Three By Waxman: Elephant Walk, Botany Bay @ Stalag 17
June 30, 2013
Elephant Walk (1954), a film starring Elizabeth Taylor, Dana Andrews, and Peter Finch was one that quickly left the theaters. To a reviewer that had never seen the film my interest in listening and reviewing peaked when I saw the title of the film. My thoughts quickly drifted to one of the best songs of all time; that being Henry Mancini’s “Baby Elephant Walk” from the movie Hatari. As part of a new release from Kritzerland (KR 20025-3) the surviving tracks are presented in a pretty high level quality of stereo tracks.
The main melody “Many Dreams Ago” is a Victor Young style melody that appears in five of the remaining six tracks that survived. It is quite a romantic melody. Along with the Waxman collection I also had a very schmaltzy sweet band arrangement of it from Laurie Johnson that I’ve not listened to for at least 25 years. Part of it was available on the long out of print Franz Waxman collection as a nine minute re-recorded suite, the OST offers four additional minutes including one of the very best underscore tracks ever written “Elephant Stampede.” A slow build up on the lower register of the orchestra leads to a bassoon motif with tuba and growling dissonant brass mimicking the sounds of the elephant, giving you a feeling that your right in the center of a herd of elephants. The pounding timpani are the lumbering of the elephants while the horns depict the elephant calls.
Botany Bay (1953), starring Alan Ladd, James Mason, Patricia Medina, and Cedric Hardwicke was a seafaring film dealing with establishing a penal colony in Botany Bay Australia. This lower budget film from Paramount is best known for the violence portrayed filming something known as keelhauling where you’re dragged underneath the keel with a rope. Most of the original mono score, nearly forty minutes, has been made available on this soundtrack release. The opening scene begins with a brief prelude and quickly announces the main theme which is a series of motifs from the horns, as majestic as the ocean and the clipper ships. I’ve included an audio clip of the main title.botany bay You’ll hear all or part of the motif on several of the tracks and while it isn’t your typical memorable tune it is present. The track also makes reference to the love theme which you will also hear on other tracks. “Cat with Nine Lashes/ Start of Voyages” cleverly uses a short staccato burst from the orchestra nine times to mimic the lashing. As Bruce Kimmel said in his liner notes this is a study on how to write for the high seas and I heartily agree.
Stalag 17 is a good example of a film that really didn’t need that much of a soundtrack. The “Johnny Comes Marching Home” theme with its variations worked quite well in the film. Collectors looking for everything of Waxman will want this without evening listening to it. For the regular collector this is just extra toppings on the sundae as this release has made new material available to all.
The CD is limited to 1000 copies so I’d hurry and get your copy before Bruce puts the sold out up on his website.