I was 16.
1972, was a year of variation in cinema, with a number of movies released in that year now being referred to as classics, movies such as The Godfather for example, then we were treated to films such as Deliverance, Straw Dogs, Silent Running, The Last Tango in Paris, Solaris, X,Y and Zee, Play it again Sam, Aguirre-Wrath of God , Jerimiah Johnson, The Getaway, The Offence, Love in the Afternoon, Everything you wanted to Know about Sex but were afraid to ask, Images, and the list goes on it seems forever,
1972 also saw a scattering of Kung Fu movies, or should I say martial arts films, many being from China badly dubbed and heavily edited, such as The One Armed Swordsman but two of the better martial art sagas from that year were Fist of Fury and The Way of the Dragon, both of which starred Bruce Lee.
There were also a handful of international movies as in foreign language films, The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant, Padroz za jeden usmiech, Wesele, and Poszukiwany, Poszukiwana. It was also the year in which we saw The Poseidon Adventure in cinemas and films such as The Mechanic, The Hot Rock, and Fellini’s Roma achieving good returns at the box office. Joe Kidd too was released but to a little less enthusiasm from audiences.
Filmmaker Billy Wilder also entertained via his movie Avanti that starred Jack Lemmon and Juliet Mills, and John Huston gave us The life and times of Judge Roy Bean with Paul Newman in the title role. And let’s not forget Liza (with a Z) Minelli, who wowed audiences in the screen version of the musical Cabaret.
So, I think you will agree that this was a not only varied year in film but also a greatly entertaining one as well. It is now fifty years since these and other films from that year burst onto our screens, it was a world before disco, and a place where if you needed to know anything you had to buy a set of encyclopedias, go to the library, read books or ask a grown up. There was no internet (no, really there was no world wide web), home computers were not heard of (because I think if you wanted a computer at home you would have to live in a mansion or a castle to house it at that time) and people’s needs seemed to be less complex and difficult. The soundtrack market too was somewhat different as many film scores never saw the light of day on a recording unless it was a big movie or deemed to an important one. It was a period when there were some specialist soundtrack outlets such as Soundtrack and Harlequin in London, period but most of the time one had to rely upon the humble record shop and someone behind the counter that had an inkling of what film music was. Many shops stocked those compilations of cover versions of movie themes by Mantovani, Manuel and the Music of the Mountains, (Geoff Love) and the likes of Ron Goodwin etc.
So, it was a surprise to me when I went into the department store in the centre of town and found the LP soundtrack for Silent Running. I had seen the movie and loved it, it had a message, but I think most of the watching audience did not really understand it or get that message. That message I think is even more relevant today, but still, no one listens. I did whilst watching the movie notice the score and had not heard of the composer, but I know I liked the music and the way it worked in the movie. The LP was on the MCA label, and had terrific eye-catching cover art. It was a no brainer for me I had to have it. It is a score that I still listen to today, but I do tend to listen to the digital edition now.
I still have the original LP and the re-issue on Varese Sarabande in green vinyl, and was lucky enough to interview the composer, Peter Schickele a couple of years back. The music for the movie is not just supportive but also via the lyrics and vocals of Joan Baez tells a story and adds atmospherics and varying moods to the unfolding storyline. To say that Silent Running was ahead of its time is I suppose an understatement. The movie was a compelling one and contained many thought-provoking moments. The storyline implies that all plant life as we know it on earth has become extinct,( that could not possibly happen could it?) what has been done is that as many varieties of plants have been rescued and sent into space on great domes which are in effect huge greenhouses that can sustain life and preserve it in the hope that earth will be able one day again allow it to flourish, but until then these domes are attached to a spacecraft which is drifting in space.
The ship Valley Forge is part of a large fleet of container ships which is on the outskirts of the orbit of Saturn. The domes are attended by a crew, one of which is passionate about his work, Freeman Lowell played marvellously by Bruce Dern is one of the four-member crew and he tends the plant life and the animals that are in the domes, in the hope that soon they will return to earth for re-forestation. Things however do not go how Lowell thinks they will, and they receive orders that the domes should be jettisoned and destroyed by blowing them up with nuclear charges.
Lowell is incensed by the decision and after four of the six domes are destroyed, he decides to put a stop to the destruction and rescue the plants and wildlife that he has been caring for. It’s a tense storyline at times but also contains but also has the ability to become frustrating for the watching audience, the other crew members are not at all in tune with the plants or the animals and to them it’s a job and when they are told to destroy the domes they set about doing this. Lowell kills one of the crew members who attempts to place charges in his favourite dome, in the fight Lowell’s leg is injured badly, but he manages to jettison and destroy the fifth dome which is carrying the remaining crew members. He then recruits three drones to help him and names them Huey, Dewey, and Louie and re-programmes them. The impressive movie was helmed by Douglas Trumbull, in his directorial debut.
