THE PROUD AND THE DAMNED.

This soundtrack is not yet available, this is an exclusive review of the forthcoming release on Kronos Records as part of the labels famous Gold Collection.

Coming soon from Kronos records is a soundtrack that is a little obscure, although being not that well know for me makes it even more attractive, and to be honest it’s a wonderful sound that has been realised by composers Gene Kauer and Douglas M Lackey for the 1972 western The Proud and the Damned.  On listening to the score I was impressed at the variety and also the overall sound of the work, at times I was reminded of the work of Jerry Fielding (The Wild Bunch) and also there are moments within the score that evoke composers such as Charles Gross (Valdez is Coming) and to a degree Manos Hajidakis when he scored the Terence Stamp western Blue and Frank De Vol and his work on Alzana’s Raid.  

The composers have fashioned a pleasing score that has to it two distinct styles one being a South American or Mexican/Latin persona, the other having to it a more Americanised and dramatic flavour. This is a movie that did not get that much publicity when it was first released back in the early 1970’s in fact I think I am right when I say I do not think it has been shown on TV or if it has this must have been a few years back now. The composing duo scored a long string of films together, which included Agent for H.A.R.M. (1966) Brother of the Wind (1973) Across The Great Divide and Adventure Family (1977). I love the way that the music supports the action within the movie and adds delicate undercurrents to the proceedings. The score is filled with passion and a sense of adventure, it literally overflows with beautiful melodies and Mariachi/flamenco/Latin styled cues that make for a worthwhile listening experience.

Main Title.

Guitar provides the foundation for most of the cues, the composers utilizing the instrument to the maximum to convey a sense of melancholy and drama. The music is beautifully interwoven into the storyline and underlines the growing friendships that are beginning to flourish between the villagers and the band of Confederate soldiers that have crossed over the border from Texas into South America in 1870 to escape the aftermath of the civil war, only to become embroiled in another conflict in Columbia  Chuck Connors heads the cast, with support from Aron Kincaid, José Greco, Henry Capps, Smokey Roberds, Peter Ford, Andres Marquis, and Cesar Romero!

Directed by Ferde Grofé Jr who was also responsible for the story The five ex-Confederate mercenaries and American Civil War veterans Sgt. Will Hansen (Connors) Ike (Kincaid), Hank (Cap’s), Jeb (Roberds)), and Billy (Ford)) no sooner ride into Columbia and are ambushed by Columbian government troops who force them to meet General Martinez, the evil, cold-hearted dictator of their country. Martinez sends them to San Carlos, a town where rebel forces are preparing to start a civil war against Martinez’s army. The Texans are instructed to live among the rebels, and report back to Martinez what they discover. Martinez warns them that they’ll be severely punished if they fail him.

The next day, while on their way to San Carlos, the gang run into a family who are on their way to the same town. They offer to escort them to the town and Will takes an interest in the daughter, Mila. They all ride into San Carlos, meet the governor, and rent a cabin. Will and Mila sneak out to spend the night together. Mila’s father becomes angry when he finds out and beats Mila and cuts off her ear. Will in a fit of rage then shoots Mila’s father.

Will and his men are detained over the killing and find themselves unable to report back to Martinez. Will and Mila are banished from the town the townspeople are angry over Will killing Mila’s father. Will and Mila are then taken captive by Martinez, who hangs Will for disobeying his orders. Mila rides back to town to get Will’s friends, who give him a funeral, and vow to avenge his murder. They join the rebels in a battle with Martinez’s army and drive them back. They later ambush Martinez and the rest of his surviving soldiers in a canyon, joined by the rebel army’s captain. During the fight they manage to kill Martinez, but all are gunned down by his soldiers except for Billy, who was thrown from his horse in the mele and knocked unconscious. The film ends with Billy riding off into the sunset.

The soundtrack has never been released before and Kronos records are proud to be able to bring you the premiere release of this exciting score, it will be a limited edition of just 300 copies, so get your pre-orders in ASAP. Highly recommended.  

HANG.

http://kronosrecords.com/KG43.html

SORCERY AND SWORDS.

