The House On Telegraph Hill/Sol Kaplan

August 23, 2011

Sol Kaplan is another Hollywood composer you can put into the category of a somewhat unknown entity. His busy productive years between 1949-1953 he did twenty five pictures, was blacklisted in 1953 and from 1954-1959 did four movies. The House On Telegraph Hill (1951) was composed during that hectic five year period and is the earliest score of Kaplan’s to be released. He is best known for his Star Trek work. Soundtrack Collector lists 83 different sources available. This is the fifth release of his material from Intrada the other four being Treasure of the Golden Condor (#67), Dangerous Crossing (#106), Niagara (#157), and Destination Gobi (#169).

The 20th Century Fox film (#14810) stars Valentina Cortese who plays Victoria Kowelska as prisoner in a  Nazi concentration camp. Her friend doesn’t survive and Victoria assumes her identity to get to America. The son of her friend as it turns out is heir to a fortune. She marries Alan Spender (Richard Basehart) the boy’s trustee for the estate and the mystery begins. All is not as it appears. A chain of events begins with her brakes being tampered with and a very scary ride in the hilly San Francisco results in a car accident that she was able to walk away from. Her friend Marc Bennett (William Lundigan) who just happened to be the processing officer in Europe becomes involved in the not so kosher happenings. The boy’s governess Margaret (Fay Baker) is also involved as she knew that Alan had killed his aunt the first step in his scheme and is also in love with him. To further complicate matters Victoria falls in love with Bennett making her situation a big lie. Remember if the boy and mother die Alan will inherit a considerable fortune. Victoria discovers through a telegram what Alan is really up to. The ending is tense and exciting. While not a noir film as Fox claims it is overall a good film with Wise doing a good job.

“House on Telegraph Hill,” the main title can certainly be put in the category of a good noir theme like Rozsa has done so many times. While there is a moment or two of romanticism the majority of the track is a hard biting theme from the strings with the brass offer a military style harmony enhanced by the snare drum. “Poland” has a different theme but with a reference to America given at the end of the track. “Karin” is again sad and somber until another American patriotic reference is made. “Proposal” is the love theme which you’ll  hear several times again. This arrangement is a full orchestra with sweet strings. It projects ah to be in love quite nicely. “Fear of the Past” complements a tension scene that Karin is going thru. There is a dissonant part before it ends on a slightly romantic moment. “Aunt Sophie” opens on a sad note and then becomes the main title theme without the brass, just somber strings. There is a brief moment of the love theme and a third theme is introduced very light and airy which I’ll call Christopher’s theme. “The Playhouse begins with the Christopher theme and switches back and forth between and sad. “Annoyance” is again the love theme followed by Christopher’s theme performed by the woodwinds. “Threat” begins with the love theme but suddenly becomes quite tense building to a dissonant climax followed by the main title and another climax from the orchestra. “Questions/Karin’s Wild Ride” is a brief statement of the love theme which quickly disappears to one of tension. The wild ride is the main theme  repeated from the first track with the emphasis on the horns. “Nocturnal Exercise” is a good underscore track with reference being given to both the main title, love theme, and a four note danger motif. “Karin and Marc” is a sweet band version of the love theme, straight forward arrangement without strings and a perfect length for a single release. “The Album” begins with the love theme which changes to a slow tension building with the four note motif given by the brass four times. “Cold Comfort” offers quiet tension with a string only version of the main title. “The House” is another tension filled track with main title. “Poison” is also tension filled with enough suspense that I’m sure Herrmann would have approved. “Stay Awake” makes good use of the four note motif. “Finale” builds to a climax before we hear the romantic theme played with all the love notes the strings can muster. It builds to a crescendo with a full orchestra version of the main title concluding the 50+ minute score.

This release is an excellent example of what Kaplan is all about. Never over the top, this nicely made use of his three themes plus the four note motif helped enhance a pretty good film. This release is worth exploring and also give the film a watch. This release is limited to a 1000 copies so hurry is the word of the day.

Track Listing:

1… House on Telegraph Hill (1:55)

2… Poland (3:24)

4… Proposal (4:40)

5… Fear of the Past (2:34)

6… Aunt Sophie (3:05)

7… The Playhouse (2:20)

8… Annoyance (1:39)

9… Threat (2:29)

10… Questions/Karin’s Wild Ride (2:32)

11… Nocturnal Exercise (4:04)

12… Karin and Marc (2:34)

13… The Album (2:19)

14… Cold Comfort (4:58)

15… The House (4:12)

16… Poison (4:09)

17… Stay Awake (3:51)

18… Finale (2:32)

Total Time is 52:32

Intrada Special Collection #176 was conducted by Alfred Newman.

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2 Responses to “The House On Telegraph Hill/Sol Kaplan”


  1. The statement ‘Polish concentration camp.’ is historically incorrect. The Nazi Germans established the ‘concentration camps’ on occupied Polish soil. The camps were not Polish as implied by the comment. Please correct the statement.

  2. Malgorzata Says:

    There were no “Polish concentration camps” in the history! Such a term is offensive and misleading. The camps were set up and run by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland.
    It is unacceptable to use the word “Polish” neither as the adjective (Auschwitz was German), nor as a geographical descriptor because there was no Polish state at the time the camps existed. The territory on which the camps were located had been invaded and remained occupied by Nazi Germany throughout the entirety of the camps’ operation.


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