Creature from the Black Lagoon (and Other Jungle Movies)

Creature from the Black Lagoon
Creature from the Black Lagoon

Since the appearance of the Classic Film Music series conducted by Charles Gerhardt on the RCA red seal label, many vintage film scores have received the reconstruction and re-recorded treatment. This practice has had its gems but also a number of works which have not been exactly brilliant. I am glad to say this collection from Monstrous Movie Music in the States is going to be one of the the gems. This is one of the most faithful re-recordings that I have heard in a long while. The collection boasts some 49 cues, which are taken predominately from the scores to CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON and THE ALLIGATOR PEOPLE. These are composed by a collection of revered and respected composers of the golden age of Hollywood horror. Hans J. SalterHerman Stein, Milton Rosen, Robert Emmet Dolan, David Snell, Danielle Amifitheatrof, Herbert Stothart, Sol Levy, Irving Gertz and Henry Mancini. The credits read like a Who’s Who in film music composition.

The CD opens with six marvelous cues from Tarzan movies. These are from the 1934 – 1942 period, when the movies were all the rage, and arguably this is when the best of these particular films were produced, as in later years productions were sometimes a little too tame and clichéd. The cues are taken from such films in the series as TARZAN AND HIS MATE, TARZAN’S SECRET TREASURE, TARZAN’S NEW YORK ADVENTURE, TARZAN FINDS A SON and TARZAN ESCAPES. As soon as I began to listen to the CD, memories of the movies just seemed to come flooding back – Johnny Weissmuller as the amiable ape man, with Maureen O’Sullivan as his glamorous mate Jane and, in later additions to the series, Johnny Sheffield as Boy, along with the ever present and mischievous Cheetah – lost civilisations, shots of African wildlife and of course the exotic and lush vegetation of the jungle; most certainly a winning and memorable combination. The music too is surprisingly good, in particular the tracks ‘In The Woodland’ and ‘Fanfare/Cannibal Carnival’. The cues from the movies represented here are particularly short lived, but this detracts nothing from their musical content or entertainment value.

THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON – this classic piece of horror as produced by Universal International in 1950 is possibly the greatest horror film of all time. It boasts the writing talents and musical prowess of no less than five composers. The reason for this being that the studio tracked cues from other works onto the film soundtrack. The original score comprised some 29 tracks but the finished film contained a total of 44 music cues, with the additional 15 cues being culled from other Universal productions such as, RIDE CLEAR OF DIABLO, IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE and MR. PEABODY AND THE MERMAID. In fact even some of the cues that were specifically composed for the movie, or so it was thought, contained elements of music from previous Universal scores. However this does not mean that the score was either disjointed or did not serve the picture well – in fact I would personally go as far as to say that the score is in every way as classic as the film itself. THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON selections have a total running period of 35mins and 34 seconds. The next section of the CD is 14 cues from THE ALLIGATOR PEOPLE, composed by Irving Gertz. This 1959 B picture was at the time of its release well received by audiences and boasts a musical score that is original and also interesting; the use of electric violin is particularly appealing. As the notes by David Schecter emphasize, this was certainly not a B movie score, and on listening to the work one can understand why he was prompted to note this about the music. It is an accomplished work which, although written for a horror movie, contains outstanding thematic and melodic properties. I have already mentioned the use of electric violin, but there is also the uutilization of piano solo on track 44 ‘Alligator piano’, plus inventive orchestration. I would earmark this as the better score on the CD but all of the sections are different and all contain something to entertain.

The packaging on the compilation is outstanding; a 38 page booklet accompanies the CD and is packed with an unbelievable amount of information about the movies, the composers and the music. The cover too contains some eye-arresting artwork, and the booklet is scattered with stills from the films in question, plus examples of various manuscripts. The quality of the recording is wonderful, and as for authenticity – well I forgot that I was listening to a re-recording; I was so caught up in the music. I cannot recommend this recording highly enough – this is one CD that you should not be without. So much music, so much information, so go out and buy it!

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