Kritzerland is proud to present a new limited edition soundtrack:
WE FEEL A MORAL OBLIGATION TO WARN YOU THAT THE PICTURE YOU ARE ABOUT TO SEE WILL SHOCK YOU AS NO OTHER FILM EVER HAS…
Music Composed and Conducted by Les Baxter
The moral obligation warning came at the head of the American International Pictures US version of 1960s Black Sunday, which was actually released in the US in 1961. And for once that kind of hyperbolic hype was true and you knew it right from the get go – first, with a woman being branded with an “S” (for Satan) in extreme close-up, with the sound of the brand searing her flesh, and second, having a mask of spikes hammered into her face by a huge masked man with a huge mallet. That alone was enough to send impressionable young people running up the aisle, and there was more to come, a lot more – a whole plethora of nightmare-inducing images. American International actually trimmed the most violent moments (a spike through someone’s eye, melting flesh, spurting blood), but what was left was still pretty potent for its time. Add to that, Bava’s mist-shrouded exteriors and beautifully shot interiors, and you had atmosphere to spare. But the most brilliant bit of atmosphere a filmmaker could ever have was the ethereal presence of the absolutely stunning Barbara Steele in her dual role of Princess Asa and Katia. Steele would go on to become one of the most iconic faces in 60s horror cinema. And also aiding the atmosphere incredibly well was the wonderful musical score by Les Baxter.
One of the first decisions American International made for the US version of the film, was to replace the original moody score of Roberto Nicolosi with a more conventional horror score, which they assigned to composer Les Baxter. Baxter had just finished scoring Roger Corman’s House of Usher, and he was a perfect choice. He delivered a classic score, which was occasionally moody like the original Nicolosi score, but also delivered the kinds of musical horror moments to which American audiences were accustomed. Right from the start, with the warning logo, you get that wonderful Baxter sound – shrieking brass that was literally warning you to watch out. There’s a beautiful love theme for Katia, there’s ominous, brooding music, there’s music for beer drinkers, there’s music that brilliantly punctuates a couple of the film’s scariest sequences, and the score just does what a score for a horror film should – underline the horror in the best and most visceral way it can .
Black Sunday was hugely influential on an entire generation of filmmakers, and continues to be to this day. Its combination of brilliant and moody photography, horror, and poetry, has been paid homage by many directors, including Francis Ford Coppola and Tim Burton – the latter noted that “One of the films that remain with me probably stronger than anything is Black Sunday.” You can see that influence throughout most of Burton’s film, Sleepy Hollow.
A thirty-four minute suite from Black Sunday was originally released on LP, where it was rather ludicrously mislabeled as Black Sabbath (another great Bava film whose US release also carried a score by Les Baxter). That suite was assembled from a 7½ ips tape of not great quality. The suite received its first CD appearance on Bay Cities and then subsequently on Citadel, both releases from that same tape. Missing from the suite was not only good audio quality but also an awful lot of the film’s best music. The suite also was assembled in no particular order and didn’t really reflect the way the music was used in the film at all, not to mention that it was one long track.
For this release, we found the original mixed two-track session masters in the MGM vaults, which were in excellent condition. The best news was that those tapes contained every note of music Baxter wrote for the film. The only piece that was missing was the little thirty-second solo piano piece played by the character of Katia in the film. The sound on those original tapes is, of course, miles ahead of the previous version – it is pristine mono sound and finally allows the score to be heard in the way that it should be. We’ve assembled the score in precise film order, which is how it plays best.
So here, at long last, is Les Baxter’s great score to one of the all-time classic horror films, Mario Bava’s Black Sunday. Be afraid, be very afraid.
This release is limited to 1000 copies only. The price of the CD is $19.98, plus shipping. Additionally, we are offering a special deal with the purchase of this release.
CD will ship the third week of May – however, preorders placed directly through Kritzerland usually ship one to five weeks earlier (we’ve been averaging four weeks early).