By JAMES BURRELL
Released in the U.S. in 1983, the Canuck cult classic Curtains hit cinemas just as the first slasher film boom of the late 1970s to early ‘80s was coming to an end. The film tells of six young women who travel to the remote, snowbound home of celebrated director Jonathan Stryker (John Vernon) to audition for the coveted main role in a movie titled Audra. The situation becomes problematic when the actress originally attached to the project, renowned star Samantha Sherwood (Samantha Eggar) arrives at the mansion after a stay in a psychiatric hospital, demanding to know why Stryker is giving her role to someone else. But it seems that Samantha is not the only one upset by the casting call, as someone wearing a nightmarish old hag mask has also shown up at the estate and begins to kill each of the acting hopefuls.
Beset with production issues, Curtains was originally helmed by cinematographer turned director Richard Ciupka, but the project was later overhauled by its producer Peter Simpson – who shot and inserted new footage and altered several of the film’s plot points. Ciupka refused to put his name on the final product, and the film’s director is wittily credited as “Jonathan Stryker.” Despite the issues behind the camera, the film (which was released by independent distribution outfit Jensen Farley Pictures, Inc.) is a stylish and atmospheric thriller, that benefits from the strong performances of its veteran leads as well as co-stars Linda Thorson, Lynne Griffin, Lesleh Donaldson, and Sandee Currie. Those who’ve seen Curtains fondly remember its score by prolific composer Paul Zaza (Murder by Decree, Prom Night, The Brain); the appearances of the creepy, sad-faced doll that shows up before someone is killed; and a truly frightening scene of a victim being pursued across a frozen pond by the sickle-brandishing masked murderer on skates.
Now, nearly 40 years after it slashed its way across cinema screens, Curtains has finally received a soundtrack release on vinyl, thanks to the horror-loving folks at Waxwork Records. This is the record label’s second release from Zaza, with Waxwork already having put out an LP for the 1981 slasher classic, My Bloody Valentine a few years back. Any fan of Canadian horror cinema will recognize Zaza’s distinctive sound. Intricate strings, flute and piano are predominantly employed here (though there is a bit of synthesizer used in a couple of tracks). Among the highlights are “Tell Me About Audra,” a creepy composition in which a timpani effect is used to evoke a heartbeat; “Skate… For Your Life!” which plays during the infamous skating scene; and “Stryker’s Studio,” a gorgeous piano piece which is also used for the closing credits. Unfortunately, the Burton Cummings song, “You Saved My Soul,” which is heard twice in the film is not included, but this is a minor quibble, as it’s readily available on various Cummings releases.
As with all of Waxwork’s output, the presentation is arguably as important as the score, and this album is no exception. The heavy gatefold cover (with artwork by Anthony Petrie) is fantastic. The front of the cover depicts the hideous hag-masked killer peering out from behind burgundy-coloured curtains, while the cover opens to reveal the fate of naïve skater Christie Burns. The severed head of the killer’s doll laying on the blood-spattered snow adorns the back cover. The album is a beautiful transparent pink vinyl with red and white swirls, dubbed “Blood and Ice.”
This is a very welcome release – certainly one that I never saw coming – and I commend Waxwork for going out of their way to put out a score for Canuck slasher fare like this. And if the company is looking for suggestions for future soundtrack releases, how about other Canadian cult classics like Terror Train or Happy Birthday to Me? Thanks in advance!
SRP for the Curtains Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is $30 USD, and the album can be purchased from the Waxwork website, Curtains – Waxwork Records, as well as various online retailers.