EUROVISION SONG CONTEST: THE STORY OF FIRE SAGA – Atli Örvarsson

July 14, 2020 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

So, I have something of a confession to make. I love the Eurovision Song Contest. For those who don’t know what this is – most of whom will be American – it is an annual music contest/festival in which all the countries of Europe (plus a few occasional non-European guests) put forward a song to represent their nation, and then after a huge live TV music extravaganza lasting several hours, all the competing nations vote for a winner. This has happened every year since 1956, and it’s fantastic. It’s a celebration of music and culture, yes, but it’s also a celebration of kitsch, where the wild and the wacky and the downright bizarre compete on equal terms with genuine musical excellence in the service of pan-continental friendship. Lots of famous faces have competed in the competition – ABBA famously won for Sweden in 1974, beating Olivia Newton-John. Céline Dion won singing for Switzerland in 1988. And over the years several artists cut their teeth on the show as youngsters, many of whom may be famous to those outside the Euro-bubble, including Cliff Richard, Nana Mouskouri, Matt Monro, Sandie Shaw, Lulu, Dana, Julio Iglesias, Brotherhood of Man, Bucks Fizz, Ofra Haza, and Katrina and the Waves. Read more…

THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME – Max Steiner

July 13, 2020 Leave a comment

MOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

RKO Radio Pictures executives saw the popularity of the 1924 short story The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell, which was published by Collier’s Magazine and decided that it should be adapted to the big screen. They purchased the film rights, and assigned Merian Cooper, Ernest Schoedsack, and David O. Selznick to produce. The team of Irving Pichel and Ernest Schoedsack would direct the film with a budget of $220,000. James Ashmore Creelman was hired to write the screenplay, and a fine cast was assembled, which included Joel McCrea as Robert Rainsford, Fay Wray as Eve Trowbridge, Leslie Banks as Count Zaroff, Robert Armstrong as Ivan, Steve Clemente as Tartar, Dutch Hendrian as Servant, and William Davidson as the Captain. The story is set in 1932 off the western coast of South America. Renowned big game hunter and author Bob Rainsforth is enjoying a cruise on a luxury yacht through a channel in the remote Tierra Del Fuego. The Captain raises concerns when the channel lights vary from his charts but is ordered to proceed by the yacht’s owner. The yacht runs aground upon a shoal, sinks, and explodes, with Rainsforth the only survivor. Read more…

ENNIO MORRICONE REVIEWS, Part III

July 9, 2020 Leave a comment

In this third installment of my irregular series looking at the early careers of iconic composers, we take a look at an additional eight scores written by the legendary Ennio Morricone between 1961 and 1967 which were not included in the first two articles. This group of reviews includes the first ever western that Morricone scored, several other spaghetti westerns from the Fistful of Dollars era, and several comedic and dramatic romance scores – one of which was for an early film by one of Europe’s most esteemed directors. Read more…

Under-the-Radar Round Up 2020, Part II

July 7, 2020 Leave a comment

With the COVID-19 Coronavirus continuing to decimate the 2020 theatrical movie schedule, as well as the general mood of the world, good music is more important than ever when it comes to getting is all through these difficult times. As such (and as I did last year under much different circumstances) I am very pleased to present the latest installment in my ongoing series of articles looking at the best “under the radar” scores from around the world – this time concentrating on the second quarter of 2020! The titles include an intense action drama from Egypt, a charming romantic drama from Italy, a German version of a classic children’s story, and two titles from the Netherlands – one of which reboots a beloved 1970s British TV series! Read more…

Ennio Morricone, 1928-2020

July 6, 2020 Leave a comment

Composer Ennio Morricone died on July 6, 2020, in hospital in Rome, Italy, after suffering complications following a fall at his home, in which he broke his leg. He was 91.

Ennio Morricone was born in Rome, Italy, in November 1928. He studied at the Conservatory of the National Academy of Santa Cecilia, where he specialized in trumpet performance and composition. During the 1950s Morricone orchestrated and arranged pop songs for the RCA record label, including some for artists such as Paul Anka, Chet Baker and Mina. While working for RCA Morricone also wrote theater music and classical pieces, eventually going on to form Gruppo di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanzsa, an avant-garde musical improvisation group considered to be one of the first experimental composers collectives.