This is in my opinion a mini classic and a must watch movie. And the score is too an iconic work, that like the movie has gained a cult following. It is a fairly small-scale score although there are a couple of cues that do become grand and symphonic, these being The Space Fleet, and Saturn, in which the composer utilises brass, strings and percussion to create an near anthem like sound, the remainder of the work is essentially low key and although symphonic has to it a more intimate and personal style as in the cues, Drifting, and The Dying Forest, with the composer combining a soft and fragile sounding solo piano with lilting strings to achieve a sense of melancholy in the cue Tending to Huey.
The composers use of solo cello and violin in certain cues is also affecting, purveying a sense of loss, disbelief, and desperation. There is also a sense of drama achieved in the tracks No Turning Back in which the composer employs sinewy sounding strings that ebb and flow at times swelling to create a melodic ambience.
Remember this was Pre-Star Wars. Yes, Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker were still a twinkle in the minds eye of George Lucas. Silent Running is a film that you should watch and if you already have seen it why not take the time to return to it. I did and was I must admit even more impressed with it and its score.
From deep space we head back to earth and to rural surroundings of England, in the movie Straw Dogs where astrophysicist David Sumner (Dustin Hoffman) and his wife Amy (Susan George) are bullied and taken advantage of by the locals hired to do construction work at their cottage just outside of a remote village in the west country of England. The couple have moved to the village in the hope that they will escape the pace of life that they have been experiencing in America, which is rushed and hectic, and the environment becoming increasingly violent. But they find the same elements and traits in the relatively quiet and laid-back Cornwall village where Amy was born and grew up and it soon transpires, she has history with some of the local males. When David finally takes a stand against the bullies, it escalates quickly into a bloody battle as the locals assault his home.
The movie directed by Sam Peckinpah contained the now infamous rape scene, Hoffman gives a sold performance in the movie and Jerry Fielding’s sparse but affecting music adds tension and generates greater atmospherics to enhance the storyline as it heads towards its violent and graphic conclusion. The music is brooding, menacing, and dark, and although it supports and underlines it never intrudes or overpowers the dialogue or action on screen, Fielding’s score punctuated and enhanced but also allowed the movie to breath.
Just to remind you of the year 1972 maybe you recall the likes of Mr squeaky clean David Cassidy who was asking How can I be Sure? or the more shining bright and clean cut example of American wholesomeness The Osmonds, in the charts, or maybe the sweetly smiling New Seekers stand out for you as they were attempting to Teach the world to sing in perfect harmony (good luck with that one) or you could have opted for something a little more risqué in the form of T. Rex with Metal Guru, the 1970’s were to be a furtive time in both music and film, and even though the cinematic heights of 1972 were at times brought down to earth by certain movies such as Steptoe and Son or Carry on Abroad and Mutiny on the Buses, they were all entertaining in their own inimitable fashion.
Mutiny on the Buses in fact, was a better box office attraction than Hammer’s other big movie that year Dracula AD 1972, which attempted to bring the infamous Count screaming and biting into the 20thCentury with disappointing results, these included dodgy hairstyles, even worse clothing and a script that really was cringeworthy at the time and thinking about it stayed that way even when one revisited the film in the following years. I bet the Count was saying under his breath “I Hate you Buses” or maybe “Hey man groovy far out”.
The On the Buses movies were a spin off from the already successful TV series that was on the ITV network, but I do not think that even Hammer had envisaged just how successful the first movie would be and led to the studio producing two sequels Mutiny on the Buses and Holiday on the Buses which were both very popular with audiences. Hammer studios were during this time at a crossroads, their horror films as in Dracula etc had begun to lose their attraction with audiences, mainly because yes, they were horror but was there enough horror in them for the audience to focus its attention? The time-honoured recipe for success that the studio had employed since the late 1950’s with movies such as The Curse of Frankenstein and their first Dracula, picture was waning for Hammer as they attempted to bring the vampire Count into the contemporary world during the 1970’s, in films such as Dracula AD 1972 and the slightly better effort The Satanic Rites of Dracula. But some of the old Hammer appeal did raise its head in productions such as Twins of Evil (1971) and the excellent Vampire Circus which was also released in 1972.
So, the studio turned once again to comedy as they had before with movies such as The Ugly Duckling in 1959 which starred Bernard Bresslaw and Up the Creek the year before. In the hope that they could re-create the success of the Carry On Movies, with the On The Buses series it worked, but after this the movies they decided to produced based on TV shows fell a little flat with cinema goers such as Man about the House and Love thy Neighbour losing their appeal on the big screen for some. The central character of all the On the Buses storylines was played by Reg Varney who portrayed the downtrodden Stan Butler who always seemed to be having bad luck. Mutiny on the Buses was scored by well-known Australian born composer Ron Grainer, who of course found a place in music lover’s hearts with his theme for Dr Who and had wowed soundtrack fans with his wonderfully atmospheric score to The Omega Man in 1971.
