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 Posted:   Dec 17, 2013 - 6:41 AM   
 By:   Josh "Swashbuckler" Gizelt   (Member)

Most of us on this board — myself included — would probably have gone with Bernstein's cue for the transformation scene in a hot minute. However, the film wasn't being made for us, and whatever the quality of Bernstein's cue, it's difficult to say that Landis was wrong, as the scene is roundly lauded as being one of the most effective. It may indeed have pushed it away from the intensity of the experience with the score, but that may have been to an overall positive effect in the final film; I wonder how the movie as it stands would have followed up on a scene that plays as you describe it instead of the ironic counterpoint as it appears in the film.

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 17, 2013 - 8:00 AM   
 By:   GoblinScore   (Member)

I hate to say it, and I LOVE Bernstein's music to death, and am a huge huge fan
of aggressive orchestral horror scoring, but....I cannot imagine that scene any other
way now. Even trying to 'fantasize' about a large orchestral symphonic cue during
that scene - it doesn't work for me. Too bad we can't have these things both ways, right?

The tone of subtlety in the score throughout, and the perfect ironic counterpoint of all the song usage in the film.....for the full forces of the Royal Philharmonic to come barging in at that moment would have been wrong. I guess the efx were strong enough to stand on their own, for me anyway.

Wonderful article however, thank you for sharing this story!!!
Looks like the old North vs. Kubrick temp from 2001 tale now has some company!

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 17, 2013 - 9:44 AM   
 By:   Dylan   (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


Woah! Listening to that clip, I actually do hear weaved in the "horror theme" a more menacing version of the "sensitive" theme from "Werewolf," so I'll retract my statement that this piece isn't thematically similar (it'd been a few years since I'd listened to it and what stuck was the music from "Thriller"). This indeed is likely is the deleted cue. So there was a show-stopping five-minute horror cue over this part of the film? Longer transformation? Or maybe Bernstein did score one of the killing scenes too which was also deleted and this re-recorded track combined both.

For comparisons sake I went ahead and watched "Thriller" again. Love the look and energy of it, and it while the music is very similar to "Metamorphosis" it isn't exactly the same.

Apparently it was Landis who insisted that Universal find Bernstein's music from "Werewolf" and play a suite of it over the stills feature on the DVD. From an interview with Dan Goldwasser:

"American Werewolf is mostly needle-drops, but Elmer wrote about 7-minutes of score, and we recorded in a church in London for a particular sound of an organ that he wanted. The score is really quite lovely and wistful and sad, and when the DVD came out, I made sure that if you watch the photograph still gallery, you can hear the score."

So he isn't owning up to the rejected music. He goes on:

"Elmer's credit [on "Thriller"] is "Scary Music". "Thiller" is 15 minutes long, the music plays throughout, and 90% of the music is the original tracks of "Thriller" remixed and re-cut to go that length - we did a lot of messing with that. Then I needed music in two places: the movie they're watching at the beginning and "scary" music at the end as they're being surrounded by zombies. I really wanted traditional movie music there, and as a favor he did that. It's brief, but very effective."

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 17, 2013 - 10:41 AM   
 By:   hollywoodandallthat   (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


Woah! Listening to that clip, I actually do hear weaved in the "horror theme" a more menacing version of the "sensitive" theme from "Werewolf," so I'll retract my statement that this piece isn't thematically similar (it'd been a few years since I'd listened to it and what stuck was the music from "Thriller"). This indeed is likely is the deleted cue. So there was a show-stopping five-minute horror cue over this part of the film? Longer transformation? Or maybe Bernstein did score one of the killing scenes too which was also deleted and this re-recorded track combined both.

For comparisons sake I went ahead and watched "Thriller" again. Love the look and energy of it, and it does seem to me like Bernstein's score (which is indeed "Metamorphosis") may have been tracked in from the deleted cue because there isn't much of it and it always ends rather abruptly because Jackson's own song comes in.

Apparently it was Landis who insisted that Universal find Bernstein's music from "Werewolf" and play a suite of it over the stills feature on the DVD. From an interview with Dan Goldwasser:

"American Werewolf is mostly needle-drops, but Elmer wrote about 7-minutes of score, and we recorded in a church in London for a particular sound of an organ that he wanted. The score is really quite lovely and wistful and sad, and when the DVD came out, I made sure that if you watch the photograph still gallery, you can hear the score."

