BY John Williams, (c)2020.

As someone who has listened to more film music than he cares to remember and written more words on the subject than is probably healthy, certain thoughts and opinions seem to surface very quickly.   Now I know my opinion is certainly  not any more worthy than yours, and music being the  very being it is,  a subjective  art,  one piece of music heard by say, one hundred people will have one hundred different reactions. That is the way it is.   

But conversely having listened to so such music,  and as to borrow  from  Stanley Myers memorable and masterly OTLEY score, ” The Good, The Bad and the Simply Disgusting”, certain, shall we say priorities , certainly comes to mind.    There are composers who’s, own musical personality shines through whatever they do.  That doesn’t mean they don’t do what they set out to do and are more often than not, well paid for, it is just that is the way they write and that is it.   You may say that John Barry falls into that category, and it is true, he has a distinctive musical voice, but he has been known to vary it every now and then.  I was thinking of Bernard Herrmann and Maurice Jarre,  Two more widely diverse composers you couldn’t think of,   Herrmann, a superb composer no-one could deny, yet wasn’t it Lionel Newman who once said, “Herrmann, he always sounds the same to me and he can’t write a tune!” somewhat harsh but containing a grain of truth.   Maurice Jarre, multiple Oscar Winner, most composers would love to have half his awards and honours, but you can tell his music a mile off, even before his name comes up on the credits.  They score the film well, of course they do, but to me they score it from the outside; they bring their undeniable talents to the movie, but what you hear is what you get.

The other side of the coin is the composer who subjugates his style, personality, his musical traits, to serve the film first, write as much or as little music they feel it needs.  No musical wallpaper here.  To these elite band of composers, serving the film  is paramount above all, even it means, at the end, if you asked someone watching the film, what did you think of the music, they might say what music?.  That is not to say they can’t write good themes, memorable themes, but that is a secondary consideration. These, to me are the true artists in the undeniable art of film music.

I don’t know enough to comment on the current crop of composers here and the Stats. From the little I have heard; some can’t even write music.  though I have heard some good music from France, and believe it not, Russia and the Eastern Europe, but in the UK. Film and Television music has vanished.

More so then to savour the composers that serve us well, and composers who put the needs of the film first. I think with genuine admiration of the music of  Nic Bicat, who’s collaborations with Clive Donner and Philip Ridley come to mind, but, to me  there is only one who epitomises all what I have been trying to say, and that composer is Richard Hartley.

I may be totally wrong here but I think the first film I saw scored by Richard was one of Rank’s attempts in the late 70s to enter the world of film production once more, a remake of THE LADY VANISHES  but this time in wide screen and in colour.   The principal theme used over the credits was composed by the wonderful Les Reed, and the theme was used a musical device later in the film, but, I am getting ahead of myself here. The obvious question most interviewers ask Film Composers , and I am no exception, for after all, unless you are  like Jerry Goldsmith and born in LA , most composers , don’t start their career writing for the Cinema, so how did it all start?

” In the early 1960s there was a film review programme on the radio and they played clips from new films, s one would hear dialogue but they were often underscored, that was my first introduction to the art of film music.  I started piano lessons at the age of 5 and studied music theory then later orchestration and composition when I lived in Paris in 1966. My first film was a documentary about Gerard Manley Hopkins followed by one about Achille Island, they were both student films directed by a friend of mine. In the early 1970s I did orchestrations for Chappell’s the publishers and overdubbed strings on Reggae Records for Trojan then met Jim Sharman who hired me to write music for a play written by Sam Shepard that he was directing at the Royal Court. He also directed “The Rocky Horror Show” and that is how it all began.”

I would have the thought the main breakthrough came with Joe Losey, though I suspect he had very firm ideas on the use of music in his films? 

“My first film with Joe was Brecht’s “Galileo” which Joe had directed on Broadway with Charles Laughton. It was part of a series of plays that were filmed for The American Film Theatre, I ‘d recently returned from Sydney where I had been the Musical Director for a production of The Threepenny Opera in the opening season at the Sydney Opera  House. I orchestrated Han’s Eisler’s songs and wrote the incidental music.  Joe was very happy with my work and hired me for his next film “The Romantic Englishwoman”. He told me the story of “The Go-Between”!   Joe hated the way Hollywood films were scored but mostly left the spotting and discussions about the music to me and his long time editor. Reggie Beck”

I think we must be near THE LADY VANISHES now.  I personally enjoyed   it far more than Hitchcock’s somewhat over-rated movie, and this had the advantages of a all star cast, and filmed on location.  The only thing that spoilt it for me was Cybill Shepherds well over the top heroine, but it is a flaw I can well overlook.   I wondered if there was ever a soundtrack LP envisaged, as one did appear for Ed Welch’s THE 39 STEPS.?

“My music contractor worked with Philip Martell on many Hammer films and he made the introduction. The Les Reed music was already in place but I fitted it to the film and Bob Stewart and I orchestrated it. A soundtrack was mentioned but never materialized”

There was feeling around that time that you didn’t do many movies, am I right?

” Yes that is right. I was producing records for a while and also a Musical at the Royal Court (Theatre) which I am afraid wasn’t a success.  During that period I scored THE LADY VANISHES for Hammer and the next film was BAD TIMING for Nic Roeg.  I knew Jeremy Thomas (the Producer) from years ago, when he was a Editor.   Nic always paid the most unbelievable attention to detail, even for the smallest things. He had heard a particular piece of music in a cutting room somewhere and asked me if I knew what it was. Funnily enough, I knew it was a French Bass player called Francois Rabat, who has a unusual style of playing the Double Bass, anyway we found him, recorded this piece that Nic had heard, and then it had to be remixed, etc. and eventually what had started out as a two-day job went on for months!

I think Nic was the first Director I worked with who really loved music and so was Bernardo Bertolucci.  They both held the view that it was part of the fabric of Cinema”  On BAD TIMING, the brief was to re-record the Pachelbel Canon and a Beethoven Overture, but it didn’t end there  and there and three months later I was still working on the film. I think we re-recorded one short cue 3 times before Nic was happy. On STEALING BEAUTY, there was contemporary soundtrack but Bernardo also wanted a composed film score so that was a much easier to film to work on.

Then I did a film called BAD BLOOD. It was originally intended for the Cinema and partly financed by Southern TV.   SHOCK TREATMENT at the time was going to be a sequel to THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW.   but it really ended up a mess!   The script was continually being changed and we had to adapt the songs to the new script as we went along.  The original was a total Hammer horror sequel, with Frankenstein rising from the grave and that sort of thing!  I don’t think Fox fully realized what movie genre it basically was. I think they wanted something else – something different”

I am not sure if we are in sequence here, but it doesn’t really matter.  Then there was SHEENA!

