Category Archives: ARTICLES

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SOLDIER BLUE.

Released in 1970, and directed by film maker Ralph Nelson, SOLDIER BLUE was billed as being the most savage movie in history, well I suppose at the time that statement was true. The movie mixed true life events with a fictitious sub plot and proved to be extremely popular in the United Kingdom, in fact it was a big hit almost everywhere apart from the United States, and this was not only because of the violent content of the movie, but moreover because it shattered many of the stories and myths that were attached to and surrounded the heroic American cavalry, and put them squarely in the category of bloodthirsty killers who had no emotions and literally blew Cheyenne woman and children apart with-out any second thoughts. Stories of heroic acts were told up and down the United States of how these supposed selfless heroes patrolled remote outposts and protected settlers and their like from the savages or as we know them The Native American Indian. The soldiers following orders and just doing as they were told by their commanders, not thinking for themselves, but neither did they stop for a moment to say what was happening was wrong. The true event that the film was based upon was the slaughter at SAND CREEK, that took place in the Colorado territory in 1864, it was not a proud moment in the history of America and is just one of many such events that stand out as shameful and abhorrent acts and other such massacres that were inflicted upon the American Indian nations. SAND CREEK, THE CAMP GRANT MASSACRE, THE 1860, WIYOT MASSACRE, MARIAS MASSACRE, BEAR RIVER MASSACRE are all now infamous names that are documented within the history of America. The names of these places and the acts that took place at them is seared into the minds of many Indian tribes and are remembered to this day.

 

These names send a shiver down the spines of many present-day Americans, and are looked upon with disgust and embarrassment. SAND CREEK was one of the most brutal operations carried out by the U.S. army with nearly 800 Cheyenne murdered, most of these being defenceless women and children, many of the men or warriors were not at the village because they were away hunting, and what men did remain were no match for the heavily armed cavalry that were involved in the massacre. Director Ralph Nelson, created a violent, chaotic and frenzied sequence to depict the senseless and totally unnecessary massacre of a Cheyenne village. The chilling and uncomfortable scenes that ensued were indeed shocking and one wanted to shout at the cavalry commander who was being portrayed in the movie to stop his insane determination to wipe out the inhabitants of the village. SOLDIER BLUE, was a movie where the audience came down firmly on the side of the Cheyenne, and when seeing the film, one felt so much disgust and loathing for the cavalry and its crazed commander, but so much compassion and sorrow for the Cheyenne.

I do have to point out that at the actual SAND CREEK massacre, it was not regular cavalry troopers who carried out the attack, but volunteer militia and cavalry troopers, under the command of John Milton Chivington, who believed that the Indian should be exterminated, and in his words, “DAMN ANY MAN WHO SYMPATHIZES WITH INDIANS, I HAVE COME TO KILL INDIANS, AND BELIEVE IT IS RIGHT AND HONOURABLE TO USE ANY MEANS UNDER GOD’S HEAVEN TO KILL INDIANS… KILL AND SCALP ALL, BIG AND LITTLE, NITS MAKE LICE” Ironically, Chivington, was a Methodist Preacher, A Freemason and a vocal opponent of slavery.

 
There is a scene in SOLDIER BLUE where the Cheyenne Chief Spotted Wolf, rides out towards the cavalry positions in peace bearing only an American flag that is also draped in a white flag, the brave warrior assuming the presence of the Cavalry is a mistake and they will realise this once they see him brandishing their flag. This was documented from the SAND CREEK massacre, Sadly, his plan does not work and the commanding officer gives the order to open fire with cannon, and orders the troops forward. SOLDIER BLUE was a controversial movie and has since it, s release been cut, edited and re-edited so many times it is hard to decipher what scenes were in the original movie, the massacre at the climax of the movie, is always a point of great discussion and many who had seen the film in the 1970,s have said that there were certain grotesque scenes depicting atrocities in the first prints that were released that disappeared in subsequent screenings, when viewing the movie late on release these scenes I for one did not see, so were these scenes of violence there at all, or were they simply in the minds of the audience who saw the movie first, or were they themselves so shocked that they imagined these alongside the other horrors on screen, or was it just hype as is the case so many times. There was also talk at the time of the film’s release that director Nelson, had re-edited the movie and shot it in a different way after the massacres carried out by American forces in Vietnam, which generated many passionate discussions, look at the end killings in SOLDIER BLUE, where the women and children are found hiding in a ditch away from the carnage, a ditch where they are brutally murdered by blood crazed troopers/militia, who seem to be drunk on the lust and violence of the day. This is we are informed the same way that Vietnamese, women and children were killed by U.S. troops at a certain location, during the Vietnam war.

SOLDIER BLUE starred Candice Bergen and Peter Strauss, Strauss being the Soldier Blue referred to in the film’s title, and a derogatory name which he was called by Bergen’s character, when she was frustrated by his blind loyalty to his uniform and government. Bergen had been living with the Cheyenne for over two years and was wife to Spotted Wolf, then she had been rescued, and I use the word rescued loosely, because it is blatantly obvious that she did not want to be, it is also openly apparent that she would rather be among the Cheyenne and the skies of blue and fields of green referred to in one of the compositions in musical score. Strauss is a young, clumsy and rather naive trooper who is part of an escort party that is acting as protection to a payroll/gold wagon, which also just happens to also be transporting Bergen back to her fiancée, who is based at Fort Reunion, the camera focuses upon the Bergen character as she sits in the sweltering bright sunshine dressed in a stunning white dress and bonnet, it then pans down to her feet when we get the first hint that maybe she is not who we perceive her to be, as she is wearing moccasins. The patrol is attacked by the Cheyenne, led by their fearsome looking Chief Spotted Wolf, (Jorge Rivero) the Cheyenne are it seems in search of Bergen to return her to the Cheyenne way of life, or at least this is what the audience assumes is the reason for the attack, but it transpires that they were in fact after the payroll chest, to buy rifles, but she and Strauss escape the carnage, with the commanding officer of the patrol carrying Bergen off to safety, before returning to his men who are pinned down in some brush as the Cheyenne pick off the patrol, and slowly and violently kill them in a suitably savage manner, trapping them and massacring and burning the troopers out into the open, where the Cheyenne pick them off without any mercy. The entire thing is watched by both Bergen’s and Strauss’s characters, as they conceal themselves on a hill nearby, and although they are looking at the same shocking event they both see it from different perspectives. The opening massacre by the Cheyenne, is shocking and staged realistically, only to be overshadowed greatly by the graphic and haunting violence which takes place in the last thirty minutes of the movie. After the attack, Strauss (Private Honus Gant) and Bergen (Cresta Marybelle Lee), begin their journey to what they hope will be safety, but encounter numerous trials and violent encounters along the way, in a way I suppose one could compare their journey to that of, Clint Eastwood and Shirley Mc Claine in TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA or with Richard Boone and Leslie Caron in MADRON or for that matter the relationship formed between Bogart and Hepburn in THE AFRICAN QUEEN, at first it is awkward, but this soon alters into a relationship of sorts.

Honus and Cresta encounter various troubles, including a deranged gun runner Isaac Q, Cumber, played marvellously by British actor Donald Pleasance, who after being discovered for what he is has his wagon of rifles destroyed by Honus in a blind act of misguided patriotism, thus the gun runner pursues the couple and wounds Honus but Cresta manages to conceal herself and her companion before the madman finishes Honus off. Then Honus is forced to fight for his life against a Kiowa warrior who is insulted by Cresta. It is also a journey that bring the two main characters closer together, as the couple travel onwards their relationship grows and they fall in love. Maybe this section of the story is nothing more than a filler before the Director reveals the end and real point of the film, and at times I did feel that Bergen was a little over the top, and Strauss was nothing more than a hen-pecked character who played it for a few laughs. Honus cannot understand Cresta’s hatred of the Soldiers and the government of the United States, and Cresta cannot comprehend how blind Honus is to the facts that are squarely staring him in the face, but they share the same opinions at the end of the movie, with Cresta heading in on direction with survivors of the massacre and SOLDIER BLUE heading in the other direction in chains, as they part the music underlining the end is somewhat ironic, as we hear the strains of, THE BATTLE CRY OF FREEDOM, which I cannot help think was another dig at the establishment by Director Nelson.

I saw one squaw lying on the bank, whose leg had been broken. A soldier came up to her with a drawn sabre. She raised her arm to protect herself; he struck, breaking her arm. She rolled over, and raised her other arm; he struck, breaking that, and then left her with-out killing her. I saw one squaw cut open, with an unborn child lying by her side.
— Robert Bent, New York Tribune.

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This ultra-violent and controversial western, was filmed on location in Mexico, and boasted a cast of nearly 500. The story was written by John Gay who based his screenplay upon, ARROW IN THE SUN by Theodore V. Olsen. A novel which had its title altered to SOLDIER BLUE, after the success of the movie. Maybe the film had not originally been intended to be a vehicle aimed at audiences to inform them of the atrocities that had been inflicted upon Native Americans, by various administrations and governments, and to highlight the genocide that had taken place in the land of the free and the home of the brave, as it is referred to, but it certainly raised awareness of what horrors had been committed against The Cheyenne, The Arapaho, The Sioux, and many other tribes, and what abhorrent tactics had been employed in a bid to eradicate the Native American Indian from the face of the earth.

 

I saw the bodies of those lying there cut all to pieces, worse mutilated than any I ever saw before; the women cut all to pieces … With knives; scalped; their brains knocked out; children two or three months old; all ages lying there, from sucking infants up to warriors … By whom were they mutilated? By the United States troops …
— John S. Smith, Congressional Testimony of Mr. John S. Smith, 1865.

 

 
The film succeeded in getting across to audiences what had happened at SAND CREEK, and it also succeeded in stirring up more interest about other Indian massacres carried out by both the U.S. cavalry and militia led by Cavalry officers during the same period. SOLDIER BLUE raised levels of consciousness about the degrees of savagery and violence that had been inflicted upon the Cheyenne and Arapahoe in this case, but there were arguments and opinions at the time and since the movie was released that maybe the movie failed in its attempt at underlining and bringing to the forefront the futility of war and violence, because of the levels of violence it displayed. But, surely by displaying the ferociousness of the attack and re-creating the indiscriminate killing of women, children and elders in such a cold blooded and calculated fashion it made the point that war or violence of any kind, is senseless and devastating, and it also showed the hatred towards the Indian nations.

I’ll tell you a story and it’s a true one and I’ll tell it like you understand
And I ain’t gonna talk like some history maid.

I look out and I see a land.
Young and lovely. Hard and strong
For fifty thousand years we’ve danced her praises.
Prayed our thanks and we’ve just begun. Yes, Yes

Yes this is my country.
Young and growing.
Free and flowing. See to see.
Yes, this is my country.
Ripe and bearing miracles
in ever pond and tree.
Her spirit walks the high country.
She’s giving free wild samples.
And setting an example how to give.

Yes this is my country
Retching and turning
She is like a baby learning how to live
i can stand upon a hill at dawn
Look all around me.
Feel her surround me.
Soldier blue
Can’t you see her life has just begun
Beating inside us. Telling us she’s here to guide us.

