Ghost Ship, John Frizzell's second score in Dark Castle horror series, after Thirt3en Ghosts, is given a meaty CD release with about 70 mins. of original score, and one original song, although the excellent vocal rendition of "Senza Fine" that opens the film, originally written for Robert Aldrich's 1965 version of Flight of the Phoenix, isn't on the disc, but a melodic fragment appears in "Francesca's Theme," a thin piano quotation is used in "The Fight," and a delicate echo appears in "Repairs." (The full vocal version is on Monica Mancini's film theme album, Cinema Paradiso. And yes, she's Hank's daughter.)
Along with the film's retro-fifties title design, the song and its silky arrangement immediately established the film's setting as an Andrea Doria -type luxury liner - except in place of smacking into the Stockholm, the Antonia Graza falls victim to pirates, a little demon, and a loose suspension wire that slices in half deck-top revelers in one of the best opening sequences designed for a horror film.
That's where Frizzell's score kicks in: when heads of shocked passengers slide apart, torsos flop over, and a short little girl stands alone amid flopping, squishy body parts.
Much of the score is a mix of atmospheric cues meant to capture looming horror within the ship, and the rust and mold that's devouring the relic while a group a treasure seekers clamor to find a stash of hidden gold. The film's main theme is for the adventurous crew of "The Arctic Warrior," revealed in two parts: the ship's toss in a wild sea, and one character's quick slide across a steel cable to avert disaster during a salvage operation.
"I Saw a Little Girl" is overtly melodic at the start, with gentle cadences, soft piano, and a brief use of woodwinds - all very chipper, until dissonance signals the end of the cue's daydream mood. "No Unexpected Guests" builds a foreboding atmosphere, as a step-like harp and French horn lead the strings and some minimalist figures towards a synth-fused conclusion.
Minimalism also forms the basis of the clever "The Bodies," where Frizzell employs an intriguing echo effect that's established by a repeated two-note couplet, and later magnified by a bevy of strings. As the slashing effect gradually fades, a murky piano repeats the notes in two ascending/descending pairs before the brief cue fades out.
Even the film's heroic main theme also gets some variation in "Finding Gold," with some beautiful chord shifts, and the aforementioned couplets that reveal themselves to be the base notes of the main theme. The spiraling minimalist passages that dominate Stay Alive also make an early appearance in the stellar cue "Work To Do," with the same type of unrelenting strings dipping into aleatoric practice.
Frizzell's approach in Ghost Ship is very broad, and while minimalist ideas and theme deconstruction are his most evident tools, he also uses Bulgarian vocals in the album's second half, as in "Santos Dies" and "Go To Hell;" and he co-authored the electronic vocal "My Little Box" that plays over the montage of events that led to the demise of passengers and crew. That cue's groovy bass line becomes a fleeting theme in "Bon Apetite," and collapses into some rhythmic spirals before a familiar swell of dissonance closes the brief cue. It's one way that a vocal track can be integrated into a largely orchestral score, even though montages are often the perfect opportunity for a film's music supervisor to add a tune tied to a film's 'official' music-from-and-inspired-by album.
A well-produced release. For an interview with John Frizzell, click HERE.
© 2006 Mark R. Hasan