The Silent Musician by Mark Wigglesworth, Richard Wagner, Cosmic Sex, and My Beloved Conductor John Wilson

In an earlier post I mentioned that, since May a couple years ago, I’ve been reading books by orchestra conductors on conducting, in order to better glimpse into the unfamiliar heart and mind of my beloved John Wilson. That classic tome written by Richard Wagner was far out, of course, and going back to some of Leonard Bernstein‘s early writings was deeply nostalgic.

But it was my treatment of a book my bonny conductor had on his public Facebook Likes list that done me in—a thin, and thinly humorous, volume written by a coeval of John’s who let out his dirigental insecurities in a tirade of snark that I answered in kind in a long, 4-star Amazon review that I thought was hilarious, which it was, although apparently only to me. I did this to get John’s attention. I got it. John did not like what I wrote. Hence, he learned how to spell my name ab-so-lute-ly correctly.

Now, Mark Wigglesworth has a 30-year career conducting a number of the great operas and a number of the great symphony cycles, to much acclaim. If there is one thing that John’s friend’s book made evident, in its perverted way, it’s the importance of a conductor being holistically grounded, and Wigglesworth is, as we used to say in the 70s, a grounded guy. Not surprising for someone who has Alan Watts on his bookshelf; and since the English-born psychedelic Zen guru of San Francisco is one of my guiding lights too, it was a deep pleasure to read The Silent Musician, Wigglesworth’s musings on his inner/outer artistic journey as a conductor. Wigglesworth, from Sussex, is an acclaimed interpreter of Gustav Mahler as well as Wagner, two creative heavyweights who positively require those who would approach their work to have had a fair look first into their own personal psychological-spiritual makeup. Consider Daniel Barenboim—one artist on the world stage I respect the hell out of—and his own moral / philosophical / logistical grapplings with the Architect of Bayreuth (download his “Wagner and Ideology” here and let me just say, if Barenboim figured it out I’m satisfied).

Speaking of Wagner, a few years ago Wigglesworth conducted the overture to a Wagner opera I’ll bet you’ve never heard of: Das Liebesverbot, or, The Ban on Love. I only know about this one because I took the mandatory survey course at music school at the university and never ran into it again till now. So this is the first and only thing I’ve ever heard from this opera:

Overture to Das Liebesverbot (1836)
Richard Wagner
Mark Wigglesworth, conductor
BBC Orchestra Wales

Or will ever hear, ever again. Just a bit…Mediterranean, wouldn’t you say?

But what amazes me more is the libretto, because Wagner—get this—chose for his source material the scuzziest, meanest sex comedy ever written, which is, of course, Measure by Measure by William Shakespeare. Yes, at the end hypocrisy is vanquished and everyone gets laid, but eeeeuuwww…

Now, think on the twenty-three year psychological-spiritual journey from Das Liebesverbot to this:

“Mild und leise” from Tristan and Isolde (1859)
Richard Wagner
Daniel Barenboim, conductor
Waltraud Meier, soprano
Beyreuth, 1995

I’m sorry, but when I hear that tune I want to see John’s dear face.

The rest of you, behold Hedy Lamarr and Aribert Mog in Ecstasy (Elektafilm, 1933).

Ecstasy

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Lovelace the Film, Or How to Give Penilingism a Bad Name and The First Porn Movie I Ever Did, 4

I only caught this flick on Prime because Peter was in it, and Peter’s the only Gyllenhaal I think I’d actually enjoy having a beer with even now. The last time we met in New York he had just done Jarhead. Maggie was six months pregnant and being fussed over by her mother, Stephen was in the men’s room on his Blackberry talking to his analyst, and Jake was skulking outside the restaurant—we were at Balthazar—wearing a hoodie and hiding in the shadows. It was that kind of family.

Peter Sarsgaard in LovelaceYes, teenage Cantara made out in early 70s Minneapolis with males who looked and dressed exactly like this. Peter Sarsgaard in Lovelace (2013).


