Home > Reviews > SHE-DEMONS/THE ASTOUNDING SHE-MONSTER – Nicholas Carras/Guenther Kauer

SHE-DEMONS/THE ASTOUNDING SHE-MONSTER – Nicholas Carras/Guenther Kauer

October 13, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments

shedemonsMOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

SHE-DEMONS

She Demons offers a classic science fiction B film, and that is being generous! Fred Maklin, Jerrie Turner and two others are pleasure boating when a storm shipwrecks them on an uncharted island. Their radio is damaged and cannot transmit, only receive. They soon discover that the island is scheduled to be used by the US navy for bombing practice. Of course things get worse when they also come upon strange human footprints. As the party explores the island, they soon discover that it is inhabited by deformed female humanoids; by products of horrific experiments perpetrated by a party of Nazis, who are led of course by the mad scientist Colonel Osler. We are informed that he has been extracting a rare glandular substance from the girls to inject into his wife Mona, who has suffered terrible facial disfigurement, so as to restore her beauty. This of course now makes perfect sense! In any event the film was a bust and received no critical acclaim.

1958 proved to be a productive year for director Richard Cunha and composer Nicholas Carras as they collaborated on three films; “She Demons”, “Frankenstein’s Daughter” and “Missile To The Moon”. With meager funds for the film Carras made the most of what he had using just a 22 person orchestra to create an orchestral score, which I must say truly enhanced the film. Carras early on opted to create a percussive propelled score with dance-like rhythms given the tropical setting and local fauna – dozens of scantily clad girls, For the score he provided four themes, including; the Main Theme a dynamic and thundering percussive powered construct replete with trilling woodwinds and blaring horns bellicoso. Next we have the Exploration Theme, a major modal construct borne by French horns nobile and refulgent violins, which support treks across the island by our party. The Love Theme offers lyrical strings, gentile woodwinds and muted horns to provide romance and warmth, a well needed respite for this grim film. For our villains we have the Nazi Theme, which supports our storm troopers. It is powered by muted trumpets barbaro and bassoon for a dark and menacing expression.

“Main Title” is a tour de force and score highlight. Heraldic fanfare announces the studio logos as the opening credits roll. The fanfare joins with thundering tympani, horns bellicoso and trilling woodwinds to offer the Main Theme in all its primitive rhythmic jungle power! Bravo! “Washed up on Beach” reveals our four survivors stranded on the beach, with prima donna Jerrie combing her hair. The cue lacks thematic structure with Carras using muted horns, high register tremolo strings, bass and tympani to sow tension. In “Footprints in the Sand” naval aircraft perform an over flight as Kris discovers fresh human footprints in the sand. Carras continues to sustain the tension in this ambiance cue with tympani and tremolo strings supported with a myriad of horn and woodwind accents.

“Snake in the Jungle” reveals drum sounds at night, which inform us that the survivors are not alone. As they explore the island the next day, Jerrie is rescued by Fred from a snake. We open to pounding tympani, which support the night scene. At 0:18 as we transition to morning where Carras again sows tension with a rich array of tremolo strings, trilling woodwinds, growling bass and sharp horn statements. It actually works quite well! In “Ambushed on the Beach” the party is lost having been walking in circles. Comic woodwinds highlight the group’s predicament. Carras introduces his Exploration Theme with French horns nobile as they finally regain their bearings to reach the beach camp. The music turns decidedly tense atop tympani, tremolo strings and bass when they find the camp ravaged. A crescendo atop discordant horns serve to inform us that Kris is dead from multiple spears. “Dead Body” reveal the survivors walking along the beach, which is supported by the Exploration Theme. The music darkens atop tympani, dark bass and tremolo violins as they discover a face down corpse, with shock horns blaring as the hideous face is revealed. We close atop eerie tremolo violin with shifting woodwind phrases to a bleak diminuendo as the now frightened party contemplates their next course.

