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PALACE OF DREAMS. CINEMA’S OLD AND NEW IN BRIGHTON.

PART ONE.

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When one gets to a certain age, one most probably will start to think I miss “THE GOOD OLD DAYS” and how great it was “WHEN I WAS YOUNGER”. But, hang on a minute. Wasn’t it? I can remember being a teenager in Brighton, yes, I can remember things that long ago, before anyone asks, any way what was I saying???? Oh yes, I remember the Brighton of my teenage years being literally crammed with cinemas. In fact in an area of approximately half a mile there were five picture houses, ok one THE ESSOLDO had already fallen foul of the trend that was beginning and been changed into a bingo hall, but the remaining four, THE REGENT,THE BRIGHTON FILM THEATRE,THE ACADEMY and THE ODEON were all showing great movies and were always full, in fact sometimes one would have to que to get in and nine times out of ten would end up being disappointed or running up the road to the next cinema to see if there were any seats there, that’s how popular these places were. The Regent, The Academy and The Odeon were all part of one chain of cinemas, the BFT was an independent that often screened art house movies or foreign language films that did not have such a wide appeal to us mere minions. I remember seeing BATTLE OF ALGIERS at the BFT and they went through a period of screening silent movies with either a live small orchestra or a piano player. But it was the three other cinemas in Brighton’s Queens road and West street that I frequented the most, remember this was at a time when films such as PLANET OF THE APES, 2001 A SPACE ODYESSEY, BATTLE OF BRITAIN etc were on release and it seemed like there was a blockbuster on every weekend. Movies such as BATTLE OF BRITAIN were advertised with grand posters and even at times with life size models of spitfires perched on the frontage of the cinema. I can recall that on some Saturdays in the winter months especially my friends and I would start at the matinee showing at the Academy, then move down to the Odeon for the early evening movie, then up to the regent for the late performance, very often ending up walking home talking about the films the music etc because we had missed the last bus, (Yes buses, stopped at 11 30 on a Saturday night then). In Brighton as I say we were spoilt for choice, as you will see as this article progresses.

 

 

 

Let’s, start with a list of cinemas that I remember shall we, THE ASTORIA, in Gloucester Place, THE SAVOY or THE ABC (THE CANNON later) in East Street, I remember this had two entrances one in East Street the other opened onto the Seafront, THE ODEON, THE ACADEMY, in West Street, THE REGENT, in Queens road, THE BFT (which had been THE PRINCES news theatre showing mainly Pathe News and cartoons), in North Street, THE ESSOLDO also in North Street, THE GAIETY (which was also known as THE VOGUE and then THE ACE in later years which was a members only cinema) in Lewes Road, THE DUKE OF YORKS, at Preston Circus, THE CURZON (also known as THE CLASSIC),in Western Road, THE ABC HOVE, previously called THE GRANADA (posh one that), in Portland Road, THE EMBASSY in Western Road, THE CONTINENTAL in Paston/Sudeley Place Kemp Town, which was what my Grand Mother called a mucky cinema. But, it showed Foreign language movies, many of which starred Bridget Bardot if I recall correctly, (not that I even looked at the lobby cards and stills on display outside, much) it was a Miles Byrne cinema that specialised in screening the cinematic works of directors such as Fellini, Bergman and Truffuat which nowadays I am sure would not in any way be referred to as mucky (sorry Gran).

Before these there was THE ARCADIA or the Scratch as it was named locally because of the amount of unwelcome friend’s people used to pick up whilst watching films there, it was said that during the intermission the usherette would walk around spraying DDT, whether this is true or not I am not sure, but it seems so, the Scratch became the Labour club and is still in use today as a club. There was also an Odeon in the Kemp Town area not far from the Continental. This stood in St Georges road, the cinema is remembered for a tragic event which took place during WWll. Being a seaside town Brighton was heavily fortified, as an invasion from the German forces was always looming, the South coast was a target for the Luftwaffe as it was in easy reach of their bombers many of which were just across the channel in France, on one September day a German Heinkel attempting to escape being shot down by a Spitfire ditched its payload of bombs on the Kemp Town area of Brighton, hitting targets in Upper Rock Gardens and sadly St Georges road, where the Odeon stood, at the time it was filled with children enjoying a matinee movie, many of the children were injured and killed in the attack, in fact over fifty people lost their lives that day in Kemp Town.
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The Odeon did re-open and eventually closed its doors in 1960, due to dwindling audience numbers, what Hitler’s bombs had failed to do on that fateful September day, eventually happened because of competition from the small screen which so many people now had in their homes, television. There were many other cinemas in Brighton dating back to the 19th century a list of these will be included at the end of this article.

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I would like to begin however, with my memories of THE ASTORIA, the reason being I drove past the building just the other day and to my horror I could see the diggers and heavy machinery at work demolishing it, I wanted to stop and stand in their way telling them do you not realise what you are doing, how many memories you are destroying, and what for? More student accommodation another lot of shops that will soon close because of internet shopping or maybe even a car park. It’s a sad fact that so many cinemas are now gone, this one holds many fond and frightening memories for me personally. Frightening I hear you say, well yes this is where I went to see the EXORCIST a film that at the time I must admit I did not sit through leaving the cinema as quickly as I could after one of the scenes, now though it seems tame compared to what filmmakers serve up.

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I suppose my connection with the ASTORIA began when I was around eight or nine, the cinema was open on Saturday mornings for THE ABC MINORS matinee, this is when hundreds of kids descended upon the luxurious and regal looking art nu-vogue building to watch the latest instalment of FLASH GORDON, SUPERMAN or some other hero and also to see so many of those CHILDRENS FILM FOUNDATION productions, and also join in the enthusiastic sing along at the beginning of each session, accompanied by the in house organ. It was also the ASTORIA that screened MARY POPPINS, THE SOUND OF MUSIC, THE GREAT RACE (still I laugh at Jack Lemmon and Peter Falk), ICE STATION ZEBRA, WHERE EAGLES DARE, KELLYS HEROES etc all in wonderful stereo sound and 70mm. The thing with The ASTORIA was that it was more than just a case of going to see a movie, this was an occasion an event and something rather special. Why? Well because they had the giant posters the lights the glitz etc all of which was associated with the magic of the movies. It was also in the same cinema that I saw my first X certificate, THE WILD BUNCH, even though I was not old enough.

