Category Archives: ARTICLES

Articles in this section reflect a personal view of the author only.

IL GRANDE SILENZIO (THE GRAND SILENCE).

 


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Released in 1968 in Europe THE GRAND SILENCE (IL GRANDE SILENZIO) was directed by acclaimed Italian filmmaker Sergio Corbucci.

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Corbucci was born on December 6th,1927 in Italy. Most of his movies have the reputation for containing copious amounts of violence, but at the same time his films were intelligent and groundbreakingly inventive examples of Italian cinema and in future years influenced several young directors both in Italy and outside of that country. He is probably best known for his work within the Italian or Spaghetti western genre. But he was at home within any genre, several his action films contain social criticism of left-wing politics as Corbucci never hid the fact that he was a communist. The art direction he employed within his films was mostly apocalyptic and surrealistic which became one of the film-makers trademarks and examples of his black humour and quick wit. Corbucci began his career in film in the Sword and Sandal days of Italian cinema, or Peplums as they are so often referred to these days and it is probably true to say that he learnt his craft from many Hollywood film directors that had travelled to Italy’s Cinecitta to work on the big budget Biblical epics during the 1950,s and 1960,s. He learnt his craft working as an assistant director on a handful of these productions and then decided that he would contribute several examples of the Sword and Sandal variety to the genre. These included SON OF SPARTACUS, which although was nothing remotely like the original SPARTACUS, was an enjoyable adventure romp which introduced some quirky but interesting touches.

 

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In 1965 he directed MASSACRE AT GRAND CANYON, which was a spaghetti western of sorts, by this I mean it certainly belongs to the genre, but really contained none of the trademarks that we now so readily associate with the Italian produced sagebrush sagas, which can also be said for movies such as GUNFIGHT AT RED SANDS etc. In the same year he worked on MINNESOTA CLAY again an Italian western, but one which still contained many of the clichéd trademarks of the Hollywood produced western and starred an American actor Cameron Mitchell in the lead role. the film was also sadly overshadowed by the success of Sergio Leone’s first foray into the western arena, A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS.

 

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In 1966 Corbucci began to shape the style and blueprint of the western all’Italiana with RINGO AND HIS GOLDEN PISTOL which was one of the earlier real spaghetti westerns, containing a gimmicky storyline, but still having some connections with the Hollywood version of the western. It was DJANGO an ultra-violent western that he also filmed in 1966 that was to be the directors first major break into the commercial film market, the movies leading actor was Franco Nero who was to be the leading figure in many of Corbucci’s later movies.

 

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The film became an instant hit in Italy and also a cult film throughout Europe, it was and still is notorious for its scenes of violence and also the amount of killings it contained, which led to it being banned in the UK for some 20 years, receiving its first screening on the BBC as part of a series of films introduced by Critic and filmmaker Alex Cox. In many ways it was a more brutal version of A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS. With Ku Klux Clan and Mexican bandit’s taking the place of the Rojo’s and the Baxter’s and the mysterious Django character being stuck in the middle playing both sides off against each other. In the same year Corbucci directed NAVAJO JOE, another ultra-violent example of the genre which was a vehicle for the young American actor Burt Reynolds, but it was the success of DJANGO that put Corbucci firmly on the filmmaking map, after this success Corbucci went onto become a director in demand and made numerous other westerns during the period from 1966 through to 1971 that remain to this day original and iconic examples of the Spaghetti genre.

 

 

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THE GREAT SILENCE which was perceived to be so violent that it too was banned from several countries was one of these and is now considered to be the directors most accomplished example within the genre of the western. The movie had two endings shot, one being happy and upbeat where the good guys triumphed, and everyone lived happily ever after, the other being more down to earth gruesome and dark, with the villains being the ones who walked away from the shootout at the end of the movie. Other westerns that Corbucci directed include, A PROFESSIONAL GUN, HELLBENDERS, THE SPECIALIST, COMPANEROS, BANDA J AND S and WHAT AM I DOING IN THE MIDDLE OF THE REVOLUTION. Corbucci became the most successful director in Italy after Sergio Leone. When the genre of the Italian western had run its course and the ideas for the genre had been explored fully and exhausted by filmmakers, Corbucci concentrated mostly upon comedies which was a genre that he also excelled in. These movies often starred the singer/actor Adriano Celentano. It has been said that Corbucci’s contributions were not important examples of Italian cinema at the time of them being produced, but over the years he has become an extremely significant and highly regarded figure within the world of film making. Sergio Corbucci died on December 1st, 1990.

