October 20, 2010 | By | Add a Comment

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To fans of classic science-fiction, Ralph Carmichael is the composer of The Blob. You know, the 1958 production where a 27 year-old Steve McQueen applied his Method acting to become a high school senior, while surrounded by actors a bit closer in age to their characters.

Mention The Blob, and the first thing that comes to mind is McQueen looking silly, if not the purple goo that tried to smother a town before one of Nature’s elements helped cool the monster’s appetite for human flesh.

The second thing is the theme song co-written by a young Burt Bacharach, with a looped set of lyrics, a catchy beat, and mouth popping sounds, added by the producer and Paramount in place of Carmichael’s original (and far more dissonant) title music (which is happily present, alongside the Bacharach tune, on Monstrous Movie Music’s CD).

But one of the reasons this blazing colour film still entertains and quietly maintains a creepy streak is Carmichael’s score which, up until now, has remained unreleased. The music has made other public appearances – notably as part of the Valentino Production Music Library – and as Irvin Yeaworth, the film’s director, states in his commentary for Criterion’s DVD (ported over from the label’s prior laserdisc), the love theme written by the director and his wife has also traveled the globe, reappearing in various TV, film, and commercial venues.

In the second part of our edited interview with Monstrous Movie Music’s David Schecter we discuss Carmichael’s score, its affect on listeners, and Carmichael’s career path after the phenomenal box office success of The Blob, which didn’t take him to Hollywood and integrate him as part of the scoring community.

He did score another sci-fi film for director Yeaworth and producer Jack H. Harris – the heavily jazzed up 4D Man (1959) – but like Yeaworth, Carmichael disappeared from the Hollywood scene, although technically both the director and composer were never really part it in the first place; Paramount picked up their first film, Universal distributed their second, and Yeaworth’s final studio work (again for Universal), the juvenile Dinosaurus! (1960) was scored by Ronald Stein.

By 1961, Yeaworth and Carmichael had returned to their religious-themed work, and The Blob became an increasingly distant memory. Carmichael’s own website doesn’t even mention his two sci-fi film scores, and yet as Schecter explains, the composer is still quite proud of a score he crafted using far less financial resources than a standard studio exploitation picture.

As Yeaworth recalled in his film commentary, when the orchestra had finished playing the love theme, they musicians applauded with their instruments – an early indication the music written for a film about a man-eating ball of goo was and remains a special work.




Mark R. Hasan : Did you time it so that the two CDs, The Intruder (and other music by Herman Stein) and The Blob (and other creepy sounds), would come out around the same time?

David Schecter : I timed it strictly for financial purposes. When you’re doing liner books, and you have to hire a layout person and do a bunch of other things to get things mastered and tweaked and everything, it’s so much more cost-effective to have two things coming out at once.

If we were to print just one booklet, it would probably cost us close to what it would cost to print two because they’ve got to run the presses anyways; the paper stock is also bigger than one book, so otherwise you’re just paying for the paper anyways and it’s getting thrown away.

When you gotta start promoting something and you start emailing to all your customers and doing this and doing that, it’s a lot of work. It’s so much more cost-effective when you can say ‘Hey, we have two releases here,’ and then hopefully they’ll buy ‘em both.

MRH : I think I mentioned this in my review of The Blob that you really get drawn into the film when Ralph Carmichael’s score kicks in; he plays everything straight, and it’s a good solid, dramatic score. Every once in a while there’s a shock cut that refers to the monster, but the score highlights suspenseful moments, tension, fears, and so on, and it’s nice that a movie that’s so tongue-in-cheek and has some unintentional laughs every so often realigns itself and becomes this little serious film, mostly because of the music.

DS : Yes, and to me, growing up with it, along with a number of other people, it’s a scary little movie (much scarier than a lot of the other ones of a similar nature), and I think a lot of it has to do with the seriousness of the music.

While the music kind of weaves itself on you, it doesn’t call attention to itself… I think it’s this background thing, kind of simmering in there, helping to elevate certain passages, and like you say, create a certain sense of foreboding, and dread, and it operates kind of like Psycho (1960) does – just to keep you a little on the edge of your seat and to make you aware.

The Giant Gila Monster (1959) has that wonderful theme, but it really calls attention to itself, it’s really out there, and it’s not really a part of the film; it’s kind of pasted on the film. The music of The Blob becomes a part of the movie, and I think if the music were not in there, it would really be a very different movie. I don’t think it would be anywhere nearly as scary or as engrossing as it is.