“Ah yes SHEENA !  I had been in France doing a film with Joe Losey – in fact, I had done two with him- one was DON GIOVANNI and I went to help him mix the music. It really needed a lot of technical work to sort it out and in fact I spent some three months on it.   Joe then did a film that didn’t come out here called LA TRUITE and the Producer was doing this SHEENA film with John Guillermin   The main theme for SHEENA was a demo I had written in the late 1970s for a music library company but they rejected it, then it was to be the B side of Torvill and Dean’s BOLERO single. 

John Guillermin  wanted to hear some of my music , so I gave him a cassette, but for some reason or other I had left on this Torvill and Dean B side.  They just loved it and got Columbia to buy it, and then John got me to do the rest.   First they flew me out to Kenya to play tunes on a piano, and then to Guinea to record Ballet African.  I very nearly ended up in jail as I had no visa – I just bluffed my way in – The film had to be finished by a certain date so they would dub two reels, I’d write the music and it went on like that. Sometimes I’d have only have 3 minutes of music and we would have a orchestra booked in all day!  There were long sequences, ten-minute cues, travelogues long shots of flamingoes – no plot!  I remember John sending me the script and saying, “You won’t understand it – this is being made for American audiences. The record sold well though! SHEENA, has endured because I think it’s referenced in the Best of the Worst Film category.  It was my first film using synthesizers. On some cues we had 23tracks of synths and 23 tracks of orchestra synched up using smpte code……. often a precarious venture”.

Richard has worked on many Films and Series for Television so it is difficult to know where to start, but how about the Mini Series KENNEDY with Martin Sheen and Blair Brown.

“I had a great time doing that. It was the first film I had worked with Jim Goddard. There were a number of gospel songs in the script and there were a lot of violent scenes in the fil , so instead of violins etc, we decided to play against it and we recorded Gospel Singers. It was too expensive to use Mahalia Jackson, but I had seen this Gospel picture called SAY AMEN, SOMEBODY and there was this woman in it with a absolutely incredible voice , not well known but we tracked her down. – she was a school teacher!  We went to this Baptist Church and in one weekend we recorded everything we required. I like doing things like that which need a lot of source music”   We also recorded the U.S. Marine Band playing Sousa Marches. KENNEDY was a joy and I worked on it for several months”

In 1985, Richard scored the Screen Two movie THE MACGUFFIN, obviously a tribute to Hitchcock, and as well as Charles Dance, there were marvellous cameos from Anna Massey and Ann Todd, both from earlier Hitchcock movies.   The principal theme I have never forgotten after all these years, and I am very curious about this one.   

“I borrowed from everybody for that one!  Jerry Goldsmith at the beginning with a bit of CHINATOWN and a bit of THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY in the middle. The Director was a Hitchcock devotee and there was a scene in a park with a dog, and there was a kind of comedy – thriller music that Herrmann was very good at writing. I am sure it wasn’t tongue in cheek but that was the way it came out, so that was the way he wanted it to come out.  Instead of borrowing the scene entirely, I took notes from it, and we had the sound of the dog as well. I think we mixed it down so it didn’t sound too obvious, we had  the two notes and the dog barking in the gap.. There was a bit of Rossini in the middle as well, and the Director also liked Pino Donaggio, a sort of over – the – top – Herrmann, so I think we had a bit of everyone in the film”   “There was one thing about THE MACGUFFIN when it was being dubbed. The Producer thought it was too loud, too long, too over the top. It was very popular, especially with younger people .It had that fast, almost American approach to film making”

Marvellous, marvellous movie which can still be viewed on You-tube.  Richard also worked for the same director again for HIGH TIDE.  this time going even further down the Hitchcock – and Herrmann route. Ian McShane comes out of Jail and travels down to the West Country to find out more about the people that got him into prison in the first place.  Here he encounters John Bird and Kika Markham. Very much a West Country noir!   If there was any downside, it was just the narration, just when all you wanted to hear was the music.

“Colin Bucksey (the Director) is a big fan of Hitchcock and I of Herrmann. We even recorded the score at Denham with Eric Tomlinson who had recorded several films with Herrmann. This was a piece of total self-indulgence but it worked with the film. I think Colin would have shot it in black and white if he had been allowed……….. and there was a lot of music”.

Back tracking somewhat, Richard worked on a major BBC series in the late 1970s that was extremely popular, so much so in fact that it is still available to watch on DVD, and that is PENMARRIC.

” I wrote the music for the first 4 episodes but had previous commitments, so I suggested Bob Stewart to the Producers, and he expanded my themes for the other episodes. The music budget was OK as it was the big Autumn costume drama for 1979. Given the time I would orchestrate myself but often that’s not possible.. I do however make very comprehensive sketches…… Bob Stewart in the early days and then John Bell, sadly both no longer with us”.  

There was also Patricia Hodge in JEMIMA SHORE INVESTIGATES somewhat later.

” I scored all the JEMINA SHORE episodes with al little re-imagining of Vivaldi for the Title music at the suggestion of producer Verity Lambert”

There was another Screen Two movie – amongst many – entitled THE IMPOSSIBLE SPY. 

 ” It was a very good film and very popular, winning the American Cable Award. It told the true story of a man who spied for Israel and at the same time was a member of the Syrian Cabinet.   Another film I did THE GOOD FATHER won the Italia Prize. There was no money on that one at all and we did it with just two guitars and a piano. That was with Mike Newell. Most of the films were low budget and on one I even subsidised the recording, but generally he lets me get on with it, play a few ideas, then finesse them in the studio…….if there was time!  .  On GREAT EXPECTATIONS, there was a reasonable budget but the Producers wanted to see/hear the score with the film so I had to supply orchestral simulations. I think he only asked me to change one cue”

TUMBLEDOWN with Colin Firth got Richard a nomination for his score,

 ” Richard Eyre is another director who loves music. He had used a piece of stirring music by William Walton over the titles to slightly ‘ape’ the war movies of the 1950s, two guys thrilled at the thought of going into battle, the film contrasts the brutalities of war with the equally callous treatment of British Solider’s who are injured serving their country and the way Robert Lawrence adjusted to his new disability. We couldn’t use the Walton music. Again, Richard wasn’t afraid of using music and we had a large orchestra by BBC standards”

If TUMBLEDOWN needed a English approach, so did CONSUMING PASSIONS and THE RECTOR’S WIFE. 

  “It was laid up with Holst. I love working with orchestras and on CONSUMING PASSIONS we had a very large orchestra. Both very English with quotations from Elgar, Vaughan Williams and Finzi. but all in the best possible taste!

It is only recently I came across a film Richard scored entitled VICTORY (1996) with William Defoe and based on a novel by Joseph Conrad.  I wasn’t too sure what to make of it, but stuck with it for obvious reasons, and was well rewarded with an excellent film that passed me by all those years ago.  The score works so well, but not in an outwardly spectacular way. 

