Home > Reviews > PRINCE VALIANT – Franz Waxman



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.

The story takes place circa the end of the 5th century C.E. Christian Viking King Aguar, his wife and his son Valiant are overthrown by the pagan usurper Sligon and forced to flee the kingdom of Scandia. They successfully escape and are granted sanctuary by the Christian King Arthur of Camelot. Valiant longs to restore his father to the throne and shows great prowess, which is recognized by King Arthur who orders that he be trained as a Knight of the Round Table. He is assigned as squire to the legendary Sir Gawain and what unfolds is a tale of romance, intrigue, deception and treason as Valiant fights to reveal the identity of the mysterious Black Knight who is covertly planning with Sligon’s assistance the overthrow of King Arthur. Sir Brack (the Black Knight) manages to capture Valiant and his family and returns them to Sligon for execution, who will in turn support Brack’s overthrow of King Arthur. Valiant manages to escape and with the assistance of Viking loyalist Bothar regains control of the kingdom with Valiant avenging his father by slaying Sligon in personal combat. Valiant then returns to Camelot, and audaciously accuses Sir Brack of treason. Sir Brack challenges him to trial by combat to clear his name, confident that he is a superior knight. After grueling and protracted combat Valiant triumphs with the aid of the magical “Singing Sword”, wins the hand of Princess Aleta, and becomes a Knight of the Round Table. The film was a commercial failure earning $2.60 million, which was insufficient to cover its production costs of $2.97 million. Critical reviews were mixed with some praising the sets, action scenes and storytelling, while others lambasted Wagner’s wig and acting performance. The film received no Academy award nominations.

After successive Oscar wins in 1950 for “Sunset Boulevard” and 1951 for “A Place in the Sun”, Franz Waxman’s career was ascendant. Fox studio executives sought to exploit his talents and offered him two scoring assignments; “Demetrius and the Gladiators” and “Prince Valiant”. Waxman chose “Prince Valiant” as he was eager to take on the mythos, heroism, gallantry and romance of the story, which afforded him a massive tapestry upon which to compose. Given the grand scope of the film, he composed seven primary themes to support his soundscape; Prince Valiant’s Theme warmly resounds with heroism, empowered by horns bravura and passionate strings, which perfectly capture the vitality and forthrightness of our young and altruistic hero. Aleta’s Theme serves as her identity, but also as the score’s primary Love Theme. The long lined ten-note theme is born by sumptuous strings romantico draped with woodwind delicato adornment. Sir Gawain’s Theme offers a confident, warm, yet pompous statement by mid register strings and woodwinds, which speak to his good nature, nobility and strength of character. There is a pride and self-importance in the notes, declared by horns reale, yet also a paternal quality, which is comforting and endearing. The Dark Knight Theme supports the identity of our illusive and mysterious villain. Strings and drums bellicoso join with horns sinistre to create a menacing minor modal expression and perfect foil to Valiant’s heroic major modal theme. Ilene”s Theme serves as her identity, but also as a secondary Love Theme. Rendered in ABA form, the A Phrase is full of yearning, while the B Phrase speaks of the sadness of unrequited love. I actually believe it offers the score’s most beautiful love theme. She is in love with Sir Gawain, but it is unrequited love and so the theme unfolds with both sadness and longing carried by solo oboe doloroso and kindred woodwinds. There are two Viking themes; the Pagan Viking Theme serves as the identity of Sligon and the pagan Vikings and offers a five-note construct emoted grimly by horns of doom. It imparts malevolence and offers a perfect foil to the heroic major modal Valiant’s Theme. The religioso Christian Viking Theme supports Vikings who embrace Christianity and offers a repeating nine-note construct born by strings solenne and horns nobile. It lacks the martial aggression of the Pagan Viking Theme and offers a perfect juxtaposition to it. Lastly, the film abounds with wonderful fanfares, which perfectly capture the ambiance of King Arthur’s court. Regretfully most are not found on the album.