In “Dance” we see a set of dancers performing. Carras for the most part reprises his ”Main Title” music with a more pronounced dance sensibility as well as variation of the horn play and concluding strings. I actually like this variant! “Guards Round Up Dancers” reveal Nazi storm troopers rounding up the dancers. Carras introduces his Nazi Theme, which amply provides their animus and menace. In “Caged Women” the Nazis force the women into a large wooden cage. The Nazi Theme again reprises but with varied expression and a different array of instruments that include piano and cymbal. “She Demon” introduces Colonel “The Butcher” Osler who we see injecting a beautiful woman with his serum. She transforms into a hideous she demon, which makes Osler believe that a reverse transformation will occur to his wife when he injects her. An opening orchestral blast strikes fear that is followed by a rendering of the Nazi Theme informs us of Osler’s cruelty.

In “Tension” our party examine the corpse of the dead girl as Sammy is almost choked to death by the caged she demons that grasp him through the bars. The Nazi Theme again animates the scene with a piano led crescendo supporting Sammy’s brush with death. “Underground Lab” is an ambiance cue, which reveals our party doubling down on stupid by investigating the Nazi facility. Tremolo strings sow unease, which is augmented by a pulsing tympani and shifting woodwind accents and string figures. In “Subterranean Smooch” Jerrie’s false façade of toughness breaks down and reveals her vulnerability as she confesses that she is scared. Carras offers us a score highlight with the unfolding of his string laden Love Theme. This is nicely done. “Suspense“ was dialed out of the film. It features phrasing of the Nazi Theme as Egore quiets the she demons.

“Hiding” features Egore searching for the party, which has trespasses into their facility. Carras reprises, with slight embellishments, the “Underground Lab” cue. We hear tremolo strings again sowing unease, which is augmented by a pulsing tympani and shifting woodwind accents and string figures. In “Fight” Egore discovers Jerrie and a fight ensues with Fred rescuing her by pummeling Egore, sending him flying into the cage of she demons that devour him. The Main Theme propels this action packed scene with its pounding percussive power and sharp horn phrases. “Caught” reveals the party’s capture by a Nazi guard. The Nazi Theme adorned with tilling flute supports the scene. In “Mona Enters” Dr. Olser and his disfigured wife meet the party as he boasts of his scientific genius. While in “Menace” Dr. Olser orders his guards to take the party away. Muted deconstructed phrases of the Nazi Theme supports both scenes.

“Torture” reveals Fred and Sammy being tortured by the Nazis. Carras provides a most interesting rendering of the Nazi Theme, which is emoted grimly by bass, celli and organ with pulsing timpani echoes. “Escape” is a score highlight where we see Jerrie ending a drunken Olser’s amorous overtures with a champagne bottle rejoinder to the head. Carras provides sterling interplay of his Nazi Theme and Main Theme for an exciting action set. In “Nazis in Pursuit” Mona helps the party flee and we see Dr. Olser meet his end as American bombers bomb his facility, sending him to his doom in a molten lava bath. Once again Carras reprises, with slight embellishments and sharp horn phrases the Nazi Theme from his “Underground Lab” cue. Tremolo strings again sow unease, which is augmented by a pulsing tympani and shifting woodwind accents and string figures.

In “Mona’s Face” Mona reveals her horrific disfigured face a gruesome orchestral strike sounds. “In the Tunnel” reveals the party fleeing through a tunnel as the island’s volcano erupts. Pounding timpani power this piece, which offers phrases of the Main Theme, replete with trilling woodwinds. In “Final Battle” Fred shoots a Nazi guard ensuring their escape. Tympani powered phrases of the Main Theme propel the cue with an orchestral descent supporting the guard’s fall to his death. “End Title” reveals our party safe on the beach as the volcano consumes the last of the Nazis. Carras ends our journey with fine interplay by all his primary themes that join in wondrous communion, culminating in a fine horn flourish. Bravo!

