October 20, 2010 | By | Add a Comment

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Mad Doctor of Blood Island marks the debut release from Elysee Productions, a new soundtrack label created by producer Tim Ferrante. A longtime soundtrack fan, Ferrante’s been under the spell of Tito Arevalo’s music for decades, and his long quest to release an album of the complete score finally ended in 2007 when the limited CD was slowly released into the soundtrack and horror fan markets.

We’ll have a review of the score in the coming weeks, but we thought an interview with Ferrante would expand upon some of the many historical details covered in the CD’s fat liner notes, and shed a spotlight onto a largely unknown composer whose work, like many colleagues within the exploitation genre, has been marginalized by A-level Hollywood composers whose own genre works tend to get the attention of fans and labels.

Arevalo is unique because he worked exclusively within the Philippine film industry, and his original score became a kind of signature sound for the Blood Island horror films produced by Hemisphere Pictures, although among the quartet of titles that mixed sex, gore, and jungle exotica in some surreal narrative packages – Brides of Blood (1968), Mad Doctor of Blood Island (1969), Beast of Blood (1970), and Brain of Blood (1971) – only Mad Doctor was the original work; the cues for that film were re-recorded with a smaller orchestra for the third film, and some cues were re-used in the fourth and final film.

Like the Blood Island films, Ferrante admits to being captivated by Arevalo’s style, which was perhaps the most influential score on his psyche after some classic sci-fi and fantasy soundtracks from his youth.



Tim Ferrante : The first scary music I remember hearing and reacting to was Invaders from Mars (1953) which has since been credited to Mort Glickman instead of screen-credited Raoul Kraushaar. Bernard Herrmann was the man who finally sucked me in with his Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959). I’ve had a grateful and lifelong appreciation for the men and women who have created the music we hear in movies, on TV shows, for commercials and other media.

Mark R. Hasan: If I’m correct, Elysee’s debut CD marks the first time Tito Arevalo’s music, if at the very least a full film score, has been released outside of the Philippines, making The Mad Doctor of Blood Island the composer’s first international release after a 38 year delay. Why did it take so long?

TF : I think it’s safe to say that no film music LPs or CDs by Tito Arevalo have ever migrated to the United States. I can’t speak to his non-film works. Why did it take so long? The release of the Mad Doctor score was something I’ve wanted to do for nearly 20 years. I learned that the master tapes existed in the late eighties and were right under my nose. They were in the possession of long time friend and former Hemisphere Pictures ad campaign boss, Samuel
Sherman. Lots of things prevented it from coming out since then, but everything lined up this past year. I didn’t do a speck of market research; this album was going to come out even if no one wanted it.

MRH : Stylistically, Arevalo’s music draws from his background in popular music and strong familiarity with big band orchestral writing, a style that was curiously very popular with exploitation filmmakers during the sixties, whether the music came from stock music libraries (as in The Fat Black Pussycat) or were original scores (On Her Bed of Roses, I Eat Your Skin), and I wonder if you might have some insight as to why jazz or orchestral jazz was chosen over more classical-styled scores, or outright pop scores at that time?

TF : I’ve been a fan of film music all of my life, but I am by no means a scholar. Speaking as an observer, the use of the scoring styles you describe were likely a mixture of cultural and practical elements in varying proportions. Yes, the big band/jazz mixture was prevalent during that era,
evoking moods and attitudes of the times. If you look at the timeline, the people composing for certain low budget films were products of the big band era.

You cited On Her Bed of Roses which was scored by Joseph Greene, a successful songwriter, composer and singer who was extremely active during the big band era. He certainly knew that particular genre better than anyone. His background speaks to a part of why he might adopt a particular style as well as being suited to the purpose of the film maker. In some ways it makes sense that the last gasps of the big band sound were being utilized because they still could be.

Combining the style with jazz was very clever and there are those who did it well. The budgets for marginal films were assuredly pinched, so men like Greene or in the case of Del Tenney’s I Eat Your Skin, jazzman, composer, arranger Lon Norman, likely worked very cheaply. Norman’s score to Skin is just amazing and I would love to have that one on CD! Parenthetically, Robert Cobert wrote a wonderfully catchy big band/jazz theme for the TV game show Password in 1961. The musical idiom was a legitimate form on big and small screens.

MRH : I’m surprised and delighted you’re familiar with Greene and Norman, because they’re little-known composers who scored only a handful of films before completely disappearing from the film scene. In the case of Norman ‘s I Eat Your Skin, no album was ever released (though I wonder if a single was pressed for the film’s vocal voodoo song), whereas Greene’s Bed of Roses came out on the obscure Mira LP.

Would a commercial LP release make it easier for a producer to track down a score’s rights holder, or does an album put out by a long-dead label add further complications?

TF : Finding publisher and ownership information today is sometimes as easy as going to the BMI or ASCAP websites and doing a search. Although, the more obscure you get, the less you can rely on such resources. We cited On Her Bed of Roses, a score released on the Mira Records label in 1966. Mira was only around a few years, founded by ex-Vee-Jay president Randall Wood, not to be confused with Randolph Wood, founder of Dot Records.

Tracking down the rights to that score would be a challenge, but not impossible. It’s unlikely Mira licensed the score’s LP rights in perpetuity. Who owns the film today? What was the original deal between the composer and film maker? Maybe certain rights reverted back to the composer and his estate owns the music. Or not.

It’s a very obscure film, but it’s likely someone, somewhere owns those rights. Possibly the owner of the film itself, whoever that may be today. And that someone could just as easily be the surviving widow of the producer or their children. Obviously an album master existed; has it survived? A CD project of On Her Bed of Roses might have to be re-mastered from a vinyl LP. Even if you track down a rights holder, the really big question is whether or not source materials survived.

