Recently I highlighted three tracks from Michael Giacchino’s score for The Batman, as they had been released as tasters for what was to follow. Well, the score for this latest adventure for the caped crime fighter is now released, and what a treat it is too. The composer has produced a thundering, action packed but also thematic work that is alluring, appealing, and entertaining. I just love that one can never predict what Giacchino is going to do, he varies his style and his approach on every assignment, so it seems. With The Batman I think he has excelled and gets my vote for fashioning a full on and dynamic soundtrack. The music is inventive and although one cannot say it is totally innovative it has its original moments along the way.
The score purveys an earthy darkness at certain points with the composer building his score around an ominous four note motif, which repeats and circulates throughout the score, adding a foreboding and apprehensive air each time it is heard. At times there are similarities between past Batman score composers such as Zimmer, Elfman and even hints of Goldenthal, but predominantly the style is that of Giacchino in superhero or crime fighter mode, because we all know Batman is not a superhero but a man who is a devoted crime fighter with an array of gadgets and tools to aid his fight.
The soundtrack opens with the cue Can’t fight City Halloween, this straight away establishes the mood of the score with slightly subdued but dark sounding strings edging their way forward punctuated by brass and gradually building the composer adding elements such as woods and percussion as the piece heads towards its climax, it is hear we first hear the four note motif, performed by brass and underlined by swirling strings that initial are low but come to the surface adding a sense of tension and urgency to the proceedings.
The next cue Mayoral Ducting, has to it a kind of Scream/Beltrami sound, the composer utilizing a ghostly sounding wordless female voice, to convey an icy and sinister atmosphere, this alters to a moderately up tempo backing performed on drums that is laced by chilling strings that become ever more threatening and menacing as the piece builds, the composer again employing the four notes to create a dark and shadowy musical identity.
Track three Its Raining Vengeance, too includes the four-note motif as its foundation performed on percussion which is mirrored by the same beats played on tubular bell, which makes it even more menacing. There are a handful of cues that seem to be a little lighter in their direction and sound, these are all it seems connected to the Cat woman character in the movie, I say lighter, but I suppose they are more sophisticated, stealth-like and over ally sleek.
They too have a more up-tempo persona, not over the top but there is more of a driving style to them, one being Crossing the Feline, which has a variation of the four notes within it which Giacchino underlines and supports with the original four note motif, combining both light and dark textures to create a colourful and affecting composition. Gannika Girl, (track number six) to has this near sleazy aura about it, piano performing the central theme of four notes as the composer weaves strings and woods around it to enhance and bolster it. In track number seven, the female voice is re-introduced, in a more somber fashion and at a slower pace, which evokes a mysterious and ethereal style, that is highly effective.
Track number eight, Funeral and Far Between is the first time that we get a hint of the theme that the composer utilizes for moments of a romantic or melancholy nature, performed initially on piano which is underlined by strings, it is a beautiful melody, and one that the composer turns to in a more developed form later in the score in the form of Sonata in Darkness which is a twelve minute cue at the end of the recording.
Track number ten, Escaped Crusader, returns to a darker formula, with subdued rumbling percussion, and strange sounding brass, which usher in a more strident string performance, which starts out slowly but suddenly bursts into life driving and propelling headlong in a flurry of activity, all the time building and creating a tense and dramatic mood, the four note motif coming from the background to add weight and a greater dimension to the proceedings.
Track number twelve Highway to the Anger Zone, is action from the start, big and bombastic, with jagged brass and booming percussion, racing drums and a more pronounced rendition of the four-note theme, which is underlined and thrown along at pace by more percussion and strings. It is here that the composer draws everything into the work, combining all the elements to fashion an exhilarating and relentless composition. The remainder of the score is in the same vein, it is a score that you should own. Available now on digital platforms. Recommended.
Once again composer Oscar M Leanizbarrutia has produced a tantalizing, vibrant and highly emotive score for his latest assignment Petra De San Jose. which is a biographical film about the founder of the Congregation Mothers of the Forsaken and Saint Joseph of the Mountain. The story reflects the life of this woman, who fought for the defence and care of those most in need, especially the abandoned, elderly, and orphaned children. A touching true-tale that is supported and enhanced throughout by composer Oscar M. Leanizbarrutia’s stunningly beautiful, mesmerizing, and affecting soundtrack.
