FILM SCORE FRIDAY 4/19/02
By Scott Bettencourt
Intrada has released
the latest in their Special Collection series, Henry Mancini's charming
score to the 1976 Hitchcock-lite SILVER STREAK. The Intrada disc
includes the complete score in mono, plus all the available stereo cues.
One can only hope that this is the first of many unreleased Mancini
scores to emerge from the vaults. Mancini was the first household name
film composer (and still the only one besides John Williams) and had a
huge number of soundtracks released during his lifetime, but he felt that
no one would want to listen to the orchestral scores at home so his albums
tended to emphasize source cues.
Though traditionally associated with pop songs and jazz, Mancini was
a deft orchestral composer who worked in a wide variety of genres. One
of his most striking scores was for The Night Visitor (available
on CD from Citadel), a psychological thriller starring Max Von Sydow and
Liv Ullman, where Mancini used a deliberately mistuned piano to evoke the
protagonist's obsession and the forbidding wintry climate. Though the film
is still obscure, the music influenced such scores as Cliff Martinez's
The Limey and Danny Elfman's A Simple Plan.
If an enterprising label were to delve into the Mancini vaults, a good
place to start would be his score to the delightful Charade, whose
percussive action cues were completely absent from the source dominated
soundtrack. (And no, this isn't a hint about any future FSM releases. I
CDS AVAILABLE THIS WEEK
Enigma - John Barry - Decca/UMG
Panic Room - Howard Shore - Varese Sarabande
Pete's Dragon - Al Kasha & Joel Hirschorn - Disney
The Rescuers Down Under - Bruce Broughton - Disney
Silk Stockings - Cole Porter - Rhino/TCM
Silver Streak - Henry Mancini - Intrada
Who Framed Roger Rabbit - Alan Silvestri - Disney
IN THEATERS TODAY
Enigma - Score by John Barry - Available on Decca/UMG
Murder by Numbers - Score by Clint Mansell
My Big Fat Greek Wedding - Score by Chris Wilson and Alexander
The Scorpion King - Score by John Debney - Song Album on Decca/UMG
Triumph of Love - Score by Jason Osborn - Soundtrack on CAM
World Traveler - Score by Clint Mansell (again!) - Soundtrack
on Compendia available May 7th.
APTED PUPILS AND OTHER PAINFUL PUNS
On June 4th, Varese
Sarabande will release Marco Beltrami's score for the Wesley
Snipes vampire superhero sequel Blade II. Release dates for this
one had been ping-ponging all over the year, and it's reassuring that the
score has settled down with a nice, respectable soundtrack label like Varese.
On that same day, Varese will also release the score to Enough,
which reunites World Is Not Enough director Michael Apted with composer
David Arnold. The film is essentially a reworking of Sleeping
With the Enemy, with the twist that the abused wife (Jennifer Lopez,
in the Julia Roberts role) studies martial arts to fight back against her
stalker husband (Billy Campbell, truly cast against type).
The Varese website tells us that the Enough trailer is currently
"thrilling audiences." Well, thatís their story and they're sticking to
it. I only wish the film well, since one of my college friends is Mrs.
Michael Apted. (If you continue to read my columns, you'll quickly learn
that I went to college with pretty much everyone in the entertainment industry.)
Apted, whose many films include the shamefully underrated Firstborn,
is also represented on the big screen this year by the romantic thriller
Enigma (like Enough, a six letter title starting with EN
-- coincidence?), which is finally getting released in the U.S. this week.
Diehard score collectors have had the John Barry soundtrack for
months, featuring a lovely if somewhat familiar score reminiscent of Hanover
Street and Mercury Rising (fittingly enough, since Enigma's
about WWII codebreakers).
Another score that crossed the Atlantic to the U.S. long before the
movie it accompanied arrived on our shores is Esther Kahn, a strange
drama about a poor Jewish girl in turn-of-the-century London who becomes
an actress, which is currently playing in limited engagements. Howard
Shore's enigmatic music is wonderfully creepy in the context of the
movie, but the film is a puzzler, the story of an ostensibly great actress
played by an actress who seemingly can't act. But at least the score is
cool, and available on an import CD from the usual suspects.
And sorry, still no word on a Spider-Man score album.
ME AND SIR MALCOLM
As someone who can never hear enough about myself, I was thrilled to
log onto the FSM Message Board and find an entire thread
dedicated to me.
Okay, it's actually about Malcolm Arnold, but the thread was titled
"An Open Letter to Scott Bettencourt," so I can at least pretend that I'm
really Topic A.
From Guenther Koegebehn:
In the first place, I'm just thrilled that someone thinks of us as "the
leading film music magazine." To address this open letter point by point:
I am sorry to tell you, your remark
regarding Sir Malcolm and typical British bombast is utter nonsense.
Usually I wouldn't comment on such a thing, but coming from the
weekly column of the leading film music magazine I had to.
