MONGOLS, VIKINGS AND DUSAN RADIC.

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Dusan Radic is not a name that would be that familiar with collectors of film music, unless of course you began to listen to soundtracks during the 1960,s. Radic who was responsible for writing a great deal of concert music as well as music for movies produced out side of western Europe was also the composer responsible for the scores to two historical adventure movies, both of which were very different. I personally first noticed the composers music in the Richard Widmark movie THE LONG SHIPS. Then later in the fairly fictitious biopic GENGHIS KHAN (1965), which starred the late Omar Sharif as the Mongol leader.

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This was a European production, although at times one would have thought it came from Hollywood. This English, Yugoslav and German movie had many well established stars within its cast, Robert Morley, Telly Savalas, James Mason, Stephen Boyd, Eli Wallach, Francoise Dorleac and even Kenneth Cope (Randall and Hopkirk deceased). The movie generated much interest at the box office but this was probably due to the impressive cast rather than the movie itself, critics at the time basically panned it calling it, far too brutal, laughable and not historically correct. Which to a degree is I suppose correct, but it was still an entertaining piece of cinema and how can a movie about the rise of the Mongol nation be seen as too brutal ? It was a movie that had a considerable budget compared with other non American productions and this shone through via its lavish and impressive sets and beautiful location shots plus the cast. Dusan Radic,s epic sounding score certainly helped the storyline, fully symphonic and filled to overflowing with expansive and heroic themes that were intermingled with romantically infused compositions made this one of the more interesting soundtracks of the 1960,s and too a degree rivalled the music of Alfred Newman, Miklos Rozsa and their like. It has always baffled me why Radic did not receive more assignments and how could Hollywood producers not see his potential for American movies after the success of his scores for both Genghis Khan and The Long Ships, but that’s show biz I guess.

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THE LONG SHIPS (1963) too had many stars in its cast that were well know in both America and Britain, starring alongside Widmark there was Sidney Poitier, Russ Tamblyn, Lionel Jeffries, Oscar Homolka and the beautiful Rosanna Schiaffino, again this was a European production with the finances being provided by English and Yugoslavian studios. It told the story of a huge golden bell which Widmark,s character a roughish Viking claimed to know the whereabouts of. After being overheard telling his tale in a market place he is captured by the Moors and taken to their King (Sidney Poitier) who is obsessed with the legend of the golden bell and wants it for himself.

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Like Genghis Khan this is a rip roaring adventure, all action and entertaining with a capital E. Again Radic’s score is vital to the movie underlining the many adventures and battles that happen along the way to finding the bell, with its rousing and haunting central theme at times outshining Mario Nascimbene‘s famous opening motif for THE VIKINGS. The storyline pits Vikings with their brutal and savage methods against the somewhat more philosophical and disciplined Moors and although the film is filled with numerous flaws and mistakes it still did well at the box office and is screened regularly on TV in the UK, one of its highlights being the battle between Vikings and Moors on the beach, where Widmark’s merry band of raiders are washed up after being shipwrecked by a storm. Considering the success of Radic’ scores for these two movies alone there is very little information about him readily available, we do know that he did work on other film scores but only in Eastern Europe working with director Andrzej Wajda on SIBIRSKA LEDI MAGBET in 1961 and scoring MACAK POD SLJEMOM for film maker ZORZ SKRIGIN in 1962. One year later he composed the score for the German/Yugoslav co-production DIE FLUCHT which told the story of two brothers during WW ll, one being a prisoner in a concentration camp who escapes and goes on the run, the other brother is a Nazi who is given the task of chasing his sibling. The two production companies that worked on this movie also produced jointly GENGHIS KHAN.

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On re-visiting both GENGHIS KHAN and THE LONG SHIPS I personally am of the opinion that GENGHIS KHAN is probably the more substantial work and also the score that is more developed in the cinematic sense musically speaking, but maybe the composer looked to Hollywood composers of such scores for his inspiration on this assignment ? Dusan Radic was born in Sombor Serbia, on April 10th 1929, as I have stated he was a composer who mainly concentrated on what can be called serious music, classical or music for concert hall performance, with numerous works to his credit including, THE BALLAD OF THE VAGABOND MOON ballet, the opera LOVE,THAT’S THE MAIN THING, choral pieces such as GUNGULICE and Sinfonietta’s and sonata’s. He was also a University Professor, he completed his high school education in his birthplace and also attended the music school of the Serbian Church Singing society. In 1941 Radic relocated to Belgrade where he continued his musical education at the STANKOVIC music school, he also attended the Belgrade Academy of Music and was tutored by Milenko Zivkovic who was to be his mentor until the latter part of 1954.

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From 1957, Radic continued to study in Paris under the guidance of Darius Milhaud and Oliver Messiaen where upon he returned to Serbia and completed a masters degree with Milenko Zivkovic as his advisor. Previous to this however the composer had gained public attention with his SONATA LESTA which was premiered by concert pianist Mirjana Suica during the summer of 1952. Plus his SINFONIETTA in three parts was performed in 1954 by the Belgrade Philharmonic. Radic was a freelance composer for twenty five years between 1954 and 1979, after which he took up a professional composition position at the Academy of Arts at the University in Novi Sad, where he remained until his retirement. Dusan Radic passed away in Belgrade on April 3rd 2010.

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