Once again the name Shanghai Chest has nothing to do with the basic plot/storyline of this later Chan film starring Roland Winters.  The screenplay was filled with more than the usual amount of proverbs in this sixty five minute film also starring Victor Sen Young and Mantan Moreland. The basic story was a lot of fun with the typical meeting of all the suspects at the end of the film where the killer is revealed. The clues given along the way certainly fooled me. I was entertained and the hour passed quickly. The soundtrack which I’m sure was taken from the Monogram library didn’t fit at all a couple of times. Perhaps a small amount of original material would have made it a lot better. (**1/2)

 

So much has been written about how the untimely death of Tchaikovsky was somehow tied into the way he wrote his final symphony that I could spend an entire month just reading about it and probably have. We know that he died from cholera as a result of drinking water that was not boiled. While I have read a bit about the suicide theory, his homosexual encounters with his nephew, and the palace itself being involved, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is of no importance when it comes to the enjoyment of his last composition. We know that he conducted it and then passed away nine days later. We know that he gave the pathetic title to it after the premiere performance as he was disappointed in the response from the audience. The name “pathetique” appeared in the program in the memoriam concert. I’ve listened to the third movement, a march, and these are not the thoughts of a depressed person, far from it. The second movement is a waltz something the imperial court encouraged. In between are two beautiful adagios. The first movement is a beautiful melody that a popular song was made out of it with lyrics “Tonight We Love.” The fourth movement is a tragic one with the symphony fading into nothing and because of this the theories began. I am more inclined to think that he said what he desired in the work and ended the piece in virtual silence.

I couldn’t begin to count the number of conductors and orchestras I’ve listened to in regards to the sixth symphony. How then does one know what to listen for in a good recording of the “Pathetique?” I don’t include historical or older analog in this question because to the average listener this material won’t be acceptable. Usually they can have some surface noise, have shrilly treble, tubby bass, and definitely lower dynamic range. The 1950’s Living Stereo RCA recording with Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony falls into that category. There is a tape hiss; less dynamic range and a definite shrill to the brass in the loud parts. None of what I say has anything to do with the performance because it is top drawer. In time if one develops a real interest the historical material is of merit because you can hear through this and appreciate a fine performance.

Does the tempo appear to be hurried or slow? One can get a feel for a work and determine if it is at a comfortable pace between rushed and plodding after listening to other recordings. My Vox Box (CDX 5004) with Abravanel conducting the Utah Symphony has a couple of spots where it is played way too slow and makes me cringe. Other parts are fine such as the playing and recording of the percussion. The fact that Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra have had such experience with this work is a definite plus. It is played at a comfortable pace between rushed and plodding. When you listen to an individual instrument in the orchestra such as the bassoon is it clear sounding with smooth notes or is it muddy? Can you hear the bassoon half way through when it is barely a whisper (pppppp). The Delos recording is quite clear in both areas. As an example you can’t really hear the bassoon on the Naxos (8.550782 from 1993) recording with Wit conducting the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra. Very early on in digital before the CD vinyl was the media and showcased as the sound that was superior to anything else. Soundstream, a company at the head of the pack, was used by Delos. Again in the first movement is there a shrill to the short flute solo or is it clear and easy to listen to? Does the clarinet that follows closely afterwards have a nice smooth sound? Do the French Horns have a  mellow sound as they play the harmony during the lush melody in the first movement? Does the sound generate from the same location or does it sound like there is a hallway in between some of the orchestra sections? The Delos recording can answer yes to all of these questions.

Eugene Ormandy and The Philadelphia Orchestra give a fine performance in this 1983 recording. Delos has done a superior job in reproducing the sound in this early showcase example of digital recording. Highly recommended.

Delos D/CD 3016

The 16th Monogram Charlie Chan film has the distinction of having Keye Luke and Victor Sen Young in the same picture. It also has the honor of being a screenplay from a Republic 1937 picture “Riders of the Whistling Skull.” starring the Three Mesquiteers Bob Livingston, Ray “Crash” Corrigan, and Max Terhune.  You might ask the question how do cowboys and Charlie Chan mix? Well having watched both films the story does work as the basic plot is finding a missing scientist who was searching for gold in Mexico. Skull places more emphasis on action while the treasure and greed are featured in the Serpent although Luke and Young do fight the bad guys at the end of the film. It could have very easily been called Charlie Chan in The Whistling Skull. In fact I liked the stone rock that did look like a skull. What I couldn’t get past was Charlie out in the desert in his three piece suit! I like Charlie Chan films with the Confucian aphorisms, the comedy of Moreland, and the whole whodunit story line so I tend to lean toward the Serpent film but if I were to give them a rating both would be given (**).

