When you look back over the career of composer John Barry he was involved with so many great movies, his music became the soundtrack of more than one generation and still today is inspiring and entertaining music lovers of all ages. But, although the majority of his soundtracks fit comfortably into the popular category, there are a few that seem to have been either overlooked or at times ignored, I think this is because his work on the James Bond series obviously overshadowed not only the music of other composers but at times has also cast a shadow over other works by this highly talented and prolific composer. Films such as DUTCHMAN, THE CHASE, THE WRONG BOX and even scores such as THE KNACK, RUBY CAIRO, FOUR IN THE MORNING, SÉANCE ON A WET AFTERNOON, THE WHISPERERS and to a degree DEADFALL are not in the public or film music collectors gaze as often as I think that they should be. Deadfall (1968) is one such case, yes we are all probably aware of the excellent ROMANCE FOR GUITAR AND ORCHESTRA which played a highly integral part of the films narrative, but the remainder of the score, and the song MY LOVE HAS TWO FACES seem to be, dare I say somewhat forgotten. The same can also be said of MIDNIGHT COWBOY and again only to a degree, because we all know and love the central theme and the FLORIDA FANTASTY sequence music, but there is so much more to the soundtrack that again is probably not as familiar as it deserves to be. THE CHASE too has a pretty dramatic and familiar opening theme, but the remainder of the score apart from a handful (if that) of cues many collectors or film music fans would be hard pressed to recognise as coming from the score. But it is DEADFALL I will focus upon at first.
Released in 1968, and directed by British actor turned film maker Bryan Forbes, it was one of those clever caper movies that were so in abundance in the 1960.s. It starred the man of the moment in British cinema at that time Michael Caine, with Nannette Newman. Giovanna Ralli and Eric Portman. It is a classy and attractive crime caper, that brings out solid performances from each of the films central characters, which is probably due to the work of the esteemed film maker Forbes. Who always paid meticulous attention to detail and also the smaller finer points to make the bigger production more credible and also ultimately far more entertaining, the movie was not just a run of the mill crime or heist story, it also contained shadowy yet subtle sexual and psychological elements and looked at the central figures within the story closely, focusing upon each ones insecurities and personalities. Based upon the 1965 book by Desmond Cory, Caine portrays a cat burglar who’s name is Henry Clarke. Clarke is having an affair with Fe Moreau (Ralli) who is the young wife of Clarke’s gay partner Richard Moreau (Portman), who in turn is having a relationship with a young Spanish man Antonio played by Carlos Pierre.
Confused, well it is a little like that but that’s all part of the intrigue and the attraction of the storyline. As all these romantic and sexual secrets are being played out there is a jewel robbery being planned by the Moreau’s and Clarke. Who are targeting a multi-millionaires home Salinas, portrayed by David Buck. As a dry run for the main robbery Clarke decides that they should to break into another home, but the practise robbery goes wrong because Richard cannot break into the safe at the house. This and other scenarios bring Clarke to the decision that he will go it alone and do the Salinas job on his own. The cast also included Leonard Rossiter, Emilio Rodriguez, Vladek Sheybal, Philip Madoc, Santiago Rivero, Antonio Sanpere, Geraldine Sherman, Renata Tarrago (guitarist) and Carmen Dene and composer John Barry who played a conductor at the concert where THE ROMANCE FOR GUITAR AND ORCHESTRA was performed, Forbes using the music to accompany the robbery, which ran with no dialogue and elevated and enhanced the sequence greatly. Filmed on the Spanish Island of Majorca, the film contained stunning locations. John Barry’s score I often think is a Bond score but not for a Bond movie, if you understand what I am saying, except for the Romance of course. The song is straight out James Bond, and would I think have made an excellent title song for the franchise, and maybe was even the inspiration for DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER and MOONRAKER. Lyrics were courtesy of Jack Laurence, and MY LOVE HAS TWO FACES was performed by Shirley Bassey over the films titles, the release of the soundtrack onto CD came in 1997 on the Retrograde label, and included the tracks from the Stateside LP release plus an instrumental version of the title song and a demo recording of MY LOVE HAS TWO FACES by an unnamed Male vocalist, who for me sounds very much like Scott Walker but saying that it probably isn’t him. The majority of Barry’s score is quite low key, with his trademark breathy woods and underlying mysterious sounding strings that conjure a tense but at the same time melodic and subtly romantic atmosphere. Barry’s delicate and light musical touch purveying both the drama and hints of melancholy throughout. The highlight for me when I first heard the soundtrack was STATUE DANCE, which is a typically Barry sounding piece as in being catchy and upbeat and written in a similar style to that of of other cues such as THE GOLDEN HORN in FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE and the DEATH OF FIONA from THUNDERBALL and was a pre-cursor for future compositions such as FLORIDA FANTASY etc.
