3rd January 2008
Happy New Year!
Time to catch up with a bunch of recent CD
releases from film music label Film Score Monthly, and Trunk Records'
remarkable Blood on Satan's Claw CD...
there another soundtrack label on the planet with the nous or the
perseverance to exhume the soundtrack to Tigon's 1971 horror masterpiece
Blood on Satan's Claw? Well, once upon a time Silva Screen might
have done, but, alas, no more.
Marc Wilkinson's score for the film is,
without question, one of the most effective ever written for a genre film.
It's not just off-kilter, it's frequently genuinely unsettling, partially
due to the use of the haunting Ondes Martenot (the instrument that gave
Elmer Bernstein's Ghostbusters its characteristic flavour) and the
cimbalom (used to great effect for the opening titles of The
The fifty-minute score also boasts a
bewitching cascading melody, rivalling the one in Paul Ferris' - still
inexplicably unavailable - Witchfinder General. It's a superb
score, very evocative of Civil War-era England, and highly atmospheric.
The disc's sound quality is generally very
good, especially considering how brittle the score can sound, and how
vulnerable it's long sustained notes would be to wow and flutter. There
are a few quirks, though - there are some brief comments (by the
conductor?) between a couple of the tracks which really should have been
excised (or moved to a bonus tracks section, perhaps). Despite this, the
disc comes highly recommended to genre fans and collectors!
part of me that wishes I'd never listened to one of FSM's most recent
releases, which showcases Erich Wolfgang Korngold's sweeping score for
Warner Bros. melodramatic 1942 family drama Kings Row.
The film's title was, of course, familiar
to me, because I've heard its score cited in numerous places as an
influence for John Williams' original Star Wars score. The glorious
gatefold LP of Star Wars is virtually single-handedly responsible
for my thirty-year long interest in film music, so, naturally, I hold it
in some reverence!
Listening to the first track on the album,
the film's Main Title, it's immediately obvious that William
completely Hornered bits of the Star Wars score from Kings Row,
denting my admiration for the composer by a notch or two. It's not just
the Main Title, either: several Star Wars themes have their
origin here! Then there are the odd phrases that recall another Williams
classic, Superman... Ah well, better to be enlightened and
disappointed, than blissfully ignorant, I suppose!
Kings Row, a rich, velvety score
from Korngold, has been something of a Holy Grail for many fans
(especially for collectors of a certain - shall we say - vintage!) It's
not hard to see why. The disc's extensive (twenty-eight page) sleeve
notes, by Korngold Society president and biographer Brendan G. Carroll,
sums up the score's appeal most succinctly: "Korngold's score has clearly
been a stylistic model for Williams and other film composers - a seminal
work that influenced the language and rhetoric of film music in a rare and
two-disc set pairs eighty-odd minutes of Kings Row with a second
firm Korngold favourite: his score for the 1941 Edward G Robinson version
of Jack London's adventure classic The Sea Hawk.
The Sea Hawk, recorded a year before
Kings Row, is much darker in tone; its somewhat unearthly colours
aided by use of the Novachord, the world's first synthesiser, which is
used to depict the lead character's figurative descent into the maelstrom.
The film was scored sparingly, and the disc offers the complete score,
including several cues that were composed for the original version of the
film, before Warner Bros. chopped twelve minutes out of it, for the 1947
re-release (believed to be the only version of the film that survives,
Music from these two films has been
re-recorded for commercial release many times, in performances that lack
the masterly authority of Korngold's hand on the baton. FSM's new CD set
offers both scores from the original film recording sessions, preserved
via archival quarter-inch tapes of the original monaural nitrate optical
film elements. A few Kings Row cues are absent - presumed lost
forever - and one cue, the Invictus part of the final track, is
presented without a choral overdub, another victim to the ravages of time.
The sound on both is a little thin, and there's some tape hiss, but
neither of these should be an impediment for the discriminating
jumps forward three decades for their next release, which partners two
scores for films made by one of the great directors of the era, Alan J.
Pakula. The CD features Michael Small's score for Pakula's directorial
debut, Klute (the groundbreaking 1971 Jane Fonda / Donald
Sutherland psychological thriller), and David Shire's score for the
landmark 1976 political drama, All The President's Men.
Like many composers of the early seventies,
who gave the films of the era such a distinctive new sound, Michael Small
didn't come from a traditional Hollywood background. His minimalist, smoky
underscore for Klute is a complex, avant-garde experience that
features a range of unconventional instrumentation (including prepared
piano, crotales, a drone box, chamber bowls and a marimba), and an
ethereal solo "siren call" female vocal performance from Sally Stevens
(who performed a similar role for Lalo Schifrin's Dirty Harry, a
few months later).