Morricone began ghostwriting for composers such as Armando Trovajoli and Mario Nascimbene in the late 1950s, before making his credited film debut in 1961 for director Luciano Salce’s Il Federale (The Fascist). He worked almost exclusively in Italian cinema in the 1960s, but started to gain some international prominence for his work with director Sergio Leone, a former classmate, whose ‘spaghetti westerns’ starring a young American actor named Clint Eastwood became unexpected hits. A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965), The Good the Bad and the Ugly (1966) and Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), as well as the Burt Reynolds vehicle Navajo Joe (1966), introduced the world to his idiosyncratic personal style, mixing a traditional orchestra with unusual percussion effects, gruff chanting voices, unusual whistles courtesy of Alessandro Alessandroni, and the soaring beauty of the voice of his friend, soprano Edda dell’Orso. These scores became hugely influential and massively popular, quickly cementing his reputation as one of Europe’s leading film composers. Read more…

PRINCE VALIANT – Franz Waxman

July 6, 2020 Leave a comment

MOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

MGM studios had purchased the film rights to the legendary comic book saga but was never able to reduce the sprawling story into a discreet screenplay. After languishing on the shelf for many years MGM allowed its option to lapse. Robert Jacks, who was the son in law of studio executive Darryl F. Zanuck of 20th Century Fox secured the film rights, sensing an opportunity given that swashbuckler films had been experiencing a resurgence in popularity after Ivanhoe (1952). Robert L. Jacks was given a generous budget of nearly $3 million to produce the film, which would be shot in CinemaScope. Dudley Nichols was hired to condense Hal Foster’s comic book tale into a more concise and cogent screenplay, and Henry Hathaway was tasked with directing. A stellar cast was assembled with 24-year-old heartthrob Robert Wagner playing the titular role. Joining him would be James Mason as the villain Sir Brack, Janet Leigh as love interest Princess Aleta, Debra Paget as Princess Irene, Sterling Hayden as Sir Gawain, Victor McLaglen as Boltar, Donald Crisp as King Aguar, Brian Aherne as King Arthur, and Primo Carnera as Sligon. Read more…

ROBOCOP 2 – Leonard Rosenman

June 18, 2020 1 comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

After the unexpected critical and commercial success of Paul Verhoeven’s Robocop in 1987, it was inevitable that a sequel would be produced, and so in June 1990 Robocop 2 debuted in cinemas. Peter Weller returned to don the chrome armor for a second time as Alex Murphy, a detective in the futuristic Detroit Police Department who, after being murdered by criminals while on duty, is transformed into a half human-half machine cyborg crimefighter. The original movie was a violent action story that masked Verhoeven’s critiques of American hyper-consumerism and corporate corruption; Robocop 2 is a much more straightforward (although perhaps more graphically violent) story that sees Murphy trying to bring down a gang of drug dealers that are flooding the city with Nuke, a synthetic and highly addictive narcotic. Meanwhile, rampant corruption within the police department and its corporate owner, OCP, causes more issues with policing in the city, including mass strikes by cops. In order to address the problems city officials try to strike a deal with Cain, a vicious drug kingpin with a messiah complex. What could go wrong? The film co-stars Nancy Allen, Tom Noonan, and Belinda Bauer, was co-written by cult comic book creator Frank Miller, and was directed by The Empire Strikes Back’s Irvin Kershner, in what turned out to be his last film prior to his death. Read more…

ARTEMIS FOWL – Patrick Doyle

June 16, 2020 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

After being in production since 2013, and then languishing in distribution hell for well over a year after it was completed, Artemis Fowl has finally staggered into the world as a straight-to-streaming product on Disney+ in June 2020, having had its theatrical release cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak. It’s a fantasy-adventure film for children, based on the massively popular series of novels by Eoin Colfer, and tells the story of a 12-year old genius named Artemis Fowl, who is the heir to the vast fortune accumulated by his father, a criminal mastermind. However, when his father is kidnapped, young Artemis is tasked with rescuing him, and is thrust into an adventure involving ancient artifacts, mythical hidden cities, and creatures from Irish folklore – fairies and leprechauns and the like – some of whom are intent on apparently starting a war between them and humans. The film stars Colin Farrell, Josh Gad, Judi Dench, and young Ferdia Shaw (the grandson of Jaws actor Robert Shaw) in the title role, and is directed by Kenneth Branagh. Read more…