 

 

I always remember the manager dressed so smart, complete with bow tie, he would greet each customer on the door, even the kids at the ABC MINORS, knowing many of them by name. There was a time when the Organist at the cinema spoke about WHERE EAGLES DARE, which was unusual, but it turned out that he was a good friend of the composer on the movie Ron Goodwin and was I suppose making sure that the audience realised that there was music in films or at least this one. The ASTORIA was a grand building, with a long staircase to the left of the main foyer which lead to the upstairs seating areas, highly polished woodwork, brass handles that shone brightly, its thick plush red carpet making you feel like a VIP as you walked through with the smell of polish and popcorn in the air, this is what made the ASTORIA distinctive and exceptional.
Seeing the building become a shabby looking shell after it closed as a cinema was upsetting but to see it being ripped down the other day was harrowing, how could we let this happen, who let it happen? Seeing the bulldozers smashing it to the ground was heart breaking, it is like losing a friend, and I cannot believe that our Council agreed for this demolition to go ahead, it was a landmark in the town an iconic building and a place where dreams were realised and also a haven where one could escape to where ever you wanted to as long as you had the price of a ticket and enough money left over for your bus fare and a tub of ice cream in the intermission.

 

The Astoria chain of Cinema’s had become well established especially in the London area by the early 1930’s. There were numerous cinemas and theatres bearing the Astoria name in Brixton, Finsbury Park Old Kent Road and Charring Cross as well as in Streatham. Each building had been designed by Edward Stone and were what is now referred to as French art deco in their appearance. The dazzling and beautiful looking buildings were sometimes more of a talking point than the movies that were being screened within their walls.
The Astoria name or brand soon spread to other locations in England, seaside resorts such as Brighton being one of them, this was on the say so of group of business men who had invested in the Astoria name headed by Edward Lyons. Lyons had been responsible for opening one of Brighton’s earliest picture houses THE ACADEMY in 1911 and had become a well-known figure within the towns entertainment community. The investors included J. Infield who was the owner of THE SUSSEX DAILY NEWS a man who had been involved with THE ACADEMY and had served as chairman of the cinema until the latter part of 1926.

Infield had selected a site that he thought would be perfect for another cinema in Brighton and was not too close to the Academy and would he thought be easier to get to and an attraction for members of the public who lived outside of the central area of Brighton. In 1932, Infield had wanted to build a theatre on the site under the PLAZA name, but the plans to do this fell through, but just a year later, the group of business men commissioned Edward Stone to design and construct a super cinema at the site which was on Brighton’s Gloucester Place. The building was designed to be a cinema and doubled as a theatre with a full-size stage that included dressing rooms. The work started on July 17th, 1933, the combined theatre/cinema would have a capacity of 1,823.
The work was completed in a very short space of time and the opening night for THE ASTORIA was on 21st December 1933. The theatre was opened by the Mayor of Brighton, Margaret Hardy and the towns then MP Cooper Rawson. The programme on the opening night consisted of Movie tone newsreel and Path’e news with a b feature of SANTA’S WORKSHOP a Disney film and the main feature which was THE PRIVATE LIFE OF HENRY Vlll, which starred Charles Laughton. In the February of 1935, the ASTORIA passed from being an independent cinema to being part of the ABC group of cinemas. ABC had been operating The Savoy cinema in East street in Brighton since 1930. The Astoria was a popular venue and was always screening the best films until that is THE ODEON opened in the towns central area of west street, then the ASTORIA was thought of as a B feature venue until that is they secured the rights to show GONE WITH THE WIND in 1939. The American Civil War classic was the most talked about and anticipated movie of that year, The Astoria was one of a handful of cinemas outside of London that screened it. In 1958 the ASTORIA was refurbished and altered the theatre section was removed and this made way for a larger screen the venue becoming a dedicated Cinema rather than having dual purpose. A new projector was fitted, and the balcony area was also altered, the original organ was removed and replaced with a smaller one, and the auditorium was concealed by curtains, the refurbishment was costly running into thousands, the alterations reducing the capacity of the theatre to 1,200. On August 2nd, 1958 the cinema re-opened with the Rogers and Hammerstein musical SOUTH PACIFIC which ran for five months, which was a record in Brighton, the cinema also had great success with GIGI a year later and THE NUNS STORY, with BEN HUR being screened there in 1961 and the Epic British war movie LAWRENCE OF ARABIA filling the cinema to capacity most nights in 1962.

 

 

 

THE ASTORIA remained a popular venue up until its doors finally closed as a cinema in 1977, it re-opened as a bingo hall later that year, but it did not fare as well as the owners had thought, and it struggled throughout its remaining years but surprisingly survived until 2007, when the doors closed for the last time. I often wonder what treasures were left behind in the projection room, what posters were laying gathering dust as the years passed by, the building soon fell into decay and dis-repair, but that is something that Brighton is very good at letting important land marks fall into dust, take the west pier for example, but that as they say is another story.

 

 

 

The next cinema I want to include is THE ACADEMY situated in west street, this was one of the towns first cinema’s opening in 1911, built on the site of a former Turkish bath, the Academy Picture Place as it was then called opened in the summer of 1911 at that time it had a capacity of 400. The opening night there was a talk given on Kinemancolour films and examples of these were shown to the audience. The original Academy was replaced by a larger building which was able to seat 1.000 people, it was at that time part of the Biocolour pictures chain of theatres and cinema’s, but in 1928 was sold to the Gaumont British Picture Corporation and two years later was re-christened The Tatler Cinema. This renaming was short lived and in 1932 The Academy name was re-stored. In 1939, the building was given a make-over and re-furbished in the art Deco style with a capacity of nearly 950 seats. It remained the Academy until it sadly closed its doors on January 24th, 1973, its last movie to be screened was fittingly THE LAST PICTURE SHOW directed by Peter Bogdanovich. Later that year the building was demolished, and an office block was constructed, Academy house was home to several business’s. The building still operates as a multi office block with its ground and first floors being the home of Yate’s Wine Lodge. The Academy for me was a brilliant cinema it was the place where one could catch movies late on release and it along with the Odeon in West Street and The Regent in Queens Road were part of the Rank Organization, who also owned the Ice Rink which also stood on the corner of west street and the Brighton sea front. At times the organization would often put a movie on at The Academy when it had finished its run at The Odeon if it had been a popular one at the box office. I saw so many movies there that are now considered as classics or innovative productions that have gone down in cinema history as being groundbreaking or important. PLANET OF THE APES, starring Charlton Heston for example.

