Tag Archives: Elmer Bernstein



Like the Western, War movies were tremendously popular during the 1960’s in fact their popularity and appeal had not really faded since the end of the 1940’s and were always of interest to cinema audiences in the aftermath of WWll. There were some classics produced during the 1960’s and I hope that the four I have selected meet with your approval as being iconic cinema and also have scores that sometimes fit into that category.



“Wait a minute. You aren’t seriously suggesting that if I get through the wire… and case everything out there… and don’t get picked up… to turn myself in and get thrown back in the cooler for a couple of months so you can get the information you need”?
The first has a theme that has certainly stood the test of time and is now still as popular with everyone, even if the younger members of the community do not realise it came from a movie and who composed it. THE GREAT ESCAPE was a movie I went to see at an early age and have continued to watch it every Christmas, Easter and bank holiday when it is aired on television. It is what I call essential viewing and to not watch it would I think be sacrilege. Its not just the movie though, it’s the robust and haunting score from composer Elmer Bernstein, one thing you can say about composers who worked in the 1960’s is that they knew how important it was to have a memorable theme for a movie. A theme that the audiences could latch onto and leave the cinema humming or whistling. Bernstein’s GREAT ESCAPE theme not only opened the movie but popped up here and there adding an identity to certain characters and scenarios, the composer at times presenting the theme in a dramatic or even a melancholy fashion, but aswell as the familiar theme the composer also provided the movie with a handful of themes that themselves could have easily acted as core musical foundations for any number of movies.


I suppose what I am saying is that Bernstein produced a score that was not only an essential component of the film and the drama being acted out on screen, but he also wrote themes that were easily listenable away from the images, which I think was the appeal of a lot of movie scores from te 1960’s. The GREAT ESCAPE theme even had a vocal version that was released in the USA as a single entitled I MUST BE FICKLE.




GREAT ESCAPE MARCH, THE (from ‘The Great Escape’)
Lyrics: Al Stillman; Music: Elmer Bernstein

The Kirby Stone Four

Mabel – I love you, Mabel,
Love you as much as I am able.
Although I’m crazy for little Daisy,
She is the one girl for me.

Fickle? I may be fickle,
But it’s a dollar to a nickle,
That when I’m kissin’, the one I’m kissin’,
She is the one girl for me.

Carrie – I need you, Carrie,
But I don’t think that we will marry,
For that would hinder my love for Linda;
She is the one girl for me.

Fickle? I may be fickle,
But it’s a dollar to a nickle,
That when I’m kissin’, the one I’m kissin’,
She is the one girl for me.

Fickle, fickle, dollar to a nickel,
Fickle, fickle, fickle me!

I love Matilda, she is very nice,
But that Hilda makes it paradise.
I love Matilda, but Hilda is very nice.
She is the one girl for me.

Fickle, fickle, dollar to a nickel,
Fickle, fickle, fickle me!

Fickle? I may be fickle,
But it’s a dollar to a nickle,
That when I’m kissin’, the one I’m kissin’,
She is the one girl for me.
She is the one girl for me.
She is the one girl for me!

It reached number 23 in the billboard 100 but I think I still prefer the Bernstein score version of the theme. THE GREAT ESCAPE was in my opinion along with movies such as THE LONGEST DAY one of the first movies that boasted what is now referred to as an all-star cast. It had names from the world of cinema and theatre from all over the globe. Steve McQueen, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson, Donald Pleasance, James Garner, James Donald, David McCallum, Nigel Stock, Gordon Jackson, Angus Lennie and many more. Directed by John Sturges and released in 1963, the film was based upon true events, with writer James Clavell working on the film’s screenplay.

