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THIS ISLAND EARTH AND OTHER ALIEN INVASION FILMS – Various Composers

September 22, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments

thisislandearthMOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Includes music from WAR OF THE SATELLITES by Walter Green, THIS ISLAND EARTH by Herman Stein, EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS by Daniele Amfitheatrof, and THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS by Ron Goodwin

THIS ISLAND EARTH

Universal-International’s producer William Alland well known for his penchant for Sci-Fi films, hired Joseph Newman to direct his latest project “This Island Earth”. Writers Franklin Coen and Edward O’Callaghan adapted a screenplay from ”Thrilling Wonder Stories”, three novelettes written by Raymond F. Jones. Principle actors Jeff Morrow (Exeter), Faith Domergue (Dr. Ruth Adams) and Rex Reason (Dr. Cal Meacham) were hired for the project. The story reveals the inhabitants of the planet Metaluna succumbing in their war with the plant Zahgon. Desperation leads them to Earth’s for its abundant uranium deposits, which they require to fuel their failing planetary shields, and for Earth’s greatest scientists whom they abduct to assist in their war efforts. The film earned praise for its story telling, cinematography and was also a commercial success.

The score is thematically rich and was created by a collaborative effort that included Herman Stein as the primary composer with assistance from Henry Mancini and Hans Salter. The Universal’s contract orchestra was a small ensemble of 36 players, and the score was recorded with significant reverb to help it blend with the acoustic orchestra. Stein provides five themes including the Metaluna Theme A, which employs string harmonics, Novachord, bass marimba, alto flute and clarinet to inform us of their alien nature through an eerie ethereal construct. The Metalunan Theme B is a six-note construct that informs us of the danger posed by the Metalunans. Emoted by horns bellicoso or woodwinds mysterioso, the them speaks of a dark purpose. The Heroic Theme offers classic American confidence that sounds atop a repeating and rising line of horns trionfante! The string laden Love Theme uses classic Golden Age form to bath us in a warm and lush lyricism. Mancini’s provided a theme and motif for the film; the Mutant Theme is a three-note construct by growling low register brass that informs us of the primal beast, while the Telegraph Motif is a rapid-fire construct by trumpets and woodwinds, which is used as flight music.

“Main Title” opens the film with portentous fanfare to the Universal International logo, which dissipates into a star-field. A dark prelude ushers in the Metaluna Theme A that flows with dark purpose. As we return to Earth and the words “Washington, D. C,” fade Stein supports the imagery with rousing fan fare, which emote classic American bravado. “Jet West” reveals Dr. Cal Meacham and Joe flying over the scenic panorama of the American west. Stein propels the scene with a splendid rendering of the Heroic Theme as the men discuss whether a flying saucer caused a plane crash. In “Color Blind” sound effects dominate as a mysterious green light envelops the plane the jet’s engine stall, yet the plane is taken to a safe landing in Los Angeles by a warehouse. As the plane lands dark horns sow danger atop the Metalunan Theme B, which dissipates into a weird milieu of woodwinds mysterioso. “From Unit #16” really offers a fine synergy of music and imagery and is a score highlight. We see Joe and Cal at a research laboratory preparing to open crates to assemble a device called an interocitor, which was provided by Dr. Meachum. The device appears to be an advanced videophone and ray gun. A bassoon offers a mysterioso variant of the Metalunan Theme B that entwines for extended interplay with the Metaluna Theme A in a dark communion.

“Interocitor Montage” reveal the men assembling the alien device. This is really a fine cue that is propelled by spirited interplay by staccato brass, pizzicato strings, trilling clarinets, xylophone and vibraphone. In “Eerie Remains” Dr.Meachum has successfully assembled the interocitor. The Metalunan Theme B sounds and portends the device’s dark purpose. “Robot Plane” reveals the approach through dense fog of a mysterious plane. Upon landing Cal boards it against Joe’s warning and is flown away as the voice of Exeter is heard over the plane’s interocitor. Stein uses an array of woodwinds mysterioso Novachord, string harmonics and harp to create a soundscape filled with mystery, intrigue and disquiet. This is a perfect marriage of imagery and music!

