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THE 10TH KINGDOM – Anne Dudley

February 25, 2000 Leave a comment Go to comments

10thkingdomOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

At the risk of repeating myself, it seems like the Hallmark Hall of Fame series of TV movies has struck gold again. With eight popular scores (including the critically acclaimed Animal Farm, Merlin, Durango and the Emmy-winning Alice In Wonderland) already under their belt and several more projects in the pipeline, it could be that the collaboration between Hallmark and Varèse Sarabande becomes one of the most fruitful partnerships to grace the film music world for many years. Without a doubt, the standard of this kind of TV scoring has increased tremendously over the last couple of years, with composers as eminent as Trevor Jones, Richard Hartley and Stephen Warbeck lending their not inconsiderable talents to the series. The latest to join the list is fellow Oscar-winner Anne Dudley, writing music for the latest entry into the series, The 10th Kingdom.

An epic fantasy of mystery and magic, the series is set in an ancient land – one of nine kingdoms – ruled by the handsome and benevolent Prince Wendell (Daniel Lapaine). However, Wendell’s world is upside down when a wicked queen (Dianne Weist) escapes from her prison and uses her magic to turn him into a dog and take control of the realm. Escaping from the queen’s clutches, Wendell journeys through a vortex and finds himself in modern-day New York – the tenth kingdom of the title – where he enlists the help of a waitress named Virginia (Kimberly Williams) and her janitor father Tony (John Larroquette) to help him return to his home and restore the balance power. Along the way, the intrepid trio encounter a series of bizarre and unusual characters, including a man named who can turn into a wolf at will, a whole host of vicious trolls and a deadly hunter intent on stopping them at all costs. The series is directed by Herbert Wise and David Carson, and features Scott Cohen, Ed O’Neill, Rutger Hauer, Camryn Manheim and Ann-Margret in supporting roles.

As one would expect from the description above, Anne Dudley’s score is a full blown sword-and-sorcery affair, but with just a hint of contemporary techniques to lift it out of the dark ages and firmly into the present. Somewhat surprisingly, Dudley’s main theme does not come out and smack you between the eyes as you would expect, instead remaining content to present short snippets of thematic material within cues. But this is not to say that this score is Iron Giant revisited. The first track, ‘The 4 Who Saved the 9 Kingdoms’ opens and closes with a resounding orchestral flourish, replete with vigorous strings, powerful brass phrases and heavy percussion. There is also a great deal of synthesised music, but fortunately it is used as an enhancing tool and not as an arbitrary replacement for the orchestra. This outline pretty much sets the standard for the rest of the score, but several cues stand out as being of special note.

‘Six Glorious Wishes’ is a wonderful woodwind and xylophone scherzo which bounces along at a fair old trot like a refugee from Beetlejuice, before turning all starry and twinkly in the lovely ‘Addicted to Magic’. Dudley injects a little ethnic colour into cues such as ‘Flowers Only Grow Where There Are Seeds’ and ‘A Travelling Mirror’ with the introduction of Andrew Finton’s flute solo, and a touch of menace with a call-and-response horn and cimbalom theme for the Huntsman, while the recurring motif for the trolls in ‘Troll Trouble’ and others is very interesting, sounding like a cross between Howard Shore’s mournful trumpet drones and the Tardis sound effects from the British sci-fi series Doctor Who.

‘The Dwarves of Dragon Mountain’, ‘The Dog Formerly Known as Prince’ and ‘A Gypsy Incantation’ are worth noting for their exciting action music, as is the conclusive song ‘Wishing on a Star’, performed with gusto by Miriam Stockley. Similarly, Helen Tunstall’s sublime harp solo in ‘Kissing Town’ is completely captivating, while the eerie vocal effects Dudley works into ‘A Stepmother’s Curse’ result in a cue which manages to be incredibly interesting while scaring the pants off you! However, by far the best track on the album is ‘These Are Dark Days’, in which Dudley allows her orchestra to rise to truly mammoth proportions, resulting in a truly inspiring performance of the main theme.

To summarise, The 10th Kingdom is a superb effort from all concerned, infused with a great deal of life, energy and just a little bit of magic, The performances are consistently top-notch, the thematic and compositional techniques are interesting and occasionally a little surprising, especially with regard some of the innovative orchestrations Dudley employs. It’s taken a while but with this score, as with American History X last year, Anne Dudley has finally banished the ghost of The Full Monty and proved that she is a composer of some calibre after all.

Rating: ****

Buy the 10th Kingdom soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • The 4 Who Saved the 9 Kingdoms (2:36)
  • Standing on the Edge of Greatness (1:47)
  • Six Glorious Wishes (1:58)
  • Addicted to Magic (2:38)
  • The House of White (2:40)
  • Troll Trouble (3:41)
  • Flowers Only Grow Where There Are Seeds (2:13)
  • The Dwarves of Dragon Mountain (2:28)
  • Nothing Escapes the Huntsman (2:20)
  • A Stepmother’s Curse (3:00)
  • The Dog Formerly Known as Prince (1:51)
  • Blood on the Snow (1:21)
  • Trolls in New York (1:20)
  • A Travelling Mirror (1:55)
  • Kissing Town (2:09)
  • A Gypsy Incantation (2:14)
  • These Are Dark Days (3:09)
  • Seven Years Bad Luck (2:26)
  • The Days of Happy Ever After Are Gone (2:06)
  • When the Wild Moon Calls You (2:27)
  • Still Lost in the Forest (2:52)
  • Do Not Think, Become (2:13)
  • Wishing on a Star (performed by Miriam Stockley) (1:21)

Running Time: 54 minutes 52 seconds

Varèse Sarabande VSD-6115 (2000)

Music composed and conducted by Anne Dudley. Orchestrations by Anne Dudley. Featured musical soloists Rolf Wilson, Christian Henson, Andrew Findon, Helen Tunstall and Anne Dudley. Special vocal performances by Sarah Leonard, Catherine Bott and Nicole Tibbles. Recorded and mixed by Chris Dibble and Roger Dudley. Mastered by Tim Young. Album produced by Anne Dudley and Roger Dudley.

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