A group of allied prisoners that are notorious with the third Reich for their expertise in the art of escaping, the German high command decide the best way to deal with them is to put them all in one Stalag, which is supposedly escape proof. But the POW’s see this as a bigger challenge and set out to prove that the Stalag is not escape proof at all. The leader of the prisoners plans a mass escape that will see hundreds of prisoners escaping all over Germany keeping the Nazi’s tied up hunting them down, thus depriving the German army of much wanted troops. The first part of the movie comes across as a comedy in places as we see various prisoners outwit and belittle their German jailers. However, the second part of the movie takes on a more serious and darker tone as we see the prisoners escape and follow individuals and pairs of comrades making their way across land, sea and air in an attempt to stay free. Bernstein’s score at times gives the watching audience little snippets of respite that come in the form of lilting melodies, that are lush and ooze a style and sound that is filled with melancholy and hope.

But in the main the composer manages to apply the pressure with music that is martial and robust, the theme being the foundation of the entire score with each cue on the soundtrack having elements of it or at least variations of the theme within it, THE CHASE I think is a great piece the composer pulling out all the stops to accompany Steve McQueen’s character as he attempts to make his escape into Switzerland on a motor bike he has stolen from the Germans, the only thing standing in his way is a twenty foot fence, which he intends to jump over on the bike.



Bernstein’s music adds even greater atmosphere and tension to the sequence, and we all are rooting for the bike rider to make it over the fence, even if deep down we know that it is not possible. THE GREAT ESCAPE is a classic film and has a classic soundtrack to enhance and support it. When they say they don’t make like that anymore, they are most certainly referring to the movie and the music.


“We’re not easily frightened. And we have the Channel, which is not easily crossed. The last little corporal to try it came a cropper”.
The same can be said for a movie that was released some six years later, again a cast full of stars and a musical score that was rousing and vibrant if not a little controversial. THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN was released in 1969, and I think was probably one of the big war movies of the 1960’s and also the type of film that never seemed to make a comeback once the 1970’s got into full swing. This was the British stiff upper lip at its most taught.


A large scale production that originally was to be scored by Sir William Walton, but because of scheduling and Walton’s pace of writing the producers became concerned, and one they heard the score and just how sparse it was they decided to engage another composer, enter then Ron Goodwin. And the rest as they say is history, all that remained of Walton’s score was the cue BATTLE IN THE AIR, the films main score being written by Goodwin.

BATTLE OF BRITAIN was filmed in three countries, England, Spain and France, the movie cost over thirteen million dollars to make and was produced by Harry Saltzman and S. Benjamin Fitz, released in 1969, the movie recounts the tense and uncertain days during the summer of 1940, when Hitler unleashed his formidable Luftwaffe on England, and the brave and courageous pilots, ground personal that against all the odds flew and fought off the overwhelming German forces and saved the island from invasion. The film was directed by Guy Hamilton, the film was a faithful re-creation of the events with superb aerial photography by Johnny Jordan and Skeets Kelly whos talent and attention to detail was second to none, along with the collaboration of assistant director, Derek Cracknell and the excellent cinematography of Freddie Young.
Sir Laurence Olivier, Trevor Howard, Michael Caine, Christopher Plummer, Kenneth More, Susannah York, Robert Shaw, Ian McShane and Edward Fox starred in the movie with Lord Olivier portraying the Air Chief Marshall, Hugh Dowding. It had been at Olivier’s request that Walton had been engaged to write the score for BATTLE OF BRITAIN as a director Olivier had used Walton on a number of his movies, Most notably HENRY V. Ron Goodwin who had made his mark on the world of film music via his infectious theme for MISS MARPLE and the now iconic 633 SQUADRON was deemed to be perfect as composer for the film because he had also been successful with his soundtracks for WHERE EAGLES DARE and THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN IN THEIR FLYING MACHINES, and he was able to write quickly, which was something the producers of the film wanted as the release date was looming and they had a movie with no score.