THE ASTOUNDING SHE-MONSTER

We owe our thanks to Robert Clarke, who produced and directed this 1957 ‘gem’. The film’s narrative speaks to the Earth’s place in vast universe inhabited by alien cultures for which we must reach an accommodation. Our story reveals that a criminal gang has kidnapped a wealthy heiress and commandeered the secluded forest home of a geologist as a hide out. Of course an UFO crashes nearby, releasing a beautiful female alien dressed in a protective skintight platinum space suite. She proves lethal, bearing a radioactive touch kills instantly. She relentlessly pursues the party, ultimately succeeding in killing the villains. Although regretful of her actions, she pursues the remaining party until she is finally killed. Upon her death the Doctor contemplates what the reaction her race will have towards Earth after the incident. This B film, and that is being generous, was a bust and joins the many low budget efforts that marked the 1950s.

Guenther Kauer’s effort here offers testimony of how a film score transcends and elevates a flawed film. There really was both a void of action in this film, with most of its scenes involving woodland walks by the characters. Kauer was tasked with providing much needed energy to animate the film’s plodding lethargy and ludicrous script. For the film Kauer provided two themes and three motifs. The She-monster Theme underpins and animates the score. It’s blaring, repeating four-note trumpet strikes strike fear and alarm with the subsequent flow of woodwinds mysterioso sowing an other worldly aura. The Danger Theme is an extended repeating statement emoted by violins mysterioso, which informs us of an impending encounter with the She-monster. The Stalking Motif is a seven-note repeating statement on harsh strings that inform us of the stalking she-monster. The Attack Motif is a repeating five-note string carried statement that informs us that the she-monster is near and poised to strike. The Tension Motif is a repeating three-note line on strings with woodwind counters that is used to sow tension.

Following a ponderous prologue, which informs us that a meteor has been launched from the Antaren System, the Hollywood International Pictures logo presents and Kauer launches his stunning “Main Title”, a score highlight. We are treated to a bold and jarring rendering of the She-monster Theme, which sounds with all its fearsome trumpeted power. “The Kidnapping” is a cue highlight that offers just exceptional Herrmannesque writing. We see Margaret Chaffee’s kidnapping by thugs Nat and Brad. Kauer sows fear with a repeating four-note motif by strings agitato, replete with sharp horn phrases and harsh woodwind strikes. Tremolo strings and dire woodwinds join to create a grim and menacing soundscape that explodes on horns furioso, which take up the motif as Margaret is kidnapped. The concluding staccato phrasing is just superb. This cue is just extraordinary! Bravo! “Rock Hound” reveals Dr. Cutler, who is walking in the woods with his dog Eagan, observe the descent and crash of the meteorite. Eerie tremolo violins mysterioso sow unease with trilling piccolo informing us of the meteor crash. A harsh and horrific crescendo brings the cue to closure. Wow. The marriage of film imagery and score is just superb!

In “She-Monster” our alien walks a forest path, encountering a deer and a rattlesnake, which she kills. Kauer supports her walking with repeated phrases of her theme, which sow tension and unease. A fierce line by strings agitato and woodwinds strike fear, but a diminuendo interlude of flute speaks of the deer encounter. We build to crescendo upon repeated phrases of her theme, which culminates ferociously as she kills the rattlesnake. This cue is outstanding! “Mountain Accident” is a fine tension-building cue. It reveals our villains driving up the forested mountain road only to crash as they behold the she-monster. Kauer introduces his three-note Tension Motif on pizzicato strings with challenging counters of the She-monster Theme to raise tension. As the tension builds, the Danger Theme joins in a horrific tête-à-tête with the She-monster Theme. This fine interplay is repeated in “Astounding Bonus Music”, which was not used in the film. “Walk to the Cabin” offers another stunning score highlight as we see our villains walking to, and then breaking in to Cutler’s cabin. Kauer uses his She-monster Theme with great effect here, first with tremolo strings and woodwinds from which he launches fierce, driving string ostinato phrasing with woodwind and horn counters. A number of permutations and instrument transfers of the theme are ingenious and frighten us. We culminate as he introduces a danza macabre, which ushers in a stunning horrific crescendo to support the break-in. Wow!

