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Composed, Conducted, and Produced by:
John Williams

Orchestrated by:
Herbert Spencer

Performed by:
The London Symphony Orchestra

Varèse Sarabande

Release Date:
February 20th, 1990

Also See:
Raiders of the Lost Ark

Audio Clips:
3. To Scarborough (0:31):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

5. Night Journeys (0:29):
WMA (191K)  MP3 (239K)
Real Audio (168K)

10. Dracula's Death (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

11. End Titles (0:31):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

Regular U.S. release, but completely out of print as of 2000.



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Sales Rank: 272928

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Buy it... if you love the tragic and melodramatic portions of John Williams' scores from the early 1980's, for Dracula extends this heavy material to explosive proportions.

Avoid it... if you prefer your Williams scores to abound with complex subtleties, a trait not as evident in this score (in part due to atrocious sound quality of the recording in the film and on album).

Dracula: (John Williams) Countless variations on Bram Stoker's classic vampire tale have existed through the years, but none had attempted to take such a sensual, romantic view of it until John Badham's 1979 version starring Frank Langella as the bare-chested, womanizing title character and Sir Laurence Olivier as his nemesis, Van Helsing. A fair amount of sex appeal and graphic violence punctuated this unusual adaptation, and Dracula was criticized heavily by loyalists of the concept for sharing more in common with the stage variation of the story (from which Langella came) than Stoker's original vision. The film was mocked by such viewers, driving away the mainstream from what was otherwise a decent production. The director of Dracula was thrilled to have signed the top blockbuster composer of the era, John Williams, to stir the dead with a rousing performance from the London Symphony Orchestra. Williams confessed at the time that he had never viewed a single vampire-related film, and Badham considered this fact to be a great virtue given the new direction he was attempting to take with the lore. What he desired of Williams was a score that underlined the romantic tilt of the production, pointing to Gothic grandeur rather than an exposition of dissonant horror bombast. Williams, given his own tendency to embrace the same general notion, obliged with a score that is among the most melodramatic of any to accompany a Dracula film. It's a work built upon harmonic deviancy that is morbidly conceived and forcefully performed. It sounds far less like a horror score and instead like it belongs in the fantasy drama genre. Many of its progressions, counterpoint techniques, rhythmic devices, and instrumental choices reflect Williams' forthcoming The Empire Strikes Back, with several sections indistinguishable from the more famous score's latter half. All of Williams' fan-favorite techniques are paraded in this score, from the chopping, turbulent bass string rhythms to pulsating mid-range brass and resounding crescendos of timpani pounding that culminate in a massive gong strike. Subtleties do exist in the music for Dracula, but Williams usually states his intentions with a heavy hand throughout the work. This doesn't mean that any part of it is religiously influenced; there's nothing in Dracula that foreshadows the "Gloria" piece in Monsignor. Along with the absence of liturgical chants, the score also mostly ignores the controversial period and location of the narrative.

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One aspect in which Dracula differs from most Williams scores is in thematic diversity. The composer tackles this film with only one theme, a relative rarity given how complicated he typically made his intermingling of motifs for films of much lesser inspiration. The eight-note theme for Dracula himself is the foundation for the entire score, its opening and closing pairs of two-note progressions bracketing a classical-style twist that gives the score its only true hint of the period. The individual two-note portions are given their own duties in the score, though most of the statements of Dracula's entry and influence are afforded variations on the full theme. The idea reaches monumental proportions by the concluding two cues, matching the Ark's theme from Raiders of the Lost Ark in intensity. Williams chose not to provide a secondary love theme for Dracula, instead translating the primary idea down to solo horn and other more intimate performances. When the romance on screen hits its heights, Williams treats these occasions with the same broad ensemble strokes as the scenes of killing and battle. Each cue in the score, even if containing quiet string plucking for a short time, eventually yields an overblown level of harmonic activity, certain to please any collector of the composer's early 80's music. Individual highlights abound, from the scherzo in "To Scarborough" that climaxes with a decisive gong hit (a la Lord Vader's entrance) to the eerie female vocals that prevail in the swirling strings of "Night Journeys," another cue with a definitive Williams crescendo. With the help of an organ, "Dracula's Death" is as tragically rendered as Han Solo's freezing the following year (but does suffer from a bad splice with 20 seconds to spare). The score's parade of explosive ensemble expressions of high drama is interrupted by "The Bat Attack," the album's only detriment. There is, unfortunately, a major downside to Dracula, and that is its extremely muffled sound quality. Both in film and on album, Williams' score is badly constrained by a soundscape that significantly marginalizes individual elements in the ensemble and leaves only the many overtly loquacious moments for your enjoyment. This is a score that is in extreme need of a total remastering, for its distant and muddy sound is alone a reason for this score to lose a star in its rating. Making matters worse, Dracula has always been difficult to find on CD, its most recent release matching the equally muffled LP presentation in 1990. There is much to like about Dracula as a composition, and the performance is unquestionably spirited, but appreciating the work in the film or on album will present challenges. Price Hunt: CD or Download

    Music as Written for the Film: ****
    Music as Heard on Album: ***
    Overall: ***

Bias Check:For John Williams reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.74 (in 69 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.59 (in 338,227 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 3.08 Stars
Smart Average: 3.08 Stars*
***** 25 
**** 27 
*** 31 
** 20 
* 23 
  (View results for all titles)
    * Smart Average only includes
         40% of 5-star and 1-star votes
              to counterbalance fringe voting.
   Alternative review at
  Southall -- 4/1/12 (4:46 a.m.)
   I know that theme!
  JBlough -- 8/25/09 (10:24 p.m.)
Read All | Add New Post | Search | Help  

 Track Listings: Total Time: 36:33

• 1. Main Title & Storm Sequence (5:08)
• 2. The Night Visitor (2:12)
• 3. To Scarborough (2:42)
• 4. The Abduction of Lucy (3:34)
• 5. Night Journeys (5:12)
• 6. The Love Scene (2:04)
• 7. Meeting in the Cave (3:29)
• 8. The Bat Attack (2:46)
• 9. For Mina (2:15)
• 10. Dracula's Death (2:57)
• 11. End Titles (3:58)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert includes multiple notes about the score or film, though the reproduction of the LP notes by the director are practially illegible on the CD due to tiny size.

  All artwork and sound clips from Dracula are Copyright © 1990, Varèse Sarabande. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 8/14/09 (and not updated significantly since). Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2009-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.