“Main Title” offers a rousing score highlight and one the finest Main Titles in Waxman’s canon. Alfred Newman’s Fanfare for the 20th Century Fox studio logo is replaced by Waxman’s bold heraldic fanfare replete with Medieval auras. As the film title and legendary Singing Sword display, strings furioso fortified with percussive strikes launch the roll of the main titles against a series of colorful slides of English Court life. At 0:23 a heroic and rousing rendering of Valiant’s Theme in all its glory is ushered in. A refulgent bridge of horns and xylophone carry us at 1:13 into the sumptuous Love Theme born by strings romantico and warm horns. A frenetic comic bridge brings us to a reprise of the grand opening fanfare, which supports the display of “Directed by Henry Hathaway”. “King Aguar’s Escape” provides a score highlight, which feature a wonderful extended rendering of the Prince Valiant Theme. The film opens with narration, which informs us of the overthrow of Christian King Aguar of Scandia by the pagan usurper Sligon, of how he narrowly escaped, and was later mercifully granted sanctuary in Britain by fellow Christian King Arthur of Camelot. Tremulous strings of unease support the narration. At 0:13 grave horns declare the Pagan Viking Theme as we see Valiant high aloft on the castle keep observing a Viking vessel enter the bay, fearful that it may be Sligon. Yet at 0:20 a Gjallarhorn resounds supported by a brief quote of the Christian Viking Theme and Valiant recognizes it as that of loyalist Boltar. A woodwind descent motif carries Valiant down as he alerts his parents of Boltar’s arrival. He descends to the ground, runs to the shore, and dives into the bay, swimming out to meet Boltar. Waxman supports his progress with a wonderful exposition of Valiant’s Theme, which swells for a grand statement.

“The Pledge” reveals King Aguar commanding his son to go to Camelot and train to become a Knight of the Round Table. Later, in a formal ceremony, Prince Valiant kneels and declares his fidelity to his father the King, swears to return a Knight, and to avenge his honor by slaying Sligon and returning him to the throne as the rightful King of Scandia. Waxman supports the testament with warm French horns nobile emoting a solemn statement of Valiant’s Theme. At 0:49 we segue into “Val Leaves the Island” where his parents and Boltar bid him a safe journey. His father commands him to not disclose his identity and to be proud of his Viking heritage. We open with woodwinds doloroso that join with pensive horns as there is anxiety as Valiant prepares to depart. At 1:27 the music warms on strings, joined by solo oboe tenero as his mother bestows a parting gift, a pendent for him to wear. As he departs at 1:55 warm French horns nobile solemnly declare his theme as his parent’s wave goodbye. Now on his own, his theme gives way to uncertainty born of portentous horns as he arrives to a forest’s shore and departs. At 2:39 we segue into “The Fens” as we see Valiant disembark and walk a verdant forest path. Waxman supports his travels with a beautiful woodwind pastorale until 3:16 when strings and drums bellicoso join with horns sinistre to declare the menacing Black Knight Theme as we see a Black Knight and his adjutant ride past. Waxman sow’s unease as Valiant ducks and remains hidden. A horrific iteration of his theme resounds as we see the Black Knight ride down to the shore line and depart from sight. As the menace recedes, Valiant again resumes his journey at 4:05 through pastures filled with deer, carried by his theme, now expressed as a gorgeous pastorale. At 4:24 the music darkens as he approaches a bluff and observes several Viking ships in the bay, with one that has dispatched a boat. Waxman creates unease with strains of the Black Knight Theme as Valiant hears a Sligon captain pledge a thousand Viking warriors to the Black Knight when he returns King Aguar and his family to Sligon. At 5:33 a horn trill usher in “The First Chase” as the ledge gives way and Valiant falls right into the parley. The Black Knight immediately tries to skewer him with his lance, but Valiant escapes on the adjutant’s horse. Kinetic flight music empowered by spirited interplay of each man’s theme drives the chase until 6:34 when Valiant leaps onto a tree. The Black Knight Theme gains dominance, growing ever more menacing as he tries to lance Valiant who leaps from one branch to another. When an archer joins and begins shooting arrows, Valiant in desperation at 7:29 dives into the pond below, cuts a reed, and breaths through it, hoping to evade the men. The pond search is unscored and the Black Knight and archer eventually depart. A carefree, woodwind rendered variant of Valiant’s Theme carries his departure and resumption of his journey. We conclude with the menace of the Black Knight Theme as he sees a knight approaching and takes cover behind a tree.

