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Article first posted: 1999-2

Early days

Born in 1925, James Bernard was educated at Wellington College Berkshire. He enlisted in the Royal Air Force in 1943, and served his country for three years. After demobilisation Bernard was accepted at the Royal College of Music.

The Hammer compositions of James Bernard

The Quatermass Xperiment

X The Unknown

Quatermass 2
The Curse of Frankenstein


The Hound of the Baskervilles
The Stranglers of Bombay

The Terror of the Tongs

The Damned

The Kiss of the Vampire
The Gorgon

The Secret of Blood Island

Dracula Prince of Darkness
The Plague of the Zombies

Frankenstein Created Woman

The Devil Rides Out
Dracula Has Risen From the Grave

Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed

Taste the Blood of Dracula
Scars of Dracula

Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell
The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires

Hammer House of Horror

Witching Time
The House That Bled To Death

Did you know...?

James Bernard co-authored the script of Seven Days to Noon (1950) with Paul Dehn, Frank Harvey and Roy Boulting. The screenplay won an Academy Award for Best Writing, Motion Picture Story

Other James Bernard film scores

Pacific Destiny

Across the Bridge
Windom's Way

Nor the Moon by Night

Torture Garden
(with Don Banks)

Murder Elite


James Bernard orchestrated all of his own Hammer compositions with two exceptions: the song Black Leather Rock composed for The Damned and the 'Viennese' waltz sequence from The Kiss of the Vampire.

CD Releases

The Horror of Dracula
Original story read by Christopher Lee and Bill Mitchell. Includes highlights from the suites composed for Dracula, Taste the Blood of Dracula, The Scars of Dracula and Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed.
Silva Screen, 1992.

The Devil Rides Out
Extracts from the suites composed for The Quatermass Xperiment, X The Unknown, Quatermass 2, The Kiss of the Vampire, She, Frankenstein Created Woman, The Devil Rides Out and The Scars of Dracula.
Silva Screen, 1996.

A collection of British horror film music including Bernard's The Devil Rides Out. Also includes The Abominable Snowman, The Curse of the Werewolf and The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb.
Silva Screen, 1996.

Nosferatu A Symphony of Horror
James Bernard's acclaimed score for the Channel 4 restoration of the 1922 classic.
Silva Screen, 1997.

The Hammer Film Music Collection - Volume One
Original themes from twenty-five Hammer films, including ten James Bernard compositions.
GDI Records, 1998.

James Bernard

Composer James Bernard, photographed during the interview for the Hammer Website
A sprightly 73, James Bernard has enjoyed something of a career renaissance since his return to England from Jamaica in 1994. He has been busy with a number of projects including The Devil Rides Out (a Silva Screen album featuring some from his most popular Hammer compositions performed by the Westminster and City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestras), a new score for the Channel 4 restoration of Nosferatu, Eine Symphonie Des Grauens and, most recently, the incidental music for the Photoplay documentary Universal Horror.

On 31 October 1998, The Hammer Film Music Collection - Volume One made some of Bernard's original film themes available for the first time. Shortly before the release of the album, Marcus Hearn met Hammer's most prolific composer...

When did you first develop an interest in music?

My father was in the army, a branch that was then called the Indian Army, and my brother and I were both born in that part of the world. The climate was considered too harsh for small British children, so we were sent to live with my mother's parents, who had a large country house in Gloucestershire. The day-nursery had a little upright piano and I was immediately drawn to it. I was about six years old. I would sit there for hours, playing nonsense. I was riveted when I heard a piano on the radio. The first record I ever bought was a "78" of a Chopin nocturne, played by Paderewski, who was not only a great concert pianist but the Prime Minister of Poland. I was about nine or ten, but I had become fascinated by brilliant piano technique.

I was sent to preparatory school when I was seven, and we had a good piano teacher who took me under her wing. I started from there really. I also became interested in opera, and I remember asking permission to stay up late to listen to a broadcast. My next school was Wellington College in Berkshire, where I was a few years junior to Christopher Lee. Isn't that odd? Here we were at a school for the sons of soldiers, and both of us went off at a dramatic tangent from what out fathers had done. Music and the arts were highly encouraged.