Goodwin in my humble opinion made an excellent job of the score in a short period of time, and in my opinion must have heard some of Walton’s score whilst spotting the movie as there is a definite homage within some of the cues to style of Walton, as in the use of woods and strings and brass. Whether this was accidental or done out of respect for the great composer I do not know but remembering how amiable Goodwin was, I would like to think it was the latter. Walton’s score ran for just nine cues, whereas Goodwin’s score boasted some nineteen cues on the compact disc, both scores were released by Ryko on one disc, and listening to the Walton score now I fail to see what was wrong with the actual music apart from there not being enough of it. I remember going to see the movie at the REGENT cinema in Brighton and in the intermission was able to buy the Goodwin soundtrack LP on the U.A. label in the foyer of the cinema. It has remained one of my favourite scores, and the RYKO CD showcases the differing styles of both composers when scoring the same movie. The film was also issued onto DVD and on the disc, there is an option for one to watch the film with either the Goodwin score or with Walton’s music.

I have to say Walton’s score is surprisingly supportive of the film and oozes with a regal sounding richness and just a hint of that stiff upper lip that is expected of us Brits in situations that seem to be most dire or hopeless. Goodwin’s score too has some wonderfully crafted and stand out moments, THE LUFTWAFFE MARCH or ACES HIGH for example and the central theme for the movie which is a highly charged full piece for driving strings, trumpets and horns.

But BATTLE IN THE AIR by Walton for me personally is the outstanding piece within the film, as the music takes centre stage as there is no sound of gunfire, plane engines or explosions, it is just images of the RAF against the Luftwaffe over land and sea accompanied by Walton’s urgent and swirling composition, which is also at times chaotic and frenzied, but essentially this is truly masterful film scoring. Andre Previn once said. “If they can reject the music of Walton, what chance do us mere mortals have”?



Take a message: “Request pleasure of the company of Second Officer Anne Davis at dinner.”

From a battle in the air to a film that focused upon battles upon the Ocean, a movie that is often wrongly mistaken for being released in the 1950’s or before because it has the look and also follows the style that ad been established in films such as THE CRUEL SEA (1953), THE DAMBUSTERS (1955) and REACH FOR THE SKY which was released in 1956. SINK THE BISMARK was released in 1960, directed by Lewis Gilbert this black and white British classic was based upon true events that had occurred during WW ll. The movie starred Kenneth Moore and Carl Mohner and relayed the events which took place between 1939 and 1941. The film opened with newsreel footage of the launching of the hull of the battleship in 1939 which was overlooked by Hitler himself. During the post war period in England war movies such as this became the staple diet of cinema going audiences. And kept the British film industry in gainful employment in the less than affluent days after the war. SINK THE BISMARK was received well by both critics and public alike, with one magazine at the time of the film’s release commenting “THIS IS A FINE FILM, WHICH FULLY CAPTURES THE TENSIONS, DANGERS AND COMPLEXITIES OF BATTLE”. The film also focused upon the human side of events and not just from the British side, it also showed respect to the German forces involved. The musical score was by much revered composer Clifton Parker, Parker’s score is to this day, mentioned and marked as a work of quality by critics, film music collectors and audiences alike. The march from the movie is particularly memorable and is an intensely patriotic and stirring composition in a true Walton/Elgarian fashion. The proud and inspiring score not only matches the action but also adds a tense and dramatic atmosphere to the picture and its impressive battle scenes.

Parker had worked on numerous movies before he came to scoring SINK THE BISMARK, and had received much acclaim for his music to the 1957 horror movie THE NIGHT OF THE DEMON, the composer also providing memorable scores for movies such as SEA OF SAND (1958), THE BLUE LAGOON (1949) and HMS DEFIANT (AKA DAMN THE DEFIANT in the US. (1962).


It was Parker who also worked on films such as TREASURE ISLAND and THE SWORD AND THE ROSE. He was like other composers such as Walton, Alwyn and Mathieson a giant in the world of British film music. Sadly, the majority of his film scores were lost or destroyed, but there is hope as a number have been reconstructed and sections have been recorded on the Chandos label.




“Very pretty, General. Very pretty. But, can they fight”?