MRH : I find Mad Doctor evokes some of the classic B-movie monster music of the fifties, particularly Albert Glasser’s own work that was often realized under the pressure of some very low music budgets. Arevalo’s style, however, is less classical, and he doesn’t bludgeon the listener with massive orchestral swoons, but I wonder if in addition to his own musical training, he was following some of the conventions of Hollywood composers whose films must have reached international audiences hungry for bug-eyed monsters and mayhem.

TF : I can’t give you specific examples of influence, but you do make an excellent point when you say Mad Doctor‘s style is “less classical.” It is classical in that it’s orchestral, but stylistically it is unique. Unique is a word that is always misused, you hear this blunder every day. Unique means
it is the only one of its kind, a sole example. You can’t have something”very unique” or “the most unique” or “kind of unique.” It’s either unique or it isn’t and you can’t qualify it.

The Mad Doctor score is the only one of its kind and I defy anyone to point me in the direction of another score that sounds like it. The first time I heard this music it enveloped me into the Blood Island environment. It became an aural touchstone to that place and that place only. In a way it is typecast to those films because outside of them, it simply does not work as well. This score was re-used in Brain of Blood, a film Sam produced with his partner, Al Adamson, for Hemisphere. The music works to some degree, but Arevalo achieved the perfect cohesion of sound and picture with Mad Doctor.

MRH : From what I understand via your liner notes, the source materials for the CD was a single set of master tapes that contained the whole score, and from a producer’s standpoint, that must have been a bit nerve-racking, knowing these delicate tapes had to be handled with extreme care. What sort of state were they in, and why were there no sub-masters?

TF : The original masters were hand carried back from the Philippines by Mad Doctor executive producer, Kane Lynn in 1969. He brought them back solely to appease Sam Sherman. Sam produced Hemisphere’s trailers, radio and TV spots, post production sessions, etc. He only had public domain classical music to use for these purposes and kept badgering Kane to get him some actual score music from the pictures on which he was working.

This score would have been lost forever because Kane and his partners weren’t worrying about Sam’s music needs. They refused to buy him any library music and insisted he recycle the free classical music. It was Sam who took good care of the tapes all these years because he has a collector mentality and is a film music expert. As for sub-masters, they were made over here at the time by Sam on 7½ ips reel-to-reel. The scoring master itself is 15 ips and in excellent condition, save for a missing length of tape that destroyed the last seconds of one cue.

MRH : I’m also curious as to why the score wasn’t recorded in stereo, as Arevalo must have done some stereo recordings during the sixties. Was stereo still very costly for low budget productions at that time, or was it also a sense of what was necessary, wherein a stereo recording session for a movie aimed at mono theatrical venues was felt to be redundant?

TF : You’re right. Stereo would have had no purpose in this instance. It was recorded full track mono and judging from everything Sam has related about the Filipino process of the period, they would have recorded it as best as they could and then went home. In fact, out of 34 cues, 31 of them were recorded in one take! That’s pretty telling.

MRH : One hurdle independent soundtrack producers face when dealing with major studios or music labels is total apathy for their idling archive of soundtracks, and elongated legal work that can make a producer wonder whether the whole endeavor is worth seeing through. I wonder if the process in acquiring the rights to releasing your CD was a surprisingly smooth process for you, or whether dealing with a 38-year old film whose ownership may have changed over the decades presented its own set of unique hurdles.

TF : This goes back to your earlier question. There were legal things in the way preventing an earlier release, as well as other circumstances of lesser concern. Once Sam’s company, Independent-International Pictures Corp., acquired worldwide rights in perpetuity of the Hemisphere Pictures library, it made it a no-brainer. Sam has been a friend for many, many years and it was like making a deal with a relative. Nevertheless, this was not a project that was expected to produce fortunes. It can’t and it won’t. Is it worth it? Absolutely! Further, this was a score recorded offshore. There were no AFM (American Federation of Musicians) matters with which to deal. The costs to produce this album were, comparatively speaking, very affordable. Not to mention the favors asked of especially talented friends who helped along the way.

MRH : A few labels – major and independent – have moved into digital downloads, and I wonder if you examined that option, or felt a traditional CD was a more viable venue for your debut release?

TF : I did look into download early on, but this title is so esoteric that such an effort wasn’t warranted. It’s my thinking that film music releases lend themselves to being sold as tactile products, especially the limited collector editions such as Mad Doctor. Downloading isn’t a collector mentality per se; we prefer informative booklets, pictures and inlays. We enjoy the notion of owning one of a thousand of something. Still, downloading is a sensational resource and I use my share of it. If the entire business of film music were to go that way, meaning download-only, then so be it. In the end, it’s the music that moves us. The packaging is nice, but iPods don’t play jewel cases very well.

Producing a soundtrack has been a dream of mine for decades. Today, it is easier than ever to turn dreams into reality. We have all the tools at our fingertips; capability that was once isolated to professionals in industry is now in consumer hands. It’s a gratifying thought that you are responsible for the preservation of someone’s artistic expression, especially one that was thought to be lost. I look forward to doing it some more!

MRH : With Mad Doctor of Blood Island now available, do you have plans for a second CD?

TF : Yes! Just don’t ask me what because I won’t tell you.



KQEK would like to thank Tim Ferrante for this very informative & fun interview.

For more information on Elysee Records and where to purchase Tito Arevalo’s Mad Doctor of Blood Island, visit the label’s official website.

All images remain the property of their copyright holders.

This article and interview © 2008 by Mark R. Hasan


Related external links (MAIN SITE):

CD:  Fantastic Film Music of Albert Glasser, Vol.1 (1978) —  On Her Bed of Roses (1966)

DVD/Film:  Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959)


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