“Sir Gawain” opens with a stinger as Valiant fells the knight with a rock to his helmet. He approaches the knight who feigns unconsciousness, only to be upended. Gawain places a sword to Valiant’s chest, and demands to know his identity. Waxman introduces Gawain’s Theme replete with horns reale as Gawain declares his name and the two men reconcile. At 0:46 the music darkens and is joined by the Black Knight Theme as Valiant’s relates his encounter with the Black Knight and Viking ships on the coast. At 1:41 a lilting rendering of Gawain’s Theme replete with horns reale supports their departure together on Gawain’s horse. As we see them traveling in the countryside a heroic rendering of Valiant’s Theme carries their progress. A comic interlude at 2:14 supports Valiant falling off the horse, and walking to rejoin Gawain whose theme is again ascendant. At 2:40 Valiant observes Camelot in the distance and is awestruck by its magnificence. Solemn fanfare draped in religioso auras declare with reverence to the city of legends. A stately galloping motif carries their ride to the city gates. In the film diegetic fanfare reale resound as they arrive, but this music is not found as part of this track. “King Arthur Speaks” reveals Valiant testifying to King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Arthur thanks him and offers him a reward, to which Valiant declares he wishes to be made a Knight of the Round Table. As Arthur expounds on the virtues of knighthood and how the honor must be earned, an inspired statement by strings appassionato, crowned by horns solenne support his words.

In “Sir Brack” Gawain is seen training Valiant in the joust, axe throwing, as well as combat using the sword and shield. Sir Brack comes upon them, which elicits first Valiant, and then Gawain to posture, with Gawain prevailing by upending Valiant. Music enters born by righteous horns with a call to arms as Brack solicits both Gawain and then Valiant to join him in seeking the Black Knight. Yet there are subtle currents of unease in the notes, given Brack’s sinister intentions. He departs carried by a galloping rendering of his Dark Knight Theme and we see in Valiant’s eyes a desire to join him. Well, outside the castle Valiant does indeed ride out and find Brack who agrees to let him join. They ride off together at 1:46 carried by a resplendent rendering of Valiant’s Theme. Slowly the music begins to darken, with sinister references to the Black Knight Theme. Brack dupes Valiant to return to the bluffs while he searches the beach, advising that he will reunite with him after his search. As Brack departs at 3:11 his theme resounds with grim menace. A disquieting interlude supports Brack locating the boat Valiant hid in the fens and deduces the nearby location of his family’s hideout. Returning to Valiant, his horse is spooked and trots off, leading him to retrieve it carried by a tentative statement of his theme. Subtle, yet menacing statements of the Dark Knight Theme portend his return. At 4:28 the Dark Knight Theme resounds as archers encircle Valiant. “Val Escapes” reveals Valiant making an audacious attempt to escape on horseback propelled by a bold rendering of his theme. Yet at 0:11 a grim chord sounds as an arrow finds its mark and he is shot in the right shoulder. A galloping motif carries his escape from the archers, ever weakening until he falls off his horse near a pond where princess Aleta is bathing. Beleaguered statements of his theme support his desperate crawl to the pond as he passes out. Solemn horns reale sound at 0:50 as a panorama reveals the grand castle of King Luke. We shift to a bedroom where Valiant rests after a doctor has mended his wounds. A grim descending woodwind line supports Valiant’s sleep as Aleta looks on. We see in her eyes that she is attracted to him, and we close with a nascent and angelic rendering of her theme as he awakes and gazes at her image, which is crowned by a chandelier of glowing candles.