Who was your greatest influence during this period?

Benjamin Britten, whom I first met at Wellington. My last term at Wellington was the summer of 1943. Benjamin Britten had already completed his first great opera, Peter Grimes, and it was due to have its premiere at Sadlers' Wells Theatre. It so happened that our art master at Wellington was a very skilled and experienced set designer called Kenneth Green. He was a conscientious objector who was working at the school for his war service. Benjamin Britten and [the famous tenor] Peter Pears, who was of course his great long-time friend, came down to the school to talk to Kenneth Green about the sets for Peter Grimes. While he was there, Ben asked to meet any of the boys who were considered musically bright. So, among others, I was brought forth! I already hero-worshipped Britten; I was seventeen, and at that age full of confidence, and I remember chatting away. I'd written a piece for the inter-house music competition, a piece for piano, trombone and a number of percussion instruments. This greatly intrigued Ben, who even invented a new percussion instrument when we needed an extra one. He found a bit of old drainpipe and banged a stone against it - it made a splendid resounding noise. We then had an instrument called 'stone and drainpipe'! I still have my original score, which I got him to sign. 'Composed by James Bernard, Edited by Benjamin Britten'. It's one of my most prized possessions.

You later served an apprenticeship of sorts with Britten.

I kept in touch with Ben and Peter [Pears] while I was serving in the RAF. I knew I wanted to be a composer, and Ben encouraged me to learn the rules of composing, so I could then break them. After the RAF I went to the Royal College of Music, where I studied composition with Herbert Howells. After graduating in 1949, there was a rather a blank period while I struggled to break into composing. By this time I was in London and had got to know Paul Dehn, who was already a well-known writer and critic and later became a successful screen-writer. He had faith in me and told me he would support me till I found my feet. Then, out of the blue, in 1950 I got a phone call from Ben Britten. "Jim," he said - he always called me Jim - "I'm writing a new opera and I need someone to come and copy out the vocal score for my publisher Boosey and Hawkes, because they need that ahead of the full score. Would you like to come and do it?" Paul agreed it was the chance of a lifetime and I seized it. I went to Aldeburgh and had a wonderful time. I got to know Ben extremely well. We just clicked. Peter was there much of the time and we all became great friends. I learned a lot and it was fascinating to watch Ben at work. I would copy out while he wrote feverishly. He worked at such speed that sometimes his notes were a little obscure. I spent a year with him while he was writing Billy Budd, and by the time I left he had begun work on the full orchestration.

Looking back, do you think you appreciated the significance of Britten's work?

Yes, I did. I was awe-struck. The libretto was written by EM Forster in conjunction with Eric Crozier, who was an experienced librettist. I got to know Forster quite well. He was such a charming, quiet, modest man. He would come to dinner with me and Paul in Chelsea. I remember going to a dress rehearsal of Billy Budd at the Royal Opera House in the company of EM Forster and Ben's housekeeper Miss Hudson. An unlikely trio! Billy Budd is now considered one of his greatest operas, but at the time it received rather lukewarm reviews.

Had you stayed with Britten your career might have developed in a quite different way.

I thought I would stay with Ben forever as his personal assistant, but he wrote me a wise letter, which I still have. It said: "Jim, now that Billy Budd is complete, your work with me is finished. Now is the time for you to break out on your own. If you stay with me, I shall swamp you and you will never make a career for yourself as a composer." I was very upset at the time but later I became grateful for his wisdom. I kept in contact with him and I think he was quite pleased when I began to compose film scores.

What was your first film score?

Paul [Dehn] was writing a lot of radio plays for the BBC, and it was radio, coincidentally, that gave me my first commission. It was a play by Patric Dickinson called The Death of Hector. He knew I was longing for a professional assignment and asked to try me out. The producer, Val Gielgud [John's older brother] agreed and I remember we played the music live in the studio.

