Home > Greatest Scores of the Twentieth Century, Reviews > JUNGLE BOOK – Miklòs Ròzsa

JUNGLE BOOK – Miklòs Ròzsa


Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1938 producer-director Alexander Korda decided to cash in on the commercial success realized by films based on novels by the famous English writer Rudyard Kipling. He purchased the film rights to his 1894 classic Jungle Book, with production slated to commence in 1939. The onset of WWII and Nazi Blitz forced him due to safety concerns, to relocate his company to Hollywood, which pushed production back to 1941. His own company, Alexander Korda Films would produce he film and he secured financial backing from United Artist who provided a $300,000 budget, which included filming in technicolor. Alexander Korda would produce the film, his brother Zoltan was tasked with directing, while his other brother Vincent was production designer. Screenwriter Laurence Stallings was hired to create a script derived from the nine Mowgli stories and drew inspiration from five of them: “Mowgli’s Brothers”, “Tiger! Tiger!”, “How Fear Came”, “Letting in the Jungle”, and “The King’s Ankus”. A fine cast was hired, which included Sabu as Mowgli, Joseph Calleia as Buldeo, John Qualen as the barber, Frank Puglia as the pundit, and Rosemary DeCamp as Messua. Filming was challenging due to creative differences between Alexander who wanted a fantasy adventure, and Zoltan who wanted a more realistic story. In the end, Alexander’s vision prevailed.

The story begins in the Indian village, where Buldeo, an old storyteller, is paid by a visiting British guest to tell the story of his youth. The tale is set in a long-abandoned, great city now in ruins, hidden deep in the Indian jungle, within which lies a wondrous treasure. It tells the tale of the boy Mowgli’s who seeks to avenge himself against his mortal enemy, Shere Khan, a great Bengal tiger who killed his father. After many adventures Mowgli defeats Shere Khan with the help of his friend Kaa the python. Yet his victory is short-lived as he arouses the wrath of Buldeo who seeks the treasure of the lost city and then tries to kill him, setting the jungle aflame to achieve his goal. Mowgli ends up saving his village with the aid of elephants, but he refuses to join them in a new life down river, preferring to return to his beloved animal friends and the jungle. The tale resonated with audiences and the film was a stunning commercial success, earning $2.4 million dollars. The film also secured critical recognition, earning four Academy Award nominations, including Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Special Effects, and Best Film Score.

Miklós Rózsa had already been working closely with Alexander Korda, a fellow Hungarian, in London, writing the score for his fantasy adventure Thief of Bagdad in 1940. When WWII forced Korda to relocate his company to Hollywood, he naturally brought Rózsa along with him. During Korda’s war-time Hollywood stay, Rózsa would score three additional films before he moved back to London: That Hamilton Woman (1941), Lydia (1941) and Jungle Book (1942). Rózsa understood that this was at its heart a fantasy score full of wonder, myth, and heroism. Because it was set in India, he also understood that he would have to infuse his soundscape with the traditional musical sensibilities to provide cultural authenticity. In a 1942 interview with Film Music Notes Rózsa explained his approach to the film;

“Before starting on the actual composition, I studied authentic Indian music on records, Which I imported from India. I made a careful plan of the different ragas, scales and moods in which the music had to be composed. Naturally, it would have been monotonous for the western audience if I had kept the entire musical score in pure Hindu style…. I therefore used this music only for the actual Hindu scenes…Each of the principal characters, whether animal or human has an individual theme…The approach therefore is operatic rather than symphonic”.

To support his soundscape, Rózsa provides an amazing multiplicity of eighteen themes including; The Jungle Book Theme, which serves as the score’s overarching main theme, for the film. It offers a solemn stream of alternating six and four note phrases borne by string Indiani, which drape us in Bharatian auras. The Storyteller’s Theme supports Buldeo, our Indian storyteller’s tale, and offers rich Bharatian auras. It emotes with a playful and bouncy melodic line by woodwinds animato, which provide energy and spirit to the film’s narrative. Mowgli’s Theme supports Natu’s transformation to Mowgli after a pack of wolves take him in and raise the lost boy as one of their own. Rózsa supports his identity with a free-flowing, dance-like solo oboe delicato emoted with a nine-note declarative phrase followed by a twelve-note answering phrase. The Lullaby Theme offers a tender lullaby, which flows with a soothing child-like gentility atop a cadence of five-note phrases. Rózsa utilizes it as a maternal love theme for Messua, but also for Mowgli’s love of his fellow jungle animals, as well as his yearning for his missing childhood and yearning for his own kind.

Rózsa nearly took in the entire animal kingdom for this film! For Mowgli’s friends we have the slow, powerful and plodding Elephant Theme. It resounds on low register horns bravura declarations, which announce their might and magnificence, and propel with a pronounced, weighted cadence of strength. The Wolf Theme opens with discordant horns of danger answered by rapid, savage strings bellicoso, which speak to their ferocity and predatory menace. Yet the harshness of its introduction in the film is softened after Natu is adopted by the pack and made a cub. The Bear Theme is carried by a rhythmic lumbering bassoon, which speaks to this “Teacher of the Jungle” renowned for his wisdom and strength. The Black Panther Theme supports Bagheera, the black panther prince of the jungle. Sliding, lyrical strings joined by flowing harp glissandi speak to his wonder, stealth and graceful stride as he strolls with a regal air. Kaa, the rock snake’s theme, is carried by a plodding bassoon and serpentine strings as we see him slithering down a tree branch. Tabaqui the Jackal’s Theme offers repeating five-note phrases by a comic clarinet, which supports this crafty and mischievous predator. The Hyena Theme offers a repeating, rapid fire eight-note phrase by saxophone energico. for this scavenger of the murderous tiger’s feast! The prancing, scurrying and playful Monkey Theme supports today’s inhabitants of the lost city. Rózsa offers a playful, bubbling piccolo line dancing with the life of kindred woodwinds, which support their happiness and antics. The theme shifts often comically among woodwinds as we see the various members of the monkey family.

