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This is a comments thread about FSM CD: Never So Few/7 Women
 Posted:   May 15, 2010 - 1:46 PM   
 By:   Yavar Moradi   (Member)

This was one of the older FSM titles I wasn't able to afford at the time it came out, but I recently got around to buying it with a Screen Archives gift certificate several months ago. I strongly urge everyone who doesn't have this release to get it. 7 Women is a superb score by Elmer Bernstein. Even moreso than Bridge at Remagen (which I just posted about) it seems like Elmer has so many powerful ideas in the score, that musically it should be twice as long (it's only just over half an hour as dictated by the film's needs). And this score has so much diversity. It's got pulse-pounding action theme Elmer, oriental Elmer, delicate Elmer, psycological Elmer, jazzy Elmer, tragic Elmer, you name it. All of his strong points are here and spotlighted at various times. Don't go into this score just expecting one thing. I initially did based on viewing the film's main title on YouTube and I was at first disappointed that it wasn't a half-hour of Bernstein action. I got over it on the second listen though and if anything the other stuff is even better.

By the way: unlike The Bridge at Remagen, which was a UA title (and thus had some sound problems because an archival tape from Bernstein's collection was the only source), this release is from FSM's longstanding relationship with MGM. That means FANTASTIC SOUND QUALITY in case anyone was wondering, and if people are picky about sound quality, I'd recommend they get this one instead of Remagen.

I almost forgot to mention Friedhofer's Never So Few. This is a worthy score as well but a bit unbalanced as played complete in film order (says the little bit of Thor in me). The first track is INCREDIBLE and one of the best Friedhofer ever wrote. I play it over and over because of the exotic and powerful mood it sets. Seriously -- you guys HAVE to listen to the sample track at FSM's page if you don't own this one. Sadly the main title music is never repeated again in the score, and music similar to it is only represented by a few short cues scattered through. There is some brief but excellent psycological scoring, most notably Death and Reprisal.

I really wish Friedhofer had been able to apply his material to a different and better film, because the vast bulk of the score (and apparently film) is taken up by a love theme (and love story), repeated over and over. Friedhofer's talent at variation is evident, but it's too much and it feels totally unlike the best parts of the score. It's like a Golden Age Hollywood love theme in the middle of a Silver Age war score (except that it seems like it's over half the score). Don't get me wrong. It's Friedhofer and it's a *good* theme. It just really wears out its welcome (especially when I'm waiting to hear more music like the main title). In my imaginary perfect film score world it would've only been in two or three tracks and instead the main title theme (and rhythmic elements) would have pervaded the majority of the score. Anybody else feel the same way?

Oh, one last thing...some of Friedhofer's track titles are HILARIOUS (Bernstein's are just ordinary stuff):
Like Man, It's a Bad Scene
Danny Goofs Off (read the liner notes for context)
Like Wow! (Frank Sinatra stumbling upon the main female bathing)
and the Charles Wolcott-composed Kachin Koncerto, of course.


 Posted:   May 15, 2010 - 4:51 PM   
 By:   vinylscrubber   (Member)

Yavar, the problem with NEVER SO FEW is an offshoot of the film's plot structure. There are many exotic and exciting sequences throughout the first three quarters of the film, gorgeously scored by Friedhofer, but the final quarter is taken up with the Sinatra character facing court martial for some "in the field justice" he has ordered after the massacre of American troops by supposedly friendly Chinese troops. Aside from one short romantic reunion scene there is virtually no underscore for this dialogue heavy (although effective) section until the end title. This gives the impression that the score is rather abruptly resolved after some really interesting score for the bulk of the film.

I didn't realize this I heard the score on the FSM disk, divorced from the film, and it's always left me feeling somewhat "unfulfilled" at the end. It's still well worth getting and, yes, the Bernstein 7 WOMEN is wonderful.

 Posted:   May 22, 2010 - 11:19 AM   
 By:   Graham S. Watt   (Member)

Right on! Thumbs up for this one-two! I like the Bernstein a lot, but I always felt it was "a bit bitty", a problem I have with a lot of Bernstein. Still, it's good, but the Friedhofer is the real attraction here. As mentioned, the Main Theme is just splendid, and there are a lot of beautiful little exotic touches throughout. I agree that the Love Theme is too dominant however, and it always struck me as strange that Friedhofer could write love themes as unsentimental and forward-looking as the ones he wrote for THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES and ABOVE AND BEYOND years before NEVER SO FEW, which in comparison seems like complete corn.

I've just realised that my "positive" contribution reads very "negatively", so here's the thumbs up sign!

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