January 22nd, 2007

Led Zeppelin

Thunderous Abandon

Yesterday Raz came over and loaded up my project computer with a ton of software that I needed, including my graphics software, which now allows me to resume the creation of artwork for my mixes. I've already completed the covers for Towards the Horizon: More Music from the Farthest Reaches, Silver Screen Star Trek and Sensations, with more coming soon. I also now have DVD authoring software, which allowed to burn the copies of several Clone High episodes that suitboyskin gave me a few months ago onto a video DVD. I've thinking about compiling several of my mixes onto video DVDs with PCM sound, which was something I had done several years ago with a few of my mixes as well as my Thomas Newman and Jerry Goldsmith sets, but never really followed through with.

However, Raz also brought over a number of DTS CDs consisting ostensibly of the quadraphonic mixes of various 70s classics; Led Zeppelin's third album and Houses of the Holy, Pink Floyd's Atom Heart Mother and Animals, Lou Reed's Transformer and Kraftwerk's Autobahn. We basically spent all night listening to these discs, taking particular interest in Animals and the Zeppelins, as these albums are among the best of the respective bands' output... and it is impressive. Animals is particularly holosonic, which is not very surprising considering how enveloping the 5.1 mix of Dark Side of the Moon and the quad mix of Wish You Were Here. The Zeppelin records were much warmer than their respective CDs and the additional dimension was pretty impressive. The Reed was a distinct improvement over the stereo; the reversed string track on "A Perfect Day" has been corrected in this mix.

The sources of some of these are easily divined; Autobahn, Atom Heart Mother and Wish You Were Here were all issued on discrete quadraphonic 8 track, but while Lou Reed did release Metal Machine Music/The Amine Beta Ring in quad, I know of no such release for Transformer, nor for Animals or the Zeppelins. They may be faked, but if so they're really good jobs; I've heard a few discs where somebody rechannelled music for multichannel reproduction and they sound just as bad as one of those "electronically enhanced" stereo-ificated LPs. I still have no idea where this discrete 5.1 mix of the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band comes from, but it sounds very similar to the multichannel mixes made for the Beatles Anthology DVDs...

I've updated my mix list to include a new category, Game Scoring. At the moment the only item there is the Risk mp3 CD, but I will also try and find the entry for the Jenga mp3 CD and update it to version 6.0 and include it on the list. As I was discussing with melancthe yesterday, I have plans to create a DVD-ROM for RPGs categorized by situation rather than title, film or composer, thus allowing a GM to appropriately 'score' their own games. This is a future project for this section.

I'm also working on a kick-ass mix for Uno.

I was going to complain that compiling the track list was harder than actually putting the disc together, especially considering that one of my favorite composers - Miklós Rózsa - keeps forcing me to the damn character map. But I'm not going to complain... because I've just found out today that Rózsa's Sodom and Gomorrah has being remastered and is coming out as a two disc set from C.A.M., who are responsible for some of the recent wave of outstanding Ennio Morricone re-issues.
Robin Hood (Adventures of Robin Hood)

Ray's Last Stand

Released in 1981, Clash of the Titans was the final collaboration between Ray Harryhausen and producer Charles Schneer. The era of stop-motion animation was coming to a close, being replaced by more modern techniques as go-motion and animatronics. Harryhausen's effects were already an anachronism upon the release of this film, as is evidenced by the following scene. It is nevertheless impressive to observe the level of proficiency that Harryhausen had with these miniatures. This is the only scene in which Medusa appears, but she nevertheless conveys a palpable sense of menace throughout Collapse )

Okay, with all of the John Scottness that's been going on around here lately, I think it's worth mentioning that I've been having a great time rediscovering King Kong Lives. This is everything an adventure score should be. I can say that happily because I've never seen the film itself, nor do I plan to. I have to say that one of the reasons why I like this one so much is because, while the movie itself is a sequel to the limp 1976 version of the film which was scored by John Barry in a manner that emphasized the more romantic aspects of the story. Scott's approach instead hearkens back to Max Steiner's classic original, the score that practically invented the genre. Scott's music is bold and is much more in the cast of the '33 piece, and it is clear that the composer is paying hommage to an acknowledged master.