One of the first things Peter did, after we were introduced and he gave first Mister Grumble then me a firm friendly handshake, was try to engage us in a conversation about Melungeons. “You know,” he told us mock-confidentially, “Elvis was a Melungeon.” I evinced surprise and interest—I’d never heard the term before, ever—and Peter obviously was about to launch into a carefully-considered patter about Melungeons, when Maggie came over to fetch him. He smiled at us a dazzling smile, excused himself and trotted off with her.

So for now, enough of Peter and on to the movie he was in: Lovelace, a 2013 indie based on the book Ordeal by Linda Boreman aka Linda Lovelace, which is chiefly about her experience making the influential porn classic Deep Throat (1972). As a movie it doesn’t play too badly; some hack wrote the script, but the same politically savvy gay filmmakers who produced/directed The Life and Times of Harvey Milk, Howl, The Celluloid Closet, etc evidently had a lot of artistic control over this project. So there’s quite a lot of fooling around with the narrative structure and other arty bullshit like that, but it’s not enough to hide the fact that there’s really no core idea or message. Not to mention there’s not a lot of entertainment value, either… Nope, in this package there’s absolutely nothing clever, insightful, sensitive, or aesthetically satisfying—all screen values, incidentally, which would NOT be out of place in a porn movie.

Peter was good, but Peter’s always good at playing soft-spoken villains. What really interested me was Hank Azaria’s portrayal of one of my directors, Gerard Damiano. A small role but well-executed. Mr Damiano himself was soft spoken, I remember, and very patient. His was the last word on the set. Everyone respected him. He also paid me a compliment I immediately put into my mental jewelry box, and there it’s stayed ever since…

Part 1 “Full Dress” here.
Part 2 “Zombie Love Slave” here.
Part 3 “Hot Tub” here.
Part 5 to come…


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Directed by My Old Boss, Rouben Mamoulian: Love Me Tonight (Paramount, 1932) Just for My Beloved Conductor John Wilson

That snooty critic fart Andrew Sarris once mock-praised my old boss Rouben Mamoulian for his early cinema innovations that never quite caught on. Hah! When’s the last time you were so proud of your old boss’s work you wanted to make sure the world never forgot it? So—here’s the most audacious musical film sequence ever directed, which magically links up the movie’s two singing stars Maurice Chevalier and Jeannette MacDonald:

“Isn’t It Romantic?”
from Love Me Tonight
Rouben Mamoulian, director
Nat Finston, music director-arranger
Songs by Rodgers & Hart

Isn't It Romantic.jpgAbove the music master and Ruritanian soldiers: Ella Fitzgerald sings this Richard Rodgers+Lorenz Hart perennial, which was scaled down from its operetta length for inclusion in The Great American Songbook.

And if you’re still in doubt about Mamoulian’s genius, check out this opening scene which I uploaded especially for my bonny John Wilson for the beat:

“City Wakes”
from Love Me Tonight
Rouben Mamoulian, director
Nat Finston, music director-arranger

If I had seen Love Me Tonight before I went to work for The Old Man I would’ve been more patient with him. But I was only 23.


The entire film Love Me Tonight is available on my YT channel here



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Birthday 7 January, 2021: A Letter to My Beloved Conductor John Wilson from His Sentimental American; Complete John+JWO BBC Proms 2010, 2011, 2012 & 2017; Plus Some Lady Porn

Happy 2021, my darling Local Low Fell Lad Made Good. I just tried getting on your management’s website for you (johnwilsonconductordotcom) to check for your January gigs when I was sent to the sinister Your connection is not private page, which perturbs me a bit as it sounds like the server might’ve been hacked.

[Sorry, have to go be with Mister Grumble for a while. More later, promise.]

[2 Jan 2021 14:20] Later. I’m back, dear. Glad to see that fixed, for now. Mister Grumble and I had a date to listen to what I just found on YT: the 1978 NYE Grateful Dead concert from The Closing of Winterland—you know, the one where [legendary band manager] Bill Graham glides down to the stage on a giant lit joint (as I described it to my blind angel which he recognized at once)—and really, it was a great night, or so the Mister tells me. The Mister is the one who turned me on to The Dead, back at our old commune in San Francisco.