In “Dick Knocked Out” Nat slugs and knocks out Cutler. Trombone brutale powerfully emotes the violence. “Brad Goes Outside“ is yet another fine cue, which reveals Nat ordering Brad to search for the she-monster that just looked into the cabin. His search is successful and he meets his death from her touch. Kauer sows unease with eerie strings and woodwinds mysterioso emoting the Stalking Motif with sharp interplay of the repeating triplets of the Tension Motif. Soon he ruptures the line with sharp string ostinato phrases of the She-monster Theme. Slowly, yet dramatically we build to a horrific crescendo marking Brad’s death. In “Looking for Brad” Nat goes out and searches for Brad. Tremolo strings sound the Tension Motif, which flows with eerie woodwind and muted horn counters, thus creating a frightening soundscape. “Looking for Brad, Part 2” reveals Nat encountering the alien and her killing of Cutler’s collie. The cue offers a fine example of Kauer slowly building suspense and tension. Repeating statements of the Attack Motif interplays with the She-monster Theme informing us that although hidden, she is near. Repeated statements of the Attack Motif joins with woodwinds in building tension until at last it ushers in a monstrous crescendo upon the Stalking Motif, which culminates with the She-monster Theme. Wow!

In “Shots in the Dark” Nat shoots at the alien, who retreats, allowing him to drag Brad’s corpse into the cabin. Kauer creates a grim ambiance using interplay of the She-monster Theme on dark horns and the Tension Motif on strings. “Inebriated” reveals Ester who is armed and drunk seeking more alcohol. An angry Nat shoots her champagne bottle before she can drink it. Eerie repeating triplets of the Tension Motif on violins with woodwinds accents create an unsettling soundscape. Soon the Stalking Motif on woodwinds joins in truly horrific interplay, culminating in an orchestral shriek as Nat shoots. In “Attempted Escape” the group attempts to escape the cabin, only to be driven back by the she-monster. Strings animato propel their flight, but the line is severed by harsh repeated statements of the She-monster Theme. “She’s Back!” reveals the she-monster jumping through the window and pursuing the group, which flees. We open with horrific horns barbaro sounding the She-monster Theme. Spirited Interplay of the Attack and Stalking Motifs supports the flight and pursuit.

As the group flees in “Jeep Escape” they are cut-off by the she-monster who kills Nat. This is a score highlight, which opens with a spirited line by strings animato that propel the flight with occasional sounding of the She-monster Theme. Pounding tympani usher is a stunning interplay of the Stalking Motif and She-monster Theme, which crescendos as Nat is killed. Wow! “Back to the Cabin” supports Dick and Margaret’s flight back to the cabin. Strings agitato and trilling woodwinds support their flight. “Return of the She-Monster” reveals the she-monster barging back into the cabin and you guessed it, Dick and Margaret fleeing yet again outside. At this point I want the monster to kill them and end the film! But I digress. The She-monster Theme sounds with horrific power as tremolo strings support their flight. In “Pursuit” the she-monster pursues the fleeing couple in the woods. Strings animato, sharp woodwind phrases and blaring discordant horns propel this scene. “Bear” reveals the sight of a bear as they are fleeing. The repeating triplets of the Tension Motif on tremolo strings play against a violin sustain and flute emoting the Attack Motif, which build to crescendo.

