Normally soundtrack supplement is a feature that I do here on Movie Music International that gives a brief outline on various soundtracks by different composers, not full reviews but just a few lines on each so that the collectors are aware of the scores. This time the entire section is dedicated to one composer who has been working steadily in film and TV for several years. His soundtracks have been issued on the BSX label and others, but it is BSX or Dragons Domain who have issued the majority of them recently. Louis Febre is a composer many will probably be aware of via his connection with the SMALLVILLE TV series.
But it is surprising that he has written so much music for both the small and big screen. The composer was born in Saltillo Mexico on June 21st, 1959, he wrote his first piece of music at the age of just eight, which when he was studying piano at a conservatory in the North of Mexico. In the early 1970’s Febre’s family re-located to Los Angeles, and he was encouraged to continue his studies there also. His tutors in the United States were Francois Regnat and Robert Turner. The young musician went from strength to strength with his studies an began to take formal education in music under both Frank Campo and Lorraine Kimball, whilst receiving his musical education Febre composed a few Chamber works as well as more large-scale pieces. During the early 1990’s the composer landed a position at a B Movie company which was called PM Entertainment, it was here that the composer decided that it was writing music for film was what he wanted to do as a career.
In 1996 he was mentored by composer John Debney, and this proved to be a fruitful and a rewarding collaboration for both Febre and Debney. Febre worked with Debney on the feature length TV movie DOCTOR WHO (1996) which got the young composer noticed and led to him writing his first TV score which was THE CAPE, an assignment that earned him an Emmy for best Dramatic Underscore in 1997. As his career progressed Febre enjoyed much success writing for films such as TOWER OF TERROR a Disney production and SWIMFAN.
He also received acclaim for his music to a handful of straight to DVD or Video movies of SCOO-BE-DOO one of which SCOO-BE DOO AND THE ALIEN INVADERS garnered him an Annie Award in 2001. In the same year he was awarded a Pixie for his music to THE REVENGE OF THE RED BALOON which was an independent short movie.
Febre also collaborated with composer Steve Jablonsky on the first series of DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES and later as an orchestrator and additional music composer hooked up with John Debney again for CATS AND DOGS, CHICKEN LITTLE and JIMMY NEUTRON. He also collaborated with Mark Snow on various episodes of THE X FILES as well as writing music for DISNEY WORLD TOKYO.
In 2009 he wrote the score for a low budget sci-fi movie entitled ALIEN TRESPASS the film which was based upon the B movies of the 1950’s failed to get a favourable reaction from audiences and critics alike, but Febre’s score was as they say mentioned in dispatches and critics compared it to the style of Hollywood giant Bernard Herrmann. But it is SMALLVILLE that many associate Febre with, after the composer Mark Snow departed the series in season six, Febre was asked to become the main composer for the series. The composer added a more personal and intimate sound to the series and as the character of Clark Kent began to develop more so did the composer’s music, becoming more complex at times and also eventually working towards a theme for the central character. The composer’s more recent assignments included additional music composer for Mark Isham on Disney’s TOGO. (2019) and also as orchestrator for John Debney on THE NEGOTIATOR or BEIRUT as it was originally titled in 2018. Febre also worked on the TV reboot of CHARLIES ANGELS as well as writing the scores for the TV updating of THE FUGITIVE for CBS.
DRAGONS DOMAIN RECORDS have, released a Louis Febre collection volume one, which includes two sores, THE HAUNTED WORLD OF EDWARD D. WOOD JNR (1996) and BIGFOOT THE UNFORGETTABLE ENCOUNTER (1994). Both are entertaining works from the 1990’s and the first has to it an almost John Barry/Jerry Goldsmith sound. It is rich in thematic material and also lends itself well to the movie, which is a documentary, as well as standing alone as an incredibly melodious and affecting work away from the images. The composer employs a kind of proud and inspiring air to the proceedings with sumptuous sounding synth strings if that’s possible? Plus wistful and subtle woods and on occasion a haunting trumpet solo performance that has a martial style to it adding melancholy to the work. The score also has to it a mysterious and quirky feel and sound, which given the subject of the documentary is understandable, at times these little expressions and phrases lean towards the comedic but are wonderfully entertaining and absorbing. The music displays a light but at the same time sad persona, reflecting I suppose the life of the filmmaker. The documentary highlights Woods well known 1950’S productions, which for all the wrong reasons went down into cinema history. GLEN OR GLENDA, JAIL BAIT, BRIDE OF THE MONSTER, NIGHT OF THE GHOULS, and the infamous PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE.
All of which were looked upon as terrible films when released, but maybe in the ensuing years attained a cult status because they were so bad that people began to love them rather than loathe them, maybe because of the obvious passion Wood had for film making even if he did not have the budgets to transfer what he could see in his mind’s eye on to the screen.
