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Film Score Friday 8/18/00

by Lukas Kendall

Percepto Records' new Ronald Stein doubleheader CD: The Haunted Palace/Premature Burial, from the AIP vaults, is now available. See their website at www.percepto.com.

Percepto is presently assembling a promotional CD for Vic Mizzy which will -- at long last -- compile many of the composer's classic '60s film and TV themes. Represented titles will include The Ghost And Mr. Chicken, The Caper Of The Golden Bulls, A Very Special Favor, The Night Walker, Did You Hear The One About The Traveling Saleslady?, The Shakiest Gun In The West, The Spirit Is Willing, The Perils Of Pauline, The Reluctant Astronaut, The Love God?, Don't Make Waves, The Busy Body & How To Frame A Figg. TV themes include The Addams Family, Green Acres and many more! This CD is being produced by Vic Mizzy and Taylor White for Percepto Records and will be available in limited quantities to collectors in late September.

Percepto's second commercial release is another Ronald Stein doubleheader: Invasion of the Saucer Men/It Conquered the World.

Supergirl DVD

I bought the new 2-DVD Supergirl release from Anchor Bay and it's fantastic to see the DVD medium being utilized so successfully. DVD-1 has the 124-minute international release of the movie plus commentary a ton of extras (including a 50-minute documentary on the making of the film from 1984) while DVD-2 has a whoppingly overlong 138-minute "director's cut" -- completely finished -- never before seen.

Here are my observations upon watching the 138-minute cut:

1) This movie is terrible! It's whoppingly stupid. My colleague Jeff Bond's best observations: She's just a girl so she only gets to fight a tractor? Plus, instead of a Luthor and an Otis, the bad guys (girls?) are two Otises.

2) Helen Slater is very attractive but plays it like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz -- boring.

3) Look for lame early product placement attempts with A&M root beer (several soda machines, Matt Frewer's T-shirt).

4) The flying effects are relatively well done. Superman IV was the real stinker in this regard.

5) Jeannot Szwarc is a bad director of big-budget spectacle. The movie takes forever to get over beats that should move quickly. No wonder they had such problems cutting it down for the international and U.S. cuts. As Sergio Leone said, when you take a long movie and cut it down, you don't get a shorter movie -- you get a long movie with stuff missing.

6) It is hard to make an English set of a small Midwest town look like a real small Midwest town.

7) The Jerry Goldsmith of 1984 had around three times the energy of Jerry Goldsmith of 2000. The music is hard-pressed to replicate the American essence of Williams's music for Superman but is an able counterpart for a much weaker take on the comics mythology. Rhythmically Goldsmith goes in a very different direction from Williams -- who based his entire Superman score on a SUP-er-man! triplet figure -- with a slower, steadier triplet-related motive that's almost pomp-and-circumstance. The synth effects are dated but tolerable but it's the overall energy of the score that is fantastic. Goldsmith did his homework for his Star Trek: The Motion Picture - Poltergeist - Twilight Zone era of writing and the orchestra becomes hugely explosive a la Ravel and Stravinsky. Listen to any passage and it's full of symphonic counterpoint and color the likes of which he barely utilizes today. A real treat.

8) What else to say? A bad movie that misses opportunities right and left as far as the Super-mythology -- secret identities, super powers and so forth. Supergirl never has to integrate into the girls school or into local society so there's little real conflict. Plus they make the classic superhero movie mistake where powers are introduced with no notice to solve dramatic problems. Just idiotic. And I'm an idiot who loves this $40 DVD! Woohoo! Check out the great storyboards in the extras menu.

Bond Question

From: <bjnichol@usa.net> Brian Nichols:

    I read in your most recent issue that Jerry Goldsmith scored music for the 1950's television show Climax! Although I am a soundtrack enthusiast in general, my real passion is James Bond. The very first appearance of the character on TV or movies was on the show Climax!, as they produced an hour-long version of Casino Royale. Do you know if Jerry Goldsmith scored this episode. If not, do you know who did? Finally, do you know if the score, or any portions of it, are in print, and how it could be purchased?

Good question! I asked TV music expert Jon Burlingame who says that -- to his knowledge -- the '50s Casino Royale show was tracked with music from the CBS library. In other words, there was no original score. It's possible some Goldsmith selections were used from the library along with who knows what else.

2001: Can You Believe It's Four Months Away?

From: Les Jepson <LJepson@GDEngineering.co.uk>

    Although I don't make a habit of playing rejected scores while watching the film for which they were intended (I find the process tedious), I do agree with Karl Scott that doing so with Alex North's "2001..." score is worth the effort.

    I have been a fan of Stanley Kubrick, Alex North, and Arthur C. Clarke since the 1950s. I regard them as the greatest exponents of their respective fields: film making, film composing, and science fiction writing.

    In the late 60s I heard a strong rumour that Kubrick had completed a picture in collaboration with Clarke and that North was doing the score. Imagine my disappointment a few weeks later when I saw the film. I thought the rumour must have been just that, a rumour. Then I learned it was true but that Kubrick had rejected North's score in favour of the temp tracks. I had to wait until 1993 to hear it, and before long I played the CD to the film. "2001..." is perfect for this because most of North's music was intended to play against no dialogue and not much in the way of sound effects; so the film sound can be turned off altogether without any serious detriment. A lot of the cues do synchronize well with the film, indicating that North saw near-to-finalized edits. It's not that which concerns me, however; I find the mood his music imparts is much more interesting.