 

 


IL GRANDE SILENZIO, is for me personally one of the great Italian made westerns, everything about the movie is polished and it is in my humble opinion probably the best non-Leone made western that has been produced within this genre. Unlike so many Italian made westerns THE GRAND SILENCE a French-Italian co-production was filmed in Italy in the Dolomites and not in Spain, it is set in a snow-covered landscape rather than an arid and dusty one or the mud laden location as in Corbucci’s DJANGO.
The cast is impressive with the lead being taken by French actor Jean Louise Trintignant who plays the part of mute gunfighter named Silence. The movie also starred Klaus Kinski who as always was excellent as the villain LOCO the leader of a band of bounty hunters. The love interest was provided by actress Vonetta McGee who made her debut in the movie. Plus, there were some familiar faces in the form of Frank Wolff, Luigi Pistilli and Mario Brega. Trintignant’s character is pitted against Loco and his killers as he defends a group of outlaws who are hiding out in the hills and a vengeful widow played convincingly by McGee.

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Corbucci not only directed the film, but co-wrote the story and screenplay, it is said that the story was inspired by the deaths of both Che Guevara and Malcolm X. The story is set just prior to the Great Blizzard of 1899 in Utah State USA. The movie was distributed in most places by 20th Century Fox, but received a luke warm reception upon its release, but like so many of the directors films, its popularity grew and it has attained cult status.

 

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Like DJANGO it was refused a cinema release in America, and did not receive an actual release in the States until 2001, when the DVD was made available. Eleven years after the release of the DVD THE GREAT SILENCE got its theatrical premier and was then re-released in 2017. The movie is a bleak and somewhat unforgiving one, that is dark and violent but at the same time because it is so well directed and purveyed by the cast it comes across as sheer perfection within this at times quirky but interesting genre of films. The musical score too is impressive, Ennio Morricone’s rather soft and highly themeatic approach also supports and elevate the films storyline, and again we have the scenario where a softer sounding soundtrack is instrumental (forgive the pun) in making the moments of violence even more shocking and affective.

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The composers opening credits theme in-particular is soothing and calming RESTLESS theme accompanies Trintignant as we see him riding through the snow-covered landscape as the credits appear on screen. Strings, Choir and percussion combine to create a haunting melody that is given various outings throughout the movie in differing arrangements. Apart from ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST and GIU LA TESTA. IL GRANDE SILENZIO is probably one of Morricone’s more melodically themed scores for a western and considering the amount of violence and bloodshed within the movie the score works well with the desolate and unwelcoming snow filled locations, there is a easy sounding persona to many of the compositions within the score and as always Morricone fashions haunting and attractive melodies that linger in the listeners mind long after they have finished listening to them. There are also some interesting chorale performances via Alessandroni’s flawless IL CANTORI MODERNI, who’s performances bring an almost celestial sound to the work, Alessandroni also performs Sitar within the score, which is an unusual instrument for a western soundtrack, but this is the genius of Morricone we are dealing with, Sitar, harp and choir combine at times to create stunning fragments of themes that are a delight.

 


Don’t get me wrong there are an equal amount of raw and savage sounding pieces within the score, but it is the fragility and melodious moments that attract and make an impression. The score was released on LP and then given a re-issue also on vinyl as a special collector’s edition in the BEAT records Gold Series. The score then made it to compact disc and finally was re issued with a few extra moments of music.

 
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Henry Pollicut is a corrupt banker and a self-appointed justice of the peace in Utah. Pollicut has a man and his wife killed by Bounty Hunters and to prevent their son telling anyone they cut his throat making him mute. Years on in 1898 the boy has grown into a man and is a gunfighter who is known as Silence. Pollicut is still around and Silence works with the community and a group of men with bounties on their heads against Pollicut and the unsavoury characters in his employ. It is an interesting plot and one that has many twists, turns and ups and downs, but I have always found it to be a rewarding watch. Looking at the film’s alternate endings, I personally prefer the one that allows good or at least the antihero of the piece to triumph and looking at these endings there is also I think a link with Sergio Leone’s A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, with Silence’s metal gauntlet maybe being a reference to the stranger’s metal breast plate. An interesting western well directed with solid performances and a great musical score.

 

 

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EXORCISING MEMORIES OF THE EXORCIST.