The music is a fusion of styles at times the composer employing a sound and style that is chamber music inspired, but he bolsters this with a more romantic and melancholy air via the use of strings, solo cello, and violin, woods, piano, solo voice, choir, and guitar that bring a greater atmosphere and dimension to the work, the score also includes electronic elements, but these mix flawlessly and freely with the conventional sounding tone poems that are present within the work.
The score is already released on digital platforms, and I am hopeful that a record label will show interest in releasing this another wonderful score from this inspiring and talented Maestro onto compact disc. The score contains varying moods, textures and colours, which the composer like an artist takes from his musical palette and paints onto the film like a blank canvas creating so many emotions and stirring up so many feelings. It is like so many film scores a mixture of both light and dark musical personas, each of these complimenting each other and working with one another to create a haunting and carefully crafted piece of art.
You must check this out, because again I believe Oscar M. Leanizbarrutia will be applauded for his work, and who knows will be included in the awards for next year. Emotive and spiritual, Recommended.
No not the title of a new art house movie, but its time for a trio of reviews from the latest batch of soundtracks that are around now, there are plenty of scores around to choose from, but whether or not they are appealing or worth buying is down to your own personal taste I suppose. So to wet your musical appetite here are my thoughts on three.
The Batman is possibly one of the most anticipated films of late with composer Michael Giacchino on scoring duties. He has created a fresh and vibrant work for this the latest adventure of the caped crusader, which has its high points but also a few moments which are quite ordinary, at the moment there are a number of samples out there, but three main pieces are featured on digital sites, and all are inventively thematic and contain different musical sounds and styles.
These three cues are The Batman, which I did think drifted in and out of a style that we associate with Hans Zimmer, leaning towards a building soundscape persona but still remaining interesting as it slowly and quite deliberately gathers momentum and pace creating a dark and foreboding atmosphere.
It is a worthy addition to the music for the further tales of this famed crime fighter.
Then a while after this single was released came The Riddler, which is superbly haunting, the composer opening with strings and wordless female vocal that are both subdued but enticing. It’s a piece that initially is light and charming, which then turns into layers of sounds that radiate somewhat somber and fragile sounding hints of a theme which also contains a style that can be likened to another Batman composer Danny Elfman.
Maybe Giacchino is purveying his music cloaked inside the styles of both Zimmer and Elfman as a kind of homage to their work on past Batman movies, who knows?
The final track to be released on digital platforms as a teaser is Catwoman, which I must admit to being pleasantly surprised about, as it is laid back and kind of jazz influenced, in a sultry and steamy fashion. The composer employing sultry sounding strings that contain and evoke a Barry- esque style.
Giacchino combining these with a easy going piano solo that trips and meanders along smoothly creating a classy and sophisticated sound. In fact, the overall sound could be described as cat-like being aloof, slinky, and sleek. These three cues are all in their own way attractive and certainly bode well for the release of the complete score, which should be soon. Check all three that are out now.
The next score is for Le Chene or The Oak, which is a captivating movie about a giant oak tree, it is like a fairy tale so I will say Once upon a time there was a 210-year-old oak tree that became a glowing and respected pillar in his kingdom.
The tree becoming the home, sanctuary, and source of nutrition and shelter for many animals and insects. Squirrels, Ants, Mules, and various birds all rely upon its strength and existence. It is teeming with a vibrant and constantly evolving collection of lifeforms, the mighty Oak welcoming each one and protecting them within its roots, branches, and its impressive and majestic crown.
The music is by Cyrille Aufort, who has created a score that oozes a rich and melodic musical excellence, via delicate sounding nuances, fragile strings, emotive solo piano and various little quirky touches that are the commas and full stops of musical punctuation throughout. The composer fusing symphonic, synthetic and human voice both choir led and solo performances together to fashion a beautifully affecting and entertaining soundtrack. Take a listen its on digital platforms.
Milan, in the late 70s, is the setting for Italian made thriller Ero in Gueurra Ma Non Lo Sapevo or I Was at War but I didn’t Know. The central character a jeweller named Pierluigi Torregiani is having dinner in a local eatery when criminals break in to rob the diners. During the robbery one of them threatens Torregiani’s daughter, Marisa, pointing a gun at her. Trying disarm the robber Torregiani is pushed to the floor, gunshots are fired and one of the bandits is killed.
It was not the jeweller who fired the shots from the gun that he always has with him, but many newspapers accuse him of being a bourgeois executioner. This is a tense thriller, with a score that matches the varying levels of stress and drama perfectly. The music is by composer Andrea Bonini, who has written a smouldering and chilling work that is filled with apprehension and shadowy themes, the opening track however is totally removed from the remainder of the score, with the composer utilising a whistler very much in the style of Alessandro Allessandroni, he bolsters and underlines the whistling theme with percussive elements and guitar, which evokes the styles of both Luis Bacalov and Ennio Morricone.
The music which is realised via both conventional instrumentation and synthetic/electronic components is highly effective, the composer combining a handful of sparsely melodic interludes with the more atonal elements and weaving both the melodious and haunting with the action or dark sounding passages into a varied and supportive soundscape, this is at times a complex work, but also an interesting one and worth a listen.
Todos Meinten, (Everybody Lies) is a Spanish TV series that focuses upon a scandal that invades and consumes the peaceful life of the residents of the coastal urbanization of Belmonte. Their lives change radically the day a sex video involving Macarena, a schoolteacher, and Iván, one of her adult students, appears on social networks.
This event shocks everyone and impacts upon them all, especially Macarena, who is renounced by her family and neighbours, including Ana, who is her best friend and Iván’s mother. Things in the small town become even more complicated and entangled when the lifeless body of one of Belmonte’s inhabitants appears on the cliff.
The series which was aired in January of 2022 in Spain has a stunning and effective musical score by Spanish composer Arnau Bataller, who is in my opinion among the rising stars of film music in the 21st century, he has already written the scores to several films and television productions and this his most recent work further consolidates his place as one of the leading film music composers in the world today. The opening theme, which although short lived sets the scene wonderfully and is instantly attractive and although initially delicate at same time effectively purveys an atmosphere of uncertainty via a beguiling cello solo, the piece then without warning bursts into life with the composer employing a flamenco inspired background whilst the core theme plays above and around it, the combination of the dramatic and apprehensive symphonic style, the somewhat melancholy cello solo and the strident sounds of the flamenco beat, and its driving pace is striking and something that one has to go back and experience again, simply because it is so alluring, and affecting.
Rapidly strummed guitar, and clapping beats are the punctuation for the piece and are perfectly in tune with the more intense persona that the composer has fashioned. The pace and beat of the Flamenco are something that the composer employs throughout the score, combining it with dramatic, sinister, sinewy, and apprehensive instrumentation, creating highly polished and extremely effective cues, that become a vital component of the storyline.
The score is one that bodes well for the film music of 2022, it is not only entertaining but of the highest caliber, the composer being inventive and innovative every step of the way, treating us to marvelously haunting passages and creating brilliantly effective support and punctuation for an already intensely mesmerizing tale.
There are affiliations with the composers work for La Herencia Valdemar, at times little quirks of orchestration creeping into the work. But this is not bad thing as that score too was magnificent. Todos Meinten is available on digital platforms, and I must insist that you check it out asap and whilst you are there take a listen to his other scores.
When we think of murder and mystery what author comes to mind almost straight away? For me it must be Agatha Christie, and although I am in no way an expert or an authority of her works, I do like a good mystery thriller or whodunnit. And it is true to say that many murder mysteries and detective dramas for both cinema and TV are mainly based around the writings of this author, at least they seem to follow very similar patterns.