Soldier blue, Soldier blue, Soldier blue.
Can’t you see that there’s another way to love her.

This is my country
And I sprang from her
And I’m learning how to count upon her.
Tall trees and the corn is high country.
I guess I love her.
And I’m learning how to take care of her

When the news stories get me down
I take a drink of freedom to think of
North America from toe to crown
It’s never long before
I know just why I belong here

Soldier Blue, Soldier Blue
Can’t you see that there’s another way to love her.
Lyrics by Buffy Saint Marie.

 

It’s been 47 years since the above lyrics were heard as the opening theme for the movie SOLDIER BLUE, but more importantly for film music collectors is it has also been 47 years since composer Roy Budd made his debut as a composer of film music. The other important thing is it would have been Roy’s 70th year this year, if he had lived I am confident that he would have been one of the leading composers of movie music in the world, with a reputation as glowing as John Williams, John Barry, Ennio Morricone and their like.


Roy was a child prodigy and made his debut appearance at the London Coliseum in 1953 at the tender age of just six years.
Born in South London on, March 14th, 1947, His first single release was BIRTH OF THE BUDD, which was issued in 1965. At the age of 22 Roy made the transition from popular jazz pianist to composer of film music when he was hired to write the soundtrack for SOLDIER BLUE, scoring his first feature film, and for one so young in years he showed a maturity in the way he approached the project and handled the placing of music for greater effect. Director, Ralph Nelson had decided to look for a non-American composer for the movie, and Budd had been told about it. Budd contacted the Director and eventually got the scoring assignment, but he went about it in a rather unconventional way as he told me. “The Director of SOLDIER BLUE wanted a British composer. You see there had been a lot of ugly murders in the States around about the time of the film being made. Americans had killed Americans and because of the film’s ending and a bit of Hollywood logic I suppose the director thought, I know let’s hire a Brit to do the score then if there is any come back he is the one who won’t work anymore. Anyway, I went to see the director; I must admit I was nervous. I took along a tape of some of my music. I played it on piano and recorded it but what I did not tell the director was that some of the music was not mine. I had pinched it from the likes of Jerry Goldsmith, Jerry Fielding, John Barry, Dimitri Tiomkin, Max Steiner, in fact just about everyone; the tape sounded like Great Movie Music Volume 1, 2 and 3 (laughs). Of course, I did not include the main themes or anything that might be recognized, just tracks from soundtracks I had listened to on record and then performed myself on the piano for the tape. I told the director that all the music he was hearing was mine and he was very impressed – well he would have been. Just think, if he had turned me down, he would have been turning down half of the film composers in the world. The rest is history – I got the job”.

 

Ralph Nelson also asked Budd how he would score the final scenes, what type of music would he use, Budd replied he would not score the scene at all, as it might distract the audiences focus away from the images and scenes on screen, Nelson was said to have liked the answer Budd gave him and told him to start work. In fact, the final scene was scored, but with only musical stabs mainly brass underlined by strings, which punctuated the vivid and violent scenes, and effectively added an even greater impact to the final 30 mins of SOLDIER BLUE, without being intrusive or overpowering. It is a shame that the original score for SOLDIER BLUE was not released at the time of the movie being in theatres, after all it was a big movie and did have a great run at the box office, but why was there never an original soundtrack, did the tapes exist? “I don’t know. They did – but where they are now? Your guess is as good as mine”. Said the composer.

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At the time of the film’s release an album (LP record) was released, which was ROY BUDD performs his music from SOLDIER BLUE but this was a re-recording, with Roy’s themes from the movie being arranged by the composer, and given a more jazz oriented sound, how did this release come about, because surely the original score warranted a release? “Well, not if you are a record company it doesn’t, the aim of the record company is to obviously sell records, and as many as they can. So, some record company executive at the time, decided that the original score would not appeal to people as a record. So, because of my jazz connections it was decided that the score should be arranged and I should play piano on it – and that is the version of the score that was issued on Phillips, no sorry PYE records. I did not really mind at the time, after all I was new to all of it. I also recorded a lot of other tracks to be featured on the B side of the LP. These were all film themes, such as THE LANGUAGE OF LOVE, and Ennio Morricone’s theme for Metti Una Cera a Cena, which was called HURRY TO ME, there was also a medley from WEST SIDE STORY, I think the record company wanted these included to more or less ensure that some copies of the album sold”.

After the main credits, which is scored with the title song, written and performed by Buffy Saint Marie, Budd’s music does not start until the 1 minute and 56 sec mark, when we hear the track which is entitled KIOWA COUNTRY on the re-recording, this is the music that accompanies the payroll wagon being escorted by troopers, after this at the 5 mins 42 mark, we hear some wonderful action music as the Cheyenne begin their attack on the troopers, bearing down on them and ambushing the patrol, the music for this sequence, is certainly exhilarating and full on.
The composer employing sharp sounding brass, underlying racing strings, strumming guitar and percussion to support and punctuate the proceedings, and all the time there is a background that is up tempo and rhythmic, building the tension and underlining the scenes of violence and action on screen, the cue which has a duration of nearly 11 mins, ending at 16 mins 30 secs, and is typical of what we now come to recognize as Roy Budd in full action mode, and when you think that this was his first movie score, this is a remarkable and inspiring achievement, 11 minutes of pure musical delight. I think that is something I admire about Roy Budd’s music, it fits the images and scenarios perfectly, but it also has the ability to stand on its own and be enjoyed and appreciated without having to go and see the movie. After the massacre of the troopers, Strauss recites Tennyson’s, CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE, over his dead colleagues, at 24 mins 34 seconds Budd underscores the poem with a plaintive and emotive piece for harmonica, guitar and strings, which runs for around a minute, and adds emotion and a touch of melancholy to the scene. A version of Budd’s theme for CRESTA begins at.32min 31 secs, which is a delicate sounding piece that resembles something that Ennio Morricone might have written for one of the Leone westerns, or the love theme motif for THE HILLS RUN RED, it is childlike in its make-up and purveys a mood that is warm and calming. This is followed at 34 mins 23 secs, by FIELDS OF GREEN and SKIES OF BLUE, which is a haunting piece for strings, harpsichord and subdued percussion, the soaring strings creating a highly melodic theme, which finishes at around the 37 min 33 secs mark, with a brief comical sounding motif, to accompany Cresta as she parts company with Honus after a disagreement about what route they are taking to the fort. This is repeated and given greater length and development after Honus decides to rejoin Cresta, making the excuse that he had to rejoin her because he feared for her safety. Again, short lived, but an effective piece. Budd employs a trill like motif just for a milli-second, to begin the next cue, Honus, mislays a sock and decides he must go back for it, much to the annoyance of Cresta, he comes across his lost item of clothing, but it is being held by a Kiowa brave, who along with his four companions gives chase to the soldier, accompanied at the 42 mins 53 second mark on the movie by another fast paced and urgent sounding cue, with Budd utilizing tremolo strings and brass accompanied by percussion to increase the tension, the composer underlining the drama with bongos. The cue ending at 43 mins 53. The fight between Honus and one of the Kiowa begins and is supported by Budd, s trademark high pitched strings, at 46 mins 18 secs, which are enhanced by more string performances, the two plunge into the river to continue the fight and Budd increases the drama via, brass stabs that are embellished by strings, and continues to 48 mins 07 secs mark.


The Kiowa is knocked unconscious after falling during the fight and hitting his head on a rock, and then killed by one of his own companions for losing the fight, after this it looks as if the remaining Kiowa will kill Honus, but instead they mount their horses and ride off, accompanied by Roy Budd’s composition entitled RIDE ON, on the re-recording, the version in the movie is slightly slower in tempo, and where there is piano included on the re-recording, this part is performed by guitar, underlined by a slow more or less samba rhythm, then piano is utilized to add poignancy to the cue, strings then make an entry and the composition takes on the guise of a FIELDS OF GREEN AND SKIES OF BLUE, but it is a far more romantic and developed version of Budd’s gorgeous and uplifting theme. Which runs till the 53 min and 34 second mark. 56 min 27 secs to 57 min 28 secs we are treated to another comic sounding theme, when Honus tries to shoot a goat but instead hits a rabbit, the music here is light hearted and more akin to the style of Bernstein or Morross, as it has a certain Copelandish sound to it. Again, the use of a short cue but one that is highly effective within the movie. 61 mins 25 secs to 62 mins 33 secs, drama again raises its musical head, suspense filled strings punctuated by bass and strummed guitar, create an atmosphere of apprehension as Honus and Cresta approach, a wagon and campfire which turns out to be that of Issac Q Cumber, a gun runner. Portrayed by Donald Pleasance. The cue continues at 66 mins, 18 secs to 69 mins 30 secs, again guitar and strings creating a subdued tense piece as Honus becomes suspicious of Issac Q, and searches his wagon whilst he is away hunting for food. But Cresta attempts to stop him because she recognizes the gun runner from the Cheyenne camp, when he was selling Spotted Wolf guns. 71 Mins 49 Secs, to 72 mins 22 Secs, Honus continues to search wagon, but is stopped by the gunrunner, Budd scores the scene with underlying tense sounding strings and jagged brass stabs.


After being captured and tied up by the gun runner both Honus and Cresta manage to struggle free from their bonds when the gunrunner is away from the wagon, Honus agrees to just leave but decides to set fire to the wagon, at 79 mins 11 secs to 86 mins 42 secs. the composer re-introduces the use of tense sounding strings, as Cresta gathers supplies, Budd adds more strings which are agitated and enhanced by dark sounding piano and shakers to elevate and increase the drama, as Honus sets the wagon ablaze, trembling strings continue under the scene until the composer re-introduces his RIDE ON theme, which is expanded and again developed further with the addition of percussive elements and horns, with deep and threatening strings giving a dark persona to the proceedings, then typical sounding western music all ‘a Budd with brass, strumming guitar, shakers, strings, and a slow rhythmic background, enters the equation, but soon makes way for slow strings that weave in and out to create an even greater tension.


Honus is shot and wounded in the leg by the gunrunner who is pursuing the couple. However, he gives up his search for the wounded Soldier, because Cresta has hidden both Honus and herself inside a small cave. There is a short break in the music but it then re-emerges at 87 mins 05 secs mark, again tense and slightly apprehensive as the gun runner approaches and Cresta frantically tries to hide Honus. The composer creating the tense atmosphere by a succession of sharp but fleeting strokes of violins. The composer maintains an Aire of tension until the 90 min and 53 secs mark, when, the gun runner finally gives up his search for Honus and Cresta and rides away. The mood of the music alters at 91 mins and 6 secs as Cresta begins to tend to the wounded Honus, the composer employing a music box sound underscored by guitar, that introduces subdued strings, this track continues till, 93 mins 2 secs. The next musical cue, begins at 94 mins 34 secs, a poignant sounding piece for guitar, that develops into a slow and romantic sounding string arrangement that then moves into another arrangement of FIELDS OF GREEN AND SKIES OF BLUE, and becomes the love theme for the couple, ending at 99 mins 14 secs. There is then a short pause as the screen fades and comes back again and we see Cresta walking through the open countryside, accompanied by another version of FIELDS OF GREEN AND SKIES OF BLUE, this time the composer employing a solo female voice, in a style very similar to that of Morricone in ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, the voice being underlined by guitar and strings, and punctuated by light percussion, the Female voice solo gives way to strings, but soon re-joins these, the light and melodic atmosphere is shut down quickly by taught strings as Cresta is stopped by Indian army scouts, and taken to the camp of the cavalry, Budd underlining this with driving strings and inventive percussive elements that are underlined by up-tempo rhythms and pizzicato strings, which continue till the 104 Min and 29 sec mark. Cresta makes her escape from the Cavalry camp after hearing that they intend to attack the Cheyenne, deciding that she must go and warn them that the soldiers are coming.

