When this reviewer thinks of Errol Flynn the first thing that comes to mind is Robin Hood and the superb score from Erich Wolfgang Korngold. Who could ever forget the famous dueling scene with a young Basil Rathbone before he became Sherlock Holmes. When I thought of Flynn I automatically thought about Korngold as being his composer. This latest issuing of the Charles Gerhardt/National Philharmonic Orchestra series from Sony (777934) quickly puts an end to that idea as there are classic suites to They Died With Their Boots On, Dodge City, Adventures of Don Juan, Objective Burma, and The Sun Also Rises. These weren’t composed by Korngold but by Steiner, Waxman, and Friedhofer. There are three suites The Sea Hawk, Captain Blood, and The Adventures of Robin Hood by Korngold included on this CD. There is a separate release of Korngold scores on The Sea Hawk Sony (777932) making this easy to confuse if you’re not completely familiar. At some point you’ll want to have both. Producer George Korngold, son of Erich, put out actor/actress and composer CD’s.


This entire series is the perfect introduction to the world of the golden age of film music. This latest release was taken from the original recordings and don’t have any of the Dolby Surround encoding. It is filled with memorable melodies, motifs, played by a world class large symphony orchestra. You’ll not hear any electronics just real strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion.


The Sun Also Rises (1957) is an intriguing score from Hugo Friedhofer, a film that Flynn did at the end of his acting career. The low growling of the lower register strings in a death march tempo in a minor key leads the listener to the sun rising as the key switches to a major one offering a lush lovely theme from first the violins and then the woodwinds.


Objective Burma (1945) is a short but powerful cue from Franz Waxman who seemed to love writing about altitude. It begins with the brass and snare drums immediately identifying that this is a military film. It quickly leads into a military style march and is then followed by dissonant horns and urgency from the strings.


Dodge City (1939) on first listen doesn’t necessarily sound like a western score from the pen of Max Steiner but a soundtrack that could have been from any number of films as you instantly hear the Steiner sound. On further listens the Americana sound that Tiomkin and Steiner created comes through loud and clear.


They Died With Their Boots On, a compilation suite from Steiner is filled with cavalry charges, a beautiful love theme, and a heavy dose of the use of traditional themes. It is a rousing cue!


Sea Hawk (1940) from Korngold who many consider to be his finest effort is a second suite of themes. Care was exercised not to duplicate any material from the first recording. If you’re interested in exploring this further there is a fine 2 CD set on Naxos (8.570110-11) of all of the cues from the film. This is swashbuckling material at its best.


Robin Hood (1938) an Oscar winner for Korngold is just some of the best soundtrack material ever written. It set a standard in the industry that was studied by John Williams and others. This music was excellent physical exercise for the string section!


The Adventures of Don Juan (1948) is an example of what Steiner could do with period piece of the well filmed folk hero. As with any score from Max this is filled with all sorts of melodies that will have you humming. You can further explore this soundtrack with a release from Screen Archives (FMA-MS 106) which is the original soundtrack material. Very dated sounding but still good.


Captain Blood (1935) also from Korngold is a short cue giving us the main title to the first starring role of Errol Flynn. The piece is very classical sounding and one could mistake it for the beginning of a movement for a symphony.


This is another flawless CD in the RCA/Sony collection that should not be missed and comes with my highest recommendation.



Track listing


The King – Main Title: Don Juan – The Brocade – Don Juan’s Serenade – Parade Into London – Don Juan And The Queen – Final Scene (09:35)
Max Steiner – from “The Adventures of Don Juan”


The Albatross – The Throne Room of Elizabeth I: Entrance of the Sea Hawks – The Orchid – Panama March – The Duel – Strike for the Shores of Dover (08:08)
Erich Wolfgang Korngold – from “The Sea Hawk” – with the Ambrosian Singers


Ship in the Night (02:08)
Korngold – from “Captain Blood”


Morning – The Farewell Before the Battle – Preparation and March – The 7th Cavalry: Garry Owen – The Sioux – The Battle of Little Big Horn – Custer’s Last Stand (08:41)
Steiner – John Wilbraham an Ian Macintosh, bugles


Warner Bros. Fanfare and Main Title: The Open Prairie -The Iron Horse -Surrett -The Comrades -The Covered Wagon -Grazioso -Abbie and the Children -Wade and Abbie: The Blarney -Abbie’s Theme (07:56)
Steiner – from Dodge City


Parachute Drop (02:16)
Franz Waxman – from “Objective Burma!”


