For whatever reasons, the major networks moved away from horror and suspense in the 1980s. Perhaps it became too expensive to produce the anthology series that were the mainstay of the genre. It was left to syndicated shows to provide the scares.
This American-Canadian production had nothing whatsoever to do with the movies with which it shared a name:
Fred Mollin wrote the theme music. He also did the theme for “Beverly Hills 90210”, and actually did work on one of the Friday the 13th movies.
Then there was this one:
Donald Rubinstein and Erica Lindsay wrote this theme. Donald is a prolific jazz composer with a number of awards to his credit. Erica is a noted saxophonist and composer, and manages to find time to teach music as well.
George “Night of the Living Dead” Romero wrote the narration; Paul Sparer had some thrity years of acting under his belt when he was tapped to read it.
A bit more well known, thanks in part to the opening sequence and the host:
Danny Elfman wrote the theme. If there’s a chance that you have no clue who he is, here’s got four Oscar nominations for music: Good Will Hunting, Men in Black, Big Fish, and Milk. On the small screen, he won an Emmy for the theme for “Desperate Housewives”. And if that doesn’t do it, he also wrote the theme for “The Simpsons”.
One last anthology series:
Mark Mancina and John Van Tongeren did the music for this revival of the 60s series. Both have worked on dozens of movies and TV shows, and are still making music.
Kevin Conway provided the “Control Voice”. He’s been acting since 1968, with appearances in shows like “Miami Vice”, “Star Trek: The Next Generation”, and “Oz”.
Anthology series like these are great for many of those involved with them. Young actors and directors get good experience, established actors get to try different roles, writers of short stories get their worked dramatized…
One show that didn’t go with the anthology format:
In addition to this one, Mark Snow also wrote the themes for “Hart to Hart”, “Nowhere Man”, and “Smallville”, among others. His musical work on TV shows has earned him 15 Emmy nominations.
Another show that’s got a cult following:
This one’s by a “geek rock” group called “Nerf Herder”, which at the time consisted of Parry Gripp (vocals, guitar), Charlie Dennis (bass) and Steve Sherlock (drums). The name comes from a line in the movie Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. Gripp and Sherlock are still making music with the band.
And finally, something on the lighter side:
Written by composer and arranger Jack Marshall, he’s also responsible for the arrangement on Peggy Lee’s “Fever”. You know, the one with percussion, bass, and finger snapping.
And I’ll bet you didn’t know the theme had lyrics!
When you are walking down the street at night
And behind you there’s no one in view.
But you hear mysterious feet at night,
Then The Munsters are following you!
If you should meet this strange family
Just forget what some people have said,
The Munsters may shake your hand clammily
But they’re not necessarily dead.
Behind their house you mustn’t be afraid
To see a figure digging with a spade.
Perhaps someone didn’t quite make the grade
With The Munsters, with The Munsters.
Oh, and speaking of finger snapping:
That one’s the work of Vic Mizzy, who also wrote the theme for “Green Acres”, as well as a couple of top 20 hits in the 1940s and other movie and television scores.
These days, you’ll find quite a lot of ghosts, zombies, and the like on the small screen. Typically, however, they seem to just be in the background for a drama or action-adventure series. But that doesn’t mean that the small screen has given up on scaring us….
Great selections! When I was a kid I remember having to go to bed and hearing “Night Gallery” opening music playing and being scared to death! My daughter is still creeped out by X-files music . . . so great list of scary theme songs!!
Thanks! I hope these were a little informative, too. The people who make music for television never get enough credit.
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