This 2003 CD release is a curious and enjoyable novelty, at least, and a treasure of unique and somewhat rare songs from classic horror films. The songs have been re-recorded by a large assortment of notable Hollywood, Broadway, and cabaret singing talent. The result is a Broadway musical-styled performance of distinctive songs, most of which were written for low-budget horror films and most haven’t been heard since, which makes their appearance on this collection, produced by Bruce Kimmel, very welcome. Kimmel is well known for his efforts involved with the preservation of American Musical Theater, and his collection of these scarcely-heard gems makes for a very interesting release.
The title track, “Jeepers Creepers,” of course, is an old Johnny Mercer/Harry Warren standard, originally written for the 1938 film, Going Places, and performed by dozens of singers and big bands throughout the 1940s and 1950s, which was appropriately reprised for 2001 terror film of the same title and its 2003 sequel. It is given a nice and up-beat representation by Sharon McNight. Another Johnny Mercer tune, “Goody Goody,” (lyrics by Matty Manleck this time) found its way into the score of Curtis Harrington’s 1971 psychological horror tale, What’s The Matter With Helen?, sung there with sardonic irony by Debbie Reynolds and interpolated into David Raksin’s score, and performed here with Dixieland fervor by Lynnette Perry with a special voice introduction by TV horror host Zacherley. The Andrews Singers’ swing tune, “Aurora,” was recycled in the 1941 Abbott & Costello movie, Hold That Ghost, sung here by Michelle Nicastro with more of a disco flavor than would have been heard in Abbott & Costello’s day, but the approach is rather endearing.
Aside from this tuneful trio, the other eleven songs featured in this collection were all written for their films, and with a couple exceptions were never recorded again. Perhaps the most interesting in this regard is the medley of “Hey You!,” a Cajun cabaret couplet written by associate producer Oliver Drake and actor Frank Orth for the 1944 Universal film, The Mummy’s Curse, where it’s belted out by café owner Ann Codee in a tavern scene (Codee is later strangled by the Mummy, proving Kharis to have been a music critic in an earlier life) and the winning folk tune, “Faro-La, Faro-Li,” written by Hans Salter with lyrics by screenwriter Curt Siodmak for 1943’s Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. The song was one of many teutonic-styled folk tunes giving local color to Universal’s eastern European-set Frankenstein movies, and captures a very powerful and memorable melody. On this album, it is given a splendid, full-throated vaudeville rendition by Judy Kaye and the Scarlettes (the latter a chorale brought together for this recording).
Academy Award-winning songsmith Al Kasha (“The Morning After,” “We May Never Love Like This Again” from The Poseidan Adventure and The Towering Inferno, respectively) and Bob Gaudio, founding member of The Four Seasons, wrote the title song from 1965’s psychosexual thriller, Who Killed Teddy Bear. The song’s dynamic James Bondish melody and powerful vocal, sung here by Tammi Tappan, is well worth preserving here. “Look For A Star,” written by Petula Clark’s hit songwriter Tony Hatch (here using the name “Mark Anthony”) for 1960’s Circus of Horrors, went on to become an international hit in the early pre-Beatles ‘60s, and is given a sparkling night club rendition by Guy Haines. “I’ve Written A Letter To Daddy” was performed in the 1962 psycho thriller, Whatever Happened To Baby Jane, by Debbie Burton (dubbing for actress Julie Allred) and later croaked by Bette Davis in the same film, and is here given a more pleasing vocalization by Katherine Helmond; the title song was recorded by Burton and Davis for a promotional single but never actually performed in the film, Helmond, joined by Remy Zaken (providing the Bette Davis grumbles), provide it for us here. It’s a bombastic pop tune, and very nicely arranged (for knife-blade-sharp slices of strings and pulse-pounding piano).
Pat Boone sang “The Faithful Heart,” written by the popular songwriting team of James Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn for Journey To The Center Of The Earth, where it vied for aural interest in the midst of Bernard Herrmann’s cavernous score (it’s not really a horror film but was included on this CD by virtue of featuring dinosaurs). It’s a rather typical romantic song, crowbared into the film in order to give singer Pat Boone a reason for being there, and is here given a more feminine interpretation by Rebecca Luker.
Christiane Noll may have the vocal prowess of Patty Page, who got a big hit out of the title song from another 1960s Bette Davis psycho thriller, Hush Hush, Sweet Charlotte, written by the film’s composer, Frank DeVol, with lyrics by Mack David), but her slightly softer rendition remains nicely tuneful and a pleasingly melancholy love song. Mack David also wrote the lyrics for the Burt Bacharach-composed title song from 1958’s The Blob (“Beware of the Blob! It crawls! It creeps! It eats you alive!”). It’s one of the decade’s quirkiest theme songs, performed by a combo dubbed The Five Blobs and released on a hit single. Broadway singer Alison Fraser gives it a lively melodramatic interpretation, complete with the lip-popping “bobs” that bridged each chorus.
The famous “Mosura” theme song from 1961’s Mothra, an icon of Japanese horror sonography, is nicely performed by Theresa Finamore and Juliana A. Hansen; it doesn’t quite have the same unique verve as the original Peanuts rendition, but it’s nicely done and a classic sci-fi/horror by any definition. “You’re My Living Doll” was sung, under protest, by a diminutive starlet Marlene Willis, under the coercion of mean mad scientist John Hoyt in Bert I. Gordon’s 1958 shrunken people classic, Attack Of The Puppet People, when the evil dollmaker insists she perform or go back into her jar. Here, sung by producer Gordon’s daughter Susan Gordon, the song is a cute saxophone-riffing jazz/pop tune, quite nicely done.
“Stella By Starlight,” the song version of Victor Young’s wistful theme from 1944’s The Uninvited (the song was jazzed up for use in 1963’s The Nutty Professor), has become a jazz standard over the years in both vocal and instrumental interpretations, usually far removed from its roots as a theme for a sad, ghost-ridden woman. Here’s it’s given a mixture of its original sad quality, dolefully sung by Brent Barrett, with a jazz-based saxophone accompaniment.
Closing out the album is another medley of late 50’s rock-n-pop tunes from a trio of classic teen-oriented horror films that featured extended rock ‘n roll dance hall or party scenes. 1957’s I Was A Teenage Werewolf introduced the Duane Eddy-esque “Eenie Meeny Miney Moe” while its sequel, 1958’s How To Make A Monster, gave us the similarly skidoo-able “You Gotta Have Ee-Ooo.” Both songs are written by the film’s composer, Paul Dunlap, with lyrics by Jerry Blaine and Skip Redwine, respectively. The brisk rockabilly number, “Daddy Bird,” written by Jack Smalley and Page Cavanaugh, was heard in a party scene in 1958’s Frankenstein’s Daughter. All are performed with vigor by Jason Graae on this recording. A hidden track tacked onto the end of this medley reprises two and a half minutes of the “Mothra Song,” in a very cool and atmospheric arrangement with, for the first time, evidently, with new (and quite funny) English lyrics (“When you fly through the sky, watch us wave and say hi; You make more noise than we’ve ever heard; you’re really loud!”).
The CD notes by Richard Valley are extremely in identifying the origin and usage of these songs, setting them in their original cultural environment. The album may miss a wider audience to whom the Broadway-styled nature of these songs may not be as appealing than a more popular musical approach, yet Kimmel’s presentation is true to the spirit, if not the exact same arrangements, of their original incarnations. While many may view this collection as a mere novelty, it’s a wonderful collection of unique film songs. The performances are true and there are some gems included in this collection of cool tunes. Take a break from the Rat Pack and enjoy a musical extravaganza down the less beaten paths of Hollywood’s horror factory.