Morpheus on… Who Composed Eva’s Theme, for “The Lost Continent”? [UPDATE! SOLVED!]

There are five likely culprits. Five men, any one of whom was responsible for creating a little piece of music that I have been humming for FORTY-FIVE YEARS – despite never having had the record of it.

But in considering them, we need to examine the history behind the soundtrack of this extraordinary 1968 British film…

Although Dennis Wheatley is mostly famous for his novels on witchcraft and the like, he also wrote some cracking good yarns, including “Sixty Days To Live” (I can NOT believe no-one has ever filmed THAT) and “Uncharted Seas”.

Both of these – along with “The Devil Rides Out” – were written in the Thirties, when Michael Carreras was a young lad. And it was his dad, James who founded Hammer Films. Thus when Michael took over, it is hardly surprising that he chose to film both the latter books.

And while filming “Sixty Days To Live” would have bankrupted him, “Uncharted Seas” (filmed as “The Lost Continent”) was no cheapie either. Even though you can SENSE the grips pushing that harbour light past the Corita’s bridge in the opening sequence, its scope still ensured it cost a packet by Hammer’s standard.

So Michael had a lot of juice riding on it. Thus he wrote (under a pseudonym) produced and – when he fell out with Leslie Norman (Barry’s dad) – directed the film, leaving nothing to chance.

It boasted a stellar cast, headed by Eric Porter – then riding high on the success of “The Forsyte Saga” – with Hildegard Knef for the European market, Suzanna Leigh and Dana Gillespie for sex-appeal, Ben Carruthers for the American market (and the ladies) and the reliable Tony Beckley and Nigel Stock in support.

There was also Jimmy Hanley in his last movie and of course, Michael Ripper, without whom no Sixties Hammer movie was complete.

But once it was finished, he had a problem. Films like “She” and Hammer’s other Boys Own, Thirties-style action-adventure movies were fast becoming old hat – in 1967, fashions were changing DAILY.

So when Benjamin Frankel turned in a traditional score, Michael was not happy. He REJECTED it (which must have cost him a packet) and then approached Gerard Schurmann. He had used both Benjamin and Gerard (Ben and Gerry?) before, but seemed incapable of convincing either man to write him something MODERN.

To be fair to them, “The Lost Continent” was an old-style FILM. In fact only a few props – a paperback being read by Nigel Stock (of “Uncharted Seas”!) plus a record-player in Suzanna’s cabin and a couple of tractors in the hold – set the movie in the then-present.

Without them, it could easily have been set when the BOOK was written.

Anyhoo, Michael HAD to settle for Schurmann’s score – but he decided to sex it up with a few modern SONGS. For which he recruited the then-fashionable cool-jazz group, the Peddlers.

This turned out to be a smart move. Leader Roy Phillips gave him a great title song (after at least fifteen takes) enhanced by Schurmann’s orchestral backing – and a couple more numbers were featured, on Suzanna’s record player.

These were “A Boy In Love” which, later re-recorded with strings, appeared as an album-track – plus another sultry number which, to the best of my knowledge, has NEVER turned up on record.

In fact despite containing some TERRIFIC music – on its original release, the film FAILED to spawn a soundtrack album (probably thanks to the material’s tortuous pedigree).

Which brings us (and not a moment too soon) to “Eva’s Theme”.

Michael needed something to “bridge” the enormous GAP between Schurmann’s orchestral score and those three Peddlers numbers, in order to provide some semblance of HARMONY.

And so SOMEONE took a repeated signature from the main score and wrote a piece around it – then sat Howard Blake down at a Hammond (Roy Phillips’ weapon of choice) to play THREE versions of it.

After which, these new pieces were inserted into scenes where the film’s pace eased up – thus displacing Schurmann’s pieces. All of them involved Eva (pronounced “Ava” – as in Gardner – and played by Hildegard Knef).

The original titles of the subbed Schurmann cues remain, on the “retrospective” soundtrack album that was EVENTUALLY issued, in 2000. And the composer credit is given to – depending on which source you read – either Schurmann or Phillips.

But who ACTUALLY composed it? Let us consider them in turn…

Roy Phillips: a talented composer of smooth jazz – and a Hammond player. But if he composed it, why did he not PLAY it? Maybe it was those fifteen-plus takes of the title song.

Benjamin Frankel: we can surely eliminate HIM from the group. Having had HIS original score REJECTED – he must have been pretty pissed off.

Gerard Schurmann: well, he certainly composed the signature upon which the piece is BASED – but those few notes are a LONG way from the finished article Howard Blake played.

Howard Blake: more likely. In addition to being a respected keyboards session man, he had also written several film scores and TV pieces. He would later go on to write “Walking In The Air” (remember “The Snowman”? You are as old as me, then).

But we should not dismiss the musical director. As was often the case with Sixties Hammer films, that chore fell to Phillip Martell. And whilst he was generally MD or MS (supervisor) he was no slouch as a composer. When the commissioned composer had finished, he often added extra pieces of his own, uncredited.

Roy is still alive, semi-retired in New Zealand. Ben died in ’73 – Phil in ’93. Gerry is nearly ninety, but apparently still with us. While Howie DEFINITELY survives, at 74.

So if any of YOU guys know any of THESE guys – ASK them for me!

I only recently discovered the 2000 issue of “The Lost Continent” soundtrack and having always assumed that Roy had composed – or at least, PLAYED the Hammond instrumental theme, I now find myself with a PUZZLE. And at my time of life I want to SOLVE puzzles, not face MORE.

Oh – and should you wish to HEAR “Eva’s theme” (which is MY title for it) click this link… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KDRxSpvshe8

UPDATE!! It WAS Howard Blake! Here is a note from the gentleman…  “I am Howard Blake (www.howardblake.com) and I have just been watching ‘The Lost Continent’ on Sky. I will try to explain the mystery of ‘Eva’s Theme’ in the film ‘Lost Continent’ since it is obviously worrying a number of people! In April 1967 Phil Martell, Hammer Horror music director, asked me if I could compose an ‘Eva theme’ for the film and also play and record it on Hammond organ (so that it would match up with the sound of The Peddlers). Gerard Shurmann had already completed the full orchestral score and I was asked to travel up to his home in Hampstead to meet him. Phil asked Gerard if he would agree to my selecting a few notes from his score from which I might build a theme. I selected the four opening notes (BCAB) and Gerard agreed to my doing this. I developed the rest of the piece from these first four notes and recorded 5 versions of the resultant piece at Olympic Sound Studios on my own M100 Hammond organ with Russ Stapleford on string bass on 23rd April 1967.”

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: