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  • First Knight - Jerry Goldsmith - Soundtrack Review

    The Last Knight is one of the typical last minute replacements Jerry Goldsmith did in the last year of his career. Another one was Wolfgang Peterson’s Air Force One (1997) with additional music by Joel McNeely. Arthur’s Farewell, the music for the final battle, is an astonishing piece of music and one of the best tracks Goldsmith composed in the last days of his year. The movie First Knight is a 1995 medieval film based on Arthurian legend, directed by Jerry Zucker. It stars Sean Connery as King Arthur, Richard Gere as Lancelot, Julia Ormond as Guinevere and Ben Cross as Malagant. The movie tried to tell the famous story through a new perspective. The film follows Lancelot's romance with Lady Guinevere of Leonesse, who is to marry King Arthur of Camelot, while the land is threatened by the renegade knight Malagant. Screenwriter William Nicholson deleted the magical elements of the story around Merlin and emphasized the human and political elements of the story. Furthermore, the main character Lancelot was changed from a highborn knight to a poor but brave fighter. Here is the trailer: James Bond Regisseur Terence Young should direct the movie but died in 1994. Therefore, David Zucker who was involved as producer took over the direction. Costume designer Nana Cecchi who had a background in opera production followed Zucker’s direction to create costumes that were clean and theatrical. The film earned a domestic gross of $37 million and $90 million in foreign markets, but critics were not happy with the cast, especially Julia Ormond, and a lack of romance in the movie. The music Maurice Jarre was first hired to compose the music but he had four weeks to do a 90 minutes score for the original three-hour cut and turned the offer down. David Zucker then approached Goldsmith, and he had only three and half day to record the music! The director praised Goldsmith: “I loved Jerry personally and he was the perfect guy to do this movie.” Goldsmith said in an interview years ago that he always wanted to score a Robin Hood movie but The Wind and The Lion (1975) was the closest he could get. The astonishing quality of this score might be also a result of this long wish of the composer, and he perhaps considered The First Knight as his personally Robin Hood movie. Zucker gave another heart-warming inside about his collaboration with Jerry: “For a brilliant composer, Jerry didn’t have much of an ego. He was very sweet, kind of humble guy. Sometimes you can deal with a composer and these guys are all child prodigies and extraordinary brilliant, and they can get a little uppity about having their music rejected or changed, but Jerry would just say “Well, how about something like this, or let’s try it this way.” We got along and even when I‘m working on a drama I try not to lose my sense of humor and I would try to poke fun and make jokes, and he had a great sense of humor and a great laugh. I remember we had a big laugh because I was asking him about why he did something that I said wasn’t authentic – I said “You can’t do that!” and he said “It’s poetic licence” and I said I was revoking his poetic licence. We were laughing about that a lot and he kept telling everybody the had his poetic licence revoke. He was really wonderful.” Jerry Goldsmith summarized his feeling about this movie shortly after the release: “I don’t mind doing the action things, I just don’t like a steady diet of it. It’s more interesting for me to try and write music that gets inside people, and First Knight was perfect because I had all the romance and all that splendor and also enough action. Generally action scores are sort of fun to write, fun to record, but when you come right down to it people don’t really pay that much attention. Whereas First Knight, I can’t go out in the morning without people coming up and saying how much they liked it.” The soundtrack is composed in a classical tradition. Goldsmith’s theme for Camelot is a majestic theme heard in the first track called The Legend of Camelot. Horns in combination with the strings are playing this wonderful theme for the first time in the music. Here is the Camelot theme: Track 6 called Camelot is another epic version of this main theme and one of the highlights of the score. Track 2 Raid on Leonesse is the first action track in the score, a lot of the material can be heard in the music to the showdown in the end. Track 4 Does It Please You / Look At Me is one of the most beautiful arrangements of the Guinevere theme in the music. Track 11 Boat Trip is another action highlight of the score as Guinevere is kidnapped. This track is composed in the busy Goldsmith action music style! Track 16 A New Life (Lancelot accepts Arthur’s commission to become a knight of the Round Table) is another highlight of the score with its rich variation of the various themes and end with the wonderful music for Arthur’s wedding! Track 18 Night Battle is a fabulous action track composed in a march style with a heavy emphasis on the brass section. Some material used in this scene again was used in the great finale, but what this track so good is the specific use of the trombones who growl two notes and then grind upward in their own glissando against the rhythm of the strings. Arthur’s Farewell (Track 22) is the best track of the score. This over 5 minute action piece brings the action music to a powerful end with its mixture of Choir and Orchestra, a masterpiece that stands out not only in this soundtrack, it stands out in Goldsmith career as one of the best tracks the composer ever wrote. Unfortunately, in the movie the music is so low that you cannot really appreciate the power of the music! Goldsmith explained that this piece might never have been written: “They put Carmina Burana over it. They also used that in Excalibur. The schedule got a little bit hairy and so they were talking about keeping Carmina Burana and me going and rerecording it. I almost agreed because I was so pressed. I’m glad I didn’t.” I found a great live performance of the track conducted by the German conductor Ulf Schirmer. You can compare it with Jerry's music on the CD: Never Surrender features again the Camelot theme after the battle. Guinevere sits at Arthur’s deathbed, and the King gives Camelot, Guinevere and Excalibur in Lancelot’s hands. The music erupts to the last farewell and Arthur’s funeral. The music expressed Arthur’s idea that Camelot will live on, and therefore, Camelot Lives brings the album to an end. What Jerry Goldsmith achieved with First Knight is not only astonishing if you consider the production pressure of the music, Goldsmith created a timeless majestic theme and a score that can be used as an example what film music can really achieve. I found a nice performance conducted by the passionate Diego Navarto:

  • How to steal a Mio? – John Williams – Soundtrack Review

    John Williams is mostly known for his collaboration with Steven Spielberg and George Lucas and for his fantastic music for the Star Wars-Series and Indiana Jones, but John Williams composed also the music for some comedies, and I want to talk today about one of them. The movie “How to Steal a Million” is a 1966 American heist comedy film directed by William Wyler and starring Audrey Hepburn, Peter O'Toole, and Eli Wallach. The film is set and was filmed in Paris, though the characters speak entirely in English. Here is the trailer: The plot is a typical Audrey Hepburn comedy, but in my opinion a really good one. Wallach plays the Paris art collector Charles Bonnet and sells fake famous artists' paintings. His disapproving daughter, Nicole, constantly fears that he will be caught. Late one night at their mansion, Nicole encounters a burglar, Simon Dermott (O’Toole), holding her father's forged "Van Gogh". She threatens him with an antique gun that accidentally fires and slightly wounding his arm. For an important exhibition, Charles is lending his renowned "Cellini" Venus statuette that was actually sculpted by his father. Charles has never sold it because scientific testing would reveal that the "million-dollar" artwork is fake. Withdrawing the Venus from the exhibition would also raise suspicions. To protect her father, Nicole seeks Simon and asks him to steal the Venus before the examination. Unknown to Nicole, Simon is actually an expert consultant and hired to enhance security and detect forgeries. Because he fall in love with Nicole, he agrees to help her.. . The music John Williams, in the credits mentioned as Johnny Williams, composed a funny and quirky main theme with a lovely melody for brass and piano. Williams considers this movie a landmark in this career, and I agree. Here is the link to the main theme: The score overall just consists of a few nice tracks. It is very interesting that Williams is not using a lot of typical stereotype music for this soundtrack. The main theme is used in the comedy way as heard in the main title, or in a romantic way for Hepburn and O’Toole. Williams composed some suspense music when Hepburn and O’Toole are trying to steal the Venus. The artwork itself has a fanfare when it is transported in a truck, this music is more serious, but also added some humor. For example, as the truck passes a group of priests, the music briefly booms with church organs as the holy men cross themselves in reverence for the Cellini. During a very nice sequence, mentioned as “The key scene”, Williams composed a light and groovy melody with electronic instruments (apparently his first time using electronics). It is a very funny track because of its different instrumentation. It is one of my favourite tracks. Here is the link: According to Fox records, the film needed to earn $12 million in rentals to break even and made $10.45 million, meaning it made a loss. Despite that, it is still one of my favourite Hepburn movies because of the chemistry between Hepburn and O’Toole and Eli Wallach’s performance, he has some hilarious scenes. The charming movie is a great example of the typical romantic comedies from that time, and the fun of this music is also a result of John Williams music, one of this best in my opinions, and it is very sad that he was not hired to compose music for more comedies.

