The Amazing Mr. Blunden: Ghost Seeker

October 12, 2019

Elmer Bernstein’s 1972 family ghost film unearthed for CD by Intrada

In 1972, acclaimed composer Elmer Bernstein (THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, GHOSTBUSTERS) scored a charming, family-friendly ghost story called THE AMAZING MR. BLUNDEN. Directed by Lionel Jeffries (THE RAILWAY CHILDREN; actor in FIRST MEN IN THE MOON, CAMELOT, CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG), who also wrote the script based on Antonia Barber’s 1969 book The Ghosts, the film stars Laurence Naismith, Lynne Frederick, Diana Dors, and Garry Miller.

The movie follows a woman and her young children who are offered a job by the mysterious and very old solicitor Mr. Blunden as housekeepers to a derelict country mansion. One day the children meet the spirits of two other children who died in the mansion nearly a hundred years previously. The children prepare a magic potion that allows them to travel backwards in time to the era of the ghost children and see if they can prevent their early deaths.

The film remains somewhat obscure to U.S. audiences but is a successful, beloved film in the United Kingdom where it was produced. “Part ghost story, part drama, part redemption tale, part time travel fantasy, all parts of THE AMAZING MR. BLUNDEN serve as inspiration for composer Bernstein to write in his most intimate style for orchestra with frequent spotlights on piano, flute, harp, vibraphone, orchestra bells,” writes the label in their announcement. “The resulting musical vernacular evokes simplicity of his justifiably famous TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. Bernstein also offers generous quantity of his other signature musical devices including solo cello within string section, melodic lines in piccolo and bassoon voiced in widely-spaced octaves, minor chords in brass moving about by half steps, flutter-tongue flute figures, divisi cello writing, many other trademarks.”

A lengthy and exhaustive search by Intrada led to mint condition scoring session mixes, made by Richard Lewzey in October 1972 at Cine Tele Sound Studios. The entire score was present on masters, including the fun music hall number “Oh, I’m a Naughty Boy,” introduced in the scene as featuring “Elmer and Jeffries,” leading to fun speculation that singer and pianist are director and composer. Informative notes on film production and score by Frank K. DeWald, handsome graphic design by Kay Marshall.

To sample music and/or to order, see intrada

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