Klute was the first of Small's nine
collaborations with Pakula, including 1974's exhilarating political
thriller The Parallax View.
release of this disc will thrill fans of music from the era, and shows
what great instincts and flexibility FSM has as a label. Both scores have
been much sought-after by film music fans for decades. Klute has
only ever been available on LP, and one of rather dubious origin (and
quality) at that. David Shire's Spartan score for All The President's
Men accompanies only twelve minutes of the film (and much of that
dialled-down so that it's presence is almost subliminal). Until now, the
score's duration had made its commercial release seem rather unlikely, but
now, expanded to half an hour, thanks to alternate recordings, discarded
cues and a couple of minutes of Vivaldi's Concerto for Two Trumpets in
C Major: Allegro, All the President's Men has become a rare
treat for fans of the under-utilised composer, (who recently made
something of an A-list comeback by writing the score for David Fincher's
FSM's disc offers the scores for Klute
and All The President's Men in virtually-pristine condition,
newly-remixed from the original 2" sixteen-track studio masters.
people reading this will have heard extracts of Ennio Morricone's full-on
score for the 1966 Burt Reynolds Western Navajo Joe, even if
they've never heard of the film it was composed for. The film's Main
Title turns up in Alexander Payne's 1999 sharp black comedy
Election, and A Silhouette of Doom appears during Quentin
Tarantino's Kill Bill 2 (most memorably during the face-off between
The Bride and Daryl Hannah's eye-patched Elle Driver, which takes place in
Michael Madsen's caravan).
Film music fans familiar with the film or
its delirious score won't need my recommendation: many will know the music
from its appearance on various Morricone compilations, or from the various
United Artists LP incarnations, or from the flaky 1995 Italian CD. It's a
score that has some devoted fans, as demonstrated by the booklet's paean,
by veteran B-movie director Jim Wynorski (who gets a co-producer credit,
alongside label boss Lukas Kendall).
It's true that the score won't be
everyone's cup of tea. It's use of chorus for the regular chants of
"Navajo Joe", performed by choral group I Cantori Moderni di Alessandroni,
featuring soloist Gianna Spagnulo, can be a little irritating, but fans of
Spaghetti Westerns wouldn't have it any other way!
FSM's disc, which includes material not
previously released, has been mastered from quarter-inch recordings (three
tracks, recorded at the time in stereo for commercial release, have been
taken from the Best of Ennio Morricone LP album master; the
remainder of the LP tracks, in mono, are from the score's United Artists
LP master). FSM's CD presents the complete score in film order, which runs
just under three-quarters of an hour. The disc is rounded off by ten
minutes of bonus tracks, taken from a quarter-inch tape retained in Italy,
including variations on, and an alternate version of, the Main Title.
paired the scores for two swinging sixties sex comedies, Sex and the
Single Girl (by The Odd Couple's Neal Hefti) and The Chapman
Report (by Fantastic Voyage's Leonard Rosenman), for its
November Silver Age Classics release. Both are frothy pop scores,
presented in the form of their original stereo LP release re-recordings,
from the original three-track album masters.
Hefti's score offers breezy, upbeat
cocktail-lounge cues, some of which are reminiscent of his work on the
Adam West Batman TV series and movie, as well as two songs
featuring vocalist Fran Jeffries.
Rosenman offers a more intense, jazzier
vibe for The Chapman Report, as well as some more sombre cues
conjuring a darker tone. Some cues invoke the spirit of his score for
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, including the boisterous Teresa and
Ed, which reminded this listener of Chekov's Run.
FSM's disc, like the album it virtually
replicates, also features easy listening-style re-recordings of the
composer's themes for two distinctly more heavyweight movies, East of
Eden and Rebel Without a Cause. The disc also features an
alternate edit of the record version of The Chapman Report's
Main Title Theme, which omits the looped ending tacked on by the
original album producers.
Waxman's score for the 1954 biblical sword-and-sandals epic The Silver
Chalice has been afforded two-disc treatment as part of FSM's
Golden Age Classics collection, offering nearly two hours of music
from the film, as well as another twenty minutes of bonus material.
The Silver Chalice is a film that's
gained a certain degree of notoriety. Its star, Paul Newman, publicly
apologised for his performance in a trade-paper advertisement (in
Variety, apparently, or The New York Times, depending on which
account you believe), when it later aired on television. The movie also
ended director Victor Saville's until-then flourishing career.
