KELLYS HEROES.

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Released in 1970, KELLYS HEROES is now a firm favourite with film fans of all ages and is a regular movie that is shown on various TV channels, it is film that I never tire of, both for the film itself and for the superb musical score by composer Lalo Schifrin. At the time of the films release MGM put out a soundtrack album which was a re-recording of the score. We had to wait until 2005 before we got to hear the actual film score. But it was certainly worth the thirty-five-year wait. When Schifrin scored KELLYS HEROES he was probably at the height of his career and was a well-known name within the film music fraternity who was respected by his peers and fans alike. Initially I saw the movie at the Astoria cinema in Brighton where it was showing for a season.

 

It played to packed houses for the couple of months it was there which would something that would be hard for any contemporary movie to do nowadays. I suppose the main attraction was Clint Eastwood who at that time was still riding high on his success from the Sergio Leone Italian westerns referred to as the Dollar trilogy. The movie also starred Telly Savalas, another popular actor at the time and Donald Sutherland as the quirky character Oddball, and Don Rickles and Carrol O Connor putting in appearances too. The storyline was a mix of war and comedy, something that was a little tricky if one did not get the balance right. After all war was a serious business and if the comedy element was not handled correctly the producers ran the risk of maybe looking as if they were trivialising war. Thankfully, the film was handled not as a comedic war story but a comedy that just happened to be set during WWll, and it contained numerous serious scenarios alongside the comedy included. The story is about a handful of American soldiers who are serving in France after the D DAY invasion. And are becoming disillusioned about their role and how they are being treated by the powers that be, it seems that they are the ones every time doing all the dirty work and as they reach their objective are stood down whilst the troops in their uniforms and shiny helmets marched in as the heroes. Kelly (Clint Eastwood) is a member of the group and one night captures a German officer and whilst trying to get information out of him discovers that the German army have a large deposit of gold bullion stored in a bank in a small French town.

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He convinces the rest of the men in the company to accompany him to find the gold. Much to the disapproval of Big Joe (Telly Savalas). Who, after much persuasion decides to join them. What Kelly forgets to tell them is that the gold is guarded by Tiger tanks. Along the way Kelly and his band of heroes enlist the assistance of various other units, one being Oddball (Donald Sutherland) and his Sherman tanks which are manned by a collection of hippy types, which big Joe calls FREAKS. Oddball and his men think positive thoughts and arm their tanks with shells filled with paint that make pretty patterns.

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It’s a movie that the audience really cannot take that seriously but saying that there are some convincing action scenes within the movie, one taking place in a minefield that the patrol has unknowingly walked into and results in the death of some of their company. There is also the scene where they are attacked by one of their own planes and their vehicles and some of their equipment is blown up. In the end they make it to the town and take on the Tigers destroying two and then doing a deal with the one remaining Tiger tank commander, who is unaware what he is guarding. The scene where Kelly, Big Joe and Oddball approach the Tiger tank in the main square of the town is hilarious, and is given a greater comedic slant by the music that composer Schifrin wrote, the track QUICK DRAW KELLY is a homage or a parody of the Italian western score and has elements of the style of Ennio Morricone and Francesco de Masi within it, Good Bad Ugly percussion, shrieks, grunts, driving strings, brass and electric guitar all combine to create one of cinemas most memorable and funny screen moments, that is an obvious send up of Eastwood, who I am sure laughed all the way to the bank, literally.

 

The remainder of the score features some impressive percussive elements that are utilised during the COMMANDO OPUS cue and has a great theme for the TIGER TANKS, that is urgent and relentless, the composer deploying, brass, strings and percussion to great effect. There is also a catchy song entitled BURNING BRIDGES which is performed by THE MIKE CURB CONGREGATION. There are other songs featured on the soundtrack, one being ALL FOR THE LOVE OF SUNSHINE performed by Hank Williams Jnr. I have to say that the score for KELLYS HEROES for me is just as entertaining as the movie itself.

 

 

The Film Score Monthly release not only features the original film score but also includes the tracks that were released on the MGM long playing record. The soundtrack did get a release on compact disc in 2000 on the Chapter lll Classics label, but sound quality to be honest was awful, and it was a straight re-issue of the MGM record paired with THE CINCINATTI KID another score by Schifrin. If you are going to buy the score/soundtrack the only one to go for is the FSM edition, if it is still available that is. Happy hunting.

DARK OF THE SUN.