Sir Brack arrives at King Luke’s castle supported by heraldic fanfare, not found on the album. He joins Valiant in his bedroom and states how his horse went lame, making him unable keep their rendezvous. Valiant is incredulous in understanding how Brack could have escaped the archers. We close the scene with Brack declaring his intention to stay until Valiant is healthy enough to travel. “Val and Aleta” offers a wondrous score highlight where Waxman provides statements of both his love themes. Aleta joins Valiant in the garden for an intimate rendezvous. As they embrace, we are graced by the sumptuous Love Theme, which blossoms for a stirring exposition. At 1:05 we shift to Aleta’s sister Ilene who stands guard on a balcony, ready to alert Aleta of any intrusion. Aleta relates that Ilene is in love with Sir Gawain and Waxman’s supports the revelation with a beautiful rendering of her theme carried by solo oboe doloroso, flute and strings tenero as her longings are those of unrequited love. The transfer of the melodic line to strings speak to her yearning and heart ache for Gawain’s embrace. At 2:05 we return to the Love Theme so full of longing as Aleta asks if Valiant will ever propose to her. He states that it must wait as he must first fulfill a solemn vow he took. At 2:54 comic woodwinds intrude as King Luke and Sir Brack arrive unannounced and Ilene is unable to whistle the alarm to Aleta. Regal pomp and circumstance support their arrival and Aleta’s clumsy explanation of being with Valiant. When Brack sees Valiant is up and mended, he insists they depart for Camelot at once. His intent is to capture Valiant and his family and send them to Sligon. But his plans are again thwarted when Aleta convinces her father to travel under the safety of Sir Brack’s banner and arrive for the celebrations three days early.

“Procession” reveals Sir Brack and his soldiers escorting King Luke and his entourage to Camelot. Waxman supports the procession with wonderful marcia maestoso, which incorporates thematic components of Valiant’s Theme. As they arrive at Camelot, heraldic fanfare resounds to greet them. The fanfare is not provided on the album. In “Valiant’s Report” he discovers that Gawain has been injured from a duel with the Black Knight. When Valiant suggests that Brack may be in collusion with the Black Knight, Gawain reproaches him, reminding him of a Knight’s oath and commitment to a strict code of honor. Waxman supports the scene with the Black Knight’s Theme emoted darkly by clarinet, menacing strings and trumpets of doom. “Aleta and Ilene” offers another score highlight where we are graced with an exquisite rendering of Ilene’s Theme. The scene reveals Valiant telling Gawain that he had met a girl, news which Gawain receives with good cheer. When a page announces the arrival of a lady, Valiant agrees to escort her in. It is Ilene, and Gawain assumes her to be Valiant’s girl. Valiant then departs to bring back Aleta, who he wants Gawain to meet. As Gawain and Ilene converse a lilting rendering of her theme, carried tenderly by oboe and viola speak of her happiness of at last being with her love. The transfer of the melodic line to strings romantico so full of longing is sublime. At 0:58 a repeating shimmering descent motif supports the arrival of Aleta, who joins Gawain and Ilene. Gawain is clearly aroused by Aleta’s beauty and at 1:27 his theme, now puffed with his own self-importance and joined by mocking horns plays to the comedy of the scene. A sustain by tremolo violins supports his transfixed stare at Aleta, who has clearly mesmerized him. A sardonic solo violin speaks to Gawain’s entrancement as the sisters voice concern. When Aleta touches his brow, she discovers a fever and the sisters agree to leave and alert the physician. We conclude with interplay of Aleta’s and Gawain’s Themes as the sisters depart and Gawain revels in his new found love. At 2:42 we segue into “The Wrong Girl” where Valiant hears of Gawain’s love and congratulates him, not realizing that it is Aleta, with whom he speaks. Waxman understands the dynamic and emotes a sumptuous Aleta’s Theme replete with harp adornment as Valiant soon realizes that a huge misunderstanding has occurred. Comic bassoons close the moment as Valiant tries to set the record straight. We close at 3:29 with a segue into “Aleta” as we see a flummoxed Valiant unsure of how to proceed. Waxman ends the scene with interplay of a low register rendering of Gawain’s Theme and a high register statement of Aleta’s Theme.