This is underlined by dark sounding and tense strings at the 108 min 32 sec mark, and breaks into a rousing ride off theme as she makes her getaway, the cue which is short lived ends at 109 mins 6 secs. At 109 mins 44 secs Cresta arrives at the Cheyenne village, Budd scores this with up tempo percussive stabs that segue into subdued percussion and woods as Cresta is welcomed back by the Cheyenne. The cue ends at 111 mins 34 secs. At 113 mins, 56 secs, Honus is brought into the camp of the Cavalry, escorted by two troopers and riding a horse, he found whilst walking back to Fort reunion. Again, Budd employs dramatic sounding strings with percussive background, the cue being upbeat and once again rhythmic.

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The cue finishing at, 114 mins 24 secs. There is another tender theme at 116 mins, 5 secs, melancholy strings underline the meeting between Spotted Wolf and Cresta, which ends at 116mins 56 secs. The cavalry form ranks outside of the village, and open fire, Budds music underlines the scenes, as the cavalry guns get the range of the village, and Honus attempts to stop the actions of the cavalry, the music cue begins at 120 mins 6 secs, action music is employed as the cavalry and Cheyenne begin to fight and the cavalry attack sabers drawn, much of Budd’s score is hidden under the sounds of battle but it runs more or less continuously through the battle scene, but it never detracts anything away from the action scenes or the carnage that is taking place as the cavalry, defeat what Cheyenne warriors there are and enter the village, in fact Budd’s music consists mainly of tense strings and sharp brass stabs. Breaking momentarily, as the cavalry are about to enter the village, but returns in a more martial sounding form to accompany the troopers as they ride through from both sides of the village. As the massacre commences, Budd utilizes a succession of brass stabs underlined or played in unison with strings to underline the graphic horrors that are unfolding on screen. The music, never overpowers the scenes but it certainly elevates and gives the same scenes a greater sense of tension and urgency, and infuses an even greater mood of chaos and fear. For a composer to write such a varied and thematic score for his first foray into film scoring was indeed a remarkable achievement, yet this theme laden work remains un-released in its original form, Maybe, one day soon the original score from SOLDIER BLUE will finally get the release it so richly deserves.

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THEME OR NO THEME, THAT IS THE QUESTION.

At a recent gathering of FANS OF MUSIC FROM THE MOVIES, in London, a question was put to the panel of composer’s present about the lack of themes either main title or end title in films. After a good deal of chatting it turns out that all the composer’s present would welcome the return to main titles and end titles, and when I say end titles I don’t mean a horrendously boring song that has been tacked onto the end of the movie to generate money for the film company, I mean a full blown fully symphonic or synthetic end title. As collector of a certain age, I remember well sitting down in a cinema the curtains opening and the main titles music starting up on the majority of movies from the 1960’s through to around the early nineties. Even Hammer films which in most cases had a pre-titles sequence, had main title music, as did many other movies who went for this opening approach to the stories that were about to unfold on screen. Even the Bond films, which the majority of which had pre-titles sequences had their respective songs or opening themes. Nowadays do movies have opening credits where the composer can work their magic and introduce the audience to the movie via a theme that maybe, just maybe they might recall after the movie has finished.

 

Do you remember walking out of the cinema with the theme tune from the movie going around in your head, whether it was good bad or ugly! Also do you remember when themes from movies were making regular appearances in the hit parade, pop chart or whatever it was called at the time. Things like the aforementioned Morricone penned theme, performed by Hugo Montenegro, 633 SQUADRON by Ron Goodwin, A SUMMER PLACE Percy Faith, and many more. Do you also remember the GREAT FILM THEMES compilations that were released back in the day, GREAT WESTERN THEMES, GREAT WAR THEMES, and such like, I am thinking if they released a compilation today, it would be a very short one! But that’s my own opinion. (and a few other collectors too, so I am told). Anyway, I got to thinking on the way back from London about the issue of themes in films, and decided why not ask the people responsible for creating them, the composers. I went through my numbers and e mail addresses and sent out a lot of messages asking composers, DO YOU THINK THAT THERE IS A LACK OF THEMES IN FILM SCORES, SUCH AS MAIN TITLE THEME AND END THEMES, HAVE YOU ANY THOUGHTS ON THIS? I would like to apologise to a handful of composers who got the messages in the middle of the night, early in the morning etc, as I just typed away not thinking of time differences. Any way here are some of the responses.

 

 

Lack of themes in film scores is just like fashion, I believe it will come back.
Rahman Altin.

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From my experience, you have a few reasons: First, many directors are getting scared of having breathing time (or what they perceive as down time) in a film, like if the audience would get bored. I believe this comes from a big insecurity from some directors. For example, in one of my latest films, the maximum time I had though the entire movie was one scene of 30 seconds where I could develop a theme…which is almost impossible to do… This is a real problem that even Ennio Morricone addressed recently in an interview. Secondly: more and more films have no opening credits scenes anymore (a vast number of directors want to jump into the film as fast as possible and move the credits to the end of the film). Thirdly: many directors follow the lead of their editors who now, are putting wall to wall temp music. Many editors are not able anymore to give a pace to a film without a temp music. The consequence is that our work is not anymore to create (in collaboration with the director) a score who stands as a third character, but instead, to create a score that duplicates a pace developed by an editor. It takes independent films (where the producers are willing to take some risks) and or experienced and mature directors, to imagine a film where the music could be a third character… where themes could bring emotions and transport the audience….and those 2 factors put together are more and more rare in our business.
Laurent Eyquem.

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That’s a question I have asked myself a lot and many times… In my opinion (and looking for another’s expensive production) there’s a problem with producers and directors, I don’t know if it’s a new trend or there’s another reason. I am lucky because the directors which I work with, always says to me that music is the soul of the film, every film needs its own music, personal and unrepeatable, and it’s a challenge for me, but an opportunity to show the best music I can make, including to create some themes to lead spectators the way the director’s wants. It’s a sad thing that themes are not being used, because a personal theme is the “body” of an unforgettable soundtrack.

Oscar Martin Leanizbarru.

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Yes, I find it difficult judging awards as not many scores these days seem to be more than aural wallpaper to get from one scene to another – they’re treated as another sound effect.
It seems a lot of directors don’t get the power of music – whether that’s a generational thing or MTV or what is a debate in itself.

John Altman.

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Actually, there is a lack of themes in scores today…, something really bad and absurd in all aspects. Main themes and leit motivs are part of my label writing for films, and I will keep pushing that idea for always. On that matter, we are living a crisis today, but there are also composers that still defends the use of themes.

Diego Navarro.

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I’m totally agree with that. From my personal experience, I have two short explanations for that.
One: it takes time to create a beautiful melody. And often, during the process of post-production, the composer has not a lot of time to compose.

Second: Some directors or producers are afraid of themes. It could take too much emotional space (I can understand that).
But for me melodies (themes) are still very important. (I have to find the right way to compose melodies in tune with the times. New textures, original orchestration etc.) It can give personality to the movie, can also reveal invisible thoughts of the character or situation, The theme contributes to make the film more “unique “.. of course, it can also not work for each movie. Each movie is a prototype!!
A brief summary of my thoughts.

Nicolas Errera.

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For the same reason as Brexit and Trump: these times are f***** up.

Marc Shaiman.

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In my personal experience working with film, documentary and TV series directors I´ve found in most cases a special fear for melodic lines or to be more specific, thematic music in general. With all diplomacy possible, I always try to get an answer from them to understand this. Some of them say that melodies get in the way of dialogues or that disturb the tone they want in their film. Others actually don’t how to give a precise answer for it. I constantly think in this and have a couple of theories. The first one is the pretentious intent of being accepted in renowned festivals around the world, and for that, they study the style of films that have already been selected for them. There is a kind of modern fashion to be as naturalist as possible to be selected in a festival. To have a film as crude as reality, and of course, music is not well received in that kind of films. The reasons they give are, in my personal opinion, just another reinforcement of the fear to allow another line of a language they don´t quite understand. I constantly hear that music guides in a very manipulative way the emotions of the audience, and they add, that this manipulation is completely artificial and is not the direct idea the film wants to communicate. This answer certainly evades the fact that all cinema is entirely artificial and all its elements manipulate the audience all the time towards an idea that is a personal view from the writers or directors, so their critic to thematic film music is completely invalid. And the second theory is a bit more crude for me to say, but I can´t help to get there when some of the directors I´ve worked for make it evident. There is a huge lack of musical culture in many filmmakers these days, and there is a huge lack of popular music with interesting proceedings and musical content. So, they show an immediate fear to a language they haven´t explore and of course don´t understand in any way. Every country has a different educational system, but most of them lack a proper introduction to music from early ages, so when a filmmaker has only listened to the popular and, let´s say, artists with big marketing campaigns, then their approach to music is extremely small. To be honest with all views, there are also those who actually say to you that the lack of music in their films is just part of the style they like or the aesthetics they want for their films, which is something we composers always should respect, despite our personal views, but being objective, almost none of those films gains the success and the size of audience they seek. For some reason we are bound, as musicians, to filmmaking.
Both languages together and well-crafted make a more effective communication process in a film, and to be more direct, the most successful films of all times have well composed and crafted thematic music. I still think that the most common answer to that question is the fear to an unknown language that they can´t decipher or understand in an emotional way. Fear to appear conventional and receive that specific critic from the audiences or from a festival jury. Sadly, this has put the film industry in a severe problem. There is no human emotion, and therefore no real interest in AAA films besides the fictional VFX characters and stunning visuals. They have forgotten the emotional ride we all want to feel when we go to theaters. The lack of thematic music is one of the symptoms of the illness big studios have nowadays.

Gus Reyes.

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I have no real interest in film/TV music these days, preferring to devote my time to my symphonies and concertos etc etc etc. It’s as much as I can cope with! But I do detect a move away from themes towards textures nowadays. Producers and directors don’t want tunes on the whole for fear they detract from the dramatic content of their productions.

Christopher Gunning.

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Unfortunately, the time of the great “musical themes” is about to disappear. European composers are somehow trying to advance the idea of musical themes. the main theme, the secondary theme, etc … it’s always wonderful, in the movie queue title, to listen to a medley of all the themes in the movie. it leads you to forfeit them, to remind them, to whistle them and make them become immortal themes. I hope this comes back to life. Because the music always marked the emotional bond with the movie. if you think of E.T. it is clear that your head immediately connects the images with the flying theme, how can you not think of Indiana Jones and do not pitch his march whistling it. Lets hope we will soon return to themes such as, Jurassic park, the lord of the rings, cast away, psycho, vertigo.
Alexander Cimini.