So he isn't owning up to the rejected music. He goes on:

"Elmer's credit [on "Thriller"] is "Scary Music". "Thiller" is 15 minutes long, the music plays throughout, and 90% of the music is the original tracks of "Thriller" remixed and re-cut to go that length - we did a lot of messing with that. Then I needed music in two places: the movie they're watching at the beginning and "scary" music at the end as they're being surrounded by zombies. I really wanted traditional movie music there, and as a favor he did that. It's brief, but very effective."

So either Bernstein came back and re-recorded/arranged a bit from "Metamorphosis" or Landis & his producer owned the rejected cue and tracked it onto "Thriller?" Not sure.


I've listened to the Metamorphosis cue and would say that the first 3:00 or so is what I heard recorded at Olympic. The rest is more generic, and maybe, as you said, comes from another killing scene. The scene visually is the same now as it was at the session, nothing was cut out. I do not recall there being music in the next scene in the movie, but I could be wrong.

What you will notice from those 3:00 is how the beginning of the cue (after the wonderful musical evocation of the full moon and the initial, violent onset of the transformation from 0:36 to 0:49) plays on the agony and heartbreak of David as his body is forced to submit to the transmogrification. Bernstein picked up on Landis's intuitive desire for some sense of "distancing" (i.e. not playing the cue exclusively for on-the-nose horror), which I imagine would have been expressed in the spotting sessions and earlier discussions, and instead of launching full-on into the violence and horror of the scene, he played instead on this sense of David's torture and agony. THIS is why the cue is so effective, and why it gives you an emotional kick lacking in the final film version that Landis approved. You can hear it in the string phrases from 0:50 to 1:10. Then the music returns to that sense of moonlight magic from 1:11, before returning to the hammer-crunch chords of doom at 1:28 (and can you not continue to hear David's inner screams throughout these bars?) From 1:50 on the music locks in with a vice-like grip, conveying musically the series of bodily distortions we are seeing onscreen (those massive descending chords, and those snarling brass downward glissandi). There's no escaping the inevitable now. The music enacts a decrescendo as the camera pans across the fully transformed body of David crouching on the floor.

I cannot speak to the relationship between any of this music and what is heard in "Thriller". As to Landis's saying that the music was recorded in a former church, maybe he was confused because the studios stood on Church Lane. The building had originally been a theatre, then a cinema. I do not recall the use of an organ, although maybe something was recorded separately. Olympic was one of the go-to studios for film scoring in London because the room had a great acoustic, and the legendary engineer Keith Grant would run the board.

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 17, 2013 - 10:53 AM   
 By:   hollywoodandallthat   (Member)

I hate to say it, and I LOVE Bernstein's music to death, and am a huge huge fan
of aggressive orchestral horror scoring, but....I cannot imagine that scene any other
way now. Even trying to 'fantasize' about a large orchestral symphonic cue during
that scene - it doesn't work for me. Too bad we can't have these things both ways, right?

The tone of subtlety in the score throughout, and the perfect ironic counterpoint of all the song usage in the film.....for the full forces of the Royal Philharmonic to come barging in at that moment would have been wrong. I guess the efx were strong enough to stand on their own, for me anyway.

Wonderful article however, thank you for sharing this story!!!
Looks like the old North vs. Kubrick temp from 2001 tale now has some company!


Thank you for the complement on the article. It is so interesting how we get "locked in" to thinking about a film a certain way because of the music we associate with it. Music has this extraordinary imprinting power when allied to film. My problem, in this case, is that because I had heard the Bernstein cue, THAT was the way I saw/heard the film, and what Landis ended up with was, for me, a shadow of Bernstein's take on the scene. See my comments below on the Metamorphosis cue which I have now listened to.

Let me reiterate too how upset Bernstein was that Landis was not going to use his music. It wasn't just that it was his music, and it was really good; it was because he honestly felt that this was BETTER FOR THE FILM, and I agree with him.

However, in the case of 2001, Kubrick was indeed correct!

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 17, 2013 - 11:25 AM   
 By:   Dylan   (Member)

Glad you finally heard "Metamorphosis" and thanks for your detailed analysis of the music & for confirming with near-certainty that it is the deleted cue from "An American Werewolf in London."

