Film Music Review
The Sammy awards





Music For Halloween -

Devilish Delights




There are many scores that could be chosen from
Hollywood films of the 1930s to 1990s.

Read about the "devilish delights" chosen by our Film Music Review critics, and all three also members of the International Film Music Critics Assoication (IFMCA):

What are your favorite Hollywood film scores for Halloween?

Send your list of up to six favorites
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Music for Halloween







Selected by Steven A. Kennedy




When it comes to music for Halloween, my mind always turns to the music for the great Universal horror films of the 1940s.  The music by Hans Salter and Frank Skinner accompanied many of my late night movie watching and Saturday “chiller” theater matinees growing up.  These were often offset by the body of work James Bernard provided for the Hammer horror films of the 1960s and the many cheaply made Horror films of the 1950s and 1960s scored by the great Gerald Fried. 

Difficult to select from over several decades of music, but here's my suggested listening...



King Kong: The Complete 1933 Film Score


KING KONG (1933)—Steiner’s score for this early monster movie is a landmark in film music history.  I still get chills listening to the music of Kong’s first appearance in the film with each step mimicked in the orchestra. For those who want the original dialogue and Steiner's original film score, this CD is also highly recommended:


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THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935)—Though this film is more a drama with macabre elements, Waxman’s music for the scene where the Bride comes to life is simply some of the best film music of the decade.  The theremin theme that helps cement everything together was also no doubt creepy to this film’s first audience.  The other thing is that a lot of Waxman’s score was pasted in to future Universal pictures into the next two decades.

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THE WOLF MAN (1941)—Hard to pick just one great Universal film in this decade but this score has a little of everything.  The infamous lines of how to beware when the wolfsbane blooms is wonderful alongside the various gypsy dance scenes.  But it is in some of the chase sequences that the score also works well.  This one was co-composed by Charles Previn, Frank Skinner, and Hans Salter and the latter would provide music for the Frankenstein and Invisible Man franchises in addition to later Wolf Man films.

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Thing From Another World & Take the High C



THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD (1951)—Tiomkin’s score, recently available from Film Score Monthly, is another of those classic film scores.  Here it is as much about when music is not in the film as when it is and the creepy music and dramatic underscore that builds tension help make this one of the great sci-fi horror classics.

Ordcr the DVD







The Omen: Original Motion Picture Score (Deluxe Edition)


THE OMEN (1976)—Goldsmith’s music for the OMEN TRILOGY helps chill your blood any day.  The initial Oscar winning score is an amazing accomplishment mixing horror movie writing into traditional dramatic underscoring.  That is what makes it a masterpiece and sets it apart even from its successors, though THE FINAL CONFLICT is close to being an equally accomplished score.

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Ghost Story

GHOST STORY (1981)—Probably my most surprising choice, but I always loved this film.  It has a great cast, an engaging story and some scenes still make you jump.  Sarde’s score is filled with a gothic horror music sound complete with a rhythmic piano idea that itself sounds skittish coupled with bells and even a little organ.

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Selected by Roger L. Hall


There are so many to choose from that it is difficult to choose just six Hollywood film scores. For my selections I chose one classic Universal film that Steve didn't pick, also a '40s film-noir classic, plus film scores from three film music masters: Bernard Herrmann, Jerry Goldsmith and John Williams. They are some of my favorites for Halloween and other times too.



SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (1939) -- This score by Frank Skinner features many of the themes that were re-used in Universal horror films of the early 1940s, especially for the various Mummy films. This third and last in the Frankenstein trilogy with Boris Karloff is always fun to watch and the score is also outstanding.

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The Devil & Daniel Webster (The Criterion Collection)

THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER (original title: ALL THAT MONEY CAN BUY,1941) - I think that this is one of Bernard Herrmann's best Americana scores and he richly received his only Oscar for Best Film Score of 1941. Though it may not be thought of as a horror film, there are plenty of scary cues in it, such as "Mr Scratch" and "Mr. Scratch."

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Hear excerpts from this score on this CD:

Hollywood Halloween - A Radio Remembrance



Cat People

CAT PEOPLE (1942) -- My favorite film-noir horror film of the 1940s. It just reeks with dark menace and has a seductive score by the vastly underrated Roy Webb, who worked on so many fine films at RKO, including most of the great Val Lewton horror classics, like the ones included on this excellent compilation CD. The brilliant score reconstructions are by John Morgan and the orchestra is conducted with great sensitivity by William T. Stromberg.

Roy Webb was chosen for a Lifetime Achievement Sammy Film Music Award -- click here

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OBSESSION (1976) -- Most fans would probably pick Bernard Herrmann's score for PSYCHO as their favorite scary score of his. I would agree that is a milestone film score, I actually prefer this one it's one of Herrmann's best scores of the 1970s for a film that has been crticized as being an inferior imitation of Hitchcock's VERTIGO. The opening Main Title music is just dazzling with its powerful theme featuring pipe organ. I believe Herrmann's score is so strong it's like another character in the film and helps to overcome this contrived but still thrilling film.