Black Dragons

March 22, 2011

 

This 1942 William ‘Mr Wong’ Nigh directed picture was the third film in the “Monogram 9” that Lugosi did for the poverty row company. It also featured Clayton ‘Lone Ranger’ Moore as a fed assigned to the murders of prominent business men who were found with japanese daggers in their hand usually in front of the japanese embassy. We know Lugosi or Columb is the killer but it is not clear until a flashback at the end of the film reveals the revenge and that these men were clones operated on by Lugosi as Dr. Melcher, nazi, and put in key places to infiltrate. The double cross occurs when Melcher is no longer needed by the japanese headed by the Dragon, played by Stanford Jolley, a favorite character actor of mine. The World War II theme film had a good screenplay, decent acting, a lot of stock footage and music, and moved right along in the approximate one hour running time. As the cloning and double cross of Lugosi was revealed a lot of the clues along the way made sense but not at the time such as the business card sent special delivery that said plastic surgeon results guaranteed. Joan Barclay, who I know little about also starred. This film is worth having as it is available from Alpha video at a reasonable price of $5.00 and it is Lugosi. The Harvey Gates screenplay from an idea of  Robert Kehoe, his only IMDB credit, was above average.

T

main title clue

may i present clue (1)

One of the more unusual ideas ever presented on the silver screen was the 1985 film Clue, a comedy based on the board game from Parker Bros., with three separate endings. It starred Eileen Brennan, Madeline Kahn, Christopher Lloyd, and Lesley Ann Warren and was directed by Jonathan Lynn. The film has enjoyed a fair amount of success over the years. According to the liner notes writer Daniel Schweiger it became a cult film on cable television. Surprisingly this is a board game I’ve never played so I was at a disadvantage as far as the film was concerned. Nevertheless I enjoyed watching it.

Having recently completed reviewing another Christie type story Ordeal by Innocence https://sdtom.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/ordeal-by-innocencepino-donaggio/

And being quite surprised by the style of the soundtrack I was not surprised at all by this one. It was definitely what I was expecting to hear much more along the lines of say a Miss Marple type of music.

John Morris quite successfully integrated just the right combination of electronics with the traditional orchestra and created a fun listening experience. It has a ‘stuck in your head’ kind of melody that you’ll find yourself humming long after you’ve turned off your CD player. I’ve included a clip so that you can fully appreciate what I’m talking about. This theme is included in several tracks as well as the “End Title in a typical modern orchestral arrangement. This wasn’t used in the film as “Shake Rattle and Roll” was substituted. “May I Present Mr. Boddy” isn’t fun at all but a true terror track that could easily have been from a serious melodrama. I was reminded of Herrmann with the long ominous sounding notes from the lower strings and quivering from the violins. No spoofy music here at all.

The bonus titles seven of them stood out for this reviewer as each one was quite a little different take on the original. “Miss Scarlet/Car in Progress” really has a completely different feel to it without the electronics. It sounds like it could easily be an extended sound bumper for a television show. “Peacock at Door” could very easily be mistaken for a fanfare for a film. The four different main titles present the theme with piano, without electronics, and with more electronics. Listen to the main title in the two different end title cues with and without the electronic beat and the flavor of the film completely changes. Overall I like this score and I think you would too if you like your music on the lighter side with a sprinkle of terror here and there. Recommended

This release is limited to 3000 pressings so at some point it will sell out and likely not be pressed again so take advantage sooner rather than later. As it is from 1985 it is stereo and a clean mastering. Liner notes were informative from Daniel.