 

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1973, and a new kind of horror was about to hit the screens in Cinema’s all over the world and it is true to say that the Horror genre would never be the same again. THE EXORCIST was at the time of its release controversial to say the least, it told the story of a twelve-year-old girl who is possessed by demons, and even now writing about it I have shivers all over. Maybe by writing about the movie I will be able to shake off my own demons that have stayed with me since that Saturday night in the Astoria cinema when I went to see the movie, a movie I might hasten to add I never did see all the way through, and still have not to this day.(yes I was one of the ones who left) The movie has since its release attained a notoriety and an infamous persona that has earned it the title of being the best horror film of all time, according to many lists of best horror films that is. Based on the book by William Peter Blatty which we are assured was based on true events, director William Friedkin helmed the production, which still freaks many out when they see it for the first time. It is considered buy fans and critics the ultimate horror and one which spawned two sequels, neither of which caused anywhere so much fuss as the original. The film was a pre-cursor also to many productions that attempted to imitate it, but these often were inferior and paled in the graphic scenes and terror filled moments of THE EXORCIST. Even when spoke of people sit up and take notice and because it is without any doubt an iconic movie, the mention of its title sparks discussion and debate. The film not only affected audiences and the way in which horror films would be made after its release but it also made an impact on the use of music within films. Director Friedkin opting to ditch an original score that had been composed by Lalo Schifrin and go for classical music of sorts by modernistic composers and of course it was partly due to the film utilizing a brief section of Mike Oldfield’s TUBULAR BELLS that catapulted that recording into the stratosphere.

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The soundtrack as visualized by Friedkin is itself a terrifying experience without any images to unsettle you. Many people were up until a few years ago unaware that Shcifrin had originally been hired to write the score, and the original work turned up on a compact disc that came as part of a video box set which was released. The story is that the director threw a tantrum over something to do with the trailer that the composer had scored and literally tossed the tapes of the music out of a studio window, whether this is how it happened I can’t say, but let us just say the score was rejected. The trailer that had been put together was shown to audiences with the composer’s music and because the audience had such a violent reaction to it, ie; vomiting or running out of the cinema screaming, it was decided that it was the music that was to blame, even though Friedkin had said ok to it previously. Warner Brothers demanded a new score, which the composer has often said was not a problem, but Friedkin did not pass the studios request onto the composer who carried on writing the remainder of the music in the same style, thus Friedkin rejected it, and replaced it with tracks of his own choosing. Listening to Schifrin’s music today does make me understand why the studio would want a softer approach, as we know films of extreme horror or violence often benefit from having a soundtrack that is shall we say soothing.

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Having lighter more calming music often elevates the moments of horror making them have a greater impact. Lalo Schifrin spoke of the Exorcist assignment and what happened about the music.

What happened is that the director, William Friedkin, hired me to write the music for the trailer, six minutes were recorded for the Warner’s edition of the trailer. The people who saw the trailer reacted against the film, because the scenes were heavy and frightening, so most of them went to the toilet to vomit. The trailer was terrific, but the mix of those frightening scenes and my music, which was also a very difficult and heavy score, scared the audiences away.

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So, the Warner Brothers executives said Friedkin to tell me that I must write less dramatic and softer score. I could easily and perfectly do what they wanted because it was way too simple in relevance to what I have previously written, but Friedkin didn’t tell me what they said. I´m sure he did it deliberately. In the past we had an incident, caused by other reasons, and I think he wanted vengeance. This is my theory.

 

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So strong stuff from the composer, the soundtrack that was issued on Warner’s at the time of the films release was one that you did not see around that much, I can remember it being on an import LP but is was not something I actually purchased at the time, the music did not register for me in the movie, yes I knew their was a score but it was not one that you walked out of the cinema whistling or humming. In fact, the only piece of music that stuck with me was TUBULAR BELLS and that was an album I already owned, (did’nt everyone?). The actual album of the soundtrack as issued by Warner’s I suppose you could say was a classical album or compilation conducted by Leonard Slatkin, on listening to it now I have to say it is a rather sinister sounding collection, dark and unsettling, ominous and fretful, but is that because one is aware that the music was used to track this particular movie, and is it the memories of the movie rather than the atmospherics and moods created by the music that makes it so, if you understand what I am saying?

