Universal Screens ‘Bride of Frankenstein,’ Releases Franz Waxman Score for First Time

It only took 84 years for the film to get an official soundtrack... and Universal has more such belated score releases on the way.

Universal Screens 'Bride of Frankenstein,' Releases Franz Waxman Score
Courtesy Universal Pictures

Halloween is only days away, and what better way to celebrate than with a classic monster movie that’s been fully restored and whose original score has, 84 years later, finally been issued as a soundtrack album?

Universal screened its 1935 “Bride of Frankenstein” Monday night to an appreciative audience on the studio lot, following a reception to celebrate the first release of the movie’s Franz Waxman score, part of the Universal Pictures Heritage Collection series.

“Bride” was the first original score composed in Hollywood by Waxman, a later Oscar winner for the music of “Sunset Boulevard” and “A Place in the Sun.” Its release as an album on La-La Land Records is part of the studio’s drive to restore many of its classic musical assets, making them available commercially as well as for licensing.

Alexia Baum, director of music publishing for the studio, explained that the Heritage Collection began “when we were getting requests for things that we didn’t always have, but should have, because we made them and own them, and people wanted to pay us money for them!”

An example was Ennio Morricone’s score for the Clint Eastwood film “Two Mules for Sister Sara,” which Quentin Tarantino needed, and licensed, for his film “Django Unchained” in 2012. Although issued as an LP in 1970, an expanded, restored edition is forthcoming on CD, she said.

Mike Matessino, who is in charge of restoring and producing the Universal Heritage line, said he considers it “a sacred duty, working every day with classic film music. Studios are huge corporate machines that do their thing, but they’re also custodians of cultural history.

“Somebody’s got to dig in, see what’s there, work with it, see how we can make it presentable — and like the Frankenstein monster itself, see what we can do to bring it back to life so that we can all continue to enjoy it.”

Variety‘s Jon Burlingame, a film music historian, summarized Waxman’s film career, which also included music for such cinema classics as “The Philadelphia Story,” “Objective Burma,” “Crime in the Streets” and “Peyton Place.”

He cited “Bride” as “an early masterpiece of film scoring” that not only launched Waxman’s Hollywood career but also established musical gestures that would become commonplace in later horror films, including dissonance, shock chords and memorable themes for characters in the story.

The composer’s granddaughter, Alyce Waxman, was present, along with executives from the studio’s music publishing department and from La-La Land Records (which, thus far, has released seven of the eight Heritage Collection discs; an eighth is on Varese Sarabande).

Mike Knobloch, the studio’s president of film music and publishing, said “we hope to continue these efforts, unearth more tracks and restore these films to their original glory. It’s basically a side hustle,” he said to audience laughter, “but it’s really rewarding.”