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Mad Doctor of Blood Island marks the debut release from Elysee Productions, a new soundtrack label created by producer Tim Ferrante. A longtime soundtrack fan, Ferrante's been under the spell of Tito Arevalo's music for decades, and his long quest to release an album of the complete score finally ended in 2007 when the limited CD was slowly released into the soundtrack and horror fan markets.

We'll have a review of the score in the coming weeks, but we thought an interview with Ferrante would expand upon some of the many historical details covered in the CD's fat liner notes, and shed a spotlight onto a largely unknown composer whose work, like many colleagues within the exploitation genre, has been marginalized by A-level Hollywood composers whose own genre works tend to get the attention of fans and labels.

Arevalo is unique because he worked exclusively within the Philippine film industry, and his original score became a kind of signature sound for the Blood Island horror films produced by Hemisphere Pictures, although among the quartet of titles that mixed sex, gore, and jungle exotica in some surreal narrative packages - Brides of Blood (1968), Mad Doctor of Blood Island (1969), Beast of Blood (1970), and Brain of Blood (1971) - only Mad Doctor was the original work; the cues for that film were re-recorded with a smaller orchestra for the third film, and some cues were re-used in the fourth and final film.

Like the Blood Island films, Ferrante admits to being captivated by Arevalo's style, which was perhaps the most influential score on his psyche after some classic sci-fi and fantasy soundtracks from his youth.

Tim Ferrante : The first scary music I remember hearing and reacting to was Invaders from Mars (1953) which has since been credited to Mort Glickman instead of screen-credited Raoul Kraushaar. Bernard Herrmann was the man who finally sucked me in with his Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959). I've had a grateful and lifelong appreciation for the men and women who have created the music we hear in movies, on TV shows, for commercials and other media.


Mark R. Hasan: If I'm correct, Elysee's debut CD marks the first time Tito Arevalo's music, if at the very least a full film score, has been released outside of the Philippines, making The Mad Doctor of Blood Island the composer's first international release after a 38 year delay. Why did it take so long?

TF : I think it's safe to say that no film music LPs or CDs by Tito Arevalo have ever migrated to the United States. I can't speak to his non-film works. Why did it take so long? The release of the Mad Doctor score was something I've wanted to do for nearly 20 years. I learned that the master tapes existed in the late eighties and were right under my nose. They were in the possession of long time friend and former Hemisphere Pictures ad campaign boss, Samuel
Sherman. Lots of things prevented it from coming out since then, but everything lined up this past year. I didn't do a speck of market research; this album was going to come out even if no one wanted it.


MRH : Stylistically, Arevalo's music draws from his background in popular music and strong familiarity with big band orchestral writing, a style that was curiously very popular with exploitation filmmakers during the sixties, whether the music came from stock music libraries (as in The Fat Black Pussycat) or were original scores (On Her Bed of Roses, I Eat Your Skin), and I wonder if you might have some insight as to why jazz or orchestral jazz was chosen over more classical-styled scores, or outright pop scores at that time?

TF : I've been a fan of film music all of my life, but I am by no means a scholar. Speaking as an observer, the use of the scoring styles you describe were likely a mixture of cultural and practical elements in varying proportions. Yes, the big band/jazz mixture was prevalent during that era,
evoking moods and attitudes of the times. If you look at the timeline, the people composing for certain low budget films were products of the big band era.

You cited On Her Bed of Roses which was scored by Joseph Greene, a successful songwriter, composer and singer who was extremely active during the big band era. He certainly knew that particular genre better than anyone. His background speaks to a part of why he might adopt a particular style as well as being suited to the purpose of the film maker. In some ways it makes sense that the last gasps of the big band sound were being utilized because they still could be.

Combining the style with jazz was very clever and there are those who did it well. The budgets for marginal films were assuredly pinched, so men like Greene or in the case of Del Tenney's I Eat Your Skin, jazzman, composer, arranger Lon Norman, likely worked very cheaply. Norman's score to Skin is just amazing and I would love to have that one on CD! Parenthetically, Robert Cobert wrote a wonderfully catchy big band/jazz theme for the TV game show Password in 1961. The musical idiom was a legitimate form on big and small screens.


MRH : I'm surprised and delighted you're familiar with Greene and Norman, because they're little-known composers who scored only a handful of films before completely disappearing from the film scene. In the case of Norman 's I Eat Your Skin, no album was ever released (though I wonder if a single was pressed for the film's vocal voodoo song), whereas Greene's Bed of Roses came out on the obscure Mira LP.

Would a commercial LP release make it easier for a producer to track down a score's rights holder, or does an album put out by a long-dead label add further complications?

TF : Finding publisher and ownership information today is sometimes as easy as going to the BMI or ASCAP websites and doing a search. Although, the more obscure you get, the less you can rely on such resources. We cited On Her Bed of Roses, a score released on the Mira Records label in 1966. Mira was only around a few years, founded by ex-Vee-Jay president Randall Wood, not to be confused with Randolph Wood, founder of Dot Records.

Tracking down the rights to that score would be a challenge, but not impossible. It's unlikely Mira licensed the score's LP rights in perpetuity. Who owns the film today? What was the original deal between the composer and film maker? Maybe certain rights reverted back to the composer and his estate owns the music. Or not.

It's a very obscure film, but it's likely someone, somewhere owns those rights. Possibly the owner of the film itself, whoever that may be today. And that someone could just as easily be the surviving widow of the producer or their children. Obviously an album master existed; has it survived? A CD project of On Her Bed of Roses might have to be re-mastered from a vinyl LP. Even if you track down a rights holder, the really big question is whether or not source materials survived.













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