In “Haven’t We Met?” we are treated to an extended rendering of the Love Theme. As the plane lands in Georgia, Cal disembarks. A Novachord joins woodwinds mysterioso to sustain the intrigue and mystery of the phantom plane. At 0:23 we are bathed in the wondrous lyricism of the string laden Love Theme as Cal meets his old flame Dr. Ruth Adams. Her on screen reaction informs us, born by a solo clarinet, that their love affair will not be rekindled. A final reprise of the theme’s phrasing plays against the underlying tension. “Exeter’s Mansion” is a magical cue that features just elegant writing. We see Cal and Ruth enter Exeter’s Mansion. A wondrous gentile ambiance is created by twinkling harp, celli pastorale and celeste. A disquieting interlude by woodwinds mysterioso emoting the Metalunan Theme B temporarily interrupts the melodic flow to inform us that all is not right. In “Wrong Girl” Exeter shows Cal an interocitor eyed view of his laboratory before they accept his invitation to dine. A clarinet prelude ushers in the Love Theme to support the scene. In “This Way, Doctor” Cal, Ruth and Steve head to Cal’s laboratory following dinner. Stein sows disquiet with the Metalunan Theme B in a disquieting soundscape of a Novachord, flute and oboe.

“Secret Meeting” reveals Cal examining a hole that Exeter blasted during a demonstration of Neutrino rays. An eerie soundscape of Novachord and pensive woodwinds is created with references of the Metalunan Theme B. A statement of the Love Theme temporarily lightens the moment when Cal mentions his time with Ruth in Vermont. In “Neutronic Rays” Brack unleashes hell when he uses red Neutrino rays to incinerate the car Steve is driving and then Dr. Engelborg. An unsuspecting Cal and Ruth set-off for the airport. Stein unleashes a ferocious orchestral onslaught using repeating phrasing of the Metalunan Theme B by strings feroce and discordant horns orribile. Wow! “Conversion Tube” reveals Cal’s and Ruth’s bodies being prepared for Metaluna’s stronger gravity by being bathed in Metalunan mist. This cue showcases both creativity and innovation as Stein creates a most unusual soundscape using chords on woodwinds, horns, xylophone and strings, which play against a shifting Novachord sustain. The very eerie concluding effect was born from a fusion of vibraphone and celli. Once again the marriage of music and imagery was just superb! Regretfully “Vermont Memories” was excised from the film, as it is a fine cue. We are treated to an extended rendering of Stein’s Love Theme, now adorned with woodwinds – just beautiful.

In “Transformation” we see Ruth and Cal in tubes receiving sequentially X, Y and the Z rays in preparation of their arrival at Metaluna. We bear witness to phrasing of the Metalunan Theme B that is emoted in other worldly fashion by harp, ponticello strings and Novachord. The marriage of imagery and music is perfect. “Shooting Stars” is a visually impressive scene, which reveals the Metalunan saucer approaching its war ravaged home world. They are forced to fire on and destroy Zahgon attack-meteors as they approach. Once again Stein creates a mysterioso and other worldly soundscape through a blending of Novachord, vibraphone, woodwinds, bells and harp. We end dramatically upon repeating triplets phrases of the Metalunan Theme B, which crescendo powerfully. In “Meteor Battle” the ship descends towards the cratered and devastated Metalunan surface. A crevasse in the planet’s crust appears and the ship descends through it, passing into the planet’s interior where resides the last vestige of Metalunan culture. Celli and vibraphone are used to create a descent effect as the ship’s descends. We soon bear witness to a devastated planet through a dire and horrific soundscape created by low register horns, woodwinds, tremolo strings and harp, which continues the descent effect. Stein demonstrated mastery of his craft with this cue! “Metaluna Tunnel” reveals Cal, Ruth, and Exeter disembarking and boarding an elevator. The dire soundscape of the previous cue is sustained by Novachord, alto flute, and bass clarinet. In “Metaluna Transport” a Zahgon meteorite blast shatters Metaluna’s surface as the elevator continues to descend through a long tunnel. Vibraphone and celli create an otherworldly effect and are augmented by alto flute and bassoon as the Metalunan Theme A creates an eerie soundscape.

