Just as I finished the last soundtrack supplement, there were a handful of releases that came through, so rather than wait I thought I would include them in a soundtrack supplement extra.
Back in 2017 Atli Orvarsson provided the score for Hitman’s Bodyguard, which was accompanied by a sprinkling of popular songs. The score was inventive and entertaining, and I am pleased to say that the composer has returned to the frey in the sequel Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard. On this occasion however I can see an absence of any songs and the album contains the score for the movie only, which is always good news.
The score has to it a kind of superhero and retro sound, and at times is upbeat and fast paced with driving themes and music that evokes maybe things such as The Man From Uncle and to a degree the Brian Tyler Iron Man score remember the track Can you Dig it? it also has to it tinges and little nuances that are a homage to the style and sound of composers such as Jerry Goldsmith and John Williams.
This is a full-on high-powered score filled with strong dramatic compositions and inventive themes and orchestrations, such as Helicopter Chase, and Kidnapped by Interpol. Plus, there are some quieter moments as displayed in the lilting and melancholy sounding cue, Flashback of Mom. One for your collection, I think.
From an upbeat toe tapping, infectious beaty high octane affair we move to something a little more emotive, delicate, and affecting in the form of L’Instant Present, which is composed by Phar or Raphael Dargent. This is such a refreshingly beautiful score, laced with wonderfully alluring tone poems that for me evoke memories of the sophisticated and eloquent style of Georges Delerue, the more recent works of Alexandre Desplat and the intricate and understated but affecting music of Phillipe Rombi.
There is a richness of thematic properties present throughout, the work being a delicate and romantic listening experience, and one that is overflowing with an atmosphere that is tantalizing, vibrant, brimming with fragility and a charming and refined musical persona.
For me the music is wonderfully expressive the composer painting a musical picture that is so deeply emotional at times it is heart melting. It is a relatively short score with just eight cues and a running time of sixteen minutes, but each second and every minute of this work is rewarding, beguiling and haunting, with each cue containing something that is undeniably special. Recommended yes, it is. 100 percent, available from Movie Score Media via digital platforms.
Another score that is well worth listening to is Wish Dragon, which is at this moment streaming on Netflix go check it out, the score is by Philip Klein, the composer has created an imposing and lush score that has to it romantic and comedic attributes, fully symphonic by the sound of things this is a great listen, affecting and intricate sounding themes are heard alongside adventurous and melodious sweeping passages which tend to send a slight shudder up ones spine.
This is a superbly touching and thematic score, the composer should be congratulated for creating a work with so many themes, nuances, entertaining, and mesmeric sounding interludes which are performed via the string section.
With subdued woods and eloquent piano solos also making an appearance the composer adding an even greater sense of drama with epic and grandiose stylized brass and inventive percussion that are embellished with choral performances, this is one for any discerning film music collector. Available on digital platforms as is the latest score from the talented and versatile Frederick Weidman, Occupation: Rainfall, is a work that literally is bursting with a tense and dramatic atmosphere, Weidman’s music is bristling with a sense of action that is relentless and totally consuming.
We are treated to rasping and dark sounding brass, booming percussive elements and driving strings that all combine and compliment one another to bring to fruition a non-stop dramatic action fest of music, which although is commanding and powerful still oozes a rich and vibrant thematic quality. Mare of Easttown is a TV series that has been causing more than a stir with audiences. The HBO series stars Kate Winslett who gives a highly polished, realistic and down to earth performance in the role of a detective sergeant who is leading the investigation into the murder of a young woman in the small Pennsylvanian town of Easttown.
Winslett’s character Mare Sheehan is a seasoned and skilled investigator who has spent the majority of her life in the town and is familiar with all of its inhabitants. Her investigations are however made more difficult because she has recently lost her son with her days becoming dark and troubled. The musical score for the series is a subtle one, with composer Lele Marchitelli creating an at times emotive but quite uneasy sounding soundtrack, which he realizes via a small orchestra, with strings being the main stay that are supported by synths. With solo piano also providing the foundation of the work. It’s an interesting listen on its own, and within the movie the music does for me at least stand out as being not only supportive but as creating levels and degrees of emotion and melancholy throughout. Adding even greater atmospheric level to proceedings.
Marchitelli also scored The New Pope in 2020 and # Anne Frank-Parralel Stories in 2019. His music is certainly worth a listen and please do take time to see Mare of Easttown the series on Sky Atlantic.
Adventures in Babysitting, was a comedy film released in 1987, directed by Chris Columbus and starring Elizabeth Shue, it did relatively well at the box office and contained a suitably adventurous, dramatic and tongue in cheek score by composer Michael Kamen, who also scored Lethal Weapon, Suspect, Rita, Sue and Bob Too, and Someone to Watch over me in the same year.
The soundtrack was issued in 2015 by Intrada records onto compact disc and has been made available this month on digital platforms and it is a score that I know you will enjoy immensely. Alongside Kamen’s compelling and exciting score there are two predictable eighties songs, one performed by the cast of the movie the other by Percy Sledge, which too are enjoyable in a strange and cringy type of way, not saying they are bad but maybe they have not weathered the years as well as Kamen’s score has. At times Kamen conjures up a tense atmosphere via music that has to it a Herrmann-esque style, with brass and strings working together to create an uneasy but at the same time upbeat and comedic sound. Again worth checking out.
Welcome to soundtrack supplement forty-four, I begin this edition with a score that I think is a delight. Spirit Untamed is a fusion of vocal performances and original symphonic score and what a score this is, Music is courtesy of composer Amie Doherty, who’s music for Undone was a revelation, Spirit Untamed is a soundtrack that I really must insist that you check out, available on digital platforms so really there is no excuse not to take a listen and, in my opinion, it would be rude not too. If you are a fan of the late James Horner I think you will love this score as at times it evoked the style and sound of his soundtracks. It is a work of great quality and diversity, with grand symphonic pieces mixed with more intimate and even comedic sounding passages. Which is why I think that this is such an interesting and above all entertaining work. The composer utilizes the string section to maximum effect and combines the sweeping, driving, romantic and lush string performances with proud and triumphant brass flourishes and percussive elements, adding to these the support of woods and beautiful guitar performances, that glide in and out of the score creating a wonderfully rich but at the same time emotive statement. Plus, we are treated to a homage of sorts to Ennio Morricone in the track, I am the Train, which comes complete with male voices in Fistful of Dollars like mode that punctuate the cue and a Soprano solo, whistling, racing percussion, plus a solo trumpet performance.
It is a score that seems to keep on giving as after I listened to it a couple of times I returned again and again to discover so much more than I did on my initial listens. A great score that is not only robust and vibrant but also has to it affecting emotional levels. Check this out ASAP.
BEAT records in Italy have over the past decade or so certainly ramped up their re-issue and release programme of scores from Italian cinema. At times, the label releasing soundtracks that have never seen the light of day before and also continuing to release scores that have already had a release either on LP or on Compact Disc but giving collectors extra cues that have been discovered in the archives. Their recent releases include Around the World with the Lovers of Peynet, which was originally issued on a Japanese Seven Seas LP record then re-issued a couple of times in expanded forms on a handful of labels. The music score is the work of Alessandro Alessandroni with a Love theme or Main title theme by Ennio Morricone. A few years ago, I remember talking to Alessandroni in London about this animated movie that was released back in 1974 and why Morricone had written just the Love theme, Alessandroni explained that Morricone agreed to do the score, but then became remarkably busy, so Alessandroni was asked to take on the project, with Morricone providing the Love theme by way of an apology of sorts to the film’s producers. The score by Alessandroni is glorious with the composer placing his own unique musical fingerprint upon proceedings whilst subtly incorporating sections of Morricone’s opening theme into his score. And is a prime example of the creative, exquisitely romantic, and wonderfully atmospheric Italian film music from the 1960’s and 1970’s. This latest edition from BEAT contains thirty-eight tracks from the original stereo master tapes and has clear sound which makes it well worth adding to your collection even if you do already own the prior releases.
