Though composer Chuck Cirino is not a name that most movie fans – even those who like B-movies – would instantly recognize, there's a decent chance cult film aficionados have heard some of his work. First breaking into movie soundtrack work on 1980's Gypsy Angels, a film best known for featuring a then-unknown Vanna White in various states of undress, Cirino went on to score numerous features for B-movie and skin-flick director (legend?) Jim Wynorski. Arguably the best known among Cirino's list of credits is 1986's Chopping Mall (“...where shopping costs you an arm and a leg...”), though genre fans might also be familiar with the likes of Sorority House Massacre II, The Return of Swamp Thing, Evil Toons, or Munchie.
Obviously, Cirino isn't working on the same caliber of movies as, say, John Williams, but that doesn't make his musical output any less satisfying. Case in point: Cirino's soundtrack to the 1988, Wynorski-directed remake of Not of This Earth, dealing with an alien coming to Earth in search of a blood supply that will save his race from extinction. Having an airy, some might say cheesy, sound quality that could only be provided by vintage 1980s keyboards, Cirino's work here is somewhat fragmentary, featuring brief, genuine soundtrack cues as opposed to grandiose, sweeping themes. Nevertheless, it's very listenable and frequently quite catchy.
The album's '80s vibe is solidified immediately in opening track “Journey to Earth,” one of its more pounding cuts which finds tinkling bells providing the melody and corny electronic trumpets the accents. After a somewhat eerie intro, the film's main theme is the first to make use of a quietly memorable keyboard motif that figures into many of the subsequent tracks. With an upbeat tempo that gives it the same energy as found in old exercise tapes (or soft porn movies), this main title nicely reflects the mix of horror and comedy that a viewer finds in the film. As its title suggests, “Slitting Your Wrist – Blood Test” is one of Cirino's more genuinely creepy creations, with creaking, theremin-like interjections and jarring faux-vocal exclamations, and the soundtrack's main motif is presented in perhaps its darkest incarnation during follow-up “Coming Home.”
“The Terror Rhapsody” reminds me of the sort of music heard in any number of Richard Band soundtracks, with light and delicate organ melody heard over bellowing, sinister bass chords. “Miss Storey's Bedroom,” “Nadine's Basement Trip,” and “Several Hundred Questions” present alternate versions of the melody in the main title, while “Strip of Death” is initially quite jarring and aggressive before settling into a gentler but slightly unsettling second half. Considering that Traci Lords, infamous for (gulp!) appearing in some 100 adult films prior to her eighteenth birthday, occupies a main role in Not of This Earth, a track entitled “Sleaseomania” might not be unexpected, but the stripteasey mood of this track is washed away by more ominous offerings in “Sending the Suitcase” and “A Pound of Flesh.” The second of these is probably one of the album's most singular pieces that best demonstrates Cirino's ability as a musician: a peppy number that changes significantly over the course of three and a quarter minutes.
The low-key “Call an Optometrist” is more mood-setting than exhilarating, with “No Contact” operating in much the same manner until its exciting climax. Afterward, “Phone Booth” stands as an intense track that conveys the sense of urgency one would expect during a pursuit scene and “Driving Mr. Johnson” may be the track here best suited for stand-alone appreciation. Punctuated by loud, grinding metallic accents, the track boasts a bumping rhythm and has a flowing but rather tinny melody at its center, finishing off with a wonderfully serene, spacy coda. The soundtrack concludes with an end title subtitled as “Here Lies a Man” which plays as an amalgamation of elements heard earlier. Working through more vigorous sections as well as calming ones, it's another track that allows Cirino to flex his compositional chops.
Being a longtime fan of genre film and their music, one of the coolest things to happen over the course of the last decade or so is the rediscovery of almost incalculable numbers of absurdly under-appreciated film scores. Many of these releases feature music that's substantially better than the films they come from, and there are literally hundreds of forgotten gems out there. I'm not sure that I'd call Chuck Cirino's Not of This Earth soundtrack one of the best B-movie scores I've ever heard, but it's something that (like Michael Perilstein's score for The Deadly Spawn, which – perhaps more inexplicably – has also been reissued in recent years) that absolutely deserves more recognition than it has gotten – particularly in an age where that glorious, definitively '80s sound is very much in vogue. I've got to commend Terror Vision for this release: the Not of This Earth soundtrack is nothing less than extremely enjoyable.
7.5 / 10
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