In 2019, La-La Land Records presented something which seemed impossible: the debut release of the original Franz Waxman score to James Whale's 1935 Gothic horror masterwork, The Bride of Frankenstein. Surprisingly, the full score itself has only been available since the early '90s, when it was recorded for Silva Screen by The Westminster Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Kenneth Alwyn, despite being widely regarded as one of the finest examples of horror movie music.
However, thanks to the original acetates housed at the composer’s archives at Syracuse University, along with producer Mike Matessino's discovery of further elements, La-La Land was able to compile a 43 minute program that retained the majority of the score’s most notable moments.
Now, just over a year later, that release makes its vinyl debut courtesy of Waxwork Records, and it's a whopper of a release. Rather than simply go with the admittedly classic poster imagery or stills from the film itself, as have past releases, Waxwork had Phantom City Creative craft original artwork which not only captures the flair of the original imagery from Whale's picture, but interprets it in a new and exciting way. From the moment one looks at the artwork on the gatefold jacket, they know that they're in for something special.
Once the needle hits the black and white swirled coloured vinyl, one can immediately hear the work which producer Matessino put into restoring and remastering The Bride of Frankenstein. According to his liner notes, this particular release was crafted from multiple sources, with up to 13 different recordings available for each particular track, requiring a keen ear to identify ‘the best quality for every phrasem bar by bar, for each surviving cue, and then 'stitching' it all together so that this indisputably landmark score could make its debut.’
For an 85 year-old recording quite literally ‘Frankensteined’ together, this is a marvelous record to which one can listen. It is, perhaps, a bit muted, but this is likely more due to the fact that the recording technology of 1935 was essentially single-track – forcing the engineers to equalize on the fly, if at all – and thus Waxman's score is more of a live recording of an orchestra performance, as opposed to a recording session as might be considered today.
That said, it thrills. While the previous re-recording by The Westminster Philharmonic Orchestra might be more complete, this is the music as heard in the film itself. There's something particular about the way the phrasing comes through on iconic cues like the main title theme and Presenting the Bride – The Explosion that one is more than willing to sacrifice thoroughness and audio fidelity for the simple ability to be able to listen to them without the overlay of dialogue and effects.
The Bride of Frankenstein is available from Waxwork Records.