But here I go rambling on about American things when I’m sure what you really want to hear is how you made out in 2020. Well honey, as you know, you did fine with your recordings on the Chandos label: Your 2 Korngolds, the symphony and the violin concerto, your Respighi, and the French dudes. I’m sorry you couldn’t conduct Tchaikovsky in Chile (sharing the same time zone with you would have been pretty cosmic), but you did “save” The Turn of the Screw at Wilton’s Music Hall, and that’s très chic.

Here is what I took away from you in 2020 (besides that perfect screenshot and your gracing me with your attention on St Crispin’s Day and the aforementioned recordings):

And speaking of the Proms, pardon me, my love, while I do some Fan Service for your fans :

[making dinner now, Bavarian-style pork chops with sauerkraut and boiled potatoes; I’ll come back to wrap this up as soon as I can, promise]

[6 Jan 2021 14:21] Okay, now that I’ve served all your wonderful fans around the world, let me have my say.

The BBC Proms 2017 semi-staged production of Oklahoma! pissed off 3 people I care about even though one of them is dead: Mister Grumble, a proud Oklahoman, who hated to see this nuanced Sooner tale turn into some weird English panto; original 1943 director Rouben Mamoulian, who even though dead howled in his grave at your dismissive use of his name in promos, oh, and for perpetuating a “mistruth” about him and his artistic relationship with Agnes de Mille; and me for two things: one, your use of the Robert Russell Bennett orchestration (which was never meant to play to a room the size of the Albert) instead of the film orchestration (by Bennett+Courage+Sendry+Deutsch) which, if I remember rightly, you actually used in your 2010 show for the last number, “Oklahoma!”, and it was gorgeous; and two—Marcus Brigstocke as Ali Hakim!!!??? Who the hell at the BBC was responsible for that whitewashing? And why didn’t the UK press call the Beeb on it? (I mean, if you’re all going to be hoity-toity over Maria in West Side Story…) Now, I can lay the former at your door but maybe not the latter, as the Beeb seems to have gone off its rocker on its own… But c’mon.

But let that pass. What really impresses me about my lust for you is that it started me on the road to thinking about The Old Man again. And actually, really, I should thank you for that. Mamoulian ought to be remembered—not for being a cranky old has-been, but for having directed some classic pictures and classic stage musicals like, you know, Oklahoma! I knew him. Our minds matched. That there was some weird man-woman friction going on between us toward the end makes no difference. It fries me how little regard he gets nowadays, even in the film buff world. So, ultimately, there’s no rancor on my part toward you re Mister M. (As a matter of fact, I think I’ll work out all my mental stuff about Mamoulian in a memoir one of these days.)

But now my love, here’s the last item and I hope I can finish it before I have to go in to make dinner.

Okay. Here’s the connection between you and Mamoulian, and it has nothing to do with you as a musician. It has to do with that damn full dress of yours, which has aroused such a surprising fetish in me I’m exploring it in a special place.

RAMAbove John conducting the 2017 BBC Proms in sweat-soaked silk shirt: The Allegro from Tchaikovsky’s 6th played by the RAM student orchestra conducted by the man I’ve fallen in love with.


*Actually, 5 that evening, but this is the first one was the one that made me want to find more things that featured you. The others: a fragment of you doing “Laura” in Birmingham; then with the JWO the MGM Overture in Leeds; the third was of you doing a bit of Vaughan Williams’s 2nd, again with the CBSO. The 5th was Friday Night Is Music Night from 2005. When you played Captain Kangaroo you made me completely yours.


UPDATE 11 JAN 21: JOHN! JOHN! HERE’S MY ANSWER, VIA STEVIE NICKS…



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Update On Conductor John Wilson’s 2020 Gigs: Britten’s The Turn of the Screw (March); Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 4 in Santiago (April); and Massenet’s “Meditation” (Chandos, February)

CANCELLED: Opera GlassWorks’s fully-staged production of Benjamin Britten’s chamber opera The Turn of the Screw scheduled to open 11 March 2020. More information on my later posting, “Benjamin Britten’s The Turn of the Screw with Peter Pears and the EOG, 1954; and Wilton’s Music Hall, 2020, Filmed by Opera GlassWorks and Conducted by My Beloved John Wilson”.