 


Confession time now, I skipped school to go and see this one, and I am glad I did, the image of the Gorilla trooper on horseback in the movies hunt scene stays with me to this day as does Jerry Goldsmith’s highly original and modern sounding score, it was this film and its soundtrack that placed me firmly in the film music fan ranks. It is rather ironic that after it ceased being a cinema it was turned into offices, and then along came Yate’s Ironic because I became resident DJ at Yate’s in the late 1990’s and stayed there till 2008, so I was effectively the entertainment in a place where I had been entertained so many times.

 

 

 

Ok, follow me up West Street to the pedestrian crossing across North Street and opposite the famous Brighton Clock Tower stands a large Boots the chemist, which is situated in Queens road the main road to the railway station. The Boots building goes around the corner into North Street and this is where The REGENT stood, a gorgeous Cinema, and in later years the flagship picture house of the Rank Organization. THE REGENT in the 1960’s and 1970’s was the Cinema in Brighton where all the big movies were shown, OLIVER, FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, BATTLE OF BRITAIN, CROMWELL.THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE, MARY POPPINS, WATERLOO and the Russian made version of WAR AND PEACE etc all were screened there, and I can still see people queuing around the block on weekdays as well as weekends if I close my eyes.

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THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN was a big film for the cinema and they even sold the soundtrack LP’s in the foyer when they screened the film (an album I still have). This was a plush cinema a luxurious picture palace in every sense of the title. A wide set of steps led up to the box office and the Cinema entrance, one walked into a large and rather lofty entrance hall, with red thick carpet and staff in smart uniforms. I remember the Regent for the coming attractions posters and stills, where they would advertise films that were coming and its great selection of goodies that they had to help the audience get through the movie. Whereas the Academy and The Odeon would show a B feature and then a main film, The Regent would show ads first then the it was onto the film, with an intermission halfway through, (that’s something we don’t get now). Heavy red and gold velvet curtains covered the big, big screen, many of the movies coming with a musical overture at the beginning which would play with the curtains closed creating a wonderful atmosphere of anticipation. Again, we don’t get that, anymore do we? THE REGENT was also a dance hall, and a popular one, it was renowned for hosting big bands and popular vocalists during the 1950’s and into the 1960’s and was known for its unique dance floor which was sprung.

 

 

 

 

THE REGENT opened to the public in 1921, its opening screening of a motion picture was A YANKEE IN THE COURT OF KING ARTHUR which starred Bing Crosby and Cedric Hardwicke. The movie was preceded by a performance by Baritone and orchestra and a recital on the Organ. So, the grand looking picture house was launched in a suitably grandiose fashion. The site where the cinema was to be constructed was purchased in 1914 by Provincial Cinematograph theatres. However due to the outbreak of World War one the actual work of construction did not commence until the beginning of 1919.The architect for the building Robert Atkinson, had also included a winter garden on the roof of the building as well as an underground ballroom. The project cost half a million pounds to develop and included many of the most up to date techniques in theatre design. Because of the position of the site, it was a difficult job excavating and carving out the foundations for the building, it being on a slope and because of this Atkinson was basically forced to return to the drawing board so that he could revise the plans. Eventually the architect had to position the ballroom on the roof forsaking the planned winter gardens and building a restaurant above the cinemas main entrance hall. The interior of the Regent was stunning decorated with ornate and striking plaster work that was enhanced further by the placing of effective and stylish lighting. The auditorium was fan shaped which was also innovative and this was adorned by an archway that was decorated in striking illustrations that contained an array of vivid colours all of which were created by Lawrence Preston. In the January of 1929 the cinema was damaged by fire, which destroyed the in-house organ and stage, subsequently major rebuilding work had to be undertaken and whilst this was taking place films were shown on Sunday afternoons at THE HIPPODROME which was a short walk away in Middle street. In the February of 1929, the cinema was acquired by the Gaumont British Picture Corporation and in July of that year re-opened with a new sound system which made it the first cinema in Brighton to be sound equipped. Over the years THE REGENT changed owners and in 1953 became a part of Odeon Cinemas ltd, two year later it was refurbished and was modified to be able to show Cinemascope films. Again in 1962 the cinema had work carried out this time to enable it to screen 7omm films. The famous ballroom which was also popular was closed in 1967 and it fell foul to the bingo craze that was sweeping the country at the time. In 1973, THE REGENT closed its doors for the last time, and the building was demolished in 1974. The Regent was one of Brighton’s most popular venues and catered for dancing, films and eating out, when it closed the city lost an important venue and a stunning landmark.