What's interesting is that in 2013, the more adventurous, daring approach would absolutely be to have a scene like that scored to 11 like nobody's business with a big symphonic orchestra. But in 1981 the "dramatic irony" of pop music juxtaposed with horror must have seemed quite fresh.

Here's a direct link to the part of "Thriller" that's scored by "Metamorphosis":

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sOnqjkJTMaA&t=1m53s

Great, GREAT horror music. Seems likely to me that Landis really did love Bernstein's "Metamorphosis" cue but was adamant on the more eye-winking, tonally "WTF?" approach to the "An American Werewolf in London" transformation scene. Thus, similar music finding a home here was in part an appreciation for Bernstein's music.

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 17, 2013 - 11:47 AM   
 By:   Dylan   (Member)

"Metamorphosis" is on Spotify so I was able to listen to it in full again.

The complete werewolf transformation from "Werewolf" is on YouTube and runs 2:43. I played the first 2:43 of the re-recording of "Metamorphosis" against it but the Prague performance of the "transformation" is a little slower (as mentioned above, at 3:00) so isn't spot on, but interesting nonetheless. I side with the author of the article - and with Bernstein - that his music was better for the scene (and I love Sam Cooke too, but it makes the tone odd to be sure).

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 17, 2013 - 11:52 AM   
 By:   hollywoodandallthat   (Member)

Glad you finally heard "Metamorphosis" and thanks for your detailed analysis of the music & for confirming with near-certainty that it is the deleted cue from "An American Werewolf in London."

What's interesting is that in 2013, the more adventurous, daring approach would absolutely be to have a scene like that scored to 11 like nobody's business with a big symphonic orchestra. But in 1981 the "dramatic irony" of pop music juxtaposed with horror must have seemed quite fresh.

Here's a direct link to the part of "Thriller" that's scored by "Metamorphosis":

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sOnqjkJTMaA&t=1m53s

Great, GREAT horror music. Seems likely to me that Landis really did love Bernstein's "Metamorphosis" cue but was adamant on the more eye-winking, tonally "WTF?" approach to the "An American Werewolf in London" transformation scene. Thus, that music finding a home here was in part an appreciation for Bernstein's music. Curious if what's heard in "Thriller" is the original cue or if Bernstein conducted a brief session to re-arrange it specifically for "Thriller."


Yes, it's very important to make the point that Landis did love the cue, but was determined it wasn't what he was going for. It was an extraordinarily testy, tense scene at the session. Everyone was very professional, but both parties dug in to their positions. For Landis it was a case of "conversation over, let's move on"; for Bernstein, who after all had many more years of experience scoring films and a deep understanding of how music works with a film, he felt Landis was undermining his own film. A true standoff, which would have been hard for both men considering their friendship.

Today I doubt most action/horror composers would have played the subtext of the scene (David's terror and agony) the way Bernstein did, incorporating it into the more overt horror elements. For one thing, many of them lack the aesthetic and technical sophistication to do so. I am dismayed at the sledgehammer approach I hear all too often in modern films. You combine that with wall-to-wall sound FX and the ear just gets tired.

The brilliance of WEREWOLF was precisely in its mash-up of tone, its leavening of horror with humor, and Bernstein was the perfect composer for this: he had already proved how deftly he could score comedy with "Animal House".

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 17, 2013 - 12:14 PM   
 By:   Dylan   (Member)

Today I doubt most action/horror composers would have played the subtext of the scene (David's terror and agony) the way Bernstein did, incorporating it into the more overt horror elements. For one thing, many of them lack the aesthetic and technical sophistication to do so. I am dismayed at the sledgehammer approach I hear all too often in modern films. You combine that with wall-to-wall sound FX and the ear just gets tired.

The brilliance of WEREWOLF was precisely in its mash-up of tone, its leavening of horror with humor, and Bernstein was the perfect composer for this: he had already proved how deftly he could score comedy with "Animal House".


Elmer Bernstein was a genius with amazing dramatic instincts, no doubt.

We're about to diverge slightly from the conversation, but that's okay - today, in all honesty, I think most of the blame should be put on the directors, then the producers. In 1981 most working directors were raised on films (& loved films) with big movie music, so they were more sensitive to it (which was why Landis going with "Blue Moon" seemed more daring). All the producers cared about for the most part was what the last several Best Picture nominees/winners or Box Office Top Ten sounded like.

