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Film Score Friday 9/1/00

by Lukas Kendall

Mark you calendars! November 7th is the release date for Sony Classical's 2CD set release of the complete score to Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace (John Williams) -- all the music in chronological order, 65 cues / 2+ hours in all.

A correction to Tuesday's review of the recent John Williams concert at the Hollywood Bowl (August 18-19) -- the concert was not performed by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra but by the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Warners Japan has postponed indefinitely their CD issues of Under Fire and Twilight Zone: The Movie (both Jerry Goldsmith) -- we'll have further info as we can get it from our friends in the Far East.

Musicals fans: Rhino is issuing on November 21 three classic soundtracks from the MGM archives: Annie Get Your Gun, The Unsinkable Molly Brown and Hit the Deck.

Jerry Goldsmith is writing an original score for a new attraction at Disney's California Adventure, a second Disney theme park in Southern California scheduled to open February 8, 2001. The attraction is called "Soarin' Over California" in which guests are placed into seats and lowered into a theater with an inverted 80 foot dome. There they will have the experience of flying over sights of California including the Golden Gate Bride, Napa Valley, Yosemite Valley, L.A. etc. There will be smells wafted through the theater associated with the areas. Thanks to Karl Scott for the info (I just quoted some of his info verbatim).

Mail Bag

From: "Les Jepson" <lizzycoxe99@hotmail.com>

    I apologize to Steven Jongeward if I didn't make myself clear in my original letter. My intention was only to compare the film of "2001" with the book, no matter which appeared first, and argue the case for Alex North's rejected music. I am well aware that the screenplay of "2001" and the novel were written in conjunction, and that the film came out before the novel was published. In fact, the novel was completed before the film. It is well known that Kubrick kept stalling Clarke's wish to publish so that the film would be released first, and therefore not appear as a film of the book.

    I think that Kubrick took a very simple plot and tried to make it seem more complex than it was by being obscure. Ambiguity does not necessarily equate with depth. At the first New York preview the Star Child's eyes gazed at the backs of the audience as it shuffled prematurely towards the exits. Kubrick trimmed nineteen minutes: shorter but no more understandable. It was only after the second wave of reviews that the film started to get favourable, if somewhat puzzled, write-ups. Then people started seeing the film while stoned and the upward trend really kicked in. Suddenly "2001" was "hip." We got all the rejigged "Ultimate Trip" posters, the "transcendental" et al adjectives, the "it asks for groovin', not understanding" statements, and the "well, Stanley always intended it to be a subjective experience rather than an objective one" apologists.

    Make no mistake, for a moment "2001" teetered on the edge of disaster, but managed to fall the right way. No wonder that Mel Brooks' "The Producers" fared better with the screenplay nominations. That film was in questionable taste, but was at least comprehensible.

    My original point was that Kubrick's narrative technique in the prehistoric scenes is flawed, unlike Clarke's novel which informs by the simplest of means. Check out the night scene -- if Kubrick had used Clarke's device in that it would have been unforgettable, but he didn't. I reiterate: Alex North, superb musical dramatist that he was, evidently noticed the flaw and was correct in trying to put some mortar between Kubrick's bricks.

From: "Randy Derchan" <rderchan@visualdatainc.com>

    Three cheers to Jason Comerford for the wonderful and much deserved reviews of both of the Schifrin scores, "The Fox" and "Bullet". I am glad they were not overlooked. Also, well written music reviews for a change. I can actually picture (or realize in my head) some of the music when I read the descriptions. That is a problem with so many other film score reviews. A lot of techno garbage that doesn't translate well to the written word. I am a well trained musician and composer and I still get lost in what some people are talking about.

    Musical transition translates well through emotional description, at least that is what I think..

From: Kirk Henderson <kirksworks@home.com>

    I think Monsterous Movie Music's new release, The Creature from the Black Lagoon (and other jungle pictures) is worth a few words. Aside from the music from the MGM Tarzan films, by composers such as Stothart, Axt and Amfitheatrof, among others, the two other scores represented here, Creature From the Black Lagoon and The Alligator People, are by composers who worked at the Universal music "factory," during the 1950s. These include Iving Gertz (who wrote Alligator), and Herman Stein, Henry Mancini, Hans Salter, Milton Rosen, and Robert Emmett Dolan, the last group of whom did the score to the Creature. I am not as familiar with the Tarzan or the Alligator People scores as I am with the Creature score, but I can say this new recording of the Creature pretty much blows all previous rerecordings out of the water (or lagoon, I should say). That these recordings were done in Russia by an orchestra unfamiliar with the films goes to show that it is the producers and conductors that makes or breaks these new recordings. Not only did producers David Schecter and Kathleen Mayne really capture that authentic Universal sound, the vitality of the performance is amazingly authentic. Mayne herself restored the music. Just listen to the cymbol crashes in the Main Title. First time they've had that much noticable impact since the original recording, but now we're hearing it in full stereo! The Creature score takes up the lion's share of the disc at 35 minutes and is a moody, imaginative work, interlaced with quiet lyrical passages that represent some of the underwater sequences, to the raging three note Creature theme that recurs in numerous variations throughout. The score has real sweep. It beautifully paints a jungle locale, draws us in with some beautifully pensive cues, and also includes some exceptional action music. Yet, this score has always been considered the weak stepchild to some of the great Hollywood fantasy scores like Steiner's King Kong or Herrmann's The Day the Earth Stood Still. The Creature is just as strong in its own way, however, and I believe the reason it's been given short shrift is because it was composed by a team rather than a single composer. The Creature score feels like a wholy integrated work, with all the composers working as a single, unified force. Does the fact that this score was written by a team rather than a single composer suggest we should take this music less seriously? And that it was repackaged and reused again and again by the Universal movie factory for years after, is that another reason to consider it a lesser product? Sure, this score got a lot of mileage following its first appearance, even finding its way into the trailer for Hammer's 1962 version of The Phantom of the Opera! But its a remarkably effective and memorable work, with Herman Stein's Creature theme of three rising notes being almost the inverse of the three descending notes of Steiner's King Kong theme. That sort of bold and savage simplicity wouldn't be achieved with such success again until John Willliams' Jaws theme in 1975. This Monsterous Movie Music release of The Creature from the Black Lagoon finally reveals what a terrific score it really is. Much thanks to David Schecter, Kathleen Mayne and conductor Masatoshi Mitsumoto for a job well done.

Links

Visit John Ottman's official website (www.johnottman.com) for a new contest in which you can win an autographed poster, CD, etc. Ottman's directorial debut, Urban Legends: Final Cut, opens September 22; Ottman also wrote the score, out September 12.

The LA Times had an article on Christopher Young -- but with an unusual angle. It's about his collection of Halloween and Christmas items filling his studio. Check it out: http://www.latimes.com/communities/news/westside/20000825/tws0001300.html

Music review site Open Up and Say had a comprehensive look at our Beneath the Planet of the Apes CD: http://www.openupandsay.com/reviews/chrislawless/vas_planetoftheapes1.cfm

OK, enough labor! Have a great Labor Day weekend.

MailBag@filmscoremonthly.com


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