The 1960’s was a decade that was for me personally filled with a variety of movies, there always seemed to be something that one wanted to go and see at the cinema or the PICTURES as we used to call them, Sometimes there were so many movies released and I mean good movies that a Saturday would consist of a trip to sometimes three maybe four cinema’s. By this I mean we would start with te matinee, then go to the afternoon and early evening screenings then to the night time performance and at times if we had enough money and could stay awake would head off to the all nightery at the Curzon. Yes, those were the days and we still had change from 4 pound. A film I did go and see a couple of times was THE DIRTY DOZEN,(1967) well I actually stayed in the cinema and watched it through again, because in those days you could go in at any time and sit there and watch the film over and over and not have to pay again. And don’t forget in the sixties there was always a B feature which screened first then the main feature took to the screen. I can’t remember what was on with THE DIRTY DOZEN, but it was not that good because all I remember was the main feature. Although I enjoyed the film, I don’t think at the time I appreciated it or indeed the array of stars that featured in it, to me at the time it was a knock em down and drag em out movie, which when you think about it I suppose it was.

I also never actually liked the score, by composer Frank De Vol. he was a composer who’s music I could take or leave and very often I left it in the record racks. In later years I re-watched the movie and then began to take in the storyline and also appreciate more fully the acting talents that were on offer.



The score however I still cannot really get into, its not that this is a bad score, no in fact it fits like the proverbial glove, but there are certain things that one just cannot accept and De Vol’s soundtrack is one of them as far as I am concerned. Like most war movies that were released in the 1960’s THE DIRTY DOZEN had a brief but suitably stirring martial sounding opening theme. But on listening to the score again, I still feel that De Vol was playing it is for laughs and was basically sending the whole movie up. Which spoilt the entire experience for me, there was even a song, THE BRAMBLE BUSH sung by Trini Lopez who also starred in the film. The composer also incorporated DON’T SIT UNDER THE APPLE TREE into one of the cues, which was in a way effective, but not for me. I do know that many film music collectors consider this soundtrack a kind of mini classic, but it has a long way to go to attain that status, personally speaking that is. The same can be said for the other scores that De Vol penned for the movies, McLINTOCK, KRAKOTOA EAST OF JAVA to mention just two, the composer was popular no two doubts about it, but I think the popularity was not really as a film music composer, but more as a light music artist, arranger and orchestra leader, in a very similar way to that of Henry Mancini, but of course not as successful. So why have I included this movie here as a face of the 60’s film score, well because the film was so successful, but it’s a sad thing that people who are fans of say THE GREAT ESCAPE, 633 SQUADRON or even to a degree THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN do have an idea of at least the films opening theme, I don’t know, but I am quite confident that people coming out of THE DIRTY DOZEN when they went to the cinema to see it, did not come out whistling anything from De Vol’s score apart from maybe the Trini Lopez song and that’s debatable. The film well, after re-visiting it a few times, yes I can see why there were so many fans of the movie.



The cast alone is enough to attract much attention, and Aldrich’s direction is quite stunning, the plot is entertaining, and the performances are believable. Set in WWll, an insubordinate and rebellious U.S. army officer (Lee Marvin) is given a handful of convicted murderers who he is expected to train and turn into fighting force and lead them on a mission which is to assassinate a number of top German officers who are taking time out at a French Chateau.

Train them! Excite them! Arm them!…Then turn them loose on the Nazis!

The movie is quite an amusing one and the comedy aspect shines through amongst all the brawls and tense situations whilst the 12 men are being trained and put through their paces, the realy hard hitting stuff comes I would say in the last 20 minutes or so of the movie, when the dozen trap the Germans in a bomb shelter, and throw grenades into the air shafts, which causes chaos underground, the Germans not realising that the pins are still in place on the grenades, but then our merry band of heroes decide to pour petrol down the shafts and then throw a grenade into the mix, which causes an inferno.