The music that he penned for Mutiny is serviceable and pleasant enough but it’s no Oscar winner as far as film music goes. The music is basically a continuous travelogue style of score that runs sporadically throughout the movie, there are some nice themes but these never seem to develop so the music never makes much of an impression or supports the storyline that much. GDI records released a selection of music from Grainer’s soundtrack on the Hammer Comedy Collection.
So, staying with Hammer from 1972 and Vampire Circus as I have already mentioned. This is in my opinion one of Hammers finest non-Dracula vampire yarns, the story was inventive and original plus it also contained traditional aspects of the vampire legend and the frights, blood, and sex came in the bucket load. It was a gripping movie with many familiar faces from Hammer history and British films. It also contained one of Hammer’s best film scores from composer David Whittaker who wrote a powerful and commanding symphonic soundtrack to enhance and bolster the vampiric goings on. The cast included Adrienne Corri, Anthony Higgins, John Moulder Brown, Lalla Ward, Robin Sachs, Thorley Walters, David Prowse (pre-Darth Vader) and a fresh-faced actress Lynne Frederick.
“Your children will die to give me back my life” that’s what Count Mitterhaus vows on his death bed after being staked through the heart by the villagers of Stetl in an action packed and impressive pre-credits sequence. A little different from Mutiny on the Buses but a lot classier than Dracula AD 1972 and showing something of the old Hammer style. Sadly, David Whittaker’s magnificent score was never released in its entirety, but a suite was recorded by Silva Screen which ran for nearly ten minutes, and then GDI released sections of the score on its Vampire Collection, the music is beguiling and at times frenzied, but also contains hints of romanticism and is filled with menace and foreboding. There is a macabre and somewhat awkward sounding waltz theme which appears at the beginning of the movie during a love scene which proves to be a masterful touch from the composer.
It purveys a sense of romanticism but is at the same time tinged with an air of uncertainty and apprehension becoming sensual and affecting as the couple make love before being interrupted by angry villagers baring stakes and crucifix’s. The composer utilises strings in lush and opulent mode that are augmented by cimbalom adding hints of ethnic authenticity to the proceedings and introducing a chilling atmosphere at the same time. Directed by Robert Young and produced by Wilbur Stark and Michael Carreras (uncredited). The movie was shot at Pinewood studios, it was and remains a stylish and thought-provoking tale that kept one’s attention focused throughout, its strangely alluring and believable plot I felt was a better storyline than any of the Dracula movies I had seen. For a more in depth look at the film and its score click here. VAMPIRE CIRCUS. | MOVIE MUSIC INTERNATIONAL. (MMI) . (wordpress.com)
1972 also gave us Lady Sings the Blues the story of American jazz singer Billie Holiday portrayed convincingly by soul diva Diana Ross, produced by Motown films for Paramount Pictures it also starred Billy Dee Williams and Richard Pryor. As well as the songs of Billie Holiday the soundtrack also featured a romantic sounding theme with hints of melancholy by French composer Michel Legrand. The theme being utilised throughout in varying arrangements, Legrand employing a rich and lavish sounding piece, for strings and piano which created a sense of the luxurious.
Which worked well because it was just the opposite to what the central character was experienceing.
Buck and The Preacher was also released in 1972, the movie which starred Sidney Poitier who also co-directed the movie with Joseph Sargent also starred Harry Belafonte, and Cameron Mitchell. Poitier portrays former slave and Union Army sergeant Buck becomes a self-employed wagon master to wagon trains of freed slaves heading West. Buck knows the region well and he charges fair wages from the wagon trains employing him. He also has a working relationship with the local Indian tribes that charge trespassing fees from the wagon trains heading West across Indian lands. In return, they allow the settlers to move across Indian territory unhindered and to hunt a few buffalo needed to feed the wagon train settlers.
However, not everyone in the region is friendly toward the black settlers traveling West. Owners of Southern plantations, dismayed by the loss of slave manpower that previously worked the plantations for free, hire band of white rogues and outlaws to prevent former black slaves from going West. To achieve this aim, the hired band of rouges attack wagon trains and destroy the wagons, the supplies, and the food resources of the former slaves. They threaten the black settlers and tell them to return to the Southern states where they came from and work the plantations. Wagon master Buck encourages the freed slaves to continue their trek westward and to not give up their dream of settling in the West. Knowing this, the band of rogues led by DeShay plans to capture and kill Buck.
