Swashbuckler was released on Intrada records in 2007.
COME HAVE A WONDERFUL TIME, ENJOY THE BIGGEST GRANDEST PIRATE MOVIE EVER !
That was one of the tags for Swashbuckler (a.k.a The Scarlet Buccaneer in the UK). A pretty ambitious statement considering that we had already seen the likes of Captain Blood (1935), The Sea Hawk (1940) and Against all Flags (1952). During the 1970s Hollywood was looking for ways to rejuvenate the film industry and encourage more people into the theatres, which led the studios and film makers to revisit already tried-and-tested formulas such as westerns, gangster and heist movies, and the pirate/adventure tale. Swashbuckler was, to be fair-minded, a good, entertaining pirate romp containing all the correct ingredients to make a successful and memorable film. Sadly, it did not fare that well at the box office, either in the UK or the United States. The movie was basically an attempt to re-create the magic and success of the films of Errol Flynn. While Swashbuckler lacked one vital ingredient: the presence of Flynn himself, leading man Shaw turned in an admirable performance in the film;s principal role; his performance added colour, flamboyancy and continuity to the proceedings. The movie was intended to be an affectionate homage the pirate films of years ago, but also made a brave attempt to play as a comedy at the same time. Handled carefully this mixture of action, drama and comedy can work with audiences; we have seen this successfully demonstrated within the Indiana Jones series and more recently in The Pirates of The Caribbean trilogy. But in the case of Swashbuckler the styles did not quite gel, with the comedy often falling a little flat and leaving the audience unsure if the film was a comedy, an adventure, or a tongue-in-cheek spoof of the vintage pirate movies, ala Burt Lancaster’s The Crimson Pirate (1952).
The cast list for Swashbuckler was an impressive one, with Shaw in the role of the pirate Ned Lynch who along with fellow buccaneer Nick Debrett (portrayed by James Earl Jones) go to the rescue of a damsel in distress, Lady Jane Barnet (played by Genevieve Bujold). They return her to Jamaica only to find that many of their comrades have been taken prisoner by an unfeeling, spiteful and merciless dictator Lord Durant who is portrayed albeit somewhat unconvincingly by Peter Boyle. Lynch and Debrett begin to devise a way to rescue their friends and at the same time bring down the cruel oppressor Durant. Beau Bridges also stars, taking on the role of Major Folly, a well-dressed fussy popinjay who never seems to be able to get things right. Lots of skulduggery, bloodletting, comedy, romance and swordplay ensues as pirates and gypsies combine forces to take on Durant. The acting partnership of Shaw and Jones makes the movie worth watching, and what the film lacks in plot it makes up for in action, exotic scenery ( the movie was filmed in Mexico) and some good one-liners. All of which were brought together by director James Goldstone. The film-maker had been working steadily in Hollywood, but had failed to have a breakout movie success. He had worked on the second Star Trek pilot for television entitled Where no Man Has Gone Before(1966) and garnered a certain amount of credo with critics and his peers for his work on the mystery murder They only Kill Their Masters(1972) which starred James Garner and Katherine Ross.
John Addison (Jock) was a resourceful, creative and talented composer who entered into the world of scoring movies during the late 1940s. His first assignment being The Guinea pig in 1948, a film that starred a fresh-faced Richard Attenborough. Born in West Cobham, Surrey, in the United Kingdom on March 16th 1920, Addison studied at the Royal College of Music in Kensington London. He concentrated upon composition, conducting, oboe, piano and clarinet. After his initial foray into writing music for film Addison rapidly established himself as an artist who was at home within any genre of film, and one who was also able to adapt easily to any situation that arose whilst working on a project.
The composer/conductor reached what many would call his creative musical high point during the 1950s with the commencement of the British film industries revival. His sprightly semi-classical melodies and at times temperamental jazz-infused scores enhanced and graced many of the “coming of age” movies that were being produced during this period. Because of his ability to be flexible, Addison’s talent and versatility as a film music composer soon became apparent within his soundtracks to productions such as Look back In Anger (1959), School For Scoundrels (1960), A Taste Of Honey (1961), Guns at Batasi (1964), The Honey Pot (1967), and his Oscar winning score for Tom Jones(1963).
