Sometime between the 1960s and 1990s the so-called “death of vinyl” was supposed to have occurred. With the 8-track, Compact-Cassette, and the CD all being introduced as cheaper and more accessible alternatives to the large and expensive vinyl record, sales were suspected to halt; factories to shut down. But, here we are post-2000s and vinyl sales are still strong (relatively speaking). In fact, new plants specializing in vinyl production are opening and sales are up 900%. Record Store Day, an annual event used to promote the production and sale of vinyl, is stronger than ever. And, now with the introduction of numerous labels focusing on vinyl soundtrack releases (both reissuing classics and releases modern scores), vinyl soundtrack records seem to be as popular as ever. As horror fans, genre fans, film fans we have an affinity for nostalgia, for the “good old days” of analog, and that is what this column is about. This column is a dedication to those days; it’s a celebration of the vinyl soundtrack (both old and new) and the companies that keep putting them out; and, if for nothing else, this column exists because artwork just looks better bigger.
In 1976, musician, singer, entertainer, and parodist Charly Bundt was commissioned by Beate Uhse AG — the largest German retailer of pornography, that just so happens to named after its founder, a stunt pilot turned only female pilot for Germany in WWII turned adult entertainment entrepreneur and aficionado — to produce an adult feature. With restrictions on pornonography loosening in the early 1970s, Beate Uhse was looking to expand their brand into cinema and Bundt would go on to produce two infamous adult films, Dreamdancer and Dreamdancer 2 aka Carl Ludwig, Der Traumtänzer and Carl Ludwig, Der Traumtänzer 2. After the films were banned in the 1980s, following their brief theatrical release a few years prior, they have all but disappeared. At this point in time, both films are highly sought out collector’s items.
While these hardcore adult film are nearly impossible to see, the release of both of the film’s scores by the Berlin-based record label Priv4te Records — as part of their imprint Vinyl Of Austria Group Vienna — presents the first widely accessible aspect of the films to see the light of day since their initial theatrical run, and for what is becoming the norm for Priv4te, neither scores for Dreamdancer were originally released in any format prior. After recording and delivering the tracks for the film, the masters were stored away and were only recently discovered in Mannheim last year.
The scores for Dreamdancer and Dreamdancer 2 — the films shot simultaneously — were written and produced by the director of the film’s son Michael Bundt, along with Peter Seiler (Tritonus). Although their efforts were spread out amongst both films, it would seem likely that the second film re-used much (if not all) of the first film’s score; as the full album only clocks in at about thirty minutes, with more than a few variations of the same track.
As the third release in a series of adult film scores from Priv4te entitled “Sex Fever,” Dreamdancer feels very much stylistically similar to what would be expected of a score for a hardcore film. The familiar moments of disco/funk drive the compositions, but Bundt and Seiler do offer a nice variation and wide array of instruments — much in the same manner as did Gerhard Heinz’s work in the former two releases in the “Sex Fever” series. Opening which a track entitled “Funky Phill,” the record wastes no time setting the atmosphere. A female vocalist sings in fits of sexual ecstasy creating the feeling of porn set to music, with light dirty talk and sounds of moaning passion filling the spaces between the funky disco backing track, smooth bass track and synthy, faux orchestra. The record’s second track, “Auto Verfolgung, Absturz,” may be Bundt/Seiler’s best. With that big band, Eurocrime feel to start it off, the song quickly erodes into a romantic prog rock interlude, with a thick synth lead. It’s really great stuff.
Keeping up the trend of mishmashing genres, the third track, “El Hombre,” feels almost like something produced for a Science Fiction Spaghetti Western hybrid. With a heavily verbed backing tone, twangy guitars form the focus of this brief piece. It’s quite fascinating and I would love to know what visuals the piece was set to in the original film — my imagination has certainly conjured up more than a few instances. By the fourth track, the record mellows out into the aforementioned typical disco/funky style, only with a strong emphasis on a dreamscape sound — fitting for the film’s title. Overall, Dreamdancer is a wonderful album to listen to which offers a vast array of tendencies to enjoy, including some memorable kazoo solos and killer organ work.