The genre of Sword and Sorcery movies is huge, filled with good and bad examples, low budgets and blockbuster budgets. What I think is the thing that brings all these movies together is the music that has been penned for them, yes, it is true to say that not all of the scores have been the best, but invariably the musical scores for these thundering, robust and swashbuckling storylines have been grand and memorable.

The 1980’s was it seems a good time to release a sword and sorcery movie, well it certainly looks that way when one looks back over that decade, with films such as Conan the Barbarian, The Beastmaster, Hawk the Slayer and The Sword and the Sorcerer appearing on our cinema screens and then later being issued on video tape and available from your local rental retailer.

Those four examples alone I think are good subjects for an article on this genre, but there are so many more from the same decade, and from previous decades and in the years that followed. The Beastmaster may have looked like a blockbuster, but it was relatively low budget, the score was recorded in Italy, and composer Lee Holdridge was responsible for the epic sounding score,.

He recalled how he became involved on the movie and memories of the recording of the score. “Curiously enough, the director heard my Concerto for Violin and Orchestra and that got me hired. That piece is very different from my eventual score for the film, but, whatever works! The sword and sorcery films were very much the rage at the time. I admired the score for Conan the Barbarian, and it certainly set the tone for those scores. I went that route as well with around 60-80-piece orchestra in Rome and added my own touches to the style. The entire score of over 80 minutes had to be delivered in about 10 days so I got some orchestration help from the legendary Greg McRitchie who orchestrated the Conan score and had worked a ton with Alfred Newman. Between cues I would get him to share his insights into the great film scoring days of the studios. Also, my buddy Alf Clausen (The Simpsons) helped me with orchestration. I would sketch like a madman, and the then the three of us would divide up cues and orchestrate. I finished the last cue in the hotel room in Rome the night before the first session”.  

David Whittaker.

The Sword and the Sorcerer however contained a grand sounding score, but the film failed to impress as the composer David Whittaker recalled when I interviewed him some years ago. “I think one of the last big pictures I did was way back in 1983, this was The Sword and the Sorcerer.  Now the film was not that good, but I like to think my music helped it along on its way to being watchable. It desperately needed music; I wrote 75 minutes of score for that film which ran for just over 100 minutes”.  

Hawk the Slayer too, had a fairly merger budget, and the producer composer Harry Robertson decided to go for something a little more upbeat for the films score. “I co-produced Hawk the Slayer and of course wrote the score. It was unfortunately not a great success. It was at the same time as things like Krull, and Dragonslayer, were around – both of those flopped as well. Hawk did reasonably well at the cinema because it was a quite low budget film, so we did not have a lot riding on it. I wrote some of the score whilst on location. I would see how the scenes were coming out and then do a bit of writing or just jot down some ideas as and when I got them. It was an interesting experience because I had most of the score ready before the cameras had stopped rolling.

I did try and emulate Kurosawa on Hawk with camera angles and the style of direction etc. but I think we sort of leaned more towards Leone in that respect in the end – Hawk was a fantasy western if you like. That’s why the score has little trills and motifs on it when we see the hero or the villain of the piece; it was my homage to Morricone and the spaghetti western score. I did want to do a sequel, but the film studios were very cautious after the bad ratings of the first picture.

After all, if a big movie like Krull had bombed what chance did we stand with a film with a fraction of the budget. I did not give up though, I tried to get television companies interested in doing a series based on Hawk; we even went to New Zealand to do some location scouting but it never came to fruition”.

The 1980’s was the decade of the sword and the sorcery movie, with Deathstalker entering the fray no less than three times in various adventures. Then at the other end of the budget scale we had the likes of Willow and Krull both making an entry, I suppose at the time of its release Krull was a kid’s dream or fantasy come true, a real swashbuckler which had definite influences from the story of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table as well as being heavily influenced by Greek mythology and tales of a galaxy far far away.

There are also borrowed themes and scenarios that come straight from the imagination of Tolkien, but hey, did we or do we really care, did we embrace it, believe it and love it, yep, we did. Ok let’s go back over thirty-five years now, remember this is pre-internet, in fact pre-almost everything that we today take for granted. I know as well as you all do that Krull was probably not the best movie ever made, but it had its moments of excitement, magic, and romance, and at the centre of it all there was a love story. A tale of a Prince and Princess being kept apart by evil and what we thought was an unstoppable malevolent force.