” This was a Miramax co-production so the heavy hand of Harvey Weinstein and his ‘interest’ in music meant I was the third composer for the film. We recorded over 60 minutes of fairly complicated orchestral music in 4 sessions thanks to brilliant musicians and impeccable engineering by Chris Dibble at CTS in Wembley.  Every single cue had to be tempted up using synthesisers, then mixed with the film and sent to Miramax before they would sign off on the score, we received  final approval on the Saturday before we recorded on the following Monday. It was an intense 5 weeks working fourteen hour days but I was very happy with the score and consider it to be amongst the best I have written”

Towards the end of the 1990s, you would have seen Richard’s name on a number of film from the Hallmark Organisation, mainly remakes of classic stories, DON QUIXOTE, ALICE IN WONDERLAND, and THE LION IN WINTER. It is a tribute to Richard’s scoring of the latter, that I never thought of the famed score for the earlier movie with the same name!  I wondered how these projects came about? 

  “They came through Dyson Lovell who approached me to score ALICE IN WONDERLAND. I’d never worked for him before but he said he’d looked at my credits and seen I had worked with many directors several times so he assumed I wouldn’t be a difficult person to work with!   Initially I had reservations about ALICE so they showed me around the Jim Henson workshop with all the different special effects they’d been working on, both Chris Thompson and Dyson were very committed to the project so I accepted”

DON QUIXOTE is just a wonderful film and score, and the middle of a very wet winter, it seems even more of a joy to watch. and whilst I have never been to Spain, just close your eyes and listen to the music and you would think you were there!   

 ” The Philharmonia Orchestra, Abbey Road Studio1 and a generous budget….. I was in heaven. Peter Yates the director pretty much left the music up to me, in fact he was on holiday when we recorded  but his son was the Editor and the only change we made was a triangle for a cymbal crash towards the end. Dyson Lovell was the producer and he trusted me, and I received an Emmy nominatio. It was a huge canvas to work with and a chance to compose a neo-romantic score”

Sadly a lot of BBC SCREEN TWO and BBC 1 equivalent remains unseen since their first showing, and many before the advent of VHS recorders. Thankfully there are many movies that Richard scored easily available on DVD and on occasion Blu Ray.  TALKING TO A STRANGER, HITLERS S.S.  ARMADILLO– the latter worth a look very strange and quirky later BBC production, the afore mentioned JEMINA SHORE, DON QUIXOTE, LION IN WINTER and superb USA Blu Ray of SHEENA which is a excellent print.   Another wonderful score can be heard in THE SECRET RAPTURE.  A very moving movie and the cast is just superb. The music is beyond belief. 

“It is a very sad story, originally a stage play. I worked very hard on this score , the music budget was minimal and the trumpet (the late great Derek Watkins)was recorded in the kitchen of my engineer friend Phil Chapman. There is a hint of the melodramatic scores of yester-year but underneath the orchestra are some very elaborate synthetic shapes. Thanks for the compliment”.

Oh yes, one more that I watched recently and shows so well how Richard merges his music into the, well, already mentioned the fabric of the film so it is almost another character. THE LIFE AND DEATH OF PETER SELLERS with a superb performance by Geoffrey Rush.   I thought it might be a difficult film to score?   

“It was although the Director had some firm ideas about what he wanted which always helps. The main difficulty was we were due to record in early January, I’d  tempted up all the cues and they had been synched up with the film but the head of HBO was on Christmas Holiday and no one wanted to sign off on the score before he did , so I had Abbey Road studio 2 and a orchestra on hold………..!  The score had one theme that is used in Seller’s relationship with his mother also quite a bit of  ‘source music’ that I composed and as his performance and personality continually changes from film to film , so does the music.”

To conclude I asked Richard about scoring here and abroad, and the current state of movie music?

“I like the European approach to a picture, and I suppose Morricone was the prime example of this. Some of the music is totally incongruous and may have nothing to do with what you are watching, but because he had a clever harmonic structure, it never quite moves when you think it is going to.  Jerry Goldsmith was one of the most consistent composers and he had a style all of his own.

Film music has evolved beyond recognition over the past 50 years. especially with the use of synthesizers and there is probably more music in films now than in the golden era of Hollywood. Some film composers are now deservedly celebrities and their scores are performed as concert pieces, there is a great interest in how they are composed and recorded and the list of musicians composing for film is ever expanding.   When you think back to Jerry Goldsmith’s ‘Planet of the Apes’ a score which to my mind was the first serious use of orchestral sound design, Goldsmith’s only electronic aid was the echoplex (which he used to great effect in ‘Patton’) but his atonal orchestral textures combined with a vast array of ethnic instruments and percussion can now be easily simulated in minutes using samples and synthesizers.

It only takes a second to get a good idea……….. It’s just getting that idea!     That good idea can take a while, I’d often sit at the piano and improvise. 

sometimes that nugget would emerge. If not, try, try again!”

I felt I must go back to my observations that Richard doesn’t like to make the music draw attention to itself, unless it needs to, perhaps over the Main Titles.  ” I’ve always tried to employ a minimalist approach to underscore even before it was fashionable and called ‘sound design’, some directors liked it, others wanted a more up front approach”

This then is Richard Hartley, a music man for all seasons.  A composer who scores what he sees, and perhaps more importantly, what you don’t see!

I sincerely hope that you have enjoyed this article, and I hope you will investigate Richard’s music by listening to some of his recordings.  I most certainly recommend the following.

THE LION IN WINTER  Varese Sarabande  VSD-6571

ALICE IN WONDERLAND Varese Sarabande VSD-6021


PRINCESS CARABOO   Varese Sarabande  VSD-554.

A THOUSAND ACRES   Varese Sarabande  VSD-5870

DON QUIXOTE Varese Sarabande VSD-6142

GREAT EXPECTATIONS Metropolis  8781017

SHEENA Varese Sarabande  Club  VCL 1104. (very rare)

With thanks to Richard Hartley, for his time, courtesy, friendship and most importantly, his patience.

This article is dedicated to the memory of Peter Kent who passed away a few years back, and loved Richard’s music as much as I still do now.  I hope he would have approved though I think he might have said it more eloquently  

© 2020 John Williams.

SOUNdtrack supplement twenty nine.

Ok here we go once again it’s time for another look at the latest soundtrack releases and there are quite a few this time, whether they are all interesting or not is another matter, quantity does not always mean quality does it?. I thought maybe I would fit in just another soundtrack supplement before Christmas, but the way things are going it looks like maybe another two or three will be on the cards before the big day. (if the big day happens that is as we know it) Christmas will we are informed by the powers that be somewhat different this year, no realy? So let’s start off with something that is seasonal and I say seasonal because after all it is the end of November and I have already heard THE FAIRY TALE OF NEW YORK about thirty times on the radio (the edited PC version of course) and also seen the crème eggs waiting in their thousands to be placed on shelves on Christmas eve.

