- I was introduced to Franz Waxman's score when it was first released by Ryko in the 90s. It was something of a blind buy, but it came highly recommended by people on the FSM board whose opinions I trusted. That album was so colorful and exciting that it quickly became a favorite. I then rented the movie and was shocked to hear the difference between what is heard in the film and what was on the record; they're completely different recordings, and the album had a significantly reduced orchestra.
The album is still a favorite (particularly the Kritzerland remaster), but the score itself has been the subject of a new recording from Tadlow Music that reconstructs the original Leonid Raab film orchestrations. James Fitzpatrick and his crew even included the faux Cossack folk songs written by Waxman and lyricist Mack David for the film, which are very prominently featured in the movie and are a welcome edition (thankfully placed at the end so as not to effect the dramatic flow of the score).
As with their superb recording of Miklós Rózsa's El Cid, the Tadlow edition does not replace the composer-conducted original album, but instead presents a very different musical experience that makes an excellent companion piece to the more concise LP configurations. Waxman's score is engaging from beginning to end, and the performance is spirited as all hell. The film version of "The Ride To Dubno" is a splendid rendition of this iconic piece of film music.
If this music doesn't make you want to pick up a huge spear and kill a whole bunch of Polish people while yelling out "Zaporozhtzi!!!" there's something seriously wrong with you, and you should seek immediate professional psychotherapy.
- Speaking of Tadlow, in addition to having announced that they are going to be recording a companion piece to their superb rendition of Basil Poledouris' Conan the Barbarian with a disc that will contain both Conan the Destroyer as well as The Adventures of Conan: Sword and Sorcery Spectacular. It has also been confirmed that Intrada Records is going to be restoring and releasing the complete original soundtrack recordings of Conan the Barbarian and Conan the Destroyer. This is stunning news, meaning that two versions will be available not only of several or even most of the cues, but all of them.
The promise of improved sound quality on the original Conan scores will be enough for me to revisit my Let Me Tell You of the Days of High Adventure compilation, although I consider this to be one of my best mixes, and so will be making no changes other than using the remastered tracks for better sonics (particularly the Conan the Destroyer main title, the only source of which was a bootleg with terrible sound that I cleaned up as best as possible). I might experiment a bit more if I decide to make a companion piece utilizing the Tadlow recordings; if the Conan follow-up disc is as interesting and exciting an alternative to the original tracks as their recording of Conan the Barbarian is (and I have no doubt that it will be; their recording of Maurice Jarre's Lawrence of Arabia set a new bar for re-recordings of film music by rendering moot all previous recordings of the score, replicating the original film performance with none of the sonic pitfalls).
- The enterprising new Spanish label Quartet Records has released two wonderful CDs, Jerry Goldsmith's Studs Lonigan and Patrick Doyle's Killing Me Softly.
Studs Lonigan is in a similar vein as his work on Chinatown, but with a more introspective overall tone. I've been finding a lot of early Goldsmith scores such as this one, City of Fear and Cain's Hundred or even The Brotherhood of the Bell to be chock full of the composer's familiar devices, but often achieved with different means as the instrumental combinations. The composer had to work with budgetary restrictions in his early career and on television, and so he often had to come up with muscular sounds without the full forces of an orchestra. It was a very innovative time in his career, and that's really saying something.
Meanwhile, Doyle's Killing Me Softly finally gets a soundtrack release. The composer's previous thriller score was the bombastic, old fashioned Dead Again, a personal favorite, but here he pays homage to the film noir scores of John Barry. This is a classy affair, erotic yet dignified. In fact, I was a little surprised at how sensual the music was, as I tend to associate Doyle with more flowing themes and visceral action (the relatively overt sexuality of Much Ado About Nothing wasn't really reflected in the composer's very sunny score). I really hope that he starts doing more scores of this type than the Media Ventures styled action scores he's produced recently for Thor and Rise of the Planet of the Apes (a movie which I really enjoyed, by the way; more on that later) because this was great fun.
- My hunger for the music of Bernard Herrmann brought me to the superb Marco Polo/Naxos recording of the score. Herrmann collaborated with Fox music department head Alfred Newman on the film due to an exceedingly tight post-production schedule brought about by delays in the shoot. Newman brings the transcendental religious touch that he brought to The Robe and brings a vibrancy to his source cues. Herrmann often responds to the movie as though it were film noir, which is fitting because even though it is a costume drama, the film does have many noir elements, most prominently the presence of a femme fatale in the form of Bella Darvi's Nefer. The collaboration may have been surprising given Herrmann's irascible manner, but it was highly fruitful, and both composers produced some very beautiful music for this film.
In a wonderful cross-pollination, Varèse Sarabande was preparing the complete score for remaster from newly-found stereo sources for a grand two-disc set while Twilight Time managed to get a beautiful high definition transfer of the film from Twentieth Century-Fox for a Blu-ray disc, which they were then able to include an isolated score track.
The remastering on the score makes it sound absolutely fantastic. Both composers use each other's thematic material, so while nobody familiar with their individual styles are going to mistake one for the other, they flow smoothly from one to the other. The music is as good an excuse to watch the film as any, which, while far from being any sort of "lost classic" is nevertheless a solid bit of melodrama with gorgeous production values. The Blu-ray captures the original CinemaScope image, with all of its inherent grain and distortion, but there is nevertheless a grandeur to the appearance of this stately film that was, after all, meant to be shown on the largest screen imaginable.
What daring! What outrageousness! What insolence! What arrogance!… I salute you.
A Real Soldier Here Is Like a Falcon Among Sparrows