Dinosaurus!/Stein

October 19, 2006

 

Ronald Stein spent much of his life toiling in the ‘B’ movie scene for Universal and American International doing 50+ pictures in a 10 year time span. During that time he worked on such films as Rat Fink, The Bashful Bikini, The Bounty Killer and any genre of picture that was necessary. During his American International stay he co-composed several films with Les Baxter, who also worked for American International, but the two never met! Likely John Williams made more money on one Steven Spielberg picture and of course had a full symphony orchestra to match. Stein worked with the budgets that were given him and came up with some mighty creative scores cleverly using his instrumentation within the smaller orchestra to make some of these below average films a little bit better. Many of his scores will be long forgotten, but thanks to Taylor White at Percepto Dinosaurus! is not one of them.

Dinosaurus was a (1960) film produced by Jack Harris and directed by Irvin Yeaworth Jr. whose big claim to fame (they didn’t know it at the time) was The Blob done a couple years before. Because of the very young and just getting started Steve McQueen this would go onto becoming a very popular cult film. The premise of the film was the awakening of a T-Rex, Brontosaurus, and a pre-historic man frozen in time but awakened through a lightning storm on an island being explored for minerals by a group of adventurers. No one in this film went onto bigger and better things and that includes the producer and director. The stop animation and the filming in cinemascope are what appeals to a lot of science fiction fans these days. For those of you who are not familiar many of these ‘B’ movies were second features at the now more or less defunct drive-in theaters and provided entertainment to many when we did not have 900 television channels to choose from!

The “Main Title” immediately brings us into the film with its loud brash dissonant brass and then the theme portrays the lumbering of the dinosaur with a timpani giving us a preview of things to come in the picture. While the theme is completely different it did remind of some of the cues that Ifukube did in his years with the Godzilla films. “The Awakening” is really a good track which begins with some suspense and then Ronald uses a series of brass chords which reminded me of a jungle sequence in King Kong. Stein makes very effective use of the entire orchestra using dissonant brass, tuba, percussion, and strings to create mourning, dinosaur lumbering, and suspense. While you could hardly call this thematic in any way it is an excellent example of what good underscoring is all about and is a good reason why this soundtrack is better than many of the others you might have heard in the so called ‘B’ thriller/science fiction films. The cue “A Strange World” is a concert like elegy with strings and a harp followed by a hispanic brass fanfare and then a quick statement with the brass chord again that the T-Rex (lost a fight with a bulldozer and was pushed into the ocean to die) is not dead and could there yet be a sequel? Doubt it but Hollywood is getting really short on ideas these days so who knows!

Keeping in mind that this is pre-digital there is a bit of noise on the transfer but nothing that could be considered distracting. This is a case of would you rather have something or nothing? The liner notes from Jeff Bond, while informative for the film and the soundtrack, seem to be overwritten in terms of description and choice of words. Far better to call it a bulldozer as opposed to a hydraulic steam shovel but all of this has nothing to do with the score anyway.

Dinosaurus! is a very good example of how bad special effects were in 1960 and how far they have come in the last 45+ years. The same can’t be said about some of the lower budget scores. The Stein score with its smaller budget and orchestra is still superior to some of the synthesized one person operations from individuals who have little music training but enough money to purchase some electronic equipment. Stein was the pianist with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra in the 50’s and knew and understood how to write very well. He took a little and made a lot from it. He is a composer that should be explored and included in your soundtrack collection! This one would be an excellent start. A word of caution! This is a limited edition of a 1000 units so if Taylor runs out don’t say you weren’t warned! Recommended.

Golden Scores Rating (***)

Track listing

1. Main Title (02:49)

2. The Lifeboat (01:59)

3. Monster Fishing (01:25)

4. The Caveman (01:43)

5. Chasing Julio (01:49)

6. The Awakening (03:31)

7. Caveman Visit (01:17)

8. Exploring The House (02:59)

9. Julio And The Brontosaurus (03:51)

10. Past And Present (01:45)

11. Sleeping Dinosaurs (03:08)

12. The Evacuation / Bart Kills The Tyrannosaurus (05:23)

13. A Strange World (01:23)

Total Duration: 00:33:02

CD# is Percepto 021

Mastered by Douglass Fake at Intrada

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