October 20, 2010 | By

Return to: Home / Exclusive Interviews & Profiles / Music Producers


Back in 2005 we spoke with Monstrous Movie Music’s co-founder, David Schecter, shortly after the release of the company’s fine pair re-recorded score and cue compilation albums, Mighty Joe Young (and other Ray Harryhausen animation classics), and This Island Earth (and other alien invasion films).

MMM’s albums are unique for closely matching the tone, verve, tempo and orchestrations of the original mono recordings from classic monster films, but after 5 albums – which include Monstrous Movie Music , More Monstrous Movie Music , and Creature from the Black Lagoon (and other jungle pictures) – Schecter and co-producer Kathleen Mayne, the multi-talented Mrs. Schecter, chose to release original recordings – a first for the company – plus additional rare material from the Valentino Production Music Library that has never been commercially released.

We’ve chosen to divide our very lengthy conversation regarding The Intruder (and other music by Herman Stein) and The Blob (and other creepy sounds) into three parts, of which the first centers around the late, great Herman Stein, a veteran composer clearly beloved by MMM’s team and many fans of Universal monster movies (of which he scored oodles, including such classics as Tarantula, This Island Earth, and The Creature Walks Among Us).

Most of Stein’s film work appeared alongside cues by other Universal contract composers – a common tactic the studio maintained to train composers (including whipper-snappers like Henry Mancini) in a fast-paced factory system designed to churn out product, particularly B-level films.

As the studio system began to disintegrate under the mounting influence of TV and changing audience tastes, the huge music departments were reduced if not dissolved, and composers had to find other venues, which included the industrial-scale needs of network TV.

Many top composers survived the sixties writing music for the boob tube, but once in a while a film may have popped up, and in Stein’s case, the chance to score a movie on his own came fromRoger Corman, a producer-director who had enjoyed considerable success making and selling cheap exploitation fodder with his business partner, brother Gene Corman.

Most of Corman’s ties were to American International Pictures [AIP] as well as odd B-pictures for studios like UA, but when Roger Corman brought Charles Beaumont’s 1959 novel, The Intruder, to the big screen in 1962, what may have begun as hot-topic exploitation picture became a socially conscious message production – a first for the producer-director.

Corman may have secretly hoped the film would’ve pushed him into more serious, studio-financed productions, but its failure at the box office pretty much ended his desire to make a serious contemporary drama again.

The director went on to make a string of popular Edgar Allan Poe films for AIP and star William Shatner bounced around in small roles before gaining immortality in Star Trek, but for Herman Stein, the theatrical failure of The Intruder was a blow to what could’ve led to a strong solo career in dramatic film.

MMM’s Intruder album is more than a well-produced release; it’s a vindication of sorts for a Herman Stein who perhaps felt his reputation as a skilled composer diminished each time one of the monster flicks he co-scored for Universal did the rounds on local TV, while The Intruder, a fine drama, disappeared from distribution outlets for more than 25 years.

From our prior interview with David Schecter, it’s obvious Stein had a wicked sense of humour about himself and his better monster scores, so while his passing in 2007 was a terrible loss, it’s probably fair to say he’d be extremely pleased and perhaps enjoying a satisfying chuckle, knowing his Intruder music is not only being rediscovered as a serious dramatic endeavor, but as Schecter discovered, has film fans rediscovering Corman’s neglected film as well.



Mark R. Hasan : You’ve been doing very faithful re-recordings of original score cues for some time now. What made you decide to start releasing original score recordings?

David Schecter : There are a number of factors. One factor, which I won’t go into too much, had to do with health. I’ve had some health problems, and I needed a break. If you have never tried to put together a re-recording project that is going to be recorded in Eastern Europe, then you have no idea how incredibly stressful and time-consuming and energy intensive such a project like that is, and it took a lot out of me.

Because I needed a break, I was looking into some other projects, and I had been talking to Herman Stein for a number of years about wanting to put out an album of only his music, so this kind of was an opportunity to say, ‘Hey Herman, this is a good time for me to do The Intruder,’ and The Blob was something I had been tossing around for a long time.