La La Land #LLLCD1154

Track listing

1. Main Title/Trees to Dogs (03:11)

2. Mrs. White (00:46)

3. Miss Scarlet*/Car in Progress (01:46)

4. May I Present Mr. Boddy (01:49)

5. I Suggest We All Leave/Fight, You Bastard/Hallway Screaming Next Door (01:16)

6. Bag in Hall (02:45)

7. The Cook Chase/Boddy’s Fall/We’ll Throw It Away (00:52)

8. Stranger at Front Door/Match Cutting*/People in Hall (02:37)

9. Mrs. Peacock and Plum/Death Bridge/Bridge, White & Wadsworth/Billiard Cue Grab/Go Together (01:53)

10. I’ll Search the Kitchen/Desk, Fire, Weapons/Let’s Try the Conservatory/I’ve Had a Good Life (02:04)

11. Door Pounding to Chandelier Fall (01:32)

12. Gun, Cupboard, Doorbell/Cop Panics (01:14)

13. Yvette Upstairs to Bell (01:32)

14. Step by Step – Intro/Step by Step (02:08)

15. Remember What Happened Next – Part I, II, III/Don’t You See? Look! – Part I, II, III (01:59)

16. I’ll Get to That/Beatnik (01:14)

17. Ending A: Your Fatal Mistake/I Shot Her/Cavalry (02:32)

18. Ending B: Yvette to We All Ran to Her/To Check That Mr. Boddy Was Dead/Who, Who, Who/Cavalry (01:36)

19. Ending C: Top to You Were/Peacock at Door (01:07)

20. End Title* (03:01)

BONUS TRACKS:

21. Main Title [Alternate Version #1] (01:30)

22. Miss Scarlet/Car in Progress [Alternate Version] (01:47)

23. Main Title [Alternate Version #2] (01:32)

24. Peacock at Door [Alternate Version] (00:32)

25. Main Title [Alternate Version #3] (01:40)

26. End Title [Shorter Version] (01:40)

27. Main Title [Alternate Version #4] (01:50)

* – not used in film

Total Duration: 00:47:25

ordeal by innocence end titles

Agatha Christie along with Earl Stanley Gardener and Conan Doyle are in another class of popularity when it comes to mystery writers who are well read as well as having their material adapted to television and the silver screen. Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot are household names. Ordeal By Innocence is another whodunit from Agatha starring Faye Dunaway, Donald Sutherland, Christopher Plummer, and Sarah Miles brought to the screen by Cannon Films with a fairly nice budget. Both Dave Brubeck and Pino Donaggio did scores for the film with the replaced Pino soundtrack being presented in full for the first time by Kritzerland in stereo. The master came from Italy and has a clear crisp sound. Nothing muddy here at all just a nice clean transfer in stereo. No blips or surprises.

 

Not being familiar with either the film or the soundtrack I was quite surprised at what I heard from the pen of Donaggio. I assumed it would have a sound like Poirot, Marple, or any other number of British mystery films. Never assume because what I heard was something quite melancholy, little brass, some shrieking quivering strings (nicely done) and harpsichord. The main theme is somewhat lush and appears in multiple tracks, disguised or it just appears and can quickly disappear. I’ve included a clip from the end titles to let you hear the romantic melody. Listen to the proud majestic introduction followed by the main theme, a nice track. “Flashbacks” truly do feature one in the form of some Mozart style very classical sounding music. “The Visit” offers harpsichord, romantic piano and some terror bars all in one interesting cue. The score is mostly strings, keyboard and flute but there are a couple of uses of the French horn in the “Main Title” and “A Death in the Family.”

 

The thirty four minutes, double what was available in the suite, pass by quite quickly as this is nice material that you can listen to away from the film very easily. Bruce Kimmel, owner of Kritzerland, makes the suggestion to watch the film with the sound turned off, and play this replaced material during some of the eerie sequences. You’ll hear that the Brubeck material seems quite out of place. I say replaced and not rejected because by the time the editing/re-shooting was finished Pino had already gone on to another project. Always remember that Kritzerland releases are usually limited to 1000 units so it is best to act quicker now than be disappointed later. Written during an extremely productive time in his life this will appeal to fans of Christie and Pino as well as anyone who is into listening to material on the darker side. Recommended.

 

Kritzerland #20018-5

 

 

 

Track listing

 

1. Main Title

2. The Visit

3. Flashbacks

4. These Woods Could Prove Fatal

5. We’re All Suspects Now / Flashbacks 2

6. Family By Adoption / Calgary In Danger / Blackmail

7. Flashbacks 3 / A Day At The Races /Target Practice

8. A Death In The Family/And Then There Were Less

9. The Mystery Solved

10. End Titles

11. Bonus Suite of Alternate Cues

Total Time is 34:01

 

 

 

 

 

 

Something new and exciting! I have partnered with Delos and will be doing a monthly review of a selection. This is easily a lifetime project given their vast catalog. Look forward to reviews on Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 6, Gliere Symphony No. 2, and Holst The Planets for two pianos. There are currently four reviews of the film music of Shostakovich currently available from their fine catalog.