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Yes, I think that today producers much prefer to have a new age kind of score, without a strong music theme. I still think that a music theme is important.

Marco Werba.

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I do think that but I believe that it’s the films themselves that don’t lend toward themes. It’s a weird time in Film Music. There is a lot of experimentation going on in both the Films and of course the Music. Not sure where it’s all going

David L Newman.

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The score is always the result of the collaboration with the director and production team, so it very much depends on what’s required for the drama. It’s hard to generalize about this subject. I love themes in scores and will always try to compose something melodic if the drama needs it, but not everything requires a big theme so it’s very much down to what’s on the screen.

Debbie Wiseman.

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Yes, of course… nowadays themes are “exiled”, directors and producers want another kind of music
It’s sad.

Marc Timon Barcelo.

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Hi – that’s an interesting question. Almost by default, due to the omission of main title sequences, we’re robbed of decent overtures (in contemporary film). There are the odd exceptions, but they’re few and far between. End Titles, more often than not, are simply edited montages of cues from the score – Giacchino must be one of the few composers still indulging in the practice of purpose-built ‘exit music’. I’m very much with Nic, Chris, et al, on this – I miss the days when composers were allowed prepare us, for the ride ahead, in fullest musical terms, then again, I’m rather spoiled, as I spend most of my time working with scores over 50yrs old, where we get an overture and a main title!!
One of the reasons that so much film music has become largely interchangeable is due to the somewhat generic, and simplistic, approach to thematic construction/presentation – it’s quite difficult to find a really well-crafted ‘melody’ in more recent scores. The contour, harmonic language, and rhythmic flavour of a ‘theme’ all communicate a great deal to the listener…unfortunately, the most popular approach is to now use a cyclic minor modal, ostinato-based, setting, ‘big drum’ punctuations, with a ‘melody’ that mainly utilises whole and half-notes in brass; this results in music that could be described as broadly ‘something’. However, I don’t think the blame lies entirely with composers – they’re generally doing what they’ve been asked (and paid!) to do. There are also signs that we’re gradually beginning to buck this particular trend.
Leigh Phillips.

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Yes, definitely, I keep saying that in all interviews.
I don’t think it’s a lack of talent from composers, but sort of propensity, which will probably end someday.

One can think it is the consequence of some kind of egocentric state from directors who may be afraid that music could potentially overshadow their film.
Which is stupid, as public always remember a good film for its director first, far before the composer.

I remember Michel Legrand said that someday, a director was watching a scene he had just scored, and said to him: “Your music is excellent, but I can’t see my scene anymore.”

Nonsense…

Anyway, as far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t change anything in my work, and you can see/hear some Main Titles / End Themes etc in all my films or videogames soundtracks, whether it is a propensity or not, as I try to stay far from music tendencies.

(I had even agreed with directors Julien Maury & Alex Bustillo to create a Main Theme for the latest “Leatherface” movie, when I was still supposed to compose this soundtrack, to try to do something different from all previous “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” movies).

 

A little add to my point: I’m giving the final touch to a feature film documentary about legendary Jack Kirby and his World War II life period. And no matter this is a documentary, there is a real Main Theme right from the beginning/introduction, and the theme is used and declined many times during the film.

Raphael Gesqua.

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It’s hard to say.

Some film makers are actually scared of themes, and I worked on one horror film where the guy went through the score and took out anything that sounded like a theme to him
But others are still big on it
I’m working on a big movie right now, and the director is obsessed about who’s theme is playing where and over which character.

Peter Bateman.

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Without question, there is. When was the last time you came away from a film with the tune in your head? Part of this of course is because there are no more opening credits for the most part and that is where you would have a theme. Part of this is because people want ambience and sound scape.

Peter Bernstein.

 

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I think it is an absolute disaster what is happening in cinema today on the scoring side of things. I watch just about everything and it’s painful to see all those lost opportunities for making great work. Visually, story wise the industry is excelling exponentially unfortunately the music end of scoring has been declining. Even on the production end it’s heartbreaking. Will stop here……. Had no idea my opinion was worth anything.

 

Marcello Di Francisci.

 

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This statement is true, but in my opinion the answer is simple: big melodies are considered old fashioned these days (even if the arrangements and sounds used are not). Most filmmakers want a cutting-edge sounding score and as a composer you always have to deliver what they want for THEIR film. It’s just a matter of what’s in fashion. Writing little memorable motifs are almost always OK, but big themes are wanted very rarely. That’s just how it is. Maybe it’ll change again in ten years or someone will come up with a brilliant way of using great themes that still sound cutting edge. This is just my perception and opinion.

 

Gerrit Wunder.

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I agree! Good themes (like good songs) are hard to write and I think that many of the ‘composers’ working today are not capable of thematic writing. just to continue on a little, I do think that we are in a different score music era where the predominant flavor is mood, non-invasive ‘textures” which composers are being required to emulate by directors and producers and this is where we’ll stay until some films or some TV shows take a chance and allow composers to break out and take us down a more interesting and rewarding path. just to continue on a little, I do think that we are in a different score music era where the predominant flavor is mood, non-invasive ‘textures” which composers are being required to emulate by directors and producers and this is where we’ll stay until some films or some TV shows take a chance and allow composers to break out and take us down a more interesting and rewarding path.

 

Nicholas Pike.

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Depends on the needs of the film. We collaborate so it’s not entirely up to us or even current trends. I’m asked for themes all the time.

 

Scott Glasgow.

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I think it boils down to how films and popular music have changed because film music has always reflected the popular music of the time
Films are also very different to how they were 50 years ago.
I have been recently watching on you tube as many as I can find of the 60s and 70s Italian films that Morricone scored – and its extraordinary the importance that was given to the music – it is given space and time to really make a significant impression
I think the film making style allowed for it,
I would say there are fewer poetic directors nowadays,
It’s complicated
I think that it is very much tied to the pop industry
How many pop songs today have really strong melodies ?
Morricone in his latest book talks about the fact that melody doesn’t really interest him
If you listen to many of his pieces they are constructed from a repetition of a handful of notes that occur in different orders. They are not melodies like the love theme from Zefferelli’s Romeo and Juliet, But they are incredibly memorable all the same. In fact, many of the film composers that we would call melodic. They take a handful of notes (a hook if you like) and repeat then though a cycle of harmonies. It is particularly effective in films because you need to make an impression quickly, And you need to have a strong motive that can be presented very quickly.
Legrand also did this and Richard Rodney Bennet.

 

Christopher Slaski.

 

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In certain films yes, there is a lack of thematic development, particularly in some big action blockbusters. But there is a lot of well scored films, with good themes. The difference is that we have to widen what’s classified as ‘a theme’
It could just be a sound, or collection of sounds. Modern scores rely more on sound design, and therefore somebody could perceive a lack of themes.

 

Dominik Scherrer.

 

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I am old school when it comes to this topic. I believe themes are the best way to imbue an identity into a film.

 

Brian Tyler.

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It would be a long answer. That is due to the process of the post production. Mockups, going sequence to sequence, a patchwork at the end. With great exemptions in the case of both a good director and a good composer working together on the project of the soundtrack.

 

Carlo Siliotto.

 

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Well as much as I understand there are artistic reasons to not work with themes or big main title pieces I really dig those movies with great main titles introducing a theme you then will instantly recognize throughout the movie. I think in the more recently released movies Bear McCreary did a really great job on this topic in “10 Cloverfield Lane”, I absolutely love Danny Elfman’s Spiderman-Main title and I could go on for hours. And it’s hard to understand that especially the big blockbuster stuff most of the time are lacking this great moment.

Christoph Zirngibl.

 

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My opinion is that is all about narrativity and the balance of the information the audience can get with a film ( i mean what you hear – noises, dialogues , music ) and see ( images ) . I ‘ve been graduated on narrativity on film music (PhD level) at Sorbonne University and Ircam Paris so I know the topic not that bad + my experience as a film composer. there are different reasons – nowadays we have very quick cuts / edit and special effects, noises which doesn’t leave enough space to the music for instance – and à theme needs time to be developed, to “breathe in a way ” . That’s one of the reasons. As a matter of fact the music themes are now quicker as well – and it looks like more than Wagnerian leit motivs – Wagner had the same problem in his opera: too many informations , density of the music ( tense harmony and tense orchestration), myths topics etc ….another angle is since the successes of the soundtrack : the graduate ( Mrs. Robinson, Simon and Garfunkel) there’s a trend in the industry to use catchy songs . When there’s too much catchy themes in songs there is no place for another catchy theme – so the composer has to score the “ambiance ” cues without big themes. The trend of using music supervisors doesn’t help as well because most of them are keen on suggesting pre -existing tracks to the directors / producers. Well I could talk longer about that! But I think we miss themes and variations which bring the audience in a particular mood. Not all of the films can accept it nowadays, it depends on the style of the director.

 

Philippe Jakko.

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I think, most definitely there has been an emphasis for motif-based scoring instead of melody-based scoring overall in the industry, for I guess about 20 years now. I think in my own work I’ve been able to be more melodic than the average because the Finnish film industry is small enough that I get a lot of freedom and there’s no real pressure to follow a temp track. And also, just those same rules don’t really apply. Will be interesting to see if there’s going to be a wider return to melody.

 

Panu Aaltio.

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I grew up in the “thematic” school of thought with the scores of Rozsa, Poledouris, Goldsmith etc. I do not think that every score should be melodic but such scores always have a stronger impact in my opinion with general audiences. However, this is a general observation and it really depends on a film by film basis. A lot of the times it’s not the composer’s choice but the directors. And of course, the composer takes all the impact of the result! I don’t watch too many movies any more (crazy right?) but I always look out for themes or motives to see how a score is constructed. For example a director that Ian working with right now had a drone like cue for temp music for a scene, I scored it and he had asked for me to go back to a drone like approach so we don’t take away from the “drama” bear in mind we recorded a full orchestra
I mean this only happened once on this movie (score is very thematic) but it happens

 

George Kallis.

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There are less melodies in soundtracks, because today there is a huge diversity in music, and every music has its own characteristics, therefore the classical melodic approach becomes only one among many other ways to approach a score. Also it happens that some directors are afraid that the audience will listen to the melody instead of the dialogue, so they’d rather have a music that doesn’t attract the attention as much. Another factor is that sound design has never been playing such a strong role in shaping moods, so it is another sonic tool to tell a story that is not using melodies. Another reason is the effort of some filmmakers who are trying to have their own voice and tread new territories that leads them to let the conventional melody and variations go. In the end, I guess it is due to this blending of many factors that we call “evolution”.

Vincent Gillioz.

 

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So a little bit of a mix of opinion, but its obvious that it is not up to the composer if a movie has a theme, I think most composers agree that themes are sadly missed and it is a way marking the start of a movie and also signalling its end, are those days gone forever, I suppose we will just have to wait and see, or wait for a composer to think Wait a minute I think this calls for theme, no matter what the producer or director says. Think we might have a long wait, don’t you.

 

FANS OF MUSIC FROM THE MOVIES, 2. SEPTEMBER 9TH 2017.