Val Gielgud, who was the head of radio drama at the BBC, liked what I'd done, so he put the word around amongst other radio producers and I subsequently did a number of scores for the BBC. Many of these were quite unlike the scores I became known for later; some of them were high comedy. But then I did a score for Webster's The Duchess of Malfi, which is of course a kind of horror story. It had an excellent cast - Peggy Ashcroft played the Duchess and Paul Scofield her wicked brother. I scored the music for strings and percussion and John Hollingsworth conducted. I'd met John socially in my latter days in the Air Force.

When I started writing these scores for radio I naturally rang John and asked him if he would conduct for me. He wasn't the only person who conducted my scores - I worked with several other conductors - but John conducted most of them. He was well known at the time; he was one of the two chief conductors of the Royal Ballet and was Malcolm Sargent's assistant at the Proms. And, of course, he later [in 1954] became Hammer's music supervisor.

John Hollingsworth is obviously a highly influential figure in Hammer's history, but relatively little is known about him. What do you remember of him?

John was charming. He was a tall, imposing-looking man, authoritative on the conductor's podium, but otherwise modest and quiet. He was great fun. He became a close personal friend of mine and Paul's. Although I was very friendly with Philip Martell, who subsequently became music supervisor, we had a completely different relationship. John was a real chum.

Was it John that introduced you to Hammer?

The Quatermass Xperiment
The Quatermass Xperiment - Bernard's first Hammer score
Yes. In 1954, I think, I had just completed the radio score for The Duchess of Malfi. John had just become Hammer's music director, and received a call from [producer] Tony Hinds, who told him he was ready for the score for their latest film, The Quatermass Xperiment. A composer called John Hotchkiss [who later scored the short films Copenhagen and A Man on the Beach for the company] had been commissioned to write the score, but he had fallen ill and was unable to do it. Tony Hinds was in a bit of a panic and asked John if he had anyone up his sleeve. John knew I was longing to get into films so he told Tony that I'd just written a sort of horror score, for The Duchess of Malfi, on the radio. Luckily, he had a tape of it, so he hurried down to Bray Studios and played it to Tony who, thank Heaven, liked it and said "Ask him to do the score."

Quatermass had become something of a phenomenon when it was screened by the BBC.

I hadn't seen it actually, but I knew it had been very successful. The film didn't need a lot of music - about twenty-five, thirty minutes I think. Because I'd composed radio scores using strings and percussion, John Hollingsworth suggested that, as this was my first film score, I should stick to something I was used to and something he considered I did well. John asked the strings of the Royal Opera House orchestra to play, and they played my first three scores: The Quatermass Xperiment, X the Unknown and Quatermass 2, all of which were written for strings and percussion.

Your fourth Hammer score, The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), has a fuller, more traditional sound.

Yes, I asked John if I could break out a bit! So, for the first time, I added woodwind and brass to the orchestra.

How much guidance did you receive from the various directors who worked for Hammer?

The Curse of Frankenstein
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The Curse of Frankenstein was of course directed by Terence Fisher who, like Val Guest before him, didn't seem to be terribly interested. I mean, they were pleased with the results, but they didn't come to the music planning sessions. I once actually said to Terry Fisher, "Wouldn't you like to come along?" He said, "I know nothing about music. I'm very pleased with what you and John Hollingsworth have done, and I'm happy to leave you to it." He trusted us, which was lovely. Later, when I scored The Damned [produced in 1961] I worked with Joseph Losey, and he had a very different approach. Joe was the only director I've ever worked with who had a hands-on approach to the music. I remember that after I'd read the script I was summoned to see him in his rather nice house in Montpelier Street in Knightsbridge. He said to me, "How do you see the music?" That's an incredibly difficult question for a composer to answer. I think I probably responded with absolute nonsense but it must have gone down all right, because he then let me do the score. We got on very well and I thought he was an extraordinary, fascinating director. I'm very pleased I got the chance to work with him.

Tell us something about the mechanics of adding music to films in those days.

