AUDIO REVIEW: HAMMER PRESENTS DRACULA (VINYL) / MUSIC: JAMES BARNARD / NARRATION: CHRISTOPHER LEE / LABEL: DUST BUG RECORDS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
From the moment Hammer Presents Dracula begins, it's an atmospheric trip into the macabre. Bill Mitchell's introduction is blood-chilling, delivered in an accented rasp, making lines such as, "Fear is born of the devil" absolutely terrifying, especially as he's very quietly mesmerizing. There's no shouting. Mitchell speaks in low tones, relating a story not to be overheard by anyone but those for whom it's intended.
Honestly, films on record are a bit of a lost art. In the '70s and early '80s, you could get everything from Raiders of the Lost Ark to Disney cartoon classics abridged to fit on an LP. The Star Wars films are the most famous, obviously, but there were innumerable other audio tales, as well.
This Hammer Dracula LP falls in an interesting place. It's not made up of dialogue and audio from the film itself, instead featuring the film's titular Dracula, Christopher Lee, telling the plot of the movie as a short story, with audio effects and the film's score behind it. If you've heard Basil Rathbone's readings of Edgar Allen Poe, you know what you're getting.
It's exceptionally moody and builds tension wonderfully, making masterful use of Lee's voice and the James Barnard score. The flip side features four themes to other Hammer pictures, presented as Four Faces of Evil: Fear in the Night, She, The Vampire Lovers, and Dr. Jekyll & Sister Hyde. One wishes that there was all of Barnard's Dracula score available, but given that there is so little Hammer music available these days, it's far better to celebrate that which is released than to lament what is not. If nothing else, Barnard's theme to the film adaptation of H. Rider Haggard's adventure She is appropriately epic and romantic, as is The Vampire Lovers, as composed by Harry Robinson. It's actually quite a beautiful suite the Hammer City Players perform here, and sounds wonderful in this presentation.
And honestly, the presentation is perfect. The packaging perfectly recreates the original release from 40 years past, and it's newly-cut from the original tapes, giving this an analogue warmth that fairly beams from the speakers. The clear vinyl with blood mist looks creepy and eerily pretty. It's limited, and will likely disappear quickly as word spreads of how nice this whole package is. Get on it, post-haste.
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