 

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From the Regent we turn left into North Street, cross the road and go to Burger King, no I am not feeling hungry, but Burger King is on the site of what I remember as the Brighton Film Theatre and before that was PRINCES, All I remember about PRINCES is that is showed cartoons, mainly produced by Warner Brothers, TOM AND JERRY, BUGS BUNNY, DAFFY DUCK etc., and a lot of news reels and travelogues.
I only remember it being very dark and having a somewhat musky smell. The cinema was small, and was an independent venue, in the 1970’s it became the BFT, which was a completely different from its predecessor. The BFT would screen art house movies, obscure Italian or French movies and silent films with a live musical accompaniment. It was at this time, one could see movies such as Z. BATTLE OF ALGIERS, QUEIMADA, CHE and their like. When the cinema first opened in 1911 it was called THE BIJOU ELECTRIC EMPIRE, the building was originally the home of The Southern Publishing Company, in 1915 the Bijou became PRINCE’S electric theatre and remained under that name until the end of WWl. It was given the name of PRINCE’S cinema the following year. In 1929 the foyer of the cinema was altered, and sound equipment was also installed and in 1933 they added a neon lit facia. After WWll the cinema changed its name once again and became PRINCE’S NEWS THEATRE, and again in 1967 when it was dubbed THE JACEY. The venue’s appeal began to wain rapidly as audience’s tastes altered and in 1969 the cinema was taken over in association with the British Film Institute who wanted the venue to screen specialist movies outside of London and changing its name once again to THE BRIGHTON FILM THEATRE. The venue became popular and was busy for nine years after which is closed and re-opened as CINESCENE in September 1979 it continued as a cinema until the June of 1983 when it was closed. In 1988 the building was sold to Burger King, who are still in residence there, the screen or a screen is still in place and used for customers to view various music channels and cartoons.

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Standing outside of The BFT as it was and looking across the road there was another cinema or at least a building that was once a cinema, THE ESSOLDO, I cannot remember this ever-showing movies because it had already changed usage and become a bingo hall or some other entertainment venue during the 1970’s. The foundation stone for the building was laid in 1939 by Ralph Lynn, initially the venue was to be for live theatre and variety. The background and the end of the venue is not a nice one and I get frustrated when reading about it, this beautiful building could have been saved in my opinion, there are far too many people around nowadays that are so quick to sign a demolition order on old buildings, but these “OLD” buildings are part of out heritage part of our background and history.

 


The ESSOLDO was a building I always would look at as a child and it was a building that had always been there, this I think was a case of the uncaring attitude of The Rank organization and the complacency of the local council who failed to act, and this led the building to go into a state of dis-repair and eventually had to be demolished. One of the two balconies were removed in 1997 and this ruined the interior and after the venue’s ground floor was demolished to house a bowling alley which lasted less than two years, this resulted in the complete demolition of the property and being replaced with ugly looking buildings that have no character whatsoever. The council saying that the decay of the venue was so bad that it would have to go. The building was designed by architect Samuel Beverly. It opened in 1940, as THE IMPERIAL THEATRE and was owned by Jack Buchanan, they began to show films in 1943, and after the war it became mainly a cinema, but did on occasion put on stage shows. Gaywood Cinema’s took over the building, from Buchanan and then in 1949 The Essoldo cinemas circuit renamed it THE ESSOLDO, this lasted until 1964 when it closed on May 15th and was then converted into a Bingo Hall which was taken over by Rank. The design of the building was ART-DECO with a striking and stylish entrance in North Street. The capacity was 1.877 a number that was divided between three areas. Balcony, stalls and circle. The front of the building was illuminated with an impressive neon display. The interior of the building was decorated with Cockleshells and Dolphins, the latter now being utilized as a symbol for the city. The ESSOLDO is yet another sad story from the cinema history of Brighton.

 

 

Next, we go back up North Street turn left and then down to the bottom of West Street where THE ODEON stands, nowadays it is incorporated into the old KINGSWEST center which also houses a disco and clubs. Years ago, THE ODEON stood in west street, this was probably the busiest cinema in Brighton and I think it still is, it was THE ODEON that showed the best films and sometimes changed programmes mid-week, so we got to see two big movies in a week. The ODEON opened 1937, the first film that hit the screen there was SIXTY GLORIOUS YEARS which was a film focusing on the reign of Queen Victoria, who was admirably portrayed by actress Anna Neagle. This was followed by THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER.

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It was the most popular cinema in west street during the late 1960’s and throughout the 1970’s films such as EL CID, SPARTACUS and THE APE movies were screened there along with all the BOND movies. Again, the showing of a new Bond movie was made to be an occasion with lots of posters etc. adorning the foyer.

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I also remember going to see AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS there the original version with David Niven. As the 1960’s came to an end the cinemas in west street began to show a lot of Italian made westerns because they were becoming increasingly popular THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY theme by Hugo Montenegro was even number 1 in the music chart and the Odeon would do double bills of these and at times would show them as the B feature, putting movies such as THE BIG GUNDOWN, DAY OF ANGER, BLINDMAN and DEATH RIDES A HORSE on with movies such as THE WRECKING CREW starring Dean Martin or War movies like ANZIO which starred Robert Mitchum, so one got value for money back then and if you went into a movie in the afternoon you could stay there and watch the films again, without having to pay any extra. Sergio Leone’s Dollar movies were also screened a lot normally A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS would be shown with FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE, but THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY was a film that was shown on its own even if they screened the edited version.

 

 

In 1973 the ODEON was refurbished after being moved to where the Ice rink was located and three screens were installed this was I think the beginning of the end for the cinemas in west street and also the regent in queens road, the three screens at the Odeon were installed to replace both The Academy and The Regent, but in my opinion all that was accomplished by this move was to cramp all the cinema goers into one place, with a view to saving money of rent and maintenance which although made perfect sense to the cinema owners made the cinema going experience a cramped and at times uncomfortable one for paying customers. The multiplex at The Odeon in west street still stands and now has eight screens, but due to current trends of streaming films at home and DVD’s and satellite and cable TV along with the rise of Netflix and Apple and Amazon the Cinemas are not as busy and it is very rare that one see’s anyone standing in a line waiting to go in. Unless it is a STAR WARS movie or maybe when the new Harry Potter was released.

 

 

 

Another cinema in Brighton that still operates today is THE DUKE OF YORKS which is situated at the other end of the city on the busy Preston Circus. Built in 1910 and opening in the September of that year, it is said to be the oldest cinema in the UK by this I mean the only purpose-built cinema that has remained a cinema since it was opened. This was a regular haunt of mine in the 1960’s and the early 1970’s. They would show good movies that had already been screened at cinemas such as the Odeon, The Regent and The Astoria, but late on release thus they were able to keep their seat prices down.

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I have many memories of seeing, films such as KHARTOUM, ZULU, FLIPPER, FU MAN CHU, TOO LATE THE HERO and THE MERCENARIES at THE DUKES, it was a smaller theatre, but we did not care it was great even when the projector broke down.