Hammer had a viewing theatre at Hammer House in Wardour Street, and we would go through each reel and plan the music there. In terms of Hammer's management, the man I seemed to work with most was Tony Hinds. He was the producer on my earliest films, and he had a very musical ear. He always had strong and helpful views on the music. At the music planning sessions there would be myself, John Hollingsworth, Tony Hinds, Hammer's supervising editor James Needs, and the editor of the film in question, if it was not James Needs himself. We would also be joined by the sound editor, who would be in charge of the whole sound-track - dialogue, sound effects etc - and therefore important in the whole music planning. They'd show a reel, we'd stop, and John and Tony would decide where the music should go. It was the job of the assistant editor to make detailed notes of all this.

How much influence did you have over where music was placed?

In the early days I did what I was told! I was rather junior. The assistant editor would make a detailed analysis of every section where there was to be music with exact timings - where the music should start and stop and everything that happened in-between. A very laborious job. The results would then be sent to me, and the dreaded moment came when I had to shut myself in my music room and go into action.

How long were you given to compose a score?

I was lucky if I got four weeks. It was real torture. I'm not generally a quick composer, but I had to discipline myself. Sometimes I worked around the clock. I still do. For the new score of Nosferatu which I recently composed, I was given plenty of time but, as before, I became almost obsessed by it and couldn't just take the evening off. I go on until its finished, because I live in dread of missing a deadline.

As I got more experienced, I learned how to speed things up a bit, but one or two scores - some of the earlier ones - I finished the night before the recording. The all-important copyist would come down to Anvil Studios in Beaconsfield, and while we were recording the morning's music he would be copying the parts for the afternoon session.

Were all Hammer's scores recorded at Anvil?

Most of them, but Anvil later moved from Beaconsfield to Denham. When Hammer moved from Bray to Elstree Studios, we did some recording there as well.

In The Curse of Frankenstein we hear your predilection for theme-driven scoring for the first time. The title music itself almost 'sings' the name of the film.

I thought, why not treat it like the opening of a song? Of course I never intended it to be sung, but the outline of a tune seemed to present itself when I imagined how 'The-Curse-of-Frankenstein' might be sung. There was a little classical-style tune in that score which Ken Cameron, the boss of Anvil in those days, always loved. It was in one of the early scenes with the young Frankenstein played by Melvyn Hayes. You hear chamber music in the background, and I wrote a Schubert-style tune which Ken always used to hum whenever he saw me.

There is perhaps more light and darkness in your next Hammer score, Dracula (1958).

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Yes, I was always grateful when the story allowed the music to reflect a ray of light amid the gloom, the power of good against the power of evil. If there was an opportunity for some romantic music John would turn to me and say "Have you got your picture hat on?" He was thinking of the lady wearing the big hat from the logo that used to open the Gainsborough films, like a Gainsborough portrait come to life. The lady would smile graciously and incline her head.

Although Hammer dominated your work, early in your career you worked for Rank as well.

I did three scores for Rank, two conducted by John Hollingsworth and one by Muir Matheson: Across The Bridge [1957], Windom's Way [1957] and Nor the Moon by Night [1958]. Rank apparently liked my work but after I composed the score for Dracula they never employed me again. I think they probably disapproved!

What did your contemporaries consider of Hammer?

In those days, if one composed music for Hammer films I think it was considered a little infra dig, believe it or not! There might have been a bit of jealousy involved - composers know that successful films can earn a lot in royalties. But I loved working for Hammer and in films and theatre generally. I did get the impression that my contemporaries from the Royal College thought I'd gone a bit downmarket, but I was very happy. Even now, if someone asked me to write a symphony - very unlikely! - I'd probably turn it down. I don't feel that's where my gift, such as it is, lies. I've always been inspired by dramatic happenings, and ways to illustrate them. An opera would appeal to me, but it would take me years!

Rank were surely overlooking the fact that your work for Hammer was often very diverse.

Yes - especially as I'd written three very different scores for Rank. I could be something of a musical chameleon, and I would always try to get into the mood of the film. I might see a film and think it was not all that good, but by the time I was working on it I would think it was the best film ever made. I always took each film completely seriously. I always put my heart and soul into my scores.