I had a window where I wasn’t going to be doing a re-recording, and that’s kind of what fueled them.

MRH : In the case of The Intruder, I knew of the book because I was a huge Twilight Zone fan, and in my mid-teens I tracked down as many works by the show’s main authors, which more or less revolved around Rod Serling, Richard Matheson, and Charles Beaumont, and I was surprised to find Beaumont’s Intruder to be an atypical, non-fantasy work. With Stein’s music, it’s equally different from his monster and sci-fi movie scores.

DS : Herman scored this picture very differently, and more economically. I don’t know how much of that had to do with the budget, but…he almost scored the picture like a radio show in some cases, where he was scoring transitions.

He did have a few set-pieces he was scoring, but it’s a very dialogue-heavy movie… His music is based on shorter motifs, and he goes into variations of that, kind of like Bernard Herrmann did. I never really talked to Herman about why he took that approach [but] what he probably would’ve told me is ‘because it was the right approach’ [laughing].

There’s a few cues in there where you listen to them and you go, ‘Oh yeah, this would work great in Tarantula and The Mole People,’ but for the most part, it’s very different music. To me, because I’m so steeped in Herman’s music, it sounds like Herman to me, but it’s still a different type of score.

I’m such a fan of the movie, and it’s kind of sad that so few people know about it, and the nice things is I’ve heard from a lot of people who bought our CD and said, ‘Hey, I’m going to get the DVD,’ and the they’ve gotten back and said, ‘Boy, I really like this picture.’

Herman really enjoyed the movie and the experience of it for a number of reasons. First, he got to do it all by himself, unlike his Universal days where he’s part of this big committee of composers; he got to write all the music, he also got a credit on the picture which I’m sure was good for him, he got to choose some of the musicians, he got to conduct the score as opposed to Joseph Gershenson at Universal, and he got to take part in the mixing of the music.

I think he liked the fact that he was scoring what he felt at the time was an important picture, and a lot of people who worked on it though it was an important picture, but it was in the theatres one week, and gone the next.

Apparently [director Roger Corman and producer Gene Corman] did not get behind the film. It was like, ‘Okay, we’re done with this, we’re moving on to the next one,’ and nobody got a chance to see it, even though reviews for it were really favourable. But it’s too bad it kind of lapsed into obscurity

And as I said, the other reason Herman liked it is that Chuck Beaumont, who wrote the novel and the screenplay, was a very good friend of Herman’s, so I think this was kind of like a dream project of his, and it always bothered Herman that nobody heard of the film.

MRH : I think Roger Corman, in interviews and in his autobiography, How I Made a Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime, always branded The Intruder as the one message picture that he made, and because it earned no money, he vowed never to attempt a serious picture again, which is a shame, because it was one of his best-directed works.

1962 was when he shifted from making juvenile bug-eyed monster movies to something serious, and it demonstrated that he actually could direct, but I think because he was such a no-nonsense businessman, he probably just thought, ‘Okay, it didn’t work. Let’s move on to the next and go back to a familiar project that actually makes money and keeps the career going.’

DS : He was definitely talented, but money was a big part of it, as it was for anybody. And he was producing as well as directing these pictures, so he wasn’t a director for hire; these films really had to turn a profit, and it’s too bad; but in another sense, I don’t know if maybe it could’ve done better if it had gotten [more support]. Knowing Corman, maybe their advertising budget was maybe $1.40? I don’t know.

In all the reviews I saw – and there were pretty major reviews in the New York Times and Playboy – they loved the picture, but it just wasn’t showing anywhere.

I think what they claim at the time was that it wasn’t a good time to show a film [on racism and segregation]. Well you know, To Kill a Mockingbird had no trouble; granted that’s a whole different story and it’s a famous novel and everything, but certainly people were going to see movies like this.

MRH : I was always struck by the “Main Title” because it really sets the tone for the film: this is a serious drama, and the person who’s sitting at the window is this little monster, waiting to plant and nourish a viral epidemic of racism.

