Dracula (John Williams) – Score Review

Another early masterpiece from John Williams is about to be rediscovered...

While John Williams may be most well known for his iconic scores to the Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark series, his long career does include a smattering of entries in the horror genre, and while Jaws is likely the most well known, did you know he also composed the music for a version of Bram Stoker’s iconic Dracula? In 1979, long before Gary Oldman would breathe new life into an old story, it was Frank Langella who played the enigmatic and seductive foreign Count and John Williams delivered a beautifully gothic masterpiece to accompany his performance.

Record label Varese Sarabande are celebrating their 40th anniversary and in recognition of that have released Dracula: The Deluxe Edition which features not only a new remaster of the original 11 track release, but an all-new 26 track version with many new tracks and cues never heard before, mixed by Mike Matessino who has done a fantastic job.

This soundtrack is Williams at his finest. Two years before this he had penned the scores to both Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. A year before this he brought us The Fury and Superman, and 1979 gave us Dracula and yet so many of the reviews of this film give the soundtrack little more than a passing mention, an oversight that is high past due to be set right, and thanks to Varese Sarabande we can now highlight one of the more overlooked scores of Williams’ prodigious career.

Our musical voyage opens with “Main Title/Storm Sequence” which immediately sets the tone for the rest of the soundtrack, introducing us to Dracula‘s theme which will be a recurring motif all the way through, showing up in many of the following tracks to a greater or lesser extent, tying the entire album together into one coherent whole. Elegant and simple, there are definitely echoes of it to be found in the main theme from the 1992 Coppola version.

READ MORE: A Celebration of John Williams in Concert – Event Review

“Mina Impaled”, also known as “The Bat Attack” on the original release, is a combination of thunderous piano and high, screeching strings that bears a passing resemblance to a certain other, somewhat more watery John Williams soundtrack, backed by blaring brass horns that bring Toho’s Godzilla theme to mind.

“To Scarborough” is a frantic, galloping romp that presages other themes that would show up just the following year in his score to The Empire Strikes Back. There’s more than a hint of the latter half of “The Asteroid Field” to be found here.

“Dracula’s Death” brings the main theme to the fore once again, in all its triumphant and tragic majesty. Where our original introduction to it was primarily driven by the strings, this version is rich and layered with thunderous brass and drums adding new depth, neatly bookending our story before we move on to the end title sequence.

This new version also adds an alternative version of the Main Title, and an extended version of “The Love Scene”. This alternate version of the main theme adds in additional percussion missing from the film version, but at the same time is still a different version from “Dracula’s Death”. While not drastically different from what was eventually used, it is always interesting to see the evolution of a piece of music and listen to the might-have-beens.

This is an album that any self-respecting John Williams fan should own, and a score that should stand proudly beside his more well-known works. Varese Sarabande have put together a beautiful remaster.

Dracula: The Deluxe Edition is now available from Varese Sarabande.

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