 

 

 

 

Nowadays it’s a bit more up-market showing classic movies alongside art house and independent films. In fact, I would say that The Dukes is thriving which can only be a good thing. It is also heavily involved with the Brighton Festival which takes place annually, for example this week I looked at what is on offer, we have SICARIO 2, LEAVE NO TRACE, NORTH BY NORTH WEST, YELLOW SUBMARINE, WHITNEY (the documentary), WONDERSTRUCK and a live streaming of the west end show JAIME. A long way from COUNT YORGA VAMPIRE and THE CRY OF THE BANSHEE on a Saturday night. The cinema also put on kid’s clubs and special nights for anyone with Autism and mother and baby days called BIG SCREAM SCREENINGS. The site was originally occupied by the Amber Ale Brewery and the cinema cost 3,000 pounds to construct, it was opened by the then Mayor of Brighton, Charles Thomas-Stanford and owned by Mrs. Violet Melnotte-Wyatt, the opening of the cinema caused quite a stir in Brighton and attracted large crowds. The cinema was designed by architect C.E.Clayton and had a capacity of 800, it was one of the only cinemas at that time to have tip up seats and plush carpets throughout. It also has electric fans and an electric powered projector. The cinema had its original sound equipment installed in 1930, and seven years after this underwent a re-decoration but retained its impressive façade which is in the Edwardian baroque style. It did go through a period of uncertainty during the 1970’s when it continued to screen moves but also experimented with bingo evenings and live wrestling events. After the BFT in central Brighton closed its doors, THE DUKE OF YORKS, saw a gap in the market and began to cater for a specialist market that was present due to the audience base that had been built up by the BFT because of their showing of a more non-commercial programme of films. THE DUKE OF YORKS not only began to show these types of movies but also continued to screen the more popular films, thus appealing to two different audiences and establishing themselves as a cinema where people could see independent films or foreign language movies as well as family pictures and popular current or classic movies. The cinema is still as busy today and continues to attract audiences young and old.

THE FINEST HOURS.

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Bernie Webber and his friend are meeting two girls for a night out. Bernie is a little apprehensive about the date as he has not even met the young woman he is about to go out with. When they do meet however the pair just seem to hit it off straight away. Her name is Miriam Penttinen and the two couples then embark on a night out together, the evening goes well and Bernie and Miriam even have their first kiss before the night is over. Bernie who is a coast guard decides to take Miriam on a boat ride. A little while later the couple are at a dance together and Miriam pops the question to Bernie asking him to marry her, he refuses and she ends up in tears, but he explains to her that it’s not because he does not love her it’s because of his job, but after talking it through Bernie says he will marry her. Whilst this is taking place two oil tankers are caught up in a storm and one of them the SS MERCER is hit by a wave and holed, the storm continues to smash the ship until it breaks in two and it is sunk and its crew lost, the chief engineer of the other ship the SS PENDLETON tells the crew they have to try and keep afloat because if they sink they will perish, He tells them they have to try and run the ship aground so it remains steady and thus afloat. Bernie is assigned to take the coast guards motor boat out with a hand-picked crew to try and rescue the crew of the SS PENDLETON. The score for this harrowing and tense thriller is the work of Carter Burwell who is no stranger to writing music for powerful, action movies, he is probably best known for his music to the TWILIGHT series of films, but he has been responsible for producing numerous film scores for a wide range of motion pictures, FARGO, ROB ROY, TRUE GRIT, BEING JOHN MALKOVICH and HAIL CEASER to name but a handful, he has collaborated with the Coen Brothers and worked with director Spike Jonze as well as numerous other film makers.

Born in New York City in November 1955, the composer once said. “There’s just too much music in movies, almost always more than I think there should be. It’s either lack of confidence on the part of filmmakers or a tradition of scoring things. It’s always better to have less than to have more”. His score for THE FINEST HOURS however is overflowing with strong thematic material and even when the composer utilizes action led cues these too still possess a high thematic quality that shines through and prevails above the at times high octane fast paced material. Saying this however, the score also contains some romantic and melancholy influenced pieces with Burwell employing soft strings and a subdued and delicate sounding piano solo. For the most part though this is a score that keeps up the pace and applies the pressure and tension when required, underlining the desperate plight of the crew who are positive they are going to the bottom of the ocean and supporting the efforts of the brave rescuers who too are uncertain if they will succeed in their efforts to bring the crew home safely. A score that will please both the action music fans and one that has something for lovers of romanticism and melody

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TELEVISION MUSIC.

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When a soundtrack collector of a certain age (50 to 60) is asked what are your earliest or first memories of music for film, the answer invariably will be that it is a television theme or even a collection of themes from TV shows that aired when they were a child. This is certainly true from my own point of view and I know it’s the same scenario for many of my soundtrack collecting friends. When watching a TV show back in the 1960,s one kind of knew that the opening theme would be something catchy, something that would grab your attention quickly but also one that was sadly normally far to short in duration. Composer Jerry Goldsmith once said at one of his many concerts in London when about to conduct his suite of TV themes that when he was asked to write a theme for TV he would try and come up with something that would be instantly infectious or at least have a good hook to it, this was so that as soon as it started anyone who was not in the room where the TV was would know straight away that their programme was about to start, it was a case of the music drawing the people to the box in the corner so they could settle down and watch the images on the small screen. This I think is very true, when you think about it a theme for TV show has to try and do just that but in a very short passage of time, it has to entice, alert and set the scene for the show that is about to start in less than 2 minutes or even quicker. In film of course it’s a little different the composer has a little more time and may have the luxury of 3 minutes and back in the day was allowed to create a main title theme on which he or she could base the remainder of their score upon.

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But TV well that’s very different, for one the budgets are a lot smaller and this means the composer is limited to the amount of musicians they can utilise, so they have to be inventive in what they do which for me just reinforces the respect I have for composers who write for TV and film. I think my earliest memories of any music would have been Mario Lanza and Frankie Laine, because of my Fathers collection of 78 records, (you know the ones that broke very easily,,, OOOOPs sorry Dad..It just fell apart in my hand Honest).

