Tales of werewolves have circulated for many years and the motion picture industry has brought these mystical creatures to life on the big screen in various forms, I suppose it all began back in the monochrome days of Universal pictures when that particular studio gave life to the damned and sad creature that was human by day but turned into a terrifying lupine mutant that roamed the forests and countryside in search of victims. The fascination with the werewolf legend has simply not gone away and there have been numerous stories, books, films and also television shows about this beguiling, tormented but ferocious creature. Lon Chaney Jnr, is probably the most famous name associated with the Wolfman on screen and images of him in full wolf make up are not only convincing but still to this day send a chill up ones spine. Of course there was also Oliver Reed in Hammer films THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF and Paul Naschy who was dubbed the Spanish Lon Chaney Jnr, has played the anguished werewolf character Waldemar Daninsky in a dozen films with The Night of the Werewolf (AKA El Returno del Hombre Lobo) probably being the most well known. Then we also have films such as AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, which mixed horror and comedy and TEENWOLF which was probably not the finest werewolf moment in cinema history, even Bonanza actor Michael Landon has portrayed the wolf man or to more correct the wolf boy in I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF, other movies such as THE HOWLING (and its subsequent sequels), THE LEGEND OF THE WEREWOLF, COMPANY OF WOLVES, SILVER BULLET and GINGER SNAPS have all attempted to bring the werewolf tale to the screen in one form or another. Plus there have been productions such as BLOOD AND CHOCOLATE, which although being based on a teen novel turned out to be a pretty good movie that has been labelled as TWILIGHT before the Twilight series saw the light of day. Then there are entries such as, WEREWOLF HUNTER-THE LEGEND OF ROMASANTA, which was based on the true events that occurred in Spain, and tells the story of Manuel Romasanta, the so called Wolf man of Allariz, who was arrested for murdering thirteen people in the 19th century. Romasanta became Spain’s first recorded serial killer; the only defence he offered was that he had been cursed and turned into a wolf by night. Films about werewolves have always contained very robust and dramatic musical scores, with the exception of a few. When I discuss music for werewolf movies I always think of Benjamin Frankels superb work on Hammers THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF, Frankel employed a highly original approach to scoring the movie and although it did contain a nice very English sounding Pastoral interlude the remainder of the score was near atonal, but this sound and style of scoring suited the films storyline and images perfectly, composer Elmer Bernstein penned the score for AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, but the soundtrack was filled out with songs, George Fenton composed a haunting score for Neil Jordan’s THE COMPANY OF WOLVES, Harry Robinson contributed to the werewolf genre with his driving music for The Amicus films production, THE LEGEND OF THE WEREWOLF and of course it all started with the music of Hans J Salter on some of the original Universal Wolfman movies. One of the most recent big screen versions of the tale of the werewolf is THE WOLFMAN which was released in 2010, it starred Benicio del Toro and Anthony Hopkins. Directed by Joe Johnson this dark and atmospheric take on the Lupine legend was scored by Danny Elfman, the composer produced a suitably wistful, imposing and wild sounding score that relies upon the use of strident strings that drive proceedings along with such force and growling and snarling brass which are underlined and supported by low sounding woodwind and forceful percussion laced with choral interludes and at times a sorrowful violin solo. It is somewhat unthinkable that this wonderfully bombastic and powerful score was due to be replaced by a more contemporary soundtrack that leaned towards the electronic and synthetic. Elfman in my opinion has written a score that I count as one of his best; it has many musical attributes and entertains on screen as well as off, masterfully enhancing the images but also remaining a powerhouse of a work and possessing a life of its own away from the picture. It does I have to say have a number of motifs and musical styles and quirks of composition and orchestration that can be likened to the music of Woljeich Kilar, but obviously this is not a negative thing. This brooding, darkly rich and vibrant work is a must for any fan of the composers and also an essential addition to any self respecting film music enthusiasts collection.
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