Thursday, 19 October 2017

Oh, the horror: part 8

Title: La cripta e l’incubo (Crypt of the vampire)
Year: 1964
Composer: Carlo Savina

A black-and-white horror film starring Christopher Lee as a count who lives in a gloomy gothic castle. Though that might sound like a recipe for a horror classic, this time that wasn’t the case. The score for the film was provided by Carlo Savina whose mainly quiet music borders on sound effects but luckily has some romantic interludes to break up the dark atmosphere.

The first 4 cues introduce the palette of sounds which Savina builds the score on: harp, small string section, buzzing organ, musical saw, solo woodwinds, harpsichord and a varied percussion section that sometimes sounds like someone creeping around in the dark and sometimes like a thunderstorm. There are no clear motifs or thematic development rather the score seems just to underscore the actions happening on screen whether it is a crescendo for a horrific discovery or quiet murmurs for exploring the dark corridors.

Though most of the score is built this way, there are some exceptions to the rule. For instance, there is some twisted, mischievous or even humorous material. This is introduced first in Cena al castello which includes the clichéd solo harpsichord, which isn’t used in a Baroque manner but in a more playful and bouncy fashion. Attesa grottesca has similar effect this time introducing almost a childlike tune with a hint of Dies irae to it, simultaneously having suspenseful strings playing underneath.

Surprisingly there is also some expressive romantic material introduced in Tema d’amore. Another melodic, though more introspective theme is heard in Il ritratto di Sheena by a solo violin. Both of these themes are performed in Estasi e tormento starting with the love theme and then moving to a more sinister string variation of the second theme which eventually resolves into an orchestral stringer. Non-thematic though lovely flute work on top of bed of harps starts Calma interrotta which once again turns sour at the end. Attimo romantico is another full version of the love theme that is just achingly beautiful. The two themes are combined cleverly in Il mistero del ritratto where a flute starts with the love theme’s rising intervals that then comes down as the second theme. The rest of the track does a good job combining the themes with mild suspense writing and eventually with the comedic music of track 9. A victorious final version of the love theme also ends the whole score into a glorious major chord.

As for the numerous other suspense and horror cues, there isn’t much to describe. It’s more about mood than melodies. Tetra prigione has percussion that sounds like someone being escorted to the gallows whereas Mente folle is another death march with a steady organ pulse that’s just slowed down so that it’s completely unrecognizable. L’incubo della cripta has some of the most effective horror stringers with added faster harpsichord notation bouncing among the strings. However after the two themes are introduced, some snippets of them start to appear within the suspenseful cues, which is a clever move by the composer. For instance a faster version of the second theme turned into a classic horror stinger ends both Laura è Sheena? and Il presagio in a dramatic fashion. The final moments of suspense are packed into two 6-minute cues first of which builds quietly during its whole duration towards a horrific conclusion that unfortunately never arrives. It’s unnerving and effective scoring nevertheless. Psichedelico macabro on the other hand is mostly organ variations of the secondary theme with pretty abstract harmonies that are interrupted with percussion hits and stringers from time to time.

The album is a pretty uneven experience. Though there are moments of sheer brilliance both in the romantic and the suspenseful material, there is also way too much dull space where it feels that barely anything happens. Therefore it’s a quite hard to give it a higher rating. If you’re familiar with Savina’s suspense writing you might get something more out of it than the casual listener. For them I recommend checking out some better ones by him before this one.

Rating: ***

1. La maledizione di Karlstein (Titoli) (01:49) ****
2. La cripta e l'incubo (Ombre nel buio) (01:09) ***
3. Angoscia (01:45) **
4. Presenze maligne (02:09) **
5. Cena al castello (00:46) ****
6. La cripta e l'incubo (Perversione) (03:02) **
7. La cripta e l'incubo (Tetra prigione) (01:55) *
8. Tema d'amore (01:29) *****
9. La cripta e l'incubo (Attesa grottesca) (00:58) ****
10. Il ritratto di Sheena (01:01) ****
11. Estasi e tormento (02:48) ****
12. La cripta e l'incubo (Atmosfera di morte) (01:07) **
13. Calma interrotta (01:12) ****
14. La cripta e l'incubo (Attimo romantico) (01:23) *****
15. La cripta e l'incubo (Mente folle) (04:05) ***
16. L'incubo della cripta (01:38) ****
17. Il mistero del ritratto (01:49) ****
18. Laura è Sheena? (01:40) ****
19. La cripta e l'incubo (Corridoio oscuro) (05:58) ***
20. Laura posseduta (01:30) ***
21. Il presagio (01:23) ****
22. La cripta e l'incubo (Psichedelico macabro) (06:27) **
23. Finale (01:16) *****

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