FORBIDDEN PLANET – Louis Barron and Bebe Barron

June 15, 2020 1 comment

MOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

The massive commercial success of the science fiction film The Day The Earth Stood Still in 1951 motivated MGM executives to cash in on the emerging genre, which had captured the public’s imagination. They came upon a screenplay entitled Fatal Planet by Irving Block and Allen Adler, and believed they had found their film. Nicholas Nayfack was hired to produce, and he brought in Fred Wilcox to direct. They were not fully satisfied with the script and brought in screenwriter Cyril Hume to make adjustments, beginning with the title, which was changed to “Forbidden Planet” as it was believed to have greater mystery and box office appeal. An excellent cast was hired, which included Walter Pidgeon as Dr. Edward Morbius, Ann Francis as his daughter Altaira, Leslie Nielsen in his acting debut as Commander John Adams, Robby the Robot as himself, Warren Stevens as Lieutenant Doc Ostrow, Jack Kelly as Lieutenant Jerry Farman, Richard Anderson as Chief Quinn, and Earl Holliman as the Cook. The story draws inspiration from William Shakespeare’s play “The Tempest” 1610. It takes place in the distant 23rd century on the planet Altair IV. Captain Adams commands the starship C-57D on a mission to discover the fate of the starship Bellerophon, which was sent there on a mission 20 years earlier. They discover two survivors, Dr. Mobius and his daughter Altaira along with their robot Robby, who relate that an unknown entity killed the other crew members and destroyed the Bellerophon. They also learn that Dr. Mobius has discovered technology from an ancient race known as the Krell, which inhabited this planet yet disappeared in a cataclysm some 200,000 years ago. Read more…

DICK TRACY – Danny Elfman

June 11, 2020 1 comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

One of the earliest comic strips ever created was Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy, which debuted in the Detroit Mirror in 1931, and subsequently gained immense popularity through syndication in newspapers in Chicago, New York, and elsewhere. It’s a crime story following the adventures of the titular hard-boiled detective, an Elliot Ness-style lawman taking on various gangsters and villains in the New York underworld, clad in his iconic yellow trench coat. There were several Dick Tracy movies made in the late 1930s and early 1940s, usually with Morgan Conway in the lead role, but the character was curiously ignored for more than 45 years until he was brought back in 1990 by director Warren Beatty, who played the title role himself. The plot saw Tracy locking horns with the vicious gangster Big Boy Caprice (Al Pacino), who Tracy had been investigating for years. When a young street urchin known only as ‘the Kid’ (Charlie Korsmo) witnesses Caprice committing a murder, Tracy takes the boy under his wing, both to protect him from retribution, and also to groom him as a potential protégé. Meanwhile, the seductive nightclub singer Breathless Mahoney (Madonna) also emerges as a witness to Caprice’s crimes, but her involvement in the case threatens to disrupt Tracy’s relationship with his long-term girlfriend Tess Trueheart (Glenne Headly). After all, sooner or later, she always gets her man… Read more…

DA 5 BLOODS – Terence Blanchard

June 9, 2020 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Considering that this week has seen worldwide protests relating to the death of George Floyd, systemic racism against black people, and the cause of the Black Lives Matter movement, it is perhaps appropriate that there is a new movie by director Spike Lee. Ever since he broke into the mainstream with his scintillating directorial effort Do The Right Thing in 1989, Lee has been at the forefront of African-American filmmaking, creating movies which tackle many of the aforementioned issues with insight, clarity, depth, emotion, and no small amount of theatrical skill. His latest movie is Da 5 Bloods, a Vietnam-era drama in which four African American war veterans return to Vietnam with a dual purpose: to search for the remains of their former squad leader, who was killed in action but was never returned home, and to uncover a hoard of gold that they found during the war, but which they were forced to bury. However, as the men journey back to what was once the front lines, they also find themselves confronted with the memories of their worst experiences, and how it shaped their lives since the conflict ended. The film was written by Lee with Danny Bilson, Paul De Meo, and Kevin Willmott (who co-wrote Blackkklansman), and stars Chadwick Boseman, Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Jonathan Majors, and Jean Reno. Read more…

THE THIRD MAN – Anton Karas

June 8, 2020 Leave a comment

MOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

English novelist Graham Greene became intrigued by post war events unfolding in Europe and decided to write a suspense novella titled “The Third Man”. Unlike his previous novels, he intended for this latest effort to serve as source material for a film noir screenplay set in post WWII Vienna. As part of his research, he met Elizabeth Montagu in Vienna, who served as a tour guide for traditional landmarks, but also its renowned sewers and unsavory night clubs. She introduced him to Peter Smolka, the European correspondent for the Times, who provided him with stories of Vienna’s underbelly of black markets. The tours and tales were invaluable and inspired Greene to write one of the finest stories in his career. Well he had no problem selling his handiwork, and a legendary collaboration of talent joined together to produce the film, which included Alexander Korda, David O. Selznick and Carol Reed, who was also tasked with directing. A fine cast was assembled, which included Joseph Cotton as Holly Martins, Alida Valli as Anna Schmidt, Orson Welles as Harry Lime and Trevor Howard as Major Calloway. Reed had a vision for the film and brought in Austrian expressionist cinematographer Robert Krasker who would use harsh lighting and “Dutch Angle” camera technique to create an avant-garde atmospheric black-and-white viewing experience. Read more…

GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH – Jerry Goldsmith

June 4, 2020 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Gremlins, the film in which a whole host of nasty little creatures take over a small town at Christmas, was one of the most popular and successful films of 1984. It introduced the world to Gizmo, the cute and fuzzy little ‘mogwai’ who has some rather unfortunate traits – he multiplies if you get him wet, and terrible things happen if he eats after midnight. A somewhat belated sequel, subtitled ‘The New Batch,’ opened in cinemas in June 1990. Following the events of the first film, little Gizmo was re-united with his original elderly owner Mr. Wing, and the survivors of the carnage – Billy and Kate – are now a couple and have moved to the Big City. Both Billy and Kate work for a company owned by the eccentric multi-billionaire Daniel Clamp (a thinly veiled parody of Donald Trump), and are astonished when they find Gizmo in one of the company’s laboratories, being subjected to all manner of awful tests by the cruel researcher Dr Catheter. Billy and Kate break Gizmo out and plan to have him live with them but – of course – things go wrong, and before long there are dozens of Gremlins infesting the Clamp skyscraper, threatening to break out and overrun New York. The film is directed by Joe Dante, stars Zach Galligan and Phoebe Cates reprising their roles from the first film, and again features Howie Mandel as the voice of Gizmo; they are joined in the cast by John Glover, Christopher Lee, Robert Prosky, and Robert Picardo. Read more…

SCOOB – Tom Holkenborg

June 2, 2020 1 comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Scoob is the latest movie to star Scooby-Doo, the cowardly canine crime-fighter who, along with his best friend Shaggy and the other members of Mystery Inc., have been unmasking cartoon villains since they first debuted on CBS in 1969. There have been literally dozens of TV shows starring the character, as well as an astonishing 40 straight-to-video movies between 1987 and 2019, but only two projects premiered on the big-screen: the 2002 live-action film Scooby-Doo starring Freddie Prinze Jr. and Sarah Michelle Gellar, and it’s 2004 sequel ‘Monsters Unleashed’. This film was intended to be the third cinematic outing, but the COVID-19 outbreak nixed that idea, and instead it premiered straight-to-streaming in May 2020. The film is a CGI animated adventure directed by Tony Cervone, and is a sort of re-imagined and re-booted origin story about how Scooby-Doo met Shaggy as a puppy, how they first teamed up with Fred, Velma, and Daphne to form Mystery Inc., and what happened on their first adventure and beyond. Scoob is also intended to be a launching point for a larger Hanna-Barbera ‘shared universe’ series, as the film also features such characters as Blue Falcon and Dyno-Mutt, Dick Dastardly and Muttley, and Captain Caveman, among others. It also has an absolutely stellar voice cast, including Will Forte, Mark Wahlberg, Jason Isaacs, Amanda Seyfried, Ken Jeong, Tracy Morgan, Zac Efron, Henry Winkler, and many more! Read more…

THE PRIVATE LIVES OF ELIZABETH AND ESSEX – Erich Wolfgang Korngold

June 1, 2020 1 comment

MOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Warner Brothers Studio executives saw the commercial success of Maxwell Anderson’s 1930 New York stage production of “Elizabeth The Queen,” which ran for an impressive 147 performances, and decided to purchase the film rights. Hal B. Wallis would produce the film, Michael Curtiz was tasked with directing, and Norman Reilly Raine and Aeneas MacKenzie were hired to write the screenplay. A stellar cast was assembled with Bette Davis starring as Queen Elizabeth I, Errol Flynn as Robert Devereux the Earl of Essex, Olivia de Havilland as Lady Penelope Gray, Donald Crisp as Francis Bacon, Alan Hale Sr. as Earl of Tyrone and Vincent Price as Sir Walter Raleigh. Drama arose immediately as Davis and Flynn did not like each other, something which was exacerbated by his insistence that his character be included in the film title led. This did not sit well with Davis; in a dress rehearsal scene, she purposely slapped Flynn’s face hard in front of the entire production crew instead of feigning it. Flynn did not retaliate and luckily, she did not reprise the slap during live filming. as he related in his memoirs that he would have slapped her back! Read more…