Score Season #17
Below are more soundtrack reviews of recent and archival releases.
Beneath the Planet of the Apes (Leonard Rosenman, 1970) **** For some, Leonard Rosenman’s complex touch can feel inaccessible, perhaps a shade too worldly for the common ear. Once again, my allegiance belongs to the composer. Although “Mind Boggler” could be a deal breaker, the second half morphs into a seminal shape. A score such as Beneath the Planet of the Apes shirks traditional melodic form. There’s angst, yet it’s a step or two removed from what he gave us on Rebel Without a Cause. Thus, the environment functions as a blunderbuss. Emotions are all over the map reflecting an alien milieu. Also, he identifies what Michael Giacchino failed to achieve on War for the Planet of the Apes: Creativity emerges via unpredictable patterns. For the year 1970, there were few scores as exciting as this one.
The Last Warrior (George Kallis, 2017) **** Another excellent score from this rising star, George Kallis displays unwavering confidence in the fantasy arena. Thus, the mixture of joy and spectacle allows The Last Warrior to transcend. I trust it won’t be long before a big time Hollywood project falls into his lap. Alongside Albion: The Enchanted Stallion, The Last Warrior delights at every spin. Let it blossom.
Northern Pursuit (Adolph Deutsch, 1943) *** The first title that comes to mind with composer Adolph Deutsch must be The Apartment. He crafted a perfectly melancholy theme for Jack Lemmon’s lonely soul. Of English descent, the former became an American citizen during his twenties. A bright future including three Academy Awards (for musicals!) would await. In 1943, he followed the exploits of Errol Flynn throughout Northern Pursuit. What flavours can you expect from this experience? Right away, he develops a lively spice during “Main Title” which immediately segues into “Nazi Sub/Customs/Train.” With atmosphere being the main ingredient, Deutsch allows theme and suspense to gain traction. Occasionally, you can sense that a composer experienced fun on a project. That’s the quality Northern Pursuit conveys in spades.
Skybound (Andrew Reich, 2017) With barely a dozen credits to his name, composer Andrew Reich assaults the airborne thriller. It’s a flight whose musical passengers have included Jerry Goldsmith, Shirley Walker, John Ottman and Don Davis. How does Reich fare? Evidently, he prefers sampling as the keyboard takes center stage. Sadly, a theme appears absent, while the tip-toeing could easily sink into obscurity. Even “Kansas” tries to implicate the horror film in its devious plan. Overall, it’s just not good enough.
Taras Bulba (Franz Waxman, 1962) *** About as epic as a film score can get, Franz Waxman’s Taras Bulba delivers a circus-like “Overture.” Meanwhile, counterpoint remains strong with percussion, brass and strings figuring prominently. When I first encountered this soundtrack, the effect was overwhelming. However, some compositions can be so complex they require patience to unlock. Stick with this one, and you might be surprised.
The True Story of Jesse James (Leigh Harline, 1957) * A boisterous “Prologue and Main Title” ignites The True Story of Jesse James. It’s fine and precisely orchestrated. In other words momentarily effective. What’s next? Only three more tracks. For example, “Jesse” contains a character theme both solemn and bittersweet. If this sounds very familiar that’s because composer Leigh Harline embraces Western traditions. To do otherwise might alienate the status quo. On the whole, this score poses a timely dilemma. Such a technically decent rendering with clear emotionality might suit the majority. However, I took little away from the experience. Because the Western promises adventure beyond the confines of home, a little danger seems par for the course. Evidently, this doesn’t figure during Harline’s safe trek.
Air Force One (Randy Newman, 1997) In the history of underprivileged (or rejected) scores, Randy Newman’s Air Force One would barely make a tenth-rate, generic, John Williams rip-off.
A little poem to commiserate:
Of “Code Red and The Hijacking”
Oh my, it’s lacking.
Jerry Goldsmith was the rightful pick
Talk to me if they give him any stick.
All This, and Heaven Too (Max Steiner, 1940) **** As a melodic journey, Max Steiner’s score feels both sumptuous and timeless. It’s the kind of easy-listening requirement that dispels the blues, while reinforcing life’s joys.
Poem for a classic:
As the stars end up twinkling
Omens for good, just an inkling.
What beauty Steiner gave
In music, the consummate shave.
This gave me pleasure to hear
Like the possibility of a tear.
Impression left might be grand
Rumours my collection could expand.
Almost an Angel (Maurice Jarre, 1990) **** One of the most classy underscores for a Paul Hogan picture, Almost an Angel allows composer Maurice Jarre to create a liberating experience. Cheesy at first, the theme comes across with a classic Western sensibility and I enjoyed it immensely. Consistently magical and thrilling, this soundtrack surpassed my expectations.
A poem in celebration:
Maurice Jarre was one gifted chap
Able to win the final lap.
This one proves to be a keeper
Enticing it feels as we go deeper.
At turns slightly sinister
No worries of meeting the minister.
Almost an Angel caught my soul
Ripe for the generous role.
Altogether a feeling in fashion
Carrying more than ration.
Rich it felt
Not all was spelt.
Euphoria in reach
Like the promise of peach.
SCORE OF THE MOMENT
The Beast Within (Les Baxter, 1982) ***** Dissimilar to everything else in my soundtrack collection, The Beast Within turns the horror genre on its head, spins it around then drop-kicks it out of sight. Such bravery in film music feels unknown to me. Every note comes across as perfectly designed, mysterious and emotionally heightened. The central theme is one for the ages. Above all, Les Baxter one-ups key players such as Miklos Rozsa, Franz Waxman and Alfred Newman. Forget melodrama, this feels like the human condition expressed in musical terms both fresh and exciting.