BEAT have also released a 2 CD set of the music from So Che Tu Sai Che Io Io So. Which was scored by Maestro Piero Piccioni in 1982 with the music being released originally by GDM. The movie directed by Alberto Sordi, has a score that encompasses a mix of styles with the composer providing the film with romantic and lilting themes that are aired alongside up-beat funky disco grooves and Latino influenced pieces some of which do I have to say become repetitive and tired. The second disc in this new set includes un-released material from the score, but do we really need all this as the original release was already adequate in my mind, again it is a case of less is more, proving that an endless release programme of unreleased cues is sometimes not want everybody really wants. The third release from the BEAT stable is a joint effort between them and the newish soundtrack label CF recordings, who have issued a few obscure Italian scores but nothing to shout about.
This collaboration is for the Armando Travajoli soundtrack to Straziami, Ma di Baciami Sazaiami which was released back in 1968, the score for this rather wishy-washy comedy contains a central theme that is probably one of the composers most haunting and one which can be heard throughout the work in varying arrangements, renditions of it providing the foundation for the majority of the soundtrack. There is only one negative with all three of these releases and that is that they have all been issued before, I do stress always that maybe labels in Italy should start to focus on the many scores that still lay in the archives, instead of releasing soundtracks that have already been issued and some of these being released quite recently. Re-issues are always good for newer collectors, with Around the World with the Lovers of Peynet standing out on this occasion but seasoned film music fans are still waiting for something vintage but new if you see what I mean. Time surely is running out for some of these vintage scores that lay in the archives, and because of age or indeed the way they have been stored could at any time turn to dust and be lost forever. We are told there is a wealth of material still unreleased in various vaults, so where are they? And yes I know Sugar music now own the CAM catalogue but why keep re-issuing re-issues, just a thought.
Game scores recently I have looked forward to hearing as they seem to be becoming more interesting and certainly more inventive than most scores for film and TV, but I suppose that’s a little unfair because the game score composer is maybe a little less inhibited or restricted when scoring a game as opposed to a movie. But that’s something I truly am not sure of, either way game scores for me personally have progressed and developed vastly in their content and also their attention to musicality and thematic quality, one such score is for the video game Chivalry 2, which has a driving and wonderfully robust and vibrant soundtrack by composer J.D,Spears. What can I say about the music apart from its relentless and filled with so many rich and affecting thematic manifestations, I wont dwell on this release but I do highly recommend that you take a listen and go along for the musical white knuckle-ride. Talking of white-knuckle rides stand by for one that will probably scare the pants off you, as soon as I mention composer Joseph Bishira I know many will feel that tingling feeling up their spine or the hairs on their arms and neck will literally stand up as if they have been frightened into doing so.
The Conjuring-The Devil Made Me Do It is here, and so to is another atmospheric and totally consuming score from this talented and versatile composer. This I think is probably one of the most affecting and malevolent sounding scores from Bishara, and it does when one listens to it make you very apprehensive and unsettled. It is also a score that is far more grandiose sounding than any of the other Conjuring soundtracks, it is an imposing and also a if you can forgive the pun haunting listening experience, it also however contains a number of less fraught and fearsome sounding cues with the composer utilizing strings and emotive solo piano too purvey moments of respite. Another great horror film score, from a composer who seems to get better and better. Marco Beltrami is a composer who many associate predominantly with the horror genre, but there is far much more to Beltrami than crashes, bangs and sinister sounds. Granted, his scores for the Scream series are a great example of horror film scoring, with manic shrieking strings, upbeat interludes and driving musical passages throughout, but there was also a sound that in my opinion was close to the operatic within those scores that displayed to us just how talented Beltrami was and still is. The composer has worked on so many movies since those early days, and although not all his soundtracks have met with the approval of everyone, he has contributed some of the most atmospheric and innovative film soundtracks of both the 20th and thus far 21st century and continues to do so.
A Quiet Place 2 is one of his most recent projects, and the composer has penned a tense and at the same quite emotive score for this uneasy horror tale. The composer also worked on the original movie A Quiet Place. Beltrami’s music is a vital component to the movie’s development, and it is the music that on most occasions is the most terrifying thing on the screen or behind and underneath the action at least. The score is grating, visceral, persistently manic, edgy, and seductively and forebodingly dark and harrowing. It can at times be chaotic because of its use of percussive elements and the intense sounding foghorn like call that is associated with the creatures in the movie. Again, this is one for your collection.
Meandre is a sci-fi horror movie that was released in 2020, the score is by composer Frederic Poirier and is a subtle but also a powerful work, an electronic work in the main the composer has created some beautiful melodies, which are presented alongside dark and shadowy pieces, both styles complimenting each other to make this an enjoyable listen. I like to unpredictability of the score, some cues beginning as low key and subdued but then building and altering course to become something that is oh so dark and tense. It’s a score that I think you will enjoy, take a listen it’s on digital platforms.
Let us take a step back a few years for the next soundtrack and maybe this is one you might have overlooked. Bellissima Estate was originally released in 1974 on RCA records it is a soundtrack that will delight and please any collector who subscribes to the romantic sounding film score. It will also be of interest to collectors who have a preference for the more romantically laced works of composers such as Franco Micalizzi, Berto Pisano, Stelvio Cipriani, Armando Trovajoli, Ennio Morricone, and Roberto Pregadio. I say this because the style and sound achieved is somewhat similar to firstly Micalizzi’s scores for The Last Snows of Spring, The tree with Pink Leaves and Alla Cara Mia Mamma (the latter still is crying out for a full release) and also has certain similarities to Interrabang by Berto Pisano. Composer Alberto Pomeranz utilizes to great effect the beautiful wordless vocals of Edda Dell Orso, and combines her unique aural talents with soaring strings, and piano which are both at times combined and performed in unison creating some of those spine-shivering moments. Light and easy-going compositions are the mainstay of this work, along with choir and slight jazz influenced passages that create a magical and hauntingly mesmerising work.
The movie itself is a tearjerker, one of many such tales that were produced in Italy during the mid to late 1970s, I do not think this example was that successful outside of Italy’s borders, but it starred the attractive screen siren Senta Berger which for me has to be a plus. The score is quite breath-taking, and the composer seems to squeeze every drop of emotion out of the orchestra as they treat the listener to some wonderfully romantic and emotive tone poems. Every track on this compact disc is a joy to hear the haunting melodies are full and richly elegant. The disc contains fourteen cues which originally appeared on the RCA long player, and a further eleven cues which are listed as bonus tracks, all twenty-five tracks on the CD are in full and crystal-clear stereo sound. There is also a fourteen-track edition on Spotify as the CD release could now be hard to find. I just love the sound that Pomeranz has created, he utilises piano to maximum effect and enhances and embellishes this with a light and delicate dusting of harpsichord, plus romantic sounding strings and equally delicate and emotive woodwind. The score contains several slightly upbeat cues within the work, samba type compositions (shades of Love Circle) with Edda taking the lead, supported by jazz infused rhythms that are underlined using sliding strings, which add texture and substance to the cues. Packaged attractively, but no information in the way of notes, which I think would have been of great benefit to the release, as the film is virtually unknown, and the composer too is not that well recognised by collectors. But hey, we cannot have it all, and when the music is as good as this well, we can I suppose put up with it. There are a few additional compositions on the score which are the work of Italian composer Luciano Michelini, but the track listing credits do not indicate which these are. But Michelini performed piano on a few soundtracks so maybe that is why he is credited here. Seek this out you will be amazed, highly recommended. Staying with a release or should I say three now classic Italian releases from the 1970’s that finally made their way onto compact disc in 2013 and are in the same style as Bellissima Estate or vice versa as The Last Snows of Spring, The Tree with Pink Leaves and The White Horses of August were all released before it. Digit movies in Italy did a grand job of issuing these three Franco Micalizzi scores in the same two CD set. The Last Snows of Spring soundtrack sold well in Italy when it was released on the RCA Original Cast label in 1973, it also generated interest outside of Italy with the film being advertised on British TV and the soundtrack receiving a limited release on K-Tel records. Ok nowadays it would probably be relegated to late night cable television if it was indeed shown at all as time has not been kind to it and now it is looked upon as a sentimental and syrupy example of 1970s cinema.
