The Second Disc

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Dark Shadows Over Transylvania: Robert Cobert’s Score to “Dan Curtis’ Dracula” Arrives On CD

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Dan Curtis' DraculaSince Bram Stoker introduced Count Dracula in 1897, the Transylvanian vampire has captivated audiences in every medium conceivable.  Of course, the visceral possibilities of film has allowed the nightmarish character to leave his mark on generation after generation, most famously in 1931’s Bela Lugosi-starring film.  Much as Universal Pictures produced a string of films following its original, Hammer Films launched its own series of Dracula pictures with 1958’s adaptation starring Christopher Lee.  In 1974, the same year that producer Andy Warhol unleashed his campy Blood for Dracula, another visionary creator brought his own interpretation of Dracula to television.  This Dracula was directed by Dan Curtis, the man responsible for the 1966-1971 gothic daytime drama Dark Shadows.  Curtis’ soap opera had introduced a television icon in the vampire Barnabas Collins, portrayed by Jonathan Frid, so Curtis was a natural choice to tackle the most famous fanged one of them all.  Future Academy Award winner Jack Palance starred as the titular count in the film written by author and screenwriter Richard Matheson (I Am Legend, Somewhere in Time) and scored by Curtis’ frequent collaborator Robert “Bob” Cobert.  Varese Sarabande has recently premiered Cobert’s evocative score on compact disc in conjunction with Dracula’s May 27 release on Blu-ray from MPI Home Video.

Cobert, whose credits range from concert pieces to game show themes for Goodson-Todman and Bob Stewart, was closely associated with Curtis’ productions: Dark Shadows, of course, but also The Winds of War, The Last Ride of the Dalton Gang, The Love Letter and more – for a total of more than three dozen collaborations and 24 in the 1970s alone.  In 1968, Curtis and Cobert had teamed on The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, for which Palance starred as the lead character(s).  The trio reunited for their new take on Dracula, which aired on CBS in February 1974 and saw theatrical release overseas.

As writer Jeff Thompson points out in the five pages of liner notes which accompany Varese’s deluxe release, Curtis and Matheson’s film was the first American production to link the fictional Count Dracula with the real-life Vlad Tepes, a.k.a. Vlad the Impaler.  Curtis shot the movie on location in Yugoslavia and England with a cast also including Nigel Davenport as Abraham Van Helsing, Fiona Lewis as Lucy Westenra, Penelope Horner as Mina Murray, and Murray Brown as Jonathan Harker.  It was in England, over a two-week period in 1973, that Cobert recorded his score with a 40-piece orchestra.

There’s more on Dracula after the jump, including the track  listing and order links!

Matheson and Curtis recalled Dark Shadows with its depiction of Dracula falling in love with a woman who may or may not be the present-day reincarnation of a lost love.  Though explored in subsequent adaptations and continuations of Stoker’s novel, Dracula as a romantic figure was an inventive notion of Curtis and Matheson’s.  This was reflected in Cobert’s score, as well.  For his dramatic and intense portrayal of Dracula, Jack Palance received acclaim from the likes of Variety; the industry trade paper recognized his performance as “one of the finest…of his career.”

Cobert’s moody and atmospheric score, which horror legend Curtis proclaimed “genius” and remains a favorite of its nearly-90-year old composer, is ripe for rediscovery on Varese’s new CD which has been remastered by Mike Milchner at Sonic Vision.  Thompson’s detailed liner notes feature new recollections from Robert Cobert and quotes from the late Dan Curtis.  Cobert’s lush and eerie Dracula is available now from Varese Sarabande, and can be ordered at the links below!

Robert Cobert, Dan Curtis’ Dracula (Varese Sarabande 302 067 274 8, 2014) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

  1. Dracula at Dusk (Opening Theme)
  2. Letter from the Count
  3. Dracula Main Title
  4. Carriage to Castle Dracula
  5. The Brides of Dracula/A Letter to Mina
  6. Harker’s Dilemma
  7. Dracula’s Coffin
  8. The Brides Attack
  9. The Carfax Estate
  10. Attack on Lucy/Transfusion
  11. Boat Ride
  12. Wild Dog
  13. The Death of Lucy
  14. Lucy Reappears
  15. Staking Lucy
  16. Peace/Rage
  17. Attack at the Inn
  18. Dracula at the Door
  19. Charred Coffins
  20. Van Helsing Hypnotizes Mina
  21. Protecting Mina
  22. Horseback Ride to Castle Dracula
  23. Staking the Brides
  24. Harker’s Fate
  25. Dracula at Dawn
  26. Impaling
  27. Epigraph
  28. Dracula End Title (Music Box Theme)

 

Written by Joe Marchese

May 15, 2014 at 10:26

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