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It’s a good war movie, and an entertaining one, which was then mimicked over and over, most notably in THE DEVILS BRIGADE one year later in 1968 and to a certain degree in KELLYS HEROES in 1970. THE DIRTY DOZEN is a classic to many, but just an entertaining picture to others. The film starred, Telly Savalas, Clint Walker, Donald Sutherland, Trini Lopez, Robert Ryan, Ernest Borgnine, John Cassavetes, Jim Brown, Charles Bronson and George Kennedy amongst others. The soundtrack was released originally on an MGM LP record, and later re-issued on MCA classics, the score received a handful of compact disc releases, including one on the TCM label paired with the score for DIRTY DINGUS MAGEE and also on the UA/MGM label with HANNIBAL BROOKS.



Composer Elmer Bernstein is probably one of the most well known composers of film music of the 20th Century. Bernstein was much in demand throughout his career and penned the themes and scores for numerous movies that are now considered classics. Born in New York in 1922, he studied piano at the Juilliard SchooL of music under the guidance of Henriett of a Michelson. He also began to study composition under the tutelage of Roger Sessions, Israel Citkowitz and Stepan Wolpe. During the second world war, Bernstein served in the American Air force and it whilst there he began to do arrangements for the Glenn Miller Band. Working on these arrangements led Bernstein to writing his own music for radio. After the war Bernstein spent a number of years as a concert pianist, but he decided that this was not musical route he wanted to pursue, he was more interested in composing and also was drawn to the idea of writing for film and television. He scored his first motion picture in 1950 which was a film entitled SATURDAY HERO.



This was followed by BOOTS MALONE in 1951 and then in 1952 SUDDEN FEAR. Between 1952 and 1955 the composer worked on fourteen assignments mostly for movies but also these included documentaries. It was in 1955 that Bernstein got his break into the big time when he was asked to provide the score for THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM which was a film directed by esteemed film maker Otto Preminger. This was Bernstein’s landmark score and he received much acclaim and admiration from his peers for the use of jazz within the soundtrack. The composers next assignment would gain him even more recognition.


In 1956 Cecil B De Mille asked Bernstein to write the score for THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, this was a major film score and the composer utilised a large symphony orchestra as well as choir and an array of ethnic instrumentation. After the success of the TEN COMMANDMENTS Bernstein became much in demand and the remainder of the 1950’s proved to be a particularly busy time for the composer. He worked on films such as, THE BUCCANEER, THE SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS, THE TIN STAR, DRANGO, KINGS GO FORTH, GOD’S LITTLE ACRE, MEN IN WAR and provided the TV series JOHNNY STACCATTO with its infectious theme.


As the 1960’s began Bernstein wrote the score for one of cinema’s iconic westerns, THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN is probably the most well known and recognisable themes for a movie. Bernstein fashioned a theme that was filled with an air of Coplandish flourishes and also composed a score that was overflowing with Americana fused with drama and Latin sounding passages, the result was stunning.


The 1960’s was a buy time for the composer and it was during this period that he wrote so many memorable film scores and penned numerous now classic sounding themes, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE SCALP HUNTERS, THE HALLELUJAH TRAIL, TRUE GRIT, THE SILENCERS, THE CARPETBAGGERS, TO KILL A MOCKING BIRD, WALK ON THE WILD SIDE, KINGS OF THE SUN, WHERE’S JACK and many more. During the 1970’s the composer established his own record label, and in the series of releases FILM MUSIC COLLECTION re-recorded many of the classic scores as written by Steiner, Rosza, Herrmann and Waxman.




As well as this he continued to score movies and worked on SEE NO EVIL, THE AMAZING MR BLUNDEN, McQ, GOLD, ZULU DAWN, CAHILL U.S MARSHAL etc. The 1980’s remained busy as did the 1990’s with Bernstein scoring GHOSTBUSTERS, AIRPLANE, THE THREE AMIGOS, HEAVY METAL, THE BLACK CAULDRON, STRIPES, AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, THE BABE, RAGE UP IN HARLEM, LOST IN YONKERS, THE AGE OF INNOCENCE and THE WILD WILD WEST. He scored his final movie in 2002 which was FAR FROM HEAVEN, the score earning him an Academy Award Nomination for best original score. Elmer Bernstein passed away on August 24th 2004.



