June 30, 2007
My very first soundtrack in 1959 was Peter Gunn and after just a few spins I was both addicted to soundtracks and Henry Mancini, both becoming life hobbies of collecting. Wait Until Dark, not having an official release, had always been limited to having a standard Mancini arrangement of the main love theme. While it was pleasant it wasn’t anything that jumped out at you, just another in a string of good tunes from Hank. This new release, the 156th from Film Score Monthly (FSM Vol. 10 #7) has changed all of that. If you have heard Experiment In Terror before you can put it in a similiar category except the ideas have been expanded even further.
The 1967 film starred Audrey Hepburn, Alan Arkin, Efrem Zimbalist Jr. and Richard Crenna The well done jump in your seat thriller centered around a doll filled with heroin the bad guys are trying to get back from a blind woman who acquired it quite by accident and who has quite a lot more spunk than a normal person. Nicely directed by Terence Young, more known for his James Bond films, the Warner Brothers film was quite successful, due to the excellent screenplay and the box office appeal of Audrey Hepburn. This was the fourth and last of the collaborations that Hepburn and Mancini did together, the other three being Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Charade, and Two For The Road.
A word of caution! This is not one of your typical pop scores from Mancini. Don’t expect to hear a lot of thematic material like the other three Hepburn/Mancini films albiet the “Wait Until Dark” love theme and “Theme For Three” did make it to a 45 RPM. I speculate that this was the reason for a lack of a soundtrack release; just not enough material to warrant the special recordings Mancini made for RCA. For those of you who are not aware Hank made separate recordings from the soundtrack creating special arrangements to make it a more pleasant listening experience. What you will hear is the scientist/experimenter part of Hank. Making use of electric harpsichord, sitar, sho, Novachord, autoharp, whistling, and two Baldwin pianos, one out of tune, you have the ingredients for an unusual sounding score. Keep in mind that this is 1967 and long before the electronics the modern composer has available today. Given the tools of modern technology one could only imagine what Hank could have come up with. If you know a little about photography just compare it to the photographic darkroom and photoshop on your computer.
The soundtrack opens with the haunting “Theme For Three” (the bad guys) with the tuned and out of tune piano providing the disturbing harmony. Sort of a leitmotiv for the bad guys it is used on many of the tracks in different styles and orchestrations. The “Wait Until Dark” love theme has lyrics by Livingston and Evans and is sung on the end track by jazz vocalist Sue Raney in fine fashion. It is also effectively used whenever a quiet romantic moment (not too many in this one) is needed. “Phono Source 1” is a generic bossa nova track as well as “Phono Source 2”. “Bulbus Terror” is one of the better dissonant disturbing tracks that I have heard in a long time with a novel concept. There are no shrieking violins at all!!! “Light Relief” reminds me of a David Rose (they were friends) “Holiday For Strings” fluff piece. Included in the bonus tracks are 2+ minutes of Mancini experimenting with the wierd two piano concept. The remastering, engineering, and liner notes are all excellent.
If your a Mancini fanatic like this reviewer you either already have it or its on the way. However, this would not be my recommendation to anyone who is wishing to explore Hank for the very first time. There are too many other choices that are a lot more typical of what Henry is really like. If you are looking for a good soundtrack complete with a couple of cool themes and great underscore (forget the Mancini name) you can’t miss with this one. Highly recommended.
Golden Scores Rating is (****)
1. Come On Louie/The Doll (01:49)2. Main Title (04:11)
3. Don’t Make Waves/Big Drag For Lisa (03:26)
4. Light Relief (01:09)
5. Radio Source/He’s Got Time (03:04)
6. World’s Champion Blind Lady (01:24)
7. Phono Source I (03:02)
8. Phono Source II (01:43)
9. Pick Up Sticks (02:24)
10. The Doll Again (03:19)
11. Watch The Booth/It’s For You (01:25)
12. Chair Kicker (04:42)
13. Bulbus Terror (03:53)
14. Gassy!/Strum Along/The Doll (03:37)
15. Cutting Roat A New One (01:50)
16. You’re Doing Fine (01:15)
17. Wait Until Dark (02:15)
18-20 bonus tracks:
18. Alternate Main Title (02:06)
19. He’s Got Time (alternate) (00:39)
20. Piano Tests (02:30)
Total Time is 49:43
Produced by Lukas Kendall
CD# is FSM Vol. 10 #7
June 25, 2007
Could Intrada have picked out a more controversial score to re-record for the 100th anniversary of the birth of Miklos Rozsa than Spellbound, the 1945 Selznick/Hitchcock thriller starring Peck and Bergman? When the first brainstorming of the project began the idea of doing an Oscar winning score in a fairly complete package for the first time seemed a logical choice. While there were other recordings available most were woefully incomplete, pretty much offering the main theme. The logical choice was the Heindorf recording http://www.goldenscores.com/?a=reviews&id=8 and it lacked quite a bit of material from the film, as well as being out of print. On the surface it all seems to make sense to me. From some of the comments that this reviewer has read on the various message boards you would have thought it was one of the poorer efforts ever done! Yes, the producer and label owner from Intrada can and should be sensitive to a degree about criticism leveled against the re-recording. Tell your girl friend or wife sometime that there meal tastes like cardboard after spending several hours in the kitchen and you’ll get clonked with a pan on the head! You just don’t do things like that. They spent many countless hours on a project which could never show huge profits. How could the general public possibly have any interest in music from a 62 year old film! Most of the younger generation has no clue about the film at all! The majority of the sales are going to be limited to soundtrack collectors and people interested in the film, Hitchcock, or the stars involved. Not a very big market, at least not in my opinion.