The most unusual thing you composed for Hammer was probably the pop song played and sung in The Damned.

Ah yes, Black Leather Rock. It's rather embarrassing now! It was easy to compose that simple little tune; the music was very basic, and the lyrics were officially by the film's scriptwriter, Evan Jones.


I have a feeling Joe Losey might have had something to do with it as well. I think I came up with the title Black Leather Rock, but that was my only involvement with the lyrics.

John Hollingsworth died during post-production of The Evil of Frankenstein. His death must have had a profound impact.

John died in 1963, and it was a real shock. He had tuberculosis, but he had supposedly been cured. He was only forty-seven, maybe forty-eight. He had a long career ahead of him, and had quite a following. A lot of fans at the Proms. I was personally very sad.

His temporary replacement was Marcus Dodds, another man we know relatively little about.

Marcus was a tall, gentle man. He was very laid back. I remember working closely with him when I composed the score for The Gorgon [1964]. We needed a sound to represent the not-quite-human disembodied voice of the Gorgon. He suggested combining a human voice, a soprano, and an electronic instrument. There was an early form of electronic instrument called a novachord, and we engaged a novachord player especially for the session. We had a wonderful soprano called Patricia Clarke who had a very pure, high voice. I put her absolutely in unison with this novachord to get the effect I wanted.

Marcus was a well known conductor, and I was delighted when I learned he was taking over from John. However, I had the feeling that he didn't expect to continue as Hammer's music director, and was filling in before a full-time replacement could be found.

The Gorgon is a very lyrical score that features numerous themes for the different characters in the film. Your thematic approach to composing has become something of a trademark. What was the inspiration for this?

Probably opera. I've always loved opera, and I think Wagner was perhaps an influence in a weird way. I say weird because I'm not a passionate Wagnerian, but he used leitmotifs and motto themes that recurred and recurred. I think it came naturally to me; it was how I saw it. I would devise a theme for one character, then devise another theme to counterpoint it, and so on.

Philip Martell was appointed Hammer's music supervisor in 1964, and held the post until his death in 1993. Do you remember when you first met him?

He rang me and told me he'd just heard my score for The Secret of Blood Island [1965]. He told me he'd liked it very much and asked me if I'd compose the score for She [1965]. That's when I first met him.

Did Martell's working practices differ from those of Hollingsworth?

John used to very much leave me to it. Phil liked to see what I was doing as I was going along. He liked to get each section of the score while I was still composing. I think this helped him prepare. Phil Martell was brilliant at timing. If you marked a section of music to be played at, for example, 132 beats to the minute, he could hit that perfectly and keep to it. What we call the sync points - the points of synchronisation - clocked into place because the tempo was spot on. Phil was very helpful if I need any advice. He just liked to know what you were doing and make sure you hadn't gone off the rails!

Have you never considered conducting your own scores?

I simply can't conduct, and I shouldn't try - it would be a recipe for total disaster! It's not my thing at all. Phil was an excellent conductor.

She was produced by Michael Carreras, who was well-known for his huge collection of jazz records.

Tony liked classical music, and Michael was very enthusiastic about jazz. Michael should have been a Hollywood mogul; he had that expansive personality.

Research for the album of original Hammer music has revealed that for some films music was actually recorded prior to principal photography.

Sometimes we had to pre-record music which the director required during filming. In The Damned I wrote Black Leather Rock and in The Kiss of the Vampire [produced in 1962] I had to write the waltz for the vampires to dance to in Dr Ravna's castle. For She, we pre-recorded a war chant accompanied by a brilliant group of drummers, which was run by a man who I think was called Ginger Johnson. He was Trinidadian. Amongst the men who played the tribe-members in She was my friend Ken McGregor, with whom I later shared a house in Jamaica. We were rehearsing this piece in a gymnasium. All the drums were beating away and I remember Michael coming up to me, full of enthusiasm, saying "We must have this in the film." Unfortunately, as so often in films, it fell by the wayside. Shortage of time I expect.