Addison continued to be in demand as a film music composer throughout the 1960s and in 1966 caused something of a stir within the movie music fraternity when Alfred Hitchcock asked him to score Torn Curtain. This was after the filmmaker had rejected long term collaborator Bernard Herrmann’s music for the picture. It was also during the 1960s that Addison worked on films such as A Fine Madness(1966) and The Charge Of The Light Brigade (1967) for Director Tony Richardson, whom he had a fruitful creative partnership with. Addison remained active during the 1970s, working on projects such as Mr Forbush And The Penguins (1971) and Sleuth (1972) for which he received an Academy Award Nomination in the category of best original dramatic score.
In 1976 he worked on Sir Richard Attenborough’s world war ll epic A Bridge To Far. This was a project close to Addison’s heart as he had served with the XXX corps during the war and Attenborough’s movie told the story of the ill-fated operation market garden in Belgium where many members of the XXX corps lost their lives. The composer did not actually take part in the operation but felt a strong connection with the men who did (Addison himself was wounded at Caen during the Normandy landings in 1944).
It was during the mid 1970’s that Addison re-located to the USA, firstly settling in Los Angeles, then moving to Vermont in 1990 where he remained until his death in 1998. It is ironic that he will probably be best remembered for the work he did for the small screen whilst in the United States as opposed to his numerous film scores. His enduring and endearing theme for the popular CBS series Murder She Wrote, still remains well-liked today thanks to repeated screenings of the show on cable television. Addison’s spirited theme opened more than 250 episodes of the series, earning him an Emmy. He also worked on the epic TV series Centennial for NBC during 1978-1979, scoring all twelve episodes and Ellis Island was another TV assignment in 1984 for the CBS network. Plus the composer scored a handful of motion pictures during the 1980s these included, Strange Invaders (1983), Grace Quigley (1985) and To Die For (1989).
All the time that Addison was composing for film and television he continued to write “serious” music or music for the concert hall. His Bassoon Concertina was premiered in Manchester in the UK, during 1998. John Addison passed away on December 7th 1998 in Bennington Vermont, USA, after suffering a stroke.
One of the most outstanding and memorable attributes of Swashbuckler is the infectious, feisty and robust musical score by composer John Addison. At times the music for the movie can be just as entertaining as the action unfolding upon the screen. As with many of Addison’s movie soundtracks, Swashbuckler has a extremely English, almost William Walton/Clifton Parker/Vaughn Williams sound to it, the work echoes many of the composers past triumphs in films such as The Charge Of The Light Brigade, Tom Jones, Joseph Andrews and The Amorous adventures Of Moll Flanders.
Addison provided the movie with four key musical themes. The first of these being the accompaniment for the pirate ship in the film, The Blarney Cock. Then there is a more sinister but almost gloom filled theme for the Lord Durant character; action music which accompanies the antics of the pirates and their associates and a sumptuous love theme which enhanced the scenes involving Ned and Lady Jane. Approximately half of Addison’s score was released on LP record back in 1976 (MCA 2096). This is the first compact disc release of the soundtrack and contains the same music tracks as the original LP record.
1. Main Theme- The track opens with the theme for the Pirate ship The Blarney Cock, this is a light hearted, relaxed and somewhat tropically-orientated composition, and is heard only briefly before giving way to serious and tense martial sounding percussion. This too melts away so that the theme Addison penned for Lord Durant can make a short-lived appearance. The Blarney Cock theme then makes an almost triumphant return to the proceedings, this time in a fuller, more sustained working, establishing it firmly as the central and main thematic core of the work.
2. The Coach Robbery– An energetic and exhilarating composition that introduces Addison’s high-spirited action music into the score for the first time. This jolly and rollicking piece is filled with vigorous performances from the string section that receive hearty support from both brass and Addison’s favourite instrument the harpsichord. The theme, which is a form of sea shanty come action piece, steadily builds throughout the movie becoming the music that is associated with the pirates and the gypsy characters who eventually join forces against the overbearing Lord Durant.
3. Love Theme- This arrangement of the composers theme was not actually utilized within the movie. The music heard here is a lush-sounding attractive rendition of Addison’s composition, arranged especially for the LP release. The music suggests the notion of actual romance between the Ned and Jane characters, rather than the real extent of their relationship in the story. It is an appealing and sensitive sounding piece that employs heartfelt blossoming strings, embellished by minimal use of woodwind and delicately placed harp, performed in a manner that evokes the style of composers such as Max Steiner or Alfred Newman and harkens back to the days of the Golden age of film making and film music in Hollywood.