  • The Public Eye - Jerry Goldsmith - Soundtrack Review

    There are some scores in Jerry Goldsmith’s long career that got rejected, for example, “Alien Nation” (1988), “Gladiator” (1992), “Super Mario Brother” (1993), “Babe” (1995), “2 Days in Valley” (1996). “The Public Eye” (1992) was one of them and got recently released by Intrada, a great Jazz score which will be reviewed today. The movie “The Public Eye” is a 1992 American crime thriller film produced by Sue Baden-Powell and written and directed by Howard Franklin, starring Joe Pesci and Barbara Hershey. Stanley Tucci and Richard Schiff appear in supporting roles. The film is loosely based on New York Daily News photographer Arthur "Weegee" Fellig, and some of the photos in the film were taken by Fellig. Main cast Pesci took this role right after his Oscar-winning performance in Martin Scorsese’s “Goodfellas”. Director-writer Franklin was unable to secure the rights to Arthur Fellig's story and wrote therefore the story of a Weegee-like photographer who smokes cigars. According to journalist Doug Trapp, Franklin was inspired to write the screenplay after seeing a show of Fellig's photos in New York City. The movie did not perform very well, it grossed $1,139 Mio for the weekend and total receipts after 12 days were $3,067 Mio. Here is the trailer: The music I never watched the movie, but as I heard that Intrada was releasing the score of this Jerry Goldsmith soundtrack, I was highly curious to get it. The fact that even 16 years after Jerry’s death, there are still soundtracks with his music released, is a very good sign of how popular Jerry Goldsmith still is. In the liner notes of the CD, Howard Franklin is quoted that he was thrilled to get Jerry Goldsmith scoring the film: “It was like the greatest coup ever!” Since Goldsmith composed the music for “Chinatown”, a movie which considered Franklin as similar to “The Public Eye”, Franklin was confident about his choice, but the confidence vanished when he attended the recording. Goldsmith, as Franklin pointed out, wrote a “beautiful theme. We loved it”, but the director thought that Goldsmith “hadn’t written anything beyond that theme. The composer protested that he was “not one to write a lot of themes for different things”, but Franklin found the result too repetitious.” Having worked with Mark Isham before, he hired this composer to replace Goldsmith. Here is the beautiful main theme of “The Public Eye”: Even though Jerry Goldsmith is my favourite composer, I have to admit that the score really sounds a bit repetitive, but the wonderful line notes by Frank K. DeWald are giving a good analysis of the score and why it has some haunting effect. I have to admit that this soundtrack was played by me a lot in the last months, I really like the atmosphere, and especially the main theme. DeWald explains that Goldsmith achieves the special atmosphere in this score by using short motifs and not using long-lined melodies, and this can be very good observed in the main title. There is one motif that is played by the clarinet: three rising notes C- E flat-G. This motif is repeated once and then twice at a lower pitch level. DeWald points out that Goldsmith used the same idea in another rejected score: “Gladiator” (1992) by Rowdy Harrington, for sure one of Goldsmith’s weaker scores, but I had fun listening to it. DeWald speaks then about a second motif - D-E flat - which can be heard for the first time in “First Sale”, the second track. Pizzicato strings can be heard like a ticking clock. A very good track which combines both motifs is “Ask Me”. There are a lot of similarities in the string part between this score and Goldsmith later success with “Basic Instinct”, a similar haunting atmosphere. It is fascinating to read in the lines notes how DeWald analyses Goldsmith’s artificial approach to use and develop these motifs during the music. The score is mostly composed for strings, the solo bass plays a dominant role, but we also hear sometimes woodwinds like the clarinet, the oboe (Track “The Morning Call” with some nice piano parts) or the flute. Slightly percussion is used, combined with a harp, and minor synthesizer effects, for example in “The Body”. DeWald thinks that with this minimalistic approach, the composer wanted to reflect how the main character sees the world: in black and white. Another interesting track to mention is “The Slaughter”; here Goldsmith also uses silence: The music stops for nearly a second a few times before it continues, and this has an amazing effect when you are listening to it. “Final Shot” is a kind of end credits music and one of the longest tracks on the album. The dominance of the string parts creates a more romantic atmosphere in the end, and it is again interesting to hear how Goldsmith varies his two motifs again. Jerry Goldsmith used this minimalistic approach a lot during his television years, especially in his music for “The Twilight Zone”, and compare to the big orchestra soundtracks Goldsmith composed later during his career, “The Public Eye” is a refreshing album which is becoming one of my favourite albums these days. Thanks, Intrada for creating such a nice album with this rejected score! Below is a link to the end credits of Mark Isham’s music for the movie:

  • Lionheart - John Scott - Soundtrack Review

    Nearly Pre-Christmas Time! This year – year 2 in Covid – was another more annoying year. We are finally allowed to meet in person again and can go to the movies, but I am disappointed with what we can see. My first idea was to talk about Daniel Craig’s last James Bond “No Time To Die”, but to be honest: The best parts of the music are the John Barry pieces from “On Her Majesty's Secret Service”, so no review of this score on my blog. Bring David Arnold back to the franchise, please! Therefore, let’s talk about another John Scott soundtrack: “Lionheart” (1990). Here is the trailer: The movie “Lionheart”, released internationally under several names including “Absent Without Leave”, “Wrong Bet”, and “Leon” is a 1990 American action film directed by Sheldon Lettich, starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, Brian Thompson, Harrison Page and Deborah Rennard. Rennard has some hilarious scenes, especially during the last fight when she is breathing heavily after seeing Van Damme fighting and winning. This scene always reminds me of Famke Janssens orgasm-like behavior after the killed a lot of soldiers with a machine gun… Van Damme plays a French Foreign Legionnaire. When his brother is seriously injured, he returns to Los Angeles to enter the underground fighting circuit to raise money for his brother's family. The Belgian actor plays again the typical underdog and, of course, wins in the end. I was not a big fan of The Muscles from Brussels and also not a big fan of this kind of action movies, but a friend of mine recommended me to watch this movie, and because John Scott as the composer, I was curious about it. Scott’s music is the best part of the movie, and you cannot underestimate the effect his music has! Director Sheldon Lettich had co-written “Bloodsport” (1988), the film that turned Van Damme into a star. They had become friends, and Van Damme agreed for Lettich to direct “Lionheart”. Lettich remembered the shooting, with a good sense of humor: Lionheart was a “defining film for Van Damme because I did not shy away from giving him considerable amounts of dialogue and character development. I trusted him to pull this off, whereas before nobody else believed he could do much more than just deliver some fancy kicks and simple one-liners. Lionheart was the first movie to demonstrate that Van Damme was more than just a flash-in-the-pan "Karate Guy" who would never rise above simplistic low-budget karate movies. In the film, Van Damme's rear is exposed in one scene. While we were filming the scene where he takes a shower in Cynthia's apartment, he asked me if he might casually "drop his towel" and show off his butt for a brief moment. My reply was "Sure, if you're willing, why not?” So, we did one take where he casually lets the towel drop away, and then we decided to put that shot in the movie. Well, that became a very memorable moment for the ladies in the audience, and for the gay guys as well. Showing off his butt (clothed or unclothed) almost became a signature trademark of his after that.” The music I already wrote about John Scott on my blog and in my book and mentioned his famous soundtrack for the Kirk Douglas movie “The Final Countdown” (1980). For “Lionheart”, Scott created another powerful orchestral music and used mostly two themes: a heroic one for Lyon, Van Damme’s character, and another, more lyrical theme for his family which is played to underscore the relationship of Lyon with his niece Nicole. John Scott’s liner notes for the Intrada CD are very interesting, and I want to mention some aspects here. The composer said that he was appealed by the variety the story seems to offer: The film opened in Los Angeles, travelled to North Africa, moved then to street fighting in New York, showed us with Cynthia a very ruthless woman wo runs a private fight circuit, and also has the emotional story with Lyon and his brother’s family, in Scott’s words: “To me the story was far more than a kickboxing movie and I felt that my most valuable contribution would be strengthen the relationships as well as build on Lyon’s inner rather than outer strength.” The action scenes are fabulous underscored with some very nice action music for the brass section and a good emphasis on the percussion section during the whole score. I read in one review that Scott used some wonderfully old-fashioned quality in composing this score, and this perfectly summarized the quality of this soundtrack. After watching the movie, I never went back to it, but Scott’s end credits music is one of my all-time favourites. Scott wrote in his liner notes than he wanted to “compose a theme which would contain two distinct parts and various motifs which could become sub themes. Subsequently I was able to build on LIONHEARTS’s theme throughout the course of the film.” When Lyon arrived in the US, Scott added some nice Jazz tunes into his score. The composer has a lot of experience with Jazz. He arranged for Johnny Dankworth and Cleo Laine and played for Henry Mancini and John Barry. Scott mentioned that he “chose a jazz group of trumpet, alto sax, keyboard, bass and drums for the relations between Joshua” (Lyon’s manager), and “Lyon which I was able to juxtapose with the symphony orchestra to give a distinct and powerful color to the atmosphere of the film.” For Cynthia, Scott used a a muted jazz trumpet as an essential color. The best parts of the soundtrack are the music for the fighting scenes, and the composer created each scene in a different way: The music for the street fight is more like source music, “Fighting The Scott” has a Scottish-flavoured riff in the horns when we see Van Damme’s opponent, “Fighting the Brazilian” features a fun samba beat-style, but the highlight of the score is definitely the music for the last fight. “The Wrong Bet”, a 9-minute action piece, starts slowly with suspense music and transforms the dramaturgical Over The Top-structure of the fight into fabulous music, with a powerful victory for Lyon in the end. I highly admire the constant changing of the tempi and the focus on the various percussion instruments. This is a marvelous action piece! If found a clip on YouTube with the fight, my favorite scene is Deborah Rennard at 9’20… In his liner notes, Scott realized the problem of the soundtrack which is a result of his composing approach: “It is not until Lyon reveals his full inner strength in the last fight that the LIONHEART theme is stated in it’s entirety. One thing that troubled me about the sequencing of this album was the fact that one has to wait until very near to the end to hear what I was getting at. On the other hand another director could have required me to use only the one theme throughout the film and in such a way that nobody would have a chance of missing it. Of course there is no denying that this approach as its advantages.” “Lionheart” is a great example of powerful and timeless action music. Intrada produced a fine CD with 63 minutes of the score, performed by The Munich Symphony Orchestra and conducted by the composer himself. One of the best reasons to buy this soundtrack is the beautiful end credits music called “Lionheart”. This track alone is worth buying the CD. I love the start of this piece with the string section playing the majestic theme in a wonderfully orchestrated track! I could not find this track on YouTube but found a nice suite of the score, starting with the end credits... Lionheart performed well at the box office, debuting in 3rd position in the US with sales of about $7 million. The film dropped to 7th in its second week, and earned $24.3 million worldwide on a budget of $6 million.