EXTRA! My beloved John speaks in this half-hour BBC4 radio show about the re-staging of Turn of the Screw at Wilton’s Music Hall, 2020


AVAILABLE 30 JAN 21: Opera Glassworks’s TURN OF THE SCREW streamcast at Marquee.tv


CANCELLED: During Easter Week, the holiest week of the year for observing Catholics, John in Santiago, Chile conducting a me-tic-ulously chosen student orchestra, culminating in a concert on Easter Sunday consisting of the always-favorite Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 4 and Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No 3.

John Wilson with Onyx Brass 1, 2021NOTES for John’s new CD Escales (Chandos, Feb 2020) can be found here.


RECORDED: Lastly, re “Meditation” above, that short symphonic intermezzo between the scenes in Act 2 in the opera Thaïs (1893) by Jules Massenet, which my beloved John conducts on his February 2020 album from Chandos (10th cut) and in which Andrew Haveron performs his violin solo like an angel…

Gazing now at John with love and longing and taking this to a private place. Everybody, go away.


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Cantara, 2009

Wearing Mother’s Day gift, a pendant from The Kid, who started adolescence as an Emo Goth.

Cantara 2002 Lightning

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Rouben Mamoulian’s Golden Boy (Columbia, 1939) and the Look of Love for My Darling John Wilson, Conductor

Barbara Stanwyck was 32 and a box-office star when Paramount contract player William Holden, 21, was personally cast by director Rouben Mamoulian as the lead in his film based on Clifford Odets’s Broadway melodrama of art vs fleeting fame and riches, Golden Boy. Holden was nervous, awkward, and about to be replaced when something about the young player touched Stanwyck’s heart. She took him in hand, coached him personally and kept him from distractions (like studio publicity)… 

Thity-nine years later, at the Oscars Holden had this to say to the world:

Holden, Stanwyck (Golden Boy, 1939)Above Holden and Stanwyck: There are only a few genuine moments in the history of the televised Academy Awards. This is one of them.


The entire film Golden Boy is available on my YT Channel here



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On Conductor John Wilson’s Orchestral Arrangement of “Now, Voyager” at the BBC Proms 2019 and The First Porn Movie I Ever Did, 3

Dearest John Wilson, Conductor, it makes me happy to be in your audience and I don’t require you at all to be in mine—mostly because, as Mister Grumble just pointed out, my flicks would probably give you a heart attack. It also makes me happy that you’re going to be concentrating more on the Classic Repertoire this season, although it means leaving your faithful John Wilson Orchestra fans for a timeand only because when you’re not playing American film music, you’re not on the podium making the kind of quasi-witty comments that would make even me wince, and I used to be Arthur Godfrey’s gag man back in the fifties.


UPDATE: John, I’m afraid I really didn’t give this number a fair hearing the first time 2 years ago so I’m going to listen to it again. The truth is, I almost missed the fact that YOU wrote this arrangement [at app @1:12:00 in this full vid of “The Warner Bros Story” at the 2019 Proms] because the Mountview kids down on the floor were leading a rouser [at app @1:05:00 in “The Warner Bros Story”] and it was hard to hear that old dear chatting about you with Katie D. But I’m sure I’m going to enjoy it this time. Really, I’m sure. 14 minutes of sheer delight, with a hankie.

(For the rest of you, here’s Seven of Nine on ST: Voyager singing the music theme with lyrics, “It Can’t Be Wrong”, in a holodeck Parisian cafe to a bunch of leering Nazi officers.)


Now VoyagerNow, Voyager (1942): Bette Davis as brave Charlotte Vale and Paul Henreid as her handsome weenie of a lover in this BBC2 Saturday Afternoon Movie I’ll bet John saw once upon a rainy day when he was a kid and couldn’t make head nor tail of, except for the music. Above: That’s Charles Gerhardt conducting the Max Steiner score, including the Warners Bros studio theme, which Steiner also wrote.


By the way John my sweet Geordie lad, I’m getting a kick out of imagining you form the word “porn”. Pohhhrnnn.