One of the first classical recordings I purchased was a recording of this orchestral masterpiece also spelled Scheherazade on the RCA label with Pierre Monteux conducting the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. I immediately fell in love with it and have enjoyed it for well over fifty years. This latest recording from Naxos with the Seattle Symphony conducted by Gerard Schwarz and featuring Maria Larionoff on violin would be a fine addition to your collection especially if Scheherazade isn’t already part of your collection. In my opinion it is a must have as it is likely the finest example of orchestral symphonic writing ever. Written during a very productive time in his composing career the work is loosely based on the tales of the Arabian nights with the violin solo usually performed by the concertmaster of the orchestra being the voice of Scheherazade who would tell a tale each night so that her life would be spared.

 

The work is divided into four parts each movement being given a separate name. “The Sea and Sinbad’s Ship” is played at a slower pace than others I’ve heard and I like hearing it both ways. The slower pace gives certain phrasing a more distinct and precise sound which I find easier to listen to. The orchestra in the performing of the short individual solos from the flute, French horn, clarinet, oboe, and violin are nicely recorded and play it well. While it was slow I didn’t feel as if it dragged along or sound like they were laboring at all. “The Kalender Prince” begins with a wonderful solo from Larionoff very well played and recorded. The pace on this movement is somewhat faster and more what I’m use to listening to. The brass section plays well in their passages where they are featured. The same can be said about “The Young Prince and the Princess” which is a lush romantic section of the work featuring the strings. “Festival at Baghdad-The Sea,” the final movement, is one of swirling and tension with the orchestra in some parts almost at a breakneck pace. The orchestra has definitely warmed up. The finale of the movement returns us back to the original theme.

 

The Tale of Tsar Saltan (Suite) was written twelve years after and is an opera based on another fairy tale. The suite is of course taken from it and includes the often performed ”Flight of the Bumblebee” which is not just played by classical ensembles but all types of swing, jazz, and rock groups. The opening movement is festive and magical, the middle movement dark and mysterious, and the final movement is filled with joy and wonder. All three begin with a majestic trumpet fanfare as an introduction. The twenty minute work is definitely more than filler material and the Seattle symphony sounded well rehearsed.

 

Both works have to be given high marks for playing and recording. The percussion is crisp and clean sounding, the brass bright, and the strings and woodwinds smooth. For us veterans of classical music it would be very hard for any of us to discard our favorite recording over this one. However, I could certainly make a case that you should at least consider this one. Recommended.

 

 

Scheherazade, Op. 35

1. I. The Sea and Sinbad’s Ship 00:10:46

 

 

2. II. The Kalender Prince 00:11:34

 

 

3. III. The Young Prince and the Young Princess00:10:43

 

Scheherazade, Op. 35

4. IV. Festival at Baghdad – The Sea 00:12:48

 

Tale of Tsar Saltan Suite, Op. 57

5. I. The Tsar’s Farewell and Departure 00:04:41

 

 

6. II. The Tsarina in a Barrel at Sea 00:07:20

 

 

7. III. The Three Wonders 00:07:14

 

 

8. Tale of Tsar Saltan, Op. 57: Flight of the Bumblebee 00:01:31

 

 

 

 

Total Playing Time: 01:06:37

 

 

 

 

The Black Raven (1943)

March 15, 2011

Doesn’t the name The Black Raven along with film star George Zucco indicate this is indeed a horror movie? It also had Glenn ‘Frankenstein’ Strange so naturally I assumed the wrong thing. It was a comical drama with people being killed off left and right for who has the 50,000 that the bank teller stole, a bumbling Andy (Glenn Strange) and a stupid detective Charles ‘Laurel and Hardy’ Middleton. Add some love theme, a racket man, and a convict and you have it. Given a better script and a slightly higher budget from Producers Releasing Corporation this could have been an adequate ‘B’ movie. Stanford Jolley, Byron Foulger, and Noel Madison are all familiar faces as  character actors.David Chudnow used recycled music but I added an audio clip. This film is available on the archives internet as well as Alpha Video for nearly  no cost. Hard to recommend, sorry.