  • Dennis the Menace – Jerry Goldsmith - Soundtrack Review

    Just to remind you all, we spent a few days ago the second Easter in lockdown. It is difficult to keep the positive mind up these days, especially with all this madness going around. Not sure if you watched the Academy Awards last year, but this was really the first time I did not care at all about the movies and the winners, but anyway: congratulations to Anthony Hopkins! I was visiting my brother in a small town in Southern Germany, when we went into a music shop, and I found the soundtrack of Dennis The Menace. At this time, Jerry Goldsmith was already my favourite composer, therefore, I bought the soundtrack without seeing the movie which I did a few weeks later then. I never heard of Dennis before, so for me, the movie was another one which might be produced because of the success of the Home Alone-movies. With the expanded CD and the very interesting liner notes, the history of Dennis The Menace was nicely explained, and I will summarize it here. The movie Illustrator Hank Ketchum created Dennis in 1951. The comic strip ran in more than 1000 newspapers in 14 languages and inspired a live action TV series, starring Jay North as Dennis, that ran for 146 episodes on CBS from 1959 to 1963. What the liner notes do not tell us is that in the UK, there is also a comic strip called Dennis The Menace. It was published in the British children's comic The Beano, published by DC Thomson, and first appeared in issue 452, dated 17 March 1951 (on sale 12 March 1951), and it is considered as the longest-running strip in the comic. The idea and name of the character emerged when the comic's editor heard a British music hall song with the chorus "I'm Dennis the Menace from Venice". Coincidentally, on 12 March 1951, another comic strip named Dennis the Menace debuted in the US. As a result of this, the US series has initially been retitled Dennis for UK audiences, while the British character's appearances are often titled Dennis and Gnasher outside the UK. There is a very entertaining documentary about the movie, and Ketchum explained that the inspiration for the comic came from Dennis Ketcham, the real-life son of Hank Ketcham who was only four years old when he refused to take a nap and somehow messed up his whole room. Hank tried many possible names for the character and translated them into rough pencil sketches, but when his studio door flew open and his then-wife Alice, in utter exasperation, exclaimed, "Your son is a menace!", the strip was born. For the 40th anniversary of the character, writer Ernest Chambers developed and wrote the book for a Dennis musical and wanted to make a movie based on the comic. Producers from Warner Bros. suggested Tim Burton as director, but Chambers wanted to have John Hughes. Hughes did not want the movie to be another Home Alone, and Hughes was tired because he worked six months on the sequel to Home Alone. He hired as director Nick Castle who, for example, was the director of The Boy who could fly (1986, with a fabulous score by Bruce Broughton). I found a nice documentary here: The heart of the movie should be the relationship between Dennis and Mr Wilson, played by the wonderful Walter Matthau. In the liner notes, Hughes explained that he learnt from Ketchum how much Wilson needs Dennis. To find the right kid, 20,000 potential candidates were checked, and finally Mason Gamble was chosen. Mr Wilson’s wife was played by British actress Joan Plowright, and she has some great scenes. Christopher Lloyd gave a marvelous performance as invading criminal Switchblade Sam, so we have in the second half some Home Alone-scenes. He was perhaps a little bit too frightening for a family movie, and Matthau said that Lloyd’s character scared one kid, so he could not work for two days. As a balance, we have Lea Thompson, another famous cast from Back To The Future. here is the trailer: You can see the genius of John Hughes in his comments of how to develop this story: “Innocence was the core of the story. A 5-year-old is completely innocent. The only person he is menace to is Mr Wilson, and he is a guy who expects all kids to be like 40 years old. Then I thought: These people live in an innocent world, why not threaten that innocence? So, when Dennis is with the thief, he thinks he is on a camping trip.” The film was a success at the box office. Against a $35 million budget, it grossed $51.3 million domestically and a further $66 million overseas to a total of $117.3 million worldwide. Critics were generally negative. They praised Matthau’s performance, considered Lloyd’s character Swingblade as too scary which might be true, and the movie too close to the humour of Home Alone. That might be true, but compare to Home Alone, we have in Dennis a real story, and that is the reason I really like this movie. The music Jerry Goldsmith did not compose a lot of comedy soundtracks. In the liner notes, it is mentioned that Richard Kraft recommended Goldsmith to do a career change and concentrate more on smaller and intimate projects that were short on violence. Jerry Goldsmith always said that he preferred these more human movies over the horror and SF material he became famous for. It looks like that Goldsmith was also frustrated with the feedback from Total Recall. Like usually, his music was mostly buried under machine-gun fire. Goldsmith commented: “I really thought Total Recall was a terrific score. I really liked it musically but nobody seemed to give a damn.” That is not true: Goldsmith was again nominated for a Saturn Award, and Total Recall is considered as a milestone in action-scoring. But nobody can blame the composer after this busy score to go back to smaller movies which allowed Goldsmith to develop more lovely themes and compose more intimate movies. The result is astonishing! Goldsmith composed one of his best scores for The Russia House (1990), one of my favourite movies with Sean Connery and Michelle Pfeiffer, and he continued to work for director Fred Schepisi on Mr. Baseball (1992, one of his most unusual scores), Six Degrees of Separation (1993, a tango score), I.Q. (1994, a lovely romantic comedy with a main theme very similar to the German children song Alle Voegel sind schon da) and finally Fierce Creatures (1997, the mediocre sequel to A Fish named Wanda). Goldsmith also composed in these year the music to Not Without My Daughter (1991, the highly controversial Family-Polit-Thriller), Julia Roberts’ Sleeping with the Enemy (1991), Mel Gibson romantic drama Forever Young (1992) and another Sean Connery movie called Medicine Man (1992) where Connery was jealous about Goldsmith’s ponytail, and another Michelle Pfeiffer Drama called Love Field (1992) – to name a few. Even though these soundtracks are not so mind-blowing such as Total Recall, they demonstrate Goldsmith’s ability to write beautiful love themes, and I am especially a fan of the main theme from The Russian House and love Medicine Man with its combination of orchestra and electronics. The Main Title of Dennis The Menace starts with a slamming of the orchestra to announce Dennis with his bicycle and introduced then the theme for Dennis played on a harmonic performed by Tommy Morgan who played this instrument for Goldsmith when he was working on The Twilight Zone. A second theme, a lovely theme, mostly played on strings, underscores Dennis already mentioned “innocence”, and for Mr Wilson, we have a theme played on the tuba which is also introduced in the main title. Here you can listen to it: Because of the storytelling, we have a lot of Micky Mousing, e. g. in Take An Aspirin, Babysitting (for a very funny scene and the fabulous comment of Matthau: Just a child!), and Shaggy Dog Story, just to mention three of them. There is also some comedy music in the score, e.g. The Doll, Spilled Paint or A funny taste, it is the fast change of atmosphere and rhythm that makes these pieces fun to listen to. There is a kind of lullaby Goldsmith wrote for the scene when Mrs Wilson brings Dennis to bed and recites a bedtime story, a lovely scene. Mr and Mrs Wilson do not have any kids, and you can see that Mrs Wilson is clearly missing having a child. Real Love, not used in the film, is another short track with this theme. Christopher Lloyd’s character gets a sneaky theme, played first time on the brass in Dollnapping, a great haunting theme with a wonderful effect in the movie. Even if you do not see Swingblade Sam, you hear the music and know he is not far away! The expanded CD edition has a lot of shorter tracks which are very dependent of the movie which therefore can be skipped. The Heist is the music for the very important scene when Mr Wilson finally has enough of Dennis and ends their friendship in a furious outburst. Dennis, really sorry and desperate about what he has done, rides his bike through the woods towards his tree house, but then Sam bursts out of the night (a fabulous part to underscore the emotions of Dennis can be heard from 2’54) and grabs the boy. Here is the music: He’s back is a track that shows Goldsmith’s ability to create sadness, drama, action and love in one track, and this talent of Goldsmith cannot be praised enough! Dennis is still missing, Mr Wilson is really sad about his previous comment, but then the music slowly builds up after this sad moment, and you can feel that there is something coming, and finally the Dennis theme is telling us: The boy is back! A highlight of the score is the end title music called Toasted Marshmallows which gave Goldsmith finally a chance to put all his material together and write a very enjoyable piece which brings the CD to an end.