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If Friedkin or Warner’s believed Schifrin’s score was too frightening, then why did Warner’s then allow the director to track the film with the music he did? Because in my opinion it is equally as harrowing as the original score that Schifrin penned. Maybe the composer’s thoughts and comments on the whole episode about the score are well founded, who knows, not me or any of us mere mortals.

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The soundtrack as compiled by Friedkin included the piece entitled, POLYMORPHIA, which is a composition for forty-eight stringed instruments, Violins, Cello, Viola and Basses feature within the piece, it was composed by Krzysztof Penderecki in the latter part of 1961, he was commissioned to write it by a German radio station and it was premiered in 1962 under the baton of Andrezej Markowski. POLYMORPHIA was one of the first compositions that the composer worked on whilst he was experimenting with his own graphic notation which had been inspired by Electroencephalograms, POLYMORPHIA is from the Greek which means MANY SHAPES OR FORMS. The sharp and brooding dissonant sounds being perfect for conjuring up a mood that is virulent or foreboding. NIGHT OF THE ELECTRIC INSECT also features on the soundtrack, written by George Crumb who was a well known avant garde composer, it is part of the BLACK ANGELS, which is referred to as an electric string quintet, and subtitled THIRTEEN IMAGES FROM A DARK LAND composed between 1969 and 1970. It is something of a mystery as to why Friedkin decided against using Schifrin’s score, but as I have already said we are mere mortals and are not privy to this, why did Kubrick not use Alex North’s superb music for 2001 A SPACE ODDYSSEY? I guess because he did not like it. The actual score written by Schifrin is a complex and highly disturbing one, When, listening to it as just music it does have the ability to make one feel uneasy and unsettled. It is said that the composer re-used some of the music in THE AMITYVILLE HORROR which was released in 1979 another shocking horror for which the composer received an Oscar nomination for best original score. So lets look at the Schifrin score and whilst we are re-visiting it also let us delve into the abyss that is the EXORCIST. Lalo Schifrin was already a well-established film music composer when he was hired to score The Exorcist, he had already big movie scores to his credit which included, BULLIT, COOL HAND LUKE and was well known because of his infectious theme for the TV series MISSION IMPOSSIBLE. From what we hear on the CD of the score that was made available there is a theme entitled ROCK BALLAD, which is something of a misleading title, because it is anything but rock orientated or led. The theme instead could be something that is used as source music in any number of movies.

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I think it does not even have the normal Schifrin sound or style, and it is to be fair more easy listening than music for a horror movie, but remember what I said earlier about scoring a horror with a lighter or softer sounding score, it lulls the watching audience into a false sense of security, soothes them and calms them then BANG the film opens up and hits them square between the eyes and they had no idea it was even coming. But this is the only piece within Schifrin’s score that remotely resembles anything that is calm, the remainder is complex and hard hitting, the composer utilizing dark and shifting piano, underlined by swirling strings that sound as if they are creating a maelstrom that will pull you down and down deeper into darkness and the unknown. The strings create a grating and scratchy sound, and these are underlined and punctuated by lower sounding strings as in basses and maybe cello.

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It is a harrowing and tense listening experience, but at the same time one must realize the amount of work and just how original and innovative the score is, especially at this period in the history of cinema. Many movies contained scores that were a collection of catchy little tunes, rather than being actual film music, movie studios were opting to use more songs and the original score was beginning to fade slightly, it was the era in which the so-called music supervisor began to get a credit on screen and directors and producers played at being composers by tracking their movies with already recorded material. Schifrin however, remained busy as did composers such as Jerry Goldsmith, John Barry and Jerry Fielding, Schifrin scored two other movies in the same year as working on the EXORCIST. ENTER THE DRAGON and MAGNUM FORCE were both big box office hits. Schifrin’s rejected work probably would have served the movie better, but Friedkin obviously had other ideas. The production itself was beset by various difficulties and was edited on many occasions on instruction from the film censor and also by Friedkin. But, despite the warnings from various organizations which included none other than the Catholic Church it still attracted the audiences, most of whom managed to stay and watch the entire movie.

 

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What ever your opinion of the film, it is without a doubt, an iconic production and one that will in my opinion will have a notoriety for ever within Cinema history and will also maintain  the tag of being the scariest horror movie of all time, no matter what else Hollywood serves up for consideration. Does it still scare you? It does me.

 

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Schindler’s List (25 years on).