“The Banquet” reveals King Arthur hosting a banquet to celebrate the jousting tournament scheduled to begin the next day. Waxman employs a small ensemble of woodwinds, harp, trumpet and twinkling triangle to create a minstrel-like ambiance. “The Tournament” reveals an angry Aleta tearing off Valiant’s pendant when he refuses to explain why he has been avoiding her. Diegetic trumpeting fanfare resound to open the tournament as martial drums support the arrival of the knights. As trumpets again resound, the King’s Herald announces that whomever wins the tournament shall also win the hand of Princess Aleta. She protests, but her father will have none of it. Rousing fanfare signal the start of the joust and we see four sets of knights charging each other propelled by inspired horns eroico. After the fifth joust Sir Brack prevails and rides to the royal stands to claim his prize, yet fanfare resounds as a new challenger takes the field. Ilene is concerned as it is Sir Gawain’s armor and she fears for his life. Fanfare sets the knights ride against each other with Sir Brack pummeling the opposing knight off his horse. When his helmet is removed, we see Valiant, who is publicly disgraced for impersonating a knight. He departs the field in shame. As Brack returns to claim Aleta, Fanfare announces yet another challenger, much to his displeasure. He rearms and fanfare sets the two knights off against each other. Brack is knocked off his horse, yet as the opposing knight turns towards the royal stands, he collapses. He is revealed to be Sir Gawain and is taken to the medical tent where King Luke awards him Aleta’s hand in marriage. As Valiant retrieves the liter bearers to carry Gawain to his quarters, the King’s guard arrests him as Sir Brack look on, supported by a menacing declaration of his theme. We close with Brack entering his tent and greeted by a man hidden by a drape. He hands Brack the signet ring of King Aguar and informs him that he and his wife are their prisoners. The music for these scenes is not provided on the album. I believe Waxman music enhanced the drama and action of the tournament.

“The Ring” offers a testament to Waxman’s mastery of his craft in supporting multiple scenes with powerful emotional currents. Valiant stands before King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table accused of the grave offence of impersonating a Knight. He refuses to plead ignorance of the offence, and after Sir Brack’s intercession, is allowed under oath to commit to trial and remain free until Sir Gawain recovers. He departs carried by a reverential yet sad rendering of his theme, which is sustained as he stands vigil in Gawain’s room. At 0:30 an agitato supports a hand dropping the signet ring, whose sound catches Valiant’s ear. As he examines the ring in candlelight plaintive horns sound. He recognizes the signet ring and knows it means only one thing, that his father is calling for his help. At 1:06 an aggrieved solo viola expresses Gawain’s Theme as Valiant says forgive me, breaks his oath and leaves to rescue his parents. Low register bubbling woodwinds and strings support him saddling a horse and preparing to depart. At 1:37 Aleta comes to him supported by a yearning rendering of her theme as she begs him to stay. We see he is torn, but driven to save his father at all costs. Her theme slowing swells as she declares first that she hates him, and then that she loves him and will never marry another. The theme crests at 2:15 by boldly transitioning to a resounding heroic declaration of Valiant’s Theme as he rides out to his destiny. As he arrives at the fen to retrieve his boat, an unsettling misterioso unfolds and his theme becomes tentative as he senses something is wrong. At 2:58 drums of doom usher in a grim rendering of the Pagan Viking Theme as he is encircled by Vikings, he attempts to flee to his boat but is ambushed. Fierce fight music carries the struggle, ending at 3:44 on a grim diminuendo of uncertainty as Valiant’s limp body is dragged from the water. He is bound and as the Vikings sound the Gjallarhorn he wakes, supported by an aggrieved rendering of his theme. At 4:08 strings bellocoso and dire horns sounding the Black Knight Theme carry his approach, with interplay from Valiant’s Theme. We close at 4:47 with a truly horrific iteration of the Black Knight Fanfare as the knight lifts his helmet faceplate to reveal Sir Brack. He declares his part of the bargain fulfilled and demands Sligon send him one thousand Vikings to overthrow King Arthur.