Castanets, strings, brass, woods and a cheeky bass line that supports and punctuates the proceedings, all these components combine to create a haunting and entertaining cue. But the main piece within the score is THE ROMANCE, which as a concert piece works so well and supports as well as adding another dimension or level of tension to the robbery sequence. It works gloriously within the film, but at the same time one can listen and enjoy it without even looking at any footage. So, DEADFALL is maybe an overlooked gem of a score, and if you have not yet savored it maybe you should, or like me if its been a while since you sat and listened to it, it is now time to re-visit appreciate and enjoy.
A year previous to working with Bryan Forbes on DEADFALL John Barry scored the directors movie THE WHISPERERS, it was the fourth film that Barry had scored for the filmmaker, and at the time of the film being released Forbes was of the opinion that it was the best score the composer had written for one of his projects. Released in 1967,this British drama was based upon the 1961 novel by Robert Nicolson, it starred the excellent Edith Evans and was filmed in the rather run down town of Oldham in the north of England an area that was once a thriving industrial Centre for the textile industry. The film is still relevant today and deals with the ever-present subject of the loneliness of elderly people or people in general, when they have no family or friends to turn to or to ensure that they are well and ok. It is a movie that although released over half a century ago remains current and shows us that society has not altered its attitude whatsoever towards the elderly person who lives alone. The theme has been a re-occuring one throughout the history of British cinema, and Forbes handles the subject matter with respect and understanding, it is a somewhat disturbing and haunting drama, with the title THE WHISPERERS being a referral to the voices that the elderly Mrs. Ross portrayed brilliantly by Edith Evans can hear at times which are maybe coming from her neighbours or are just a figment of her imagination, because she actually craves company of some sort. The cast list was impressive with Eric Portman, Gerald Sim, Nannette Newman and Ronald Frazer contributing excellent performances.
The central character Mrs. Ross who has separated from her husband and lives in poverty fending for herself in an uncaring world. The score by John Barry is an affecting one and employs lilting themes and also jazz infused pieces, but it is the emotive and poignant cues such as THE LETTER that tug at the heartstrings, with Barry utilizing solo violin and subtle woods that are enhanced by vibes to purvey a sense of loneliness and fragility. Considering this was a score that came pretty early on in the composer’s film music composing career it is surprising mature and sophisticated. Barry, tailoring his touching and melancholy music to suit the unfolding scenario on screen.
There are also dramatic interludes, which have that unmistakable Barry musical fingerprint as in THE RAZOR ATTACK and THE THREE ATTACKERS, plus there is the central or opening theme which Barry realizes via the use of subdued harpsichord that is eventually supported by woods.
This is a soundtrack that is masterfully written and also one that is precisely placed to support without being intrusive. The soundtrack was issued on LP record in 1967, on United Artists records in both the UK and the U.S.A. it was later re-issued on the MCA Label with LP and also Cassette being available, finally it was released onto CD by Rykodisc in 1998. Again, a John Barry score of great quality, that is maybe overlooked.
1966, was a good year for movies, THE CHASE being one of them, the cast itself was I would have thought good enough a reason to go and see the film. Marlon Brando, Robert Redford, James Fox, Robert Duvall, Jane Fonda, Angie Dickinson and E.G.Marshall all under the direction of esteemed filmmaker Arthur Penn. Produced by Sam Spiegel the film was set in an American South western community that was populated by a wide range of characters which ranged from wealthy cattleman to lowly farm workers. It is a town that is basically controlled by wealthy banker Val Rogers (E.G. Marshall). A native of the town Bubber Reeves (Robert Redford) has escaped from jail and it is thought that he will head straight for his hometown. The Sherrif of the town portrayed by Marlon Brando is convinced that Bubber is innocent and awaits his return, knowing that Bubber’s wife (Jane Fonda) is involved in an affair with the bankers son Jake Rogers (James Fox) who is also or was at least Bubber’s best friend before he went to prison. The towns people get together awaiting Bubber’s return but things get out of hand and they demand that the Sheriff take action, but he refuses, and they attack him. This is a sultry and steamy affair filled with tension and drama. John Barry’s score is at times highly dramatic the opening theme especially being menacing and unsettling, the composer utilizes elements of this theme in the second cue on the soundtrack release THE CHASE IS ON with solo trumpet taking Centre stage sounding more Morricone than John Barry and introducing a full working of the scores central theme. Which is a combination of percussion, strings, brass, banjo and harmonica.
This is classic John Barry, with downbeat and sombre compositions, romantically laced interludes and jazz flavoured renditions of the scores core themes alongside groovy sounding Hammond organ tracks as in SATURDAY NIGHT PHILOSOPHER which evoked memories of the composer’s score for THE KNACK AND HOW TO GET IT (1965). I remember buying the LP on the CBS label with its monochrome artwork and the title THE CHASE in bright red standing out. The soundtrack was later re-issued on LP by Varese Sarabande in 1989 and then in 1998 onto compact disc by PEG records which was a Sony special product release. In closing this brief look at John Barry scores that maybe do not get the recognition they deserve or are discussed as his other soundtracks are, PETULIA, THE LEGEND OF THE LONE RANGER, MR MOSES, THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS etc.