Any re-recording of material is a welcome addition to our golden age selections and Spellbound is no exception. We have been blessed with three new recordings this year and there appears to be more on the horizon in the coming months. Spellbound, in this reviewers opinion, is one of the better themes written for the silver screen and certainly the melody is recognizable to many albiet it not many can name the film. Eerie, romantic, and mysterious it is used as a central base for many of the tracks in the score. The mystery theme, with the use of theremin, and the premiere of the Rozsa written “Ski Run; Mountain Lodge” sequence are all included as well as 30 additional minutes of material not included in the Warner Brothers recording.
A word about tempo and miking. Tempo is a decision that is usually made by the conductor for a particular work. If it is for the silver screen the director, producer, and ultimately the film itself will dictate this, but a re-recording in a concert hall must be listened to in a different fashion, that is you will be the final judge of the material. The same must be said about the miking, mixing, sound levels, and any other matter of audio decision making.
This is a fine re-recording of Oscar winning material and is to be recommended to even the casual listener of golden age material. It comes with my highest recommendation!
June 19, 2007
Milan Records has introduced a 2 CD set which includes both Flags Of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima in a deluxe package, 40 page booklet giving you the history, biographies of flag raisers, film information, and a map of the island. With a suggested retail price of $29.95 this set represents an excellent value because you also receive 5 additional bonus tracks totaling 52 minutes of time. It includes interviews with Kyle and Clint as well as marine combat recordings from 1945.
Eastwood in his later years as a director/producer appears to be in a position to be able to take on whatever subject matter he feels he wants to tackle. While this two film project might not have been the financial success the studios were looking for it is certainly a look at an important part of history. To be able to tell the story from both the Japanese and American views of an absolutely horrific time of WW2 is in my opinion an extremely important contribution not only to film but to history. Some of the younger generation just doesn’t realize how many tens of thousands of lives were lost on both sides in a relatively short period of time.
Flags Of Our Fathers has already been reviewed http://www.goldenscores.com/?a=articles&id=23 on the golden score website and somewhat follows the trend of Clint Eastwood composed scores. His melodies are simple, repetitive, but effective in the film. He doesn’t use elaborate complex arrangements or orchestrations. Let’s just say that Rimsky-Korsakov wasn’t a person he studied for any of you somewhat familiar with classical music. This film uses a lot of source music appropriate to the 40’s era, again very effective. Kyle, following in the tradition of his father, also offers us a simple, repetitive, but effective melody used on the piano, strings, and trumpet for the japanese side of the battle Letters From Iwo Jima. The theme itself is almost like an exercise that one would perform in school as part of practice if one were in the band. There is nothing that is groundbreaking, ear catching, or unique. On the otherhand, it is a somewhat effective soundtrack to a film that depicts the horrors of this hopeless fight from the japanese side.
My father who had some involvement in the cleanup portion of the battle has a great deal of interest in the map, booklet, films, as well as the music. The appeal of this deluxe package lies with anyone who feels the importance of this part of World War 2. The same could also be said to any historical buffs, World War II collectors, and Clint Eastwood collecting. It is very hard to criticize the Eastwood family scores as part of the film package. As a stand alone experience they leave somewhat to be desired because of their simplicity, but not when you view the film. They do fit what you see on the screen like a glove. These are films which most of us should watch and then judge the music.
