Sneak Peek to the Ultimate Edition of AN AMERICAN WERWOLF IN LONDON.
The world's first official CD with original film score features Elmer Bernstein and the legendary songs (Bobby Winton, Van Morrison, Sam Cooke and The Marcels). All '' Bad Moon Rising '' fans must now be strong or grab the record collection: The song is not included, despite Rick Baker, who himself requested vocalist John Fogerty for us. Here's the playlist incl. the groovy music from the porn cinema:
Though not entirely surprising, this CD doesn't include the original recording of "Metamorphosis" or any other potentially deleted cues (at least of one of which was re-recorded for that Silva Screen compilation, in addition to "Metamorphosis").
MV implied that somebody is working on a superior release of "American Werewolf," and if that's true then I imagine that is where the deleted/alternate cues will end up.
While the transformation scene to Blue Moon is somewhat iconic, I have to say dramatically I prefer the restored version. It makes this scene horrific rather than almost casual the way it was originally tracked with the song.. I like how Bernstein quotes previous thematic material in a more audacious manner.. It really helps to dramatically bind this scene. Hope this is included on the score release whenever it appears.
Listening to it again, I'm guessing now that it was composed for the subway scene, but I don't know.
I think I’d prefer the subway sequence Without music. That’s probably the scariest scene in the entire film and partly because the camera work, editing and sound FX do enough to invoke fear in the viewer. Less is more in this case. Great now I have to watch it tonight.
I agree that the subway scene works great without music, but I'm guessing that's what this other mystery cue was written for. Perhaps The Mutant can try synching it up? If this music didn't go under the subway scene, I'm guessing it accompanied the neighborhood attack scene that directly follows the transformation.
The transformation, on the other hand, works much better with Bernstein's score IMO. At the time, Landis must have thought it was uniquely ironic to have a romantic pop song underneath jaw-dropping make-up effects, but that kind of ironic needle drop strikes me as far more ordinary and less imaginative than to have original, old fashioned "monster movie" orchestral music. I think the scene with Bernstein's music is more unique, dramatic, emotional, and cinematic. The scene is still great as it is, but not as great as it could've been.
At the time, Landis must have thought it was uniquely ironic to have a romantic pop song underneath jaw-dropping make-up effects, but that kind of ironic needle drop strikes me as far more ordinary and less imaginative than to have original, old fashioned "monster movie" orchestral music.
Isn't it the way more obvious and predictable technique to put scary music over a scary scene? A lot of the film's humour comes from juxtaposing the mundane with the outrageous, so putting a golden oldie over a scene of excruciating horror fits that brief.
"I'm with Landis on this one" -------------------------------- Me too. I'm not saying the EB score music is bad or wrong, cos it so obviously isn't, but playing the scene with the Blue Moon song goes against the standard tropes for me, and makes it better and more memorable as a result.
As I wrote, I think it's a great scene as it is. And the song works - I'm actually a big fan of Sam Cooke, who had one of the most beautiful singing voices I've ever heard. So what it comes down to is a matter or preference. The song certainly makes the scene feel ironic in a realistic way. If a werewolf transformation were to actually happen while a guy is home alone reading and spinning a record, the scene with Cooke's song certainly speaks to how that scenario would look and feel in real life.
But... I personally believe it's far more interesting (and yes, rare, especially in 2020 though frankly even in 1981) to have a composer write original music that sounds like it came out of a 1950s Universal International monster movie, which seems to be what Bernstein was going for here (not dissimilar to Broughton's "The Monster Squad," come to think of it). And maybe on a superficial level an orchestral score is the more common approach to score such a scene, except this particular kind of monster movie scoring was pretty much out the door even in 1981. Bernstein's music speaks directly to the horror and tragedy of the situation (as well as stylistically recalling an earlier approach to scoring a monster movie, speaking to the film's self-referential aspects), but Landis clearly wanted the scene to be a balance of horror and the lighter touch found elsewhere in the film, which of course I get.
Also, Bernstein wrote and recorded this music against Landis's wishes, I'm guessing because Bernstein was certain he would convince Landis in much the same way Herrmann convinced Hitchcock to have the "Psycho" shower scene scored. It was a gamble of time and energy that Bernstein was willing to make, presumably because he felt very strongly about this while watching the footage.
So it's down to preference, and while the scene is great as it is, I like the style of traditional horror scoring that Bernstein brought to it more. Yes, it changes the scene, but I think Bernstein was correct in having the music address the horror and tragedy with (at the time semi-retro) scoring. And as charming, romantic, and funny as some of this film is, it ultimately is a tragedy.
I agree Dylan, it is all down to your own personal preference. Pino Donaggio had scored the werewolf transformations of THE HOWLING (released around the same time as AAWIL) with traditional orchestral monster music and dissonance. Danny Elfman (and co) also got to do it with THE WOLFMAN in more recent times. And all those old Universal werewolf films had the traditional/orchestral method too. It's probably only AMERICAN WEREWOLF - and maybe TEEN WOLF - that opted for the song choice.
Bernstein and Landis had a fruitful collaboration, but the difference in their sensibilities is evident in their approaches to the transformation scene. Bernstein was famously unabashed in his tendency to emotional, potent underscoring. Yes, he did comedies with Landis and Reitman, but WEREWOLF IN LONDON is basically a very strong horror film with a few jokes. Bernstein clearly wanted to play up the terror and agony of the transformation, while Landis was set on using "Blue Moon" from the beginning and only agreed to have Bernstein demonstrate his own piece to humor him (the difference in sensibilities was probably also generational).
I can see the merits of both approaches. Bernstein's piece is spectacular, but the images are already so strong that it may have been overkill. The use of "Blue Moon" is interesting in how flip it is, but it soft-pedals the scene to such an extent that it seems almost self-conscious. The tonal weirdness of the movie overall is jarring throughout.