‘Prom Night’: Music to kill for
This being prom season, the good people Perseverance Records have a unique way of commemorating it with the world premiere of Paul Zaza & Carl Zittrer – Prom Night: Original 1980 Motion Picture Soundtrack ($17.99 retail).
Remarkably, given the film’s enduring cult status, this marks the first official, legitimate release of the Prom Night soundtrack.
Silvio Barretta, the soundtrack producer, recalled, “I remember seeing Prom Night during its release in 1980 when disco was still the craze. I was determined to obtain a copy of the soundtrack and play the theme song at my senior prom only to find that it was never released. I spent years looking at the audiophile catalog at Tower Records hoping to find a release date, but no luck. Now, after almost 40 years, my dream has now become a reality!”
One of many slasher films released in the wake of Halloween’s success, Prom Night has the distinction of starring Jamie Lee Curtis, then at the height of her “scream queen” persona, having already appeared in Halloween (1978) and The Fog (1980), with Terror Train (1980), Halloween II (1981), and Road Games (1982) soon to follow. (In an early ‘80s interview, Curtis jokingly referred to Prom Night as “Disco Death.”)
The film is set in one of these seemingly bucolic little towns where nothing ever happens, except for that horrible tragedy six years before, when young Robin Hammond was found dead near an abandoned convent. She’d been playing with her friends, but they took the game too far and scared her until she fell out a window. The children make a pact never to divulge what transpired, and eventually, a local sex offender was arrested for the crime.
Now, those kids are teenagers and getting ready for prom night, having all but forgotten what took place. They think they got away with it. But they’re wrong. Dead wrong.
Someone remembers, someone knows, and that someone is going to make them pay, on Prom Night. Described, not inaccurately, like a cross between Halloween and Carrie (1976), Prom Night wasn’t exactly a critic’s darling but earned some decent reviews. No less than Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times – hey, I know him! – called the film “an efficient rather than stylish Canadian-made horror picture that mercifully lets you complete its grislier moments in your imagination. Even so, its various jolts should be sufficient to satisfy scare-show fans.”
The Atlanta Constitution (now The Atlantic Journal-Constitution) was even more favorable. “(A) surprisingly good scare film. At least the murderer has a motive, for a change. If nothing else, it proves there’s still a line between respectable horror film and gross exploitation.”
In the summer of 1980, when I wasn’t cheering for my Philadelphia Phillies (who would go on to win their first World Series that season), I was certainly aware of Prom Night, thanks to the memorable television spots, but as it was R-rated – and my parents not exactly inclined to take me to a movie like Prom Night — I figured I was out of luck.
Then, surprisingly, it bypassed cable television and was broadcast on prime-time by NBC – mere months after its theatrical release. Believe me, it was the talk at school the next day, as all of us seemed to have watched it the night before.
For the record: Yes, I liked it. Not as much as Halloween or The Fog or Terror Train, but I appreciated that it was a whodunit, and even then I knew it was – no pun intended – a cut above the usual schlock. Being the fan of actors that I was (and still am), I couldn’t help but be impressed that veteran Leslie Nielsen earned top billing for his role as Curtis’s father, the high school principal Mr. Hammond, even if it’s essentially a supporting role, to say nothing of a red herring. (Actually, 1980 turned out to be a watershed year for the actor, as he also appeared in another hit that summer: Airplane!)
It could be said that one of the victims in Prom Night was disco because it was one of the last films – in any genre – to boast a disco soundtrack. It didn’t hurt the film at the box office, as it grossed nearly $15,000 in the United States alone, spawned three sequels (none directly related to the original), and a lamentable 2008 remake that made the original Prom Night look like a paragon of cinematic art.
The Prom Night: Original 1980 Motion Picture Soundtrack not only includes disco selections (“Disco Out the Back Door,” “Funk Dat Disco,” and the title track) – some of which didn’t make the final cut — but also Zaza and Zittrer’s moody score, an element of the film that even its harshest critics admitted worked in its favor.
For more information, visit the official Perseverance Records website.
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