I think everyone in the world of film music is still in a state of shock on hearing of the death of composer James Horner. They have also been waiting with baited breath for his score to the western THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN to be released, well the wait is over and the score is here. Yes of course many will be comparing both the movie and the score with the original but this I think is not the right way to go about it and I hope that I can review it without saying where is the original theme, sorry just said it but you know what I mean, I think we have to listen to the new score with open minds and fresh ears although there is a hint of that famous theme in track number four VOLCANO SPRINGS, I say a hint because Horner resists the temptation of going into a full rendition or arrangement of it, he teases us a little with a short burst of strings then dilutes the theme into something that is similar but also at the same time different. I love the way Horner and co-composer Simon Franglen have made use of various percussive elements and also an inventive inclusion of a pan pipe sound which at times is calming but then alters direction become more sinister and aggressive, these sounds are fused with soprano voice giving the work something of a connection with the spaghetti western score, al’ a composers such as Morricone, Nicolai and Baclov, but I have to say because of the pan pipes it is also somewhat reminiscent of Horner’s WILLOW and at times Goldsmith’s UNDER FIRE. The soprano is heard from the offset of proceedings in track number one, ROSE CREEK OPRESSION this opens with Horner’s trademark echoing trumpet flourishes which are embellished by both percussion and strings, with pipes being added as the track progresses, with two soprano voices performing in unison. This deployment of instrumentation is heard more prominently and in a sustained outing in track number five, STREET SLAUGHTER where Horner and Franglen successfully create a powerful and also a melodic piece that evokes both Italian and American westerns scores of days past, mixing a grand sound with a more unconventional approach to scoring a western. Track number two SEVEN ANGELS OF VENGEANCE, is a powerful addictive listen, driving strings are punctuated and supported by brass and percussion, with horns returning and taking on a core theme but soon being overwhelmed by percussion that is interspersed with bells, pan pipe stabs a wailing if but fleeting harmonica and then eventually the strings which give a short but effective rendition of the theme originally introduced by the horns, it is an interesting cue that also includes strident sounding guitar strumming and Hispanic sounding nuances. At times when listening to the score one forgets that this is a western, but there again define what music is western etc., it’s what works for the movie in the end, in my opinion this works well away from the movie.

I found it enjoyable and yes I admit to listening out for similarities between it and Elmer Bernstein’s scores for the MAGNIFICENT SEVEN cycle of movies, but I was not disappointed when it did not explode at every opportunity into arrangements or different takes on those scores and their central and secondary themes. This is an original score no doubt of that as in the way it is orchestrated, it contains some surprises and also a number of moments when one could say Oh yes typical James Horner, but is that a bad thing. For the many devoted fans of the original films score there is a snippet at the end of the compact disc in THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN and its credited to Mr Bernstein, but this is the only direct reference to Bernstein’s slice of classic sounding Americana, and even this is different it’s a more subdued version or arrangement but one that still hits the spot. One of the highlights for me is track number, twenty-one, FARADAYS RIDE, this is a full working of what can I suppose be called the scores central theme, complete with vocal backing and those proud sounding horns that are carried along by strings and supported by timpani and strumming guitars, its proud, hopeful and anthem like and a compulsive listen, by this I mean as soon as cue finishes you want to go back and listen again. Overall a good score and entertaining listen and another reason to mourn the loss of such a gifted composer. Just go buy it……….