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Composer Jacques Loussier is not primarily a film music composer, he is rather a jazz pianist/composer/artist that has from time to time entered the film scoring arena and I am glad to say on each occasion has been successful in creating memorable and effective scores for the projects he has been associated with. One such cinematic assignment was released in 1967 and to this day remains popular amongst film buffs and film music devotees of a certain age group. THE DARK OF THE SUN or THE MERCENARIES as some may know it, was a violent and fast paced war movie set in Africa and based upon the novel by Wilbur A Smith. Directed by Jack Cardiff the movie focused upon a band of Mercenaries who were fighting alongside government forces to stop rebels taking over the country and also acting as part of an escort to a train filled with civilians who were fleeing the carnage caused by these blood thirsty rebels known as the Simba’s, there were also uncut diamonds involved, which made even more interesting.

 

The movie had a somewhat international cast and starred Rod Taylor, Jim Brown, Kenneth Moore, Peter Carsten, Andre Morell, Oliver Depraux and an attractive leading lady in the form of Yvette Mimieux. The movie although filled with violence and intense action in my opinion was an effective one which had audiences engrossed and on the edge of their seats, it influenced several productions that would follow in later years, WILD GEESE for example. One of the films many plus factors was its musical score composed by French Jazz artist Jacques Loussier. It may come as a surprise to many that Loussier worked on well over fifty movies and contributed music for TV series and documentaries both inside and outside of his native France. Loussier had come to the attention of music lovers all over the world via his recordings of his musical adaptations of J.S. Bach which he arranged and presented in jazz styles. As Loussier was already a respected jazz musician many assumed he would produce a score that reflected this genre of music, but the composer was chameleon like in his approach to the project not only fashioning a soundtrack that supported and punctuated the film but at times even produced haunting melodies that became popular away from the images.

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DARK OF THE SUN is in many aficionado’s opinion one of Loussier’s finest scores for cinema and I agree with this consensus, the composer fuses both symphonic styles with that of jazz themes and gets the balance right. The soundtrack received a release in 1967/68 on an MGM LP record (MG 1 4544) which soon became a rarity. The album was on many collectors wants list and became something of a holy grail for some, there was however a collective a sigh of relief when finally, it was issued onto a CD by Chapter lll Classics in 2000 paired with Ennio Morricone’s western score GUNS FOR SAN SEBASTEIN, maybe something of an unusual double bill, but nevertheless welcomed by all. Both scores were represented by the same tracks that had been available on LP in 1967/68.

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The audio quality was at times somewhat distorted with the Morricone score suffering from a fuzzy sound on a handful of cues, but many collectors were just pleased to be able to listen to Loussier’s excellent score after it had been deleted from the catalogue so quickly. There were four cues available before the Chapter lll release on a compilation of the composer’s film and TV music on the French Playtime label (pl 9415), which is also a must have if you are a fan of this composer’s film music, and on this compilation there is a cue from THE DARK OF THE SUN entitled FINAL which is not on the CHAPTER lll release. That runs for four mins, but this could be an editing of two cues CURRY KILLS HENLEIN and the slower version of the Main Title which was used as the films end credits. Then of course we have the 2008 Film Score Monthly release that included twenty-seven cues, and has superb sound quality, this if you can get hold of it is the best edition of the score and includes a lot of extra music compared with previous releases, with alternate takes etc.

 


The Main Title sequence for DARK OF THE SUN is an impressive one musically as well as visually and sets the scene perfectly for what is to follow both in the movie and on the score as it develops, the images on the main titles sequence are taken from the movie, so we see certain snippets of the action before the film has begun, accompanied by Loussier’s driving and dramatic theme. Loussier created a lumbering almost laboured sounding piece to open the movie, its dramatic and dark percussion was punctuated by an ominous sounding piano, which was in turn augmented by organ, this was the foundation for the ensuing theme which builds as the cue progresses performed by strings that generate a macabre and uneasy sounding waltz like theme, the mood and atmosphere created was one of darkness and uncertainty, with the underlying percussive elements being supported by the apprehensive sounding piano throughout.

 

 

 

This is a theme that weaves in and out of the proceedings during the movie and is arranged in varying tempos or maybe the composer just utilising the piano part to create a sense of tension.

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The score does contain a few cues that can be described as jazz or lighter sounding music, these are mainly used as source music or when the main character Curry (Rod Taylor) is in the company of Claire (Yvette Mimiuex) as in CURRY’S DRIVE WITH CLAIRE, THE DOCTOR IS FOUND, CLAIRE AND CURRY and CURRY KILLS HENLEIN. The latter playing over one of the final scenes where we see Curry and Claire driving along a road in a jeep in silence. DARK OF THE SUN is a classic score from the 1960’s and maybe a soundtrack that in recent years has been overlooked or ignored by collectors new to film music, I hope that I have convinced you to investigate the score and I am confident once you have you will return to it many times. Recommended.

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