With fresh-faced and slightly annoying child actor Renato Cestie taking the part of a boy whose Mother has died and refuses to accept his Fathers new partner. The score however has managed to stand the test of time and even now sounds as bright and melodic as it did way back when I first heard it on LP which I purchased from at Soundtrack at the arts theatre club in London. Micalizzi,s gift for melody is evident in the first flourishes of the films love theme. The digit movies release includes the original album tracks, plus we are treated to a further ten cues which were not before issued in any format until now making a grand total of twenty-three cues. Micalizzi, manages to create an atmospheric as well as heartrending sound throughout the score, via use of the string section, harpsichord, guitar, piano and also subtly placed woods which not only support but enhance the many swelling string flourishes that rise and fall throughout the work. There is also a song on the soundtrack, Crianca, performed by Trio de Paula and Gino Marinuzzi which I would compare to the style of Antonino Carlos Jobim, as it has a definite Brazilian or Latin sound.
Micalizzi also utilises jazz influenced organ which can be heard at its most effective during track number twelve Vodka Per Due, being showcased alongside harpsichord and percussion. This is a score that one will never tire of and I am sure will be returned to on many occasions. Next up is The lesser known, The Tree with Pink Leaves (1974) a film in many ways that has similar themes and scenarios to The Last Snows of Spring, being an unashamedly over the top and gushy tearjerker involving a young boy (Renato Cestie) and his sadness about the breakup of his parents, a sadness that eventually drives him to run away but tragedy strikes and he is involved in an accident and sadly dies. For this movie Micalizzi created a suitably emotive score, in which he utilises solo guitar supported heavily by strings and woodwind. There are certainly similarities between the two scores, I suppose there would be as they were both written by the same composer almost back-to-back. The highlight cue for me from this soundtrack is track number twenty six on disc one, Favola which is a combination of strings, harpsichord and soothing sounding woodwinds that are punctuated by piano and guitar; it is a sheer delight and one of Micalizzi’s most haunting pieces.
Originally released on Cinevox records, the LP has now become sought after by collectors, not just for the music it contains but also for its vibrant and eye arresting artwork some of which is reproduced for this CD release. The soundtrack runs from track number twenty-four to twenty-eight on disc one and then continues tracks one through to five on disc two, a score that contains light jazz orientated cues with sleepy sounding trumpet being lifted by sentimental strings, romantically infused pieces and some cues that mange to be mysterious yet highly harmonious. Again, a wonderful score, which will be firm favourite of collectors old and new.
The third score on this collection, had never been issued in its complete form before, a few tracks appeared back in 1976 on a Franco Micalizzi best of collection, that was released on RCA in Italy and also a 45rpm single did get a release, The White Horses of August yes you guessed it a is another tearjerker, and involves yet another sad tale about another young boy, who when holidaying in Italy falls from a cliff and badly injures himself, but because of this accident eventually brings together his parents. This score by Micalizzi, is quite stunning, full of melody, and features the stunning soaring wordless vocals of Edda Dell Orso, this release features no less than nineteen tracks which are pure unadulterated romanticism from Micalizzi. Delicate piano solos, soaring strings, exquisite female vocals, charming themes, and a delightful song all go to make up a rewarding and enriching listening experience, I recommend this Digit movies release whole heartedly.
Lets stay with Italian film music for the next release, again this is a movie that was released back in 1966, La Strega in Amore was directed by acclaimed Italian filmmaker Damiano Damiani and is a movie that is somewhat overlooked. The score is by Luis Bacalov and has recently been made available digitally on the platforms such as Apple Music and Spotify. It is a quite different Luis Bacalov that are hearing on this score I say different, but I suppose inventive is the word that is best used to describe the composers work on this one. It contains some nice themes and even has a South American flavour at times when the composer employs melodic woods, but there is a sinister side to the score with the composer creating edgy and creepy effects via whispering and gasping female voices, he also puts to effective use guitar solos, percussive elements, and spidery and sinister sounding sinewy strings. It is a score that I found interesting, and I am sure you will too. Check it out. That’s all folks.
THE MOVIE MUSIC INTERNATIONAL RECOGNITION AWARDS 2020.
*Please note there are some titles within this listing that were released in the closing weeks of 2019. But they were not more widely distributed until the early months of 2020. Therefore, we decided to include these because of the quality of the work.
As always these are recognition awards no ceremonies or certificates at the moment, just a nod of appreciation to the composer, presenters and authors responsible. There are also five new categories, label of the year for vinyl releases, best UK based radio station film music show, best individual track from a film score, best printed publication for film and including film music, and best book on film music or a specific composer.
BREAK-OUT COMPOSER OF THE YEAR.
THIS YEAR WE HAVE TWO COMPOSERS WHO WE THINK ARE WORTHY OF RECOGNITION.
THOMAS CLAY. Fanny Lye Deliver’d.
SID DE LA CRUZ. Hell on the Border.*
BEST TV SCORE.
UPSIDE DOWN MAGIC. TOM HOWE. Disney.
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE.
FANNY LYE DELIVER’D. THOMAS CLAY.
BEST HORROR SCORE.
BAD HAIR. KRIS BOWERS.
BEST SCORE FOR A COMEDY.
THE PERSONAL HISTORY OF DAVID COPPERFIELD.
BEST SCI-FI SCORE.
PROXIMITY JERMAINE STEGALL.
BEST DOCUMENTARY SCORE.
APERFECT PLANET. ILAN ESHKERI.
BEST SCORE FOR AN ANIMATED MOVIE.
FEARLESS. ANNE- KATHRIN DERN
BEST SCORE FOR AN ACTION/THRILLER/DRAMA.
*HELL ON THE BORDER. SID DE LA CRUZ.
LABEL OF THE YEAR. (CD AND DOWNLOADS).
DRAGONS DOMAIN. U.S.A.
LABEL OF THE YEAR. (VINYL).
FOUR FLIES RECORDS. ITALY.
BEST RE-ISSUE OF A FILM SCORE.
TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA. ENNIO MORRICONE. LA LA LAND records U.S.A.
BEST RE-RECORDING OF A FILM SCORE.
ENDLESS NIGHT. BERNARD HERRMANN. Quartet Records.
RECOGNITION AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTION TO THE ART OF FILM AND TV MUSIC.
COMPOSER OF THE YEAR.
BEST INDIVIDUAL TRACK FROM A FILM SCORE.
*HORSE CHASE. FROM HELL ON THE BORDER. SID DE LA CRUZ.
BEST ONLINE SOUNDTRACK SPECIALIST RADIO STATION.
CINEMATIC SOUND RADIO NETWORK. Erik Woods and co.
BEST U.K. BASED RADIO STATION FILM MUSIC SHOW.
MARK KERMODE. SCALA RADIO. (SKY O216).
BEST BOOK ON FILM MUSIC OR A SPECIFIC COMPOSER.
ENNIO MORRICONE-MASTER OF THE SOUNDTRACK. Maurizio Baroni. (Gingko press).