Released on May 15th 1979, ZULU DAWN, was the prequel to the classic British war movie ZULU which had taken cinema box offices by storm some 15 years earlier. ZULU DAWN tells the story of actual events that took place on January 22nd 1879 at the start of the Anglo-Zulu war when Zulu King Cetawayo,s fearsome and formidable warrior regiments called impi’s attacked part of the British column that was encamped upon the slopes of the mountain of Isandlwana. The British had basically acted illegally and invaded Zulu land on the pre-text that the Zulu’s were about to invade Natal colony, but of course this was not true at all as the Zulu’s were more intent on harvesting their crops at the time to feed their people than crossing the buffalo river into Natal to start a war, so the British more or less forced the Zulu’s into a conflict. But things went horribly wrong for Lord Chelmsford who was in command of the British force he made the mistake of
underestimating his enemy thinking that as they were not a European foe they would be dis-organized and weak and would easily bow to the superior British redcoats with their firepower and supposed military might. Chelmsford split his force leaving 1,500 regulars and 300 native troops at Isandalwana whilst he moved forward to Ulundi where the Zulu’s main encampment or Kraal was situated, the British commander was looking for a quick and decisive victory and an action that would bring to an end the Zulu nation. The Zulu’s who were far from dis-organized and undisciplined seized the opportunity and attacked the British pouring over 20,000 warriors into action, catching the British by surprise and ill prepared on the morning of January 22nd,leaving nearly of all the column including the native troops massacred. Chelmsford had not taken into account the history of the Zulu people and the power of its armies that had been schooled in the art of warfare by a long line of King’s which started with Shaka in 1816. ZULU DAWN was far more historically accurate than its predecessor ZULU, it paid far more attention to the details of the event and the politics that led to it and also looked at the battle through the eyes of both the British and the Zulu’s and also included some stunning cinematography and realistic battle scenes. The only odd bit of casting for me personally was the role of Colonel Durnford who was portrayed by Burt Lancaster it was a performance that I think did not quite gel. The film however contained some wonderful performances by Sir John Mills, Peter O Toole, Simon Ward, Denholm Elliot, and Bob Hoskins to name but a handful and I think was unfairly dismissed by critics of the day, but there again it was up against ZULU which was after all a classic and had become a part of British film making history and of course comparisons would have been made.


The music for ZULU DAWN was the work of Hollywood stalwart Elmer Bernstein, at the time of the announcement that he would score the movie it came as somewhat of a surprise as many thought that John Barry would be assigned, but Bernstein produced a gloriously patriotic and proud sounding soundtrack that was filled to overflowing with pomp, circumstance and literally brimming with imperialistic fervour. As soon as I saw the movie I began to look for the soundtrack album, which was at the time not available, and it did not appear for a number of years after the movie was originally released, finally Cerebus records in the United States made it available on vinyl and then later a CD was released, the score was also issued as a re-release on LA LA LAND RECORDS and now we are given the wonderful music again by BSX records, which comes complete with some stunning new art work courtesy of Mark banning and interesting liner notes by Randall Larson. There is no doubt at all that Bernstein’s vibrant and epic sounding score is one that will live in collectors minds forever, who after all can forget the RIVER CROSSING scene where the British make the crossing of the buffalo river accompanied by Bernstein’s richly patriotic and inspiring music or the oncoming Zulu imp’s driven forward by the composers pulsating and urgent percussive beats laced with male voices and foreboding brass flourishes as they sweep across the grasslands and drive their enemies back and eventually overpower them or indeed the romantic and also sad strings that accompany the British colours as they fall from the grasp of a Zulu warrior into the fast flowing waters of a river and are carried down stream marking the end of an era in British history. The score as one would expect is built upon a strong martial sounding foundation, Bernstein bringing into play timpani, piccolo trills and military band flourishes to add authenticity to his work, with the string section at times supporting the martial instrumentation along with brass and elevating them into a full blown symphonic piece as in GLORY which verges on something that could be the work of either Walton or Elgar. The Zulu’s are also musically represented the composer utilizing a strong percussive led theme that is a strong footing for ominous sounding brass and baritone voices that accompanies Zulu scouts as they peruse the British from afar and this strong thematic material is also engaged when we see the Zulu on the move towards the British encampment and again the composer underlines the Zulu attack effectively with variations of the same theme, the music ever present but never overbearing, in many ways Bernstein’s musical accompaniment to the Zulu army reminded me vaguely of the style that Max Steiner employed in THEY DIED WITH THEIR BOOTS ON, where as it is heard each and every time the Zulu’s make an appearance or when they are about to, of course the composition is not the same as Steiner’s but the music is used in the same way. The score is most definitely an epic one and is regarded as a classic among collectors of film music and was one of the last opportunities that Bernstein had to employ this type of scoring as film scores were evolving so it is said and not necessarily for the better.