 

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Has it really been 25 years since Schindler’s List was released? Yes, it has, over a period of 25 years a lot has happened, but my recollection of this movie is still vivid and fresh in my mind. The impact that this film had upon audiences and generations was immense. In fact, when I was contemplating writing something about the films anniversary, I did think twice as I felt I could not put into words the feelings I had for it. It is a haunting and harrowing movie, a story that shocks and saddens and one, that makes you feel disgust at what the Jewish people suffered at the hands of monsters. It is also a movie that should be shown to everyone in the hope that awful events such as the Holocaust never happen again. But it saddens me to say that History has a terrible habit of repeating itself. And although there has not been anything on the scale of the Holocaust since WWll there have been many wars and conflicts that were all about ethnic cleansing. I saw the movie once in the cinema and it was such an emotional experience I could not go back but instead watched it in the confines of my own home.

 

I would think why did this happen? How could human beings do this to other humans, could I have done this even if it was war, could I have killed women and children without a second thought without any remorse any emotion, the answer is of course No. The thing about SCHINDLER’S LIST is that it a true story, it happened it was as awful it was as sickening and it was as terrifying as it is presented on the screen, in fact probably more so. These were real people, real lives, Sons, Daughters, Fathers, Mothers, Grandparents and Grandchildren.

 

 

All I remember when leaving the cinema after seeing the movie was a sense of loss, of emptiness and of shock. The black and white images made it seem even more real. The film is set in Krakow during the second world war the Germans which are occupying the city have forced Polish Jews into the Ghetto, which is already overcrowded and squalid. Oskar Schindler, who is German, and a businessman arrives in the City, he is hoping to use cheap Jewish labour to make money and become a wealthy. Schindler is a member of the Nazi party and bribes German high-ranking officers and members of the infamous SS so that he can establish a factory where his workforce will produce Enamelware. Schindler then enlists the assistance of Itzhak Stern who is a local Jewish official who has good standing in the community and has many contacts with black market dealers. Stern helps Schindler to get financing for the factory. Schindler stays close to the Nazi’s and begins to reap the rewards both monetarily and status wise. Stern meanwhile takes care of the administration side of things, Schindler insists on employing Jewish workers because they are cheap labour, and Stern all the time is adamant that they are important for the German war effort, thus stopping them being sent to concentration camps or murdered by the Nazi’s.

 


The SS send a hard line second lieutenant to Krakow who is put in charge of the construction of the Plaszow Concentration Camp, a task that he relishes and one that is soon completed. When the camp is deemed ready the German officer orders that the Ghetto be emptied, during the liquidation of the Ghetto many people are killed. Schindler witness’s the carnage and is affected by the horrors that he has seen. He is drawn to a young girl in a red coat who he sees hiding from the soldiers. He later sees her tiny body in a wagon filled with corpses. Schindler knows that he must maintain friendly terms with the Nazi’s and the SS officer, who after the emptying of the Ghetto takes to using Jewish prisoners and workers as target practise as he stands on the balcony of his villa. Schindler bribes him and gives him expensive gifts so that he can still have the support of the SS. As Schindler spends more time at the factory he concentrates less upon making money and more and more upon saving the lives of the Jewish people. He then bribes the SS officer and can build another camp. The Germans start to lose the war and the Reich order that the prisoners at Plaszow are to be shipped to Auschwitz, but Schindler convinces the SS officer to allow him to take his workers to a new factory in Brinnlitz which is close to Schindler’s home town.

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Together Stern and Schindler create a list which has the names of over 800 people on it. These are the Jews that will be transferred to the new factory. But things go horribly wrong when the train carrying them is wrongly re-directed to Auschwitz, Schindler is on hand again and bribes the commandant of the camp with a bag of diamonds to release them. At the new factory, Schindler will not allow the SS onto the factory production floor and encourages the workers to observe their Sabbath. Over the next eight months or so Schindler spends much of his fortune on bribes to high ranking officers in the German army and the SS, to keep his workforce safe.

 

As the war comes to an end Schindler runs out of money, and he must leave because he is still seen as a Nazi party member and the Russian Army is fast approaching. In his last act before leaving he convinces the German guards at the factory not to kill the Jewish workers there, and employs them to leave too, so that they may return to their families as men and not as murderers. Schindler says goodbye to his workers hoping to head away from the Russians and eventually surrender to the Americans who are approaching from the west. Before he goes, his workers present him with a signed statement, saying that he played a major role in saving Jewish lives and they also give him a ring that is engraved with a quote that reads WHOEVER SAVES ONE LIFE SAVES THE ENTIRE WORLD. Schindler is touched but also feels ashamed as he feels he should have done more.