Prologue (Solennelle) – The Lights of Paris (04:22)
Hugo Friedhoefer – from “The Sun Also Rises”


The Archery Tournament – Escape from the Gallows – Robin and Lady Marian – Coronation Procession (12:20)
Korngold – from “The Adventures of Robin Hood”
all tracks: Charles Gerhardt conducting the National Philharmonic Orchestra

Total Duration: 00:55:26


Nabonga (1944)

May 29, 2011


 Buster Crabbe was truly the superstar of ‘B’ movies as he played Flash Gordon,Tarzan, Billy Carson, Buck Rogers, Billy the Kid and I’ve probably missed one or two. This time he stars as Ray Gorman in an African adventure of trying to recover jewels that his father was accused of taking. Co-starring a very young Julie London as Doreen who survived as the natives called it a house in the sky crash which included her father who did take the loot but didn’t live to spend it. She befriends a gorilla, a takeoff from Savage Girl, and he sees to it no harm comes to her. The gorilla at least was somewhat believable. Barton MacLane as Carl and Fifi D’Orsay as Marie are the villains who are also trying to recover the jewels and will stop at nothing although they are done in at the end by their greed. It is a hokey predictable plot directed by veteran Sam Newfield for PRC. The score is little more than filler by Willie Stahl a virtual unknown composer. The film is available for viewing on the internet archive http://www.archive.org/details/nabonga_1944   and available at a very reasonable price from Alpha Video (ALP 4132D) if you desire a DVD for your collection.


I failed to recognize Julie London at first showing how much the sultry singer had changed over the years. I can’t recommend this one other than to fans of Buster Crabbe or the curiosity of seeing Julie London. (*1/2)









My selection for the Delos/Facet (8002) recording for May 2011 is a work  that is available seventy four times on CD (Delos DE 3225 Dallas Space Spectacular is one) but seldom recorded the way you’ll hear it on this CD. The Planets, written in the 1914-1916 time period and first performed in 1918 by Sir Adrian Boult is one of the most popular works in the classical catalog and is listed on many top 100 lists. Gustav Holst studied astrology and as a result it became his “pet vice” throughout his life. He loved to do horoscopes for people. This recording for duo-pianists is the way the composer originally created the astrological work except Neptune which was written for organ. However, Holst never intended the classical listener to hear it in this fashion.  A common misconception is that it was astronomical. If that were the case earth would have been included. Pluto had yet to be discovered so it isn’t included. Another misconception is that Mars was written because of the start of World War I when it had in fact already been planned out previously.

One of the performing pianists, Richard Rodney Bennett (1936- ) is a fine composer in his own right having written Oscar nominated scores to Murder on the Orient Express, Far From the Madding Crown, and Nicholas and Alexandra. The other pianist Susan Bradshaw (1931-2005) was involved in the Piotr Zak hoax in 1961, which came to national attention. Susan was a teacher and spent time studying under Pierre Boulez.

Before you listen to this recording you owe it to yourself to hear the orchestral version. The Delos recording with Andrew Litton conducting the Dallas Symphony Orchestra is well played, recorded, and also includes a second disc of “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” making this an excellent value. Once you hear the orchestral arrangement it is much easier to understand the piano version. “Mars” has never felt like a war movement to me but more in the way of tension and anticipation; waiting for something to happen. There is a lot of rhythm pounded out on the piano. “Venus” is a movement of peace and tranquility and the delicacy of the two pianos shows the beauty of this section. “Mercury” is a study of scales in a scherzo that don’t seem to come together but in fact do. “Jupiter” with the English folk influence is a miniature symphony within this work. “Saturn” is reflective in nature. Uranus is quite complex filled with a lot of chords and glissando sections. Neptune is so peaceful it is one I could easily go to sleep to at night.  Easily this movement is one that requires the orchestra the least. By spending some time with this you can grow to appreciate the beauty of this magnificent work even more.