Arthur of The Britons.


As a teenager I remember the series ARTHUR OF THE BRITONS becoming essential viewing for me on a Sunday afternoon. One of the many attractions of the series was the rousing and epic sounding theme for the show written by Hollywood star composer Elmer Bernstein, now how Bernstein became involved with the series which was a Harlech TV production I do not know, all I do know is that the theme was infectious, robust and bold sounding working wonderfully with the shows opening credits which were fast and hard hitting. Bernstein’s music doing exactly what a TV theme should do and grabbing the viewers attention and setting the scene for some great swashbuckling adventures, daring do, chases, swordplay and inventive story lines that starred Oliver Tobias in the title role, with Michael Gothard as Kai and the ever popular Jack Watson as Llud. The series ran from 1972 through to 1973 and during that time 24 half hour episodes were produced and aired. The series was a little different from the more traditional tales of King Arthur, it places Arthur as the leader of a small band of Celts who are living in Britain some two hundred years after the Romans have left and tells of Arthur’s dream to form a union of Celts, Jutes and other tribes so that they can effectively oppose the Saxon invaders who are arriving in Britain in ever growing numbers. Arthur is helped in his quest to form a united Britain by his adoptive Father, Llud, and his step brother, Kai, who is himself a Saxon foundling that was taken in by Arthur’s tribe.
The incidental music for the series was not written by Elmer Bernstein, the scores for the series were the work of British composer Paul Lewis who had worked on other television and film projects and also was responsible for penning a number of works for concert hall performance. At the time of the series being aired I was not really aware of the composers involvement, all I knew was that the music for the show was very good. Its hard to believe that it has taken some forty years or so for Bernstein’s driving theme to be released and for that I say a big thank you to Silva Screen, the incidental music as some may refer to it as has been issued before or at least a suite of it was made available on a compilation album of the music of Paul Lewis. But this I am sure is the first full release of music from the series. The music that Lewis produced for the series is some of the best I have heard from this period in television, in fact it is overflowing with dramatic and romantic interludes, contains tense and strong thematic material and serves the series effectively. The varied and inventively created elements of the score combine to generate an exciting and overly attractive and entertaining work, which at times conjure up a number of feelings of de ja vu for this listener at least.
Lewis’s music sounds more like a full blown film score as opposed to a television soundtrack, the composer orchestrating and arranging the music to a high standard that is quite honestly on a par with THE VIKINGS and THE LONG SHIPS soundtracks By Nascimbene and Radic respectively, this sound I think can be heard more prominently in track number three, CELTIC HORNS THE LONGSHIP, two rather subdued horns play in unison at the offset of the composition, creating for want of a better word a near restful atmosphere, this mood soon alters as the horns become louder and more threatening in their sound but after a brief period they revert back, again to a softer ambience before more brass is added and usher in strings which then introduce another level of uneasiness, all of the time the horns remain in the background punctuating and supporting, the composer adding wood wind and subdued percussion gradually, thus building the tension and atmosphere of unease and uncertainness‘. Horns are used again as the mainstay instrumentation in track number four, SENTINELS, which although brief is highly effective. Track number five, TO BATTLE is full to brimming with martial sounding instrumentation, woodwind, snare drums driving strings and jagged brass stabs and growls open the cue but are halted to be replaced by a more aggressive sound that is created by swirling strings and booming timpani which towards the end of the composition overwhelms all other instruments. This is an album that should be in your collection, it has been such a long time coming it would be re-miss of any self respecting soundtrack collector, old or new to not purchase it. Wonderfully presented and with marvellous sound quality. The score has a sound to it that could be Walton or even has certain affiliations to the style adopted by composer Frank Cordell on Cromwell and also maybe a gentle nod in the direction of James Bernard, I Recommended this to you without reservation.