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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 only wish.)


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 Janko
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:

Dear Scott,

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" with.

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.

regards,
Guenther Koegebehn
Malcolm Arnold Society Member
 

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:

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 Analysis.

From "Boadicea":

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.

Regrettably, Scott (who would never listen to the bombast of SCOTT OF ANTARTICA) --

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."

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 mailbag@filmscoremonthly.com.

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 name here]".

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 for me.

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, either.


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 the Wind".

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 everyone happy.


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,
Barnsley,
South Yorkshire
S75 2PE
England

http://www.musicweb.uk.net/arnold/arnold.htm


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.

"Dear Scott,

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 with something.

Regards,
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" <guenther@koegebehn.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,
Guenther Koegebehn


MailBag@filmscoremonthly.com


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