The Naked and the Dead (1958)/Herrmann
January 18, 2012
It can be said that there are more Herrmann recordings than any other soundtrack composer. Soundtrack Collector has over 1000 recordings available and Herrmann did less than 100 films. As an example there are 66 releases of Citizen Kane. So what is so special about yet another release of his material? Other than “The Prelude” the rest of the tracks are new. You get an opportunity to hear a very special orchestration that consisted of 24 brass musicians, 3 bass clarinets, bassoons, contrabassoon, harps, and a large percussion section with no strings. You also get to hear a fine re-construction from John Morgan superbly played by the Moscow Symphony conducted by William Stromberg in 96kHz/24-bit which translates into quality that the human ear can’t hear, well most of us.
Based on the very successful novel by Norman Mailer, which was on the N.Y. Times best-seller list for over a year and sold millions of copies, the film starred Aldo Ray, Cliff Robertson, Raymond Massey, Joey Bishop, and Barbara Nichols and was filmed on location in Panama being directed by veteran Raoul Walsh. As explained in the liner notes written by Kevin Scott this film was subjected to trouble from the start. The music was an exception.
While five of the thirteen tracks are under a minute and the sound is definitely Herrmann the war music is unlike anything you’ve heard especially from the 50’s. In fact as a standalone experience you’ll likely not know it is a war soundtrack. There is nothing close to a patriotic march, references to feel good American songs or really anything military at all.
31… Prelude (1:57) this is the one track that has been offered on several available compilations from Silva and other companies. Bass drums and timpani introduce the melody which is offered by the 24 piece brass section. The staccato jagged theme is ably supported by harmony coming from the tubas, trombones, and horns. If I were a member of a brass band I would want to play this as a showcase for my orchestra. The melody is repeated in other cues and is the main title of the soundtrack. After the crescendo the track ends with twilight zone chords.
32… The Jungle (0:56) begins with quiet woodwinds and a harp in this eerie cue. Primarily woodwinds there is one brief 3 note motif brass very Hermann like followed by another four note motif, the final two notes coming from the Contrabassoon which is woofer vibrating. This is underscore that could fit a variety of scenes from other kinds of movies.
33… The Snake (1:53) offers a “Jaws” like two note motif from the woodwinds to begin. Dissonant and jagged sounding brass chords are offered from horns, trumpets, trombones, and tubas at irregular intervals.
34… The Buzzards (1:41) is more underscore with the tubas being answered by bass clarinets and bassoons. The 4 note motif with the contrabassoon heard in “The Jungle” is repeated.
35… The Grenades (0:24) is filled with brass statements in this very brief cue.
36… The Pass (1:51) begins with the motif heard in “The Buzzards” which is another vibrating growl from the lower register of the orchestra. A 2 note motif comes from the horns which are answered by the trumpets and trombones in an irregular fashion.
37… Wilson’s Death (0:58) there is a solemn brass statement which indicates a funeral like taps. The end if filled with muted staccato trumpets.
38. The Mountain Ledge (1:33) offers an extended dialogue between the low woodwinds and brass.
39…The Fall (0:48) really does give one the feeling of falling with rapid, loud, ear piercing descending notes from the trumpets. It ends quietly with the muted 3 note motif from the trumpets. 39 – The Fall Audio Track
40… The Fog (0:40) a sense of movement and mystery like “The Jungle” are offered in this creepy track.
41… Croft’s Death (1:26) disturbing jagged notes from the trombones with alarming percussion make up the majority of this track. It ends with a percussion roll.
42… Prayer and Rescue (1:38) horns begin this quiet and somber track with nice woodwind harmony. There is a variation of the main title theme offered by the horns in a religious way. The jagged motifs from horns and woodwinds end the track.
43… Finale (1:14) begins with the three note “Buzzard” motif and quickly changes to the “Prelude” theme with loud brash horns carrying the melody. It is brought to a rousing conclusion. 43 – Finale Audio Clip
Total Time is 17 minutes
Herrmann lovers are going to quickly fall in love with this outstanding soundtrack while others are going to grow to appreciate it with repeated listens. One thing that has nothing to do with the performance or the material is the liner notes. I for one do not have a degree in music and I don’t appreciate the technical explanations given as far as the track analysis is concerned. I feel that Kevin was talking to musicians and not the soundtrack listener. As I stated earlier his explanation of bringing the film to the screen was outstanding, being well written and easy to understand. Battle of Neeta will appear as a separate review. I can give this nothing but an outstanding recommendation. This release can be ordered from SAE at http://www.screenarchives.com/title_detail.cfm/ID/16839/BATTLE-OF–NERETVA-THE-NAKED-AND-THE-DEAD/