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A NAME FOR EVIL
and THE UNKNOWN
Very effective horror scores are a reminder of Frontiere's talents
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
* * * 1/2
Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2006 VEJANS Music Inc.; review copyright (c) 2006 James Southall
A Name for Evil was a 1973 occult movie starring Robert Culp as a man first haunted by his grandfather, and then drawn into some weird pagan rituals which lead to him killing his wife. Cheery stuff, enlivened no end by having lots of nudity (the film is presented by Penthouse Pictures). By far the best thing about it is its music. The vaguely haunted house story meant it was an ideal project for Outer Limits composer Dominic Frontiere, a talented composer who never really seemed to get the projects he deserved after the iconic tv series which made his name.
The score has now been released on CD for the first time, in a 2,000-copy edition from the enterprising La-La Land Records, who have been specialising in releasing this type of score since they were founded a few years ago. Frontiere's dynamic music is striking and impressive, with the composer using the Graunke Symphony Orhcestra of Munich to its full capacity for creating chills and excitement, with some thrilling music for brass alternating with grand string posturings ("Flashback / The Grove" is a sweeping piece of gothic horror scoring, maybe the score's standout).
The score is brilliantly unsettling at times, and impressively, Frontiere achieves this without ever leaving a basic, tonal, melodic structure. That's not to say that there are themes here you'll be whistling on your way to work - there aren't - but there is a calm sanity on the exterior belying some explosive chaos just beneath, demonstrative of a very capable composer. (Admittedly, calm sanity is left behind once in a while, none moreso than in "Culp Walk / Pyrotechnics / He's Back", a Herrmannesque piece which positively envelops the listener with its oppresive, psychological terror.) It's masses better than the film deserved, and certainly uses techniques which are brilliantly effective.
As a bonus, La-La Land has included Frontiere's music from the Outer Limits episode The Unknown, often regarded as the series' finest. The music is stylistically very similar to A Name for Evil, though perhaps even more intelligent in its construction. It's a short score, but Frontiere still has time to develop ideas which turn into a hypnotic, mesmerising soundscape, with the generally bleak atmosphere again working brilliantly.
I was surprised to learn in the album's excellent liner notes that Frontiere is still composing today, just not for film. This is a pity because he is clearly a very skilled craftsman who would, I'm sure, have something to contribute - but such is the way of modern film music, such distinctive composers as he rarely get the gigs any more. In the absence of any new Frontiere, old Frontiere will do just fine and this is a fine release which might open a few eyes to the kind of interesting music which was written for even the less interesting movies, back in the day.