4. The Fencing Lesson-Ned and Jane.- The music here is taken from two separate cues on the films soundtrack. The first part of the track is utilized in the scene where a desperate and vexed Jane Barnet has a meeting with her cousin. The second part of the cue is taken from the fencing scene, where Ned taunts Jane and in a less than chivalrous fashion, proceeds to fence with her on the beach trying to belittle her in front of his comrades. The music contains elements of the love theme combined with a secondary action theme which rapidly increases in tempo and memento.
5. Torture-Erotica in Waltz Time.- This tense-sounding composition features parts of Durant’s theme, played adjacent to and layered over sinister sounding strings. The cue heard here is shorter in duration to the one used within the movie and is utilized to great effect whilst Durant’s mute henchman menaces Major Folly with a set of metal talons, as Durant himself relaxes more or less sublime to what is going on, whilst having his back waxed.
6. The Pickpocket Monkey.- A playful and quite mischievous piece which has light near impish sounding woodwinds opening the cue, which are supported by sparsely placed strings. The music accompanies the scene of a trained monkey attempting to steal a set of keys from a sleeping gaoler. Durant’s theme is also introduced momentarily, but it is the love theme motif that brings the cue to it’s conclusion, swelling strings reaching a lush and almost luxurious sounding crescendo as Jane is re-united with her Father who has been imprisoned by the venomous Lord Durant.
7. Retreat To The Ship.- This cue is extremely up tempo at its outset, but slows to a much easier and comfortable pace approximately mid way through. It contains Addison’s action music in a differing and fresh arrangement with the familiar Blarney Cock theme rising proudly for a few seconds during the proceedings. This cue is heard as The Pirates retreat back to the safety of their ship, though not all of them make it back, with a few of their number being captured, hence, this track reaches its conclusion with a version of Durant’s theme.
8. Swashbuckler Love Theme Reprise.- We are treated here to another arrangement of Addison’s luxuriant love theme, again this particular version was not included within the movie. It is a gentler almost tranquil version of the haunting melody, with the string section again coming into its own. As before the style is totally reminiscent of the Golden age film scores lush, extravagant and emotive.
9. The Incredible Chase.- This extensive sequence is scored by Addison with a jolly almost circus music sound, so much so, one can imagine acrobats and clowns rushing here there and everywhere when listening to it. The sequence was described as being “one of the most exciting chases ever brought to the screen, which ends with the greatest stunt in the history of motion pictures”. Not entirely an accurate description of events, but both the scene and the accompanying music are exhilarating. Addison’s music is vibrant and full of energy, featuring a short burst of the action theme towards its conclusion.
10. Swimming Sequence-A New Awareness.- Yet another interpretation of the love theme, this time it is the version that the composer utilised in the movie. It is even more appealing in this form than in the first two performances the composer giving us a lighter more delicate and intimate treatment of his composition. Gentle woods take the lead whilst being underlined by supporting strings. There is a short intervention by Durant’s theme, but this is short-lived as the string-section take up the love theme motif bringing the piece to its conclusion.
11. Assault On The Fortress.- This is without any doubt the high point of the movie, the drama and action unfolding upon the screen being matched perfectly by Addison’s tense and anxious sounding music. Strings again take on the lions-share of the performance with brass bolstering and supporting them. Both the brass and strings then fade away as the piece lulls into a more subdued and relaxed sounding interlude; a lone clarinet playing a mournful melody is given centre stage which is gradually overridden by the introduction of flute underlined by soft unobtrusive sounding strings that delicately punctuate and support at the same time. The cue then progressively builds in tempo and volume, strings again returning supported by underlying brass bringing the track to an abrupt end.
12. Derring-Do !- This cue is heard as the prisoners are rescued from the fortress prison. It is a full working of the riotous action music that has been heard throughout the score, with a brief deviation into a waltz like motif, but soon returns to the action composition which increases in tempo and vigour bringing the cue to a rousing and resounding close.
13. End title-End Cast. As the end credits roll, Addison’s Blarney Cock theme returns; the arrangement here being in a very similar fashion and sound to the main title version, but on this occasion Addison adds a short-lived variant within the cue, ensuring that the theme remains vibrant and bright till the end, bringing the adventure and the score to it’s finale.
John Addison’s score for Swashbuckler, is certainly an enjoyable one, and a work which not only supports the action, romance, comedy and melancholic moods of the movie, but also remains entertaining away from the images it was intended to enhance. It is indeed one of the composers most amusing, sparkling and memorable works for the silver screen and falls squarely in the tradition of other grand adventure soundtracks. The score is an enduring legacy to the talent, inventiveness and craftsmanship of the composer.
John Mansell 2007.