On that note, I just want to let all of you know that I realize it’s not hard to find me. Really. I’m in the IMDb. I don’t even have to fill you in on what my screen name is because IMDb seems to have switched pretty much every one of my credits back to my legal name anyway, so it would be kind of pointless… All right. It’s Simona Wing. My castmates in my first movie, Dork & Sindy aka Playthings, gave it to me, and I consider it quite a lagniappe. Mister Grumble used it for my character’s name in his first novel (Tales from the Last Resort, Brave New Books, 2002) and no one has been able to get better use out of it since.

I have pleasant memories of that shoot. For one thing, it was shot in Marin County. In Sausalito! In a house overlooking the Bay. Do you see in that pic (click Sausalito) those houses up in the hills? The white house above the red roof, that’s where we shot.

For another thing, Craft Services was fantastic. You could graze all day.

And it was a friendly, clean shoot. Does anyone here who saw the flick remember what I was wearing before the guy in sunglasses stripped me naked, threw me into the hot tub and started chewing on my behind? That white blouse, that long black skirt, those pumps? That was my secretarial outfit, the one I wore a few months earlier in Beverly Hills when I worked for Rouben Mamoulian. Practically every day, I was that poor (took Sunset bus to foot of Schuyler Road, got off, wearing sneakers climbed hill, at Mamoulian’s door removed sneakers, put on pumps which I carried in my handbag). I remember I had one line which has since been coming back to me regularly, because whenever I run into an occasional fan, he (and it’s always a he) tends to quote it to me:

“Marin County been bery, bery good to me.”

Now, you have to be a real Saturday Night Live geek to recognize that line, and I’m not going to decipher it for you. But I suppose this showed people I could do voices, because I got a lot of work from this film, almost all of it involving fakey foreign-sounding accents. Like Fatima, woman of Borneo, in the hardcore version of Sadie Thompson aka Rain by Somerset Maugham. I’m not kidding.


The entire film Rain with Joan Crawford is available on my YT channel here


Part 1 “Full Dress” here.
Part 2 “Zombie Love Slave” here.
Part 4 “Lovelace” here.


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“Wanting You” by Sigmund Romberg and Oscar Hammerstein II from The New Moon, 1935, Sung by Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy

Another MGM musical, pre-Freed Unit. They were such a handsome couple and sang like angels, Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy. Who in their audience could have realized when watching such a mannered scene that they were in the middle of a chaotic on-again off-again love affair and that right after filming this number—that very night in fact when everyone had gone home—the two of them would be under that very tree having furious make-up sex?

Eddy MacDonald.jpg

Thanks to fellow MacDonald-Eddy fan Sharon Rich (as related to her by Jeanette’s sister Blossom) for that lovely bit of info.


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Peter Sellers in The World of Henry Orient with Some Elmer Bernstein Thrown In, Just for My Beloved John Wilson, Conductor for His Winding Down After Concertizing

Val: I love him anyway. I adore him! You can tell the whole world if you want to that I, Valerie Campbell Boyd, love and adore the great and beautiful and wonderful Henry Orient, world without end, amen. (to Marian Gilbert, shows album cover with Orient’s face) Isn’t he absolutely divine?

Marian: He really is cute…but I thought you said he needed practice.

Val: Oh Gilbert, have you no soul? Of course he needs practice. Especially on the scales. (moans) But this is LOVE, Gil! (sinks back on bed holding album) Oh, my dreamy dream of dreams! My beautiful, adorable, oriental Henry! How can I prove to you that I’m yours?

Val's in Love.jpgNovelist/screenwriter Nora Johnson had an intense teenage crush on Oscar Levant, hence the cute name for Valerie’s true love. From The World of Henry Orient (United Artists, 1964). The enormously inventive and amusing Elmer Bernstein score is represented here by the sweet Main Title above.



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For the Fourth: “What could be more American than Santana closing the live lesbian love act at the Screening Room in San Francisco, circa 1979?” ~Simona Wing

Just like—oh, say—my beloved John Wilson conducting “Knightsbridge” in Salford being the most English thing in the world…

Screening Room, SF 1979Above my old workplace, “Evil Ways” from the album Santana, 1969. Find Tito Puente’s “Oye Como Va?” played by Santana (from the album Abraxas, 1971) in my posting “Cantara Christopher as Simona Wing in the Porn Classic, Beyond Your Wildest Dreams (1981, Gerard Damiano director), Just for the Man I Love, BBC Conductor John Wilson” here.