Okay, so how's this for a crazy idea... a King Kong mix! Eh? Steiner, Barry, Scott, Howard... how can I go wrong?
Garber (The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3)


There's something particularly gritty about 70s crime dramas, something that all of the handheld camerawork and 'captured' moments in film and television today that bear the influence of that era nevertheless fail to replicate. Most people would say it's the look, but it's not; many of the films in question were indeed shot on quite grainy film stock, but nothing much worse than a standard theatrical print from Super 35 source. Rather, it's in the tone. It's in the pace. It's in the music. It's in the attitude. These films were nasty in ways that the slick and polished films of today can't be because the urban decay that the 70s films were showcasing fit with the dirtier aesthetic a certain way.

The Seven-Ups is a sort of poorer cousin to Bullitt and The French Connection. Philip D'Antoni served as producer on both those projects, and his decision to direct this film himself yielded interesting, if not wholly satisfying results. The story was concieved by Sonny Grosso, the basis for Roy Scheider's character in The French Connection, who stars in this film. D'Antoni's (overly) measured pace and Alexander Jacobs and Albert Ruben's messy screenplay doles out information to the audience in a very confusing manner, but the core of the story is fairly strong, and the finale is a bit darker than most of this type of film.

Scheider's character Buddy leads a special group of police known as the "Seven-Ups," who specialize in apprehending criminals whose sentences will be no less than seven years - and whose methods are often called into question by their peers. He is dedicated to his job... perhaps a little too dedicated, for as the other members of his team have families, Buddy shuns anything and anybody not directly related to his job. He does have an old friend he went to school with, Vito (Tony Lo Bianco), now an undertaker who has an inside bead into the machinations of the mob world. Buddy has been feeding Schieder information, but he's also behind the actions of Moon (Richard Lynch) and Bo (Bill Hickman), dangerous thugs who have been kidnapping leaders in organized crime for ransom.

Vito is perhaps the most interesting character in the film. He has gotten a taste of how the other half lives and wants a bit of it, but he isn't cruel enough to cross the line and become a full-blown gangster. The victims don't know who is behind all this, only that they can't complain about it to their superiors for fear of being seen as weak and they obviously can't rely on the police, so they are pushed against the wall. A great plan, except that Moon and Bo are posing as police officers, and when the Seven-Ups cross their paths, following a lead about mob activity, the resulting confusion leads to violent results. Events spiral way out of Vito's control, despite his efforts to put a stop to everything.

Stylistically, the film is much more conservative than William Friedkin's docudrama approach on The French Connection, hearkening a bit more to Peter Yates' measured work on Bullitt. The film does drag a bit here and there in the first two acts, but one is forced to concentrate on the story and characters. An example of what works and doesn't work in this film can be seen in the car chase that finishes off the second act; this is clearly D'Antoni and stunt co-ordinator Bill Hickman trying to top themselves with the respective sequences in those other two films, and at times it works, at times it doesn't. There is certainly a very strong feeling of speed and gravity during the chase, and some of the impacts are very vividly communicated. There are great evasion tactics and impressive driving on display. However, the sequence lasts way too long, and at times gets somewhat indulgent.

On the other hand, composer Don Ellis returns from The French Connection to provide a prickly, bubbling score that is very effective. One of the longest cues that appears in the film is heard at the beginning of the above chase, a provocative, building piece that is on par with that irresistible "Subway" cue from The French Connection. There are also incredibly harrowing tracks written for the two car wash scenes that imbue the fairly pedestrian details of the process with a white-knuckle tension. I would love to get this score, but it was never issued, nor is much of Ellis' work available on CD at all, but his edgy, bass-driven score for this film was fantastic.

Overall, I found the film to be more interesting than entertaining, but but it was ultimately rewarding. While the plot takes a while to set up, once the film starts moving, it does a pretty good job of maintaining interest. Schieder (in his first lead role) and Lo Bianco are very good, leading to a great scene between them at the very end of the film, and the music is really exciting. The understated tone of the Urs Furrer's camerawork and the performances make this a much more cerebral movie than most of its brethren, and if the first two acts seem cold and distant, the third act is anything but. The film is also notable for being shot on location in New York using unusual (yet appropriate) locations, so it has the right 'feel,' but doesn't look like the same cop movie you've seen a thousand times.