Another pre-recorded piece for She was the music for the scene in the Palestinian night club in the first reel of the film. We needed something for the girls to belly dance to. I was quite proud of that piece; to me it sounded quite authentic.

Another piece of discarded music was a song to be sung by Christopher Lee.

That's right. He was going to sing a religious chant to the assembled populace of the kingdom of She. Christopher has always enjoyed singing, and he wrote some wonderful lyrics in an invented language. The tune, if I remember rightly, was taken from the imperious 'She Who Must Be Obeyed' theme. I can clearly remember sitting at the piano with Christopher and Phil Martell, rehearsing it at Elstree. Anyway, the film got behind schedule and the chant had to be omitted.

There was actually a lyric written for my theme tune for She. It was in the days when a lot of sheet music was printed. It was written by Norman Newell, a well known lyricist, but it was never recorded.

After She, you scored another Christopher Lee film - Dracula Prince of Darkness (1966).

I remember asking Tony Hinds if I should use the theme I'd composed for the original Dracula and he agreed. I was grateful, as I thought it was a good idea for the continuity of the series. I did The Plague of the Zombies straight after that. It was a hectic time for me.

Aside from Dracula Prince of Darkness and The Plague of the Zombies, Hammer released another fondly remembered double bill in 1966. Rasputin the Mad Monk and The Reptile were both scored by Don Banks.

He was a very nice and unassuming man. He was Australian, and a classically trained concert composer. He also wrote jazz. We shared a score for Amicus once. It was called Torture Garden [1967], and was one of those omnibus films with four short stories. Phil Martell was the supervisor on that one. He told me we only had about two weeks; two of the stories needed jazz scores and he asked Don to do them, while I did the other two. Later, Don got a very good job back in Australia, but sadly he died soon after. He was quite young.

There is a school of thought that says if the viewer consciously notices incidental music then it isn't doing its job properly. Would you go along with that?

Obviously I like it when my scores are noticed, but you don't want them to be obtrusive at the wrong moment. I think some directors direct films in such a way that there are moments when the music can have its head. Sometimes when there's no dialogue the music can really have a chance to say something. Some directors insist on music behind dialogue, which I'm not all that keen on. But I don't think you should never notice music. It shouldn't be wallpaper.

Can a score ever disguise the deficiencies in a substandard film?

I think one can enhance a mood if you maybe think an actor or a scene is not all that good. You can help a scene once you get the right emotion.

Have you ever specifically been asked to enhance a film?

The Devil Rides Out
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The only time that happened is quite interesting, because it shows how wrong people can be when they're in the middle of making a film. I clearly remember Tony Hinds ringing me and saying "Jimmy, I want you to come down and see what's happening with The Devil Rides Out. I don't think it's working, and we're going to need a lot of help from you." Of course, ironically, it turned out to be one of the best films Hammer ever made. I'd love to have spent more time on the floor because I love actors - both Michael Redgrave and John Gielgud were great friends - but I rarely got the opportunity. It's only subsequently I really got to know Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, for example. I knew Noel Willman [The Kiss of the Vampire, The Reptile, The Vengeance of She], but not through Hammer - he was already a friend of ours. He was a charming man and a very good actor. I did once meet Peter Cushing on a film set, and I remember talking about classical music. I remember he told me he loved Sibelius.

When was the last time you saw Peter Cushing?

Dear Peter. The last time I saw him was during the recording of the narration for Ted Newsom's documentary Flesh and Blood [1994]. It was Peter's last assignment, of course. It was recorded in a little studio in Canterbury, and I went there with Christopher Lee and Ted. When we arrived Peter was already there with Joyce Broughton, the lovely lady who, with her husband, always looked after him after his wife died. Joyce was very protective of Peter. Quite a lot of people had somehow got to hear about it, and there was a small crowd there. Peter was extremely frail, but he seemed to love it all. It seemed to bring out the old trouper in him. He was very courteous, as of course he always was, and he was full of that old charming devilry. He and Christopher hadn't seen each other for quite a while, so it was a moving reunion. Peter was quite ill, and I think we all suspected that it would be the last time they got together.

