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ClassicsOnline Home » SALTER: Ghost of Frankenstein / House of Frankenstein
the so-called Golden Age of Hollywood, mostly those years stretching from the
early 1930s to the late 1940s, Universal produced more horror movies than any
other studio. They began their cycle with Dracula and Frankenstein in
1931 and in the following years they devised many scary variations on those two
classic films, in addition to adventures for such other characters as The
Mummy, The Wolfman and a variety of monsters. Films of this kind rely to a
great extent on the effectiveness of musical scoring, and the man who scored
more Universal horror movies than anyone else was Hans J. Salter.
in Vienna in 1896, Salter began
making his living as a musician immediately after completing his education at
the university of that great musical city. His first jobs were those conducting
in small theatres in Vienna and in neighbouring
towns, which gave him a solid grounding in operetta and in the business of
supplying music for all manner of theatrical presentations. At the age of
twenty-three he was hired by a film company to conduct accompaniment to filmed
operettas. A few years later Salter was in Berlin scoring films under contract to UFA. With the rise of the
Nazis he decided to return to Vienna and when the political climate there became similarly
tainted he made his way to America.
American film career started when was hired by Universal in late 1937, and it
was with that studio that he spent the next twenty years, arranging, composing
and conducting. He became, somewhat to his own surprise, a specialist in
scoring horror pictures. It is perhaps the area of film composition by which he
is best known, although it is unfair to think of him only in that regard.
Salter's numerous credits include musicals, dramas, comedies and westerns. In
fact, there is no kind of film he has not scored.
Ghost of Frankenstein (1942) was Salter's first major horror score, and the one
that registered him as a master of this genre. The score is complex and richly
descriptive, to say nothing of essential. Indeed, fully forty-seven of the
film's sixty-seven minutes is supported by Salter¡¦s pulsating music. The film
begins with the decision of the townspeople of Vasario to blow up
Frankenstein's castle, the source of so much of their grief. In dynamiting it,
they inadvertently open up the sulphur-pits under the castle and it is there
that old Igor (Bela Lugosi) finds that his beloved friend the Monster (Lon
Chaney, Jr.) is not dead. Igor seeks out the second son, Ludwig (Sir Cedric Hardwicke)
of the Late Baron Frankenstein and persuades him to bring the Monster to
intelligent life by giving him a new brain. Ludwig is a doctor specializing in
mental disorders and he accepts the challenge. When the monster kills Ludwig's
partner Dr. Kettering (Barton Yarborough) Ludwig decides to use his brain.
However, Ludwig's other partner, Dr. Bohmer (Lionel Atwill) takes matters into
his own hands. He kills Igor and puts Igor's brain into the Monster. The
experiment is a disaster. The Monster turns blind and in his fury smashes the laboratory
, causing a fire that consumes them all. Now Ludwig's daughter Elsa (Evelyn Ankers)
can find love in the arms of Erik Ernst (Ralph Bellamy), the local
administrator who has done his best all along to keep peace between the
villagers and the doctors.
House of Frankenstein (1944) also deals with a mad doctor, one named Niemann
(Boris Karloft), who escapes from an asylum with his hunchback companion Daniel
(J. Carrol Naish) and pretends to be a travelling circus-of-horrors showman.
One of his exhibits is the corpse of Count Dracula (John Carradine), whom he
brings back to life in order to help him take revenge on those who have harmed
him in the past. When Dracula proves too much of a problem Niemann causes his
death. Next he digs up the dormant bodies of The Wolfman (Lon Chaney, Jr.) and
the Frankenstein Monster (Glenn Strange). He uses them as killers to find
bodies on whom he can experiment. But things do not turn out as planned. The Wolfman
falls in love with a gypsy girl but kills her one moonlit night when he turns
mad, although she lives long enough to shoot and kill him. Daniel, who has
loved the girl in secret, goes berserk with grief and tries to kill Niemann but
the Monster comes to Niemann's aid and kills Daniel. The Monster picks up the
injured doctor and tries to escape into the woods but walks into a pit of
quicksand which swallows the two of them .So ended the plot of The House of
Frankenstein - until Universal's writers could think up new ways of
reviving the characters for another frightful film.