Febre’s score is an accomplished one and when watching the documentary one can feel the melancholy and the emotion via his melodious and lilting tone poems. The second score that is represented on this collection is a film that Febre scored whilst at PM ENTERTAINMENT. BIGFOOT AND THE UNFORGETTABLE ENCOUNTER tells the story of aa young boy who becomes friends with the much-documented forest legend BIGFOOT. The boy decides that he must help the creature escape the bounty hunters who are tracking him. The score is a delightful work that enhances and supports this family movie romp. Filled to overflowing with syrupy but at the same time attractive themes, the composer again utilises strings and horns that are further embellished with woodwind to score the film, of course there are a number of more dramatic elements introduced, as the hunt for the creature begins to take shape, again a effective work and also one that is a pleasure to listen to away from the movie. The composer achieving the correct balance of light and dark, with romantic sounding passages being fused with slightly apprehensive and action laced interludes, but nothing to dark or foreboding.
The next score by Febre is FISTS OF IRON, the film which was released in 1995 was one of the many that were released during this period that dealt with kickboxing, Karate and other martial arts. To be fair it is not an awful movie, with the action being relentless from start to finish. It has a storyline that also is fairly typical of these types of films, a greedy and bloodthirsty villain is responsible for the death of the films central characters best friend, so the hero sets out to have vengeance for the death of his friend.
The movie stars Michael Worth the good guy and Matthias Hues, as the not so good guy. What happens? Well maybe I don’t really need to tell you. The score released on BSX records digitally is a mix of styles and sounds and although largely dramatic and action led it still contains some good solid thematic material on which the composer builds the score, there are a number of almost grandiose moments within the score, the composer utilising a fusion of symphonic and synthetic performances to create a powerful and high octane work. I suppose there are a number of affiliations with this and other soundtracks that were around in the 1990.s which relied on the electronic sounds and layers rather than conventional instrumentation and musical colours.
But this does not mean that the score was not an effective one, however I would not say that it is a soundtrack I could sit down and listen to without watching the movie, even though it does have a few jazz orientated moments that lead into the central theme for the movie and for a movie that was not exactly high profile the composer wrote a lot of music for it. Dramatic and action led for the majority of its duration with a handful of cues that can be put into the apprehensive category stylistically again I was reminded faintly of the style of Jerry Goldsmith when he worked on thrillers such as BASIC INSTINCT, NOT WITHOUT MY DAUGHTER and MALICE, Febre, fashioning effective fleeting musical moments via breathy woods and underlying swirling but subdued string effects and for those reasons I would say that this is probably a score that you would return to a few times after your initial visit. THE SECRETARY is another in a batch of releases from BSX that are available digitally and once again the style and sound achieved by Febre is filled with foreboding and virulence, I already mentioned the similarities I thought he had with the style of Jerry Goldsmith on a few of his soundtracks, THE SECRETARY is another work that displays these traits, Febre creating deliciously dark and richly sinister sounding pieces, that are haunting and unsettling. BASIC INSTINCT again comes to mind, but there is also a masterful touch that can be likened to that of Bernard Herrmann, the composer concocting a visceral and sinewy work which for me did bring to mind VERTIGO the strings conjuring a sense of menace and purveying an atmosphere that is unnerving. is a score that I would recommend, I love its edgy and subdued persona, one for the collection, I think.
In 1994 Febre provided the score for the sci-fi picture T FORCE. Set in the near future the movie focuses upon a Cybernaut unit called T FORCE, which has been ordered to be disassembled after one of their missions which was a hostage situation goes badly wrong. The robots in the unit however take things into their own hands and see this action as a threat to their existence, thus go on a killing spree. Enter then Jack Floyd a police lieutenant and one Cybernaut who has remained loyal to his human masters to stop the T. FORCE at all costs. Febre’s score is in my opinion better than the movie it was written for. A largely synthetic score, with little conventional instrument performances here and there to enhance it and give it a more depth, it is a driving and relentless work. But even though electronics have the lion’s share of the score the composer still manages to create numerous fast paces action cues which have to them thematic qualities. The music actualy helps the movie look a little better at times or at least eases the disappointment some for anyone watching. So, if you are into your action scores this is probably one for you. Again, a digital BSX release.
I have to say that Louis Febre is a talented composer and seems to be able to turn his hand to any style and genre of film. The final soundtrack of his I am going to look at is A TIME TO DIE which is a thriller/mystery that was released in 1991. The soundtrack has been given a digital release by the BSX label, and is a more upbeat and up-tempo score, with the composer utilising an interesting array of percussive elements throughout. There is a definite electronic sound here, I say this because within this score more than any of the others I have listened to it is more obvious that it is a score realised via synthetic means. Again this does not mean that the score is any less worthy or indeed any less enjoyable to listen to, Febre makes interesting use of keyboard, percussion and a dusting of piano solo performances within the work, the piano adding a chilling and somewhat uneasy atmosphere to the proceedings. In fact, the majority of the soundtrack has the listener sitting on a knife edge the music building and falling to create an atmosphere that is dark and tense. Its, probably not until we hear the end credits that the tension is relieved a little with a nice flowing and easy going saxophone solo that is accompanied by laid back percussion and piano, but this soon alters and as it reaches its conclusion slips back into a more menacing mood. The scores I have mentioned are all released by BSX and DRAGONS DOMAIN records, check out their website for more delicious scores to add to your collection.