Here’re my two connections to musician-composer Carlos Santana and his music. One, The Kid attended Santana’s alma mater, Mission High, in our neighborhood the Mission across from gorgeous Dolores Park, where he used to cut classes and take his girlfriend of the moment, wouldn’t you? And two, Santana’s “Evil Ways” was the last number in the live lesbian love act I used to do years earlier with the other girls employed by Katherine (wife of “History of the Blue Movie” Alex) de Renzy, bless her rapacious little heart. Eight shows a day. Tickets ten dollars, and this was 1979. We got visitors from everywhere, sailors and Japanese businessmen and tourists from the hotels. Katherine pushed the Screening Room as a classy joint, classier even than the better-known O’Farrell Theatre up the street, but apples and oranges. I guess naked pillow fights are better suited to some tastes.


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My 2nd Anniversary of Being In Love with John Wilson, Royal College of Music Alumnus, Who Conducts His Alma Mater’s Symphony Orchestra in 2018, and the Sinfonia of London in 2022, in Ravel’s “La valse”; Plus My Progress in Porn

4 May, 2020. UPDATED 31 January, 2022. Porn is the reason I’m late with this posting. For two years, longing for my beloved John Wilson has impinged on my usual output of actual writing, which once dealt mostly with conspiracies, Lynchian occultism, backstage intrigue, and government frame-ups, and I have got to channel that particular energy somewhere

Now, on the second anniversary of The Day I Fell In Love With John Wilson, what should I stumble upon but this video of the Royal College of Music playing Ravel conducted by my beloved alumnus (1990-94).

RCM Symphony John Wilson.jpgMaurice Ravel described his work, written in 1919: “Through whirling clouds, waltzing couples may be faintly distinguished. The clouds gradually scatter: one sees at letter A an immense hall peopled with a whirling crowd. The scene is gradually illuminated. The light of the chandeliers bursts forth at the fortissimo letter B. Set in an imperial court, about 1855.” In the accompanying podcast bonny John asserted that “La valse” is about social disintegration. Another reason for me to get into his head. Above: Audio of John conducting the Sinfonia of London in this piece for Chandos (2022).



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Silly Sexy Love Songs: “You Can Leave Your Hat On” Written by Randy Newman and Sung by Tom Jones

Dedicated to my beloved conductor John Wilson, of course.

John Wilson Banksy.gifConstructed from pic stolen from John, 2019. Source photo by Banksy.


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Two Horror Queens: Composer Elisabeth Lutyens (1906-1983) and Actress Veronica Carlson (1944-2022)

She was eaten by cannibals, bitten by Dracula, and raped by Victor Frankenstein. I adore her.

I am talking of course about English model-turned-actress Veronica Carlson, the most delectable of all of Count Dracula’s victims. Her movie career wasn’t long, but she made a lasting impression on countless adolescents in the 60s, many of whom, now grown, still look forward to watching Dracula Has Risen from the Grave for a really good stroke session.

Hammer, the film studio where Carlson did her best-known work, worked wonders when it came to dignifying luridness, which is what you’d expect from the Brits, wouldn’t you? The British were never sexier than in the 60s. I miss that.

Veronica Carlson, Peter Cushing.jpgIt’s Veronica Carlson’s deeply sexy love-trance gaze at kindly Peter Cushing that makes this publicity pic spring to life. Photo session was done following shooting of their utterly gratuitous, dramatically unfeasible but vigorous rape scene in Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1965, Terence Fisher, dir), which made the most of the gorgeous Hammer star’s drawing power.


As for Elisabeth Lutyens, she tells her own story in this short interview with the BBC. Her work for Amicus films is best exemplified by her theme for Dr Terror’s House of Horrors, above. But this short piece is much more to my liking and demonstrates her superior musical gift.

 “Lament of Isis on the Death of Osiris”
composed by Elisabeth Lutyens, 1969


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