June 10, 2007
As British sounding as if it were written by Vaughan Williams the proud and majestic main theme from Damn The Defiant by Clifton Parker is the highlight of this 152nd release from Film Score Monthly. Originally titled H.M.S. Defiant the 1962 film directed by Lewis “Alfie” Gilbert starred Sir Alec Guinness, Alex Quayle, and Dirk Bogarde. The film tells the historical story of one ship during the late 18th century and its struggles during the Spithead Mutiny and finally the battle with the French. This is not a film that one thinks of when the word mutiny comes up. Hornblower,Billy Budd,Mutiny on the Bounty, and even Caine Mutiny, are all titles that one thinks of before this film and yet it is a well acted film about the horrors of sailing in the British navy. Some of the practices that the British did during this time frame were as horrific as slavery.
If the name of the film evokes stare eyes from you the composer will likely do the same. Even some soundtrack collectors would be hard pressed to name 5 films that Clifton Parker scored. Until the release of this FSM CD the other available recording is the Chandos 10279 release, a compilation of 9 of his films. Other than a Colpix lp of this recording and a couple of disney lp releases there has been little else. The main title ( “Damn the Defiant”), its not really, but labelled as such, is the best of the best in terms of a good old fashion sea chanty. Apparently there were some liberties taken in what went where in putting together the album (done by Jack Lewis) but Lukas has managed to sort through everything and explain exactly what music is with what scene. To set the record straight the actual main theme is on track 3 (“Midnight on the Defiant”) a very coronation like theme appearing between two underscore motifs. Both themes are repeated in “The Mutineers”, and “Meeting at Rochefort”. A romantic cue of sorts appears in “Sailing With the Tide” as Captain Crawford says goodbye to his wife. There are also two additional themes found in “Unrest Among the Crew” and “The Defiant Reaches Corsica”. The overall length of the material is a scant 28 minutes and really less than that when you consider that some of the cues are merely repeats of other cues. While short in length, the available material is an excellent example of how well ‘sea’ music can and should be written. The conducting by Muir Mathieson, a very respected conductor of soundtrack material, does nothing but enhance the material even more!
Behold A Pale Horse(1964), directed by Oscar winning director Fred Zinnemann and starring Gregory Peck, Omar Sharif, and Anthony Quinn told the story of the bandit Artiguez (Peck) and the unrelenting Vinolas (Quinn) who will stop at nothing to catch him during the Spanish Civil War time frame. Time has not been kind to the psychological thriller and it has been mostly a forgotten film.
Maurice Jarre approached the majority of this score with a delicate nature using spanish guitar, percussion and flute for the main theme used in many of the tracks. It is a memorable march theme which will be remembered by this reviewer as similiar in style to the theme from Grand Prix, another Jarre score. The issue that comes up with this soundtrack is the constant repeating of the theme over and over and over again something that seems to be a trademark with scores of Jarre. There is a small amount underscore material but alas very little on this soundtrack.
The price of admission on this offering is the Parker material, some of the finer seafaring music written. It alone is worth the price and perhaps in time the Jarre material will grow upon you a bit.
Golden Score Rating for Damn The Defiant (****1/2)
Golden Score Rating for Behold A Pale Horse (*1/2)
Produced by Lukas Kendall
FSM Vol. 10 No. 4
1. Damn the Defiant! Main Title (03:05)
2. Vizard Theme (02:01)
3. Midnight on the Defiant (02:54)
4. Sailing With the Tide (01:55)
5. Unrest Among the Crew (02:12)
6. The Defiant Reaches Corsica (03:00)
7. Meeting at Rochefort (02:33)
8. The Mutineers (02:17)
9. Aboard the Defiant (01:58)
10. Crawford at Vizard’s Deathbed (02:18)
11. The French Retreat (02:00)
12. Damn the Defiant! End Title (01:13)
(1-12 from “Damn the Defiant! by Clifton Parker, 1962)
13. Main Title (02:20)
14. Paco Leaving Spain (02:45)
15. Paco at the Frontier (03:06)
16. Paco Arrives in Pau (02:06)
17. Spanish Street (02:22)
18. Manuel’s Decision (01:45)
19. Manuel and Girl in Cafe (02:56)
20. Manuel Crossing Pyrenees (03:03)
21. Manuel in San Martin (03:06)
22. Father Francisco in Hospital (01:51)
23. Father Francisco’s Conscience Struggle (02:50)
24. Manuel Studies Map (02:30)
25. Exile March (02:40)
26. Spain Regained (03:08)
(13-26 from “Behold a Pale Horse” by Maurice Jarre, 1964)
Total Duration: 01:03:54