Film Score Monthly
FSM HOME MESSAGE BOARD FSM CDs FSM ONLINE RESOURCES FUN STUFF ABOUT US  SEARCH FSM   
Search Terms: 
Search Within:   search tips 
You must log in or register to post.
  Go to page:    
 
 Posted:   Dec 15, 2013 - 10:10 AM   
 By:   hollywoodandallthat   (Member)

You can read my account of attending the scoring sessions with composer Elmer Bernstein, producer Christopher Palmer and director John Landis here. It's quite a story.

http://hollywoodandallthat.com/2013/12/14/the-mystery-of-the-missing-music-cue-or-how-an-american-werewolf-in-london-lost-its-bite/

 
 Posted:   Dec 15, 2013 - 10:17 AM   
 By:   Maleficio   (Member)

Great story! But also quite sad. I hope Bernstein recorded more music that wasn't heard and hopefully we all will get to hear it eventually.

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 15, 2013 - 10:29 AM   
 By:   James MacMillan   (Member)

You can read my account of attending the scoring sessions with composer Elmer Bernstein, producer Christopher Palmer and director John Landis here. It's quite a story.

http://hollywoodandallthat.com/2013/12/14/the-mystery-of-the-missing-music-cue-or-how-an-american-werewolf-in-london-lost-its-bite/



BRAVO! Thank you for this account and for the prosaic nature of it's telling. Marvelous stuff!

- JMM.

 
 Posted:   Dec 15, 2013 - 10:44 AM   
 By:   Loren   (Member)

fantastic!

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 15, 2013 - 11:08 AM   
 By:   Timmer   (Member)

Fascinating!

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 15, 2013 - 11:12 AM   
 By:   joan hue   (Member)

This was great. Thanks so much for sharing and welcome to the FSM board.

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 15, 2013 - 11:24 AM   
 By:   moolik   (Member)

Great post...But isnt there a recording of that specific cue " Metamorphosis"
already released by the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra!?

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 15, 2013 - 11:24 AM   
 By:   moolik   (Member)

Great post...But isnt there a recording of that specific cue " Metamorphosis"
already released by the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra!?

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 15, 2013 - 12:19 PM   
 By:   DS   (Member)

Great article. But yes, this raises a legit question.

So when examining some evidence...

1. This article confirms that there was indeed a cue recorded and not used for "An American Werewolf in London" that underscored the first werewolf transformation.
2. There was a re-recorded track entitled "Metamorphosis" on an Elmer Bernstein compilation several years ago, which listed the cue as being from "An American Werewolf in London" but is nowhere to be heard in the movie, but...
3. That "Metamorphosis" cue is absolutely the "scary music" heard in Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video, which I've long assumed that Elmer Bernstein was just hired to score to make that video more old fashioned in the dramatic scenes. But this article suggests that the "scary music" in "Thriller" might be recycled from what was rejected from "An American Werewolf in London."

So, boiling it down...

Am I right to assume that the "werewolf transformation" cue in "An American Werewolf in London" was used in "Thriller" because it was rejected the first time around, and that's what was re-recorded (interesting how an unused cue that was reused for another Landis project was re-recorded - but of course, what a track!)?

Maybe James Fitzpatrick can chime in...

 
 Posted:   Dec 15, 2013 - 3:27 PM   
 By:   Justin Boggan   (Member)

That was a great read. Now if only we had the answer has to whether there was more score not used.

If only somebody would sync the cue to the film so we could hear it properly. The Mutant, you there?

 
 Posted:   Dec 15, 2013 - 3:32 PM   
 By:   The Mutant   (Member)

Yep. I could do it if I had the music. I own the DVD.
But in my experience, trying to sync a film with a re-recording isn't ideal.

 
 Posted:   Dec 15, 2013 - 3:54 PM   
 By:   Timothy J. Phlaps   (Member)

The Metamorphosis cue is at least 2 minutes longer than the scene in AWIL.

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 15, 2013 - 11:03 PM   
 By:   DS   (Member)

The Metamorphosis cue is at least 2 minutes longer than the scene in AWIL.

Yeah, this is why I'm not entirely convinced yet that the "Metamorphosis" track on that Bernstein compilation is a rejected cue from "An American Werewolf in London." It *definitely IS* the same music heard in "Thriller" and this music is definitely nowhere to be found in the existing "Werewolf" score, but beyond that it isn't thematically similar to any of the "Werewolf" score either which throws this off more. That, and the long running time of the track, keeps this mystery from being solved (though to make things even more confusing, there certainly isn't four minutes of "Metamorphosis" in "Thriller").