1. To call Malcolm Arnold's film music generally 'bombastic' shows
only that you don't know it at all.
What is remotely bombastic about scores like "The Sound Barrier",
"Hobson's Choice", "The Captain's Paradise", "The Inspector", "Whistle
Down the Wind", "No Love For Johnnie", "David Copperfield" etc... ???
2. Not even "Bridge on the River Kwai" is overly bombastic. Compare
it to war film scores by Herrmann, Waxman, Tiomkin, ...
The overture has what can be called bombastic qualities, and so
has the "River Kwai March" (not to be confused with the 'Colonel Bogey',
BTW). The "River Kwai March" is a parody of a military march and has to
contain an amount of 'bombast' for the lack of a better word. Perhaps Arnold
imitated the style too well, but if Arnold had made it even more obvious
the point would have been missed.
BTW, Arnold and many other British composers at the time had not
more than 60 men in the Orchestra, usually less. Not much to be "bombastic"
3. I don't find British film music to be bombastic at all. William
Alwyn, Benjamin Frankel, Sir William Walton, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Clifton
Parker, Brian Easdale, Sir Arthur Bliss, Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, Howard
Blake, John Barry, etc. I do not associate with bombast at all. And I think
most will agree here.
4. To name Sir Malcolm alongside David Arnold (no relation, thank
god) is insulting. Sir Malcolm plays in another league as a composer. I
won't even go the "all talented men" remark.
I hope you don't take the letter personally, Scott, but I felt a
different opinion was needed.
Malcolm Arnold Society Member
1. I agree, I don't know it all. I have most of Arnold's film music
CDs, but they don't exactly receive the heaviest rotation on my Discman.
However, I find Arnold's war scores to be very similar sounding, especially
to River Kwai.
2. Tiomkin bombastic? No kidding. Next you'll tell me Horner repeats
himself. However, I question your assertion that the size of an orchestra
has such an effect on a composer's capacity for bombast. I suspect one
can be plenty bombastic with 50 or even 40 musicians.
3. You donít find British film music to be bombastic at all? That's
your opinion, just as my less than exhaustively researched view
of Malcolm Arnold was mine.
You present a fine list of British composers, with many favorites of
mine. Richard Rodney Bennett is a wonderful talent, and his Gormenghast
is highly recommended, especially the gorgeous opening cue which I play
obsessively. I was especially tickled to read in his FSM interview that
his multiple piano theme to Billion Dollar Brain was inspired by
Michel Legrand's Bay of Angels, since I caught the re-release of
Angels recently and noticed that the theme sounded familiarly Brain-y.
John Barry is one of my all-time favorites and largely free of bombast,
except for that Black Hole march. And the climbing down the fire
ladder scene from View to a Kill.
4. I don't take the letter at all personally. I admit, I'm no expert
on Malcolm Arnold. And with all the endless arguments flying back and forth
online about composers like Horner and Zimmer, it's greatly encouraging
that people care enough about a composer like Malcolm Arnold to get upset.
From "Sir T."
Well, at least we are talking about REAL musicians here!
By the way, I am amazed that anyone could call Vaughan Williams' music
"bombastic". That being said, I usually enjoy Scott's style.
Thank you for enjoying my style. I enjoy it too, way too much in
fact as you all have probably noticed by now. But I never called Vaughan
Williams bombastic. I specifically listed the British composers I found
to be bombastic -- the Arnold brothers (sorry, but it's easier to lump
them together, and if he makes enough money he'll be "Sir David Arnold"
someday), Bernard, Goodwin, Lewis, and Scott. And now that I think of it,
I'd have to add Patrick Doyle. And maybe George Fenton, if only for Final
I do agree that Scott has the potential to be a technically
skilled writer and his voice is welcome in FSM. However, his analytic acumen
is another matter. In particular, his representation of Sir Malcolm Arnold,
and other British composers as 'bombastic' [the identity politics of stereotyping,
if anyone needs an example) is just so much piffle.
Hey, I said I didnít bag on Vaughan Williams. Vaughan Williams rocks.
I said I found "a lot of British film music" to be bombastic. I didn't
say all of it. I didnít even say half of it. Just "a lot."
Regrettably, Scott (who would never listen to the bombast of SCOTT
OF ANTARTICA) --
From Ron Pulliam:
The best way to communicate your displeasure with Mr. Bettencourt
-- who to my knowledge has NEVER implied that he knew everything -- is
to send your grievance to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I believe him to be solid and dependable and, after all, he is only
stating "his" opinion.
If he wanted to state yours, the byline would read "by [insert your
That said, I find Malcolm Arnold's music a bit of a hard listen.
Not so much for being bombastic, which it can be, but if you subtract the
Main Title to "River Kwai" plus the non-Arnold "Colonel Bogey March" you
don't have much left that's memorable. I find Arnold sounds pretty much
the same from score to score and, as such, he's pretty dreary listening
That's my bad. But it's me and mine, not anybody else's.
