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Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Theater of Blood
Music by Michael J. Lewis
La-La Land Records LLLCD 1136 (US)
15 Tracks 53:14 mins

Previously only available as a composer promo, La-La Land Records have given a welcome commercial release (albeit limited to 1200 units) to Michael J. Lewis' score for Douglas Hickox's 1973 black comedy Theater of Blood, in which Vincent Price portrays a Shakespearean actor who, following bad reviews, sets about disposing of his critics in inventive ways that mirror those from the bard's repertoire. Price obviously had a great time in the role and is aided by his film daughter, played by Diana Rigg; whilst the critics feature a bevy of well-known British actors of the time.
Michael J. Lewis was at the height of his powers when he composed the music for Theatre of Blood. If you are fortunate to have a copy of his wonderful collection The Film Music of Michael J. Lewis, you'll know what a wonderful melodist he is and, like me, regret that he faded from the film scoring scene far too early. He did subsequently release a series of his scores on individual promo discs and you may well have a copy of Theater of Blood, but it's certainly worth investing in this commercial release, if only for the splendid booklet that always accompanies a La-La Land release. Here, Randall D. Larson guides us through the film and its music, including the invaluable cue-by-cue guide, accompanied by plenty of full colour stills from the film.
For such a dark horror comedy, Theatre of Blood sports a truly beautiful main theme, which opens the score (and this album) in fine style, and I guarantee that it won't take long for it to implant itself firmly in your memory. Even before I played this disc, I found myself whistling it - and I hadn't heard it for an age. The theme subsquently receives varying reprises in tracks 5 and 9.
By complete contrast, "Ides of March," accompanying the first murder, is the first of Lewis' cues to equal the inventiveness of the various critics' demises, starting quite spare, with quirky little percussive elements and tinkling bells, before building in fury and then dying away at the close. Equally quirky and inventive approaches are taken to the succeeding killings, some grounded in dissonance, others more melody based, and some with a good share of both.
For fans of melody in particular, I would pick out that for Rigg's character, Edwina (featured in track 6, and receving a straightforward treatment in track 13); which is a pretty gorgeous affair; a jazzy trumpet theme (opening track 7); and a playful little Renaissance styled theme (closing track 7); whilst fans of the old swashbucklers will enjoy tracks 9 and 10.
The penultimate track is a lengthy affair and starts out quite comically, before reaching dramatic heights and featuring sad reprises of the main and Edwina's Theme before its conclusion; whilst the album closes with a handsome, somewhat pop-styled, final reprise of the main theme.
If you are not familiar with this score, I recommend you seek it out before the all too few copies are gone. With so much varied, inventive, exciting and beautiful music on display, there really is something for everyone here.
Order your copy from, where you can first listen to samples if you're not familiar with the score.


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