2nd June 2008
ZETA MINOR NEWS
written a review of the recently-released Journey Into Space
audiobook, which you can find
It’s been a while since we last looked at
the latest soundtrack CD releases published by Film Score Monthly, so here
are potted reviews of the last six…
of the Devil, J. Lee Thompson’s 1966 hard-going horror film, has had
regular exposure on television in the UK: it's been in regular rotation on
the Turner Classic Movies channel (often accompanied by a tantalising
contemporaneous promotional featurette, promoting its glittering,
ill-fated ingénue Sharon Tate).
The film, which has the same basic plot as
The Wicker Man, had a rough – some might say cursed – production.
Two directors, Sidney J. Furie and Michael Anderson, were assigned to the
film before Thompson landed the gig. Eight weeks into filming the film’s
unpopular prima donna female lead Kim Novak had a riding accident, and
left the film. She was replaced by The Innocents' Deborah Kerr.
It’s perhaps fair to say that Eye of the
Devil might have ended up as an obscure b-movie, remembered only in
film guides and comprehensive studies of the genre, if it hadn’t been for
the presence of Sharon Tate (who met and started dating Roman Polanski
while making the film). It’s no classic, but it certainly deserves better
(it’s not even available on DVD).
The film’s score, was the first of two
movie scores by Gary McFarland, who had enjoyed a thriving career as a
jazz arranger, composer and performer. The score, undoubtedly one of the
film’s strongest elements, is something of a tour-de-force, encompassing a
wide variety of styles and textures. John Bender’s sleeve notes go as far
as to call McFarland’s score “a minor masterpiece”.
Its main theme has been recorded many
times, under various titles, by various jazz artists over the years.
Trading on the composer’s reputation, an album of the film’s soundtrack
was originally planned and announced, under the film’s original title,
13. Indeed, an album master was prepared (the new disc’s sleeve notes
contain full details), but the disc was never released.
FSM’s CD presentation features nearly fifty
minutes of the score, which was recorded in England by the National
Philharmonic Orchestra, including all the cues intended for the original
LP release, taken from the first-generation 35mm three-track stereo
masters. The disc also includes a percussion-only track, recorded
especially for the film’s trailer.
The twenty-page, nicely-designed booklet also features track notes by
label boss Lukas Kendall, and includes an account of McFarland’s dramatic
death, in November 1971, which ended the composer’s promising film music
Bernstein’s majestic score for the 1981 animated science-fiction anthology
film Heavy Metal should need no recommendation from me. It’s long
been a Holy Grail score for seasoned film music buffs, and anticipation
has been festering for many years. Problems licensing the rock songs used
in the film meant that fans had to wait until 1996 for a home video
version of the film (Sony’s DVD version is excellent, offering a good
array of bonus features).
Bernstein scored Heavy Metal close
on the heels of another science fiction movie, Star Wars, which had done
much to reinvigorate the flagging popularity of the symphonic score. Its
enormous success had spawned a wave of science-fiction films, all hoping
to become the Next Big Thing (among them was ITC’s own effort, Saturn 3,
which was also scored by Bernstein).
Ironically, it wasn’t Bernstein’s work on
Saturn 3 that landed him the Heavy Metal gig: it was his
long-standing association with producer Ivan Reitman (they had worked on
several films together, including Animal House and Stripes).
The resulting symphonic score, performed by
the hundred-strong Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, is perhaps Bernstein’s
boldest. It is also the score that saw the composer’s first use of what
would, somewhat controversially, become his trademark instrument, the
ondes Martenot (he used it to great effect a couple of years later, for
the sublime Ghostbusters).
The film’s score was previously released on
LP (alongside a more lavish double-album of the film’s rock songs), but
FSM’s disc, mastered from the composer’s own quarter-inch stereo tapes,
marks its CD premiere (at least, it’s legitimate CD debut!)
The disc is accompanied by a twenty-four
page illustrated booklet, which features a comprehensive track-by-track
analysis of the score, and its use in the film. The back of the booklet,
incidentally, offers a more dynamic sleeve image (perhaps one that cannot
be more overtly commercially exploited for contractual reasons).
month’s Golden Age Classics disc offers two scores for M-G-M courtroom
dramas: George Duning’s score for seafaring adventure The Wreck of the
Mary Deare (the film based on the book by Hammond Innes); and Johnny
Green’s score for the Richard Chamberlain vehicle Twilight of Honor.