“Val’s Capture” reveals Sir Brack riding off supported by dire trumpet declarations of his theme. At 0:28 an unsuspecting Aleta arrives carried by woodwinds gentile emoting her theme. She is captured and joins Valiant as prisoners of the Vikings. At 0:57 monstrous horns declarations resound as we see a Viking ship at sea, followed by its arrival at Sligon’s citadel. A grim marcia del destino supports their travel to Sligon’s throne room. Valiant rebukes Sligon as a traitor whom the Singing Sword will never serve. When Valiant refuses to disclose the identities of fellow Christian Vikings, he and Aleta are sent to the dungeon. In “Trapped” a grim rendering of the Pagan Viking Theme sounds and sow’s hopelessness as Valiant observes through the cell window the erection of the cross upon which he will die. At 0:46 a French horn descent motif supports his discovery that other window overlook sheer cliffs for which there can be no escape. The unsettling ambiance is sustained as Valiant unravels the rope supporting the mattress on his bed, intent on escaping. We conclude at 1:37 atop a plaintive English horn with harp adornment supporting a scene change to Boltar calling for his fellow Christians to join him in retaking the castle.

“Escape” opens with a dire declaration of the Pagan Viking Theme as Valiant prepares to make his escape. A string agitato and tension horns support his effort to dig out one of the bars on the window. Waxman ratchets up the suspense with tension drums, ominous strings and staccato horns as Valiant secures the rope so as to allow him to swing to an adjacent open window. At 1:43 strings create a swaying motion as Valiant swings to reach the other window. A woodwind ostinato raises tension as he struggles to reach the window. An aggressive crescendo builds on dynamic contrapuntal strings ostinati, which crest powerfully at 2:38 with his theme as he succeeds in reaching the window. As he hides in the shadows, dire horns sow unease joined by a tentative rendering of his theme. At 3:37 Boltar‘s Motif carries him past Valiant and into the castle. Valiant runs to join him and is directed to not rescue his father, but to instead go to the tower. A soft bass sustain supports their conversation. At 4:10 grim marcia del destino support the guards trek to Valiant’s cell. Tremolo strings raise tension as the guards open the cell and discover he has escaped. We close at 4:46 as the alarm is raised with a gong strike (not on the album) and flow seamlessly into “Dash to the Tower” a score highlight, which feature some of Waxman’s finest action writing. Valiant dashes to the tower as Boltar sneaks into Sligon’s banquet hall where he is feasting. The dire horns of the Pagan Viking Theme portend danger and Waxman sow’s unease as both men stealthy move through the castle. At 0:43 a string tremolo speaks to Valiant being apparently trapped, but at 0:50 a string glissando supports his leap to safety into a curtain fold. An ascending accelerando carries Valiant to the battlements where he fights a Viking supported by strings bellicoso, strident horns and percussive strikes. The Pagan Viking Theme joins in contest to Valiant’s Theme as the men struggle. Their fight with a torch causes the Christian Vikings to assume Sligon is dead and at 2:31 march on the castle, carried by the stirring strings religioso of the Christian Viking Theme. At 3:02 Sligon is informed that the Christians are attacking just as Boltar was set to stab him in the back through a curtain. The Pagan Viking Theme resounds as Sligon orders the defense of the castle and departs. At 3:17 a drum propelled martial rendering of the Pagan Viking Theme supports their defense preparations, countered by the Christian Viking Theme empowered by horns nobile. At 4:08 a powerful stepped contrapuntal line with interludes of racing strings resounds as the battle rages below, and Valiant wreaks havoc above, setting the battlements ablaze with the castle’s oil reserves. We end with tremolo strings of uncertainty as Sligon and Valiant finally meet on the battlements.