The DeShay gang sets up ambushes and traps, but Buck always manages to avoid capture. The gang resides in the town of Copper Springs where the sheriff, an honest man, doesn’t agree with the gang’s ruthless tactics against wagon trains of freed slaves. Chased by the DeShay bunch, wagon master Buck and his tired horse arrive at a river where a black preacher, Reverend Willis Oakes Rutherford, (Belafonte) is bathing. A desperate Buck switches horses with the preacher, against the man’s will, and rides off to meet his wagon train. The preacher heads to Copper Springs where he bumps into DeShay’s gang. Recognising Buck’s horse, the gang interrogate the preacher about Buck’s whereabouts. DeShay promises a reward to the preacher if he finds Buck and captures or even kills him. DeShay also instructs the preacher to convince all black settlers to turn back east toward the Southern plantations and abandon their trek Westward. The preacher agrees with DeShay and leaves town. Outside town he meets a wagon train formed of freed slaves and led by none other than Buck. After an angry exchange between the preacher and Buck, the preacher joins the wagon train.
During the following days of travel, the preacher notices that all the money of the wagon train is kept in a money belt carried by one of the women around her waist. A few days later, a distrustful Buck orders the preacher to leave the wagon train and he himself rides away to scout the area and to pay a right of passage to the local Indian tribe on behalf of the wagon train who will be seen as trespassers. The preacher follows Buck and he witnesses the payment made by Buck to the Indian chief for safe passage of the settlers. When Buck, followed by the preacher, returns to the wagon train he discovers that DeShay’s gang has attacked it, stole the settlers’ money, destroyed their food, and supplies and murdered a few settlers. Heartbroken, the surviving settlers want to turn back but Buck encourages them to go on.
Angry at the devastation, Buck and the preacher decide to ride to the town of Copper Springs and exact revenge on DeShay’s gang and try to retrieve the money DeShay stole from the black settlers.
The music for the movie was the work of saxophonist, songwriter (“Because of You”, “Hot Toddy”), conductor, arranger and composer, Benny Carter who was educated at Wilberforce University in theology. He was a saxophonist in Horace Henderson’s Wilberforce Collegians, then played in the orchestras of Fletcher Henderson and Chick Webb. He went to Paris in 1935, and joined the Willie Lewis Orchestra, then became the staff arranger for the BBC in England. Returning to the USA, he formed his own orchestras in New York and Hollywood, and began writing for films. He became a member of ASCAP in 1942 and penned a number of other popular-songs such as Dream Lullaby, Blues in My Heart, Everybody Shuffle, and Poor Fool among them. He utilised harmonica within the score that underlined the plight of the black settlers and acted as support for both Buck and his sidekick.
Bad Company was directed by Robert Benton, who also co-wrote the film with David Newman. The western stars Barry Brown and Jeff Bridges as two young men who decide to dodge the draft during the American civil war. They head off to seek their fortune and freedom on the alluring but unforgiving American frontier. After its initial release many critics decided to classify Bad Company as an Acid Western, it has become something of a cult movie and contains an interesting score from Harvey Schmidt. The composer was born on September 12, 1929, in Dallas, Texas, USA as Harvey Lester Schmidt. He was a composer and writer, known for contributions to recent movies such as Captain America Civil War,War (2016), The Fantasticks (2000) and A Texas Romance, 1909 (1964). Schmidt was nominated for three Tony Awards with his long-time collaborator Tom Jones in 1964, as Best Composer and Lyricist for 110 in the Shade, and in 1967, as Best Composer and Lyricist and his music as part of a Best Musical nomination for I Do! I Do! He was also the composer of The Fantasticks which ran for a staggering forty-one years, becoming the longest-running musical in US history. The lyrics and book for this were by Tom Jones, whom Schmidt met at the University of Texas. Although a prolific composer, Schmidt never studied music and was self-taught. He died on February 28, 2018 in Tomball, Texas.
Then there was The Amazing Mister Blunden, which was directed by Lionel Jeffries, essentially a charming children’s movie but also one filled with ghosts and mysteries. An old solicitor Mr. Blunden visits Mrs. Allen and her young children in their shabby Camden Town flat in London and makes her an offer she cannot possibly refuse. The family become the housekeepers to a run-down country mansion which is in the charge of the solicitors. The children meet the spirits of two other children who died in the mansion nearly a hundred years previously. The children prepare a magic potion that allows them to travel backwards in time to the era of the ghost children. Will the children be able to help their new friends and what will happen to them if they do, well to find out you will have sit and watch the movie. Music for the film was by American composer Elmer Bernstein who produced a melodic and quintessentially English sounding score. The music adds much to the atmosphere of the storyline and punctuates the ghostly goings on to great effect. Bernstein employing a kind of watery sounding music that flows through the plot, underlining and acting as support to the action, conveying melancholy and a accompaniment to the unfolding storyline.
The music was not available on a recording at the time of the film’s release although it was much requested by collectors. The score was finally released in 2019 on the intrada label. That concludes my selective and brief look at 1972, there were however many more excellent movies released during that year, how many do you remember?