Ghost of Frankenstein and The House of Frankenstein are prime examples of
Universal's horror catalogue. Well acted, well photographed and well scored
these modestly budgeted movies, usually designed as supporting features, have
acquired a distinction and a cult following that surprises those involved in
their production. Looking back more than forty years Hans Salter says. "We
regarded them as just current product and had no idea they would be of such
interest all these years later. I certainly didn¡¦t set out with the idea of
specializing in them. It was just a matter of being in the right place at the
right time, and finding I had the right devices at my command to do the job.
These so-called horror pictures were a great challenge because when I looked at
them before scoring they didn't seem to have much fright about them, certainly
not compared to the brutal and graphic horror films made today. The challenge
in those days at Universal was in creating the sense of terror and suspense,
and that is something music can do."
recording of the two Salter scores required a great deal of preparation.
Unfortunately many famous Hollywood films scores of the past no longer exist in
written form. Various new managements of the studios, particularly in the
1960s, decided to throw away the full orchestral scores and keep only a piano
reduction reference copy, the reason given being that the scores took up too
much space and would probably never be used again anyway. This was the case at
Universal. With the interest of Marco Polo Records in recording the Salter
scores, due to the ever increasing interest in Hollywood's musical past, it
became necessary to re- orchestrate the music, working from a four-line piano
score. The young Hollywood film composer John Morgan, long an admirer of
Salter, made known his interest in undertaking the project. Says Salter,
"What John Morgan has done is quite remarkable. From listening to the
sound tracks he has recreated the scores almost exactly as I wrote them all
those long years ago. Now with modern recording techniques I can hear these
scores with a clarity I could never have imagined when I wrote them. I am
deeply grateful to John Morgan and to Marco Polo Records."
/ Arranger Note
1958, Universal Pictures released their classic horror films of the thirties
and forties to television. I, like millions of other kids, experienced the
shocks and thrills our parents had encountered a generation earlier. One of the
most outstanding elements these films had in common were the musical scores,
and the name that came up most often was Hans J. Salter.
the blessing and encouragement of Tony Thomas and Hans himself, I have
reconstructed two key film scores in Universal's horror cycle. (The original
scores were destroyed years ago.) These two scores contain familiar themes
associated with Dracula, the Wolfman and, of course, the Frankenstein monster.
the first time in over 50 years, these inventive, colourful scores of Salter
will be heard in all their rich splendour .I am proud and honoured to have
played apart in bringing these first class compositions back to life.
Morgan is a film composer based in Los Angeles. He has composed music for
several features and is currently reconstructing "lost" scores of
Erich Korngold and Max Steiner.
Concert Orchestra (Dublin)
Radio Television Concert Orchestra, Radio Telefis Eireann, in Dublin is a body
of amazing versatility. Founded in 1948, the orchestra has played a major rôle
in broadcast and televised music, in addition to frequent appearances in the
concert hall, winning critical acclaim equally for music as diverse as a Shostakovich
symphony or support for the Eurovision Song Contest. The RTE Concert Orchestra
gives about eighty concerts a year in the Dublin National Concert Hall and
throughout Ireland and has undertaken a number of successful foreign tours,
including a series of 63 concerts in a 75 day tour of the United States and
appearance at the Seville EXPO'92.
Penny was born in the East coast English city of Hull and initially studied
clarinet at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, where he also
worked as a conductor with the Opera Unit. The newly established Rothschild
Scholarship in Conducting led to study with Sir Charles Groves and Timothy Reynish
and work as assistant conductor with Sir Charles Groves, Richard Hickox and Eigar
Howarth. Winner of the prestigious Ricordi Conducting Prize, he achieved his
first major success when he conducted the Vaughan Williams opera Riders to the
Sea at Sadler's Wells Theatre in London. In 1982 he became conductor of the
Hull Philharmonic Orchestra and has appeared with many orchestras, including
the BBC Philharmonic and the Ulster Orchestra.
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SALTER: Ghost of Frankenstein / House of Frankenst...