Still no legitimate CD release for Raymond Leppard's magnificent score for the David Hemmings/ Michael York movie, ALFRED THE GREAT. The score did have a brief, limited release on the MGM label and certainly in the UK, became one of the most sought after (and expensive) LP's ever. A German bootleg did appear some years ago, but ommitted some of the best cues. Why one of the various labels hasn't picked this superb score up is a mystery. Leppard also scored LORD OF THE FLIES, but to the best of my knowledge, that was the sum total of his output.
I simply can't undertand the vilification this film gets from many quarters.
It's a flawed film for sure, but some of the contemporary criticisms don't hold up in retrospect. Sometimes a concept finds its true expression in a historical context, maybe after revisionism. At the time, critics all said in unison (if not 'follow the leader') that the dialogue was flawed, that the film didn't 'find the way they talked', a concern Howard Hawks had on 'Land of the Pharaohs'.
With hindsight, the dialogue is actually excellent, it's 'period' not to some long gone era of the Anglo-Saxons of Wessex, but of the 1960s, a kind of post-Beatles cheeky left-wing dialogue (the whole film is very left-wing, the Danes are the parasitic fascists, and Alf 'gets by with a little help from his friends', the bandits and common people).
It's very psychologically well made too, a hero-hubris story, Alfred only wins through and regains parts of his kingdom when he regains parts of the rejected aspects of himself. And it's religious in the best way too. Very authentic looking, with great battle choreography.
Leppard's score is sublime. The album and the b[censored]g contain most of the score, but a few good cues are missing, like King Buared's arrival at Mercia, and the battle manoeuvres.
I suspect it's a better film on paper than in execution. The symbolism in that opening scene is very straightforward: the minute the shepherd and his Bo-Peep get sexual in their bucolic idyll, the prow of the dragon-ship appears, a recurrent theme in the film as Alf later tries to become a priest and suppress his sexuality which then becomes a battle-lust.
Interesting to see our Thor's ancestors portrayed... though actually these are Danes, not Norwegians.
I would love to see this score issued on a legitimate CD as well. It is one of my "holy grails" so to speak.
I cannot stop without mentioning that, being from Indianapolis, I had many opportunities to see Leppard conduct the local orchestra.
I even walked past him on my 'walk around the circle on my way to lunch' just as he was apparently doing. I wanted to stop and greet him, but thought better of it, and let him pass.
He was a fine conductor for that orchestra, especially when they began playing in the old UA theater (on the Indy Circle) with it's warm and intimate dynamics. Leppard was able to bring his love of Sibelius and Haydn to those of us in the audience.
I always thought it was a shame that he had to leave his native country for a job. But I'm certain that he realized the love the city had for him. He is now retired, but also 'conductor lauriate of the ISO.
Somebody, bring me ALFRED THE GREAT. How can it be that difficult?