BEST MOVIE THEMES COMPILATIONS.

After reviewing the Best Dirk Bogarde Movie Themes collection, I did a bit of searching and found that there is a whole series and more of this type of collection available. Most are on digital platforms but there are a few which are not available in certain countries. What I like about these compilations is that they focus upon specific actors for the most part and include the original tracks from the soundtracks, so we are hearing the music as it was heard many years ago in cinemas. The compilations and some entire soundtracks from movies are released via Canadian label Disques Cinemusique, Initially I saw the soundtracks for Nightmare by Don Banks and Never Let Go by John Barry on their site, by the looks of things they are all digital releases, but don’t quote me on that.

All you do is click on the cover of the soundtrack or compilation you are interested in, and it takes you to Apple music, but saying that some are available on Spotify. I thought I would look at their wares and let you know what delights are in store for us all there. Firstly, I will say that on some of the recordings ie Nightmare there is dialogue and also sound effects, which can be a pain as it’s the music you want and not the effects.

But the compilations from what I have heard seem to be all music like the Dirk Bogarde collection. I Will begin with a collection that they have dedicated to the music of Ron Grainer, and yes it does include his now iconic Dr Who theme from 1963, but there is so much more here to enjoy. Best Early Ron Grainer Movie Themes opens with a selection from TV, which is the jaunty and quirky theme from the British TV show Maigret, which starred actor Rupert Davies in the title role, the show aired in the 1960’s with Grainer’s French flavored music becoming an instant hit with viewers and radio listeners when it was played on the BBC.

The compilation contains ten tracks which are all from films and TV productions from the 1960’s and has a running time of nearly forty minutes. To be honest the sound quality is very good considering that these are the original cues, some fare better than others, but it’s the atmosphere one feels by hearing these original recordings that is priceless, as soon as I heard the opening strains of Maigret  and that stereotypical French accordion performance I was back there in front of the black and white TV all ready for bed but being allowed to stay up later as it was a Friday to watch the show. I did not realize at the time that it is probably the likes of Grainer and other composers who created familiar themes for TV that started my attraction to both film and TV music. 

The second selection is from The Running Man (no not the Arnie film) but one directed by Carol Reed and starring Laurence Harvey, Lee Remick and Alan Bates, released in 1961, it is a crime thriller which sees a man fake his own death to claim the insurance money after a previous claim has been turned down. The theme for the movie was the work of Grainer but the score was written by William Alwyn.

Grainer’s hard-hitting theme is a mix of jazz styles and dramatic orchestral colours, with vibrant percussion punctuated by woodwind and brass. It is interesting to note that within it we hear a style that will manifest itself in future works by the composer most notably The Prisoner and The Omega Man.

Track number three on this collection is from the 1962 British movie, A Kind of Loving which starred Alan Bates, June Ritchie and Thor Hird.  After his girlfriend Ingrid (Ritchie) falls pregnant Vic (Bates) decides that he will marry her but struggles with the changes he has to make to his life and also battles against his overbearing Mother-in-Law (Hird). Directed by John Schlesinger and containing a brilliant screenplay by Willis Hall and Keith Waterhouse, it is looked upon as one of the great British kitchen sink dramas from the 1960’s. Grainer again employed a quirky sounding central theme which was a rather ironic touch as it sounded as if it was more at home in a comedy rather than a serious drama. The film also featured James Bolam and Jack Smethurst who both went on to become familiar faces on British TV in series such as Love thy Neighbour and The Likely Lads. It is Grainer’s Main title theme that is featured on the compilation, which again has links to some of his future more familiar works such as Steptoe and Son. This is an interesting compilation of the music penned by the Australian born Grainer, and it displays wonderfully his adaptability as far as writing for so many different storylines and subject matters. The compilation also includes music from Night Must Fall, The Moon spinners, The Dock Brief, Station Six Sahara, Giants of Steam, Mouse on the Moon and others, I did detect some effects on one of the sections, but this was not too off putting, well worth a listen.

Another compilation in this series is dedicated to the films of actor Rex Harrison. Best Rex Harrison Movie Themes includes musical selections from movies such as Blithe Spirit from 1945, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947), Anna and the King of Siam (1946), The Foxes of Harrow (1947), King Richard and the Crusades (1954) plus others, the composer credit list reads like a who’s who in movie music, with the likes of Steiner, Herrmann, Tiomkin, Addinsell, Buttolph, Skinner, and Newman being represented.

The King Richard and the Crusades is particularly impressive as there are two ten-minute suites from Steiner’s brilliant score. We are also treated to music from Cleopatra by Alex North and three selections from the musical My Fair Lady, it is such a varied collection and an entertaining one. The music dates from 1946 as we are taken on a musical journey to the mid 1960’s and the final selection which is Italian composer Riz Ortolani’s masterful and chirpy theme from Anthony Asquith’s The Yellow Rolls Royce (1964).

 I think one of the best compilations within this series is Best Gene Tierney Movie Themes, I say best, but I suppose what I mean is that it probably the most varied and also tremendously entertaining. Again, a plethora of composers from Hollywood and England are represented, with David Raksin’s beautifully haunting theme from Laura (1944) included. Plus, his brief but impacting theme from Whirlpool (1949). The collection opens with David Butloph’s music for The Return of Frank James which was in cinemas in 1940, Butloph is also represented on the second selection via his music to the 1941 movie Tobacco Road. Alfred Newman too makes more than one contribution to the collection with his music for Belle Starr from 1941, Son of Fury (1942), Heaven Can Wait (1943), Leave Her to Heaven (1945), Dragonwyke (1946), and The Razor’s Edge also from 1946.

Other composers such as Benjamin Frankel and William Alwyn are also represented with music from the films Night and the City (1950) and Personal Affaire (1953) respectively, with both selections being conducted by Muir Mathieson.

Victor Youngs The Left hand of God from 1955, Leigh Harline’s Main title from Black Widow, and Jerry Fielding’s Advice and Consent also make an appearance. It is a collection overflowing with musical excellence and certainly well worth checking out. Other selections come courtesy of  Miklos Rozsa, Sol Kaplan and Cyril Mockridge in the form of Plymouth Adventure, Secret of Convict Lake, Way of the Gaucho and The Wonderful Urge. Please do go to the Disques Cinemusique web site and check out their weighty catalogue. You will I know find something.

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