THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD – Erich Wolfgang Korngold

July 6, 2015 Leave a comment

adventuresofrobinhoodMOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1935 Warner Brothers Studio sought to bring an epic swashbuckling film to the big screen and William Keighley was hired to direct. Screenwriters Norman Reilly Raine and Seton Miller were brought in to write the script, for which they drew inspiration from the Medieval Robin Hood legends. A stellar cast was assembled including; Errol Flynn (Sir Robin of Locksley AKA Robin Hood), Olivia de Havilland (Lady Marian Fitzwalter), Basil Rathbone (Sir Guy of Gisbourne), Claude Reins (Prince John), Patrick Knowles (Will Scarlett), Eugene Pallette (Friar Tuck), Alan Hale Sr. (Little John) and Melville Cooper (High Sheriff of Nottingham). The story reveals that in 1,191 C.E. King Richard the Lionheart of England has been taken captive by Leopold V, Duke of Austria, as he returned from the Third Crusade. Regretfully his imprisonment provides a pretext for his treacherous brother Prince John to usurp the throne. As a member of the ruling Norman elite, he begins a reign of terror and oppression of the native Saxons, raising taxes supposedly to ransom Richard’s freedom, but in reality the money flows into his personal coffers for his own enrichment. Only one nobleman has the conscience to oppose John’s duplicity, the Saxon knight Sir Robin of Locksley. At a court dinner he boldly declares that he will do all in his power to oppose John and restore Richard to the throne. For this affront John issues an arrest warrant. With his lands and title now forfeit, Robin assembles a band of “Merry Men” who rob from the rich and provide for the poor. When Lady Marion becomes his prisoner, her initial disdain turns to admiration and then love when she sees Robin’s nobility and care for the people. Eventually Robin discovers Richard has returned and devises a plan to overthrow John. He and his men enter Sir Guy’s castle dressed as monks and succeed in winning the day, which features an epic duel with Sir Guy. Now vanquished, a contrite John begs for Richard’s forgiveness, and is exiled. Richard then pardons the Merry Men, knights Robin as Baron of Locksley and Earl of Sherwood and Nottingham. He then commands Robin to marry his ward, the Lady Marian resulting in a classic happy ending! The film was both a huge commercial success and critical success, earning four Academy Award nominations, winning three, including Best Original Score. Read more…

LIFEFORCE – Henry Mancini

July 2, 2015 Leave a comment

lifeforceTHROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

What do you think of when you think of the music of Henry Mancini? The gentle romance of Breakfast at Tiffany’s? The effortlessly cool jazz of Peter Gunn or The Pink Panther? The forbidden passion of The Thorn Birds? The playful “Baby Elephant Walk” from Hatari? I’d bet my bottom dollar that most people would come up with those classics long before they thought of an epic orchestral sci-fi horror score, but that’s exactly what Mancini wrote for Lifeforce, a British-American production directed by Tobe Hooper and produced by the notorious Yoram Globus and Menahem Golan for Cannon Films. The film is a loose adaptation of Colin Wilson’s 1976 novel The Space Vampires, and stars Steve Railsback as the head of a multi-national space exploration team sent to investigate Halley’s Comet as it makes one of it’s regular 75-year passes past Earth. The team finds a space craft concealed inside the comet’s corona, and inside the space craft they find the preserved bodies of three seemingly humanoid aliens in suspended animation, including one incredibly beautiful female. However, when the space exploration team’s ship returns home, Mission Control in London finds it empty, save for the three aliens, which soon awake and begin draining ‘life force’ energies from every human they encounter. The film co-starred Peter Firth, Frank Finlay, Patrick Stewart, and Mathilda May, who spends almost the entire film completely naked; despite this obvious selling point, the film was a disaster, recouping less than half of its $25 million budget, and receiving terrible reviews from most critics of the time. Read more…

HERBERT STOTHART – Fathers of Film Music, Part 11

July 1, 2015 Leave a comment

Herbert StothartArticle by Craig Lysy

Born: 11 September 1885, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Died: 1 February 1949.

Herbert Stothart was born of Scottish and German ancestry in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1885. He studied at Milwaukee Normal School with a curriculum tailored to prepare him for an academic career as a teacher of history. He helped pay for his education by working as a theatre usher, which also elicited a lifelong fascination with movies. It came to pass that he joined an Episcopal Church choir, which kindled a fervent love of music. When he entered the University of Wisconsin, he continued on this path by composing and conducting musicals for the Haresfoot Dramatic Club. His exposure to the musical arts and his extracurricular activities staging school musicals ignited in Stothart a lifelong passion for music, which would now dominate his life. His hard work paid off when one of his productions, “Manicure Shop”, was successfully staged professionally in Chicago, which opened opportunities for further musical studies in Europe. Once this occurred his career path was firmly set, and he returned to America, securing full-time employment as a composer for vaudeville and New York musical theatre. Read more…