Track Listing:

1…. Mars (7:03)

2…. Venus (8:23)

3…. Mercury (4:16)

4…. Jupiter (8:12)

5…. Saturn (9:09)

6…. Uranus (6:08)

7…. Neptune (7:44)

Total Playing Time: 51:27

The Amazing Transparent Man, directed by Edward G. Ulmer, starred James Griffith as the major, Douglas Kennedy as Joey, Marguerite Chapman as Laura the eye candy, and Ivan Triesault as Dr. Ulof in a tale of  exactly what the title says. Dr. Ulof has invented a special x-ray which will make people invisible. The major is looking to steal more uranium and create an army to rule the world. The major breaks Joey out of the slammer to safecrack his way to obtain more of the X13 material. Joey has other ideas which include a little bank robbing. The project goes amiss and Joey starts appearing and disappearing due to the radiation poisoning. In a twist at the end Joey does a good turn and helps save his country from disaster by killing the major and blowing up the lab in the process.

The special effects while not exciting didn’t enhance or take away from the film. The special machinery to make you invisible will seem quite outdated looking at it now but it was acceptable while watching. It made little sense that the nuclear explosion at the end of the picture did little more than blow up the house. Perhaps I missed something? Joey can crack a safe but not pick a single lock on a door? These and other things made for a very thin plot. The cast were all fine career character actors but were really given very little to work with. It could have certainly been improved upon. (*1/2)

Amazing Transparent Man  Audio link of main title by Darrell Calker

Continuing my series of 1st Symphonies we come to this 20th Century gem written by an 18 year old in 1924 as his graduation work which when premiered in 1926 vaulted the young composer into international prominence. While this was a student project it must take its place as one of the finest 1st symphony accomplishments of all time. . And yes I’m thinking about Mahler, Prokofiev, Brahms, and Schumann.

Bernstein said it best when he said before a rehearsal that this work has an “up yours” attitude. His assessment describes the work perfectly.

The thirty three minute four movement work is filled with all sorts of wonderful ideas including the piano taking a role in the second movement as well as the fourth. The first movement, an Allegretto is truly something you’ve not experienced before; a masterpiece of both originality and orchestration. There is a modern sound but the themes are melodic as they are tossed back and forth in the orchestra. The second movement, an Allegro, begins as a Scherzo with clarinet, piano, oboe, and strings. It abruptly changes to a rather pensive mood with the lower strings offering the second melody. Yet the Scherzo is not finished as it returns to a quicker pace and the conclusion. Again this is quite unique in style. The third movement, a Lento, is somber and quite funeral like; the agony is heard from the strings and the brass. The fourth movement is also a Lento slowly building to a dissonant angry section followed by serenity from a Cello, that yearning acceptance that it is peaceful. However, the movement isn’t finished as it slowly rises into an agitated state again. Shostakovich is so unique in his use of brass that a few bars are a giveaway as to who wrote it.

Both the EMI (5 55361 2) and the Naxos (8.572396) are good digital recordings, offering excellent treble, bass and a good feeling of presence. The nod goes to Vasily Petrenko and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic as he is continuing his cycle of recording the Shostakovich symphonies. It is coupled with his third symphony. Mariss Jansons and the Berlin Philharmonic offer a stoic approach and while well played ii is missing the fervor of the Royal Liverpool. However, it is coupled with the Concerto for Piano, Trumpet and Strings and both soloists Mikhail on piano and Antonsen on trumpet perform extremely well As a result I like both recordings as this is the only one I have of the C minor concerto and I hear the improvement in the 1st Symphony. The EMI can be found at an attractive price and Naxos is always a staple in the industry for value and performance. Recommended

Track Listing:

1…. Allegretto-Allegro non troppo (8:21)

2…. Allegro (5:36)

3…. Lento-Largo (9:24)

4…. Lento-Allegro molto-Adagio-Largo-Presto (10:02)

The Vampire (1957)

May 21, 2011

Gramercy Pictures (Gardner and Levy) produced four horror/science fiction pictures in 57-58 with The Vampire being their first effort. The film is part vampire, werewolf and Jekyll/Hyde  as it tells the story of Dr. Paul Beecher (John Beal), anytown USA family doctor, who quite by accident ingests a control serum pill made from the blood of vampire bats. It turns him into this hideous creature who craves blood and begins killing off the town one by one. Apparently the serum causes capillary disintegration and the vampire bat was immune to the effects.  John Beal was given a rare top billing in this fairly low budget film and gave a believable performance as the Jekyll-Hyde doctor. Co-starring were Coleen Gray as Beecher’s receptionist Carol and Kenneth Tobey as Buck the sheriff. Gray who had a long successful career as a television actress gave a believable performance but Tobey was his typical wooden self and actually took away from the film. Beecher’s daughter played by Lydia Reed grated on my nerves. James Griffith as the scientist who always wore the sunglasses was excellent in the creepy role he played. The special effects while not on par with The Wolfman (1941)  were scary enough and the makeup of Beal had enough shock value to frighten many a viewer. I found this horror flick to be one of the better entries in the MGM Midnight Movies series and an entertaining watch. It revisited territory that had already been covered in prior films but the concept was possible without major glaring holes. The Gerald Fried soundtrack available from Film Score Monthly (FSMCD Vol. 1 No. 4) was a creepy one that enhanced scenes as it should have very effectively.