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Fans of Music from The Movies, had their first annual gathering at the Angel Studios in Islington London in 2016. This first event was a success and had a panel of composers who spoke of their personal experiences during their careers as composers of film music. Debbie Wiseman, Christopher Gunning, Trevor Jones, Daniel Pemberton and Mark Thomas were in a word wonderful, very open and interesting. This year on September 9th, FANS OF MUSIC FROM THE MOVIES opened the doors at Angel studios once again to welcome soundtrack collectors from all over the world, the panel this time consisted of composers, David Arnold, Guy Farley, Frank Ilfman, Christopher Young and Nic Raine. The host for the event was once again, James Fitzpatrick of Tadlow Music who were also one of the sponsors of the day. I think the day was slightly better attended than last year, but maybe that is because last year was something of an unknown quantity, as in, an event like it had not been staged for many years. I think the last one was way back in the days of the Goldsmith Society. Panel members this time were, DAVID ARNOLD, CHRISTOPHER YOUNG, FRANK ILFMAN, GUY FARLEY and NIC RAINE.

 

The gathering began on time with a brief introduction from Tim Smith the organiser, who explained a few rules and regulations etc, and then handed over to Mr Fitzpatrick, who in turn brought the guests into the main room and led them to their places on the stage. After introducing them he then showed the gathered audience a short film of Tadlow’s latest re-recording project which is a full version of Rozsa’s classic score for BEN HUR, this I must say was superb, and I cannot wait for the compact disc to be released. James then formally opened the discussion, saying it was obvious from last year that fans wanted the gossip of what had happened to the composers regarding directors, producers etc. So, proceeded to introduce each composer who all received a warm welcome and applause from the gathered audience. Now here’s a thing, I went with the soul intention of concentrating on the events, but to be honest got so completely immersed in the day the conversation and the composers relating their experiences when scoring movies, that I committed the cardinal sin and took very few notes, which I straight away left at the studio after I headed home. So, I am afraid no in depth analysis of the day or the points which composers related and discussed. Instead, I am just going to say that this was one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life, to see four great composers sitting in front of an audience just chatting, and I mean chatting because it seemed that they were talking to you one on one when they spoke of their film music careers. David Arnold especially came over as a warm and friendly man, and cracked jokes and added little one liners here and there that kept the day going along at an easy but lively pace.

Christopher Young too, was amazing, with his stories of being a rookie composer scoring THE DORM THAT DRIPPED BLOOD (PRANKS) when he was still at UCLA, and telling us about him replacing Maurice Jarre on JENNIFER 8. Frank Ilfman, Guy Farley and Nic Raine also gave us so many stories, both funny and some not so, when speaking of directors, producers etc. James Fitzpatrick was as always excellent, and Tim Smith was great too, and I have to say looking a little more relaxed than last year. When asked about any composers that maybe had influenced them all the composers sighted the classical greats, such as Stravinsky, Mahler, Prokoviev, Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky, it was interesting that none mentioned film music composers at first, until Christopher Young brought up a Bernard Herrmann LP which contained suites from films such as JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH etc. An LP on DECCA that I think many had in the early days, because the audience kind of sighed when he spoke of it. One question that stuck with me that was put to the composers was, did they miss the main title themes and the end title themes in films, which was asked by Ian from the John Barry society, each composer had an opinion about this subject and although worded differently, I think they were all in agreement that it was something that they missed. There were a couple of breaks for tea and delicious cakes, plus the famous FANS OF MUSIC FROM THE MOVIES raffle, which was great, and this year included days in the studio, with Guy Farley and Frank Ilfman and a day in Prague with James Fitzpatrick recording at the Smecky studios. David Arnold remarked that first prize was a day in the studio with Frank Ilfman, and second prize was two days in the studio with Frank Ilfman, which raised a few laughs. There were also many CDS in the raffle, contributed by, MOVIE SCORE MEDIA, CALDERA and SILVA SCREEN. I felt sorry for one guy who won about four times, on the third trip up to get his prize of CDS David Arnold said to him, “Will you get me a lottery ticket for tonight please”. FANS OF MUSIC FROM THE MOVIES has in less than a year established itself as a must go to event, it is already the event of the year for many collectors, collectors, I might add, that had travelled from all over the world to be there. It was also a time to catch up with many old friends and acquaintances, John Williams from MUSIC FROM THE MOVIES, and Paul Place and Jason Needs who worked on the same magazine as did I. Jason Drury, who has made a name for himself over the airwaves these past 12 months on cinematic sounds with Erik Woods, was in attendance as well, as was the lovely Stephan Eicke of Caldera records and Petr Kocanda, who’s enthusiasm is ever present, boundless and infectious. Then we had the brilliant, no the magnificent helpers, who chatted served and kept everyone happy, thanks Steve and his lovely wife and Gareth

 

The signing session was amazing, each composer taking time to talk, and letting fans get pictures of them.
Chris Young was brilliant, and seemed in his element, hugging people, and genuinely enjoying the company of his devoted fans.
I had a bit of a chat with David Arnold, and it was like chatting to an old friend, he listened and made conversation so easy.
As did Guy Farley, and Frank Ilfman and Nic Raine. So, what can I say, Well, all I can say is Bravo, and please more of the same. Thanks again to Tim Smith, a true hero and a devoted film music fan, and to James Fitzpatrick, for his support of the event, and if I have missed anyone out I apologise, what a day, awesome, epic, truly brilliant. AND yes there’s more, put this date in your diary, SEPTEMBER 15TH, 2018, That is the date for FANS OF MUSIC FROM THE MOVIES, 3……..

 

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And also coming soon from TADLOW music.

 

 

WHAT A CARRY ON.

 

 

It has always been a mystery to me as to why the original soundtracks to some of British cinemas most successful movies have not been made available, after all it took many years for the music for Hammer horrors to get a release on the GDI label and even now some of the Hammer classics remain in the dusty archives and I think that’s where they will remain. Yes, labels such as TADLOW and SILVA SCREEN have been actively involved in re-recording several scores, and these movies I am going to talk about have had re recordings produced but in suite form or musical excerpts etc for a compilation album. The successful films I am talking about are THE CARRY ON, movies, ok maybe they are not exactly Oscar material but they kept audiences around the world occupied for many a year, the comedy probably did not travel well outside of the UK but they seemed to hold their own in Europe at least. The musical scores for these, mirth laden, saucy, innuendo riddled flicks that were filled with suggestive and seaside postcard scenarios that at times were very close to being censored were by two composers, but I think the most popular scores are by the highly talented Eric Rogers who took over scoring duties from Bruce Montgomery after he had worked on the first six in the series and went on to write the music for 22.

 

One of his most popular score was from the 1966 spoof horror CARRY ON SCREAMING which was the teams send up of the Hammer horrors that were at that time very popular with cinema goers, with the story of FRANKENSTEIN or at least their take upon it being particularly prevalent throughout. Rogers score contained a catchy pop theme song performed by actor Jim Dale who went under the name of Anon on the credits, Dale had made the odd foray into the area of vocal performances and released a few singles with musical accompaniment provided by Ron Goodwin, but it would be comedic acting that Dale became known for primarily. CARRY ON SCREAMING was probably one of the most successful films within the series amongst the fans at least, and was a sequel to, CARRY ON COWBOY and a prequel to CARRY ON DON’T LOOSE YOUR HEAD, it had a budget of 197,000 pounds and featured most of the usual carry on gang Kenneth Williams, Charles Hawtrey and Bernard Bresslaw, but also starred, Harry H. Corbett, who had become popular with audiences via his portrayal of the downtrodden Harold in the long running TV series, Steptoe and Son on the BBC. Which was something that composer Rogers picked up on in his score, utilizing part of the STEPTOE AND SON theme OLD NED by Ron Grainer and fusing it with another popular UK, TV theme, Z cars, which was based on the traditional song JOHNNY TODD and arranged by Norrie Paramour for the early police series, when the camera cut to Corbett and his bumbling sidekick Slobottom, played by the wonderful Peter Butterworth.

But there was much more to the music for the CARRY ON, movies than the comedic timing or humorous touch, these were serviceable film scores and Rogers could quite easily shift gears or change style and create a suitable sound for each of the movies he worked on.

 

 


CARRY ON CLEO for example contained a suitably epic sounding score, that was filled with fanfares and all things Romanic but it also had to it that underlying touch of comedy with an impeccable timing because we all know in comedy it is all about the timing.

It is said that comedy and maybe horror are the hardest genres of film to score, and I suppose to an extent that is true because each are similar for a composer, by this I mean if its horror one does not want to give the game away as it were and if a score gets ahead of itself it could spoil the effect that is about to occur on screen, the composer having to get the correct balance before and after the actual scene of Horror or violence, the same with comedy, it could be so easy to go over the top with the music and ruin a punchline. So, Rogers I think got it right every time. Born Eric Gakkroger in Halifax U.K. on September 25th, 1921, Rogers became interested in music from an early age, and began to become involved with music at the age of thirteen when he was given lessons in playing the organ at his church. He never actually received any formal musical instruction but was a self-taught musician and gained experience as a musician playing piano for free beer during the second world war. When the war finished, Rogers formed his own orchestra which was given a residency at the Orchid Rooms at London’s Trocedero, he gained a reputation during the early 1950, s for being a talented arranger and conductor for musical variety theatre in London’s west end. He began to work on films during the late 1950, s at first scoring children’s movies but then working on British releases such as the war drama THE WOODEN HORSE and the comedy GENEVIEVE.

 

 

 

In the early 1960’s he collaborated with Lionel Bart on the original stage version of the musical OLIVER, this was because Bart never actually had any knowledge of writing or reading music, Rogers was responsible for converting Bart’s ideas into musical notes and acting as arranger and orchestrator on the production which premiered on June 30th, 1960. At the same time, Roger’s began to work with composer Bruce Montgomery, again carrying out orchestrations and arrangements. In 1962, Rogers acted as musical director on the score for Dr. No, working with composer Monty Norman on the first James Bond movie. Composer Bruce Montgomery was involved with the CARRY ON, films, which at that time were new to cinema audiences. CARRY ON executive Peter Rogers was not happy with Montgomery, the composer found it difficult to deliver his music on time and relied upon Eric Rogers to complete the assignments, so Peter Rogers decided to ask Eric to work on CARRY ON CABBY in 1963 on his own.
This first foray into CARRY ON comedy led to the composer scoring a further 21 films in the series, CAMPING, MATRON, COWBOY, UP THE KHYBER and SCREAMING, being his most prominent and popular, the composers final encounter with the franchise came in 1978 when he provided the score for the lack lustra CARRY ON EMMANUELE.