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But I have to say my earliest memories of actual TV music would have been things like THE POWER GAME which starred respected actor Patrick Wymark as John Wilder, with a strong supporting cast that included Barbara Murray, Jack Watling and Clifford Evans and had a theme composed by Wayne Hill. Hill,s rousing little theme was recorded by Cyril Stapelton and his orchestra and has in recent years been adopted by a Football club as their anthem, Hill (born Robert Dale) was also responsible for composing the now iconic music that was utilised in the BBC programme VISION ON, it’s the piece that plays over the gallery section of the show, his music being recorded by the Noveltones and released as LEFT BANK TWO on a single record by De Wolfe music in 1964.
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Hill also wrote a piece of music that was used as Ulster Televisions opening music before the station went on air. But it is his LEFT BANK TWO that is probably his most well known composition. I also remember things like SUPERCAR, FIREBALL XL5 and FOUR FEATHER FALLS.(do you ?), and if I am truthful I suppose it was programmes like this that first caught my ear or at least their theme tunes( of course there was also TORCHY and TWIZZLE and even BILL AND BEN, THE WOODEN TOPS and ANDY PANDY but lets not go there). FOUR FEATHER FALLS was the third puppet TV show produced by Gerry Anderson for Granada television, the show was the idea of Barry Gray who as we all know composed the music as well, the first episode aired in the February of 1960 and the series ran for approx 9 months, Nicholas Parsons provided the voice of Tex the main character in the show and Kenneth Connor (of Carry on fame) also did voice over duties on the series, the series soundtrack included a number of songs which were performed by Michael Holliday, the opening theme FOUR FEATHER FALLS was performed by the singer in the style of Bing Crosby, it was reported that Holliday was paid a massive 2,000 Pounds for recording six songs for the series, which by today’s standards is approx 40,000 pounds and was a big chunk of the shows overall production budget which was 6,000 pounds.

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FIREBALL XL5 I must admit was my favourite, produced by Anderson for ATV this series also had music by Barry Gray, which was really dramatic and a pre cursor to his work on THUNDERBIRDS, it also had a jazzy sounding opening theme that included electronic sounds which was a combination that had the desirable effect and got everyone glued to the TV before the action had even begun, we waited with baited breath to see our hero Steve Zodiac tackle numerous disasters and catastrophes all supported by Gray’s mysterious and action led compositions, the series also boasted a really catchy pop song over the end credits which was performed by Don Spencer who sounded a little like Cliff Richard or Adam Faith. “I WISH I WAS A SPACEMAN, THE FASTEST GUY ALIVE,I’D FLY YOU TO THE UNIVERSE IN FIREBALL XL5“.

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Were the opening lines, in fact I am reminded of STARFIRE by the John Barry seven every time I hear this, it was fairly typical of the sound that was in vogue at that period of time in Gt Britain, a fusion of electronic or electric that was bolstered by strings and given a kind of rock and roll beat.

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SUPERCAR was a series that preceded FIREBALL XLF, and its hero was Mike Mercury, again Barry Gray helped develop the series with Gerry Anderson and also wrote the songs and the music with the title song for season one of the series circa 1959 being performed by Mike Sammes and then in season 2 by the Mike Sammes singers.
“SUPER CAR, SUPERCAR, WITH BEAUTY AND GRACE,AS SWIFT AS CAN BE,WATCH IT FLY THROUGH THE AIR. IT TRAVELS IN SPACE OR UNDER THE SEA, AND IT CAN JOURNEY ANYWHERE“.
The style and sound achieved here by Gray was to be expanded upon and built on by the composer when he came to work the music for future series such as STINGRAY, CAPTAIN SCARLETT and THUNDERBIRDS in later years. So three puppet television shows that all had great music and music that probably guided me towards the actual collecting of film music in later life.

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There were also shows from the United States such as CHECKMATE which had a theme by Johnny Williams ( I wonder what happened to him?), PEYTON PLACE, THE MAN FROM UNCLE, MISSION IMPOSSIBLE,BONANZA, DOCTOR KILDARE, THE MUNSTERS, RAT PATROL, THE ADDAMS FAMILY, HOGANS HEROES, LOST IN SPACE, VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, LAND OF THE GIANTS, MY FAVOURITE MARTIAN, BEWITCHED, F. TROOP, MY THREE SONS, BOOTS AND SADDLES, WAGON TRAIN the list is endless, oh and RAWHIDE. GUNSMOKE too and not forgetting THE RIFLEMAN, LARAMIE, THE HIGH CHAPPARAL and then came STAR TREK.

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These all contained great themes which became mini classics and are now I am sure you will agree are iconic examples of TV music and by the list you can see I watched far too much TV during the 1960,s. Composers such as Jerry Goldsmith cut his proverbial musical teeth working in television and it is true to say that these composers also learnt their craft and the discipline that was required to become a composer of music for film whilst working on the tight schedules and dealing with the restrictions of small budgets on television.
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This was the same in in England with composers starting in television during the late 1950,s and then progressing into the scoring of feature films by the mid to late 1960,s. It also worked the other way around with established film music composers being assigned to television productions, John Barry for example who worked on numerous big movies during the 1960,s and 1970,s was drafted into television, writing the themes for series such as VENDETTA and THE PERSUADERS, the composer even penning the haunting music for a hairspray advert which was entitled, THE GIRL WITH THE SUN IN HER HAIR.