A lot of directors these days know little to nothing about film or film music heritage, so they have few (or zero) ideas about directing a score, so more often than not it's up to the editors to come up with a temp track for the producers, and most editors temp films with the same contemporary scores and bands over and over. Even more directors these days look down on more traditional film music that dramatically enhances what's on the screen in an overt way. They think big music will take away from their own work. They want to be in control of what the audience feels, they don't want the Romantic Old Hollywood approach (nor am I even sure most of them would know what that even means).

Or as was the case with the "Oldboy" remake, you have a director with some very interesting ideas about the soundtrack but then the producers interfere.

I think any classically trained young composer ought to be able to be directed to score a film like it's 1939 or 1958 or 1977 and come out just fine. A few struggling composers I know who score television commercials would LOVE to do something like Steiner or Mancini or Herrmann but no, they're asked to copy a Coldplay song. The problem is that nobody's being asked to score in certain ways anymore because the new guys (a bit older, a bit younger, or the same age as 27 year-old Me) aren't sensitive to or know nothing about film & film music heritage, or do and avoid it. So it's up to directors who love the older approach to step up to the plate and direct their projects that way.

 
 Posted:   Dec 17, 2013 - 2:08 PM   
 By:   David Kessler   (Member)



I think any classically trained young composer ought to be able to be directed to score a film like it's 1939 or 1958 or 1977 and come out just fine. A few struggling composers I know who score television commercials would LOVE to do something like Steiner or Mancini or Herrmann but no, they're asked to copy a Coldplay song. The problem is that nobody's being asked to score in certain ways anymore because the new guys (a bit older, a bit younger, or the same age as 27 year-old Me) aren't sensitive to or know nothing about film & film music heritage, or do and avoid it. So it's up to directors who love the older approach to step up to the plate and direct their projects that way.


Not to bash any composers, but the studios want music that is easy to edit to and they can change around the music to whatever scenes needed. That´s why the Zimmer gang etc is hired because the music they make is easy to edit movies to and if you listen to Bernsteins track metamorphosis, it is scenespecific to what´s up on the screen and hard to edit around as it is composed as a whole entity.
Composers ofcourse worked in another way back in 1980-81 from what they do today 2013 and the music (imo) doesn´t take a character of it´s own like it did back then and became a big part of the movie.
Today the music is like mentioned "a copy of a Coldplaysong" in a sence that it isn´t scenespecific and you can lift a cue from a scene and put it elsewhere without anyone take notice.
We take JAWS as an example, the movie wouldn´t be what it is without the music taking over as the shark or Herrmanns´music to Psycho etc who became the murder in the shower...
In Bernsteins Metamorphosois cue you can hear Davids pain during the transformation and feel his horror of what is happening to him. Bad Moon Rising only plays for shits and giggles to the scene, but then we had the other shocking scenes instead, but if Landis would have gone thru with Bernsteins music during the transformation scene it would ofcourse have been more horrific, and obviously that wasn´t what Landis wanted for that particular scene. I love to movie as it is (NOOOOO!!! wink ) but it would have been fun to watch that scene edited in as Bernstein intended.

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 17, 2013 - 7:29 PM   
 By:   hollywoodandallthat   (Member)

Today I doubt most action/horror composers would have played the subtext of the scene (David's terror and agony) the way Bernstein did, incorporating it into the more overt horror elements. For one thing, many of them lack the aesthetic and technical sophistication to do so. I am dismayed at the sledgehammer approach I hear all too often in modern films. You combine that with wall-to-wall sound FX and the ear just gets tired.

The brilliance of WEREWOLF was precisely in its mash-up of tone, its leavening of horror with humor, and Bernstein was the perfect composer for this: he had already proved how deftly he could score comedy with "Animal House".


Elmer Bernstein was a genius with amazing dramatic instincts, no doubt.

We're about to diverge slightly from the conversation, but that's okay - today, in all honesty, I think most of the blame should be put on the directors, then the producers. In 1981 most working directors were raised on films (& loved films) with big movie music, so they were more sensitive to it (which was why Landis going with "Blue Moon" seemed more daring). All the producers cared about for the most part was what the last several Best Picture nominees/winners or Box Office Top Ten sounded like.