Even the board game Cluedo has hints of Agatha Christie, as in country house a murder or series of murders etc. and you know the rest. I suppose the most well-known stories by the author involve the likes of Poirot, and his outings on The Orient Express and even a trip up the Nile, and with the new version of Death on the Nile in cinemas I thought it would be a bit of fun to explore the musical as in the film score world of Agatha Christie movies and television productions. I would like to touch on an Agatha Christie that has not yet made it to the screen small or large apart from a loosely adapted low budget film in India entitled Chupi Chupi Aashey released in 1960 which is The Mouse Trap that has run in London’s west end since 1952, and performances only stopped when the Covid 19 Pandemic hit.
There is a clause in a contract somewhere that no film can be produced of The Mouse Trap until the production has not been staged for at least six months (no one told Bollywood obviously). The play was based on Christie’s story Three Blind Mice, but the title had to be changed due to another play with the same title being performed at the time that had been written in the 1940’s. Whether the stoppage due to covid counts remains to be seen. But I am sure at some point this Agatha Christie story will be transferred to the silver screen or even to television. I think like so many people of a certain age the Miss Marple movies that starred the magnificent actress Margaret Rutherford are now the movies that are seen to be iconic and are the examples of Christie based screenplays that come to mind so readily.
Even though at times they had a rather light and comical leaning and tongue in cheek performances more in keeping with Elstree studios. These were part of the Great British movies that displayed so many attributes and, in these cases, not only the genius of Miss Marple but also her eccentric and at the same time brilliant mind and deductions. Then there is super sleuth Hercule Poirot, and although there have been numerous early examples of his adventures on film it is probably the episodes many years later on the small screen with the detective being portrayed by David Suchet that come to mind almost instantly. The original series had an opening theme that would also become as iconic as the series and forever associated with the character. Written by the masterful and talented British composer Christopher Gunning, it was not only a cleverly utilized and haunting piece of music but one that as soon as it is heard conjures up that inventive opening sequence that the original episodes of the show boasted.
The Poirot character first appeared in a story by Christie which she penned in 1916 but was not published until 1920 entitled The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Poirot became one of the authors most popular and enduring creations appearing in thirty-three books, two plays and over fifty short stories, taking his final bow in her novel The Curtain-Poirot’s Last Case in 1975. In which the author returned to the setting of her original story involving the character. It also re-unites two characters Poirot and Arthur Hastings who had not appeared together since 1937 in Dumb Witness. A story which was adapted for television in 2013. In The CurtainPoirot’s Last Case the ingenious detective dies, ending a long and fascinating series of books. Many of which were adapted into both cinema and television productions. Mention Poirot and everyone has thoughts of Murder on the Orient Express or indeed the original cinematic incarnation of Death on the Nile, the latter containing a score by Italian Maestro Nino Rota, and had Peter Ustinov as the Belgian mystery solver.
The former movie casting Albert Finney in the role with the music being provided by Sir Richard Rodney Bennett.
The character of Poirot has been interpreted or portrayed by approximately thirty actors over the years and as well as Ustinov and Finney, the likes of Orson Welles, John Malkovich, Kenneth Branagh, Robert Powell, and Charles Laughton have brought their own unique talents to the role, Poirot’s character being larger than life and totally dedicated to finding the perpetrators of various crimes.
I personally enjoyed the Poirot TV series and thought that Suchet was perfect for the role, I also loved the work that Christopher Gunning did on the series and could not understand the reasoning behind not having him score the more recent additions to the series.
The music being suitably adherent to the period in which the stories were set and wonderfully sympathetic to the scenarios and situations that were unfolding. The composer knowing instinctively where to place the music and what style of music to utilize for maximum effect. I believe without Gunning’s atmospheric scores and infectious title’s theme Poirot may have not been as successfully as it was. Gunning’s use of saxophone was genius, and it was this instrument that not only created the foundation of the scores for each episode but was an integral component of those scores and the storylines.
The series Poirot also included feature length episodes, that included The ABC Murders in 1992 and Peril at End House in 1990, which were often screened at the beginning of a new season or series. Christopher Gunning was and remains one of the most talented and adaptable composers working in film and television today, but sadly has in recent years not been involved in scoring many projects for the screen, instead he focuses more upon his music for concert hall performance. Concert hall’s gain is the film music fans loss.