  • Silver Streak – Henry Mancini – Soundtrack Review

    This review is another result of Covid-19. Even though, we are now allowed to meet more people, I am still sitting in my home office, okay with a bigger screen now, but it is still annoying. I found the CD of “Silver Screen” when I ordered another couple of CDs, and this movie is so full of childhood memories, and I love the main theme, that it is time now to add this review on my blog. I just realized it is the first review of a Henry Mancini score on my blog, and it is not “Pink Panther” or "The Thornbirds”. The movie “Silver Streak” is a 1976 American buddy comedy thriller film about a murder on a Los Angeles-to-Chicago train journey. It was directed by Arthur Hiller and stars Gene Wilder, Jill Clayburgh, and Richard Pryor, with Patrick McGoohan, Ned Beatty, Richard Kiel in supporting roles. Kiel is playing a similar role such as his famous role “Jaws” from the James Bond-movies, and there is a joke about his teeth. Here is the trailer: This film marked the first pairing of Wilder and Pryor, who were later paired in three more films. Critics said that especially Pryor´s appearance was one of the reasons the movie is so enjoyable. Colin Higgins who was at that time famous for writing “Harold and Maude”, one of my all-time favorites, wrote the script "because I had always wanted to get on a train and meet some blonde. It never happened, so I wrote a script." The script was sent out to auction. Alan Ladd Jr and Frank Yablans at 20th Century Fox bought it for a then-record $400,000. Ladd said "It was like the old Laurel and Hardy comedies. The hero is Laurel, he falls off the train, stumbles about, makes a fool of himself, but still gets the pretty girl. Audiences have identified with that since Buster Keaton." Colin Higgins wanted George Segal for the hero, but Fox preferred Gene Wilder. "He's younger (Wilder was actually a year older than Segal), more identifiable for the younger audience. And he's so average, so ordinary, and he gets caught up in all these crazy adventures." Higgins also claimed that the producers did not want to cast Pryor because he had recently walked off “The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings”. However, Pryor was very professional during the shoot. Gene and Pryor went to make two more movies together. “Silver Streak” became the fourth biggest moneymaker for that year, grossing $60 Million and is listed in the top 100 comedies by the American Film Institute. I saw the movie when I was a teenager and immediately liked it. The dinner scene between Wilder and Clayburg is a reminder of the scene from “North by Northwest”, and the plots remind you also of another Hitchcock thriller, “The Lady Vanishes” (1939). “Silver Streak” is one of the few movies that are even more enjoyable when you have watched it before because you know what is happening and can enjoy it. I found a nice making off: The last scenes with the training running into the Chicago Train Station is, as one critic said, alone worth the money. Without an overkill of CGI like in today´s movies, this scene is just amazing fun to watch, and furthermore, in the times of Black Lives Matters, this movie gives you also a good example of how People of Color were treated in the 70s. The composer Composer Henry Mancini (born Enrico Nicola Mancini; April 16, 1924 – June 14, 1994) is a composer who normally does not know any introduction. He is very well-known for collaboration with Blake Edwards, especially on the Inspector Clouseau movies, with its Pink Panther theme. Mancini won four Academy Awards, a Golden Globe, and twenty Grammy Awards, plus a posthumous Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995. His works include the theme for the “Peter Gunn” television series, the score and the song "Moon River" from “Breakfast at Tiffany's” (1961). Mancini also scored a No. 1 hit single during the rock era on the Hot 100: his arrangement and recording of the "Love Theme from Romeo and Juliet" spent two weeks at the top, starting with the week ending June 28, 1969. Mancini collaborated also together with director Stanley Donen on “Charade” (1963), “Arabesque” (1966) and “Two For The Road” (1967). What some people might now remember is that in 1952, Mancini joined the Universal Pictures music department. During the next six years, he contributed music to over 100 movies, most notably Jack Arnold´s “Creature from the Black Lagoon” (1954), “Tarantula” (1955), “This Island Earth” (1955) and “The Glenn Miller Story” (1954, for which he received his first Academy Award nomination), Orson Welles' “Touch of Evil” (1958). Mancini is famous for the “Baby Elephant Walk” from John Wayne´s “Hatari” (1962) and the music for the already mentioned TV-series “The Thornbirds” (1984). It is very easy to write a book just about the scores of Henry Mancini! His sense for melodies is so astonishing that a lot of people remember his music even though they might never hear the name of the composer. One from his latest more serious works is his music to Tobe Hooper´s “Lifeforce” (1985), a crappy but enjoyable SF movie in which French actress Mathilda May walks mostly around naked. The music I do not have so many Henry Mancini soundtracks in my library because mostly, I just like a few tracks or, for example, from the Stanley Donen movies, just the main theme. “Silver Streak” is different because here Mancini was giving a wide range of writing music for romance, comedy and action. The main title introduces the main theme and is a kind of a musical joke because Mancini transforms the slowly starting of a train into ascending music. Even though I think this Main Title is not the best track of the score, it is a great example of Mancini´s ability to write beautiful main themes and his feeling for rhythm and effective orchestration. The jazz tune is timeless. Here is the main title: You can find a lot of typical Jazz tracks in the score which I normally skip, one is the track “Something For Jill”, track 6 “Club Car Rock” another one, track 8 “Scenic Route”, track 12 “Redneck Blues”, track 15 “Shoe Shine”, track 16 “Men´s Room Rock”, My favorite theme of the score is “Hilly´s Theme” which you can hear the following track “Hilly´s Theme / Bye Bye Professor 7 Lie Down George”, a seven minutes track with some shocking sounds in the middle because of what is happening in the movie. In the liner notes to the CD, there is an interesting comment that Mancini had the special gift to compose sad melodies for a lonely and vulnerable woman, and that is really true! The next track “This Is Terrific” is another musical joke, the main instrument is the harmonica here. This theme is played when George gets thrown from the car or has to leave. This style of music is responsible that the comedy of this scene is so good working. And when you read that one track is called “Son Of This Is Terrific”, you know what happened. Track 5 “The Fun of Flying” for a wonderful photographed scene in the movie brings us back the train theme in a nice variation. You can just admire how Mancini varies the main theme here, what an artificial composer! There is also typical suspense music such as track 7 “Sneaky George”, track 9 “I´ll Try” and the following “Gold Teeth” (low-register clarinets and jagged string figures against a French horn to build up suspense) two very good suspense ones for a fabulous scene in the movie, track 13 “Pure Pussy”. The best suspense track is, of course, the music for the big showdown “Runaway Train”, this 6-minute-track is fabulous in his suspense approach and shows you the variety of Mancini´s composing style! I especially admire the constant increasing rhythm of this track until the train finally crashes in the station, and the music stops exactly in this moment. With track 17 “Hilly´s Theme”, we have finally this beautiful main theme in a pure track without any suspense effects. Just a wonderful melody, played heartwarming in the combination of strings and the piano as main instrument here. Track 18 “The Swirl Effect” is the last time we hear the train theme in a track except of the End Titles which brings the album to an end. Douglass Fake wrote in the liner notes to the CD that “Silver Streak” offers one of Mancini´s finest writing, and I totally agree. I would have wished that the Jazz sourcing tracks might be placed at the end of the album, but these days, you can program your CD player to skip them and concentrate on the other music. Though the film dates to 1976, Henry Mancini's score was never officially released as a soundtrack. Intrada's 2002 compilation became one of the year's best-selling special releases. Get the CD and enjoy this lovely music. And if you listen to this, then you realize again we are missing among the actual generation of film music composers! Here is Hilly's Theme: My favorite track and the reason I finally bought this CD was track “14 “On To Kansas City”: This track is just pure Gold! The scene is a sun setting, and Gene and Richard are on the rescue to Jill. The scene is beautiful shot, and how Mancini underscores this music, is one of the best examples what film music can do to a scene!

