June 26, 2013
Coupled with “Lost Continent” previously reviewed https://sdtom.wordpress.com/2013/06/09/3062/ and part of a double bill from MMM “Hellgate” is a Commander release (there only one) which was under the umbrella of Lippert and made little impact on Hollywood. It starred Sterling Hayden, Joan Leslie, and James Arness and was loosely based on a John Ford film Prisoner of Shark Island (1936) which told the story of Dr. Mudd who unknowingly treated John Wilkes Booth. In this version a veterinarian aids an injured member of a gang of mercenaries and is sent to prison for his good deed. The film had a good cast of ‘B’ actors which included Sterling Hayden, Ward Bond, James Arness, Joan Leslie, and Peter Coe. This is definitely a film that should be watched as I consider it a step above the typical ‘B’ western.
Paul Dunlap, who also did “Lost Continent,” took this film somewhat seriously, something he didn’t always do, and the result is a very listenable soundtrack as long as you keep in mind that this came from an archival source and will win no awards for sound quality. What you will get is an opportunity to hear one of the forgotten composers whose talent was far greater than the films he wrote scores for. He once commented about his endless horror scores as being “ugly music.”
Work with a 36 piece orchestra Dunlap created the “Main Title” that opens with a majestic statement from the brass that is nicely complemented by the percussion and a dirge like quality from the strings.Track 2 I’ve included this track as an audio clip to give you an idea of the overall style as well as the archival quality. Halfway through the track the mood changes and we hear an Americana stately theme which identifies the old west setting. Making extremely effective use of the brass with harmony from the strings the dissonant chords depicts the action and tension of the scene. Dunlap chose to return to the main title in “We’ll Follow You Jumper” in this scene where the prisoners are rock climbing in an escape attempt. This is another example of making effective use of the brass. Dunlap used strings and brass to create a feeling of movement as the scene is depicting people leaving. A good example of effective underscore that is a step above today’s generic material which could fit a variety of different films. There is no melody but it has a feel of one as the dissonance of the brass is given a holiday. “Neil Closes the Door,” Ellie’s Letter,” and “Ellie at Mailbox” are the simple love theme melody that Dunlap created. This is in sharp contrast to many of the other cues. Some of the tracks are bugle calls and drum rolls, strictly source material for the film.
I like the score and the fact that Dunlap has his first official CD release. There are more soundtracks and one can hope that the people at MMM who specialize in this sort of thing will release additional material. I’m including a sound clip which will give you what you’re going to hear from in this archival recording as well as an idea of what Dunlap is all about.