From the small screen let’s go back to the cinema and to 1961 when Murder She Said was released, directed by George Pollock, it stars Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple, with James Robertson Justice, Arthur Kennedy, Thorley Waters, Richard Briers, Charles Tingwell and Joan Hickson (who would in later years take on the role of Miss Marple herself for TV). Ms Jane Marple (Rutherford) is on-board a train when she sees what appears to be, a murder – a woman being strangled – in another train that is passing. When the Police refuse to believe her story, she decides to do some investigating of her own. In this, Rutherford’s first appearance as the dithering but beloved sleuth. There are a few things that critics and fans pointed out at the time, one of the most prominent being that Rutherford bared very little resemblance to the character of Miss Marple as created by Agatha Christie, and this too was something that the author was concerned about.
But, when the two women met, they soon warmed to each other and later Christie dedicated one of her books “The Mirror Crack’d-From Side to Side” – to her “friend, Margaret Rutherford”. The movie was successful, and it was scored by composer Ron Goodwin, who penned the now classic theme, which in a similar way to Gunning’s Poirot theme has become synonymous with the character of Marple as portrayed by Margaret Rutherford.
A sequel followed two years later in 1963 in the form of Murder at the Gallop which was based on Christie’s novel After the Funeral. George Pollock again directed, and Rutherford was this time supported by Robert Morley, Flora Robson, Finlay Currie, and Stringer Davis (Rutherford’s Husband), again the musical score was the work of Ron Goodwin. Miss Marple this time investigating what she thinks is the suspicious death of the old and wealthy Mr. Enderby (Currie) who dies suddenly of a heart attack.
But Miss Marple is not content to leave things and wants to know who or what gave him a heart attack? Enderby’s relatives gather at The Gallop, which is a boarding-house and riding school, Marple too decides that she will be there to find out if any of them had any reasons to see him dead. Goodwin’s score is an essential part of the proceedings, the composer lacing the eccentric but clever actions of Marple with harpsichord, strings, and at times adding an upbeat backing.
The familiar theme that Goodwin provided for the Marple films regularly appeared on compilations of the composer’s film and easy listening music on the studio two label in the UK. In 1964 two Miss Marple adventures were released, MurderMost Foul and Murder Ahoy, the former title I think being the most popular in the series. Murder Most Foul was based upon the 1952 Agatha Christie novel Mrs McGinty’s Dead.
Again, helmed by director George Pollock, Rutherford supported by Stringer Davis, Megs Jenkins, James Bolam, Terry Scott, and Ron Moody on this outing. Margaret McGinty is a barmaid and former actor, she is found hanged, and her lodger, caught at the scene, seems plainly guilty. But Miss Marple becomes convinced that the real murderer is a member of a local theatrical troupe, so she joins them to gather information. The clues lead back some years to a single disastrously unsuccessful 1951 performance of a dreadful play written by the group’s hammy director, H. Driffold Cosgood (Moody). Although at that time, several of the current cast members were only children, more murders follow before Miss Marple exposes the killer.
Goodwin’s musical score again added much to the mood and atmospherics of the film’s storyline, and the composer returned for the last movie in the series which was Murder Ahoy which although based around Christie’s character contained an original screenplay by David Pursall and Jack Seddon with no credit given to Agatha Christie.
The movie lacked the spark and the appeal that its three predecessors possessed although the prior releases were adaptations only of the author’s work there seemed to be hardly any Christie in Murder Ahoy. With a more comedic persona enveloping the productions, I cannot say that I enjoyed Murder Ahoy as much as the other three films in the series, but I am not certain why that was?
Maybe I had Miss Marple overload by the time I got to it? The movie featured Lionel Jefferies, Derek Nimmo, Francis Matthews, and Nicholas Parsons. Pollock again directed, and Goodwin provided the energetic, infectious, and jaunty sounding score.