  • Hampstead - Stephen Warbeck - Soundtrack Review

    The idea to talk about “Hampstead” was developed last year. I was looking for a nice score for my December review. I had no time to watch “The Grinch” with James Horner’s score and then chose “Hampstead”, as a nice and unspectacular score because I just like the main theme so much. The movie “Hampstead” is a 2017 British drama film directed by Joel Hopkins and written by Robert Festinger. It is based on the life of Harry Hallowes who successfully claimed ownership of a half-acre plot of Hampstead Heath. The film stars Diane Keaton and Brendan Gleeson in the main roles. The film was released on 23 June 2017, by Entertainment One Films. Here is the trailer: The movie is a typical Diane Keaton movie, and she plays her typical character, nothing special, but enjoyable. “Hampstead” is not the kind of movie I would go to the cinema to, but I saw the movie on a family trip to Brazil on a long flight. I was tired of the usual action movies, so I decided to go with “Hampstead”. When I heard the main theme, I immediately loved it. What a wonderful theme, and therefore, I wanted to talk about “Hampstead” on my blog. If you check the reviews on amazon, you found some very harsh and unfair comments. This movie does not want to invent a new way of storytelling and, of course, uses a lot of stereotypes in the story, but to be frank, it is a heart-warming movie with a nice story about two people falling in love. Isn’t this enough sometimes? The music Stephen Warbeck, born 1953 in Southampton (yes, the city where the Titanic left for her big journey) is an English composer. He first became known for the music for “Prime Suspect”, a television drama series with Helen Mirren, and won an Academy Award for his music for “Shakespeare in Love” (1998). That music has also a very nice main theme, and I bought the soundtrack just because of the theme. I have to admit that since then, I just listened to the soundtrack once or twice and never to the whole score. I just liked the main theme with its lovely melody and therefore, mostly just listened to the first track on the album. I am still wondering why this music got an Academy Award? Remember, Jerry Goldsmith was also nominated in the same category with his fantastic score for “Mulan”. Normally, composing the music for a Disney movie is a great chance to win an Oscar. Alan Menken got a lot of Oscars for his scores for Disney movies, and Hans Zimmer won his only Oscar so far for “Lion King”. So, I thought, Jerry might finally win his second Oscar with “Mulan”, and then he lost against “Shakespeare in Love” Really? Another time, the Academy showed that their sense of music is really nothing to be proud of. Back to “Hampstead”: It took me a while to get a CD with the music, the score was first released as downloads. The album consists of 17 tracks. The first track “Hampstead” brings us the beautiful main theme, and i is also the best track of the whole score. Just listen to it and enjoy! I like especially how the piano and the mandolin work together. This main theme gives this score a unique touch. Warbeck uses the mandolin a lot, and these tracks are the best of the score, for example, “The Petition”, “The Cemetery”, “The Campaign”, “To The Museum”, and “Fishing for Dinner”. Some of these tracks are energetic, some are more lyrical and nearly sad such as “The Photographs”, “Judgment”, “Leaving The Hut”, ”Leaving Hamstead”, and “Fishing Trip”. The second last track “New Beginning” brings the score to an end. A very nice track that does not use the main theme, quite unusual for this album, one of my favourite tracks of this score. With the last track, you have again the main theme that brings the album to an end. Overall the music is a little repetitive because Warbeck just has one theme which he constantly uses. There is not so much variation in the music, and this is a little boring when you want to listen to the whole album. Nevertheless, the main theme is so beautiful that you should not miss listening to it. Enjoy the music on some quieter days while looking forward to your next walk in nature! I found a nice video on YouTube about the Hampstead district in London:

  • Airport 1975 – John Cacavas – Soundtrack Review

    This week, I want to talk about a nearly forgotten composer: John Cacavas. He composed the music for two of the famous “Airport”-movies, also for the last Hammer-Dracula called “The Satanic Rites of Dracula” (1973) and for the Horror-Kult “Horror Express” (1972). Cacavas’ music is typical 70s, but with his sense for wonderful themes and instrumentation worth to discover again. The composer John Cacavas (1930-2014) was born in Aberdeen, South Dakota. His father was an immigrant from Greece and his mother was born in North Dakota. While in school, John displayed an early talent for music, forming a local band at age 14, and later studied musical composition at Northwestern University. During military service, Cacavas was assigned to Washington, DC where he was an arranger for the United States Army Band. There he met Charles Osgood, with whom he collaborated on musical compositions and recordings. While working in London in the 1970s, Cacavas met Telly Savalas, who later helped him moving into scoring the music for movies. Cacavas music for “Horror Express” starring Savalas, and the Hammer stars Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee is still quite famous. Cacavas then moved to Hollywood and composed music for various TV shows. For the 5th and final season of “Kojak” with Telly Savalas, Cacavas composed the new main theme. Listen to it here: Cacavas has an amazing amount of television credits, including “Hawaii Five-O”, “The Bionic Woman”, “Mrs. Columbo” and TV Movies such as “The Elevator” (1974), “Murder at the World Series” (1977), “The Time Machine” (1978)” and “Hellinger's Law” (1981), a pilot for a new series with Telly Savalas which in the end was not made. Cacavas continued to work with Savalas on “The Dirty Dozen: The Deadly Mission” (1987) and the sequel. His later television credits included miniseries such as “Jenny's War” (1985), “Confessional” (1989) and “Perfect Murder, Perfect Town” (2000). His feature movie scores include “Airport 1975” and “Airport '77”, “Hangar 18” (1980), “Gangster Wars” (1981), “Mortuary” (1983), and “They're Playing with Fire” (1984). Cacavas is also notable for his "Flute Poem", known by Canadian viewers as the opening to “Hinterland Who's Who”, a series of public service announcements, and he wrote the theme song for the 2005 video game “Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories”. The song, "March Popakov Remix", was sampled by DJ Danger Mouse and is used frequently in the game. I found the music for “Grand Theft Auto” here. It has still the typical John Cacavas sound, and I really love it: The movie “Airport 1975” is the first sequel to the successful “Airport” (1970) based on Arthur Hailey’s book. Directed by Jack Smight and starring Charlton Heston, Karen Black and George Kennedy as Joe Patroni as well as Gloria Swanson in her final screen appearance. Interesting to know is that in 1978 a similar accident happened when a small airplane crashed with Pacific Southwest Airlines Flight 182. All 135 people on the aircraft and seven people on the ground were killed, a failure of the PSA flight resulted in the crash. 1986, another similar crash happened: Aeroméxico-Flight 498 crashed with a small piper. In this case, it was a mistake of the piper. All 67 people on both aircraft and 15 people on the ground were killed. Compared with the later „Airport 77”, the movie is not so spectacular, but it was a huge commercial success and the seventh highest-grossing film of 1974. Heston plays his role with routine and says one of the most unromantic “I love you” in movie history, but the star of the movie is Karen Black who is giving a tremendous performance. Before writing this review, I checked out her career, and she is a very interesting person with her political views and her work in independent films. Some people say the Boeing 747 is the real star because it is such an elegant airplane. Here is the trailer for the movie: “Airport 1975” is also famous because of the Zucker parody “Airplane! (1980). In “Airport 1975”, a nun and also a child in need of an organ transplant are part of the story, and “Airplane” parodies both characters in a great way. The music Both Cacavas “Airport” scores have very majestic scores. I just like the main theme for “Airport 1975” better because of the brass section and the electronical spinet. While the music plays, you see Karen Black from behind with a nice green scarf walking her way through the airport until she finally meets and kisses Charlton Heston. The music has a very elegant style with a sad tone that immediately touched me when I first heard it as a teenager. Here is the Main Title: The album has 12 tracks, but most of them I skip. With track 2 “Destination Elko”, you have the typical suspense tracks for this kind of movie. Track 3 “How Insensitive” is a typical source track in the 70s style. Track 4 “Interludium” plays the main theme again with a bigger dominance of the string section, a very nice one. Track 5 “Airborne: Three Moods” is a mixture of suspense and source music. Track 6 “Inflight Collision” underscores the accident, a good suspense track. Track 7 “Theme Airport 1975” is purely enjoyable, with a typical 70s disco touch, track 8 “Montage”: just another suspense track, and track 9 “Alexander’s Death” underscores the tragic death of the first guy who wants to enter the plane through the hole in the cockpit. The scene does not give Cacavas a lot to do instead of typical suspense music, so also a track to skip. Track 10 “Murdock Makes It” does not need any explanation when you know that Heston’s character is named Murdock. Track 11 “Suspense, Approach and Landing” is the music for the big showdown, with 5 minutes the longest one, and “Finale, End Titles” brings the album to an end. To be honest, this album is not a must-have, but for me who grew up with the “Airport”-movies, it is more than a good memory. I really like Cacavas main theme, and for fans it is worth to by. Here is the End Title for the “Airport ‘77” To give you a better picture of this composer, let me add here the main theme to “The Satanic Rites of Dracula” And my favourite Cacavas Track, the end title to “Horror Express”: copyright ©Stefan Riedlinger, 2020, all rights reserved. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Stefan Riedlinger.