BEST PRINTED PUBLICATION FOR FILMS THAT HAS ARTICLES THAT INCLUDE FILM MUSIC.
WE BELONG DEAD. Eric McNaughton. U.K.
The year has been a tough one, but through it all composers, producers and directors still managed to create memorable movies, tantalising TV shows, incredible books and eye catching and interesting magazines and so many powerful musical soundtracks. Heres to 2021 and better times. Thank you for your support throughout the years.
Welcome to soundtrack supplement thirty-three. Once again, we have a mixed and full bag of titles to tell you about, hopefully we will be able to guide you some new additions or at least make you aware of them, as always, it’s a varied batch of titles which take in old, new, well known and obscure. I am going to begin with the soundtrack from a TV series. A Discovery of Witches has caused more than a ripple of interest, the series now in its third season becoming essential viewing for many but saying this it has also failed to inspire just as many viewers. I think one should give it a chance and also explore as many new things on TV as possible, I for one am enjoying the series and am savouring the musical score or scores for each episode.
Rob Lane is the composer, and has provided the series with a supportive, dark, and atmospheric sound that is filled with intrigue and mystery and oozes an uneasy and edgy persona. You may remember the composer from the series Merlin, for which he provided some magnificent music. Lane although working for small screen productions has never been a small-scale composer, as in he produces epic sounding music that is more like a full-blown sore for a feature film rather than for an episodic series. In fact, his approach is remarkably similar to that of the young James Horner, who always composed large scale scores for films that did not have the budget for them. By doing this it often attracts attention thus also making audiences, filmmakers etc aware of the composer or at least being interested in finding out who they are. I suppose A Discovery of Witches cannot be called an epic work, but nevertheless it does have to it a haunting and attractive sound and style, the composer fashioning several themes and variations of those themes for central characters and scenarios that unfold within the series. As I keep saying TV music has come a long way in the past two decades, and its not all about a catchy theme anymore, there are far more important things such as the actual score working or becoming something that can be listened to away from the images, in fact TV scoring is now probably more high profile than feature film music, because of the current situation with this pandemic, many are turning more and more to the small screen or 265 inch screen in the corner with full cinema sound and Dolby surround for their filmic or cinematic fix. And why not, needs must as they say. Lane’s scores for this particular series are at times melodic but more often than not contain a tense and visceral persona, purveying at times a nervous atmosphere and darker moods.
But we do get glimpses of melodious and thematic passages that seem to rise from nowhere as in Separation brings the Witch-Rain, in which the composer deploys strings and organ giving the piece not just a richness but also adding to it a kind of celestial sound complete with voices and brass that bring it to its conclusion. This is a style that also manifests itself within the track Joined Together. Often there is a folk style retained throughout the series musically, with the composer employing solo violin etc to create a brooding but at the same time tuneful soundtrack. I recommend that you take a listen and maybe if you can re-visit the soundtracks from season one and two of the programme.
From Witches and various mystical goings on to, the new Netflix production Bridgerton, which has music by a composer who I know we will hear more from in the coming years, Kris Bowers. His work on projects such as Mrs America, Bad Hair, Dear White Peopleand When they see us, have already placed him firmly in the eye of collectors of TV and movie music around the world and he like fellow composers, Michael Abels, Jermaine Stegall and Jongnic Bontemps are paving the way to an exciting and new approach to scoring movies. Bridgerton, is a charming score filled with an abundance of themes and haunting musical pieces. There is obviously a style and sound that is automatically associated with the period in which this drama is set, but there is also an underlying style that is of a slightly more contemporary persuasion. The composer utilises strings, solo piano, and wistful woods to convey the atmosphere of the score, underlining and supporting every moment of the drama as it unfolds. This for me is a listening fest filled with gorgeous thematic material and inventive and haunting compositions, overflowing with romantically laced passages that enthral and mesmerise. I recommend you take a dip into the musical delights of Bridgerton. Staying with Netflix and another score from another series which they are airing, it seems that we will all soon be forsaking the cinema and the actual TV as in BBC and ITV to make Netflix our staple channel and others like it where we get our entertainment. Lupin is a French series, which is a more contemporary incarnation of Arsene Lupin, I have to admit to not catching up with it as yet, but the music by composer Mathieu Lamboley certainly makes me want to sit down and watch the series right here and now, the score is dark and mysterious but also has within it a romantic feel in places, this is an accomplished score as in sitting listening to it without images.
It’s a soundtrack that one finds intriguing and also when it ends one wants more of its darkness its brooding and fraught atmosphere etc, I have to admit to loving material such as this, ok I also love romantic and grandiose scores, but this is I suppose grand and affecting in a different way, the tension that the music purveys is phenomenal. However, its not all dark and tense as the score also includes a handful of lilting and wonderfully eloquent themes, driving strings that are laced with piano and what sounds like a cymbalom but I don’t think it is really catch ones attention especially in the cue Gentlemen, which for me evokes the style of both John Barry and Ennio Morricone, it has the smoky or steamy atmosphere as created by Barry when in spy mode and also the strings and female voice that could be Morricone, it’s a score that you will I know like and also one that you will, trust me return to on many occasions. Recommended.
Back to 2020 for the next releases and the soundtrack to the French Tv movie Avis De Tempete or Storm Warning, this crime thriller was aired back in the September of 2020 and contains music by actor and composer Fabien Cahen, the plot revolves around a terrible storm that hits land just as a ten-year-old boy goes missing, as one can imagine this is a rather tense affair, and the score reflects the films storyline supporting and underlining all aspects of it. It is a mix of both electronic and conventional instrumentation, with the synthetic having the upper hand or greater share of the work. Do not however let this put you off at least having a listen to the score as there are some great moments in which the composer expands and develops his thematic ideas, that include comedic sounding passages and a hint of romantically laced nuances etc, in many ways for me it evoked a style that maybe Phillipe Sarde employed in certain scores, as in it is varied and innovative. It has to it an almost jagged sound in places, but it’s not in any way harsh or grating, available on digital platforms, so it is certainly worth a listen through.
Cobra Kai is a Netflix series of thirty-two episodes that basically carries on where Karate Kid finished, with a middle-aged Daniel Russo coming u against his old rival from 1984 Johnny Lawrence. The score is great stuff, its upbeat filled with action led cues and has to it a Bill Conti vibe with symphonic and synthetic elements fusing together and creating a powerhouse of a score that is entertaining and addictive, plus there, are some beautiful rich Oriental influenced cues as in Return to Okinawa, that is emotive and affecting. Hats off to Netflix for the series and for the score by Leo Birenberg and Zach Robinson. Again, on Spotify etc, go check it out. Highly recommended.
La Stanza is an interesting score, and the movie too is thought provoking for a horror /mystery. The central character Stella decides that she is going to commit suicide, but on the morning, she decides this must be done a stranger calls on her telling her he has booked the guest room. She is not sure who he is but allows him into her home, as initially feels he knows her well and is comfortable with his company, But, when her ex, Sandro joins them at the house the situation which is already strange to say the least becomes more chaotic and perplexing. The music is very atmospheric and supportive of the story line, composer Giorgi Giampa relies upon sinewy strings, inventive percussion and half heard sounds to create a mood that is thick with nervous and tense atmospherics. Again, this is something I do like in a score, the composer inventing new sounds via instruments that we already know but take on another role and sound different when utilised in a different fashion. The orchestrations are accomplished, and the music is an integral part of the storyline, it is a commanding yet stressful listen because it builds and builds layers of raw taut energy at times reaching the point of what we think is no return, but then suddenly pulls back leaving the listener wanting more and breathless. Recommended whilst taking a listen why not check out more from the composer his score for Mi ChiamoMaya from 2015 is certainly worth checking out.
