Film Music Review
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Silent Night, Bloody Night (1974)


Music composed, orchestrated, and conducted by Gershon Kingsley

13 Tracks (Playing Time = 30:21)

Album produced by Gershon Kingsley and Wall Crumpler. Score recorded in Munich, Germany. Music digitally remastered by Gershon Kingsley. Music remastered by Erik Veach at Crazy Daisy Productions. Liner notes by Wall Crumpler. Art direction and design by Brian M. Johnson, LOUDEST ink.

Howlin’ Wolf Records 002

Limited edition of 1000 copies.

Rating: ***


Howlin’ Wolf records presents this interesting little horror score from 1974’s SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT. The cult classic, directed by Theodore Gershuny, is in some ways the first of the holiday-themed slasher films.

It features a number of familiar B-list and cult film favorites in its cast: Patrick O’Neal, James Patterson (in his last film role), Mary Woronov, Walter Abel, and John Carradine. The score is by Gershon Kingsley.

Kingsley wrote a few film scores in the early 1970s. He was an early electronic music composer experimenting with sounds on the Moog. He continues to explore electronic music today though less so in film. He is perhaps best known for a piece he wrote that was recorded by the group Hot Butter in 1972, “Popcorn.” If you grew up in the early 1970s you had this as a 45 RPM single and it appeared most recently in the film Bruno. He also wrote the theme music for the television series MERLIN (1980) and the music that was used as the theme for the game show THE JOKER’S WILD.

That said, Kingsley score here is for chamber orchestra with piano and is an engaging, if often times dissonant score. The music is arranged as two “suites” the first with 10 “movements” and the second with “three.

The familiar carol opens the score performed by the composer’s daughter. The music plays like a concert work otherwise with a fascinating presentation of thematic material that gradually grows towards it climax by “Movement 8” before it dissolves into clusters and angular piano writing in the following track. A hymn quote on organ appears in “Movement Two” that sometimes feels like it morphs into one of Kingsley’s original thematic statements. The score reminded me of Fried’s dramatic horror scoring in the 1960s in its engaging gothic writing and in one of its more insistent themes. “Silent Night” itself gets transformed in the score as the opening three-note motif shifts into a more macabre version of itself and becomes a new thematic thread which only returns more identifiably towards the end of the score (“Suite 2, Movement 2”). Otherwise it falls into a fine contemporary orchestral work, intelligently constructed with much to discover on repeated hearings, that even at times recalls Herrmann (as we head into the first movement of the second suite). None of this is derivative music making by any means but a fine work of contemporary orchestral music that even classical music fans may find worth a listen or two.

Kingsley ’s score is a pleasant surprise for those who appreciate gothic horror movie music. While there is plenty of tense dissonance in the score, it is offset by a concise thematic integration that lends the score shape.

This is a limited edition that really does deserve to sell out.

---Steven A. Kennedy , 3 February 2010

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