Order the DVD tribute to Bernard Herrmann -- click here




Dracula: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

DRACULA (1979) -- Even though this is not the best known or best liked of the many outstanding scores by John Williams, for me it remains a favorite of his '70s scores. The film features a different slant, with Frank Langella playing a more tormented Count Dracula. In his DVD interview, Langella is very complimentary about Williams saying: "It remains a beautiful haunting memorable score." Williams says on his segment of the DVD: "A wonderful subject for music...The magnetism of the unknown mixed with the erotic aspects of the story made it for me a very romantic piece in many ways."


POLTERGEIST (1982) -- Jerry Goldsmith fully deserved his Oscar for THE OMEN, but he should have also received one for his superb POLTERGEIST score, featuring a delightfully subtle children's theme along with the usual sinister type of modernistic music found in so many horror films of recent decades. This is one of Goldsmith's great scores of the 1980s.

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Selected by Steve Vertlieb

KING KONG (1933)

     Max Steiner's thunderous score for Merian C. Cooper's original KING KONG was not only among the first and most influential motion picture scores of the sound era, but remains an unforgettable musical statement of undeniable power and authority.  This raw, raging symphony by the fabulous Father of Film Music is as breathtaking in its sheer musical ferocity now as it was some eighty three years ago.


The Bride Of Frankenstein (1993 Rerecording Of 1935 Film Score)


     Iconic by any defining standard of originality, Franz Waxman's fabulous score for, perhaps, the definitive screen translation of Mary Shelly's horror extravaganza has grown more iconic with each passing year, sharing the visual brilliance of James Whale's thrilling cinematic masterpiece with themes and passages of sublime articulation and exhilarating complexity.



PSYCHO (1960)Psycho: The Complete Original Motion Picture Score

     Bernard Herrmann's stunning score for Alfred Hitchcock's study of murder most "fowl" is, perhaps, among the greatest works of musical poetry in motion picture history.  From its superb main title overture to its stabbing, demented violin thrusts, Bernard Herrmann's sublime exercise in symphonic suspense brings Robert Bloch's unforgettable novel to frightening, volatile manifestation and nightmarish fruition.


The Red House



     This electrifying score by the wondrous Miklos Rozsa is a musical masterpiece of complex psychological and sociological clarity.  Hauntingly beautiful, yet terrifyingly sinister, Rozsa fabricated one of his most compelling and brilliant masterworks.  Alternately tender and chilling, the composer managed to weave together both innocence and nightmarish intensity in a musical palette comprising childhood wonder with the seeds of perverse adult betrayal. In any language, this is an astonishing work.

DRACULA (1979)

     The score for this cinematic adaptation of the Broadway hit starring Frank Langella was a tour de force for composer John Williams whose romantic, melodic rhapsodies belied the exquisite eruption of tormented waves, and a virtual sea of passionate sexual suggestion and implosion.  His rapturous music for this 1979 screen translation elevated both the motion picture and its legend to unimagined heights of beauty, majesty, and sublime realization.  



Poltergeist: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

          Jerry Goldsmith's miraculous score for Steven Spielberg's horror classic is one of his most wondrous compositions.  Its haunting beauty and spiritual ethereality elevate this tale of primal terror to levels beyond even Spielberg's expectations.  This is an astonishingly rich score, a multi planed orchestral feast for the ears, painfully expressive in its sense of other worldly melancholy and deeply felt sensitivity.  Goldsmith imbues his characterizations and set pieces with an intensity of mortal displacement and heart wrenching loss, yet punctuates it all with an overwhelming sense of hope and salvation.  It is one of his most profoundly beautiful, and deeply passionate works.


See Steve Vertlieb's tribute article to James Bernard (1925-2001), known for his popular Hammer horror film scores --

click here


Also these tributes by Steve Vertlieb:



He was beloved by children of all ages, the gentle giant brought to horrifying screen existence by electrodes and the thunderous lightening of mad inspiration. Here, then, is a look back at the life and career of both Frankenstein's, and Hollywood's beloved "Monster," Boris Karloff.
The Life of Boris Karloff
Here is an affectionate Halloween tribute to Bela Lugosi...his "horrific" career ascension, as well as its poignant we remember The Man Behind Dracula's Cape.
Bela Lugosi








Two informative film music multimedia computer discs:

A GUIDE TO FILM MUSIC (6th edition)
with audio and video bonus features



Music Masters: Fifteen Film Composers
(with book, music files, and video clips)




A few more recommended CDs:



Hammer the Studio That Dripped Blood

Hammer: The Studio That Dripped Blood



Legendary Horror Films

Legendary Horror Films


Ultimate Horror Movie Album

The Ultimate Horror Movie Album





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