The Three Investigators and the Secret of Terror Castle

Annette Focks

" Orchestral score sets this teenage adventure on fire "

Written by Thomas Glorieux - Review of the regular release

The Three Investigators is a detective book series aimed at kids which was first published as Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators, an idea of author Robert Arthur, Jr. to capture a wider audience by attaching a popular name to the series. The books became quite popular in Germany, resulting in a German movie version of The Three Investigators and the Secret of Terror Castle. Several years before, Annette Focks scored their first adventure (The Three Investigators and the Secret of Skeleton Island), so it was only obvious she would return for the ride. This time Alhambra Records releases their adventure in this 66 minute edition.

Again, my knowledge of German composers is minimum. But Annette Focks luckily was one of the few that I heard earlier works of. But what's obvious already from the mere 2 works I've heard by now is that Focks has a wonderful control over the orchestra, keeping them in line so that they tell the story perfectly which she envisioned.

It opens with a nice spy (James Bond) like sound, brought to life through a subtle orchestral accompaniment and a prominent guitar, infusing just the right kind of beats to it to make it catchy (A more alive and kicking version appears during the "End Credits" by the way). By then, the score somehow shifts towards a darker / eerier sound, bringing forth the kind of mystery that a tale such as this requires. Perfectly presentable and interesting to a degree, not all of it will wow the listener as it is the typical functional underscore that has to support the scene. The effect is surely there, enough use of mysterious strings and occasional eerie choir to enhance the atmosphere of the mystery ("The Castle"), occasionally stepping out to create a more potent impact ("Voyage of Discovery") or an at times exciting orchestral rhythm ("Panic" or the western based trumpet coolness of "Sheriff Threatens the Boys"). By the way, it's clear Wojciech Kilar's Dracula was an influence or a temp track during the first 2 tracks.

From then on, Focks attempts to use the choir and the various instruments more to create some kind of adventurous attitude, guiding our heroes to their biggest adventure yet. It gives "Into the Forest" a cool vibe when mysterious choir and cool sounding guitar creates this unique powerful palette.

Sometimes Focks also downright nails the beauty of the adventure when we hear a glorious moment of beauty unfolding in "Cleopatra", while a lovely secondary theme for Caroline is used when our little heroin appears to save the day ("Caroline", "Caroline the Savior" and the glorious "Goodbye"). And when the danger motif is inserted to capture the threat, the score suddenly elevates to a whole other level. Sometimes it's so goddamn briefly that you want it to continue longer, hoping that it would elevate cues such as "Back to the Castle", "Danger" and "The Sinister Man". Luckily that moment arrives in "The Castle Becomes Alive", finally unleashing the choir and the orchestra for what is this score's most pompous cue of all. I'm sure that hearing this kind of orchestral score in a kids movie must truly capture the spirits of the younger audience, as it still does it for me.

And from then on, Focks just keeps on hitting them out the ballpark. The danger motif now swirls with enough gusto over the racing choral delights of "The Rescue", the beauty of "The Message" is brought forward by an emotional solo violin and the glorious "Goodbye" cue repeats for one final time the Caroline theme in splendid form. And what's most important now, during these moments Focks develops her ideas until the very end.

Honestly, it's amazing how this soundtrack just started to develop from the moment the boys we're going on an unbelievable adventure. But that's how I like my scores the most. Scores that develop and don't hold nothing back after a while. I already noticed how effective Annette Focks used the power of the choir in Krabat, and I notice it now in this sometimes thrilling soundtrack experience. Honestly, my personal impression when I first saw this uninviting cover was probably the same as your initial reaction now. But nothing could be further from the truth, as Annette Focks creates a powerful adventurous score with enough mystery and quality to fully entertain you during the hour to come. Very nice surprise indeed, and a recommendation for those that like their children adventure scores to contain more than enough punch.

Favorite Moment - The Rescue (0.01 - 1.59)
The pinnacle moment of the disc, the adventure receives the conclusion

Track Listing

1. Main Title * (2.37)
2. Message (1.13)
3. Coordinates (1.57)
4. The Journey Begins (2.00)
5. The Castle (2.44)
6. Caroline (2.07)
7. Voyage of Discovery (2.37)
8. Panic (3.22)
9. Justus Talks About his Parents (1.47)
10. Sheriff Threatens the Boys (2.01)
11. In the Forest (2.32)
12. Cleopatra (3.51)
13. The Secret (2.08)
14. Solving the Problem (2.10)
15. Magic Liquid (1.02)
16. In the Castle (1.05)
17. The Curse (2.55)
18. Caroline the Savior (2.42) Excellent track
19. Back to the Castle (3.30)
20. Danger (1.48)
21. The Sinister Man (1.58)
22. The Castle Becomes Alive (2.31) Excellent track
23. Justus Has to Make a Decision (3.16)
24. The Rescue (1.59) Excellent track
25. A Message (2.25)
26. Goodbye (1.31) Excellent track
27. End Credits * (3.23)
28. Ode to Odessa: Dewey Milsapp and the Waiters ** (2.08)
29. Surf 01 ** (0.49)

* Composed by Annette Focks and Jacob Grunert
** Composed by Jacob Grunert

Total Length: 66.59
(click to rate this score)  
(total of 3 votes - average 4.5/5)

Released by

Alhambra Records A8983 (regular release 2009)

Conducted by

Annette Focks

Orchestrations by

Annette Focks, Ferran Cruixent & Enrique Ugarte

Performed by

The Philharmonic Sound Orchestra of Munich