“Back to the Cabin” features, you guessed it Dick’s and Margaret’s return to the cabin. Kauer reprises the line of strings animato, sharp woodwind phrases and blaring discordant horns of his “Pursuit” cue, but with much greater intensity. In “She-Monster’s Demise” Dick discovers that combining nitric and hydrochloric acids will destroy the alien’s protective platinum suit. Though his throw clearly misses her, she nonetheless falls dead – thank you. Clarion trumpets, strings agitato and frenetic woodwinds propel this aggressive cue. We transition on tremolo strings, which usher in repeated statements of the She-monster Theme in all it horrific glory. We culminate with one last shrill statement of her theme as she dies. “End Title” reveals Dick reading a message on the alien’s pendant, which offers an ultimatum from, are you ready, “The Master Of The Universal Council of Planets”. Kauer closes the film with powerfully final statements of the She-monster Theme.

Allow me to thank Dave Schecter and Monstrous Movie Music for the release of these two unique and obscure scores from the 1950s. The digital editing and mastering is first rate and once again extensive liner notes are provided for this quality product. Folks, Carras’ work in “She Demons” offers four fine themes, which he interplays to great effect. His score clearly transcended this B film whose narrative it enhanced. For “The Astounding She-monster” I was frankly surprised and gratified by Kauer’s effort, which was unknown to me. He clearly offers homage to Bernard Herrmann, one that I believe would have pleased the Maestro. The dramatic, sharp, short motifs and phrasing that set Herrmann apart are amply demonstrated here with Kauer’s exceptional writing. Time after time this film’s narrative and imagery was enhanced by the score, which offers many outstanding tense, propulsive and dynamic cues. If you appreciate the road less traveled and find enjoyment in long forgotten obscure scores from B films, then this album is for you!

Buy the She-Demons/Astounding She-Monster soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • SHE-DEMONS
  • Main Title (1:44)
  • Washed up on Beach (0:23)
  • Footprints in the Sand (0:20)
  • Snake in the Jungle (2:13)
  • Ambushed on the Beach (1:18)
  • Dead Body (1:01)
  • Dance (0:54)
  • Guards Round Up Dancers (0:22)
  • Caged Women (0:35)
  • She Demon (0:29)
  • Tension (0:30)
  • Underground Lab (1:23)
  • Subterranean Smooch (1:24)
  • Suspense (0:19)
  • Hiding (1:51)
  • Fight (1:52)
  • Caught (0:12)
  • Mona Enters (0:14)
  • Menace (0:18)
  • Torture (1:08)
  • Escape (1:42)
  • Nazis in Pursuit (1:49)
  • Mona’s Face (0:15)
  • In the Tunnel (0:53)
  • Final Battle (0:38)
  • End Title (1:17)
  • THE ASTOUNDING SHE-MONSTER
  • Main Title (0:56)
  • The Kidnapping (2:59)
  • Rock Hound (1:06)
  • She-Monster (1:44)
  • Mountain Accident (1:04)
  • Astounding Bonus Music (0:48)
  • Walk to the Cabin (2:47)
  • Dick Knocked Out (0:18)
  • Monster in Window (0:06)
  • Brad Goes Outside (3:41)
  • Looking for Brad (1:22)
  • Looking for Brad, Part 2 (1:44)
  • Shots in the Dark (0:36)
  • Inebriated (3:31)
  • Attempted Escape (0:34)
  • She’s Back! (1:50)
  • She Lives (0:08)
  • Jeep Escape (1:31)
  • Back to the Cabin (0:33)
  • Following Close Behind (0:06)
  • Return of the She-Monster (0:37)
  • Pursuit (0:45)
  • Bear (1:06)
  • Bear’s Death (0:06)
  • Back to the Cabin (again) (0:54)
  • She-Monster’s Demise (1:13)
  • End Title (0:20)

Running Time: 58 minutes 33 seconds

Monstrous Movie Music MMM-1971 (1958/1957/2013)

SHE-DEMONS composed and conducted by Nicolas Carras. THE ASTOUNDING SHE-MONSTER composed and conducted by Guenther Kauer. Album produced by David Schechter and Kathleen Mayne.

Advertisements
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s