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Spielberg’s movie is an iconic production, and one that will live forever in the minds of all who have seen it. The musical score was by long time Spielberg collaborator John Williams who created a highly emotive soundtrack to underline the events that are unfolding on screen. Williams enlisting the flawless playing of violinist Itzhak Perlman, which added a fragility and a richness to the work.

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The cue I COULD HAVE DONE MORE is particularly poignant and affecting. The score is one that I listen to regularly, and on each listen, I am still moved to tears, its fragility and emotive content being heartrending and effecting. Which is why I pleased to hear that the score will be re-released this December on La La Land records in a two CD set. This is Spielberg’s masterpiece and a homage to those who lost their lives in the Holocaust, it is also a film that contains one of composer John Williams most emotional scores.

 

 

 

SILENT RUNNING.

 

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Cast your mind back to 1972, and a film entitled SILENT RUNNING. No, it’s not a war movie about a submarine running silent to avoid detection, it’s a sci-fi movie that maybe is in these days of global warming and severe weather is even more relevant than it was at the time of its release. So, to say that SILENT RUNNING was ahead of its time is I suppose an understatement. The movie itself was an attractive one and contained some thought-provoking moments. The storyline implies that all plant life as we know it on earth has become extinct, 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 to allow it to flourish once again, but until then these domes are attached to a spacecraft which is drifting in space.

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The ship which is called 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 by Bruce Dern is one of the four-man crew and he attends 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 animals that he has been caring for.

 

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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.

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He stages a fake explosion to convince the powers that be that the last dome has been destroyed, but instead sets a course for Saturn. Lowell then re-programs the drones and has them perform surgery on his leg. The Valley Forge grows closer to Saturn and has a rough ride through the planets rings. During the journey one of the drones, Louie is lost, but the ship endures the trip, it and the remaining drone remain intact on the other side of Saturn’s rings. Lowell and his drone crew set off into deep space and together they begin to plant and cultivate. Huey is damaged in an accident, and eventually Lowell realises that the authorities have found him, and he will be found out for the murders of his fellow crew members. Lowell jettisons the dome and detonates a charge on the VALLEY FORGE killing himself and destroying Huey, the parting shot of the movie is of the dome lit up floating through space with Dewey tending the plants holding a battered old watering can.

 

 

 

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SILENT RUNNING is an entertaining and poignantly thought-provoking movie, directed by Douglas Trumbull, in his directorial debut. This is in my opinion a mini classic and a must watch movie. The musical score is by composer Peter Schickele and as far as I know this too was his debut into the film music arena, it is a small-scale score although there are a couple of cues that are grand and symphonic, these being THE SPACE FLEET and SATURN, the remainder of the score still being symphonic but of a more intimate style.

 

The soundtrack also contains two original songs which were written and performed by Joan Baez, REJOICE IN THE SUN and SILENT RUNNING are both vocals that have a strong environmental message.

REJOICE IN THE SUN.
Heels of children running wild in the sun
like a forest is your child growing wild in the sun
Doomed in his innocence in the sun.

Gather your children to your side in the sun
tell them all they love will die, tell them why, in the sun
tell them it’s not too late, cultivate one by one
tell them to harvest and rejoice — in the sun.

 

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SILENT RUNNING.

Earth between my toes and a flower in my hair,
That’s what I was wearing when we lay among the ferns.
Earth between my toes and a flower in my hair is what I will wear when he returns.
Wind upon on his face and my fingers in his hair that’s what he was wearing when we lay beneath the sky.
Wind upon his face and my love he will wear when swallows fly.
Tears of sorrow running deep, running silent in my sleep, running silent in my sleep.

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The score for SILENT RUNNING is an interesting and original work, the compositions may sound straight forward and even simple, but the music is at times quite complex, the score plays a big part in the movie and helps to give the storyline a greater depth and impact. This is a soundtrack that every collector should own, whether it be on LP record in green vinyl, Compact disc or even a digital version from I tunes, Spotify etc. If you have not heard this outstanding work, then you are certainly poorer for not experiencing it. This is a score that tantalises, thrills and oozes poignancy and emotion, simplistic, emotive, dramatic, grand and heartrending. Recommended.

BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS.

 

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When you think about it and take into account the style, sound and actual scale of score that James Horner composed for BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS it was a pre-cursor for what we were about to experience two years later in STAR TREK ll THE WRATH OF KHAN, and in fact it was also the forerunner and blueprint for many of Horner’s early film scores as in ALIENS, WILLOW, COCOON, KRULL and to a degree THE ROCKETEER. He was a composer that was no stranger to experimentation with orchestration and the utilisation of certain instruments that were of the unusual kind. BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS was in effect a remake of THE MAGNIFICENT 7 but set in space and although at times the effects were not that realistic, and the performances could be less than convincing, it is a film that I return to regularly just for the sheer adventure, thrill and escapism that it can create.

BattleBeyondTheStars_maintitleThe movie was released in 1980 by NEW WORLD PICTURES which was a company established by well known film maker Roger Corman, it was Corman who produced the movie and gave Horner a chance to write the score, as with many of the composers early works it was a large-scale score in proportion to the budget of the movie. But, Horner would do this on several his early assignments often funding the orchestra himself when the music budget did not stretch to it. When you listen to the score for BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS it obviously pays homage to the style of Jerry Goldsmith and in certain moments is very evocative of his score for STAR TREK THE MOTION PICTURE, and at times utilising the echoing trumpet flourishes which Goldsmith employed in his memorable theme for PATTON -LUST FOR GLORY.

 

Plus, there is the Goldsmith trademark melancholy woodwind and strings in the scores quieter moments. But. Listen closer to Horner’s at times complex writing, and his intense and unrelenting tense atmosphere that he creates via strings, percussion and brass, which are at times underpinned or embellished by electronic support. For a composer who was not at that time 30 years of age this is a score of immense maturity. The film was also a milestone for filmmaker James Cameron who was responsible for designing the FX on the movie, of course Cameron and Horner’s paths would cross more than once in the not too distant future, most notably on TITANIC in 1997.

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The movie had quite an impressive cast line up, which included Richard Thomas, Robert Vaughn, George Peppard, John Saxon and Sybil Danning. The films budget was quite merger for a Hollywood production the total cost of production being just $2,000,000. It re-cooped $ 7.5 Million at the box office. So not a huge success but nonetheless it did not lose money. Many say that the best thing about the movie was its score by James Horner, and although I do agree the score was outstanding for such a low budget film, I would also have to add that I think the movie is entertaining.

 


The distant Planet of Akir is under threat from and evil warlord Sador played by John Saxon, this unsavoury power crazed individual is the ruler of the fearsome and mystical Maimori Empire, he has told the people of Akir to surrender to him or face the consequences, which are to be blasted into pieces by his STELLA CONVERTOR (shades of the death star). The oldest and wisest of the Akira Corsairs, Zed, suggests that they should hire mercenaries to help them. Akir is a planet that is not wealthy but has ample food and shelter to offer those who will help them. Zed is too old to go himself, so he does the next best thing and offers his spaceship for the task, all they must do is find a pilot that can fly it. The ship is a formidable craft complete with Ai Navigation/tactical Navigation, but even with all its advanced technology it is unable to defeat the combined strength of Sador and the Maimori Empire.

 

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Enter then, Shad a young man played by Richard Thomas, Shad has flown the ship before and is known to the on-board computer called Nell. Shad decides to volunteer for the job and thus the adventure begins and what an adventure, BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS is certainly one of those movies that allows the audience to be whisked off to other worlds, although highly unlikely and total over the top it’s a good yarn with a wonderfully expansive and thematic score to suit. I think the first time I saw the movie it was on video and I had the soundtrack in my collection already, but I think that’s a thing we soundtrack collectors do at times we don’t actually go see a movie and think I like that score, we buy on name or reputation or on what the composers last score was like, don’t we? But I got to thinking how did I buy BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS by the reputation of the composer?

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I did not have anything else by Horner, in fact was anything else released at that time, I don’t know? If not, I know I snapped up things like GORKY PARK, BRAINSTORM etc when I saw them in the racks at the local record shop after hearing BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS. At times I did get a soundtrack because I liked the look of the art work, so maybe that’s how I ended up with the LP record in my possession. Anyway, for a low budget affair BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS was very entertaining and it also introduced us to the magical, mystical, romantic, anthemic and dramatic theme laden style of a composer we all miss so much. James Horner.

 

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