Seven Cities of Gold/Friedhofer

December 11, 2006


Based on the novel The Nine Days of Father Serra by Isabelle Zigler and starring Anthony Quinn and Michael Rennie, the film has some interest to this reviewer living in San Diego, the background to much of this film, albiet the filming took place in Mexico. Father Serra is a vital part of the history of this city as he started here in the beginning. The 1955 20th Century Fox film was co-produced by Barbara McLean, a fine film editor, nominated for several Oscars and a winner for Wilson, but a one and out effort in the production field. A small amount of trivia is that Barbara worked on The Rains Came as editor and was nominated for an Oscar. Rains of Ranchipur is the remake of that film and also included in this cd ( The director, Robert Webb, also co-produced. Neither, at least in the area they were working in, could be considered ‘A’ players, thus the film was just another of the many historical epic films produced by Hollywood in the 50’s.

Hugo was either instructed or decided to take the 100% safe route on this soundtrack and scored it exactly as one would think a Spanish/Mexican film should sound. Since this was one of (5) scores he worked on in 1955, it is likely he couldn’t give it as much attention as he wanted to and it suffers in the end as just being another score. Other than the amusing lyrics (assume Hugo wrote them) to the track “Senorita Carmelita” there is little groundbreaking material in this score. In baseball you won’t always hit a homerun or strikeout everytime you come up. Let’s call this one a double, a good at bat. “Jose and Usula” is a poignant love theme track which is reminiscent in style of material written for Broken Arrow. Unfortunately this is one of the tracks that suffers from the ravages of time and has noticeable flutter in it. “Enough To Do” is an underscore track of religious nature that also suffers from the ‘fluttering’ to the point of annoyance. “Lieutenant Exits” is a wonderful track and an excellent example of what Hugo can sound like at his finest! An oboe solo, wonderful brass harmonizing chords, the yearning violins are all there. The “Main Title” is exactly what our brain thinks we should hear for a genre of this nature, a proud hispanic brass sounding theme which is repeated in “With Beads” and other tracks. And while it isn’t a theme that you truly have to listen for, it is not one that can be put into the category of memorable. “Staff Exits” is a typical Mexican hat dance style selection complete with brass and tambourines. “Column Through The Pass” was recorded to emphasis the percussion, likely a separate microphone. The bongo is used to create a knocking sound while the tambourine sounds like the rattle of a snake. This is all while the orchestra is performing another variation of the main title.

In a way I can understand why it has taken 50+ years for an official U.S. release by Varese Sarabande to surface. While it is certainly a most listenable score from Friedhofer (all of his scores are), it is not one of his strongest. One can only assume that there was no way to correct the flutter damage which slows the recording down so it is most noticeable. If you consider yourself to be in the audiophile category pass on this one unless you really like Friedhofer. Fans of Hugo have already purchased it as copies are scarce. There were only 1000 pressed to begin with. If at all interested sooner rather than later is the order of the day if one wishes to purchase this. The other part of the score has been reviewed and the link is provided above. Please read and you will understand why the overall recommendation is to purchase if at all possible. And yes those crazy amusing lyrics are in my head from “Senorita Carmelita”! Yikes.

Golden Score Rating **

Track Listing:

1. Main Title (01:27)2. New Spain (01:38)

3. I Never Left Anyone To Die (00:41)

4. Staff Exits (02:30)

5. What’s The Color? (01:26)

6. Column Through The Pass (04:36)

7. Señorita Carmelita (01:46)

8. Lieutenant Exits (02:29)

9. With Beads (01:29)

10. It Isn’t Foolish Like You (02:22)

11. In The Hut (01:51)

12. We Weren’t Saved To Perish (00:56)

13. Plague (01:33)

14. Serra Walks Away (01:15)

15. Jose Salutes Portola (02:44)

16. Enough To Do (03:02)

17. All The Orders (00:54)

18. Indians Exit (00:54)

19. At The Mission (01:25)

20. Jose And Usula (02:48)

21. Portola Returns (01:37)

22. Prayer On The Hilltop (01:11)

23. Death Of Ula (01:45)

24. Sabotage (01:36)

25. Departure (04:15)

26. End Credits (01:19)

Produced by Robert Townson and Nick Redman

Edited and Mastered by Daniel Hersch

CD# is Varese Sarabande VCL 1106 1057

Orchestra is conducted by Lionel Newman

Arranged by Edward B. Powell and Maurice De Packh


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