By the time that these two scores had been composed by Elmer Bernstein his sound had already been established for Hollywood. It was a brash somewhat dissonant sound at times with loud brass chords but at the same time there was a melodramatic innocence to his strings. He made excellent use of his percussion and used the “motif” necessary to achieve the effect that the audience was looking to hear such as the tom tom for a western cue etc. I like his attention getting or danger cue which has become part of the trademark of this great composer.

 

1957 was also quite a year for Anthony Perkins who was a contract star for Paramount at the time and was being groomed to become an A+ actor. To come for Perkins were the films Tall Story, Desire Under the Elms, Psycho, The Trial, and On The Beach. While a fine actor he just never seemed to get to the level that Paramount was looking for except in his role as Norman Bates.

 

Dating myself a bit I watched Piersall when he had some of his better years for the Boston Red Sox in the 50’s and I saw firsthand some of the antics he did on the field. The mental illness story was one that helped make aware the problem of how it afflicts so many people even though Piersall denounced the film as not being true. Piersall went on to play for seventeen years and then became an announcer. He still has a radio show airing out of Chicago today. The main theme is a powerful one filled with emotions of hope, tragedy, and majestic feelings. It is repeated and used in several of the cues and truly fits the bipolar illness that Jimmy went through. Some of the material such as “Rough Start” could have been used as an Indian/western cue or a film like To Kill A Mockingbird. While I’m certainly not putting a ‘generic’ label on this it is material that would go well in other films.

 

Tin Star, a western starring Anthony Perkins and Henry Fonda also made in 1957, was one that I just had a hard time with Perkins in the role of a sheriff. The film is worth putting in your Netflix list to watch if for nothing else to see how the music is used in the finished product. Perhaps it had something to do with Psycho or he just didn’t fit the part as he had such a clean cut look. The music on the other hand is a good western score that has a sound that is a little different than others due to the style of Elmer Bernstein. It doesn’t have quite the expansive Americana sound of others of that era like Big Country and Elmer’s very own Magnificent Seven but a flavor somewhat different. He makes excellent use of the percussion in the tension scenes and makes full use of the main theme in several of the tracks. It is a good memorable theme which you don’t get tired of listening to. I for one have added the main theme to my compilation list to enjoy.

 

The mastering of the material is mono but it has a clean crisp sound without the muddiness you can sometimes hear. It doesn’t have that tinkle of the triangle or full deep booming bass but it is a nice job done on material that was recorded at the time. There are no what I like to call blips: it is a good clean transfer as I’ve come to expect from Kritzerland. The pressing number has been increased from 1000 to 1500 but is still labeled as limited and will likely sell out like most of his titles. Take advantage now rather than later and you won’t be disappointed with adding two new Elmer Bernstein scores to your growing collection. Recommended.

 

 

Track listing

 

1. Main Title

2. A Rough Start

3. We Won / Off to Work

4. A Tragic Homecoming / Tragedy

5. A Tragic Homecoming / Tragedy

6. Bridge to Proposal / Impossible Proposal / Telephone Tenderness

7. Most Ardent Fan

8. A Bundle of Nerves

9. Infield

10. Shortstop Psychosis

11. Got to Work / Temperamental Teammate

12. Suspended / Don’t Let Me Down

13. Piersall Collapses / Doctor Brown

14. Therapy, Part 2

15. Waiting / The Consultation

16. Where Am I Today, Parts 1 and 2

17. You’re Killing Me

18. A New Life and Finale

19. A Rough Start (unused alternate version)

tracks 1 – 19 from “Fear Strikes Out”

20. The Tin Star and Prelude / A Stranger in Town (Dramatic Version)

21. Bounty Hunter

22. Morg Meets Nona

23. Kip’s Half-Injun

24. Morg Saves Ben, Parts 1, 2 and 3

25. The McGaffey Brothers

26. Good Indian

27. An Ex-Sheriff

28. New Patient

29. Last Report

30. Kip Follows Posse

31. Morg Captures McGaffeys, Parts 1, 2 and 3

32. Bringing ‘Em Back Alive and Joyous Reunion

33. Ready for Action and Dead Silence

34. Finale

tracks 20 – 34 from “The Tin Star”