I thought to begin maybe we should go back to happier times and look at a British movie from a while ago, (1970) and a film that was a musical setting of a tale penned by Charles Dickens. SCROOGE was an adaption of the authors famous tale from Christmas in Victorian times, A CHRISTMAS CAROL, I know the movie had a mixed reaction when it first went into theatres in the UK and the U.S.A. After all Albert Finney although being a fine actor, is certainly no singer, but I think it actually worked, after all Ebenezer Scrooge would not strike me as a person who would want to burst into song and make a pleasant job of it, Finney mainly spoke the lyrics, and I have to say for the most part it was rather effective and dare I say it endearing in a way. Released in 1970 SCROOGE was the work of Leslie Bricusse who wrote the book and lyrics and co-wrote the music with composer Ian Fraser.  music. The movie also starred Alec Guinness, Kenneth More, Edith Evans, Roy Kinnear and a number of familiar British actors.  Finney won Best Actor at the Golden Globes in 1971, for his portrayal of the irascible Scrooge. And the film became a firm favourite after its initial release, which is shown almost every year at Christmas time on TV all around the world. 

The soundtrack was issued at the time of the film’s release in a gatefold edition, on the Columbia label and contained the now familiar numbers such as I HATE PEOPLE, THANKYOU VERY MUCH, I LIKE LIFE, YOU, YOU, SEE THE PHANTOMS etc. Ok I must admit I like it and it is a bit of a tradition that in my house it is mandatory that we sit and watch this every year, normally Christmas Eve, no if’s, buts or whatever’s. It is I think a feel-good film because we all know that old Ebenezer will come good in the end. It’s a funny thing that SCROOGE was committed to film first and then was adapted for the stage, it opened in 1992 in Birmingham with Anthony Newley in the title role, and later moved to London’s West End, the supporting cast was strong in the form of Jon Pertwee, Stratford Johns, and Tom Watt.

The show was revived in 2012 with the legendary entertainer Tommy Steele taking the lead, bringing his own style and persona to the role of the bitter Ebenezer Scrooge. Like another Charles Dickens novel that was turned into a musical OLIVER. SCROOGE has taken its place in British film and musical stage show history. 

Ok from a musical we head back to the film scores that have been released recently, and as I hinted in the opening of this article we are spoilt for choice. THE BOY IN THE SNOW I think contains a highly atmospheric score, it maybe not the most grandiose work, but it has its moments, the composer Philip Eisenfeldt, has crafted a tense yet melodically affecting score, in which we are treated to mesmerising pieces and dark rich passages that work so well together, the differing styles complimenting and supporting each other throughout.  The composer utilises to maximum effect slight choral nuances that are underlined by woods and laced with subtle string performances, it is a score that one will sit and listen to and before one realises it it’s over, but this is because it is so effective, not only as a score but as music to be savoured and appreciated away from any storyline or imagery. It is one I recommend you take a listen to.

Like Philip Eisenfeldt composer Patrick Kirst is a new name for me. His latest work BREAKING SURFACE is an intensely apprehensive soundtrack. The music creating tension and foreboding and purveying a sense of claustrophobia and fear. But it is a score that also has its less edgy moments, and I would suggest the digital platforms to investigate these. 

THE DESCENDANTS is a TV movie from the Disney stable, with music by Canadian born Actor and composer David Lawrence, all I am going to say is WOW.. I love this soundtrack, the score is just crammed full of beautiful thematic material, and if I was asked to say who this composers style is similar to I would have to drop in names such as James Horner, John Williams and John Debney, there is so much rich melodious content within this fully symphonic wildly romantic and dramatic work. I have to comment and say this is at the top of my list of the late November releases, there is a plethora of musical notions within the soundtrack that are both fearsome and magical, it is overflowing with an abundance of haunting musical poems that are delicate, intricate and above all enriching, inspiring and entertaining. The story is set twenty years after Belle and the Beast have married, and have become King and Queen of the United States of AURADON, after they became King and Queen they banished all villains to the isle of the lost, which is a slum that has a barrier around it where all magic is forbidden.

Belle and The Beast  have a son Ben, who decides that he wants to allow four children from the isle of the lost to be given the chance to live in Auradon, and he chooses, the son of Cruella de Ville Carlos, Evie the daughter of the Evil Queen Mal the daughter of Maleficent and the son of Jafar Jay. Unbeknown to Ben and his parents, Maleficent has instructed the four offspring to steal the fairy Godmothers wand so that she can release the barrier on magic around the isle and take control of Aura. Lawrence’s powerful and romantically laced score aids the movie greatly and is an important and vital part of its storyline.

An animated feature next, DRAGON RIDER, in which we follow a young silver dragon who teams up with a mountain spirit and an orphaned boy on a journey through the Himalayas in search for the Rim of Heaven. The score is by composer Stefan Maria Schneider who worked on HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON as an orchestrator for John Powell. And one can certainly hear certain little quirks of orchestration within DRAGON RIDER that we also heard in the Powell score. This is a great little score, I say little mainly because many of the cues are rather brief as in less than a minute in duration, I think the longest cue is around three minutes, which is entitled TEMPLE OF THE DRAGON RIDER that has a content that ranges from apprehensive, dramatic and action led to downbeat and slightly martial, which is certainly no mean feat in a relatively short amount of time, The thing I like about this score is it never becomes boring, it is go, go, go, but also the composer infuses a mischievous air into the proceedings, that keeps it fresh, vibrant and robust. The score is as far as I can make out mainly symphonic, with maybe a few electronic passages which are mainly for enhancement and support. Strings and brass with underlying percussive support are the main stay of the work, plus the composer enlists chorale support at times. It’s definitely worth a listen.

Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo (29 September 1864 – 31 December 1936) was a Spanish essayist, novelist, poet, playwright, philosopher, professor of Greek and Classics, and later rector at the University of Salamanca. And it is he who is the subject of the documentary PALABRAS PARA UN FIN DEL MUNDO (WORDS FOR THE END OF THE WORLD).  His major philosophical essay was The Tragic Sense of Life (1912), and his most famous novel was Abel Sánchez: The History of a Passion (1917), a modern account of the Cain and Abel story. The music for the documentary is by accomplished composer Ivan Palomares, one only has to mention this Maestro’s name or see it on the credits of a movie etc, to know that this will be a work that will be innovative, inventive and affecting.