Krull opens in a similar way to the original Star Wars movie, with what could be a gigantic spaceship floating through the darkness of space, this ominous looking sight sets the scene perfectly for what is to follow with a storyline that is awash with adventure, swordplay, magical steeds, and the Knights, Slayers, Heroes, Villains, Large Spiders and Evil Tyrants. The opening which shows the approach of what we at first think is a spaceship, is in fact a Black and powerful tower, a castle of sorts where an evil beast like ruler resides with his army of slayers, who are not a million miles away from storm troopers in their appearance. The film boasted a glorious score by the much-missed James Horner, which we all must agree is a powerhouse of a score and one of the movies most outstanding attributes.

James Horner.

Horner was just thirty years of age when he scored the movie, and his music is magnificent, the cue Riding of the Fire Mares is outstanding as is his Love Theme for the movie, and when you think that he scored this as well as Brainstorm, and Gorky Park in the same year it something of a major feat for a composer who was so young.

Riding of the Fire Mares.

Krull, the movie may have faded away into the mists of time and is now doomed to a life of late night airings on obscure satellite channels but the music is without a doubt one of the composers most popular works and in many ways one of his most complex, and to this day remains a firm favourite with film music devotees around the world.

Love Theme from Krull.

Then there is Willow, released in 1988 the movie was produced by George Lucas and directed by Ron Howard, it’s a rip roaring, swashbuckling fantasy adventure, that I adored when I first saw it.

I am not however saying it’s the best of George Lucas or indeed Ron Howard, but it’s an entertaining romp for kids of all ages, that is exciting, action packed and has numerous emotional interludes, filled with mystical and magical moments it was and still is a movie that many count as one of their favourites. And from a film music fans point of view it has one of the most powerful and thematic scores that was penned in the 1980’s. I think alongside Horner’s Krull it is one of my most listened to soundtracks by the composer.  

And so, to the ill-fated Dragonslayer, I say ill-fated but I kind of enjoyed it and Alex North’s complex score was also something special. The plot focuses upon a young wizard apprentice named Galen, and a King who has made a pact with a dragon to sacrifice young virgins to the creature in return for the dragon not turning his kingdom into a raging inferno. An old wizard, and his keen young apprentice Galen volunteer to kill the dragon and attempt to save the next virgin in line, the King’s own daughter. It’s a rather slow-paced movie, but I did enjoy it when I first saw it and have grown even more fond of it as the years have passed. Many did not like North’s score, but I found it to be weirdly attractive, wonderfully inventive, and totally supportive of the movie.

Highlander, Red Sonja, Hundra, Masters of the Universe, and of course Conan the Destroyer and the animated Disney feature The Black Cauldron should also be mentioned.  

So, as you can see, we are gathering a nice little collection of films and scores to talk about. The nineties also brought to the screen further adventures for The Deathstalker, The Beastmaster, and Highlander. And introduced us to Kull the Conqueror, The Bride with White Hair, and new adventures for an oldie but a goodie Hercules.

Composer Robert Folk scored The Beastmaster ll through the portal of time, in 1991, which like Masters of the Universe attempted to bring the warrior Dar into the 20th Century, did it work well I will let you see the movie and reach your own conclusions. The composer recalled working on the movie after I enquired if he was asked to use any of the music from the original Beastmaster movie. “You know, I love working on sequels. It’s almost as good as working on the original films. But to be honest, whenever I can I try to create a fresh score rather than utilizing themes and other materials from the original instalment of these franchises. So, I wrote a completely original score with little or no reference at all to the past score for Beastmaster ll”.

As the 2000’s dawned, we saw three Lord of the Rings Movies, all wonderfully brought to life by director Peter Jackson and given an ethereal and dramatic symphonic score by composer Howard Shore. It was also in the 2000’s that Dungeons and Dragons came to the big screen, as did Beowulf, Dragonheart, and Eragon. But even with the much more sophisticated FX that were then available except for the Lord of the Rings trilogy these new entries did not really have about them the excitement and the raw energy of those eighty’s movies. So, lets go back to before the 1980’s and see what sword and sorcery tales inspired the filmmakers of the 80’s. Whom the Gods wish to Destroy 1 and 2, were produced in Germany and released in 1966 and 1967 respectively, both were successful in Europe, but less so outside of the continent. The music for both movies was the work of Rolf A Wilhelm, and as far as I can see there were never any recordings of the soundtrack issued.