To Gerard is in a word charming, and that’s the animated short and the music composed for this Dream works film by Layla Minoui, the music is sweet, melancholy and totally absorbing. I would say that it evokes the style of Debney, Broughton and Giacchino, it has to it the qualities of Up, the melancholy of The Boy Who Could Fly and the thematic richness of anyone of Debney’s more family orientated movie scores. Ok its not a grandiose or powerful as in action themed score but it is an uplifting and rewarding listen. Why not give it a go, go on, do it To Gerard.
Alexander Bornstein is a composer I first discovered via his stunning music for First to the Moon, well he is back with a pulsating and no hold barred soundtrack to Anime series Transformers,War of Cybertron:Earthrise. This a non-stop fest of hard-edged action cues but saying that there are still good themes and inventive writing here. You can be certain of one thing when listening to this release you won’t get bored, it just gets better and better as it progresses, symphonic and electronics combine and fuse seamlessly to fashion driving and exciting compositions. Available on digital platforms.
Don’t forget also that the music for the latest Dr Who special Revolution of the Daleks which was screened on the BBC on New Year’s Day is now available, on digital sites and soon on compact disc via Silva Screen. Once again composer Segun Akinola has gifted us a resounding and totally absorbing musical score. This is a work that has to it an epic feel and style, many were sceptical about the choice of composer for the show, but I think I for one am convinced it was the right selection, and although I am a massive fan of Murray Gold, but Akinola has again acquitted himself admirably.
Other new releases in recent weeks include Fireball Xl5 from Silva screen and a handful of scores such as Rooster Cogburn by Laurence Rosenthal who is such an underatted composer. Also, Spanish label Quartet records have issued a handful of great releases,
A Bridge Too Far for example and an excellent re-recording of the score Endless Night by Bernard Herrmann. The vinyl market too expands it seems daily with labels such as Four Flies, Sonor, and others keeping up the high-quality releases, of soundtracks and other genres of music from Italy. The only problem these days is the vinyl releases are selling out fast and I mean in the blink of an eye, so it’s a good thing that some are also issued onto Compact Disc.
Sonor issued a trio of Alessandroni albums, one being the score for the erotic thriller La Professoressa di ScienzeNaturali (1976) which contains some haunting lounge sounding cues and also a handful of jazz flavoured compositions, it’s a score I recommend as it is typical of the sound and style of Italian and French film music from that period.
Ennio Morricone’s I Due Evasi Di Sing Sing, also gets a release and is most welcome and surprisingly is on Spotify too.
On the subject of Morricone and digital platforms a number of his scores have appeared on these sites, which have not been available before now for streaming, Correva di anno di Grazie 1870 from 1972, L’Automobile and 1943 Una, both from 1971 for example.
And there is also an expanded (20 tracks) Incontro there to enjoy, I think this is one of the composers most attractive and haunting soundtracks and have loved it since buying the CAM records 9 track LP and subsequent CD release many years ago. I also notice that at last The Sicilian Clan has been added to Spotify, (its about time) sadly no extras on this one, as I think that this is really the entire score that runs over eleven cues, as each incarnation of the soundtrack whether it be LP or CD and now streaming/digital is the same content.
I have to say that I do enjoy the more obscure releases that Italian labels put out and am liking several releases of the music of composer Giuliano Sorgini, one such recording is the composers atmospheric score for the 1975 occult horror, Un Urlo Dalle Tenebre, which is filled with unsettling sounds and gruesome effects including some affecting vocals from Edda dell Orso. This is only on vinyl at the moment and is in many ways like the score The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue, but in my opinion is a more enjoyable work. Having more actual thematic music as opposed to effects and chilling screams and whispers.
Certainly, one to add to the collection if you can get a copy that is. Also check out Alberto Baldan Bembo’s score for the 1975 movie La Amica di mia Madre which is brilliant, this is an LP release but is also available on digital platforms such as Spotify. It is overflowing with lilting and effecting compositions that have to them a jazz and easy listening style and are also influenced by Brazilian and other South American musical flavours such as sambas, that are laced with strikingly delicious disco strings and tropical sounding passages. It’s a score that one listens to and then straight away returns to, a must have.
There were a series of animated shorts on over Christmas on the BBC, Zog, went on various adventures and these included a handful of characters that he met along the way as it were. The music for every one of these animated adventures was courtesy of composer Rene Aubry, who wrote some charming music to accompany the friendly dragon in these films. The composer also scored The Highway Rat which was also aired over the Christmas fortnight. Most of the films in the series were about 30 mins in duration but the music was almost continuous and it certainly worth a listen.
So, from new releases to something a little more seasoned. Cast your minds back to the 1960.s that was such a great decade for movies and film music, but it was also a great time for music in general. The score I am going to talk about has as far as I am aware not been given an official compact disc release, the music was issued on a Stateside LP record in the UK and the ABC label in the United States.
It is a score and a movie that I have always felt has been undervalued. There was a bootleg compact disc which was released in Germany during the late 1990’s but it was among a few titles that were welcomed but also not given the coverage because of their dubious legitimacy. Custer of the West (1967) was issued on compact disc on the Gema recording label and paired with another western score El Dorado by Nelson Riddle. Brazilian born composer Bernardo Segall wrote a quite complex score in places and the battle scene in-particular is a shining example of movie music from this decade. The composer also integrated songs and more traditional sounding western film music into his score, including a rousing march.
It’s a score that I have always admired and the art-work for the LP cover is stunning. It is also an LP I have still to this day and will never part with. The film too I thought was good, however saying that I have not seen it for a while, Robert Shaw portrayed Custer and I know at times his performance was a little OTT, but other than that I enjoyed the movie and the battle at the end of the film was done well. The music does contain a lot of action material, but the composer also scores the end scene of the movie with sensitivity employing a melancholy sounding solo piano as the camera pans across the field of battle to show the audience the 7th cavalry massacred a lone horse standing amongst them. Performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and conducted by Segall, this is a brassy and string led affair with support from percussion and timpani that emphasize the martial leaning of the work.
I think an official release onto compact disc of this soundtrack is way overdue, and yes, I do realise that it is a short score, but I am sure that the tapes still exist and there could be extra’s available, who knows? The battle music has a duration of just over three minutes and is I have to say well suited to the scenes on screen. Driving strings are embellished by horns and other brass which together create a powerful piece. Segall worked only on a handful of films and TV projects, these included The Fisherman and his Soul, The Jesus Trip, Moon of the Wolf, aswell scoring episodes of Columbo ie: Identity Crisis in 1975which starred Patrick McGoohan and Airwolf for American TV. He was not only a talented composer but a highly respected and gifted concert pianist.
Back to more recent releases now, well about 20 years ago plus in fact and to a film which was fairly-popular but did not break the box office in any way. It is my opinion that one of the best versions of the Cinderella story or at least elements of it, was the movie Ever After (1998). Directed by Andy Tennant, it was certainly different from most other incarnations of the tale and had a slightly more believable atmosphere to it. I think it is an enchanting and a down to earth slant on the story, and I for one love the way it is photographed and scripted, it also had some amazing costume design and a wonderfully subtle and alluring score by British composer George Fenton. The composer’s music gave the movie so much depth and emotion, it added comedic and romantic moods and had to it a regal and luxurious quality. The central theme or love theme itself is a touching and delicate piece, the simple but affecting composition purveys fragility and a real sense of melancholy, yet it remains hopeful that true love will finally shine through.