Duning was a long-term staff composer at
Columbia, who worked on The Wreck of the Mary Deare courtesy of its
producer, Julian Blaustein (best known, perhaps, for The Day The Earth
Stood Still). Blaustein and Duning worked on three movies together,
including the excellent James Stewart / Kim Novak thriller Bell Book
and Candle. His dark, churning score for Mary Deare, eschewing
violins, is accented by a Novachord synthesiser, making it reminiscent of
the music for similarly-nautical flavoured TV series Star Trek and
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.
Twilight of Honor was Richard
Chamberlain’s first feature film, although he was already a star, from hit
TV show Dr Kildare. M-G-M was grooming him for movie stardom, and
the starring role, of a fledgling New Mexico attorney, seemed a good fit.
Johnny Green (billed as John Green) had a
very successful career, including Oscar-winning work adapting the music
for Oliver! and West Side Story. He also wrote the stunning
score for Raintree Country (also available as a FSM CD).
The disc features the complete score for
Twilight of Honor, which was scored for an orchestra without strings.
Previously only four cues from the film were made available, on the LP
released at the time. Both scores are offered in stereo, mixed from the
original 35mm three-track scoring sessions. Source cues (some used on the
original LP), and a record edit of the film’s Love Theme, are
offered as bonus tracks.
Broughton’s cheery, boisterous score for The Ice Pirates is another
fan favourite, completely outclassing the cheesy 1984 film it accompanies.
Broughton was certainly no stranger to the genre, having worked on the TV
series Logan’s Run and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, two
more spin-offs following in the wake of Star Wars. The film
demanded a big sound, but meagre finances forced Broughton to be
especially ingenious. Broughton’s score drops the string section,
focussing its attention on a wind ensemble - a common technique in
television, where finances are tight – with electric guitar and synth
flourishes “for colour”.
The film was subjected to some last minute
studio re-editing, meaning that Broughton’s meticulously-crafted score was
cut and pasted all over the film. FSM’s CD, running for just over an hour,
presents the score from the composer’s own quarter-inch stereo masters
(the studio’s recordings are lost).
Finally, FSM has re-mastered and
re-released two scores previously released by Warner Bros Records:
Under Fire, a first-rate Jerry Goldsmith album, previously only
available in Germany and Japan; and John Williams’ intimate The
Accidental Tourist, long deleted on CD.
Fire is prime, Oscar-nominated Goldsmith, heralding the use of
synthesisers as a key, propulsive complement to traditional orchestral
scoring. The score also notably features guitar solos by Pat Metheny, and,
in a nod to the studio temp-track, liberal use of pan pipes for ethnic
flavour (typically, for the always-experimental Goldsmith, these were
tailor-made to his specifications, from commercial PVC tubing).
The original session recordings for
Under Fire could not be located, so the new CD has been re-mastered
using the original two-track half-inch album masters. It’s unfortunate
that the handful of missing cues remain elusive, but the album is
practically perfect without them. It was recorded by Goldsmith’s long-time
recording engineer Bruce Botnick, and was specifically designed to
showcase the music in a way that would stand alone from the film (thanks
to a generous budget from Warner Bros Records). Goldsmith was able to
enhance the film recordings with additional percussion overlays, and wrote
two tracks especially for the album. The newly-enriched versions worked so
well that they were dropped back into the film mix. The disc’s extensive
sleeve notes include the original endorsement by director Roger
Accidental Tourist is a modest – albeit Oscar-nominated - work by
Williams, perhaps best appreciated by more devoted fans. A late
replacement for a score by Bruce Broughton, Williams’ score is something
of a throwback to an earlier period of his career, lightly orchestrated,
and concentrating on a single bouncy theme.
The original album, which is replicated
here, is another perfectly-formed gem, missing only a few minutes of the
complete score (to compensate, a couple of the album tracks contain music
that wasn’t used in the finished film). As with Under Fire, the
Accidental Tourist disc has been re-mastered, using the original
two-track half-inch album masters. Both albums are highly recommended.
It's great to have them back in print, and much more widely available.
The Wreck of the Mary Deare /
Twilight of Honor, Eye of the Devil and The Ice Pirates
are all limited edition pressings of three thousand copies each.
Film Score Monthly’s discs are available
from specialist soundtrack retailers, including their trading partner
Screen Archives Entertainment
(SAE). Click on the sleeve images to go to SAE's website, where you will
find track lists and downloadable sample tracks.
Last week's Zeta Minor News
can be viewed here.
Previous Zeta Minor News entries can viewed