A lot of directors these days know little to nothing about film or film music heritage, so they have few (or zero) ideas about directing a score, so more often than not it's up to the editors to come up with a temp track for the producers, and most editors temp films with the same contemporary scores and bands over and over. Even more directors these days look down on more traditional film music that dramatically enhances what's on the screen in an overt way. They think big music will take away from their own work. They want to be in control of what the audience feels, they don't want the Romantic Old Hollywood approach (nor am I even sure most of them would know what that even means).

Or as was the case with the "Oldboy" remake, you have a director with some very interesting ideas about the soundtrack but then the producers interfere.

I think any classically trained young composer ought to be able to be directed to score a film like it's 1939 or 1958 or 1977 and come out just fine. A few struggling composers I know who score television commercials would LOVE to do something like Steiner or Mancini or Herrmann but no, they're asked to copy a Coldplay song. The problem is that nobody's being asked to score in certain ways anymore because the new guys (a bit older, a bit younger, or the same age as 27 year-old Me) aren't sensitive to or know nothing about film & film music heritage, or do and avoid it. So it's up to directors who love the older approach to step up to the plate and direct their projects that way.


I would agree with this. The dreaded temp track has much to answer for. I never use them if possible, and let the composer bring his A game.

I guess the Hans Zimmer factory has become the poster boy for what many of us consider the abuses of the current Hollywood scoring norm. Certainly I watch "Dark Knight Rises" with mounting dismay: the most expensive drum circle ever.

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 17, 2013 - 7:46 PM   
 By:   hollywoodandallthat   (Member)

I cued up the first three minutes of "Metamorphosis" (which was what I heard recorded originally at Olympic for the Transformation scene) and it was a salutary experience, which I recommend to any student of film music. The music is recorded a little on the slow side -- you will have to finesse it so that the beginning of the transformation itself (0:36 in the music track) coincides with David screaming and falling to the floor. Even making allowances for misalignments, you really get a sense of what Landis lost by sticking with his use of Blue Moon. Bernstein's music keys right into David's terror as he literally loses control of his body, and the close-ups when he looks straight to camera have an added intensity: the music plays his emotional journey beat by beat, all the while simultaneously conveying the violence of the physical transformation. By the time the beast within is in control you will notice how the music becomes terser, almost mechanistic in its gestures: the human has been completely lost. The wonderful downward brass glissandi (maybe a Christopher Palmer touch) coincide with the two thrusts forward of the animal muzzle. Then it's all over and the music settles onto a static chord of resignation as the camera pans across the werewolf crouching on the floor.

None of this emotional nuance and progression is present in the version we see in the film as is: it's just a scene, albeit an effective one, of horror. Those close-ups of David read to a degree, but the music TELLS us what he is feeling from moment to moment in a way that we do not have to guess -- we feel the emotions with him.

Not every film demands this kind of music scoring, but when it does, and the composer does it well, the results can be spectacular. The unique alchemy that takes place between image and music in such cases is not to be taken (or shed) lightly.

 
 Posted:   Sep 15, 2019 - 3:17 PM   
 By:   Timothy J. Phlaps   (Member)

I just happened upon this TV spot and is it just me, or does the cue over the first half of it sound a lot like "Metamorphosis?"

 
 
 Posted:   Sep 15, 2019 - 4:18 PM   
 By:   Dylan   (Member)

Wow! Yes, that is most definitely the original recording of Metamorphosis!

The part of the cue used in that TV spot can be heard at 1:49 through 2:06 in the re-recording:



Hopefully someday somebody is able to unearth the sessions for Bernstein's "American Werewolf" so we can hear the original recording of this cue in full, plus anything else Bernstein might've done that went unused.

 
 
 Posted:   Sep 15, 2019 - 5:54 PM   
 By:   Morricone   (Member)

….or

 
 Posted:   Sep 16, 2019 - 6:26 AM   
 By:   Timothy J. Phlaps   (Member)

….or

Or?

 
 
 Posted:   Sep 16, 2019 - 11:11 AM   
 By:   hollywoodandallthat   (Member)

….or



This gives an excellent idea of what the scene originally looked/sounded like. Many thanks for drawing my attention to this, and to Mr. von Kralingen for syncing the Metamorphosis cue with the transformation scene.

 
 
 Posted:   Sep 16, 2019 - 11:13 AM   
 By:   hollywoodandallthat   (Member)

….or


 
 
 Posted:   Sep 16, 2019 - 2:21 PM   
 By:   Morricone   (Member)

….or

Or?


...or a different youtube example than the previous ones.

 
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