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The 1960,s were particularly fruitful in the memorable theme department with programmes such as RANDALL AND HOPKIRK DECEASED, DEPARTMENT S, MAN IN A SUITCASE, THE BARON, THE AVENGERS, THE CHAMPIONS, DR.WHO, THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD, WILLIAM TELL, CORONATION STREET, DANGER MAN, THE PRISONER, THE HUMAN JUNGLE, NO HIDING PLACE, THE SAINT, Z CARS, etc etc all containing memorable themes that are still familiar today plus the shows also included a handful of memorable scores or incidental music as it was sometimes referred too and if I have left out any of your favourites I apologise. Lets not forget also music or themes from European TV productions that were aired by the BBC during the 1960,s one comes to mind straight away, THE ADVENTURES OF ROBINSON CRUSOE was a French television production, it starred Robert Hoffmann in the title role and was narrated by Lee Payant, the haunting music was the work of Robert Mellin and Gian-Piero Reverberi it was a series of 13 episodes, and was narrated over rather than it being dubbed, this was something that was common during the 1960,s on TV for example the series TALES FROM EUROPE was never dubbed into English for some reason, but was narrated over, the narrator basically telling the story as the film progressed with the actors speaking in the original language, at times this was a little off putting, but something one got used to. The series was interesting because it gave UK audiences a glimpse at how other countries presented TV shows and also their often very different approach to film making, the programmes were at times quite lavish with convincing sets etc and the music was always something that I noticed, the stories came from Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, France, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Poland, Norway, Mongolia, Hungary, Denmark, Yugoslavia, Holland and Russia, the series began in 1964 and ran till 1969 on the BBC but many of the films were made during the late 1950,s one such production was THE SINGING RINGING TREE which was a German tale, and was filmed in 1957.
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The music for this movie was the work of Heinz-Friedel Heddenhausen, the composer who was also an actor worked on eleven productions from 1936 through to 1968, his score for THE SINGING RINGING TREE was atmospheric and also to a certain degree original and was a major part of creating the evil and also mystical mood that was required for the movie, I say movie because it was produced as a feature in Germany which ran for approx;75 minutes, but was edited into episodes of some 20 minutes or so for the TALES FROM EUROPE series.
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THE SINGING RINGING TREE was supposedly a fairy tale very much in the style of The Brothers Grimm, but it has been voted by many as one of the scariest things that has been shown on television (and this was before the watershed …folks, no wonder my generation are so freaky). It’s a kind of beauty and the beast scenario, with an enchanted garden and evil dwarf and a Prince that turns into a bear, so good wholesome viewing. Moving on and back to the shores of England there were also other shows that had familiar and catchy theme tunes, CROSSROADS, THE DOCTORS and EMMERDALE FARM or EMMERDALE as it is know nowadays for example, all of which were composed by Tony Hatch, now here is a composer, songwriter and also performer that was in many ways Britain’s answer to Burt Bacharach, simply because Hatch was just an all rounder. Tony Hatch seemed at home doing anything musical, whether it be writing music for TV, composing or arranging music for pop songs, writing lyrics to numerous songs that are now themselves embedded in the musical heritage of England and know all over the globe or even producing records or sitting on a panel on a talent show. He was born Anthony Peter Hatch in Pinner, Middlesex on June 30th 1939 and is probably one of Britain’s most prolific composer/song writers, he worked with so many popular artists it would be hard to list them here. Bert Weedon, Adam Faith, Petulia Clark, Chubby Checker, Connie Francis, David Bowie, Sacha Distel, Roy Budd, Buddy Greco are among them plus Jackie Trent who Hatch was married to.

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I know many reading this will laugh because I have included soap opera themes but I look at it this way, the theme from EMMERDALE has been around for many years and as soon as anyone hears the opening bars of the theme tune one knows what it is where its from and in many cases who wrote it, which is a great credit to Mr. Hatch. The same can be said for the CROSSROADS theme and lets not forget those NEIGHBOURS down under, yep that’s right Tony Hatch and Jackie Trent penned the title song for that series too he also penned the theme from the 1960,s show THE CHAMPIONS. Lets go to the late 1970,s shall we, September 18th 1978 to be precise, do you remember a series entitled THE SANDBAGGERS ? It starred Roy Marsden and was a series that dealt with men and women who were on the front line of the cold war which at the time was very much alive and well. The infectious theme was by Roy Budd. Budd was a child prodigy an accomplished jazz pianist who broke into scoring movies by chance in 1970 when he was assigned to write the score for the controversial western SOLDIER BLUE. Budd’s career as a film composer went from strength to strength and he worked on a number of box office success’s during the 1970,s CATLOW, WILD GEESE, GET CARTER, KIDNAPPED, THE STONE KILLER and many more.

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Writing for TV was something of a departure for the composer, although saying this he did release a cover version of the theme for the television series MR. ROSE which was by composer John Snow in 1967 on the PYE records label. Lets not forget Ron Grainer either, well I am hoping to try and mention as many composers as I can but Grainer for me was one of the most prolific music-smiths to write for television during the 1960,s especially. His theme for DR.WHO broke new ground with the composer enlisting the aid of electronics plus his opening theme music for both THE PRISONER and MAN IN A SUITCASE hit the mark in the infectious musical hook department and I am sure had people stop doing what ever it was they were doing and rushing to the living room jumping into the armchair getting comfortable waiting to watch their favourite show on the box, plus of course lets not forget STEPTOE AND SON with the composers “OLD NED” composition becoming an endearing piece of British television history. Grainer also worked on JOE 90 (the song) TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED, MAIGRET,PAUL TEMPLE, COMEDY PLAYHOUSE with its jolly sounding HAPPY JOE theme. Laurie Johnson’s AVENGERS, NEW AVENGERS and THE PROFFESSIONALS surely are among the list of all time iconic/cult themes for the small screen. Johnson penned numerous infectious themes for television these included shows such as, JASON KING, WHICKERS WORLD, ANIMAL MAGIC, RIVIERA POLICE, NO HIDING PLACE and THIS IS YOUR LIFE to name but a handful. Edwin Astley is also a firm favourite of many collectors, with his themes for THE BARON, GIDEONS WAY,DANGER MAN, RANDALL AND HOPKIRK-DECEASED, DEPARTMENT S, SECRET AGENT and THE SAINT being essential in any film music or TV theme collection. One name that I do not think many associate with Television is that of Scottish born composer Harry Robertson or is that Robinson? He is associated with the music for films such as TWINS OF EVIL, FRIGHT,VAMPIRE LOVERS, LUST FOR A VAMPIRE, COUNTESS DRACULA, THE GHOUL, HOUSE IN NIGHTMARE PARK, HAWK THE SLAYER as well as THE OBLONG BOX for AIP and LEGEND OF THE WEREWOLF.