If "Metamorphosis" *IS definitely* the original music that scored the transformation scene, then I suppose what Bernstein originally scored was a longer version of that sequence & it was recut once Landis and the producers got the rights to Sam Cooke's "Blue Moon."

James Fitzpatrick we are waiting for you to chime in whenever you see this smile

 
 Posted:   Dec 16, 2013 - 4:12 AM   
 By:   Timothy J. Phlaps   (Member)

(though to make things even more confusing, there certainly isn't four minutes of "Metamorphosis" in "Thriller").

It continues through the following chase in THRILLER. The transformation in AWIL is followed by slow-paced suspense sequences which wouldn't fit the action-orientated music.

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 16, 2013 - 11:18 AM   
 By:   DS   (Member)

(though to make things even more confusing, there certainly isn't four minutes of "Metamorphosis" in "Thriller").

It continues through the following chase in THRILLER. The transformation in AWIL is followed by slow-paced suspense sequences which wouldn't fit the action-orientated music.


You're right. It seems like the "Thriller" music may have been partially recycled from what was deleted from "An American Werewolf in London" but the more I think about it the more it follows that the "Thriller" cue is a separate thing entirely. And I doubt Elmer Bernstein scored the suspense sequence that follows the transformation in "Werewolf," that doesn't really follow the (rather interesting) spotting of the rest of the film. However, it's hard to know for sure until we have more information about both projects.

 
 Posted:   Dec 16, 2013 - 1:31 PM   
 By:   Heath   (Member)

With all due respect to the author, I find the exchange between Landis and Bernstein across the P.A. system a little hard to believe. While I can see such a conversation taking place in relative privacy, it's tone and indeed the whole message feels illogical in the reported circumstances. It also seems unlikely that the use of Blue Moon wouldn't have been discussed between the director, producer and composer prior to engaging an expensive orchestral session.

However, I'm not saying the exchange didn't take place. Rather could it be possible that the author slightly misread the tone of it? He was after all a total newbie to the process and couldn't have had prior knowledge of the nature of Bernstein's and Landis' relationship, which, if I were to guess, might have been a lot warmer, humorous and supportive than the account suggests.

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 16, 2013 - 10:07 PM   
 By:   hollywoodandallthat   (Member)

Great article. But yes, this raises a legit question.

So when examining some evidence...

1. This article confirms that there was indeed a cue recorded and not used for "An American Werewolf in London" that underscored the first werewolf transformation.
2. There was a re-recorded track entitled "Metamorphosis" on an Elmer Bernstein compilation several years ago, which listed the cue as being from "An American Werewolf in London" but is nowhere to be heard in the movie, but...
3. That "Metamorphosis" cue is absolutely the "scary music" heard in Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video, which I've long assumed that Elmer Bernstein was just hired to score to make that video more old fashioned in the dramatic scenes. But this article suggests that the "scary music" in "Thriller" might be recycled from what was rejected from "An American Werewolf in London."

So, boiling it down...

Am I right to assume that the "werewolf transformation" cue in "An American Werewolf in London" was used in "Thriller" because it was rejected the first time around, and that's what was re-recorded (interesting how an unused cue that was reused for another Landis project was re-recorded - but of course, what a track!)?

Maybe James Fitzpatrick can chime in...


I cannot speak to whether the Metamorphosis cue is derived from the same music, not having heard it. Elsewhere on this thread it has been pointed out that they do not match up time wise. Also, it has been so long (over 30 years!) I am not sure I would remember enough to be able to give a positive ID to them being the same music, even though I have an excellent, trained musical memory. All I will say is that it was a stunning track, and everyone who heard it felt so too. It was clear that Bernstein himself thought so, and also that it was right for the film, (an opinion to which Christopher Palmer concurred), which was why the conversation with Landis got so testy (I have abbreviated the extent of the conversation for the purposes of the article). See my comments below.

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 16, 2013 - 11:00 PM   
 By:   hollywoodandallthat   (Member)

With all due respect to the author, I find the exchange between Landis and Bernstein across the P.A. system a little hard to believe. While I can see such a conversation taking place in relative privacy, it's tone and indeed the whole message feels illogical in the reported circumstances. It also seems unlikely that the use of Blue Moon wouldn't have been discussed between the director, producer and composer prior to engaging an expensive orchestral session.