DS : I never really thought of this before, but it’s a similar way of opening the picture the way Bernard Herrmann did in Psycho (1960) where nothing is happening for a while… Herman Stein lets you know from the titles that there’s something very potent about this person; it’s not just a guy riding in a bus.

It is a really strange way to score the opening, if you think about it; it is so dramatic and so urgent, and it’s just a guy riding in a bus. You could’ve put travelogue music during it, and it would’ve fit perfectly, but in a completely different film.

MRH : It’s also nicely synchronized, because it builds and builds and then erupts – and stops just as the bus’ front doors open, and he steps out, and then the drama really begins.

DS : And it kind of leaves you a little breathless, wondering what’s next. It’s a great Main Title. What’s funny is that a lot of people who don’t know much about Herman Stein bought our CD and they’ve written back to me and they’ve commented on the Main Title and they say things like, ‘Wow, this could’ve been in a Warner Bros. movie. This is such a great piece of music.’

Well, he was a great composer. Warner Bros. does not own great composition; yes, they had Franz Waxman and Max Steiner and Erich Wolfgang Korngold there, but it’s not about the studio; it’s about whether the writer can write something good and powerful, and certainly Herman incredibly capable of that.

The difference is most people didn’t know it because [for the many monster films he was involved with], his name wasn’t on the picture, so they heard a great piece of music and thought, ‘Well, that’s good music,’ but they had no idea who wrote it.

[On The Intruder] he was finally getting his credit on a good picture and people could see what he did, and he thought that this was going to be the beginning of the next phase of his career, and unfortunately it didn’t happen. He ended up doing a lot of TV work and everything, but this was his last movie. Nobody saw the film, and by that time new generations were coming in, and he never got to build on it, which is too bad because who knows what might have happened.

Most people don’t know it, but I just found out about it fairly recently that he was supposed to score John Huston’s Freud, which was scored by Jerry Goldsmith… At the time it was considered a major movie, and something happened (I’m not going to go into details) and he didn’t get the picture, and Goldsmith got it instead.

MRH : I think in the early to mid-fifties, that’s when Huston stopped going to established American composers and worked with French composer Philip Sainton on Moby Dick (1956), and Japanese composer Toshirô Mayuzumi on The Bible: In the Beginning… (1966) – very intriguing composer little-known in North America.

DS : It would’ve been fascinating to hear how Herman would’ve scored Freud, because it was a very different type of picture, and he was capable of so many different styles. As you say, you listen to The Intruder, and say ‘Gee, this doesn’t sound like Stein.’ If you listen to his concert pieces, they don’t sound like Stein if you’re thinking in terms of traditional science-fiction works, and he wrote a lot of songs. He was arranging for big bands when he was in his teens.

MRH : I guess that explains the jazz stuff, because his jazz arrangements are wonderful.

DS : He arranged for Count Basie when he was sixteen; Stein knew what he was doing. He had a lot of fun doing those source cues because the players were the best there were. It was a really rewarding experience for him.

You can hear a lot of his jazz stuff in film like The Unguarded Moment (1956), an Esther Williams film where she’s being tormented by a juvenile delinquent for Universal. It was very Elmer Bernstein-ish, but not quite; definitely jazz was a part of Herman. He didn’t get the chance to use it in the kind of movie you and I are most familiar with, but when he did some soap operas and other teen films, you hear that jazz influence.

Like Henry Mancini [who also co-scored Unguarded ] he had a big band upbringing. In Herman’s younger days, he was the arranger for Blanche Calloway’s band. Well, Blanche Calloway was the sister of Cab Calloway, so here’s this white Jewish guy touring with this all-black woman orchestra, arranging for them. That’s amazing stuff!

MRH : Stein had one amazing career, and I imagine he could’ve written one hell of an autobiography.

DS : I tried to get him to do that. I mean, he didn’t think anybody would care to hear music fromThe Creature from the Black Lagoon because he didn’t think anybody would remember the picture, so he certainly wouldn’t have thought that anybody would care about his life. I tried to do that, but Herman had a difficult life for a number of reasons. Health was a major, major part of it, and kind of dredging up all those memories I think would’ve been very difficult for him to do.