Like the prior releases in the series, Dreamdancer comes brilliantly packaged by Priva4te records, complete with another vibrator and plenty of “Vinyl is Sexy” stickers (this time in a heart shape). The record itself is pressed on a fitting color of hot pink and does include a download code for the digital tracks. Finally, Priv4te have included a nice sized poster for the second Dreamdancer film, featuring three of the film’s leading ladies (one of whom bears a striking resemblance to Greta Gerwig). All in all, this is a fine release in the series and may be the most pleasant to listen to yet. It should be exciting to see what Priv4te unearths next from the vaults adult cinema history.
That brings us to the second Priv4te record of this edition of Analog Alleyway, and quite possibly my favorite vinyl release of the year: Detto Mariano’s score for Enzo G. Castellari’s 1987 Rambo-knockoff Striker. Striker comes at the tail end of the fruitful wave of Italian exploitation films, in a time where many of the filmmakers had moved their productions to Miami and the surrounding areas and did their best with (quite visibly) miniscule budgets. While there are some gems from this final wave — including Ruggero Deodato’s Raiders of Atlantis — it is, by and large, the beginning of the end — which a fact that is worn on the sleeve of these films.
As could be expected then, Striker is by no means a ‘good’ movie. It’s stunted most by the choice to cast Frank Zagarino in the leading role. Zagarino has a good presence but the man simply could not act and no amount of Castellari’s fine high-action directing can rise above that. Just because Striker isn’t good doesn’t mean it’s not a highly entertaining film. There’s enough in the runtime to really keep it engaging, including the scripting (co-written by Tito Carpi and Umberto Lenzi). It’s not one of Castellari’s tightest films — perhaps the director was becoming fatigued at this point — but it is still well structured choreographed. The action scenes are well done and there is plenty of violence but it does end up coming off like a less-interesting (or bonkers) version of Strike Commando. A sign of what became of Italian b-movie production, Striker marks one of the last efforts of Castellari before he became relegated to TV movies for the remainder of his career (with only a few exceptions).
Marian’s work for Striker is very much a representation of the film itself. Parts come off a bit cheap sounding, almost having a 16-Bit/Sega Genesis vibe (which is far from a criticism). Other times, Mariano actually employs an orchestra and creates sorrow passages that are quite moving. Despite being limited by its budget, it’s very clear in the tracks that Mariano is highly skilled composer, who easily moves from tonal setting to tonal setting (despite some notably awkward geographical/stylistical inconsistencies that exist). A pleasant surprise comes with many of the tracks having a very brooding, almost noirish aspects. Minimally composed with only a few strings and percussion utilized, these songs help to conjure up a palpable sense of dread in the work. It has to be noted that a number of the pieces do resemble (to put it lightly) pre-existing work, but (much like the film itself) this is part of the album’s charm.
Admittedly, Striker is not the most exciting score. It’s very good but there are a number of releases out this year that would take precedent on my turntable over Striker. What makes this release so phenomenal (as previously mentioned) is the stellar work that Priv4te have delivered in order to present it. The “Survivor Edition” (aka the necessary edition for Italian exploitation fans) is an honest treat. Alongside the record itself — which features unreleased tracks — Priv4te have included created a thematic presentation. The insert comes in the form of a map of Nicaragua, there is a fold out poster featuring Zagarino in all his glory, and (best of all) there is a real hunting knife packed with a survival kit inside it’s shaft. When I had first heard news of this release I had assumed that the knife would be a cheap plastic repro, but I was quite please to learn I was wrong. It’s a legitimate knife — and a big one to boot — albeit unsharpened (but complete with a sharpening stone, those thrifty consumers can change that). This release matches the gonzo atmosphere of the film better than any prior release from the company. As their latest release, it represents what the company has in store for the future and only further proves that they are currently one of the best — and sadly underappreciated — companies reissuing genre soundtracks out there.