JURASSIC WORLD – Michael Giacchino

June 30, 2015 Leave a comment

jurassicworldOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

In 1998 a 29-year-old producer and aspiring composer for Disney Interactive was hired to write the score for The Lost World: Jurassic Park, a video game spin off from the recently-released Jurassic Park sequel that had hit cinema screens the year before. The game was one of the first PlayStation console titles to feature an original live orchestral score, and the title was so successful that it led to the composer being given further video game assignments, most notably in the Medal of Honor series, and eventually prestigious TV and film scoring jobs. That composer was Michael Giacchino – the first composer to successfully blur the lines between scoring video games and theatrical movies – and, with the release of Jurassic World, his almost 20-year career has come full circle. The film is intended to be a direct sequel to the original Jurassic Park – ignoring entirely the events of The Lost World and Jurassic Park III – and is set 20 years later in the now fully-functioning, open and successful theme park that John Hammond envisaged, albeit with the events of the original film having been covered up and buried by Ingen’s PR department. Bryce Dallas Howard plays Claire Dearing, the park’s operations manager, who is visited by her two nephews Zach and Gray for a vacation. Unfortunately Claire is preoccupied with recruiting corporate sponsors for their new attraction, a genetically-modified dinosaur called Indominus Rex, and so essentially leaves the kids to their own devices in the park. Things change when Indominus apparently escapes from his paddock, and Claire calls on the park’s chief animal trainer, Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), to recapture the beast before it starts eating the tourists… Read more…

THE WIZARD OF OZ – Herbert Stothart

June 29, 2015 Leave a comment

wizardofozMOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Following the enormous commercial success of Walt Disney’s “Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs” (1937), MGM Studio Executive Louis Mayer was determined to cash in and duplicate its success. He found the story he felt was needed and purchased the rights to L. Frank Baum’s novel, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” (1900). Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson and Edgar Allan Woolf were tasked with writing the screenplay. Veteran director Victor Fleming was hired for the project and he assembled a cast, which is now legend; Judy Garland (Dorothy), Frank Morgan (Professor Marvel/Wizard of Oz), Ray Bolger (Hunk/Scarecrow), Jack Haley (Hickory/Tin Man), Bert Lahr (Zeke/Cowardly Lion), Billie Burke (Glinda) and Margaret Hamilton (Miss Gulch and the Wicked Witch of the West). Read more…

COCOON – James Horner

June 25, 2015 Leave a comment

cocoonTHROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Cocoon was one of the major box-office successes of 1985, a winning combination of science fiction adventure and family drama directed by Ron Howard. The film stars Don Ameche, Wilford Brimley and Hume Cronyn as three old-timers living in a retirement community in Florida; part of their daily routine is to sneak into an unoccupied house next door and swim in its swimming pool. One day they find a number of strange, rock-like objects at the bottom of the water, but after checking them out, decide to swim there anyway; following their swim, the three geezers suddenly find themselves rejuvenated with a vigorous, youthful energy, and they share their discovery with their respective wives and lady friends, played by Gwen Verdon, Maureen Stapleton, and Jessica Tandy. However, much to the shock of the senior citizens, the ‘rocks in the pool’ turn out to be cocoons containing dozens of sick aliens, left behind by friendly extra-terrestrials centuries ago, and which were about to be returned to their home planet by their leader, Brian Dennehy, with the help of a local ship captain, played by Steve Guttenberg – until the pool was drained of its life force by the old folks. As such, the sextet of retirees must work with the aliens to help them find a way home, without revealing the secret of the pool. The film earned two Academy Awards – one for Best Supporting Actor for Don Ameche, and one for Best Visual Effects – and boasted a magnificent score by the then 32-year-old James Horner. Read more…

James Horner, 1953-2015

June 22, 2015 Leave a comment

James HornerComposer James Horner has been killed in a plane crash. Horner died when the single engine S312 Tucano plane he was piloting crashed in the Los Padres National Forest near Santa Barbara, California. He was 61 years old.

James Roy Horner was born in Los Angeles in August 1953, the son of Harry Horner, an Oscar-nominated Hollywood production designer and occasional film director who emigrated from Austria. He attended high school in California and Arizona, but spent most of his formative years living in London, where he attended the Royal College of Music, and later completed his PhD at UCLA in Los Angeles. After scoring several short film projects for the American Film Institute in the late 1970s, and spending several years teaching, Horner joined the staff at Roger Corman’s New World Pictures, scoring several low-budget genre films, including the popular Battle Beyond the Stars (1980), and working with soon-to-be Hollywood bigwigs such as director James Cameron and producer Gale Ann Hurd.

Horner launched into the big time in 1982 with his score for the critically acclaimed and commercially popular science fiction sequel Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and from that point on Horner quickly rose to become one of the most in-demand composers in Hollywood. In the 1980s and 90s Horner became known for his grand, large-scale, emotional orchestral works; he scored a succession of box office hit movies including 48 HRS. (1982), Honey I Shrunk the Kids (1989), The Pelican Brief (1993), Clear and Present Danger (1994), Apollo 13 (1995) and Ransom (1996), and wrote enormously popular scores for films such as Krull (1983), Cocoon (1985), Willow (1988), Field of Dreams (1989), Glory (1989), Legends of the Fall (1994) and Braveheart (1995), culminating in the massive Titanic in 1997, which remains one of the biggest-selling orchestral score albums of all time. Following the turn of the millennium Horner’s career continued apace, with scores for further box office successes such as How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000), The Perfect Storm (2000), A Beautiful Mind (2001), Avatar (2009) and The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) amongst his efforts. Read more…

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