This is a subtle work, sparsely scored with delicate touches and fleeting sounds which at times drift into soundscape rather than what we as collectors refer to as musical score, although it is in no way un-musical or unmelodic. The work is a mix of both electronic and conventional instrumentation, with piano featuring throughout, the composer also utilises cello for solo performances which adds a touch of melancholy and deeper emotion to the work. Released on Movie Score Media. As I have already said the recent batch of releases have excelled in quantity, but maybe the quality is not as high as it could have been, it’s a sorry state when we get something in the region of thirty plus releases of soundtracks and more than half of these are quite flat in the quality and entertainment departments, but as I always say this is my own personal opinion, and I always recommend that you check out as many new releases as you are able to via digital platforms, it’s a good way to try before you buy, if that is a CD release is available. So that is why invariably I try and look for and include something that is vintage or has been issued before in the past decade that maybe collectors could have overlooked, and in these times of more and more records as in vinyl making a return some soundtracks are now being given an LP format release which for many is welcomed news.

The soundtrack for the Italian made western THE BOUNTY HUNTERS (INDIO BLACK/ADIOS SABATA) for example, this fantastically fun spaghetti score has long been a favourite of mine and many others, Bruno Nicolai penning a Morricone style soundtrack for the Yul Brynner gimmicky and quirky western tale. Brynner taking on the central role of Sabata and making it his own and a portrayal of an already established character that had originally hit the screens in the form of Lee Van Cleef, the score by Nicolai is I suppose and I hope that you will agree with me on this one Text book Italian western, the score was never released on vinyl, its first full release was on compact disc when Hillside/GDM records released it, at the same time the label also issued the SABATA and THE RETURN OF SABATA  soundtracks on another compact disc, since then the scores have all been re-issued some with extra tracks by other labels. Which has been the norm with Italian scores of all genres, we get what we think is the complete soundtrack released but then we get some months later an expanded version, and after this a definitive edition, and now we are getting vinyl releases of the same scores all over again.

So is this record companies just making collectors shell out again and again or are these really worth having, the latter I fear is not the answer in my opinion, but I suppose that if the record companies re-issue material again and again and the collectors buy them well it’s the collectors choice isn’t it.

I have always prescribed to the saying LESS IS MORE and I for one am happy with soundtracks that I have and have never seen the need to go out and get a copy of a score I already have because a label has re-issued it with two minutes of extra music or a suite or karaoke version of a track on it,  to be honest these karaoke versions or suites are a con, most of them being put together at the labels mastering stage by engineers or producers and none of them being used in the original soundtrack or having anything to do with the composer of the score.

However, I am pleased to see scores such as THE BOUNTY HUNTERS on vinyl, (Dagored records) in orange as well as being a two LP set. SABATA was of course originally issued on LP record at first on the Japanese UA label then later came an American release. It’s great to hold a new album again, there is just something about the feeling and the excitement of placing the record on the deck and lowering the stylus onto it. Maybe more will see the light of day very soon, although saying this the renewed interest in vinyl is surging forward and outstripping the sale of cd’s and downloads in recent months. Maybe its something to do with lockdown, because people need feel good things and vinyl is certainly that. It would be great if record companies did re-issue a lot of spaghetti westerns onto LP record, as long as they use the original art work that is, the Italian western soundtrack was renowned for its stunning art work, and I would be made up to see it all again in sealed releases.

So, to a few more recent titles, UNSEEN is an accomplished and strangely attractive score composed by Eloi Ragot. It is dark and chilling in places and has to it a fearsome and somewhat uneasy style that establishes an even more unsettling mood at times.  But there are a number of different atmospheres and musical colours and textures contained within the soundtrack, these range from the dark and unsure to the more romantic and even the melancholy and reassuring. The composer utilising piano, strings and cello in key points to purvey a sound that is either sad or hopeful. It is an enjoyable soundtrack, and one that is both varied and haunting.

 UNEARTH by Jane Saunders is too an interesting release, I would not say interesting for melodic reasons, but for the use of atmospherics and for also creating textured moods and for the fashioning of musical passages that are thickly compelling in a macabre kind of way, the score seems to convey to the listener a tormented persona, but also has to it in certain areas a subtle and even attractive sound. Both UNSEEN and UNEARTH are available on digital platforms.   

Other titles that are worth a listen include, GATHER by Michael A Levine, DEMONS SOULS (VG) by Shunsuke Kida, OUTBACK by Justin Bell, Mark Mothersbaugh’s quite epic but quirky sounding THE CROODS A NEW AGE proving that he is such an underatted composer once again, LA CINTA DE ALEX by Antonio Escobar and Martin Phipps’s excellent score for THE CROWN -SEASON FOUR. See you next time in soundtrack supplement thirty.


Composer, musician and songwriter from London, England. He has had great successes making a name for himself in the UK independent film and trailer music circuit. His reputation for quality, drive, enthusiasm and fast turn-around in seemingly impossible deadlines while always keeping to a brief and tapping into the emotional core of the scene ensures he is the go to composer for those who use him time and time again.

Composer Benjamin Symons will probably not be that familiar to collectors and film music fans, but it is probably true to say you may have heard his music in trailers etc. I would like to thank the composer for answering my questions, and I began the interview by asking about one of his recent works for feature film, HOSTS.

How did you become involved on the picture?

I’ve been very good friends with Richard Oakes and Adam Leader for a while and I actually scored Richards first short film Exit Plan. We had already been friends for years before we did Exit Plan together and we’ll be friends and hopefully work together for many years to come.

What size orchestra did you have for the movie and what was the percentage of conventional instruments in relation to synthetic elements?

This may come as a surprise (hopefully) but given the budget constraints on HOSTS – we made the whole film for under £20k there was no budget at all for recording of any kind so everything you hear on the HOSTS score has been created by using and manipulating sample libraries. 

Well that’s amazing because you fooled me totally I have to say. The movie is a Canadian production, was the film shot there and also did you record the score there?

It would seem I have indeed tricked you into believing my score is comprised of a real orchestra which pleases me greatly! But realistically I have no idea how big of an orchestra we would have required…but ideally a big one! The film was actually filmed entirely in the Oxfordshire countryside at the director Richards house that we redecorated for the film!

Was the movie temp tracked at all, or did the director have specific ideas regarding the music for the movie? 

The movie had no temp track at all but I actually worked on the set of the film all the way through production mostly as Script Supervisor and that gave me a huge deal of insight into what I wanted to achieve and watching the horrendous scene that takes place over a Christmas dinner inspired the track Skull Cracker Suite which I originally demoed during production. I actually wrote a lot of demos throughout the production which they used to roughly temp the film prior to me writing the score. Prior to shooting Richard and I would also talk a lot about the film and the music over pints at the pub.

The score is very thematic do you think that a theme is important to the development of a score?

I’m glad you feel that way. I think the use of themes works on a scale and not all films require the same level of thematic work. I put a lot of time into establishing the musical pallet of the film so the score its self in its entirely has a cohesive sound that uniquely identifies it’s self as being HOSTS and I think that is as important as writing actual musical themes. 

How does scoring a feature film for general release compare with working on independent productions and trailers? 