On watching both movies they I do not think can be called sword and sorcery, although there are elements of fantasy incorporated into the storylines, but instead they can be likened more to an Arthurian tale, with different characters.

Still both films were impressive with the music standing up well to the passing of time. The Magic Sword (1962) was a Hollywood production that starred Basil Rathbone, again a movie that was entertaining enough and at the time of its release attracted a fair amount of attention, the music was by Richard Markowitz, who provided the movie with a serviceable soundtrack,

Markowitz was more associated with TV rather than feature films working on popular series such as Mission Impossible during the mid-sixties providing a few episodes with supportive scores. He also worked on several popular series for television including Hondo, Wild Wild West, Custer, Ben Casey, and Dr Kildaire, all being aired during the 1960’s. He went onto to score episodes of The FBI, Streets of San Francisco, Murder She Wrote, Quincy M.E., Police Woman, Tales of the Unexpected, Dynasty, Columbo, Hawaii Five O, and many others.

He was born in 1926 and passed away on December 6th, 1994, in California.

Going back even further for the next movie that I feel should be mentioned and to 1956 and the Russian fantasy adventure Ilya Muromets (The Sword and the Dragon), although the movie was made in 1956 it was not released until the middle of 1960 outside of the Soviet Union, many versions that were shown in the UK being heavily edited and badly dubbed. It was shot in vivid colour, with the Ukranian born director Aleksandr Ptushko utilising stunning locations and employing a cast of thousands literally. The battle scenes were impressive, and the action almost constant throughout, so much so that one can even forgive the use of a somewhat unconvincing three headed dragon but remember this was the mid 1950’s.

Music was by Igor Morozov, who was born on May 19, 1913 in Luhansk, (Ukraine) Yekaterinoslav Governorate, in the then Russian Empire. He died on November 24, 1970 in Moscow, RSFSR, USSR. His score was epic in its style and sound and gave weight and substance to the storyline as it unfolded. It’s a film that maybe now seems dated and cliched, but also one that I think many would still enjoy.

I suppose there is also a fine line between Sword and Sorcery and just Knights in armour and adventures set in medieval times, But I think that the tales of Hercules can be easily regarded as sword and sorcery, and also a bit of strong arm stuff too and not forgetting the Gods which are always in attendance, films such as Jason and the Argonauts too has that element of the mystic, but this is I suppose more due to the involvement of the Greeks Gods rather than sorcery, (many might argue it’s the same thing).

In 2014 there were two versions of the story of Hercules doing the circuit in cinemas, sadly neither did that well at the box office, one of these entitled Hercules starred the Rock or Dwayne Johnson in the title role, directed by Brett Ratner the cast also included Ian McShane and John Hurt, but even the presence of these two distinguished actors failed to save it, set in 1400 B.C., a tormented soul walks the Earth that is neither man nor god. Hercules is the powerful son of the god King Zeus. But being the offspring of a god did him no favours as he receives nothing but suffering his entire life. After twelve arduous labours, and the death of his family, this dark, world-weary soul turned his back on the gods finding his only solace in bloody battle. Over the years, he warmed to the company of six similar souls, their only bond being their love of fighting, and the presence of death. These men and women never question where they go to fight, or why, or whom, just how much they will be paid.

Now, the King of Thrace, Lord Cotys (Sir John Hurt) has hired these mercenaries to train his men to become the greatest army of all time. It is time for this alliance of lost souls to finally have their eyes opened to how far they have fallen, when they must train an army to become as ruthless and bloodthirsty as their reputation has become. I found this version to be too modern in its approach, many of the lines being something that would be heard on the street in any modern-day metropolis and sounding out of place within the setting of this particular storyline.

 Spanish composer Fernando Velazquez provided an epic sounding score for the movie, which was symphonic, and anthem like in places, filled with romantically laced themes enhanced and bolstered by driving and adventurous passages it is a case of maybe the score is far superior to the movie it is intended to support?