MRH : The source materials for The Intruder came directly from Stein?

DS : Yes.

MRH : There are some composers who kept hardly any of their own recordings, and I wonder if Stein had more recordings of his work?

DS : He didn’t have all of it, but he had a lot of it, and basically just had his cues, so when he was scoring for the Universal pictures, he wouldn’t have the Mancini cues or the Heinz Roemheld cues; or of he had them at any point, he got rid of them because that wasn’t of interest to him.

He was trying to use some of the archived material to sell songs, and he wrote some beautiful, beautiful pieces for films; some of them were recorded, and some of them became sheet music. He wrote some really nice stuff.

It’s kind of bittersweet, but I’ve run into this with other composers as well from his era…. He would talk on the phone and say, ‘Hey, there’s this wonderful piece of music I want you to listen to. I think it would be a great song. I’ll give you fifty percent of all the royalties we make on it,’ and he’d send me this wonderful song called “Who’s Going to Sing My Love Song?” and you’d have to say ‘Herman, it’s a great song, but people don’t sing those anymore. There’s no such thing. There’s Tony Bennett and that’s it. There’s nobody else doing this music.’

A number of composers from that era had “tunes.” They could score forty-five minutes of picture, but if there was a two-minute tune they really liked, that was more important to them because that was where the money came in, the fame came in, the recognition came in, which led to other jobs. So a lot of times it was about getting the tune in the picture, and they kind of downplayed the orchestra music because nobody cared about orchestra music or thought about it or talked about it.

So there was a lot of demo recordings of songs he did, and certainly his scores, too, but the problem with putting out some of the other music, although I would like to, is that most of his work was done for Universal, and again, sometimes a film would be scored by Stein, Mancini, Roemheld and Hans Salter, and maybe a bit of William Lava in there, and you thrown in Frank Skinner and Walter Scharf. I mean, Universal had this unbelievable assortment of talent there.

For The Incredible Shrinking Man, Herman just did three cues in it, so [to release a complete score album] you need to have the other music too… That was one of the reasons he was really happy to know The Intruder was coming out because it’s his music from beginning to end. Nobody has to guess who wrote it.

MRH : You mentioned that The Intruder was his last film. Score. Did he do any films scores afterwards?

DS : He did television work, he did cartoons, he did commercials, he did some classical works, but most of this work was in television. He worked for Fox and a number of other studios, because during the late fifties the film studios were not cranking out product anymore, and music departments let everyone go, and television was now the big source of composing needs. Leith Stevens, Hugo Friedhofer – all those people weren’t getting films like they had in the past. They were all working on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1964-1968) and Lost in Space (1965-1968) and Wagon Train (1957-1965) and that kind of stuff.

There is more Stein music in the vaults of the studios from some of his television work. Some of it came out on the Lost in Space CDs – wonderful stuff – so I’m hoping there will be more down the line; whether we do it or somebody else does it, I don’t care at all. I want him to be out there so he’s not forgotten.



In Part 2 of our conversation with David Schecter, we discuss MMM’s companion album, The Blob (and other creepy sounds), which features Ralph Carmichael’s complete score, plus goodies from the Valentino Production Music Library. In Part 3 of our conversation, we discuss the premiere commercial release of rare cues from the Valentino Production Music Library.


KQEK.com would like to thank David Schecter at Monstrous Movie Music for discussing his current projects in detail (and some pointed opinions on herbal tea).

More information on Monstrous Movie Music releases is available HERE.

Additional information on Herman Stein is available HERE.

All images remain the property of their copyright holders.

This interview © 2008 by Mark R. Hasan


Related external links (MAIN SITE):

CD:  Blob and Other Creepy Sounds, The (1958) — Intruder and Other Music by Herman Stein, The (1962) — Monstrous Movie Music (1996) —  More Monstrous Movie Music (1996)

DVD/Film: Intruder, The (1962) —  Lost in Space (1965-1966)


Return to: Home / Exclusive Interviews & Profiles / Music Producers

Tags: , ,

Category: Uncategorized

Comments are closed.