However, I'm not saying the exchange didn't take place. Rather could it be possible that the author slightly misread the tone of it? He was after all a total newbie to the process and couldn't have had prior knowledge of the nature of Bernstein's and Landis' relationship, which, if I were to guess, might have been a lot warmer, humorous and supportive than the account suggests.


You make some good points which are worth addressing.
I have abbreviated the extent of the conversations that took place between Landis and Bernstein in my account in order to convey the essence of what the principals were thinking, and what took place, succinctly. For the purposes of completeness, I will now expand.
I agree, you would expect for the scoring of this cue to have been discussed prior to the session, and for these conversations at the session itself (which I report) to take place privately, but they didn't. They took place partly over talkback and partly in the control room. The atmosphere was frosty.
Going into the session it was clear that the rights had not been cleared for "Blue Moon". In fact I think they recorded a cover version with another singer but in the same arrangement as the Sam Cooke, just to be sure. Landis was convinced this was the way to go with the scene. But Bernstein strongly disagreed, and it was clear from the extent that producer George Folsey, Jr. got involved that this had already been the topic of heated discussion during spotting sessions. My read on all of this was that Bernstein had gone away and composed the cue anyway, in the hopes that by having Landis hear it he would convince him. The combination of those visceral visuals and Bernstein's fabulous score did, indeed, "blow the movie out of the water." I was familiar with enough film music, and other music from the classical canon (I was reading music at Oxford) to know something remarkable when I saw and heard it.
This is where it gets interesting. It was clear that Landis and Bernstein had a good working relationship and friendship, but this cue sorely tested it. Bernstein was adamant that his score was the way to go, and I agree. The movie up to this point deftly played with tone, in all the ways that made it an entirely original and fresh contribution to the horror genre. But in this scene the film doubles down on the horror, and Landis filmed it as realistically as he could. And this is how he talked about it during the session -- he wanted the audience to go apeshit. With his score for the scene, Bernstein enhanced and amplified the vividness of the transformation to the nth degree. Like I say in the article, that a studio full of jaded studio musicians applauded the way they did was ample testimony to the effectiveness of the music.
But Landis's reaction was almost dismissive (even as he told Bernstein it was a great cue). He said this was NOT the direction he wanted to go in. Remember, this was a young director at the top of his game, feeling his oats, knowing that he had a potential hit on his hands. And he conveyed his thoughts with a certain amount of brashness and vigor. Bernstein, however, stuck in his heels. He believed in his music, and he believed it was what the film needed in the scene. He was not happy, at all, to have to move on.
All I can say is that every time I see the film and we come to the transformation scene I sigh with disappointment. Imagine what the shower scene in "Psycho" would be like if you just heard a song on the radio in the background and Janet Leigh screaming, rather than Herrmann's music that melds screams and murderous jabs into a singular musical gesture, then plays the process of dying in those jagged disintegrating musical phrases as the life drains from Leigh's eyes, and the bloody water drains from the shower. Bernstein's cue didn't quite reach those expressionistic musical heights, but losing it from the transformation scene did detract from the film in what has become, rightly, a celebrated few minutes in film history.
Going into the session I was already familiar with the tensions between composers and directors that had played out on celebrated projects, like "2001" and "Torn Curtain". I was astonished to find myself with a ringside seat at one such disagreement. Of course, none of us knew that the film would become such a classic, and therefore of much interest to each new generation that saw it. I have been astonished at how passionate an interest this little article has produced. I just had an interesting story to tell, which I felt illuminated something of the inside process of film scoring, and just how tricky a thing it can be to get right. Well, now it seems some light has been shed on a film that is much beloved, and on a composer who was one of the greats working in his field. It is also important to note that Landis felt strongly enough to stick to his guns when under a lot of pressure to change his mind, even at the risk of upsetting one of his closest collaborators, and we should commend him for having a vision and sticking to it, even if we are not entirely in agreement with the outcome. It's still a fabulous movie! For all these reasons, I am very glad it was a story I was in a position to tell.

 
 Posted:   Dec 17, 2013 - 4:39 AM   
 By:   Timothy J. Phlaps   (Member)

hollywoodandallthat, have you heard the re-recording? Is it in any way similar to what you heard on the scoring stage?

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000S409JK/ref=dm_ws_tlw_trk5_B000S409JK

 
 Posted:   Dec 17, 2013 - 4:40 AM   
 By:   Timothy J. Phlaps   (Member)

Goddammit. Double-post.

 
You must log in or register to post.
  Go to page:    
© 2019 Film Score Monthly. All Rights Reserved...