DIE SISTER, DIE!
Special Collection Volume ISC 282
Film Date: 1972
Delicious treat for Hugo Friedhofer fans! World premiere release of original soundtrack from Die Sister, Die!
Price: - (Sold Out)
Doug's Tech Talk
Delicious treat for Hugo Friedhofer fans! World premiere release of original soundtrack from Die Sister, Die!. At tail end of legendary career, Friedhofer scored this independent 1976 Randall Hood horror tale (aka The Companion) starring Jack Ging, Edith Atwater, Kent Smith, tightly written by Theodore Strauss (credited as Tony Sawyer), classily shot by Michael Lonzo. Friedhofer created complex, often frightening score, recorded it in London with members of National Philharmonic Orchestra under orchestrator Carl Brandt. Complete multi-track stereo session masters have been long lost - until now. Surviving in pristine condition after more than four decades, we can all finally enjoy the rewards, intact, presented in dynamic stereo! Though often erroneously credited as a 1972 project, film in fact was shot in 1975, scored in September of 1976 at The Music Centre with veteran John Richards as engineer. Academy Award-winning composer (The Best Years Of Our Lives in 1946) rarely made foray into horror movies but took assignment at personal request of director Hood and cinematographer Lonzo. This gem shows he had natural instinct for genre just the same. Highlights abound but two intense back-to-back cues ("Visitors Of The Mind", "First Nell, Then Father") are worthy of additional spotlight. Friedhofer moves between suspense, terror in both lengthy sequences with equal aplomb. "Knife For Jethro", "Rooftop Struggle" bring excitement into the shudders. Cool extra: For early scene in cocktail bar, Friedhofer invited his dear friend Jeri Southern to write source cue for piano. Southern, an accomplished torch-singer, jazz pianist, teacher and composer (1940's through 1960's) wrote terrific source piece for London session pianist, then opted to record it herself back here in her home literally with her own equipment. Incredibly, the master for that cue also survived. A rare treat for her own fans! Highly personalized notes by cameraman Lonzo plus graphic design by Joe Sikoryak wrap up this chilling package. Sad footnotes: Director Hood died during post-production in August 1976 at the young age of 48, just before Friedhofer had finished his score. The news shocked the composer, who was slated to record his music literally just a few days later. Friedhofer continued a period of self doubt, depression, then sadly passed away himself in May of 1981. This CD presents a rare opportunity to hear the work of a master composer nearing the end of a magnificent career. Carl Brandt conducts members of National Philharmonic Orchestra. Intrada Special Collection CD available while quantities and interest remain!
Tech Talk From The Producer…
magnificent career began during the 1930s with orchestrating scores for the
likes of Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Max Steiner; soon it blossomed into composing
his own film music masterpieces, beginning with The Adventures of Marco Polo in
1938 and continuing into the 1970s. Friedhofer had reached the final stages of his artistic
career—and, in his own words, a period of self-doubt—when, in 1976, he took on the scoring
assignment for The Companion, a horrifying tale of family greed, jealousy and murder
that ultimately became known as Die Sister, Die! Though often erroneously listed as a 1972
film, Friedhofer in fact completed his orchestrations and signed his score on June 30, 1976;
the film’s distribution was delayed until 1978.
Although he had spent relatively little time with the beast known as the horror film
genre, the composer responded in the manner of a true craftsman, even at this late stage
of his life. (The legendary composer passed away on May 17, 1981.) But Die Sister, Die!
gave him ample room to display his seldom-heard gift for writing with a brittle, challenging harmonic vernacular. Using an orchestra of strings, woodwinds, a modest contingent
of brass (playing both open and muted), xylophone, vibraphone, glockenspiel, bell tree,
harp, piano and a small percussion section, Friedhofer delivered the requisite shudders and
thrills as if he was born for the genre. And yet, even amidst all of the contemporary ideas
for strings and the significant number of transparent woodwind solos, Friedhofer’s signature
Americana harmonies found
their way into the score. Traids filled
with touches of dissonance, bass lines
frequently working on their own
and seemingly out of touch with the
chords above—these trademark ideas
still found room to shine. The resulting
score was a rich meld of classic
Friedhofer with an all-new voice.
In what seems like a first, the
spotting of the music (determining
exactly where in the film music would
come and go) was followed precisely,
with every single cue written by
Friedhofer not only appearing in the
finished production but also appearing exactly where intended, from first note to last.
One selection, the jazz-tinged piano solo “A Taste Of Ivory” (appearing early in the
picture in a bar sequence), was composed and played by Jeri Southern, a noted jazz musician.
Southern enjoyed a career both as a “torch singer” during the forties and as an accomplished
jazz vocalist/pianist. In 1951 she became an artist for Decca Records and recorded
a number of hits before signing with Capitol Records. In the sixties, she spent some time
teaching before moving over to the movie music industry in Hollywood, where she began a
friendship with Friedhofer that ultimately led to this project. Southern’s piece for Die Sister, Die! was initially recorded in four takes at the British scoring sessions with a session pianist,
but—as Mike Lonzo explains in his wonderful reminiscence—the filmmakers thought
the solo needed a more relaxed and genuine “jazz” feel to it. So they went straight to the
source—Jeri Southern recorded seventeen additional takes before she was satisfied with her
performance. The seventeenth take became the version heard in the picture.
To present this world premiere stereo release of
Hugo Friedhofer’s masterful score for Die Sister, Die!, we were fortunate to
have access to the original scoring session mixes made by ace scoring mixer John
Richards at The Music Centre on 1/2″ three-channel stereo tape. These had been preserved
in flawless condition by Michael Lonzo, the director of cinematography for the picture in
1976. The genuine stereo image is crisp and clear with considerable detail. The layout of the
orchestra is also worth noting: Not only violins and violas but also cellos are heard mostly
from the left, giving a degree of weight to that channel; basses are the only strings aimed to
the right. To create a balance, however, the piano, frequently playing in the lower register, is
channeled to the right as well, along with the lower brass. French horns can be heard from
center to right while the woodwinds, a very important color in the score, are focused in
the center. Percussion and bells are spread all across the center and right. The result of this
slightly unusual layout is remarkably transparent and detailed colors from every instrumental
Budgetary limitations required the players get the music down as quickly as possible.
With Richards in the booth and gifted conductor Carl Brandt on the podium, everything
was locked down in just a few very productive sessions. The multi-track masters were
brought back to MGM where they were mixed down into the final mono tracks that would
appear in the picture. Thanks to cameraman Lonzo’s wonderful foresight, these precious
stereo session elements survived, including those for the rare solo piano sessions written
and played by Jeri Southern.
And you, dear listeners, get to savor the rewards. Shudder away!