It’s hard to imagine that there was a time when the opening piano solo from Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells” didn’t elicit a sense of fear and dread. Released in May of 1973, Oldfield’s instrumental garnered considerable notoriety in December of that year after it was used in William Friedkin’s The Exorcist. There is very little music in the horror classic, thus lending to its documentary-like vibe, but originally Lalo Schifrin (perhaps best known for the Mission: Impossible theme song) had composed a more traditional score for the possession tale.
“William Friedkin hired me to write the music for the trailer,” Schifrin revealed to Score Magazine. “Six minutes were recorded for the Warner’s edition of the trailer. The people who saw the trailer reacted against the film, because the scenes were heavy and frightening, so most of them went to the toilet to vomit.”
The trailer that Schifrin refers to terrified audiences with its use of the composer’s heavy score, flash imagery and an ominous tone. It also scared the hell out of Warner Bros. executives.
“The trailer was terrific,” adds Schifrin “but the mix of those frightening scenes and my music, which was also a very difficult and heavy score, scared the audiences away. So, the Warner Brothers executives sent Friedkin to tell me that I must write a less dramatic and softer score.”
Schifrin’s original score was eventually dropped due to creative differences between the composer and the director, which Schifrin refers to as an act of vengeance in the interview. Reportedly, Friedkin was so displeased with Schifrin’s score that he threw it out the window, sending it tumbling down a staircase where Father Dyer performed the last rites. Unlike Father Karras, Schifrin’s score didn’t return for Exorcist III.
Schifrin’s score is available on YouTube.
[h/t Dangerous Minds]