The complete scores for the Miss Marple quartet of movies starring Rutherford, never received a release as in the music for each of them, but as I have already stated the theme arranged by Goodwin was always featured in concert programmes and included on so many compilations of the composer’s music. A nearly twenty-minute suite of music was released back in 2012 performed by The Odense Symphony Orchestra, which appeared alongside their performance of the mischievous sounding Miss Marple theme and suites from the composers scores for Force 10 from Navarone and Lancelot and Guinevere. The suite included themes from all four scores and highlights just how talented Goodwin was as a composer and what an inventive arranger he clearly was.
From Poirot on TV and Marple at the cinema to a bit of a reverse role scenario, with Poirot on the big screen and Miss Marple occupying the box in the corner but still managing a few interesting outings on the big screen. I have already mentioned Death on the Nile and Murder on the Orient Express, but there was also Evil Under the Sun, in which Poirot once again sniffed out the guilty culprit. I am surprised that this movie can at times be overlooked or even ignored, but why? Well musically it did not have an original score, instead the film was tracked with pieces from Cole Porter, so maybe from a film music fans point of view it might seem less interesting. The film directed by Guy Hamilton in 1982, boasted an impressive line-up of stars, with Peter Ustinov as Poirot, and featured James Mason, Colin Blakey, Diana Rigg, Dennis Quilley, Jane Birkin, Roddy McDowell, and Maggie Smith amongst others.
Hercule Poirot is summoned to investigate a case for an insurance company regarding a dead woman’s body found on a moor, with an important diamond sent to the company to be insured, turning out to be a fake. Poirot discovers that the diamond was gifted to Arlena Marshall (Diana Rigg) by Sir Horace Blatt (Colin Blakely), Arlena is on her honeymoon with her husband and stepdaughter on a Mediterranean island hotel. The Belgian sleuth joins them on the island and finds that everybody else there seems to dislike or worse hate Arlena for varied reasons, these being her refusing to do a stage show, stopping a book, and for having an open affair with Patrick Redfern (Nicholas Clay), another guest, in full view of his shy wife. It’s not too long before Arlena is found strangled to death, and it is then up to Poirot to find the killer.
A similar scenario was the plot for Death on the Nile which was released in 1978 and directed by John Guillermin, it was an even more impressive cast that was assembled for this production, which read like a who’s who of both British and American cinema at the time.
Peter Ustinov made his first appearance as Poirot in this movie and was to portray the detective again in Evil under the Sun and Appointment with Death, he also made appearances as Poirot in a further three productions for television which were Thirteen at Dinner, Dead Man’s Folly and Murder in three Acts.
The Belgian super sleuth who is on the Nile cruise finds himself surrounded by an interesting if not odd assortment of people, which include a wealthy heiress and her husband who are on their honeymoon. It does not take Poirot long to find out that most of the passengers on the ship hate the heiress. The film was scored by iconic Italian Maestro Nino Rota, who provided the movie with a suitably romantic, dramatic, and epic sounding soundtrack. It was rumoured at the time of the film being released that Rota had not actually seen the movie and wrote his score around the details of the script.
Whether this is true I cannot clarify. But if it is correct, it did not stop Rota being inspired by the subject matter and delivering an effective score for the production. Filled with mystery, romantic connotations and a decidedly grand sounding opening theme. The soundtrack which was conducted by Marcus Dodd’s was released on the EMI label on long playing record in 1978.
The story has recently been brought back to the cinema by filmmaker Kenneth Branagh who also stars as Poirot in the 2022 release. The film was delayed like so many because of covid 19. Was it worth waiting for, well in my opinion yes I think so, the score by Patrick Doyle who is a long time collaborator with Branagh is most certainly supportive of the action and the storyline, and like other scores by this talented composer has various shades and colours within it.
I did however detect a slight change in the composer’s style and at various stages of the score I felt that it could have been Hans Zimmer who was in the scoring seat, Doyle utilising layers of sounds that gradually build and subtly develop, yes they are effective, but I was slightly thrown by this, but saying that there are also a number of richly thematic pieces within the soundtrack, the composer mixing these with dark and brooding passages that purvey apprehension, drama and a sinister auras. It is a score I must admit I had to listen to a few times before I began to fully appreciate Doyle’s work on the film.