 

In 1975, the composer re-located to America, this was because he was receiving numerous requests from the United States to work on television series and films there. He became involved with De Patie Freleng who were responsible for producing many shorts and animated series that were popular at the time. These included, RETURN TO THE PLANET OF THE APES, WHATS NEW MR. MAGOO and SPIDER WOMAN. He also worked as musical director and arranger on several animated shows that the company produced including THE PINK PANTHER SHOW and conducted Dean Elliot’s music for THE NEW FANTASTIC FOUR in 1978. Peter Rogers and Eric Rogers were not related as many thought, but they did however have a great working relationship and long term friendship. The filmmaker often collaborating with the composer in the actual writing of the music giving him ideas etc. as to what he thought would best suit the movies. Rogers was also responsible for writing the ever so familiar SUNDAY NIGHT AT THE LONDON PALADIUM theme which became just as popular as the show itself, and scoring and acting as musical director on movies such as, BLESS THIS HOUSE, NO SEX PLEASE WE’RE BRITISH, ALL COPPERS ARE, INN OF THE FRIGHTENED PEOPLE and THE BEST HOUSE IN LONDON amongst others. Rogers died on April 8th, 1981 aged 59, in the County of Buckinghamshire, England. I think it is a shame that collectors of film music and also fans of the CARRY ON, movies have been denied the original scores for these iconic British films, and like THE ST. TRINIANS, series with music by Sir Malcolm Arnold, there has never been an original soundtrack release of just the music from the films, yes there have been recordings released but these included dialogue from various movies, with the music taking a backseat to the proceedings, maybe the tapes do not exist or have been destroyed lost or are lying in a dusty basement, who knows, but it would be nice to try and find out.


Bruce Montgomery’s CARRY ON scores too would be welcomed in their original form that is, CARRY ON SERGEANT, NURSE, TEACHER, CONSTABLE, REGARDLESS and CRUISING. Were all typical of British films scores from the late 1950, s through to the first part of the 1960, s, with Montgomery’s style being more akin to and belonging to the era of the war years, with the music running continuously more often than not. However, there were some strong themes within all the scores, the march that Montgomery penned for CARRY ON SERGEANT for example ended up being the CARRY-ON THEME and endured throughout the series being heard in some form or another in each CARRY-ON outing, and alongside the serious music if you can categorize it as being serious that is, were jazz orientated pieces of light music which was at the time popular with most. Bruce Montgomery was born on October 2, 1921 in Chesham Bios, Buckinghamshire, England as Robert Bruce Montgomery. He is known for his work on the CARRY ON, movies mentioned previously, plus he also enjoyed a career as a successful author writing Under the pseudonym Edmund Crispin, he penned a series of mystery novels and short stories featuring the character Gervase Fen. Also as Edmund Crispin, he edited several collections of science fiction short stories.

 

 

The first, “Best SF” (1955), had a great influence on acceptance of the Sci Fi genre as serious writing in Britain. His Gervase Fen novel “Frequent Hearses” takes place in and around a British movie studio, and contains many insider jokes about actors, directors, musicians, and others in the business. Towards the end of his career his alcoholism became worse, which resulted in him not being able to meet deadlines and complete scores for movies, it was at this point that he enlisted the assistance of fellow composer Eric Rogers and CARRY ON producer Peter Thomas decided that Rogers should be the main composer for the films. Bruce Montgomery, passed away on September 15, 1978 in West Hampstead, London, England, which was a sad ending to a career that could have been even greater.

Apart from his music for the CARRY ON, movies the composer wrote the scores to numerous other pictures, these included, THE BRIDES OF FU MAN CHU, DOCTOR IN LOVE, DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE, DOCTOR AT LARGE, TWICE AROUND THE DAFFODILS, THE KIDNAPPERS, RAISING THE WIND and many others. Which when you think about it would be perfect titles for a Montgomery re-recording project.

 

Eric Rogers, refused to score CARRY ON ENGLAND in 1976, because he was told that he could only use twenty players for his score, he believed he required at least forty, so composer Max Harris was brought in, after this the CARRY ON, series seemed to be losing its appeal, shifting trends and tastes at the time did not see the CARRY ON, humour as that funny anymore. In 1977, THAT’S A CARRY ON was released, this was like a best of the CARRY ON’S a compilation of all the sauciest and best bits from the series, Rogers arranged the music for this release and worked on the final movie in 1978. The CARRY ON, series had for all intent and purpose ceased production after CARRY ON EMMANUELE, but it was to return in 1992 for one last thrust in the form of CARRY ON COLUMBUS, which was honestly not a patch on the originals, and contained a score by composer John Du Prez. Even the presence of Jim Dale and Bernard Cribbins could not save this production, and it quite literally fell off the edge of the world. I think it was a case of the CARRY ON’S not keeping up with modern trends or being current, instead they kept on with the same formula, and as we all know there is always something waiting in the wings that the fickle cinema going public will pick up on. CARRY ON ENGLAND for example was not really that funny, some even saying it was embarrassing to endure, rather than audiences laughing at its jokes and humorous moments they were laughing at just how bad it was and that too was sadly the case with COLUMBUS. The films remained saucy, innuendo filled toilet humour, filled with suggestive and smutty one liners, but the audiences had become a little more sophisticated and selective, and wanted more in the way of entertainment.

 

Because the original scores for THE CARRY ON’S have not been made available, the obvious way forward was re-recordings, and one would have thought with so much material for the movies that there might have been a handful of releases concentrating upon the music from the series. However thus far we have seen just two releases, which although welcomed and also very good indeed, barely scratch the surface as far as the wealth of music is concerned for these movies. The albums were released by ASV and Vocalion  the music being performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic and The Royal Ballet Sinfonia, under the direction of conductor Gavin Sutherland who is always so enthusiastic about any project he undertakes. THE CARRY ON ALBUM and WHAT A CARRY ON both highlight the best and the sauciest music from the series and are both very different in content, the ASV album,  opens with a suite from CARRY ON CAMPING with Eric Rogers camping it up literally with an upbeat arrangement of ONE MAN WENT TO MOW, which acted as the films main title adapted delightfully for strings and brass, setting the scene perfectly for the remainder of the album. Track number two, COME TO PARADISE and the main characters, is another example of Rogers utilising a familiar theme or motif on which he bases his composition, this time the composer integrates EARLY ONE MORNING, a traditional English folksong which dates to the 16th Century, into the fabric of his score, but by doing so it immediately grabs the attention of the listener and sets the scene on screen creating the correct atmosphere etc. He also does the same later in the album with CARRY ON AT YOUR CONVINIENCE, when he uses OH DEAR WHAT CAN THE MATTER BE.

 

 

 

Rogers was a master at establishing a theme straight away with his chirpy and infectious CARRY ON CABBY theme performed by brass and harmonica supported by timpani and strings, in fact CABBY was very like the theme from GENEVIEVE. Which was released ten years prior to CABBY. The album also includes music from CARRY ON UP THE KHYBER, CARRY ON CLEO, CARRY ON BEHIND, CARRY ON JACK, and CARRY ON DOCTOR/CARRY ON AGAIN DOCTOR all penned by Rogers. Bruce Montgomery is represented via a suite, which includes his themes from, TEACHER, NURSE and SERGEANT.

Which is certainly one of the more entertaining cues on the album. Montgomery’s original CARRY ON THEME is also given an airing, as is his ANGLO AMALGAMATED FANFARES 1 and 3, with a selection of music from the composers score for the 1961, comedy RAISING THE WIND, which although not a CARRY ON, movie, featured a number of actors associated with the CARRY ON series and the DOCTOR films, such as James Robertson Justice, Leslie Phillips and Kenneth Williams, composer Montgomery was also responsible for writing the story and screenplay for the movie as well as scoring it. It was also released under the title of ROOMMATES. This is a great album to just put on and listen to, without much real thought, but at times you find yourself being transported back in time to that small cinema with the itchy seats in which you sat first watching these iconic British comedy classics. We certainly need a CARRY ALBUM VOL 2.

 

The WHAT A CARRY ON recording, includes, CARRY ON HENRY, CARRY ON SCREAMING, CARRY ON FOLLOW THAT CAMEL, CARRY ON GIRLS and all manner of other CARRY on cues, you have to have both of the albums, no collection would be complete without them. Both are excellent, and must have items, although these days both are becoming quite hard to find.

 

 

UNIVERSAL HORROR.

 

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Recently I decided to revisit the movie VAN HELSING, and although it is a film that is basically nonstop action throughout, I personally did not consider this to be a particularly good motion picture, it kind of failed in places and was very OTT in others, the pump action crossbow for example. I was pleased however that the director paid homage to the horror films of bygone days with the opening sequence of the film. Composer Alan Silvestri also built his powerful sounding musical score around the original scores of those Universal Horrors that were produced during the 1930’s and 1940’s or at least every so often the Maestro would include a motif or a musical passage that was a gentle nod in the direction of composers such as Frank Skinner, Hans J Salter, Roy Webb, Franz Waxman and others that worked upon these timeless classics of American cinema. Even the opening logo was presented in black and white and turned into a fireball as the opening fanfare for Universal rang out.

 

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The film too contained certain references to these horror classics of yester-year that were directed by the likes of Tod Browning and James Whale. Films such as FRANKENSTEIN, DRACULA, THE WOLFMAN etc. For example, the inclusion of the famous windmill sequence from FRANKENSTEIN or at least a version of it, the angry villagers were also in tow complete with torches, pitchforks and inaudible shouts and comments as they made their way to the formidable looking castle to destroy the evil FRANKENSTEIN and his abomination of a creation, all intended as a tribute or salute to the age of Universal horror when it reigned supreme and attracted audiences in their droves to the cinema’s and picture houses to be scared witless. These classics because that is what they are, set the standards for many of the films that followed and were a blue print if you like for many movies that were produced years later.

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Think about it without the Universal horrors and the famous creatures, monsters, dark characters and storylines that they included and introduced to us there probably would not have been the successful movies as produced by the British film company Hammer, who themselves eventually ended up influencing other film makers and studios who specialised in horrors and supernatural tales, such as AMICUS, TYBURN and AIP. Although AIP would have probably found its own way within the horror market because of the presence of film makers such as Roger Corman and his like. American International Pictures also would be instrumental in introducing the weird and wonderful world of International Horror movies which were directed by the likes of Mario Bava to audiences Stateside. However, it was whilst halfway through VAN HELSING that I was prompted to unearth my classic horror soundtracks as re-constructed and re-recorded by John Morgan and conducted by William Stromberg for the excellent Marco Polo series of releases.

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The first disc I purchased included music from SON OF FRANKENSTEIN, THE WOLF MAN and THE INVISIBLE MAN RETURNS music courtesy of Universal pictures main stays Hans J Salter and Frank Skinner. It is surprising that much of the music that was on the soundtracks of these movies was in fact stock music that had been written by the composers for the Universal music library and indeed often showed up in films that were completely removed from the horror genre. So, as well as listening to the excellent soundtracks I also re-visited the movies, many of which I watched as a 15-year-old on the BBC late at night. Out of all the Universal horrors I think that it was the WOLFMAN films that made me feel uneasy, this was I think due to the acting talents and the wonderful make up of Lon Chaney and the way in which the movies were shot, fog shrouded woods, eerie looking sets, the monochrome look and of course the music. The earliest Universal horrors DRACULA and FRANKENSTEIN both released in 1931 contained music that was a mix of original score, stock music and even some classical cues because the original score per-se was in its infancy, although that would alter soon in 1935 with the coming of another Universal Horror, THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, which had a completely original score by Franz Waxman, with one of his themes for the movie or at least hints of it surfacing in a famous musical some 15 years later when it premiered on Broadway. But I digress and I will leave that one for the solicitors and music copyright people.

