A Journal Of The Dark Arts
“Bubba didn’t tell you that. Bubba’s dead.”
When young Marylee Williams (Tonya Crowe) is found viciously mauled, all hell breaks loose in her small rural town. Officious postmaster Otis P. Hazelrigg (Charles Durning) leads a gang of bigots in pursuit of the suspect: her mentally challenged friend Bubba Ritter (Larry Drake). Finding him hiding inside a scarecrow, they exact brutal mob “justice”…only to discover a tragic mistake! Now a strange apparition stalks the land seeking each of them out, as the legend of the Scarecrow begins.
The Dark Night Of The Scarecrow was a made-for-TV horror movie from 1981, directed by Frank De Felitta (author of the novel Audrey Rose), and starring Charles Durning, Tonya Crowe, Larry Drake, and Jocelyn Brando. The screenplay was written by J.D. Feigelson (whose birthday is today, coincidentally, so happy birthday Mr. Feigelson) is credited as the originator of the whole killer scarecrow sub-genre. The orchestral score is by Glenn Paxton, who was a whole slew of television credits to his name, as well as an opera and several musicals.
While Dark Night Of The Scarecrow was made for Television, every aspect of this macabre gem is top notch, from the acting to the cinematography (LOVE that garden gnome scene) to the full-on orchestral score from Paxton. This soundtrack occupies an interesting intersection between the grand guignol classical arrangements of the classic Bernard Hermann scores, with the emerging tendency towards minimal electronics, that would flourish and bloom beneath the fingertips of Mssrs. Carpenter and Howarth. The Dark Night Of The Scarecrow is a 7-10 split of black wind dark ambiance and classical terror.
Paxton’s soundtrack is clearly steeped in classicism, and is a wonderful example of how sounds and images can go together. There are regularly re-occurring motifs, like the flute-like synthesizer, to intimate the innocence of Bubba, or the martial, marching snare, to capture the menace, fury and dark intent of the vengeful posse. This classical tricks give a cohesiveness to the music, that make it very striking and memorable, and also makes this score stand on it’s own, without the accompanying imagery.
Much as i adore the classical themes, things really pick up when the SF electronics take hold, swarming over yr eardrums like so many killer nanobots. For the merely curious, or the uninitiated, tracks 8 – 13 are a great place to start, to see what this score’s all about. Beatsmiths, mixtape makers, hauntologists, would all be advised to check out this little known treasure chest, or if you want to get an early start on this year’s haunted house.
I chose to celebrate my 34th birthday with this obscurity, and ended up drifting off to sleep while watching. Listening to the soundtrack, and the disembodied dialogue, reminded me of being a kid, when you would get flexi-discs for movies like Gremlins or The Empire Strikes Back, that would feature snippets of the movie. In a time before it everything was available on demand, when you couldn’t get recordings of everything, sometimes remembering and imagining the movie was more fun than the actual movie itself. It engaged the imagination, made you work for it a bit.
Listening to this soundtrack is a good approximation of this fugue-state listening experience. Sometimes, bits of the incidental music creep in and out, ghostly honky tonk emerging from the bedrock of tense strings, only to be subsumed by the dark ambiance. It instantly evokes imagery, instigates the imagination and makes you want to watch the film.
Although the hard copies are long gone, The Dark Night Of The Scarecrow Soundtrack is available as a download, in hi-quality MP3 and FlAC, from a company called 2M1 Records. They’ve got loads of previously unknown or obscure horror soundtracks available, so expect to hear more about these lovely lads and lasses.
This is a stone-cold classic. I’ve intensely enjoyed listening to this on repeat all week, and it’s inspiring me backwards towards the orchestral horrorscores of yesteryear, as well as the films they accompanied. Expect to hear more about this, in the coming weeks, so stay tuned for future Horrorscores.
If you’ve not seen The Dark Night Of The Scarecrow, it is available in its entirety on YouTube:
And if you’ve got to have it for yr very own, to love and hold and stroke and cherish, it’s been released on DVD & Blu-Ray: Dark Night of the Scarecrow