But it works effectively in the film and has to it an appealing and enriching persona if listened to as just music away from the images. It is a fusion of the symphonic with the synthetic, as so many contemporary film scores are. But Doyle fuses the two mediums flawlessly to create a soundtrack of the highest quality.
The same can be said of Doyle’s score for the 2017 release of Murder on the Orient Express, another Branagh outing, and although it is possibly not as memorable as the original score from the 1974 movie by Richard Rodney Bennet, it has its interesting moments.
Continuing and listing various Agatha Christie stories or stories inspired by her writings that have been brought to both the silver screen and the smaller one as in TV. We go to 1976 and Murder by Death, which was a satirical movie that featured two of Christies characters, Miss Marple and Poirot, the Belgian detective on this occasion being portrayed in a very tongue in cheek manner by James Coco. A year later we were treated (if that is the right phrasing) to The Strange Case of the End of Civilization as we Know it. Which was a low budget instantly forgettable spoof with actor Dudley Jones as Poirot who for some reason featured alongside Sherlock Holmes (confused I am).
And in 1978 there was Revenge of the Pink Panther, no not an Agatha Christie story but it featured a character played by actor Andrew Sachs who is convinced he is Poirot. Maybe that’s too off the beaten track, but I thought I would mention it. In 1979 the first Spanish film to feature Poirot was released, with Joan Borras playing the sleuth. There were also a number of radio adaptations of Christies works, with actors such as Maurice Denham (1985), Peter Sallis (1986), and John Moffat voicing the role. Moffat being the most enduring performer in the role from 1987 through to the 2000’s. 1986 also saw a TV film based on Agatha Christie’s life entitled – Murder by the Book. With Ian Holm playing Poirot, who surprises Christie (portrayed by Peggy Ashcroft) by turning up at her door in the story. Even comedian Bobby Davro, got in on the Poirot act, when he appeared as Hercule, in an episode of Sketch Pad in 1989. This was the year that David Suchet first sported the famous moustache in the TV series Poirot. As the decade of the 1990’s began, there was a Russian film adaptation of Peril at End House, which starred Anatoliy Ravikovich in the central role. But the 1990’s were not kind to Poirot as in big screen appearances, as the character was basically parodied in things such as Murder on the Disorientated Express, which was featured in an episode of Muppets Tonight, and in 1997 Hugh Lauriespoofs the Belgian in a scene from Spice World alongside Emma Bunton. In 2001 a TV adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express appeared, with a drastically reduced character list than the book and featured Alfred Molina as Poirot. The movie was set in the present day rather than the original time frame of the 1930’s. Another Russian movie was released in 2002 with Poirot played by Konstantin Rajkin, which was based on The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, but released under the title of Poirot’s Failure. A combination of the stage play Alibi and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was also the stories first adapted into a film that featured Poirot in 1931 entitled Alibi. The first cinematic adaptation of a Christie novel being in 1928, which was The Passing of Mr Quinn, that was released as The Coming of Mr Quinn featuring central character Dr. Alec Portal.
Other popular adaptations included And then There Were None, released as Ten Little Indians in 1945, which had a score by Malcolm Lockyer, who scored a number of British movies including providing the music for the Daleks cinema debut. This same story was presented as Ten Little Indians in 1974 in the United States and again in 1989.
In 1957, Witness for the Prosecution was released, directed by Billie Wilder, who also worked on the adaptation from the Agatha Christie 1926 novel and the subsequent 1953 stage play. The film which does have certain affiliations with the film-noir genre, starred Tyrone Power, Marlene Dietrich, Charles Laughton, and Elsa Lanchester. Set in the court room at the Old Bailey, it is a powerful piece of cinema, which received six Academy Award nominations.
There was another film version of Witness for the Prosecution, which came to screens in the form of a TV movie which was released in 1982. The story was written for television by John Gay, based upon Billy Wilder’s screenplay from 1957 and further adapted by Laurence B Marcus. It starred Sir Ralph Richardson, Deborah Kerr, Beau Bridges, Donald Pleasance, Wendy Hiller, and Diana Rigg. Directed by Alan Gibson, the TV movie had a score by composer John Cameron, who also provided the music for the Miss Marple movie The Mirror Crack’d in 1980. Which was directed by Guy Hamilton and featured Angela Lansbury as Miss Marple.