The other version of the tale entitled The Legend of Hercules, was scored by Tuomas Kantelinen, and contained probably the better score, with the composer engaging fearsome brass, driving strings, choir and ethnic sounding instrumentation and vocals throughout, it is a score that is a mix of both symphonic and synthetic elements, the composer creating a highly adventurous and theme led work that oozes dark and fearsome flourishes which stands as one of his best film scores. He spoke about working on the movie just after completing the score.

“The Legend of Hercules was completed in record time. I don’t usually get involved that early in a process, but for this film we started right away, by making a sort of teaser for which I wrote some music, it was shown to buyers at the Berlin market in 2013. I also composed some cues for the set so they could have action music or music for some emotional scenes while they were filming. I was also working on the temp score of the movie, both helping to choose temp music and writing little atmospheric and transition pieces while they were editing the movie. We spotted the movie around the beginning of October, and then I started composing in earnest. Recording was in the beginning of December, final mix from the second week of December, and the movie came out on January 10th. All in all a very compact schedule, especially since the release was changed to an earlier date fairly last minute”!

Directed by Renny Harlin, the movies story is set in Ancient Greece in 1200 B.C., a queen succumbs to the lust of Zeus to bear a son promised to overthrow the tyrannical rule of the king and restore peace to a land in hardship. But this prince, Hercules, knows nothing of his real identity or his destiny. He desires only one thing: the love of Hebe, Princess of Crete, who has been promised to his own brother.

When Hercules learns of his greater purpose, he must choose: to flee with his true love or to fulfil his destiny and become the true hero of his time. The story behind one of the greatest myths is revealed in what is a fast paced and action-packed epic that is also a tale of love, sacrifice and the strength of the human spirit.  

Another version of the tale was released in 1983. Hercules was directed by Luigi Cozzi and starred Lou Ferrigno (the incredible hulk) in the title role, this bombed at the box office and Italian Maestro Pino Donaggio’s triumphant and over the top score was probably the best thing about the entire movie.

It was something of an odd entry into the Hercules collective of films, filled with really awful fx and a terrible script and acting standards that were rock bottom. Then there was the TV series Hercules, The Legendary Jouneys but that was just too painful to even talk about here, the musical scores for this were by Joseph Lo Duca.

Prince of Persia the Sands of Time, (2010) also involves swords and sorcery, but again was not a popular movie, with rogue prince (Jake Gyllenhaal) reluctantly joining forces with a mysterious princess (Gemma Arterton) and together, they race against dark forces to safeguard an ancient dagger capable of releasing the Sands of Time – gift from the gods that can reverse time and allow its possessor to rule the world. Nice work if you can get it that is. Music was the work of Harry Gregson Williams, again a serviceable score, and in the opinion of many far better than the movie.

A film that many often forget when thinking of this of genre of film is Ladyhawke, Captain Etienne Navarre (Rutger Hauer) is a man on whose shoulders lies a cruel curse. Punished for loving each other, Navarre must become a wolf by night whilst his lover, Lady Isabeau (Michelle Pfeiffer), takes the form of a hawk by day.

Rutger Hauer and Michelle Pfeiffer

Together, with the thief Philippe Gaston (Matthew Broderick), they must try to overthrow the corrupt Bishop (John Wood ) and in doing so break the spell.

Rutger Hauer and Matthew Broderick

This is a great movie, and one that I for one never tire of watching, the excellent score is the work of Andrew Powell, who combined upbeat compositions with dramatic and romantic symphonic performances to bring to fruition a score that can I think be referred to as iconic. Directed by Richard Donner Ladyhawke was released in 1985.

Staying in the 1980s and to 1981 for Clash of the Titans, I often wonder if this is sword and sorcery or just Greek mythology, but I suppose it is a little of both. A quirky and entertaining movie, in which we follow Perseus (Harry Hamlin) wh o must complete various tasks including taming Pegasus, capturing Medusa’s head, and battling the Kraken monster. Music was courtesy of Laurence Rosenthal, who fashioned an epic work. The story was given a new lease of life in 2010 and scored by Game of Thrones Maestro Ramin Djawadi. There are so many movies and TV series that are firmly within the Sword and Sorcery genre, in fact so many that it would be impossible to incorporate them into an article all at the same time. But for now, I hope you enjoyed my selection.