    In his novel, Clarke makes a point at the outset of telling the reader that the apes are in decline: there is a chronic, widespread drought and the apes, being specialized herbivores, are on the verge of extinction. In Kubrick's film this major point is not immediately apparent (I know it is in hindsight, but put yourself back in 1968, seeing it for the first time with no preconceived notions). The film has no music for these scenes; we just see the apes grubbing about and having the occasional altercation with tapirs, leopards, and other apes. Just a natural history documentary sans narration. North's doom-laden cues, "The Foraging" and "The Dawn of Man", which are apparently alternative cues for the same opening sequence, provide the missing information perfectly.

    But by far the most important cue in North's score is the brief "Night Terrors". This was written for the scene where the apes have turned in for the night and are huddled in a shallow cave. Clarke, in the novel, gives us a strong hint that incredibly advanced extraterrestrials are just outside the cave erecting the monolith (which will shortly make the apes omnivorous, more bad-tempered, and generally better adapted to survive the drought). In the film we hear a big cat growling in the near distance and an insomniac ape looking worried. Again, Kubrick used no music for this vitally important scene, and no non-prehistoric sound effects to give his viewers a clue. North's subdued and unsettlingly orchestrated music informs the viewer that the ape is not merely concerned about the leopard; he senses something far stranger going on just outside.

    Nowhere in Cinema is custom-built music (the "cement", as Bernard Herrmann called it) required more than in the pre-monolith scenes of "2001...". Perhaps Kubrick thought we would absorb these narrative signposts by osmosis. Even if he had to reject most of North's score for the sake of his beloved temp tracks, he should have retained "Night Terrors", or at least used some emotive sound to preface what the next morning would bring. Either that, or he was being deliberately cryptic and wanted his audience to be as gobsmacked and mystified as the apes were when they woke up.

I think Kubrick was being deliberately cryptic. 2001 has been discussed innumerable times amongst film music fans and Jeff Bond had the best take on it: Alex North's score would have made 2001 a great science fiction film, but Kubrick's classical choices make it transcend the medium itself.

Leonard Maltin 2CD Set

See the CD review earlier this week:

From: "Karl Scott" <karlcharlotte@earthlink.net>

    Leonard has become a movie media mogul. I have no doubt he has seen zillions of films but if you check the contributor list in his guides you will find he is not writing or reviewing all the material enclosed. The names of the contributors on the cover would not help sell the book. That he is a film music fan I have no doubt. His expertise may be another matter. I think what he is doing is more in line of a product endorsement than a true labor of love. I doubt he had much to do with the selection of the pieces for this album but followed the practical demand to feed the interests of the mass audience. He is trying to sell CDs nothing more nothing less. Nothing wrong with that but let's not mistake what is going on here. And I need another suite from Titanic like I need to run my car into an iceberg.

From: <mdperkins@ftnetwork.com> Matt Perkins

    That Leonard Maltin collection with the Prague high-school band sounds dire. It's distressing that other labels other than Silva Screen are now foisting cruddy cover albums of perfectly good scores as mutilated by these Czech loonies. Why does Jason Comerford give the album a three-star rating if it's so crap (he slags off practically all the tracks on it, with good reason I'm sure). I'll stick with the originals, thanks.

    P.S. Credit where credit's due:- I should add that I loved Kilar's "Ninth Gate" music, which was beautifully performed by the aforementioned orchestra - so why do they sound so crap when they do re-recordings? I accept that we automatically compare them to the orig recordings but that's no excuse when you're asking hard-up film-score desperadoes like me to shell out at least 15 hard-earned English quid for a duff album.

    P.P.S. Many congratulations Lukas and all the other guys on your first 10 years -ignore your boring detractors (including a certain humourless and seemingly rather rude pony-tailed genius who shall remain nameless) who are somehow intimidated by people with forthright opinions (even if they're informed and laced with wit, as yours are) - you blow all the other soundtrack mags out of the water.

Thanks!

I need to defend Leonard Maltin on this. I won't defend the City of Prague orchestra rushing through film music, but I will defend Leonard. We know him and he has always been very helpful and considerate. He called us when he was working on this project and from what I recall he was concerned about its reception by soundtrack aficionados. We helped him with some research information and also listened to his reasoning with his selections -- a couple of which he felt were idiosyncratic (like the Caleb Sampson piece) but which he chose out of genuine interest.

His Critic's Choice release was always meant for a mainstream audience and not necessarily soundtrack buffs who are intimately discerning about original vs. re-recorded tracks. But Leonard works hard on everything that has his name on it and isn't some moneygrubber trying to exploit his fame. I think that's why he never agreed to do one of these albums before. Anyway, criticize the album, but please hold your fire re: Mr. Maltin.

Link

Cinemusic, a German-language online film music magazine, has reviewed several of our FSM CDs. Here's the link: http://www.cinemusic.de/2000/fsmcds.php3

Have a super weekend!

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