“Metaluna Catastrophe, Part 1” reveals the final destruction of Metaluna as Zagon blasts penetrate and shatter the subterranean refuge, killing most of the remaining Metalunans. Drs. Meacham and Adams reject having their brains rewritten by the thought transference machine and so flee to the saucer. An array of harp, Novachord, xylophone, woodwinds and low horns support this most interesting cue that features the Metalunan Theme A and Metalunan Theme B. Shock chords inform us of Zahgon blasts and an accelerando supports Cal and Ruth’s fleeing, with additional shock chords sounding as they are confronted by mutants. Well done. In “Metaluna Catastrophe, Part 2” urgent flight music supports Cal and Ruth as they flee to the saucer. Mancini introduces a fabulous Telegraph Motif by rapid-fire trumpets and woodwinds to support their flight, and reprises the shock chord to inform us of a confrontation with a mutant. We conclude on horns barbaro and suspended cymbals as the creature attacks. In “Flight From Metaluna” the saucer departs and Ruth consoles Exeter as we see Metaluna destroyed. Elegiac trumpets signal Metaluna’s destruction. As they enter their stasis tubes and are gassed we hear a novel shimmering percussive effect by xylophone, Novachord and harp. Growling low register horns emote the Metalunan Theme B as we see that a mutant has stowed away below deck. The cue concludes upon celli mysterioso and vibraphone, from which blare trumpets as we see the saucer sailing through space.

“Amorous Mutant” is a score highlight with some powerful writing! We see Ruth vulnerable in her tube as the creature approaches. We open with an ethereal soundscape from which Mancini introduces his grotesque three-note Mutant Theme on flutter-tongued trumpets. An accelerando builds to a horrific deafening crescendo as the creature moves ever closer. A blaring horn decrescendo informs us of the creature’s demise from the pressure change. Wow! In “Down To Earth” Cal and Ruth console a wounded Exeter’s who opens the saucer’s bay to allow them to fly to safety aboard their plane. As they depart the now fuel exhausted saucer descends to its demise. Salter provides some fine interplay of the Metalunan Theme B, Heroic Theme and Love Theme. “End Title” opens atop blaring horns with trilling woodwinds and strings as a relieved Ruth and Cal escape and are thankful of their survival. We witness a powerful orchestral descent, which supports the saucer’s crash, and we conclude in classic fashion with celebratory orchestral flourish. “End Cast” offers the brief end credits as the Love Theme plays, ending the film on a positive note.

THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS

Executive producer Philip Yordan of Allied Artists commissioned a screenplay based on the John Wyndham novel bearing the same name. Steve Sekely was hired to direct principal actors Howard Keel (Bill Maeson), Nicole Maurey (Christine Durrant) Janette Scott (Karen Goodwin) and Kieron Moore (Tom Goodwin). The story offers a classic alien invasion story where a brilliantly glowing meteor shower that destroys the optic nerves of all that gaze upon it, thus blinding over 90% of Earth’s population. This sets the stage for a culling as Triffids, predatory carnivorous plants from outer space, have descended with the meteors. Bill Maeson, who was recovering from eye surgery and never saw the meteor shower leads a small band of sighted people in a desperate effort to save humanity. Low production values, edits and reshoots all contributed to a poor box office showing.

Ron Goodwin was hired to score the film, but his score was decimated by all the cuts and re-edits as the studio attempted to rework the flawed film. A second composer Johnny Douglas was brought in to rescore the edited scenes as Goodwin had moved on to other projects. This CD offers Goodwin’s original work in its entirety. Written for a standard sized orchestra, Goodwin employed 6 French horns with additional accents being provided by xylophone, vibraphone, orchestra bells, snare drum, tambourine, harp, and celesta. He created three theme to support the film’s narrative; the Triffid Theme, a stunning repeating seven-note fanfare by horns furioso that supports the predatory triffids. Next, the Traveling Theme, which offers a simple yet versatile descending line of tremolo strings and harp. Lastly, we have the Spanish Theme, which offers classic Castillian colors replete with harp glissandi, woodwinds pastorale and French horn.

