The score for Harry Kümel's 1971 erotic vampire film Daughters of Darkness has long been a white whale for soundtrack collectors. The only official release of Francois de Roubaix's music was a two-song 7” single on France's Barclay Records, featuring the songs “Les Lèvres Rouges” (“Red Lips,” the film's theme) and “Les Dunes D'ostende” (“The Dunes Of Ostend”), which goes for rather large sums on the secondhand market.
However, after nearly 50 years, Dutch label Music On Vinyl's soundtrack imprint At The Movies brings this long-desired collection to the world. Listening to the music on its own, de Roubaix's score is even more impressive than when paired with Kümel's film. As the composer's son Benjamin states in the liner notes, “[i]ts composer achieves a perfect balance and the result is a bleak and eerie soundtrack that stands on a par with the music of Ennio Morricone in A Lizard in a Woman's Skin or - in a different style - that of Isaac Hayes for Shaft”.
Benjamin de Roubaix sums it up perfectly there, pointing out the delicate balance his father achieved with this score, pairing gorgeous orchestral pieces with swinging funk. De Roubaix puts the music together in a way that creates an atmosphere of danger and eroticism, as opposed to the other lesbian vampire movie with a famous score released in 1971, Jess Franco's Vampyros Lesbos. The score to that film, by Manfred Hübler and Siegfried Schwab, might be more famous, but it doesn't achieve the sense of tension repeatedly invoked by the electric guitar in Daughters of Darkness.
De Roubaix's score - especially when that electric guitar is used - does have a certain spaghetti western feel to it, especially the more guitar-heavy compositions such as Riz Ortolani's Day of Anger score, but Daughters of Darkness really feels like it's presaging what Alessandro Blonksteiner would perfect in his work for the zombie horror of House By the Cemetery and Cannibal Apocalypse.
Hearing chirping birds at the beginning and the sound of frogs and a driving car at the end of “Arrival at the Manor” makes one think that the music is likely sourced from a music and effects track, rather than master tapes which were unearthed somewhere, but the liner notes make explicit note of the fact that these recordings were taken from tapes, because the last two cuts on the LP - “The Bruges Band” and “Dracula 68 Woodstock (Of Fish And Men)” - were never used in the film, and the final track was in fact composed for another film entirely.
The music sounds astonishingly vibrant and warm, and the vinyl is without even a hint of crackle or pop. One can hear the room in which the music was recorded, letting the music reverberate, and the resonance of the electric organ on “The Countess's Kiss,” combined with the big drum sound of “The Countess's Bite,” really illuminate how adroitly this was recorded, as well as the skill with which it was pressed.
The record is pressed on “blood red” vinyl, and comes in a gatefold jacket, the cover of which is luridly-colored to match. The image on the cover is the pair from the original film poster, but reduced down to black halftone, with the only other color the whites of the women's eyes. It's striking, and looks like it could've been contemporaneous with the film's early '70s release. A quite colorful reproduction of that original poster is included, as well. Benjamin de Roubaix's liner notes offer a good example of the long-term impact of his father's score for Daughters of Darkness, and everything is rounded out nicely with some images of the composer at work.
DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS (1971) / COMPOSER: FRANCOIS DE ROUBAIX / LABEL: MUSIC ON VINYL / RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER 14TH