Monday, 12 January 2015

HORRIBLE MONDAYS - Velvet Robe - The Devil Bat Re-Score

[Image source]
[Image source]
I like classical music, but not a lot of it and not all the time. When it comes to 20th century composers, I like the minimalists, guys like Steve Reich, Terry Riley and Philip Glass. One of the best things Philip Glass ever did was his re-score of the 1931 Universal monster classic 'Dracula' starring Bela Lugosi. The story goes that the original score for the film was lost, so Universal drafted Glass and the Kronos Quartet to re-score it, which they did in stark and startling style. It slices and dices nerves and leaves the viewer electrified. I've got it on CD and it's become one of those rare few classical scores that I've gone back to for well over a decade.

So I was delighted to hear that The Velvet Robe, those mysterious blackened doom experimentalists were working on the score to a Bela Lugosi movie. Well, the results turned up in early November on youtube and they are incredibly creepy (see video below). I mean theremin bat-scream creepy. The film in question turned out to be The Devil Bat (1940), a story about a cosmetics chemist who seeks revenge against his employers for short changing him on his inventions. I'm no vintage film buff so I'd never seen the picture before. I hate to say it, but those old timey soundtracks sometimes serve to hurt a film by telegraphing emotion and by being overbearing. The best thing Velvet Robe has done here is to liven up the story by toning down the soundtrack.

I like the restraint shown here by Velvet Robe. If it was me scoring this thing, I almost certainly would have shown no restraint whatsoever and taken a kitchen sink approach which would have simply thrown a wet blanket of noise over the film. Velvet Robe reserve their touch-ups to atmospheric brush strokes under key moments in the plot and the occasional but always effective 'sting'.

It makes me wonder just how large a role those original Universal monster scores contributed to their perceived campiness. Given a sonic updating, The Devil Bat becomes deadly serious. Listen to and watch the bat attack scene about 47 minutes in to the video. Something that could have been, and most likely was, so corny becomes positively unsettling.

This is brilliant.

Watch the entire video with Velvet Robe's re-score below.

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