Fenton also wove into his score music that was suitably captivating and fragile with a deep emotional and delicate persona, the ever so light and beautiful central theme acting as a foundation for the score, the composer presenting it in various guises and giving it a freshness and vitality via his re-working of orchestration throughout and in turn building the remainder of his work upon it. It was written at a time when Fenton was a much in demand talent within the world of film music, and it seemed that one would see a new score by the composer almost every week. A traditional symphonic work, that boasted romantic strings and adventurous sounding brass, with proud and vibrant thematic qualities, that add colour and texture to the storyline in a similar way that an artist adds colour to a blank canvas. It is a heartrending and heart-warming tale with Fenton’s music mirroring and enhancing the emotions that are displayed within the movie’s storyline.
The film is literally awash with a musical excellence and overflows with a rich and rapturous score that ingratiates and supports every frame and scene. In short this is one of Fenton’s most accomplished scores for film. Amidst its romanticism, drama, and grand musical persona there is a poignant and emotive work present. The composer’s sensitivity for the subject matter created so much romantic atmosphere especially within the scenes between Danielle/Nicole/Cinderella (Drew Barrymore) and Prince Henry (Dougray Scott) which were made even more tender and convincing by the composers delightfully subtle and impassioned soundtrack. This is a must have for your collection.
So now we head back to the current releases, and again TV features large, The Serpent is something that is essential viewing, and the musical score by composer Dominik Scherrer is as outstanding as the production itself. A mostly synthetic work as in electronic, but it does contain a scattering of conventional instrumentation, although it is largely action paced and a brooding sounding score in places it remains thematic rather than just an underlying soundscape, the composers score works superbly with the tense plot that is unfolding on screen, the score is an important and also an integral part of the production as without the score I am of the opinion that the tension would have been lessened, the music heightens and elevates each scene and also underlines, gives depth and adds an ethnic setting as well as supporting the proceedings. Take a listen to track number ten, Searching Apartment 504, its tension personified, with organ and supporting strings that ooze nervous and affecting layers, and also track number eleven, Homicidal Umbermensch, with its heart-beat tempo that increases as the remainder of the instrumentation is added.
This is. a clever score and certainly innovative and inventive but there again so was the composers work on Ripper Street a few years back.Even though one is aware that there is music there whilst watching the production it is not to the point that the music either distracts or overwhelms the action and storyline. I enjoyed listening to the score away from the film and I am certain you will also. Catch the series too, it is riveting.
I end with two compilations, the first is The Music of Gerald Fried Volume 1, which comprises of two scores by the composer and released by the ever-industrious Dragons Domain records, both scores are from the 1970’s. Cruise into Terror is from the 1978 TV production and Survive is taken from the Mexican feature film released two years earlier. Which was revisited a few years later and filmed again being released as Alive.
Both scores are somewhat typical of the style that the composer employs, both are interesting and worthy additions to any soundtrack collection. In fact, I would go as far as to say that maybe your collection would be rather lacking without these two little gems.
The second compilation is again a Dragons Domain release, The Golden Age of Science Fiction Volume 1, for me is probably more interesting than the Fried compilation, because it includes music by Leith Stevens in the form of his score for the 1956 movie World Without End and from 1958 The Queen of Outer Space with a score by Marlin Skiles. I must admit to only hearing one other score by the latter composer which is from The Shepherd of the Hills (1964). So, it’s good to have another score from this composer in my collection. As we all know Dragons Domain releases are always well done and these two latest additions to their growing catalogue are no exception,
I would also like to recommend The Sorceress, another release from Dragons Domain, this time digital only. The movie is a low budget horror from 1995, directed by Jim Wynorski and starring amongst others Linda Blair. The atmospheric soundtrack which at times throws a nod of acknowledgement to the style of Ennio Morricone and Bernard Herrmann is the work of the incredibly talented composer and filmmaker Chuck Cirino who enlists the ominous sound of a meandering piano solo and female wordless vocals throughout his haunting soundtrack and all I will say is please check the score out. Again recommended. See you next time.
The Western film can and does come in many forms and can be produced in the most unlikely countries and locations. For example, Turkish filmmakers made several so-called westerns as did the Greek film industry and there were the red westerns, even the British invaded the genre and at times produced memorable examples that aspired to the heights of and rivalled Hollywood productions.
Spain too was industrious in this genre with movies such as A Town Called Bastard or Hell depending where you saw it at the cinema, Paella westerns as they were nicknamed were probably the closest to the Italian or spaghetti, pasta, macaroni westerns that were to become so popular and ended up being revered rather than ridiculed, it is a genre that is still today well known throughout the generations.
Then there were the offbeat productions such as El Topo (1971), and the so called first electric western Zachariah from the same year, which has to be seen to be believed and had a score that was said to blow your mind by the likes of Jimmie Haskell, John Rubinstein, Michael Kamen and Mark Snow.
In the early 1970’s there were a number of movies that focused upon the native American Indian, most if not all being supposedly based upon true events, some were, others were questionable, however Little Big Man, A Man Called Horse and its sequels The Return of a Man Called Horse, The Triumph of a Man Called Horse, and the much publicised and hyped Ralph Nelson movie Soldier Blue, are what could be called or labelled prime examples of Native American Indians movies, the latter probably being the most notorious because of the final half an hour of the movie.
Back in the early days films such as They Died with Their Boots On, and other such glory movies depicted the red skins as savages and the white man as the hero of the day, the native American Indian was made to look a brutal and unforgiving race and depicted as a dumb character that would sell his soul for some of that firewater and a repeating action rifle to murder just women and children and runaway when the heroic cavalry came over the hill in their smart blue uniforms blowing the bugle and waving the flag. Totally untrue, it was the white man who invaded the lands of various tribes as in Sioux, Cheyenne, Arapahoe, and Apache. The natural thing to do is protect the homeland we as a global population and as humans instinctively do this, so why was it wrong for the Native American Indian to go down the same path? Well because the white man said it was and because the white man wanted those lands to plunder, something that we are still doing in recent years. Films pre-1970.s were primitive in this respect, with Natives of the prairies and plains being shown in a poor light.
Yes, there were probably some tribes or individuals amongst the Native American nations that had in mind to kill the white man, but it was to protect their people and their way of life and also in most cases in retaliation for what the white man had already done to them. It was probably not until 1964, in film and with the release of John Fords Cheyenne Autumn that things and attitudes began to alter slightly.
Anyway, I digress slightly, so back to the 1970’s when things began to look a little better in the way in which Indians were purveyed. I Will Fight No More Forever, is a thought-provoking example which was made for TV. Billy Jack and The Trial of Billy Jack set in modern day scenarios too could be included within this more aware collection of movies, and going beyond the 1970’s there are numerous other movies that explored and based their stories on various Native American tribes and tales both fictitious and true.
Probably the most well-known motion picture in recent years to highlight the way of the Native American Indian is the epic directed by Kevin Costner Dances with Wolves (1991) which had it seems a profound effect upon audiences and upon the genre of the western, some say reviving it once again to audiences after its popularity had again slumped somewhat.
The musical score is one that is held in high esteem by collectors and critics, and it was not necessarily a western sounding work. John Barry’s eloquent and theme laden soundtrack played a major part in setting the mood and creating atmospheres for the movie and won the composer an Oscar for best original score.
Four years after Dances with Wolves came the lesser known but interesting The Last of the Dogmen, I suppose some would be tempted to argue that this is not a western in the true sense because of its contemporary setting and also the lack of gunslingers, shootouts in the street and saloon bars filled with cowboys, it did however retain something of an old west feel because of the native American community that was discovered hidden away in the forests and countryside, that knew very little of the modern-day life outside of their own environment.
The lost civilisation theme and the reluctance of the central character a twentieth century bounty hunter portrayed by Tom Berenger to comply to the ways of modern-day society made it an even more compelling story. We had seen this type of non-conformation to changing society in films such as The Wild Bunch with many of the central figures in that picture not wanting to leave the old ways behind and not being comfortable with more modern elements that were creeping into everyday life.