  • Psycho 2 - Jerry Goldsmith - Soundtrack Review

    The idea to talk about this score was a result of a harsh argument with a fan of the score on Facebook. Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” is one of my all-time favourites, “Psycho 2”, however, I did not like from the beginning: The movie had some great ideas, but in the end, it is just too violent, especially in the showdown and the last scene, and overall just half of a good movie. The movie “Psycho II” (1983), directed by Richard Franklin and written by Tom Holland, brought back Anthony Perkins in his most famous role, Vera Miles as Lila Loomis, Robert Loggia as Norman’s Psychologist, and Meg Tilly as the love-interest and Vera Miles’ daughter. Set 22 years after the first film, it follows Norman Bates after he is released from the mental institution and his returns to the house and the Motel to continue a normal life. However, his troubled past continues to haunt him. Here is the trailer: English writer Robert Bloch wrote a sequel to “Psycho” in 1982. As a great fan of the author, I read the book as a teenager, but I think he is better in short stories than in novels. Bloch’s “Psycho 2” satirized Hollywood slasher films, and – SPOILER – because Bates died in the novel -, Hollywood could not use the plot. The novel has a nice twist because Bates’ death is just told in the end after the identity of the murder is revealed. Until this scene, the reader believes that Bates is responsible for the murders. Universal decided to make their own version that differed from Bloch's plot. Australian Richard Franklin, who was Hitchcock's student and visited him on the set of “Topaz” (1969), was hired to direct. In a nice documentary on YouTube called “Sympathy for the Devil”, screen author Tom Holland explained that his approach was that the audience should feel sorry for Norman, so exactly like in the original one. Here you can find the link: This approach was exactly right, and if director and writer would have left the annoying shock effects behind, “Psycho 2” would be a brilliant horror movie. However, I have to admit that the ending, even though it is horrifying, makes sense and ends the circle: Norman has his motel and his mother back. Franklin and Holland wanted the film to be a tribute to the original film, and to accomplish this, they added various in-jokes such as the scene when Mary and Norman first go into Norman's mother's room. Before they turn the lights on, Alfred Hitchcock's silhouette is visible on the wall to the far right. Look closely! Franklin also repeated various shots from the original film such as when Norman walks into the kitchen and sets his jacket down on the chair. Reflecting on his experience, Franklin recalled Perkins as being very generous and praised Miles as a "powerhouse" and "one of the most forceful" actress he had worked with. Meg Tilly, as rumours said, had a hard time on the set because she could not accept that Perkins was the star. Robert Loggia finds his death in one of the most shocking scenes which burnt deep into my memory. The music Wikipedia mentioned that John Williams was considered to do the score, but it was decided to go with Jerry Goldsmith. In my opinion, Goldsmith was the only choice. He was a long-time friend of Bernard Hermann and worked with him on the famous series “Twilight Zone”. On some film assignments, as you can read on filmtracks, Goldsmith would discover that the director had used some of Herrmann's music as temp tracks. Goldsmith would often joke about this: "Not Benny again!". Goldsmith showed his sense of humour when he conducted a recording of "The Murder" for the opening of “Psycho 2” and mentioned that Herrmann "must be rolling over in his grave." I still have just the MCA records release with 30 minutes of the score (9 tracks, 8 Goldsmith originals). In 2014, Intrada released the complete score, but I am not able to get this one. To start with a personal note: I am not a big fan of the music Goldsmith wrote for “Psycho 2”. I think it is one of his weakest scores up to date. But, let’s be fair: After Herrmann’s score, every composer would fail to write a sequel. However, Jerry Goldsmith’s approach was right. There is no way in competing with Herrmann’s brilliance in his string-only score. Therefore, Goldsmith composed a very lyrical theme to emphasize on Norman’s innocence and his psychological weakness. The main theme is a melody of pure innocence, very lyrical and very simple and not haunting at all. It is very peaceful music and, in its simplicity, pure beauty! Here is the Main title: In one scene, Norman plays one of the most beautiful pieces Ludwig van Beethoven ever composed, the Sonata #14 “Mondscheinsonate” for piano. Was this perhaps the reason that the piano is the main instrument in the “Psycho 2” score? The score has a lot of typical suspense music. The piano is used for the lyrical theme but also used to create suspense. Goldsmith also added synthesizers, but the usage is a little odd and unnecessary. Track 3 “Don’t take me” is a perfect example of the haunting music. The next track “Mother’s Room” is a typical suspense track, and some music reminds me of “The Secret Of NIMH” (1982). The tracks on the album are not in the order as they are heard in the movie. I do not understand this approach because you have the music for the big showdown in the middle, and the weak track “Blood Bath” before the “End Titles”. “New Furniture”, the track after the showdown music, is one of the more lyrical tracks. It is a heart-warming piece when you see it combined with the scene in the movie. “The Cellar” is the music for a shocking murder scene. If you compare this track with Herrmann’s “The Murder”, you know that I mean when I consider “Psycho 2” as a weak score. The “End Title” brings the movie and the score to an end. I especially like the first part of the track. When you see Norman Bates standing close to his house again with his mother in the window and hear then Jerry Goldsmith’s music, you have the feeling you saw a much better movie than you really have seen. The best track of the score is “It’s Not Your Mother”: This 5-minutes-track is also the longest track of the score and a reason to buy the score. Goldsmith created a very nice example of haunting music in the first minutes. When the violence starts, he tries his best to underscore this bloody showdown. This scene shows what a great actor Anthony Perkins is! How he brings Norman’s personality on the screen and let the audience nearly burst into tears because you know he is close to getting finally insane and back to asylum again, is pure cinema magic! Goldsmith’s music is best when he builds up tension. The underscoring of the violent scenes is the weakest part of the score, the synthesizers are not necessary, but how finally Goldsmith underscores the last 60 seconds of this showdown, is still admirable. Enough critic! Compare to the crappy horror movies these days, “Psycho 2” has also its good sites even though the gore effects are mostly so over the top that they are nearly ridiculous. In the documentary, Tom Holland said that the effect when Norman tries to grab the knife from Mary Loomis and the knife runs through his hands was a necessary effect and “felt right”, but this is not convincing. Nobody would grab a knife like that! I do not understand why critics praise “Psycho 3” so much because the music is weak and some scenes are just nonsense, especially the nude scenes and the killing on the toilet. And just the reference to “Vertigo” in the beginning, is not enough to praise “Psycho 3” as a good movie. It is a typical slasher movie, even though it has the benefits that the movie does not take itself too seriously. “Psycho 4” however, again with a screenplay by Joseph Stefano, is more fun. The idea is so simple and so great: A once-again rehabilitated Norman Bates is now married to a psychiatrist named Connie and is expecting a child. Norman secretly fears that the child will inherit his mental illness, so he must seek closure once and for all. The movie is mostly Norman talking to a psychologist with flashbacks to tell his story when he was a child, but what really will catch you are the last seconds! This last scene is pure gold, and I should watch it again! Here is the trailer: Jerry Goldsmith and Richard Franklin continued to work together. Her next movie is called “Link” (1986), and Goldsmith’s music to this movie is more fun! copyright © Stefan Riedlinger, 2020, all rights reserved. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Stefan Riedlinger.