The film's score, though, is one element
that works exceedingly well, earning its composer his ninth Oscar
nomination. It's a colourful, Bach-tinged thematic score, which charts the
tempestuous relationships of its array of histrionic characters.
FSM's disc marks the original score
recording's CD debut (a version re-recorded in the 70s by Elmer Bernstein
was recently released by FSM as part of the
Music Collection CD box set). It was sourced from the studio's
original monaural mixdown tapes (the film survives in stereo, but, alas,
the separate sound elements do not). The Main Title and Ballet
cues are presented in stereo, from the film's mixed soundtrack, as
neither is obstructed by dialogue or effects. The disc's suite of bonus
tracks include a version of Deborrah's Theme which appears to have
been recorded for a commercial release that didn't come to pass; a version
of the Main Title preceded by an abandoned Prologue; source
music cues, a suite of fanfares, and music especially recorded for a
As always, FSM's extensive booklet notes,
in this case penned by Lukas Kendall, add enormously to the listener's
appreciation of the score.
last FSM Silver Age Classics disc I'm looking at today brings
together music from two quite different films. It features Scottish
composer Johnny Keating's score for Hotel, the 1967 adaptation of
Arthur Hailey's best-selling novel, and Stanley Myers' score for the
little-seen 1966 Warner Bros. Austin Powers-style romantic comedy
Kaleidoscope, which featured then up-and-coming stars Warren Beatty
and Susannah York, (not to mention a largely-British cast of supporting
actors, because the film is partly set in London).
Keating, perhaps best known for his superb
theme for the long-running BBC police series Z-Cars, was a pioneer
of synthesiser technology, but his score for Hotel is rooted in his
early career, as a trombonist and arranger for the Ted Heath Orchestra, in
the 50s. The score, a blend of orchestral and jazz music, features a
number of jaunty themes. A long-time fan of jazz, Keating found that he
had his pick of his favourite artists to work on the film, and was
delighted with the opportunity to work with legendary vocalist Carmen
McRae. She appears on two tracks of the FSM CD: the nightclub song This
Year and Hotel.
Kaleidoscope was Myers' first movie
score. His background was in television, at the BBC (where he wrote music
for a William Hartnell Doctor Who story, various editions of The
Wednesday Play, and the theme for Question Time). He'd later
have great success with Cavatina, a guitar theme which was
popularised by its use in The Deer Hunter.
The much-praised score for Kaleidoscope
emphasises the James Bond-ish elements of the story (appropriately,
the film had a title sequence by 007 veteran Maurice Binder). With its
brash, trumpet-based theme, and tracks featuring harpsichord, jazzy sax,
and exotic Indian instrumentation, Kaleidoscope offers an
appealingly eclectic mixture of styles and textures.
The disc features the original LP
presentations of both scores, both in stereo (Hotel remixed from
the original four-track half-inch masters).
The Sea Hawk, The Silver Chalice
and Klute discs are limited edition pressings of 3000 copies.
All of FSM's titles are available from specialist soundtrack dealers,
including their preferred trading partner Screen Archives Entertainment.
Screen Archives Entertainment Links:
/ The Sea Wolf
All The President's Men
the Single Girl / The Chapman Report
31st December 2007
ZETA MINOR NEWS
Two new sections have been added to the
Cult Television section of Zeta Minor today!
The first is the third in our series of
syndicated Heroes interviews: this one is with series creator Tim
to read the interview, or
here to go to our Heroes
The other offers a review and
nuts-and-bolts information about Anglia Television's 1985 adaptation of
Alice in Wonderland. The addition of this section was inspired by a
request on the
Club Forum. Click
here to read the article, or click on the Cult Television
button on the menu, left.
As you can imagine, news is thin on the
ground in the week between Christmas and New Year. We have, however, added
some new titles to the
database, and added more details for many others.
Significant new listings includes the
Hallam Foe; the fourth season of the brilliant American crime
Homicide: Life on the Street; and two long-awaited Robert Altman
Short Cuts and
Player (both apparently missing the bonus features that appear on
the US editions).
Additional press release details have been
added for many titles, including the
Doctor Who: Beneath The Surface box set; the two-disc
Sally Lockhart Mysteries set (which will feature an exclusive
interview with the author of The Ruby in the Smoke and The
Shadow of the North novels, Philip Pullman); the controversial William
Friedkin / Al Pacino movie
Cruising; and the short film collection
Blake's 7 Junction / Ant Muzak / World of Wrestling.
Last week's Zeta Minor News
can be viewed here.
Previous Zeta Minor News entries can viewed