In “Sligone’s Death” Valiant and the usurper fight unsupported by music. Sligon loses the Singing Sword and as Valiant thrust it through him the dissonant Pagan Viking Theme supports his death and carries his fall. Valiant’s Fanfare resounds as the castle’s wall weakened by fire crumbles. At 0:30 dissonant trills support the Christians flooding into the castle, where they overwhelm the leaderless pagan Vikings. We conclude with Valiant’s rescue of his parents and Aleta carried by her aggrieved theme, which warms as he frees her and gains the embrace of his mother. “The Singing Sword” reveals Valiant riding back to Camelot and greeted by fanfare reale as he gains the city gate. He storms into the chamber of the Round Table and accuses Sir Brack of treason, detailing his pact with Sligon and plan to overthrow King Arthur. He then informs Brack that he can no longer count on Sligon’s aid as he slayed him and restored Scandia to his father’s rule. King Arthur believes the charges must be investigated, but Brack will have none of it and demands trial by combat. Sir Gawain tries to intercede and fight in Valiant’s behalf, but Valiant refuses. As is his right as the aggrieved party, Brack choses to fight immediately with the Round Table room as the venue. King Arthur orders the knights to clear way as Aleta begs Valiant to reconsider. Fierce swordplay unfolds with the tide of battle shifting back and forth between the two men. Music enters late in the struggle as ever shifting ethereal tremolo supports the sounds of the “Singing Sword”, which inform us of Devine sanction. The tremolo slowly coalesces atop an electric violin into a mystical rendering of Valiant’s Theme as we see Brack struggling against the much younger Valiant. (This violin recording has been lost and is not found on the album). I believe this detracts from Waxman’s conception as the music has no emotional impact without it. At 1:03 we segue into “Sir Brack’s Death” when Valiant impales Brack. As he falls dead, the Dark Knight Theme resounds one last time, and fades into nothingness as a drum diminuendo. A warm rendering of Gawain’s Theme supports his congratulation of Valiant. He then refuses Valiant’s selfless gift of Aleta, as Ilene had revealed to him the truth of her and Aleta’s feelings. A tender rendering of Aleta’s Theme supports her embrace by Valiant as they are at last united in love. We conclude in the Hall of the Round Table supported by a heart-warming rendering of Valiant’s Theme where King Arthur bestows the high honor of Knight of the Round Table upon Valiant. We conclude gloriously with celebratory fanfare to end the film.

I wish to thank the late Nick Redman, Lukas Kendall and Film Score Monthly for the wonderful restoration of Franz Waxman’s masterpiece, “Prince Valiant”. Using the original 35 mm magnetic film stock, the technical team digitally remastered the music and remixed it to provide stereophonic sound. With the exception of track 20, which had minor imperfections due to damage of the film stock, the album offers excellent sound and a quality listening experience. The film was a passion project for Waxman and he succeeded in enhancing its narrative arc, which allowed Henry Hathaway to achieve his vision. His rousing Prince Valiant’s Theme was perfectly attuned to his character, empowering our hero with the boldness, vitality and youthful energy needed to overcome his many obstacles. We are thankful that Waxman graced us with two beautiful love themes, both of which contend for the best of his canon. The dark and sinister themes for our villain’s offered perfect foils to Valiant’s heroism, serving to flesh out the emotional dynamics of the eternal struggle between god and evil. Although this score is obscure for most and I believe you would do well to explore it. It offers a multiplicity of exceptional themes, inspired thematic interplay, and sophisticated contrapuntal writing. I consider it a gem of the Golden Age, one of the finest in Waxman’s canon and highly recommend its purchase as an essential album for your collection.

For those of you unfamiliar with the score, I have embedded a YouTube link to Charles Gerhardt’s magnificent ten minute suite: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DeNce5-_QNg

Buy the Prince Valiant soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Main Title (2:06)
  • King Aguar’s Escape (2:47)
  • Sir Gawain (3:38)
  • King Arthur Speaks (0:58)
  • Sir Brack (4:51)
  • Val Escapes (2:41)
  • Val and Aleta (3:23)
  • Procession (0:53)
  • Valiant’s Report (1:30)
  • Aleta and Ilene/The Wrong Girl/Aleta (4:21)
  • The Banquet (1:44)
  • The Ring (4:42)
  • Val’s Capture (2:28)
  • Trapped (2:08)
  • Escape (5:02)
  • Dash to the Tower (5:25)
  • Sligone’s Death (1:08)
  • The Singing Sword/Sir Brack’s Death (3:42)
  • Alternate Fanfare (0:16)
  • The Pledge/Val Leaves the Island/The Fens/The First Chase (8:21)

Running Time: 62 minutes 03 seconds

Film Score Monthly FSM-02/03 (1954/1999)

Music composed and conducted by Franz Waxman. Orchestrations by Leonid Raab and Edward Powell. Score produced by Franz Waxman. Album produced by Nick Redman and Lukas Kendall.

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