Scoring a film is great because for the most part I am being directly inspired by what I see and feel on screen whereas production music and trailers relies on you creating the world and emotions in your head and trying to convey them through music without any visual aid and I really enjoy both!

What are your first memories of any music and what composer’s artists etc would you say have influenced you?

My earliest memory of film music is JAWS. I broke my leg and was in hospital in a bed and it was on TV, I was terrified at 5 years old and it was back in the day so I had no remote so was forced to watch. But the moment I realised I wanted to start writing film music was Hans Zimmer’s score for Gladiator.

Do you conduct at all and do you work on your own orchestrations?

I am yet to have the opportunity to have any of my music recorded by an orchestra and so I am also yet to conduct. I think I would like to learn but I also feel like I’d probably rather be in the control room listening so I can be that annoying composer giving notes and feedback on what I’m looking for.

How many times did you watch HOSTS before deciding what style of music you would employ and where it would be placed to best serve the movie?

I actually had the sound 90% dialled in before I started scoring the film. I wrote 9-10 demo with different feelings and way of playing with the thematic ideas I had established. The last 10% came when I actually started scoring the film, I realised my demos were too big, too much going on, so I stripped them back a bit and I (and the directors) were happy.

The soundtrack is on digital platforms, will there be a CD release, and did you have any involvement in the compiling of the tracks for the release?

I honestly don’t know. If I were to do a physical CD or Vinyl release, I would have to do that off my own back as we don’t have big studio backing. I would also much prefer to release my first vinyl or CD when I have a score that has been recorded for real.

You have recently completed a score for the short film Eastern Front: Point of no Return and are involved on four more productions, is it difficult to juggle your time when working on more than one project at one time?

It can be. There was a gap in production on HOSTS where we shot 2/3rds of the film then had to wait for colder weather to shoot the outdoor scenes and in that gap, I scored POINT OF NO RETURN. It can be tough because you get into a distinct flow when you’re working on a project and to snap out of that and dive into something different only to then have to get back into the right mindset to finish HOSTS around six months later was tough but that’s the job!

How do you work out your musical ideas, do you sit at keyboard or use computer etc?

I have a midi keyboard that can play any of the instruments in my sample libraries. I have a rule where every new project I always build a brand-new template of sounds that I want to use otherwise if I use a pre-built template the temptation would be to repeat myself. The key thing that inspires me is I love to start writing with the sounds I want to use. So, if it’s going to be a piano driven score, I’ll start with piano for example.

Would you say it is more difficult to score a short than work on a feature film?

I do not think either of them are more or less difficult. Each come with their own unique set of challenges. Short films, in my experience tend to be more dialogue heavy and you have a lot less time and space to establish a musical identity for the film. The challenge with a feature is simply you need to write a lot more music than you do for a short!

What musical education dd you have, and did you focus upon any specific area of music at all?

After secondary school, I spent 1 year at The Academy of Contemporary Music in Guildford and I studied guitar and achieved a National Diploma, at the time I was in a heavy metal band called Malefice and as far as I was concerned at 17 that was enough for me. Outside of that I am completely non-musically educated, I can’t read music and I don’t know my music theory, but I have good ears and I trust them to guide me.

My thanks to the composer for his time and for so many interesting answers to my questions, If you would like to hear another interview with the composer, listen out for news of one on Cinematic Sound radio, with Jason Drury, which will be hitting the airwaves soon.


I think it would be true to say that we have all heard of the Hollywood western, with the likes of John Wayne and directors such as John Ford and John Sturges, The Italian western, with the likes of Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef, and Sergio Leone at the directorial helm, The German western, with Old Shatterhand, Winnetou and the stories of Karl May being brought to life on screen. The Turkish western which although not set in America and including the likes of bandits in films such as LOVE AND BULLETS, and even The British made western as in THE HELLIONS, THE HUNTING PARTY and SHALAKO to single out just three examples from the UK because there were so many others.

THE HELLIONS was by the way more of a traditional western with a storyline similar to the classic movie HIGH NOON, the role of the law man being taken by Richard Todd who played a policeman or trooper in a small town and the bad guys who were looking for him included Lionel Jefferies, James Booth, Marty Wilde and Colin Blakely, it was an effective yarn which was directed well by the accomplished film maker Ken Annakin, with Lionel Jefferies producing a convincing performance as an evil and vindictive outlaw who with his out of control offspring is out for revenge, film was set in Australia and Todd played  a British trooper or law official trying to uphold the peace, the music by the way was the work of the harmonica man Larry Adler.

But, what about a genre that is often forgotten, THE RED WESTERN, yes Red, these Russian or Eastern European movies were popular within their countries of origin and also did generate great reactions at the box office in the old Soviet Union. Often filmed in locations that were set up to resemble that of the more traditional look of the western as utilised in American made examples of the genre. These movies would also often focus upon partisans, revolutionaries, or freedom fighters in the period of the Russian civil war or even the particularly ravaging and brutal days of the Russian revolution. These were interesting productions, filled with tales of adventure and featuring acts of heroism, patriotism and contained within their frame-work elements of romance, passion and had to them a lighter side at times.

I do not profess to actually know a great deal about this genre, all I know is I found the concept interesting and wanted to find out more about this collection of movies, and whilst looking at them I also discovered information about composers who were involved in the scoring of these movies, some of which contained innovative and inventive scores, that included symphonic, electronic and vocal tracks. So, I thought I might share this info with you and add my thoughts for what they are worth. The Ostern, as it was called, which came from the German word for east, so I am informed, is a genre of film that took two forms each one following a slightly different path.

As far as I can see a true RED WESTERN was set in the days of the Wild West in America, but although bared some resemblance to the shall we say traditional western, did deal with completely different issues and included varying themes from the Hollywood sage brush saga.

There are many examples of these as in LEMONADE JOE (1964), THE OIL THE BABY AND THE TRANSYLVANIANS (1981), and THE SONS OF GREAT BEAR (1966) which were mainly produced by studios in Czechoslovakia and what was then East Germany. But were at times influenced by westerns that were produced in the west of Germany as in the WINNETOU movies and OLD SHATTERHAND etc.

Then we have THE EASTERNS (Osterns), which were normally set on the windswept steppes of Russia, or the more Asian territories of Russia (USSR) and more often than not were also set in the times of the Russian Revolution or as I have already stated the bloody Civil War that took place in the country after the Revolution. These were presented and inspired by the American made western, Again, there are many examples including, WHITE SUN OF THE DESERT (1970), THE BODYGUARD (1979), THE ELUSIVE AVENGERS (1966) to name but three.    

