Welcome to the return of the Friday Feature, in which we turn the Second Disc spotlight onto classic film soundtracks and their various releases! Today, the Friday Feature is the 1925 Universal horror classic The Phantom of the Opera, and the rarely-heard score is by the late Roy Budd! Cue Mr. Budd's music of the night...
When author Gaston Leroux introduced Le Fantôme de l'Opéra as a serialized novel in the pages of newspaper Le Gaulois in 1909, it was hardly likely that the former journalist could have imagined the role his creation would play in popular culture around the world. Since the novel’s debut, The Phantom of the Opera has conquered nearly every medium imaginable, most notably motion pictures and the stage, where Andrew Lloyd Webber’s adaptation has become one of the most successful musicals ever. From a young age, composer Roy Budd (Get Carter, Soldier Blue, Flight of the Doves) was taken with the tragic tale of a phantom haunting the Paris Opera House, hideously deformed and tormented by his love for the beautiful young soprano Christine Daaé. Budd was spellbound by Lon Chaney’s portrayal in Universal Pictures’ original 1925 silent movie produced by the studio founder Carl Laemmle. Before his tragic death in 1993 at the age of 46, Budd completed a full symphonic score for the still-iconic horror film. This landmark work from the late composer has now made its debut on CD and DVD from Mishka Productions.
Much like The Phantom himself, Roy Budd made his mark in a variety of media. A child prodigy, Budd parlayed his skill into an acclaimed career as a jazz pianist. Like another young artist, vocalist Matt Monro, Budd was championed by the pianist Winifred Atwell who had the very first U.K. piano instrumental chart-topper with 1954’s “Let’s Have Another Party.” Budd made his debut at the London Coliseum in 1953, and earned the attention of pianists and composers including Liberace, Oscar Peterson, Dudley Moore, and Antonio Carlos Jobim; the latter two gentlemen would become lifelong friends. When he formed The Roy Budd Trio at the age of 16 with Chris Karan and Pete Morgan, he was beginning an association that would last for decades.
Budd broke into film score composition with 1970’s Soldier Blue, director Ralph Nelson’s controversial western starring Candice Bergen, Donald Pleasance and Peter Strauss. Budd’s work was well-received, but the best was yet to come with 1971’s Get Carter. Budd’s memorable music was central to the success of the crime drama directed by Mike Hodges and starring Michael Caine and Britt Ekland. Years later, Budd’s hard-hitting score for the gritty Carter would be celebrated by a younger generation of musicians from bands like Portishead, The Human League and Stereolab. Tyler Bates, composer of this summer’s space epic Guardians of the Galaxy, even paid homage to Budd’s original score when creating his music for 2000’s Get Carter remake.
Roy Budd went on to compose over 30 scores for motion pictures and had even composed for the opera stage. But one of the projects closest to his heart was his work on Phantom of the Opera. In 1991, Budd purchased a rare 35mm print of the original Universal film, committing himself to its restoration and to penning its very first complete symphonic score. Arranging and conducting himself, as usual, Budd recorded his score in Luxembourg with over 80 musicians. It was to premiere in a live setting at London’s Barbican with Budd conducting in September 1993; he tragically and shockingly passed away just over a month before the scheduled date, beginning a journey to its release for a wide audience that is only culminating now.
In the ensuing two decades-plus since 1993, other symphonic scores have been written and performed for Chaney’s Phantom, but Budd’s was the first such score to be composed, and through the dedication of his widow Sylvia, it’s finally available as a limited edition CD as well as on DVD, synchronized to the original movie. As of now, the Budd-scored Phantom of the Opera is only available on all-region PAL DVD, but even if you can’t enjoy the music with its accompanying visuals, it’s still a striking and dramatic listen on CD.
After the jump, we'll take a closer look at the music of Roy Budd's Phantom! Plus: order links and track listings!
Budd imbued his Phantom with a melodically rich, classical sensibility. An appropriately eerie organ prelude begins the opening track, “Backstage at the Opera House” before it cedes to a majestically sweeping main theme. Budd employs bold romanticism throughout his score and a varied instrumental palette including recurring use of the harpsichord.
There’s beauty, tension and even musical humor in the grandly dramatic “Ballerinas/The Phantom Theme,” the latter portion of which states Budd’s motif for the tortured title character. The composer has supplied a lovely “Lover’s Waltz” and elegant accompaniment to “The Masked Ball,” as well as an arrangement of an aria from Gounod’s Faust. (The Gounod opera plays a key role in the story.)
Big brass fanfares open “On the Roof of the Opera,” but Budd’s evocative cue also encompasses soft gentility, and spine-tingling suspense. The score builds in excitement and drama as it unfolds on disc and on screen, via cues like the throbbing “The Strangler’s Work” and the climactic “Race of Rage” featuring Bernard Herrmann-esque slashing strings. That final cue is supremely melodramatic and epitomizes the kind of intensely emotional, full-bodied film score that has sadly fallen out of favor. While beautifully adding a new dimension to the original silent picture, Budd’s atmospheric score also can be heard as an elegy for, and tribute to, a bygone style of symphonic music for the cinema.
Mishka Productions’ DVD presents Budd’s completed restoration of the film as well as some key bonus features, including a nearly half-hour interview with Get Carter screenwriter/director Mike Hodges and an excerpt of a Roy Budd performance from 1983 with introduction from American comedy legend Bob Hope, who had been impressed with Budd since the composer made his very first splash in Hollywood. The CD edition’s presentation of roughly one hour’s length includes a booklet with brief liner notes and some welcome images including a clipping of Lon Chaney from the collection of the 11-year old Roy Budd, and photos of the master composer in action. Richard Moore, who has worked with Michele Monro in curating definitive CD reissues for Matt Monro, is credited with the splendid final mastering of the disc.
The success of The Phantom of the Opera inspired Universal to continue its series of thrillers which would include Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, The Invisible Man, The Mummy and others. The CD and DVD release of Roy Budd’s Phantom stand as a testament to the endurance of both Budd’s timeless musical gifts and the film created by Carl Laemmle, Lon Chaney and co. in 1925. Film score enthusiasts and horror buffs won’t want to miss this presentation.
For more information on Roy Budd, fans can visit his official website at RoyBudd.com!
Roy Budd, The Phantom of the Opera (Mishka Productions MPL014/MPL015, 2014)
CD: Amazon U.K.
PAL DVD: Amazon U.K.
- Backstage at the Opera House (4:17)
- Ballerinas/The Phantom Theme (4:55)
- Genitrix (1:11)
- ‘Faust’ by Gounod (arr. Roy Budd) (1:29)
- The Lover’s Waltz/Rumours (3:16)
- The Masked Ball (5:34)
- On the Roof of the Opera (9:01)
- The Strangler’s Work (4:38)
- The Torture Chamber (7:06)
- Intruders in the Mirrored Room (5:56)
- Race of Rage (12:00)