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Universal’s DRACULA, which starred the mysterious and flamboyant actor Bela Lugosi, had a composer credit for Heinz Roemheld, although I think he was more a conductor and arranger for this particular project as opposed to being enlisted in his capacity as composer. Born May 1st 1901 in Milwaukee USA, Roemheld began his association with music at an early age, he commenced piano lessons when his was just four years of age, and by the time he had reached his teenage years he was already performing in various Vaudeville shows. He later attended the Wisconsin College of music and went on to study composition further in Berlin. After he finished his studies he became known for composing piano preludes, sonatas and various serious or classical pieces for concert hall performance. After being seen leading the orchestra for a screening of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA in 1925 he was appointed the manager of Universal Theatres in Berlin and then later in 1929 was made musical director.

 

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After his time at Universal, Roemheld moved on to become the musical director at Warner Brothers studios between 1938 and 1945 and during that time acted as chief of film, theatre and music within the information control division attached to the American forces based in Europe during WWll. Roemheld then moved to United Artists in 1946 where he remained for two years. After which the composer went to Columbia pictures from 1948 to the latter part of 1950 after which he pursued a career as a freelance composer and arranger. He died on February 11th 1985.

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FRANKENSTEIN (1931) also contained a score that was a mix of library or studio stock music and original score plus strategically placed snippets of classical music which was supervised and arranged by composer Bernhard Kaun. Kaun, who was of German family background was born in Milwaukee Wisconsin, USA on April 5th 1899. The composer began his musical career as a conductor and often directed the orchestra in several theatres but predominantly was resident at the well-known Alhambra Theatre in Milwaukee. In 1930 he began to work in Hollywood and was employed by various studios, Universal, Warner Brothers and Paramount among them, where he would often act as an orchestrator and compose and arrange original music for horror movies. Which was invariably re-used in other movies that were produced at that time. He passed away in January 1980 in Baden-Baden Germany.

 

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Every horror or indeed every Universal movie in those early days opened with that ever familiar proud and robust sounding fanfare which quickly and seamlessly segued into the opening theme of the score that was played over the credits. The most familiar opening logo theme must be the one which was composed by Jimmy McHugh and arranged by Frank Skinner but there was also a Universal opening fanfare prior to the McHugh composition which was the work of Heinz Roemheld. On each opening the logo music just became part of the score for the movie a starting point if you will for any composer to take his cue from. Wistful strings and urgent brass being the order of the day for most the Universal horrors, with booming percussion and a tense and taught undercurrent adding its support, creating an atmosphere that was exciting, anxious and filled with a dread and nervous expectancy that would engulf the watching audience, preparing them for the untold horrors that were about to be unleashed.

I think that the decade of the 1940, s was the most fruitful for Universal as in output terms, but it was also the decade that in my humble opinion and one which is just a personal view, marked the decline of the classic horror with the studio feeling the need to introduce movies such as ABBOT and COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN in 1948, which was directed by Charles Barton and starred Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney jnr, it was and again this is just a personal opinion, a period in the studios history where they had basically reaped the benefits of the horror movie and now the horror was being relegated to second or even third position taking a back seat to the slapstick comedy purveyed by the likes of Abbot and Costello.
I am however, not implying that the movies were not entertaining because they were they must have been because Universal released many of them and they did in fact serve a purpose because not only did they get people into the picture houses and kept the horror genre in the cinema goers eye, just about the mainstay characters in Universal movies of the horror variety. It seemed a little sad that the studio was having to resort to comedy to sell the pictures, which is what happened during the 1970,s with the Hammer studio, after they had a very successful run with movies as in DRACULA, FRANKENSTEIN, WEREWOLF tales and pictures involving MUMMYS and other horrors and subsequent spin off’s of the original DRACULA and friends etc, but the studio in a similar way to Universal seemed to lose their way slightly and deviate from the path of true gothic horror and began to introduce not comedy into the storylines but, nudity, lesbianism and sex. This was also seen as an opportunity to entice a younger audience into the cinemas and acquaint them with these dark and fearsome characters, because the world of cinema and the world as a whole was changing, becoming more and more permissive and in a desperate attempt not to be left behind Hammer experimented with this somewhat volatile and risky concoction, in some cases it worked but in most it failed and because of the studios attempt to become “hip” their productions began to be looked upon as somewhat clichéd and dated even though these were current releases and looked upon as mediocre and tired by an ever more critical audience. One of the things that tied both Universal and Hammer together was the production of quality horror films and also the decline in their quality as tastes changed both studios then attempting to regenerate the once popular horror film by adding another genre to them or having horror as a sub-genre within the actual films they were producing. The other tie was the use of music, both Universal and Hammer maintained a high level of musical richness even when the standards of the films began to dip, so for example Universal’s ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN may not have been Oscar material but its score by Frank Skinner still did its job and worked wonderfully underlining and supporting the comedy and the horror or the watered down comic horror that the film contained.

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This too can be said for Hammer for example DRACULA AD 1972 was a dire attempt to update the DRACULA cycle, bringing the infamous count into the bustling, far out and groovy 1970, s. It failed and failed quite miserably, but the score by Mike Vickers was still infused with the quality that one expected from a Hammer production, this was probably down to the influence and expertise of Hammers musical director Phil Martell.

 

 

But, back to UNIVERSAL and the Marco Polo records compact disc release THE MONSTER MUSIC OF SALTER AND SKINNER. Like the films the CD opens with the familiar strains of the Universal Pictures logo music, which slips nicely into Frank Skinners opening music for THE SON OF FRANKENSTEIN, which has a highly tense and urgent beginning, but soon moves into a more subdued mood although still maintaining an atmosphere that is taught and apprehensive. The composers use of woodwinds combined with strings and further supported by jagged brass and punctuated by percussion is wonderfully alluring and sets the scene perfectly for the remainder of the compilation. This is as one might expect grand and fully symphonic material, dark and foreboding in places but also possessing a sense of calm within in certain passages and brief interludes. Track two segues seamlessly into THE MESSAGE which is certainly less aggressive and urgent than its predecessor, the composer utilising an almost reverent and heavenly sounding organ within the cue, this slightly subdued aire continues within track number three THE GENERAL, but as the track progresses a slightly darker persona emerges as does a martial sounding theme which although short lived is affecting. Track number six THE EXAMINATION/LOOKING FOR A MONSTER is one of the longest cues on the album, clocking in at 8 minutes 29 secs, it is at first a brooding piece which builds and grows Skinner utilising woodwind and underlying strings initially, then introducing percussion laced with brass to create a more urgent and threatening aura. The cue then reverts back to relative calm with strings and woods once again taking centre stage, the mood is mysterious and edgy until the cue is in its final stages when again percussion supported by brass makes an appearance. Track number eight is classic horror or monster fare, MONSTERS RAGE is a combination of taught and jagged brass and sinewy but at the same time swirling strings punctuated and heightened by more pronounced brass stabs. The final cue from SON OF FRANKENSTEIN is THE CAST, this is triumphant and almost anthem like with again brass taking the lead as the score and film reaches its conclusion.

 

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THE INVISIBLE MAN RETURNS, is next in the compilations running order and this opens with the Universal logo music but a version that is a slightly more up tempo arrangement than the one which opened the album. Music for this motion picture was courtesy of Hans J Salter, and the opening theme is wonderfully lush and filled with a lavish and rich sound purveyed by the string section. Its opening bars are given to the brass which establishes the cue straight away laying down a foundation that the composer then builds upon as his main theme soars and develops. Salters score for THE INVISIBLE MAN RETURNS is for a horror score very melodic, I am not complaining as the music is excellent and there are enough moments which are slightly apprehensive and chilling to ensure we are suitably made to feel uneasy, again the music is of a high quality as one would expect from such a distinguished and talented composer. The performance by the Moscow Symphony Orchestra is also superb under the direction of William Stromberg. THE WOLF MAN comes next, opened by the Universal logo theme, the score launches headlong into action, and I must say is still one of my favourite Universal Horror scores with the writing talents of both Hans J Salter and Frank Skinner being utilised. This is the stuff from which classic horror scores are made from, dramatic, romantic, melancholy and filled with tense and hostile stabs and jolts this in my very humble opinion is the stand out soundtrack featured on this compilation and that is something of a grand statement as all three scores are powerful examples from the early Universal days. THE WOLF MAN, also has about it an abrasive, aggressive and raw sound, something that is wild and untamed every so often is let loose within the music then it reverts to a more serene or calm persona, mirroring the central character’s struggle with his inner self as his attempts unsuccessfully to contain the savage and evil creature that lurks within him as the full moon awakens it to hunt and savagely kill indiscriminately. This is purveyed perfectly within the track THE KILL, which in the movie underlines and supports superbly the rampage of the WOLFMAN as he claims yet another victim. I remember feeling sorry for the WOLF MAN as the powers of the full moon drive him to kill the thing he loves the most.

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The score by Salter and Skinner is a haunting and iconic work and one from which many other composers drew inspiration. The recording is a masterpiece with some sterling work carried out on the re construction of the scores by John Morgan, who is also a composer himself and well known in the film music collecting fraternity for his passion, enthusiasm, knowledge, and talent.

 

 

THE WOLF MAN was Universal’s most lucrative release of 1941 but this was not the studios first foray into the legend of the Werewolf, they had earlier produced THE WEREWOLF OF LONDON in 1935, which starred the actor Henry Hull in the title role, Hull was not a horror actor or at least was not as well-known as Lugosi or Karloff within this genre and this is probably why the move did not fare as well as FRANKENSTEIN or DRACULA at the box office. It was also the first sound motion picture that dealt with the Werewolf legend. The screenplay was not based upon one single story or incident, but instead was compiled from numerous tales that had been described and passed down from generation to generation within folklore. The musical score for THE WEREWOLF OF LONDON was by Hungarian composer Karl Hajos who was born in 1889 in the Austro-Hungarian-Empire. Hajos emigrated to the United States and began to work in Hollywood writing music for films. He started to write film scores during the silent era of the movies and worked on over a hundred films, he was one of nine composers who created the score for the 1931 western THE FIGHTING CARAVANS and in 1934 worked for Cecil B Demille on FOUR FRIGHTENED PEOPLE. His last film score was in 1949 when he wrote the music for SEARCH FOR DANGER which was directed by Jack Berhnard. He passed away in 1950. Although THE WEREWOLF OF LONDON, contained many interesting points and was to be fair an entertaining piece of cinema within the horror genre, it was outclassed and overshadowed by the studios 1941 production of THE WOLFMAN with Lon Chaney in the lead role. It was THE WOLFMAN that provided Universal with its fourth classic monster and came at a time when they were in the process of giving its original trio of horrors something of a revival. In 1931 Robert Florey had provided Universal with a screenplay that was destined to be THE WOLFMAN but starring Boris Karloff in the title role based upon his success in FRANKENSTEIN, however the studio did not think it was a viable project at the time so the script was rejected.

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Marco Polo released a handful of music compilations from the Universal horrors and indeed issued numerous compact discs of the classic scores of Hollywood by the likes of Herrmann, Newman, Steiner, Waxman and Korngold, these were either in the form of compilations or full soundtrack projects and included scores such as THEY DIED WITH THEIR BOOTS ON, THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD, CAPTAIN BLOOD,THE CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE, KING KONG, SON OF KONG, THE SNOWS OF KILIMANJARO, ALL THIS AND HEAVEN TOO etc.

