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Great Horror Composers — And A Surprise!

When you think of great horror film music, which composers come to mind?

Is it John Williams’gut-level primal Jaws theme? Or maybe the pulsating rhythms of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells that was so memorably used in The Exorcist? The eclectic genius of cinema music Jerry Goldsmith won only a single Oscar during his illustrious career, but at least it was for his unforgettably spooky satanic choir in The Omen.

Bernard Herrmann won only a single Oscar over his 40 year career as well – and it wasn’t for his iconic shrieking Psycho strings either. Although that’s the piece you remember every time you reach for that bar of soap and wonder, isn’t it?

And then there’s Henry Mancini.

Wait a minute – you mean the guy who wrote the ultra-cool themes for Peter Gunn and The Pink Panther? And that Moon River song from Breakfast at Tiffany’s?!?

Yep. That’s our man.

Mancini started off his career as an anonymous composer employed by Universal Studios. In those days, a number of composers might be assigned to create various cues for a single film, while the music supervisor for a project would be the one to receive the compositional credit instead.

Case in point: The Creature From The Black Lagoon.

Although on this particular project he was working with fellow composers Hans J. Salter and Herman Stein (both with very impressive genre resumes), the infamous, swelling three-note bwah-Bwah-BWAH that accompanied the creature’s most threatening appearances arose from the sharpened pencils of Mancini.

Which is something director Tobe Hooper remembered when he hired Mancini to score his most ambitious sci-fi horror film, LIFEFORCE – which has one of the most epically rousing opening title pieces of music you’ll ever hear.

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