“Main Title” is a masterful score highlight that plays as the opening credits roll. We bear witness to a ferocious Triffid Theme, whose fanfare by horns furioso with a pounding staccato echo opens the film with dramatic power. The Traveling Theme, enters as a secondary descending line of tremolo strings and harp, which supports the brilliant aura of flashing celestial lights that cascade across the skies. We conclude atop a fierce clarion call of French horns that portend humanity’s doom. Bravo! “Greenhouse” reveals a security man entering and patrolling the interior of London’s Royal Botanic Gardens. Dark bass and celli create a foreboding soundscape replete with repeating echoes of the Traveling Theme with tambourine adornment, which crescendo, portending the onset of movement by the triffids. In “A Sight For Sore Eyes” a hospitalized Bill is forced to remove his eye bandages, as he seems to have been abandoned. He is incredulous as he walks through the hospital’s deserted corridors. Goodwin sows unease with an array of celeste, harp, vibraphone and strings mysterioso, which fills us with trepidation.

“Hospital Awry” reveals a descending line of woodwinds and strings as Bill’s descends down a staircase. This orchestral effect reprises for Dr. Soames and ends in a stinger when he touches Bill. In “Doctor Steps Out” the doctor jumps to his death after Bill and him determine he is incurably blind. An orchestral crash and descent informs us of his leap to death. Bill is unsettled and we close with a mysterioso statement by celeste, harp and vibraphone. “Plane Crash” shows Bill and Susan witnessing a plane crash, and then taking a small boat out to sea. An orchestral crescendo and crash informs us of the plane crash. We transition to the repeating phrasing of the Traveling Theme, which sows feelings of disquiet and desolation. “Triff Riff” offers a brief rendering of the Triffid Theme, which Goodwin used for attacks by the triffids. In “Lost” Susan and Bill stop to read a map in the rain. Ambient strings support the moment. “Susan And Bettina” is a beautiful score highlight where Goodwin’s graces us with exquisite song like lyricism. The scene reveals Susan discovering and befriending Bettina, a blind woman. Strings delicato carry the melodic line with elegant adornment from celeste, harp and bells. Bravo!

In “Turning On The Lights” Bill restores light to the chateau by repairing its generator. Goodwin provides us with yet another beautiful cue. He uses pensive strings to support the pall of darkness with trilling flutes informing us of Bill’s success. Once again the embellishment of the melodic line with subtle orchestral accents of celeste and harp is exquisite. “Fatal Foliage” reveals Bill killing a triffid after it had killed a blind man. The Triffid Theme rears its ugly head with strings lamentoso informing us of the man’s death. The orchestra bursts with a decrescendo by harp glissandi is ingenious and supports the killing of two triffids by Bill. In “Escape & Coker’s Death” Bill and Coker are fleeing marauding triffids. Bill succeeds in reaching the chateau, but Coker hurts his ankle and is killed. Goodwin supports the imagery well with spirited interplay of the Triffid Theme and Traveling Theme. “Spanish Square “ reveals Bill, Susan and Christine arriving in a Spanish town square by horse drawn wagon. The cue offers sterling ethnic writing where Goodwin creates a quintessential Spanish elegance with his Spanish Theme, thus achieving a sublime confluence of music and imagery. Olé!

In “Here Come The Triffids!” Goodwin again provides interplay of a menacing Triffid Theme and his Traveling Theme. “Leaving Town” offers a brief reprise of the Spanish Theme heard in the “Spanish Square” cue as the party flees the town. “On To Cadiz” is a sublime score highlight that features just exquisite writing. We bear witness to a wondrous rendering of the Spanish Theme replete with harp glissandi, woodwinds pastorale and French horn. To find writing such as this in a horror film sets Goodwin apart from other composers. Bravo! “Triffid Attack” offers another score highlight as triffids descend upon Bill and Susan, whose truck has become stuck in mud. Goodwin provides sterling interplay of his Traveling Theme, replete with amazing woodwind arpeggios, and the Triffid Theme, that is rendered as a fierce percussive marcia di terrore! Wow! We conclude with “End Of The Triffids”, which was written to support the end credits. Having defeated the triffids we bear witness to a triumphant orchestral ascent, which culminates in a magnificent horn laden flourish. Bravo!