Initial thoughts on RED WESTERNS were mixed but at times they were often compared with the Italian or Spaghetti westerns, which had become popular from the early 1960’s. Which as we know were themselves inspired by German westerns from the same period. The main reason for the comparison to the Italian productions was the way in which they were filmed and also the locations that were utilised, as in sets were constructed in areas that did not look unlike American settings, but were in fact in either Yugoslavia and Mongolia. Some of the films within the genre did become dubbed Sauerkraut westerns, another take on a food terminology being used to describe a collective of movies, Italian spaghetti, pasta or Macaroni and Spanish westerns, becoming known as Paella Westerns. Characters from the American western as the cowboy and the Indian were often replaced by Bandits and slaves, there was also a sub-genre that was I suppose an equivalent to the OSTERN produced exclusively by Yugoslavian filmmakers called GIBANCIA WESTERNS but this was a short lived, they often would be known as Partisan films, and were set in the second world war, with freedom fighters or resistance fighting the Nazi’s.  Plus, there were also the GOULASH westerns, which were the films of Hungarian filmmaker Gyorgy Szomjas, these were just two movies, THE WIND BLOWS UNDER YOUR FEET and WRONG-DOERS which were both released during the 1970’s.  

But, I begin with an East German western which I thought was entertaining, and also had a great score by composer Hans Dieter Hosalla, APACHEN (1973), was literally flooded with music, but it was music that was well written and it certainly made its mark upon the watching audience as in it supported as well as standing on its own, at times up-beat and even having to it a style not unlike that of Francesco De Masi or Bruno Nicolai. The film itself had the look and some content that I suppose could be looked upon as a watered-down version of the Nathan H. Juran directed movie LANDRAIDERS (1970) and also had elements or little nods of acknowledgement to the WINNETOU films that had been produced a few years previously in West Germany. Directed by Gottfried Kolditz who co wrote the screenplay with the film’s star Gojko Mitic the film was set in the middle of the 19th Century, with the plot focusing upon a treaty that is signed by the Mimbreno-Apaches, the treaty was between the Apaches and a Mexican mining company and gave the Mexicans permission to mine on the land where the Apache lived, but there was some interference and resistance from American geologists, who want the mining rights and set about wiping out the Apache, but their leader Ulunza, (Gojko Mitic) rallies what is left of his warriors and takes revenge on the murderers.

It’s an entertaining watch even if it was just to hear the score, that sadly as far as I am aware was never issued onto a recording. The opening seven minutes or so of the movie was scored with continuous music, which plays over and under the action that was taking place in the pre-credits and also accompanied the film’s opening credits, it’s a mix of both atmospheric, dramatic and melodic. Like the West German examples of westerns the score at times leans towards a more easy listening sound and style, echoing a theme that evokes THE WINNETOU MELODIE at times, but this is in no way a negative as it made it more enjoyable and listenable and also I think made it more prominent. I have looked through the composer’s credits and can’t find any more westerns, but he was continually active within film scoring from the late 1950’s through to the early 1990.s working on a wide variety of genres. APACHEN has a score that is made up of a strong string section that is supported by percussion and brass, the composer also adding electric guitar and at times little nuances of woods that are underlined by shakers of some sort that create a kind of ethnicity linked to the Apaches.

Obviously, one will draw comparisons between this soundtrack and the work of both Peter Thomas and Martin Bottcher who in West Germany were composers that had strong links with many westerns, because there are most certainly distinct similarities.  Plus, the composer on this occasion works into the mix a Spaghetti western undertone, via electric guitar and racing timpani for the action scenes.

Overall the score is in many ways better than the movie it was composed for, the music adds greater excitement and generates a higher level of drama throughout, with Hosalla creating a pulsating and vibrant work which underlines, supports and punctuates the storyline. APACHEN spawned a sequel which was released in 1974.

ULZANA follows on directly after the events of APACHEN. Native American warrior chief Ulzana again played by actor Gojko Mitic has found a place for his Apache tribe in Arizona. The local merchants hire Burton, a corrupt army officer lusting after Ulzana’s Mexican wife, to discredit them and move them out of the territory. The movie was again directed by Gottfried Kolditz and contained a musical score courtesy of Karl-Ernst Klasse who worked on other East German western movies such as DER SCOUT in 1983.

A western that was based upon true events, in which the U.S Cavalry carried out the genocide of the Native American Indians. The film was quite powerful and the score too commanding.  From an East German production to one that is categorised as an Eastern, and a movie that was produced in The Soviet Union, THE WHITE SUN OF THE DESERT (1970) is possibly the most well-known Eastern, and it is a film that to be honest is interesting, it is billed as a comedy although the movie is a mix of comedy music and drama, it has many attributes and does not stay exclusively within the comedic genre of film, but I would say that comedy is the thing that maybe is the binding element of the movie. But I reference again the Italian western, and the success it achieved because it too mixed genres within many of its films, and even within its ultra-violent examples made room for both romance, and comedy.

THE WHITE SUN OF THE DESERT does not focus upon one character, it has within its storyline a number of individuals, all of whom during the course of the movie are given tasks or set challenges to which all of them rise. It is a film that tells a story of dedication and of a sense of duty and pride. Initially Mos-film studios turned the project down, but then enlisted the help of different writers to tweak the storyline and make it more acceptable to audiences and the officialdom of the period. The plot purveyed a notion that if people all work together, they can achieve most things. The music was by composer Issac Schwartz and had lyrics written by Bulat Okuczhava. The song VASHE BLAGORDIYE GOSPOZHA RAZLUKA become well known in Russia which was performed by Pavel Luspekayev on the soundtrack, as far as I  can see no soundtrack was released outside of Russia, but maybe there were recordings of the score made available in the Soviet Union at the time of the film’s release, it is said that the movie was a favourite of Russian Premier Brezhnev and was giving a special screening in the United States at the little Carnegie theatre when he visited the country.

Issac Schwartz

The movie had a limited release internationally, mainly in Europe and Japan, and was only released in Brazil in 2017. The only other South American country in which it was screened was Argentina back in 1974. The musical score is at times romantic and contains several themes that are central to the work each embellishing and complimenting each other, the composer utilising strings and woodwind and then lacing this with more traditional instrumentation such as Balalaika.

Its an interesting soundtrack and the film too is at times a little thought provoking.  It’s an unfortunate state of affairs that the soundtracks for these westerns were not released, or if they were maybe not commercially or even outside of the Soviet Union, maybe the tapes still exist?  Maybe they have been lost or worse still destroyed. The genre of the RED WESTERN I think would be a popular one now if the movies were to be given an airing at independent theatres or even dusted off and shown on a specialist TV channel in the same way that Alex Cox introduced British audiences to the likes of DJANGO and other such characters from the Italian western collective on late night TV back in the 1990’s. But maybe because it is Russia and maybe things associated with the old Soviet Union are frowned upon a little these great scores will never see the light of day. These are after all tales of revolution, of civil war etc or at least the storylines are set against the background of these events.