 

 

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THE HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, which had music by Hans J Salter and Paul Dessau (uncredited) was released on its own with 35 tracks of music and not part of a compilation. The music as always was impressive and inventive and if you listen carefully one can hear certain musical passages that maybe acted as inspiration for composer James Bernard when he came to write his now famous DRA-CU-LA theme for the Hammer Films production some 14 years later. THE HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN was a movie that was in a word “strange”. Ok yes, I know it’s a horror but this one had a rather interesting or should I say a you have to see this to believe it plot, it was however different and appealed to a wider range of audience. The film certainly was not short of star power, Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney, John Carradine, Anne Gwynne, Peter Coe, J.Carrol Nash and Lionel Atwill all pitched in for this one directed by Erie C. Kenton which included appearances from DRACULA (John Carradine), THE WOLFMAN (Lon Chaney) and FRANKENSTEIN’S MONSTER( Glen Strange). An evil Scientist Dr Niemann portrayed by Boris Karloff escapes from prison accompanied by his assistant Daniel a hunchback played by J.Carrol Nash. The Doctor plans revenge on the people who put him in prison and enlists the aid of the terrible trio to do his dirty work. However, the Doctors grip over the three monsters is not strong enough to contain them and their own agendas and ultimately this proves to be his downfall. The composer Hans J Salter was born in Vienna on January 14th 1896, he had always shown an interest in music and shortly after he completed his education the young musician started to become involved with conducting orchestras in some of the many theatres in Vienna. It was at this point in his career that Salter gained the talent of producing music that would accompany any type of scenario within the theatres and of course this too would give him a good background when it came to writing music for motion pictures. In his early twenties, a film company employed Salter to conduct the musical accompaniment for operettas that had been filmed and were then screened in theatres which was his introduction to adapting music and directing it to film. A few years later Salter found himself in Germany where he gained more experience in the actual scoring of films for UFA in Berlin.

 

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The composer then returned to Vienna as the Nazi,s in Germany were beginning to come to power, but he found that the same thing was happening in Vienna and decided to leave Europe and travel to the United States. In the latter part of 1937, Universal pictures engaged Salter to compose, arrange and conduct music for movies, this was a collaboration that endured for over twenty years, the composers first significant scoring assignment came in 1942 when he provided the score for THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN which contained a soundtrack that was nearly fifty minutes in duration, the film running for 1 hour seven minutes so Salters music was almost continuous throughout the movie.
Many assignments for Horror movies followed, THE HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1944) being among them. The Universal studio often re-using his music from one movie within others that they released. Salter became known for his work on the horror films of Universal but this was just a small part of his output as the composer worked on a staggering amount of westerns and scored numerous movies of varying genre.

Stepping away from the music for a while lets head back to FRANKENSTEIN, many believe Universal were the first to produce a motion picture on the subject of Mary Shelley’s creation, however, there were others before Universal got to stamp its own particular brand and style upon the classic tale. One of the earliest versions of the story to be committed to celluloid was in 1910, when the Edison company produced a movie. Then in 1915 another take on the story was filmed and was released under the title of A LIFE WTHOUT SOUL. Then five years later in 1920 there was MASTER OF FRANKENSTEIN which was an Italian production. When it came to the appearance of the monster in the first Universal production, it is said that director James Whale was inspired by a figure that was depicted in Goya’s drawing LES CHINCHILLAS, and Whale sketched his own ideas for the monster and passed them to creative make-up artist Jack Pierce, who in turn added his own ideas and created the now iconic look of Frankenstein’s monster, a look that would be imitated and inspire many make-up artists that would follow. Pierce not only thought about the face of the monster but considered the fact that it was made up of body parts stolen from graves and the like, thus these would have been misshapen or stretched and withered, so the monsters body would have been out of proportion.

 

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Pierce also studied anatomy and discovered the then six methods that a surgeon could cut a human skull. He concluded that Frankenstein would have probably opted for the simplest method, which meant removing the top of the head and then after inserting a brain closing the skull and the top of the head into a square shape as opposed to rounded.
Pierce also utilised rubber around Boris Karloff’s eyes, which reduced the showing of emotion or indeed any expression whatsoever, this was a masterful stroke of genius by Pierce. The movie was often censored after its initial release and in 1937 some six years after it was first unleashed upon cinema audiences the film was edited further when it was re-issued. The scene where the monster without knowing it is wrong throws the small child into the water thinking she will just float was trimmed, and thus audiences were convinced that the monster had attacked and killed the girl for no reason.
Which probably altered the audience’s opinion of the creature drastically. This scene was however restored during the 1980, s, which would allow audiences to realise that the monster was not aware what he was doing would harm the child. This and other dialogue parts and sequences were restored when the film was re-issued. The original release ran for approx.; 70 mins.

 

 

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The film of course starred Boris Karloff who was originally an actor in theatre, Karloff was born in Dulwich England in 1887. He began to venture into motion pictures during the early part of the 1920’s but went almost unnoticed until film maker James Whale saw that there was something about this tall unassuming man that maybe audiences would like. Karloff became associated with the horror genre and specifically with the FRANKENSTEIN cycle as produced by Universal, but there was far more to this talented and eloquent actor than portraying a mute and violent creature, as we would see in the coming years and future productions. Between 1932 and 1944 Karloff seemed to be on screen almost permanently and added his ample talents to films such as, THE OLD DARK HOUSE, THE MUMMY, THE BLACK CAT, THE RAVEN, THE BOOGIE MAN WILL GET YOU, THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN and THE HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN which would be his final appearance as the Monster in 1944. His career continued through the 1950, s and into the 1960’s when he made appearances on television in England in COLONEL MARCH OF SCOTLAND YARD, plus he was in demand on recordings because his voice was so distinctive and later made appearances in films such as THE COMEDY OF TERRORS etc during the 1960, s. The director James Whale was also British, and was born in Dudley Staffordshire in 1896. His first foray into acting came when he was a prisoner of war during the first world war, after being de mobbed he joined the Birmingham Rep company and later took on the duties of stage manager at the Savoy theatre in the heart of London.
He soon became known to many within theatre-land and was asked to travel to New York with a production of JOURNEYS END which starred Colin Clive in 1929. He then worked in several areas of production etc and was asked to direct WATERLOO BRIDGE for Universal in 1931 and in the same year helmed FRANKENSTEIN. A film was released in 1998 which told the story of his often quirky and eccentric life, GODS AND MONSTERS which starred Sir Ian McKELLEN enjoyed some success at the box office.

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James Whale returned to the story of FRANKENSTEIN in 1935 with THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN. This was a more humorous approach to the story which was still based upon original characters created by Mary Shelley. In THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, Whale seemed to be trying to parody the style and convention that he and his collaborators had created a few years previously. This was successful due to the over the top Gothic sets and also a musical soundtrack that was not only highly dramatic but at times highly intrusive, but still the formula worked.

 
The music was by Hollywood giant Franz Waxman. Waxman, was born in Upper Sielesia in Germany on Christmas eve 1906. Waxman was the youngest of six children and came from a family that was not musical in any way, His Father was a successful industrialist who felt that Franz would be better suited to a career in banking as he was of the opinion that no one could make a living out of music. The young Waxman however did have piano lessons from the age of 7 yrs, when he started working he went into banking as his Father wanted and worked as a clerk for some two and a half years using his wages to fund his lessons in piano, composition and counterpoint. After this period, Waxman resigned from the banking job and moved to Dresden but stayed there for only a short time, he eventually moved to Berlin to study music proper. His musical education was paid for by money he earned from playing the piano in nightclubs and also from working with a band called the Weintraub Syncopaters who were very popular jazz ensemble at the time. Waxman also began to do arrangements for the band and this led him into orchestrating some early German musical films. Fellow composer Frederich Hollander, who had written music for the band gave Waxman his first significant scoring assignment, this was to perform the orchestrations and to conduct his score for THE BLUE ANGEL. The film’s producer Erich Pommer was impressed with the way in which Waxman orchestrated the score and he offered the composer work at UFA Studios in Berlin.

 

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Waxman’s first job there was to score Fritz Lang’s version of Liliom (1933), which again was successful for Waxman. Pommers next movie was Jerome Kern;s MUSIC IN THE AIR which was for Fox films in 1934, this meant that the producer had to travel to the United States and he asked Waxman to accompany him to work on the arrangements for the film. Waxman soon became noticed by other filmmakers and in 1935 he worked on James Whale’s THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, which was his first Hollywood film score. This assignment led to a two-year contract with Universal studios as head of their music department. He worked on more than 50 movies during this time as music director and composed the scores to at least 15 of these. Among the best known of these are THE INVISIBLE RAY and MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION. In 1936 aged 30, the composer was offered a long-term contract with M.G.M. as a composer, during this time Waxman scored approx; seven movies a year and whilst with M.G.M. he worked on movies such as, DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE, CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS and WOMAN OF THE YEAR.

It was also whilst at M.G.M. that Waxman came into contact with David O Selznick and in 1937 worked on YOUNG AT HEART for the filmmaker, which was a score that the composer received two Academy Award nominations for, for best original music and best score. Four years later Waxman was again loaned to Selznick by M.G.M. this time to work on REBECCA for which he was again nominated for an Academy Award. The composer left M.G.M. in 1943 and began a long and fruitful collaboration with Warner Brothers films. In 1947 the composer founded the Los Angeles International Music Festival, which he was head of for some 20 years. In 1950 he won the Oscar for his music to Billy Wilder’s SUNSET BOULEVARD and again in 1951 for George Stevens, A PLACE IN THE SUN. The 1950s and 1960s proved to be a busy time for the composer and it was also during these decades that Waxman produced some of his most memorable works for the cinema, CRIME IN THE STREETS, TARAS BULBA, THE NUNS STORY, SAYONARA, PRINCE VALIANT, THE SPIRIT OF ST LOUIS and PEYTON PLACE being just a few titles from his impressive assignment list. It was also during this period that Waxman re-invented the way in which he wrote music progressing from the romantic to at times hard hitting jazz infused scores and also big epic sounding works. He passed away on February 24th 1967 in Los Angeles at the age of just 60.

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Waxman’s score for THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN was reconstructed and re-recorded in 1993 and released on Silva Screen records. An earlier reconstruction of a composition from BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN was available within the CLASSIC FILM SCORES OF series on RCA Records which was conducted by Charles Gerhardt. The series of film score from the Universal horrors on Marco Polo still to this day remain enticing and attractive, I leave the last word to John Morgan who was responsible for bringing them to life via his reconstruction work.

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“Those Universal horror scores by Skinner and Salter have been favorites since I first saw the films on television in the fifties. I just loved the music and it really became part of me and my musical taste. I was so happy we could do these as I am convinced no others in the music world would tackle them as the films, for the most part, were considered B material. But they had A scores. It was difficult too, as none of the orchestration survived, so I had to use the abbreviated piano-conductor sheets and orchestrate the music from top to bottom. I was glad Hans Salter was still alive when we started on his project”.