The movie like most Christie adaptations had a cast of familiar faces. Set in 1953 in the small English village of St. Mary Mead, which is the home to Miss Marple (Angela Lansbury). The villagers are initially delighted when a big American movie company arrives to make a film telling of the relationship between Jane Grey and Elisabeth I, starring the famous actresses Marina Rudd (Elizabeth Taylor) and Lola Brewster (Kim Novak). Marina arrives with her husband, Jason (Rock Hudson), but when she discovers that Lola is going to be in the movie with her, she becomes enraged as Lola and Marina loathe each other. Marina has been getting death threats, and at a party at the manor house, Heather Babcock (Maureen Bennett), after boring Marina with a long story, drinks a cocktail made for Marina, and dies from poisoning. Everybody believes that Marina is the target, but the Police Officer investigating the case, Chief Inspector Dermot Craddock (Edward Fox) isn’t sure, so he enlists the help of Miss Marple, his aunt, to investigate. Fairly typical whodunnit material, but also a worthy addition to the Agatha Christie stories committed to celluloid. John Cameron’s score was supportive and at times somewhat understated, but this is probably why it worked so well. Sadly, like so many of Cameron’s film and TV music the soundtrack was never released. (ie his Jack the Ripper score from the 1988 TV mini-series and Frankenstein in 1992).
John Cameron’s composing and arranging covers an amazing array of music genres, from rock, soul, jazz and folk music, through electronic, world, orchestral and choral music, working in film, television, theatre of all kinds, and recording. His career in music started in earnest at Cambridge University where he was Vice-President of the Footlights and busy in many forms of music, most notably the local jazz scene. On coming down, he was soon writing arrangements for artists such as Donovan (within 6 months he had his first no.1 hit in the US with Donovan’s Sunshine Superman that he arranged with Spike Heatley).
John became Donovan’s music director, touring with him, and arranging hit singles Jennifer Juniper, & Epistle to Dippy, & the Sunshine Superman & Mellow Yellow albums, and subsequently arranging Donovan’s music for Ken Loach’s Poor Cow. John went on to work extensively in Television, as music director and arranger for three series of Once More with Felix (with folk-singer Julie Felix), The Bobbie Gentry Show and numerous shows in Stanley Dorfman’s In Concert series, featuring artists such as James Taylor, Joni Mitchell and Randy Newman. (info: from the composers web-site).
Agatha Christies Miss Marple has been a regular and popular character over the years on TV with actors such as Geraldine McEwen, (eleven episodes) and Julia McKenzie (twelve episodes) making the role their own in their own distinctive fashion. This was in the series on ITV in the UK which ran from 2004 through till 2013.and featured cast members or guest appearances by the likes of Herbert Lom, Timothy Dalton, Ian Richardson, Joanna Lumley, Juliet Stephenson, and Julian Sands. Who were part of a cast list that numbers over a hundred. Directed by various filmmakers over the years which totalled sixteen in all, the series had music by Dominik Scherrer who scored all twenty-three episodes.
The BBC adapted all twelve Christie novels about the character during the 1980’s in a series simply titled Miss Marple. Joan Hickson, who first played the role on stage in 1940, played Marple in all of them. The series ran for eight years and Hickson made the role her own, with the actress receiving back-to-back BAFTA nods in 1987 and 1988 for Best Actress as Miss Marple. Hickson also won a 1987 UK Royal Television Award for Best Performance in the Marple series. Music was by composer Ken Howard. So many actresses have portrayed Marple, in fact maybe too many to mention or attempt to list. But for me personally it was Margaret Rutherford and Joan Hickson that did it for me in the role. If I have missed any title out or overlooked a book or even a composer or a star that has connections with the works of Agatha Christie I do apologise, for now I hope that this article will be interesting for anyone who reads it.
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