 So, onto another movie, and this time to THE ELUSIVE AVENGERS, from 1966 tells the story of four friends who become heroes in the days of the Civil War in Russia. Directed by Edmond Keosayan and produced by Mos-film, the movie is based upon elements of the novel RED DEVILETS which was written by Pavel Blyakhin, the story had already been committed to celluloid in 1923 using the title of the novel.  The four friends who are youngsters pledge that they will help each other and are determined to have revenge on bandits who have tortured and murdered the Father of one of the boys. The bandits are causing chaos and terrifying the people in the village where the four friends come from. The comrades embark on various adventures to slow the bandits in their persecution of the villagers.

The film spawned two sequels, THE NEW ADVENTURES OF THE ELUSIVE FOUR  (1968) and  THE CROWN OF THE RUSSIAN EMPIRE or ONCE AGAIN THETHE ELUSIVE AVENGERS (1971), which were equally as successful as the original, the four friends are hailed as heroes and at the end of the first movie and are honoured by the Red Army, who straight away recruit them into their ranks, the film ends with the four riding off into the sunset in true Hollywood western style to the strains of a patriotic song, ready again to fight for their beliefs and their country.

The music is by composer Boris Mokrousov, who was born in Russia in the February of 1909. He scored , several movies in his career among the most well known are, BRIDE WITH A DOWRY from 1953 VESNA NA ZARECHNOV from 1956 and NEULOVIMYE  MSTITELI which was released in 1967, a year before the composer died on March 27th 1968 in Moscow.  The score for THE ELUSIVE AVENGERS is a dramatic one with the strings and brass section of the orchestra establishing strong and action fuelled themes, the end scenes of the movie involving the four friends escaping on a train and being chased by bandits intent on killing them all is impressive and is scored continuously with fast paced unrelenting symphonic music, in which the composer repeats a six note motif performed by rasping brass and underlined and supported by percussion and brass, in many way the music for me personally resembles the style of Maurice Jarre, with the utilisation of resounding percussive elements that are the foundation of this vibrant and robust soundtrack.

To 1966 now and THE SONS OF THE GREAT BEAR, this is a prime example of a RED WESTERN as it is set in the wild west or at least locations that are similar to the wild west as it is perceived. The movie is I have to say more or less a version of the Winnetou Karl May stories, although no credit was given to either. The movie had a highly melodic score, again it mirrored the work of West German composer’s Bottcher and Thomas who’s easy listening and dramatic stylised music had been so effective and popular, but at times the score which was written by Wilhelm Neef although very good did not work in the best interests of the action of screen, for example fight sequences and action scenes were scored with nice little tunes, that possibly would be distracting to audiences rather than heightening any mood for the movie simply because the sound and the style of the music was not exactly fitting for the scenarios being acted out on screen.  Nevertheless, it is a score that I for one would purchase in a heartbeat the composer utilising strings, percussion and brass to create a beautiful sounding score, with certain scenes being run with no dialogue or effects to allow the music to tell the story, which at certain point was successful. There were two compilations issued on compact disc that contained some of Neef’s music but these are long deleted.

The composer was born on January 28th, 1916 in Cologne which was then in the Empire of Germany, he wrote a number of film scores which were all for East German production companies, his musical career began in 1951, and he scored his first movie in 1954 which was entitled ERNST THALMANN SOHN SEINER KLASSE, he remained active as a composer until 1990, but scored his last motion picture in 1971, which was HUSAREN IN BERLIN. The composer died on 20th March 1990 in Potsdam East Germany.

THE SONS OF THE GREAT BEAR or DIE SIHNE DER GROBEN BARIN was directed by the Czech film maker Josef Mach and starred Yugoslavian actor Goiko Mitic takes the leading role and is I suppose the East German equivalent to Pierre Brice (Winnetou). It is a revisionist western, and a film that was a pioneering effort within the Ostern genre of movies which emphasises the positive role of the native American Indian and portrays the Whites as the aggressors and antagonists, it was and still is one of the most successful films to be produced by the DEFA film studios.

The composer Neef also scored CHINGACHCOOK THE GREAT SNAKE another western/drama that was released the following year and was also produced by the DEFA studios, with Goiko Mitic in the title role. The score once again was serviceable, with numerous melodic moments, the composer again relying upon strings, woods and brass to create music that depicted the great outdoors and enhanced the lavish locations in which the movie was shot. The score also included a rousing march which accompanied the French soldiers in the movie and a regal sounding composition that represented the British which also acted as the movies central theme. The film was set in the period of the Anglo-French war which was the war between the French and the British on American soil, between 1778 and 1783 so the music was perfect for the storyline

So, I have scratched the surface for you, maybe enough for you to become curious about this genre and investigate further, who knows, if you do decide to delve into the RED WESTERN check out LEMONADE JOE, THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN, ULZANA etc and see what you think of the movies and their scores.  


Two vinyl releases this week from ALL SCORE in Germany, the first has already been issued on a digital format VEGA 5 AVVENTURE NEL COSMO is the work of Mondo Sangue, and is a release that I reviewed n soundtrack supplement twenty one, it’s a worthy sequel to their other albums NO PLACE FOR A MAN and L’ISOLA DEI DANNATI both of which were released by ALL SCORE. The albums are in fact not soundtracks to movies, but scores for imagined films, its an interesting concept and one that has thus far yielded so much great music. The latest is in my opinion a tribute to composers Peter Thomas and to a degree Ennio Morricone, the styles, as the sounds employed within the work evokes both of these artists musical fingerprints. The vinyl release is available now from All Score, and the numbers are limited so hurry.

The second release from the German label is a Peter Thomas soundtrack, performed by the Peter Thomas Sound Orchester, THE BIG BOSS of course was released on CD a while ago and it has since been available on digital platforms, this I am certain is the first time that it has been available on LP record, and it is presented as the original motion picture soundtrack (revisited). The twenty-track album is impressively presented with some eye-catching cover art. Certainly worth having both of these gems in your collection. The style employed and the sound achieved by Thomas is uplifting and entertaining, the composer utilising a big band style and lacing it and fusing this with pop orientated compositions that also have to them a jazz flavour. Well worth adding to your collection.

Click below for details.  

All Score Media

Also coming very soon is a vinyl release of BACK TO THE FUTURE sadly not the score, but the original album tracks from the MCA LP that was issued at the time of the movie’s release some 35 years ago, and containing Alan Silvestri’s now iconic sounding central theme. The soundtrack was also later released CD by MCA. Mondo will release the album on November 28th. The artwork for the release is stunning and has been created by Poster Artist Drew Struzan. The release also boasts never before seen artwork that was created for the movie but never used.  The recording has been re-mastered for this edition and is pressed on 180-gram coloured vinyl.  Click here to find out price availability and shipping rates.

Various Artists – Music From The Motion Picture LP Back To The Future – Horizons Music