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Robertson was also heavily involved with the CFF Children’s film foundation and scored a number of their productions. It was actually his work on a television show that got him noticed and led him to working for Hammer films, JOURNEY TO THE UNKNOWN was aired in 1968 and the composer provided a rather unsettling sounding theme for the series and also scored three of the episodes, after this he was offered THE OBLONG BOX in 1969 and went onto work on THE VAMPIRE LOVERS which was a joint effort from Hammer and American International Pictures in 1970.
Robertson was also a writer and a producer and made HAWK THE SLAYER in 1980 which he also scored in 1991 he worked on SPECIALS and in 1992 he wrote a catchy theme for VIRTUAL MURDER which he also wrote and produced for TV. Two of his first forays into writing for television however were CRANE in 1963 and SHINDIG in 1964.
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The list of themes and composers is endless, it would be hard I think to mention all of them, but I hope that I have covered the majority within this article, TV music today is certainly not the same, because as with film music things have certainly changed it seems that many producers or directors do not see the need for a theme per say, but surely this is all part and parcel of the film making process to have music that is original and also a strong theme or themes that everyone can identify with the film or show, maybe its me? Lets list a few shows that I have not mentioned, MAN ABOUT THE HOUSE, EASTENDERS, CASUALTY, HOLBY CITY, BLESS THIS HOUSE, THE ARMY GAME, WORZEL GUMMIDGE, FOLLYFOOT, FLAMBARDS, GEORGE AND THE DRAGON, NEAREST AND DEAREST (have you been), DIXON OF DOCK GREEN (evening all), THE PROTECTORS, SAPPHIRE AND STEEL, DEMPSEY AND MAKEPEACE, MYSTERY AND IMAGINATION, FATHER DEAR FATHER, ON THE BUSES, CALLAN, HANCOCKS HALF HOUR, THE CLANGERS, TILL DEATH US DO PART, DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE, THE RAT CATCHERS, PUBLIC EYE,REDCAP, PLEASE SIR, THE CEASARS, I CLAUDIUS, THE FLYING DOCTORS, SKIPPY, STRANGE REPORT, ARE YOU BEING SERVED, GHOST SQUAD all had good solid themes or at least themes that were instantly recognisable some also had songs which gave the programme in question its own individual personality.

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French TV also yielded some memorable themes, THE FLASHING BLADE for example and the very popular THE WHITE HORSES with music by Bojan Adamic and a hit song performed by Jackie Lee who also incidentally was the original performer of the Michel Magne rejected song for Roger Vadim’s BARBARELLA. Then we had BELLE AND SEBASTEIN with music by Daniel White. Also a mention I think is worth making about THE VIRGINIAN which was a very popular television western series from the States, this series went through something of a re-vamp after being very successful in its original form with a rousing opening theme by Percy Faith entitled LONESOME TREE, however when it was re-vamped and re-launched many of the actors changed and Italian composer Ennio Morricone provided the series with a new theme THE MEN FROM SHILOH much to the delight of Spaghetti western fans.

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BACKLIGHT.

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I had read a few reviews about the movie BACKLIGHT when it was released in 2010, many of these were negative, but this made me even more determined to see the film myself and make up my own mind, my opinion for what it is worth is that BACKLIGHT is a truly fantastic movie, and director Fernando Fergata, has crafted an entertaining and also a thought provoking cinematic masterpiece that will I know be looked at in years to come and be given its deserved status. I think that the people, who thought ill of it in reviews etc, should again sit down and view the film, because I am certain that their opinion of it would change. This is a Portuguese production, which is something of a surprise as film making in Portugal is somewhat hit and miss as there is little or no support or sponsorship for the industry, the other surprising thing is that the movie although Portuguese in its origins was actually filmed almost entirely in the United States. BACKLIGHT does not have great special effects and can in no way be described as a Blockbuster or epic production, but there is just something about the film that compels one to watch and take it in and try and make sense out of it and then one ends up trying to analyze it but personally I gave up and just took pleasure in the fact that I enjoyed the film. My main reason for wanting to see the film was the musical score by composer Nuno Malo, whom I admire greatly. Nuno had sent me a few of his discs to listen to and I found a suite of music from BACKLIGHT on you tube, and right from the first opening notes I fell in love with it, the music is attractive and hypnotic in places and also has an air of mystery and the mystic about it.

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I emailed Nuno asking would the score ever be released,  he was not sure at the time, but thankfully the score is soon to be available on the ever industrious KRONOS RECORDS and for the release the composer has re-recorded a number of the tracks with full orchestra and also a handful of featured solo performances. The soundtrack is a mixture of orchestral and also electronic, the latter does feature quite heavily within the original work but the composer has cleverly utilized orchestral components to enhance and support these synthetic elements and I think has by doing this made them more emotive and striking. Symphonic and synthetic interweave and together they create a sound and also an ambiance that is brimming with ethereal and serene atmospherics that the composer creates via use of strings, falsetto voice, piano, guitar, brass flourishes, choir and a scattering of percussive elements that are lightly dusted and enhanced by an array of half heard sounds and delicate touches.

MV5BMTQ0OTk0MjI5Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTg4MjAwNA@@._V1._SX148_CR0,0,148,200_The music is romantically mesmerising, dramatically urgent and also has a side to it that oozes melancholy and hints at vulnerability and fragility, yet at the same time there are a number of interludes that are slightly more upbeat and lighter in their construction and performance, and also a equal number of cues that are lush and quite lavish, I once likened Malo to Morricone and also John Barry, but on listening to this score I have to say this is NUNO MALO, by this I mean he has created his own distinct musical fingerprint and placed it firmly upon this motion picture. If you are yet to discover the delights and the sheer talent of Nuno Malo, then this release is a perfect way in which to acquaint yourself with this brilliant composers music, I am sure that after you have heard this score you will moving on to many others by this Maestro. Presented wonderfully by Kronos and available very soon, why not pre order it now…. Highly recommended.