  • Gotcha! – Bill Conti - Soundtrack Review

    The only good aspect about these crazy CVSID - Corona Virus Self Isolation Days - is that I have time to update my blog. So, let’s talk about another Bill Conti score: “Gotcha!”. At first, I wanted to talk about Stephen Warbeck’s “Hamsted”, a movie I saw on a family trip to Brazil. The movie is fun to watch, and music has a nice theme, but because Intrada released Bill Conti’s “Gotcha”, I wanted to talk about this one this week as another CD with some of the finest action pieces written by Conti. The movie “Gotcha!” is a 1985 American action comedy film, starring Anthony Edwards and Linda Fiorentino and directed by Jeff Kanew, who also directed Edwards in “Revenge of the Nerds” in 1984. Some people might remember Kanew as director of “Touch Guys”, an action comedy with Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas as freshly relieved out-of-prison-gangsters in their final film together. Kanew later directed “V.I. Warshawski”, an action-comedy with Kathleen Turner. Anthony Edwards is very well-known for his role as Dr. Mark Greene in “ER”, for which he received a Golden Globe award, and he also played Tom Cruise’s buddy Goose in “Top Gun” (1986). Here a trailer I found: Nowadays, when more and more people, especially the younger generation, glorify Socialism, movies like “Gotcha!” should be watched again because you get an insight what life in the Cold War and Socialism had been. German actor Klaus Loewitsch plays Russian KGB Agent Vlad, the antagonist in this movie, who gives Edwards a hard time. The plot is easily told, but I will not tell too much, so people who did not watch the movie so far, can still enjoy it: Edwards is playing a game called "Gotcha" (popular on 1980s college campuses as "Assassin"), wherein the players are all assigned a mock "hit" on another player by the use of a paintball gun. The plot really starts when Edwards and his Latino roommate Manolo (Nick Corri) go on a vacation to Paris. After touring and dealing with speaking French – there are two hilarious scenes in the movie -, Edwards meets Sasha Banicek (Linda Fiorentino), a Czechoslovakian girl, in a café. Edwards who had a long and unsuccessful career for getting laid at university is so happy that the little dominant Sasha is falling for him, and, finally, he is losing his virginity. Here is one of the French speaking scenes: They continue to spend time with each other, going to West Berlin and even to East Berlin because Sasha told Edwards that she has to pick up a package, as she works as a courier. Normally, each Western Guy would be highly suspicious to go a communistic country, but hey, we are in a movie, and this guy is blind of love or sex, you can choose. We also see that Sasha is observed by a KGB agent (Loewitsch). During a walk, Sasha tells Edwards that if she gives him a certain message, it means that he must immediately leave East Berlin. And, of course, this situation happens, and we have one of the most suspenseful scenes in this movie. Before that, Sasha slipped an object into Edwards’ backpack, and that is the reason that he is being chased now by Soviet agents and the East German police. I will stop here, so you can enjoy the following scenes and the nice showdown. The music In the CD liner notes, Kanew explained that he used James Horner’s “Gorky Park” (1983) as temp tracks. Conti compared “Gotcha” with “For Your Eyes Only” (1981), the James Bond movie he scored and which I also discussed on my blog and in my book: The difference between these two movies is that James Bond is a professional spy and Edwards a fish out of water: “Changing emotion and chasing the ride that Gotcha! was going on made this an exciting project.” When I saw this movie as a teenager, there was a soundtrack LP, but it offered mostly the songs which I was not interested in and only two tracks by Conti. The CD now gives us 32 tracks and 50 minutes. From track 18 on, alternative tracks and source tracks are presented. The tracks can be separated in the quieter ones and the action tracks. Conti explained: “There’s a whole history of what “Russian Music” sounds like. Just the sound of an instrument like the balalaika will give you that feeling, and, of course, Russia also has this traditional great dark orchestral music. So, if you’re being chased by Russians, and want musically point to them, I’m saying “this is what I think they sound like.”” Conti uses a lot of percussions for the action music, and for the quieter parts the already mentioned Russian music, emphasized by strings in “Sascha’s Secret” (track 4), one of the best tracks. The following one “Love in the D.D.R.”, uses the French Horn at the beginning which reminds us about the lyrical tracks in the “Rocky” scores, especially the track “Mickey” in “Rocky 3”. The next track “Sascha, Meet Vlad” is another great track with the “Russian music” and the strings and the piano alternating to create wonderful suspense music. Well done! With “Check Point”, we have the start of the action music even though track 2 “Jon Gets His Guy” is the first action track (I cannot remember the scene for this one). “Check Point” underscores the scene when Sasha is telling Edwards to leave the DDR. For all who bought the LP like me, they remember the track “On the Edge”, this music is now called to “Jon, Meet Vlad”. On the CD, you can find this LP track also, the music is a little different (from 1’48’’), especially in the end, and you can decide which track you like more. Here are the two LP tracks: Conti said about this chase music: “It’s wonderful when I get to do big chases that are dramatic and fun. The French horn where the notes are way in the stratosphere is typical of that period for me, along with the high string lines, punching brass and melodies that I like. When you’re using electronics and drum machines with the classical idea, then you’ve got the whole gamut.” The next track is nice because of the quieter parts in the second half, track 15 “Hither and Yon” is a funky Jazz track. With “On the Edge”, we have now finally the music for the big show down, a fabulous action track, pushing constantly forward in the way only Conti could write it, this time with swirling strings, electronics, Russian music, and a lot of percussion. I am a big fan of the string part at 1’35’’ before the action music comes in again. The main theme for this score is such a good one, and I really like the way how Conti uses it sometimes dominant in the foreground, but also in the background, here with the brass section. The last 28 seconds sounds musically a little strange, but this is because we have a slow-motion scene here. Track 26 gives an alternative cue without this last part. Another alternative cue is the track called “Check Point” which seems just to be composed for the LP and is not a track from the music in the movie. I did not even like this track on the LP, so I skip it. Overall, “Gotcha!” is still a funny movie to watch, a typical 80s action comedy, with a very erotic Linda Fiorentino. Conti’s action tracks are one of his nicest and a very good reason to buy this CD! Enjoy the music! Copyright © Stefan Riedlinger, 2020, all rights reserved. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Stefan Riedlinger.

  • Lock Up - Bill Conti - Soundtrack Review

    There is only one reason, I wanted to talk about “Lock Up” on my blog, the track “First Down!”, one of the typical action tracks, only Bill Conti can compose, and the only reason, I bought the soundtrack to this movie. So, let’s look at “Lock Up” this week. The movie “Lock Up” is a 1989 American prison action film, directed by John Flynn, with Sylvester Stallone in his typical underdog role, a fabulous Donald Sutherland as antagonist, and John Amos as Captain Meissner, the man with the “incredible smile”. People who already watched this movie will understand my comment here. Here is the trailer: Stallone plays Frank Leone, a skilled mechanic and a model prisoner nearing the end of his time in a low-security prison, who is looking forward to finally come together again with his girlfriend Melissa. One night, he is forcibly taken to a maximum-security prison run by Warden Drumgoole, played by Sutherland, to take revenge on Leone after he informed the press about the treatment of his prisoners. As you can imagine, we have a highly interesting situation here with these people confronting each other. Sutherland creates a lot of situations to push Stallone finally over the limit, but Stallone tries not to react to these provocative situations. He knows if he would try to escape, he would get locked away for much longer. The final confrontation between Leone and Drumgoole has a very good twist. Overall, I like this movie very much. Stallone is more critical: “Not a film that was produced and performed with enough maturity to really make a significant impact on the audience or my career. And that’s the truth.” I think this comment is too harsh. Compared to movies such as “D-Tox”, for me, the worst in his career, or “Get Carter” or the famous “Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot”, this movie is quite good. And I admit something here: I think that “Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot” is a hilarious one! Like very often, also this Stallone was nominated for the Razzie Awards which is not surprising. The most interesting fact is that some scenes were shot in a real prison in New Jersey with real criminals. Director John Flynn worked later together with Bill Conti on the TV movie “Nails” (1992). In the liner notes to the soundtrack CD, there is a statement from the director: “I was a big fan of the first Rocky. I wanted to go back to that; when he was just an average guy from the streets, facing these great difficulties. We wanted to make an action picture that was human.” The music In the liner notes, Bill Conti gave us some nice insights about his collaboration with Stallone. This movie was the seventh collaboration between them. I do not really understand the meaning of Conti’s statement, perhaps he does not want to be reduced to the nickname of a “Rocky composer”: “I could understand someone wanting to pair us together, thinking that something magic might happen. Now that’s completely erroneous but its some kind of casting philosophy that people believe in.” Let’s face it: Bill Conti’s music was one of the reasons that “Rocky” was so successful because his ability to put emotions straight into touching music, often with a very simple but very powerful melody, is a talent that you cannot praise enough. With the “Main Title”, Conti sets the tone of the music. This track, mostly played on the piano (I assume played by Michael Lang), is a great piece of music and a wonderful performance of the good-natured personality of Stallone’s character. As you can hear, this guy just wants to have piece in the last weeks of his prison stay and then want to start a new life again. With the second track, the action starts: Stallone gets out of his more pleasant prison and is confronted with Sutherland’s character. If the piano is the instrument for the good-natured elements, then the strings and especially the electronics are the instruments for the bad people here. Track three “He Can Take More” is another suspense track and underscores the first visualization of the sadistic attitude of Drumgoole. Conti points out in the liner notes: The piano theme was “just about the emotion of it all, you can have wall-to-wall atmosphere, and some pictures deserve it. But “Lock Up” did not deserve that, it needed an emotional dimension. The musical contract is not to reinforce the prison, that’s for sure; ignore the environment and only go with the emotions.” Here is the main theme: The score as a good balance between the action and suspense tracks and the more peaceful tracks. Track 5 “The Shank” is one of these suspense tracks which have a great impact on the scene it was composed for. The track order does not follow the order of the music in the movie. I assume this was done to have a better balance between the quieter and the action parts. Track 7 “You Won’t Break Me” is one of these tracks which combines both aspects. A lot of tracks just work on screen, and in my opinion, Conti uses too much electronics in this score. There is no need for them because they are more used in the typical 80s style. The orchestra, as Conti is using it, is much powerful than the electronics. Track 12 “Do It!”, for a very important scene in the movie, is a great example. Unfortunately, the track for the escape called “Breakout” is also one of the weaker ones, again because of the use of the electronics. Perhaps Conti wanted to let the score sound more modern, so he used the synthesizer a lot in the second half, but because this usage of the electronics is not very sophisticated, the tracks with the higher amount of electronics are also the weaker ones. “Breakout” is mostly interesting because of the rhythm and the balance between the electronics and the piano, sometimes it sounds like they are playing against each other, but if you compare this track to “First Down!”, you understand what I mean with weaker tracks. Now, let’s talk about my favourite track “First Down!, a track for the big football / rugby scene in prison which is also the big confrontation between Stallone and the sadistic prison guy played by Sonny Landham which we remember from Schwarzenegger’s “Predator”. The music is composed in the fight music style of the “Rocky” movies, and the game is shot like a fight, between Stallone and his team and Landham and his guys which are stronger and which are playing highly unfair. I remember watching this scene in the cinema and immediately loved it. Conti’s dynamic music, especially the music from 2’20, is very similar to the title “Conquest” from “Rocky 2” and “Rocky 3”. This kind of music is the reason that I consider Bill Conti as one of my favourite composers. Here is the scene: The last track “Your Incredible Smile” repeats the main title theme. Conti confesses in a very frank way that he does not have a lot of memories of the “Lock Up” sessions: “I think that most things are not memorable, to be truthful. First time you kiss a girl, you’re gonna remember it. But after you’ve kissed a few girls, you might forget the ones in the middle!” So, that means “Lock Up” is one of the girls in the middle if I get this right. But because of the track “First Down!”, the CD is worth buying, and perhaps this track can be considered as the special kiss with the middle girl which you will still remember after a while. It is one of my all-time favourite tracks composed by Bill Conti. Copyright © Stefan Riedlinger, 2019, all rights reserved. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Stefan Riedlinger.