Did Hammer ever give you any feedback after you'd completed a score?

Yes, I had a number of most appreciative letters from Tony Hinds and Michael Carreras, and I think Tony Nelson Keys too. There was one bit of adverse feedback, which actually had a good outcome. I think it was 1969 when I was about to start scoring Taste the Blood of Dracula, and I heard from [producer] Aida Young. I got a message from Phil Martell. He said, "Aida asked me to tell you that she thought your score for Dracula Has Risen From the Grave [1968] was too discordant and cacophonous. She'd like something more tuneful for this one." At first I was rather cross, but it so happened that Taste the Blood did lend itself to something a bit more romantic, so I gave the young lovers their own theme. Everyone seems to like that theme so I'm grateful to Aida now!

As well as handling most of the Dracula sequels, you composed the scores for the final 'legitimate' entries in the Frankenstein series.

In Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed [1969] I remember being very impressed by Freddie Jones. He had a moving scene with Maxine Audley, who was a wonderful actress, and I tried to write some touching music there. Later, I was pleased to be asked to do Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell [produced in 1972], because it seemed that the old Hammer team reconvened... It seemed more like the old days. Even Ken Cameron was there, in charge of recording the score. With that, and The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires [1974], I think I felt in my bones that things were winding down a bit. That was the last film score I wrote for Hammer.

Michael Carreras' troubled chairmanship of Hammer came to an end in 1979. Did you see him again before that?

Well, I remember when Michael Carreras - rather mistakenly, I think - remade The Lady Vanishes [1979], Phil Martell invited me to Hammer's offices, which were at that time at Pinewood Studios. Phil and I had lunch with Michael and the producer Tom Sachs. I longed to say to Michael, "You're mad to be doing a remake of such a classic film." Nothing came of it, and someone else [Richard Hartley] did the score.

Your last work for Hammer was the 1980 anthology Hammer House of Horror.

I did two episodes of the television series for Roy Skeggs [Witching Time and The House That Bled To Death]. I think I probably would have done a few more, but I was on the verge of going to live in Jamaica.

Your latest score was for the excellent documentary Universal Horror.

It's a history of the 'golden age' of Universal Studios' horror films, from the late Twenties through the Thirties into the early Forties. It's been made by Kevin Brownlow and Patrick Stanburg of Photoplay Productions for Universal, and is being premiered in the United States on the Turner Classic Movie channel in October.

Are there any film composers that you currently admire?

I don't listen to a lot of film music on purpose. Obviously I pay attention to the music when I'm watching a film, but I don't buy soundtracks. One is always living in hope that one will get further commissions, so I don't want to become unduly influenced by other composers. Someone I do think is good is John Williams. I was greatly impressed with his score for Schindler's List [1993]. I think his epic scores are splendid, but Schindler's List gave him the opportunity to put real emotion and feeling into a score. That string theme was lovely.

Can composers, like actors, become typecast?

I think they can.

Do you consider yourself typecast?

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Yes, to a certain extent. I'm not complaining, however! I'm delighted it happened. I became known as a horror composer, and that's why whenever there was a chance for a bit of romance in one of the films I seized upon it. One of my own favourite scores is She, because it gave me the chance to do something different. It had an element of horror in it, but it was more Indiana Jones really.

People ask me if I've ever written any concert music, and I haven't - at least not for many years. In a way, however, I'm much happier that I've done what I have done, because I know that my music is still enjoyed by large numbers of people. The Hammer films are highly thought of now, and not just in England. I've had so many letters over the years - all from young people - and many from the United States. It pleases me enormously that people like my music; I can't tell you how gratifying it is.

The Devil Rides Out
The James Bernard-composed albums The Devil Rides Out and Nosferatu are both available from Silva Screen Records, along with a number of other titles sure to be of interest to Hammer collectors. For further details of the Silva Screen range, visit the company website or e-mail UK residents can order Silva Screen albums from Soundtracks Direct by telephoning 0171 428 5500.

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last modified 1999-9-25