The other two scores featured in this compilation come from War Of The Satellites by Walter Greene, and from Earth vs. The Flying Saucers by Daniele Amfitheatrof. The selection from War Of The Satellites offers the Main Theme that animates the film. This brief piece packs quite a wallop and that Greene could say so much in so little time is a testimony to his brilliance. The music is a tour de force that moves with an inflated sense of drama as an astounding marcia animato. The array of various percussion instruments, which includes snare drum, bass drum, tympani, suspended cymbal, triangle, xylophone, and orchestra bells, fills our ears with a wondrous complexity. The culmination of the piece with an orchestral flourish brings us home in fine style. Meanwhile, the “Main Title” from Earth vs The Flying Saucers by Daniele Amfitheatrof is a awesome cue, simple in construct but potent in its emotive power. I must say that it perfectly establishes the mood of the film. We open in dramatic fashion atop dire horns orrible, whose repeating phrasing build to crescendo. A final declarative horn statement sows unease and sets us off on our adventure. Well done.

Please allow me to offer a heartfelt thank you to David Schecter, Kathleen Mayne and Monstrous Movie Music for the outstanding release of these classic Science Fiction scores. The digital mastering and reconstruction efforts have served to produce a quality product with superb sound. The quality of their product is also superb, coming with extensive liner notes, which include history, production values, cue description and composer biographies. Having watched each of the films for my review, I must say that in each of these four efforts the composer’s music transcended its film with creative, innovative, insightful and elegant thematic writing. For lovers of film score art this album is a gem that offers a unique listening experience. I strongly recommend that you add this wonderful compilation to your collection, as you will gain a new appreciation of the capacity of film music to inspire.

Buy the This Island Earth soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • “War of the Satellites” from War of the Satellites (1:23)
  • “This Island Earth” Main Title (1:48)
  • Jet West (0:42)
  • Color Blind (0:55)
  • From Unit #16 (2:33)
  • Interocitor Montage (0:35)
  • Eerie Remains (0:47)
  • Robot Plane (1:42)
  • Haven’t We Met? (1:58)
  • Exeter’s Mansion (1:30)
  • Wrong Girl (0:33)
  • This Way, Doctor (0:42)
  • Secret Meeting (1:18)
  • Neutronic Rays (0:51)
  • Conversion Tube (1:00)
  • Vermont Memories (1:34)
  • Transformation (1:05)
  • Shooting Stars (1:58)
  • Meteor Battle (2:22)
  • Metaluna Tunnel (0:37)
  • Metaluna Transport (042)
  • Metaluna Catastrophe, Pt. 1 (1:53)
  • Metaluna Catastrophe, Pt. 2 (2:23)
  • Flight from Metaluna (2:13)
  • Amorous Mutant** (2:43)
  • Down to Earth (1:36)
  • End Title (1:10)
  • End Cast (019)
  • Main Title from “Earth vs. The Flying Saucers” (0:47)
  • “Day of the Triffids” Main Title (2:03)
  • Greenhouse (1:46)
  • A Sight for Sore Eyes (1:24)
  • Hospital Awry (025)
  • Doctor Steps Out (048)
  • Plane Crash (1:23)
  • Triff Riff (009)
  • Lost (018)
  • Susan and Bettina (1:18)
  • Turning on the Lights (1:21)
  • Fatal Foliage (052)
  • Escape & Coker’s Death (1:38)
  • Spanish Square (049)
  • Here Come the Triffids! (1:03)
  • Leaving Town (013)
  • On to Cadiz (2:01)
  • Triffid Attack (1:27)
  • End of the Triffids (1:04)

Running Time: 60 minutes 12 seconds

Monstrous Movie Music MMM-1954 (2006)

WAR OF THE SATELLITES Music composed by Walter Greene. Conducted by Masatoshi Mitsumoto. Performed by The Radio Symphony Orchestra of Slovakia. THIS ISLAND EARTH Music composed by Herman Stein. Conducted by Masatoshi Mitsumoto. Performed by The Radio Symphony Orchestra of Slovakia. Additional music by Henry Mancini and Hans Salter. EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS Music composed by Daniele Amtifheatrof. Conducted by Masatoshi Mitsumoto. Performed by The Radio Symphony Orchestra of Slovakia. DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS Music composed by Ron Goodwin. Conducted by Kathleen Mayne. Performed by The Radio Symphony Orchestra of Slovakia. Album produced by David Schechter and Kathleen Mayne.

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