The Last of the Dogmen although being totally fictitious and bordering on fantasy for want of a better description, contained some interesting points and it was a movie that was affecting and one that became a firm favourite with many, when the movie started one thought this is ridiculous, but as it progressed and the story unfolded, those thoughts evaporated as one became more in tune with the ways of the American Natives that were involved, could this happen? Well, who knows? But the movie and its characters planted a seed in watching audience’s brains, and maybe they secretly hoped that it was something that could come to fruition, if only for the romanticism and the escapism aspects attached to it. Its again one of those movies where the audience are really on the side of the Native Americans, and the whites, in the form of on this occasion the law are despised for what they are doing.
The musical score is by David Arnold, who also scored Stargate in the same year, produced a very John Barry-esque opening theme for the movie. The score too in places it has to it those John Barry trademark sounds and evokes the composers work on Dances with Wolves, it also however contains a sound that can be identified with composer Trevor Jones, which manifests itself in some of the action cues and is somewhat reminiscent of Jones’s score for the Sly Stallone action thriller, Cliffhanger (1993). This maybe is due to the way in which the score was orchestrated. Arnolds lush and romantic theme becomes the core of the work, the composer returning to it in varying forms throughout. It oozes a richness and has a highly romantic and adventurous persona. This central theme is the foundation for the remainder of the work, it is haunting, emotive and at times harkens back to the days of the golden age of film music, filled with melancholy that is fully explored by the string section underlined and supported by the use of faraway sounding horns, the strings adding heroic and romantic notions to the proceedings and the faraway horns adding depth and creating an atmosphere that depicts and enhances the beauty and the harshness of the location.
Before returning to the 1970’s maybe a look at a Walt Disney movie which also had at its centre the Sioux Indians or at least one of them a young brave called White Bull played by Sal Mineo, who was probably an odd choice to play a native American Indian, because of his Italian/American roots, however he turned in a credible if not slightly sugary performance in the movie Tonka or A Horse called Comanche. Which I think led to him being cast in Cheyenne Autumn six years later. The movie was released in 1958, and although had a low budget was an entertaining piece of cinema which was typically Disney in that was something that all the family could sit and enjoy.
It involved a young brave (Mineo) who to prove his worth captures and tames a wild horse, only to have his older cousin take the horse away from him, the cousin beats the horse but White Bull releases it back to the prairies only to be captured again and sold to the 7thCavalry and given to non-other than General Custer. The story takes place at the time of the Sioux Indian wars and comes to its conclusion at the Battle of the Little Big Horn, where Comanche or Tonka is the only survivor of the massacre. It is a rather far-fetched storyline but one that does command attention throughout. The musical score by Disney favourite Oliver Wallace, is serviceable and in my opinion works well within the movie. Although the composer is mainly associated with a studio that is considered American through and through as in Disney, Wallace was born in London, England on August 6th, 1887 and at the age of seventeen had already completed his musical training and it was in 1904 he decided to go to America, where he worked and lived for a decade before becoming an American citizen.
Wallace began his musical career in the theatre, and worked mainly in Seattle, as a conductor and then as an organist accompanying silent movies. Whilst doing this and gaining experience Wallace began to write songs and soon became known for his lyrics and accompanying music. In the 1930.s with the introduction of Talkies, Wallace began to work in Hollywood, and in the early part of 1936 he started to work for Disney studios. At first, he was given small assignments for shorts which were animated pictures, but it was not long before Disney noticed and appreciated his versatility both as a composer of scores for films and as a lyricist. His output in scoring short-animated films was at times unbelievable and he was said to have written the music for at least one hundred and thirty of these for the studio, his most famous being for the 1942 Donald Duck short, Der Fuehers Face which was a propaganda cartoon. Wallace was also assigned to full length features such as Dumbo and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, his music becoming as iconic and timeless as the movies themselves.
It was Wallace who also provided the April Showers cue for Bambi which too has gone down in film music history as a classic. In the same year as he scored Tonka, Wallace received four Oscar Nominations one of which was for the music to a documentary White Wilderness, which was unheard of at that time. But each time he lost out. Over a period of twenty-seven years, Wallace worked on over one hundred and fifty productions for Disney and created the soundtrack of many children’s lives via his infectious lyrics and delightful melodies. He passed away on September 15th, 1963.
As promised, we now return to the 1970’s and firstly to the incredibly entertaining Little Big Man, which had a cast that was notable to say the least, with Dustin Hoffman, Faye Dunaway, Martin Balsam and the excellent Chief Dan George. Directed by Arthur Penn, (Bonnie and Clyde) the film was released on the 23rd of December 1970 in the United States. It opens with the one hundred- and twenty-one-year-old character Jack Crabb (Dustin Hoffman) telling his story to a reporter, and the film is essentially his life story opening with the ten-year-old and his sister surviving an attack on their wagon train by Pawnee’s. They manage to hide away and escape the carnage in which they see their parents murdered, and are then found by the Cheyenne, who take them both in and raise them. The film takes the audience through the many adventures of Crabb being raised by Indians, and then returning to the world of the white man, after a fight with cavalry soldiers in which the Cheyenne are sent packing Crabb is captured and then taken in by the soldiers because they realise he is a white man, after this he is given into the care of the reverend Pendrake played by Thayer David and his wayward wife (Dunaway) who becomes Crabb’s Stepmother, tutor and temptress. After this Crabb meets Mr Merriweather, played by Martin Balsam.
Throughout the movie Crabb goes through various phases and stages one being that of a gunfighter, which is hilarious in places Hoffman turning in a magnificent performance as the soda pop kid, he meets and befriends Wild Bill Hickok (Jeff Corey) and is bounced back and forth between the world of the Native American Indian and the whites and ends up becoming a scout (Mule skinner) for General Custer, advising the deranged General played convincingly by Richard Mulligan (Bert in the tv comedy Soap) to go into the valley to face the Cheyenne and other tribes that are gathered there with the sole intention of killing him and his soldiers. Hoffman’s character says to the General “You go down there General”, Which Custer thinks is Crabb trying to convince him not to go into the valley as a kind of reverse psychology.
Crabb being raised as a Cheyenne married a girl from the tribe and is besotted with her, but she is killed by Custer when he orders an attack on the Cheyenne village. A village that is inhabited by women and children as the braves are off hunting or scouting.
The massacre is done in a similar way to that of the one depicted in the movie Soldier Blue alsofrom 1970, but even though it was shocking it was not as graphic as the Ralph Nelson directed movie. We do however see a blood lusting General Custer urging his soldiers to basically kill every living thing in the village. Which is something that would haunt Crabb who does try to take his revenge but is thwarted until later in the movie.
Jack and his adopted grandfather escape the carnage of the crazed and frenzied village massacre, because Crabb convinces his Grandfather that they are invisible to the soldiers because of a dream that the blind grandfather had. Crabb later becomes a scout for the 7th Cavalry and in the closing stages of the movie eventually leads the bluecoats and their power-crazy leader into the deadly massacre at Little Big Horn or Battle of the Greasy Grass as it was known by the Cheyenne and Arapahoe tribes.
Crabb himself is wounded by Cheyenne arrows and then almost killed by Custer who is his crazed state during the massacre decides that Crabb is the president and is drunk, just as Custer is about to pull the trigger, he himself is killed by two arrows from a Cheyenne brave, who then proceeds to knock Crabb unconscious and cover him in a blanket and carry him away from the battle. The movie contains both amusing and the dark elements of old west folklore, sometimes the historical correctness being a little sketchy, but it does have a powerful message regarding the cruel and relentless genocide carried out by the glorious U.S. army during this period. The battle scene at The Little Big Horn is obviously violent, but at the same time there is humour, with Custer becoming more and more psychotic as he realises that they are being wiped out and telling his troops that they are, whilst blaming everyone else for his mistake.