MRH : The people involved in the film had such interesting backgrounds. For years they had been making religious themed-films, and I guess this was their attempt to cash in on the drive-in thing, except that The Blob ended up being really, really successful. I wonder if that sort of affected Ralph Carmichael, in either raising his prominence, or helping his career by either having more job opportunities, or whether his background in religious films ended up being a hindrance?

DS : [He is] a fabulous arranger. A very talented and very nice man, too. What Ralph told me was that when the film came out, despite the fact that it was made by religious filmmakers, he got a lot of flack from some people in the religious community, saying ‘How can you be doing this? You shouldn’t be doing this! Don’t do this anymore! Don’t have your name on it,’ and even at the time, Ralph thought that was ridiculous. There’s nothing satanic about that movie; it’s not an anti-religious picture, except for the standpoint that God doesn’t kill the blob – science does (so to speak).

He did get a lot of, shall we say, negative vibes from people in that community, but that’s not why he didn’t score more. I asked him why he didn’t, and he said ‘I didn’t get anymore calls.’ It’s possible he didn’t get calls because he wasn’t mainstream Hollywood; he probably didn’t have a Hollywood agent; he hadn’t been associated with studios to where he had contacts. Really, the only people he knew were in the religious music business.

But when you listen to what he did with The Blob on such a low budget, you just kind of think, ‘Wow, this guy could’ve had an amazing filmmaking career.’ He ended up having an absolutely amazing career in the area of music he focused on, and it probably wouldn’t have been possible to do both; each one I think is all-consuming in its own way, whether you’re in Hollywood trying to get movies, or you’re in a religious world. Those are both going to dominate your lives, and I don’t think you can do both of them.

I wouldn’t say he has regrets, but you could definitely tell that he’s very proud of his score (and rightfully so), and probably wonders what might have been had he pursued that area, although he certainly made a name for himself in the other area. He basically helped create contemporary Christian music; it didn’t exist the way it does now when he got started, and he got a lot of flack from the religious community not just for The Blob, but also for the type of music he was doing in the religious world. He was bringing in big bands, and he was bringing pop sensibilities into it, and that was considered a no-no back then.

MRH : Because The Blob score is only about a half hour, were there other choices that you had to fill out the rest of the album, or did you feel that maybe this might be the ideal opportunity to put some library or mood music on there?

DS : I wasn’t thinking in terms of Ralph, because the other music that he had done was just so dissimilar from The Blob, and as little-known as Herman Stein is, at least some people in the film music know him because we put out four albums of his music (and a couple of other labels have as well), but nobody in the film music world knows who Ralph Carmichael is, so if I had done a Ralph Carmichael album, even with The Blob, I don’t think we would’ve sold any other copies, other than the people who had wanted The Blob.

For whatever reason, some sort of business deal was done after The Blob was scored, and the music ended up in the Valentino Production Music Library. I was talking to the son of Valentino who ran the company at the time, and I told him ‘Look, what other music do you have that I can listen to?’

Again, there’s business reasons in addition to creative reasons, and… it’s a heck of a lot easier dealing with one or two rights owners rather than four or five; not just in terms of the expense, but also the legalities involved, and I have to draw up all these contracts. It’s a nightmare.

It just seemed a lot easier [to do] a Valentino album, so I got access to some of their recordings (a lot of their recordings), and then my wife and I started going through them. As I was listening to the stuff I realized ‘Whoa, this is from The Brain That Wouldn’t Die, and this is from Terror from the Year 5000,’ and I thought, ‘Okay, we’ll kind of tie this in as kind of a low-budget sci-fi album, with its centerpiece being the complete score from The Blob. There’s enough cues here of a similar nature – suspense, horror, sci-fi, atmospheric and everything – that these will fit nicely in, because they’re all examples of low-budget scoring.’ It’s not like all of a sudden we’ve got a hundred piece orchestra blaring away, totally overwhelming The Blob.

For a lot of people, they don’t just hear The Blob, they hear ‘Oh, I know this music. This music was used in this picture and that picture,’ [or] ‘Oh, that was my radio station back in Philadelphia. We used this when we were advertising the monster movie show coming on the TV station or whatever’ because they became a part of the Valentino library, [and were] reused for all sorts of low-budget films and other productions and commercials. So it’s kind of like the whole thing is a library album even if you’re not aware of it.



In Part 1 of our conversation with David Schecter, we discuss MMM’s companion album, The Intruder (and other music by Herman Stein), which features Herman Stein’s complete score to The Intruder, plus selections from unreleased projects. 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.

Ralph Carmichael Google search results HERE.

Visit the composer’s website 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) — Dinosaurus! (1960) — Intruder and Other Music by Herman Stein (1962)

DVD/Film:  Blob, The (1958)


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