Bluebeard (1944)

May 20, 2011

Bluebeard, considered to be one of the best efforts of PRC, starred John Carradine as the demented painter/puppeteer Gaston Morrell who terrorized Paris by killing young women who he had painted. Carradine was quite the dashing handsome leading man, a radical departure from his usual roles and gave a fine performance, his personal favorite role of the 100’s that he did. Tom Weaver’s book Poverty Row Horrors! devotes an entire chapter to this film if you’re looking for more information about this film. The soundtrack was a strange one as it was non stop and mainly consisted of “Pictures At An Exhibition” by Moussorgsky. I never thought of it as underscore but it did somewhat work especially in a couple of the creepy situations. The film also starred Jean Parker, Nils Asther and Teala Loring in a rather slow moving film with the low budget minded PRC cutting a lot of corners. This film is available for viewing on the Internet Archive and is okay picture and sound quality. Definitely worth a watch to see Carradine (**1/2)

12 symphony n 3 in c major iii allegretto mosso

Nino Rota (1911-1979) will be best known for the music of The Godfather along with his long time relationship with Fellini, who he composed several scores for. However, there are some who are completely unaware of the contribution that he made to the classical repertoire. Chandos in recent years has offered several CD’s of his work this being the latest (CHAN10669).

Written in 1956 and 1957 this short (18+ minutes) symphony in C major must definitely be put in the category of a neoclassical work. Rota once said that “to give everyone a moment of happiness is what is at the heart of my music.” This work certainly exemplifies this getting off to a rousing start in the happy key with the strings and woodwinds playing the theme back and forth. It is lively and full of life. The second movement, an Adagio con moto is a reflective section written in a minor key with all the sections of the orchestra including the ominous trombones offset by the trumpet participating. The brief scherzo is a light airy movement indicative of the neoclassical writing which I’ve included as an audio sound clip to give you an idea of the overall theme of this work. The final movement is vivace con spirit very upbeat reminding one of a typical cat and mouse musical material with woodwinds getting the spotlight. Other than the second movement this is a bright happy piece reinforcing his statement of wanting you to feel happy.

The work is nicely performed by Filarmonica ‘900 Del Teatro Regio, Turin conducted by Gianandrea Noseda. The digital recording is good with a wide spacious sound. Recommended.

Track Listing:

1…. Allegro (4:03)

2…. Adagio con moto (7:18)

3…. Scherzo (2:44)

4…. Vivace con spirit (4:09)

Total Time is (18:23)

Based on the Edgar Wallace novel “The Door With Seven Locks” the Monogram film featured a very young Lilli Palmer and Leslie Banks who I was first introduced to in The Most Dangerous Game. There is a door with seven locks, a missing heir, and a torture chamber in this neat little thriller which has its share of surprises at the end. The problem with the film is the quality. The picture is barely passable but the sound is unacceptable. There were parts where I couldn’t hear the dialogue because of the faint audio and the excessive noise. If it is ever improved it is well worth a watch but the way it is now its not worth it. (forget it).

The second Shadow film starring Rod La Rocque is starting to get a little closer to what we’re comfortable with. He has a radio show now, advertises crime doesn’t pay, and has Phoebe Lane (closer to Margo) played by Astrid Allwyn. This one which hints at the Germans as the bad guys is really more of a comedy than a mystery. Phoebe Lane is daughter of the publisher of the newspaper that sponsors Cranston’s radio show and she is truly dizzy causing all sorts of problems. He doesn’t hide his identity or lurk in the shadows but seems to get into fights with his boss on the paper, the police chief Weston, and even a recently released safe cracker. His driver now is another comedian and is really another variation of the Thin Man films. Again a word of caution. This has nothing to do with what you might think as far as the Shadow is concerned (*). As a comedy I would up the rating a star (**).