the witchfinder general OST

Considered by aficionados as being the holy grail of Brit horror soundtracks, ‘witch finder general’ at long last gets its long awaited release. Rescued from the De Wolfe archive as part of their extensive trawl through a vast library of recordings extending back some 100 years, this score is taken from the original ¼ inch master tapes and includes two previously unheard suites that fell to the cutting floor when the soundtrack was being finalised. Included with the release a booklet that includes detailed liner notes relating to the films background, history and legacy penned by ‘beasts in the cellar – the exploitation film career of Tony Tenser’ author John Hamilton along with rare unseen photographs and between set stills of the cast. Released over 40 years ago ‘witch finder general’ is regarded as one of Vincent Price’s finest screen hours though not all was well on the set, brought in as part of a refinancing deal with an American backer AIP, Price and director Michael Reeves soon clashed culminating in a infamous face off wherein Price snapping at being constantly accused of being melodramatic raged at the young director ‘young man, I have made 92 films, how many have you made?’ to which came the put down response ‘3 good ones!’. following completion of the film and in the years that passed, each of the protagonists fortunes would vary – as intense and multi faceted a performance as Price had ever given, it would through poor distribution and AIP’s miss marketing of it as a Poe horror lead to it sinking into obscurity, Price’s legend though already cemented would see his comic horror stock rise not withstanding his darkly serious iconic part; ‘witch finder general’ would come to be hailed a cult Brit horror classic and its director would be dead by 25 from a drug overdose. As to the soundtrack, scored by Paul Ferris and here in its full undiluted glory, it finds the composer utilising a broad spectrum of styles, rich in flamboyance and regally flavoured its invested with a deeply vivid and colourful archaic English folk pageantry unto which it superbly audio tracks the spirit of the age to which the film is set not to mention very much spirited in the fashions of the late 60‘s wherein soundtracks and popular music where undergoing a somewhat folk renaissance phase. Between suspense and beauty, medieval grandeur and its hollowed and tensely tight atmospherics, Ferris was most open of his liberal tinkering of Elizabethan / Cromwell-ian thematic devices cued in large by the ever so subtle though unmistakable use of ’greensleeves’ as an underlying preset (’peaceful interlude‘ and ‘nearly home‘). Within this 50 minute soundtrack there are moments of exquisite beauty and grim intrigue (’interrogation of the priest’) starkly marked out by the foreboding sinister symphonies gouged in menace by the onset of the fracturing punctuations of the wind arrangements endowing an edge to the proceedings to characterise perfectly the underlying theme of treachery and deceit. On the reverse side the elegance, the innocence and the tranquillity is found played out to the free flowing cortege of floral florets as on the sweetly affecting pastoral sweeps of ‘Richard rides to Sara‘ and the genuflecting courtship of the lushly toned and softly surrendered swoon ‘soft interlude’. a remarkable audio document all said.

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