe, and now it is the turn of Marc Wilkinson's evocative music for 'Blood On Satan's Claw'. Thanks to the efforts of Jonny Trunk and Trunk Records the original masters of the music have been tracked down, spruced up and released for the first time on CD.
The CD consists of 26 short cues, all very consistent melodically and harmonically. The whole soundtrack is infused by English folk song simplicity - a series of descending and ascending scales and dextrous variations on a lullaby musical motif - that once heard is never forgotten. What gives the soundtrack its peculiar and vivacious quality is the use of the Ondes Martenot and the the cimbalom in amongst the orchestra. The Ondes Martenot is a very early electronic instrument and provides the weird swoops, whirls and tones that permeate the music. The cimbalom, an East European instrument, like a piano, but played with various types of mallet, offers resonant, heavy tonalities. As Wilkinson explains in the sleeve notes: "It is sometimes associated with the devil, thereabouts. The descending chromatic scale which features throughout the music omits the perfect fifth (the only true consonant in the chromatic scale) and therefor highlight the diminished fifth, which ever since the middle ages in Europe has been known as the Devil's Interval!! The principal melody (which sounds like an English folk song, but is not) was added later by me because the producer considered that the music was too austere."
It is a mesmeric soundtrack that is both threatening and inviting, full of warm melodies that are countered with the odd, surreal, disonant tones of the Ondes Martenot. The melody line will stay with you and the atmosphere the soundtrack generates marks it out as an absorbing piece of music in its own right. The fact that it then married to a stunning British horror flick that lures you in with its unease, its heady and intoxicating brew of the rural landscape, corrupted innocence and sexual hypocrisy is simply the icing on the cake. Beautifully presented, with a good set of liner notes, which is OK if you're fond of the ladies as you'll appreciate the plethora of boobs on show (no full length nudity of the gorgeous Barry Andrews here, alas), and well worth the hard work from Trunk Records in finally issuing this. Essential.
Now, can we get the Paul Ferris music for 'Witchfinder' released please?
Blood On Satan's Claw OST - Marc Wilkinson (Trunk Records JBH023CD - Released 15th October 2007)
Sample tracks here: Trunk Records
- Freelance writer and film and television researcher (for hire).
He has contributed to a number of books and websites about British archive television and cinema as well as recent television series including work for Moviemail, Frame Rated and Arrow Video. Publications include I.B Tauris's 'Doctor Who: The Eleventh Hour - A Critical
Celebration of the Matt Smith and Steven Moffat Era' (2013) and 'Doctor
Who - The Pandorica Opens' (2010).
- Adventures in Prime Time
- Behind the Sofa
- Blogtor Who
- British Television Drama
- Cardigans & Tweed
- Dez Skinn
- Dirty Modern Scoundrel
- Doctor Who Appreciation Society
- Doctor Who Newspage
- Feeling Listless
- Frame Rated
- Gareth Bundy's Blog
- Green Carnation Prize
- Int. Jason Arnopp's Mind - Day/Night
- Island of Dreams
- Jonathan Melville
- Ka-os Theory
- Lady Don't Fall Backwards
- Life of Wylie
- Life on Magrs
- Narrative Drive
- Paul Mount's World of Stuff
- Pseudo Random Noise
- Radio Free Skaro
- TV Lover
- Tachyon TV
- Tardis Newsroom
- Television Heaven
- The Custard TV
- The Digital Bits
- The Fan Can
- The Medium is Not Enough
- The Railway Arms
- The Thumbcast
- Thierry Attard's Double Feature
- from the north...
The Book(s) What I Wrote
"Whether you’re a fan of the show under Moffat or not, it offers an intriguing, insightful look at all aspects of the series" 7/10 - Starburst, January 2014
"A worthy addition to serious texts on Doctor Who" - Doctor Who Magazine 431, February 2011
"an impressive work, imbued with so much analytical love and passion, and is an absolute must-read for any fan" N. Blake - Amazon 4/5 stars
"...mixes the intellectual and the emotional very well...it's proper media criticism" 9/10 - The Medium Is Not Enough
"... an up-to-date guide that isn’t afraid to shy away from the more controversial aspects of the series" 8/10 - Total SciFi Online
"...well-informed new angles on familiar episodes... this is a great read from start to finish" - Bertie Fox - Amazon 4/5 stars
"Frank Collins has produced a book that is fiercely idiosyncratic, displays a wide-ranging intellect the size of a planet, but which is also endearingly open and inclusive in its desire to share its expansive knowledge..." 4/5 - Horrorview.com
"The book is great! It makes you think, it makes you work. It encourages you to go back and watch the series with a whole new perspective..." - G.R. Bundy's Blog: Telly Stuff And Things