The music of Les Baxter: the sound of B movies


Roger Corman turned 87 yesterday (April 5th 2013), and I’m once again reminded that, despite their low production values, his movies had awesome music.

The movies he did with Vincent Price, especially the ones based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe, all had deliciously dramatic scores that were an integral part of the effectiveness of these films. These movies allowed me to discover not just Price, but composer Les Baxter (March 14, 1922 – January 15, 1996).

Baxter worked as a concert pianist and a singer before turning to film scoring in the 60’s for Corman’s American International Pictures. These works remain his major claim to fame, and define the B movie horror genre of the 60’s. (He is also known for his exotica albums, although there is controversy concerning his work there)

While his work is mostly unavailable, many specialty film score labels have re-issued some of his scores on CD in recent years. While some have already gone back out of print (even YouTube doesn’t have much of his movie material), a few can still be had in specialized shops: https://www.screenarchives.com/composer.cfm?composerID=533

The classic House of Usher:


Black Sabbath, the movie that gave the founders of heavy metal their name:


One of my favourite Les Baxter tracks. The theme from Hell’s Belles


X, The Man With the X-Ray Eyes

But he didn’t score just horror (although that movie is horrifying in its own right!) Here’s Beach Blanket Bingo:

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