  • Spider-Man - Danny Elfman - Soundtrack Review

    This week, another score by Danny Elfman on my blog. Before Hans Zimmer became the regular composer for Superhero movies, it was Danny Elfman who was mostly hired. His first score for the “Spider-Man” franchise is one of his best soundtracks, so it is worth to have a deeper look at it. The movie “Spider-Man” is a 2002 American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. Directed by Sam Raimi from a screenplay by David Koepp, it is the first instalment in the Spider-Man trilogy, and stars Tobey Maguire as the title character, with Willem Dafoe as antagonist, Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane, and James Franco in an interesting role as Dafoe’s son and also Maguire’s friend. Here is the trailer: “Spider-Man” was always my favourite Superhero. In general, I am not a big fan of Superhero movies, and, for example, cannot understand the fascination about the Superman character. I always considered this guy as quite boring even though Christopher Reeves played him greatly. As a teenager, I liked Batman very much. He was dark and had this kind of split personality and the technical stuff, that was fascinating. “Spider-Man”, created by writer-editor Stan Lee and writer-artist Steve Ditko, first appeared in the early 1960s when teenagers in superhero comic books were usually relegated to the role of sidekick to the protagonist. Spider-Man took a new approach with high school student Peter Parker who suffered from the typical feelings such as rejection, inadequacy and loneliness". Furthermore, Peter has lost his parents in a plane crash and is raised by his Aunt May and Uncle Ben. The movie also shows us the scene when a criminal flees and kills Peter’s uncle, and this bad guy is the antagonist in the third movie of the Sam Raimi franchise. My first introduction to “Spider-Man” was the television series directed by E. W. Swackhamer with Nicholas Hammond. I was very surprised when Sam Raimi who I just know from “Evil Dead” took over. A director famous for this totally over the top Horror movie with a tree rape scene should direct this movie? I was curious and did not expect anything, so perhaps the best way to enjoy a movie. I cannot praise this movie enough! For me, this first movie is one of the best superhero movies ever, for sure one of the best Marvel movies, and still highly enjoyable. Tobey Maguire is still the best actor for Spider-Man, Elfman’s music one of his best, and the whole storyline is just fantastic. These three movies make a fantastic franchise, and perhaps the best part of the third movie is that because of difficulties between Elfman and Raimi, Christopher Young was hired to compose the music. In the end, both composers worked on this movie, and Young composed with “Birth of the Sandman” a fabulous track. One important aspect of this movie is also that it was altered in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks for the purpose of removing the World Trade Center from various special effects shots. This was the first time that 9/11 influenced the production of a movie as I can remember. Therefore, never forget! The music Danny Elfman seems to be the only choice as composer for this movie. He had already established a relationship with Sam Raimi by composing the music for “Darkman” (1990, another superhero movie, starring Liam Neeson) and “A Simple Plan” (1998, a neo-noir crime thriller, with an usual score because Elfman used a guitar in a very interesting way) , and was very well-know for this music for Tim Burton’s “Batman” (1989), a score I discussed on my blog before and also in my book “50 Best Soundtracks”. “Batman” and “Spider-Man” are both characters with a dual-identity, but because “Spider-Man” is a lighter movie than “Batman”, Elfman had not so much chance to composer gothic music even though we can find the typical suspense and dark music. Additionally, Elfman chose a technologically more modern approach with a lot of acoustics and electronics. The “Main Title” played during the now famous title sequence for each Marvel movie starts slowly and builds up with the motif for Peter Parker. This motif is introduced with various variations, for example, by adding a choir, which will you hear more often through the movie, and provides an extremely dynamic start. Here is the Main Title: “Transformations” continues with this dynamic approach, alternating with some quieter moments and combined with the typical suspense music by Elfman. One of my favourite tracks is the funny and quirky “Costume Montage”, underscoring the scenes when Peter Parker puts his costume together. With “Revenge”, we have one of the longest tracks of the score. I especially like the trumpet part from 0’45 which reminds you of similar heroic music by Jerry Goldsmith, before we go back to action again, especially the percussion is very busy in this second part of the track. Not always easy listening music, but with a great effect in the movie. In “City Montage”, we have one of the best performances of the main theme, a really powerful and highly enjoyable track in the first part, with a nice use of various percussions again, combined with the piano and choir. Quieter moments again in “Alone” and back to action with “Parade Attack”, the energetic track to the big action scene. “Specter Of The Goblin” features the Goblin theme in a very dark track. The following “Revelation” gives us some quieter moments before we have with “Final Confrontation” the longest track of the score for the showdown: full-packed action music, very loud, very aggressive, typical Elfman in the usage of the strings and percussion, and with a very nice repeat of the Peter Parker theme to end the track. “Farewell” underscores the last scene between Peter and Mary Anne. We hear the famous "with great power comes great responsibility", the motif introduced in the final panel of the first Spider-Man story. Some critics interpret this phrase as a statement after the attacks of 9/11. The last track “End Credits” is unfortunately also one of the weakest tracks: it is just too short to bring this score to a convincing end. You would have wished a longer track that features the various themes in a more complex composed final track. The album consists of 45 minutes, but I read there is a complete score available which is 58 minutes long. I do not have it and could also not find any information where to buy this album. I found a nice piano version of the main theme: And here a live performance, with later Christopher Youngs music, again directed by the incredible Diego Navarro, and with the composer later on stage. You can really hear the difference between these two composers.... Even though, the score of “Spider-Man” has its weaknesses, the music works very well and was also responsible that this first instalment was so successful. Elfman continued to work on the franchise, but as you can read, he had a very bad experience during the second one, so he was not willing to return. Christopher Young with whom Sam Raimi worked before took over, but Elfman stepped in again. Here is not the time to talk more deeper about this because there are so many rumours spreading around. The score issues for the third one, puts a bad impression on the whole franchise, and therefore, it would be very satisfying if we finally get an album of the third “Spider-Man” featuring the music of both composers. For all fans who want to listen to Christopher Young's music, here is the link to the website: Copyright © Stefan Riedlinger, 2019, all rights reserved. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Stefan Riedlinger.

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