RESCUED FROM OBLIVION: DEADLY BLESSING
In a pleasingly surprising turn of events, Intrada unleashes the previously unreleased score for Wes Craven's 1981 film DEADLY BLESSING, which James Horner scored six months after recording THE HAND for Oliver Stone.
Far from hitting the highs of Craven's future A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and SCREAM franchises, DEADLY BLESSING is notable for featuring Sharon Stone's first screen appearance in a speaking role. The future star of BASIC INSTINCT plays Lana Marcus, the friend of a young widow who lost her husband in mysterious circumstances. She becomes a witness to unsettling events before suspecting the neighbors, most of whom come from an atypical community, the Hittites, who reject all modernity, seeing it as the manifestation of the devil.
The producers hoped to build on the success of then-recent horror favorites such as THE EXORCIST and THE OMEN. They turned to the director of 1972's THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, whose frightening and horrifying demeanor had caused quite a stir. Sadly, DEADLY BLESSING proved to be a transitional film in Craven's career, who went on to score a considerable hit a few years later with his trademark boogeyman, Freddy Krueger.
The producers wanted a Jerry Goldsmith-style score but couldn't afford to hire him. When Horner began work on the film, he couldn't help but notice the passion the producers held for Goldsmith’s Oscar-winning OMEN score. There was little wiggle room, James Horner had to meet the producers' demands. To this end, he assembled 73 musicians (including 38 string players) and 24 backup singers. While the film's score certainly echoes THE OMEN, it remains entirely the work of the then 27-year-old composer. Granted, there is Latin chanting and a satanic hymn ("Morte" stepping in for "Ave Satani"), relying on the low textures of the mixed choir and unmistakably Stravinskyesque stylings. However, there’s more to Horner's score than meets the eye: the composer gleefully resorts to atonal and dissonant cues without ever neglecting his own budding lyricism, notably with the numerous flute passages that punctuate the score.
The film’s release date, August 14, 1981, coincided with the composer's 28th birthday. The film got mixed press at best and failed to find a large audience, so Horner preferred to just move on. Although he had prepared a selection of some thirty minutes of music, he chose to put off any commercial release, and the tapes ended up on the shelves until eleven tracks mysteriously appeared in the mid-90s on a short-lived bootleg album.
Intrada now offers the complete score, recorded over three days in late April 1981 at CBS Radford in Studio City (the future Todd-AO Scoring Stage). The score is spread over 21 tracks. Also included are alternate versions of two tracks, a stinger featuring percussion that was intended to be used for the music in the snake-in-the-bath scene and the music from the film's trailer composed by the illustrious John Beal. The album was produced, edited and mastered by Douglass Fake, who had access to the last surviving stereo tapes. There’s some wear and tear to be heard here and there, but the album is complete, down to inserts used for certain complex scenes. Tim Grieving's liner notes are impeccable.
Laced with orchestral and choral effects, DEADLY BLESSING features beauty mutating into horror in the space of a few bars. It foreshadows other Horner scores, notably 1983’s SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES. The tense string passages are reminiscent of the suspenseful moments in STAR TREK II: THE WARTH OF KAHN (1982). There's also an instrumental effect reminiscent of a seagull glissando, heard in the finale of 48 HRS., also released in 1982. The romantic music, most prominently heard at the start of the album, evokes the pastoral serenity of THE SPITFIRE GRILL and DEEP IMPACT. It's becoming increasingly rare to discover a previously unreleased score by the Maestro. Although the film for which it was written is now mostly forgotten, this remarkable album is a fine reminder that the cohesiveness of James Horner's oeuvre remains one of its greatest assets. Bravo Intrada!
01. Main Title (From Deadly Blessing) (2:23)
02. Incubus Painted On Wall (1:08)
03. Martha And Jim (1:57)
04. Unwelcome Visitor (2:03)
05. Jim’s Death With Tractor (3:19)
06. Brief Funeral (1:12)
07. Kids In The Barn/Pluck It Out (2:29)
08. Gluntz’s Demise (5:06)
09. This Century Is More Peaceful (1:12)
10. Lana In The Barn (4:37)
11. Gluntz Hangs Around (1:14)
12. Snake In The Bath (Original) (4:45)
13. John Gets A Licking (1:06)
14. Lana’s Dream (1:05)
15. Wind Blows In Martha’s Room (0:47)
16. Trouble In The Convertible (1:59)
17. Sour Milk (0:40)
18. Surprise In The Grave (4:12)
19. Martha And Faith Wrestle (2:02)
20. Faith Leaps Out (4:10)
21. The Incubus Rises And End Credits
(From Deadly Blessing) (4:16)
Total Score Time: 52:28
22. Snake Stinger (0:11)
23. Snake In The Bath (Revised) (4:22)
24. End Credits (From Deadly Blessing)
– Alternate (1:44)
25. Deadly Blessing – Trailer (John Beal) (2:17)
Total Extras Time: 8:42
Total CD Time: 61:19