And before you go all floopy on me, I never said I knew everything,
Thank you, Ron. And no, "Ron Pulliam" isn't a pseudonym for "Scott
Bettencourt." I'd like to think that I am not, to use Lukas's wonderful
phrase, an "opinion bully." But if I am, please let me know.
I'm not going to reprint every post here, but things soon began to
heat up. Guenther Koegebehn offers a further defense of Arnold:
Malcolm certainly was not after selling soundtrack LPs.
But "Kwai" is one of the best selling soundtrack LPs of all time. To my
knowledge it was never out of print during the lifetime of the LP. And
since then we had three issues of the OST on CD.
Furthermore he had some 45 pop chart successes with film score arragements
(done by others) The Kwai Marches, "Lola's Theme" from Trapeze, the themes
from "Inn of the Sixth Happiness" and the main theme from "Whistle Down
Name another leading *classical* composer of the 20th century who
made the pop charts...
While Ron Pulliam dives back into the water:
Let's be perfectly h-o-n-e-s-t about the real reason "Bridge
on the River Kwai" was a best-selling "soundtrack" album.
It wasn't Arnold's compositions that attracted the public's admiration,
it was "The Colonel Bogey March" -- one of the most inspired uses of music
in a film -- written long before "Kwai" by Kenneth Alford.
Arnold won his Oscar on the back of Alford's march and the film's
sweep at the Oscars.
Anyone who believes otherwise is an ostrich.
Tom DeMary chimes in:
I too thought Bettencourt's remark was off the mark about
Malcolm Arnold and bombast. With the flak he is getting, perhaps he will
explain further. Generally speaking though, I doubt he and I would much
disagree about what to listen to if we were confined to a panic room with
only one CD player and a large set of soundtracks.
Ah, now we're playing "Desert Island Discs," or in this case, "Panic
Room Playlist." I'd have to vote for Star Trek: The Motion Picture,
Alien, The Great Train Robbery, Planet of the Apes,
Twilight Zone: The Movie, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, Empire
of the Sun, The Accidental Tourist, Diamonds Are Forever
and The Golden Voyage of Sinbad. To name a few.
From Michael Ware:
Maybe it's best not to have an opinion. That would make
Right on. So from now on, everything I say will be strictly factual.
From Laurent Watteau:
I highly recommend Mr Bettencourt Arnold's String Quartets
(OK, that's not film music, but it's probably relevant about HIS style
). I think he could never describe Arnold's style as "bombastic".
Hey, man, don't ever dare me. I might start calling Georges Delerue
bombastic, just to be contrary. Mr. Watteau inquires about the Malcolm
Arnold Society, and Mr. Koegebehn provides the following address:
Mr.Keith Llewellyn (Hon Sec)
6, Walton Street,
From Matt Perkins:
Scott Bettencourt's original sweeping statement about "typical
Arnold bombast" and most British film music in general being bombastic
is obviously very daft and I won't bother too much with it (specially since
Guenther has already dealt with most of the inaccuracies earlier). I'm
sure Scott's comments are based on lack of knowledge more than anything
else (can you imagine, though, the uproar on this board is somebody made
such a dismissive remark about "most" American film music??)
Jeez, I said "a lot of British film music," not "most." There is
a difference. After this, a debate sprung up over which classical composers
made the pop charts, whether Horner could be considered a classical composer,
and whether Mr. Koegebehn's frequent references to "Sir" Malcolm Arnold
were perhaps a bit pompous.
"Boadicea" charmingly added:
I really hope this thread does not degenerate into cultural
rivalry between things Anglo and American. It was done much better in A
FISH CALLED WANDA.
There followed some bickering about the use of psuedonyms on the
board, and then Arthur Grant came to my defense.
I am sorry to tell you, your remark regarding Sir Malcolm and
typical British bombast is utter nonsense."
If this is true then why do you go on to say: "The overture has
what can be called bombastic qualities and so has the 'River Kwai March'"....and
then go on to explain "The River Kwai March is a parody of a military march
and has to contain an amount of 'bombast' for the lack of a better word."
"Me thinks me lady protesteth too much".
Regards, Arthur (my real name)
I hope you readers will forgive my devoting so much space to this,
but there are plenty more posts in the series, and frankly there wasn't
all that much film music news to discuss today so I had to fill the column
Sir Scott Bettencourt.
P.S. Just when I was about to put the column to bed, I found this letter
in the mailbag. Deservedly, its author gets the last word.
From: "Guenther Koegebehn" <email@example.com>
Subject: That cursed open letter
Dear Scott and Lukas,
I am sorry for creating such a monster over at the FSM board. This
was hardly what I intended. I just wanted to state a qualified different
opinion. Perhaps my remarks regarding David Arnold were too emotional and
not very qualified, but that's how I feel about him.
Well, perhaps I should write an article for FSM called "The Curse
of the River Kwai." !
all the best,