It remains to this day an entertaining piece of cinema and I think deserves the iconic or classic status/label that some do already refer to it as having when discussing the movie. It is a compelling and tragic story that many think of as the first neo-revisionist western. Hoffman may have seemed a little out of place and akward at times in the role of Jack Crabb, but maybe that is why the film and his performance were popular amongst audiences, with Chief Dan George also giving a magnificently memorable performance as Jack’s adopted Grandfather Old Lodge Skins. .
The film had a screenplay that was based on the novel by Thomas Berger and at times is a satire on the old American west having many comedic moments that are pure gold. In my humble opinion Little Big Man is a far superior movie to Soldier Blue, but there again these are two quite different movies that encompass similar themes. Little Big Man being the more polished of the two, because it succeeds in making a strong statement about the treatment of Native American Indians, but because the movie is so enjoyable this is something that audiences possibly will not realise until they have left the theatre or stopped watching the movie on DVD etc. It is then and only then that the images, events, and the words begin to come back to haunt them and the message and the true-life events hit home.
The musical score was written by John Hammond, or John P Hammond as he was sometimes known, he was the son of the well-known record producer John H. Hammond who was responsible for discovering the talents of Benny Goodman, Billie Holliday, Count Basie, Bob Dylan, and Aretha Franklin. John P Hammond is probably better known for his guitar playing and performing with artists such as John Lee Hooker, Tom Watts and Charlie Musselwhite. Hammond was born on November 13th1942, in Grand Rapids Michigan, he is sometimes referred to as John Hammond Jnr. Although acclaimed by critics Hammond has not seen great commercial success but remains in the forefront of music to this day. The soundtrack from Little Big Man was released in 1971 on the Columbia record label in the U.S.A.
One could probably not look at 1970’s Native American movies without referring to A Man Called Horse (1970) and its two sequels, although it is probably true to state that the original move was the best in the trilogy, all three movies starred Richard Harris, but the first two like Little Big Man explored the ways of the Native American Indian to great depths. Harris’s character John Morgan is a British aristocrat who is captured and held prisoner by Sioux tribesman, who kill everyone else in his party. He is treated as a slave and called Horse because he is expected to work all day every day.
But eventually Morgan begins to understand the ways of the Sioux and they also start to accept him into the tribe as one of their own. He endures the agonising pain of the Sun Vow which is an initiation ritual where he is suspended on hooks that are placed in his chest to show his resilience, his bravery and dedication to the Chief. The exhaustive research that went into the dances and the songs of the Sioux nation for the movie is noticeable, with composer Leonard Rosenman’s score also being ethnically correct and never overwhelming or smothering the dialogue or action. The composer fusing Sioux voices at times with symphonic passages, which when combined add drama and support when required.The soundtrack was issued on the Columbia label on LP in the U.S.A. in 1970, and later there were a handful of compact disc re-issues.
It was not until 1976 that the sequel The Return of a Man Called Horse was released. Which saw John Morgan returning to his adopted tribe of Sioux to help them in their fight against extinction. This too was a brilliant movie with Harris again shining in the titular tole. Once again, enduring the trials and tests that the Sioux put him through including a variation of the Sun Vow before the Sioux fully accept him back into the tribe. The music was provided by Laurence Rosenthal, who penned a colourful and exciting soundtrack, which director Irvin Kershner said was the best score to any of his films. Describing it as a small-scale opera, it was this movie that brought George Lucas and Kershner together and ended up with Kershner helming Star Wars-The Empire Strikes Back for Lucas because Lucas felt that Kershner’s approach on this sequel was far superior to the original A Man Called Horse movie. I am not sure if I would agree with that, but nonetheless The Return of a Man Called Horse is most definitely a worthy addition to this sub-genre of films.
Triumphs of A Man Called Horse followed in 1983 but failed to have the impact of the first two movies, the score was by French Maestro, Georges Gavarentz, and I think I am correct when I say has never been issued on a recording.
In 1972, Ulzana’s Raid was released, directed by Robert Aldrich, the film tells the story of the Apache renegade Ulzana who leaves the reservation with a band of Apache braves with the sole intent of causing havoc and mayhem. The film starred veteran actor Burt Lancaster who had the year previous starred in Valdez is Coming and Bruce (Willard, The Strawberry Statement) Davidson as a rookie cavalry officer, who is determined to track down the Apaches his way, but eventually must turn to the more experienced Mcintosh (Lancaster) for help and advice. This is a classy western and a gripping tale that is handled well by filmmaker Aldrich, and with Lancaster giving a fine performance.
Music was by Frank De Vol who also scored The Dirty Dozen for Aldrich. The score has recently been released onto compact disc on the Intrada record label.
To 1980 for the next movie Windwalker, which starred Trevor Howard, in the title role. Originally Chief Dan George had been offered the role, but sadly became ill and the Director had very few actors to choose from, Howard may have been a little bit of a curious choice, but the veteran British actor gave a good performance. This is not a high adventure, movie, but is a true and illuminating account of the Native American Indian told via the story of a family. The film which was received well by Native Americans was subtitled because of it being spoken in Cheyenne and Crow apart from the narration.
The film is told in a series of flashbacks, with Howards character Windwalker who is deceased being awoken by the Spirits to take a spiritual journey to the afterlife. The film received limited distribution, but despite this became a popular movie, mostly because of recommendations from people who had managed to see it. It is a well-made motion picture, that was applauded for its stunning cinematography and for the sensitive way in which it depicted Native Americans.
I read that the movie was to be nominated for an Oscar, but because of technicalities regarding it having subtitles the nomination was not allowed. The music for the movie was the work of American composer and arranger Merrill Jenson, born Merrill Boyd Jenson on January 20th 1947, the composer worked on many films and projects for filmmaker Keith Merill who was the director of Windwalker. Jenson provided the film with an effective soundtrack which was supporting without being intrusive. The composer has written the scores for approx.; thirty movies and also has written for the concert hall and composed music for numerous commercials.
One of the common links between the movies I have highlighted is General Custer and the Battle at the Little Big Horn, and another such example was a TV mini-series that was produced in 1991 Son of The Morning Star, was I thought an interesting work, the story is told from two different outlooks on one side Libby Custer (Rossana Arquette) the wife of General Custer (Gary Cole), and on the other Kate Bighead (Buffy Saint Marie). It tells the story of the events that lead up to the Battle of the Little Big Horn and gives a faithful account of what happened on the day of the battle.
The film succeeded where others failed because of its approach to the subject because it looked at both sides in the scenario. It looks at events that took place between 1866 and 1876, culminating in the now famous battle and the massacre of the 7th cavalry. The film runs for three hours but this is even far to brief to fully explain what happened in that ten-year period, nevertheless it is probably the best account of the life and times of General Custer and his relationship if that is the correct description with Crazy Horse. The film was directed by Mike Robe, with stunning cinematography and an impress script.
The inspired and driving musical score was by Craig Safan, who was known for a plethora of scores for TV projects and motion pictures, The Last Starfighter being one of his most popular for the big screen and his theme for the TV show Cheers enduring for so many years, still today being instantly recognisable. The soundtrack was issued on Intrada on a 2-disc set. In my humble opinion this is one of the composers best scores, during the battle scenes at the end of the movie the music is continuous and greatly supporting. The movie too is a worthy addition to anyone’s collection. I just hope that a better-quality DVD will be released at some point to highlight the stunning cinematography.
Hopefully. I have covered some of the films that are focused upon the Native American Indian and if I have neglected any my apologies.Other movies that I thought of include Major Dundee, Geronimo, and even a more recent modern dy set movie Wolfen, but then I suppose we could even turn to the Twilight movies which also featured Native American Indians. The list as they say is endless.
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