For our villains we have foremost, Shere Khan’s Theme, which supports this man-eater, and the jungle’s feared apex predator. The eyes of this fierce, prowling Bengal Tiger have a gaze of doom, which strikes fear into the hearts of all that dwell in the jungle. Repeating grim declarations by horns of menace resound with ominous power, answered by contrapuntal trumpets feroce over a restless sea of tremulous strings sinistre. Buldeo’s Theme supports Mowgli’s prime human adversary who from day one had a visceral animus for the boy, and who coveted his knowledge of the King’s Treasure. Yet it also supports the conspiracy between Buldeo, the barber and the Priest to obtain the treasure. It offers a repeating dark and menacing nine-note construct borne by woodwinds and horns sinistre. The Crocodile Theme offers a menacing, lurking, quivering construct borne by a sinister orchestral synergy of terror as we see this aquatic denizen gliding stealthily through the waters. The King Cobra Theme, offers an eerie, serpentine slithering motif of menace by violins and shimmering accents, which support the “Warden of the King’s Treasure”. The Ankus Theme supports the cursed decorative ruby crested ankus, which offers an alluring and seductive shimmering of desire cloaked in a menacing tapestry of death as the cobra says that while the ruby could buy a thousand villages, beware that it will kill, and kill, and kill for killing’s sake. The Comedy Theme offers a farce borne by silly woodwinds animato and strings, which support the barber and priest’s silliness while searching for, and recovery of the treasure. Cues coded (*) offers music not found on the album. In the Liner notes The Film Music Society technical team advises that it was unable to salvage a number of cues from the box of twelve acetate disk recordings. I will relate and review these therefore as heard during my viewing of the film. Lastly, of historical importance is the fact that RCA Victor produced a 78-RPM soundtrack album that was released with narration by Sabu, which constitutes the first commercial recording of a non-musical orchestral film score to be released in the United States.

“Main Title” offers a score highlight where Rózsa establishes the film’s Bharatian sensibilities. It opens boldly with the Jungle Book Theme borne by string Indiani, which drape us in Bharatian auras. It reveals a large red book displaying “Rudyard Kipling, whose front cover opens to display the film title “Jungle Book”. The music supports the page turning of the opening credits. A bridge by woodwinds animato launches at 0:21 a new, and more energetic iteration of the theme. At 0:48 woodwinds Indiani usher in the free-flowing, festive, and note rich Storyteller Theme. At 0:57 an accelerando is unleashed by surging strings energico, which culminate with a grand statement of the theme at 1:10 by horns dramatico, which then soften and conclude on a diminuendo mysterioso. We enter the film proper with “The Jungle” a cue where Rózsa introduces four of his themes. We open with an idyllic rendering of the Jungle Book Theme replete with woodwinds Indiani and harp arpeggios as we see Sikh and Memsahib ride into a village where the aged Buldeo is storytelling. She is fascinated by him and at 0:29 the storyteller’s Theme borne by animated woodwinds Indiani joins as she requests, he allow her a memorabilia photo. He agrees, she drops a coin in his cup, and he begins to offer her a tale of his youth. As he begins his storytelling at 0:51 the Jungle Book Theme joins in perfect confluence as we see verdant images of the jungle, bird life in flight, and gentle deer. At 1:13 the theme commences an accelerando on vibrant strings energico as Leopards enter, which causes the deer to take flight. At 1:25 horns bravura declarations announce the might and magnificence of the Elephant Theme as we see these behemoths of the jungle striding through the foliage. Their theme becomes animated as we see images mothers and calves playing in river waters. At 2:08 discordant horns of danger resound as we see a pack of wolves. Savage strings bellicoso join and speak to their ferocity and predatory menace to jungle fauna.

“Animals of the Jungle” offers a delightful score highlight, which provides a parade of Rózsa’s amazing animal themes. The scene sustains Buldeo’s storytelling of the fauna that inhabit the great jungle, opening with the rhythmic lumbering bassoon emoted Bear Theme as we see this “Teacher of the Jungle” at the river Bank. At 0:14 we segue with alarm into the Crocodile Theme, a menacing, quivering construct borne by a sinister orchestral synergy as we see the aquatic denizen paddling stealthily towards the bear. Their themes entwine when the crocodile roars as the bear takes flight, turns back, and roars in defiance. At 0:45 we flow into the Black Panther Theme, which supports Bagheera, the black prince of the jungle. Sliding, lyrical strings joined by flowing harp glissandi speak to his wonder, stealth and graceful stride as he strolls with a regal air. At 1:17 we segue darkly into “The Villain of our Tale”, atop Shere Khan’s Theme, which supports this man-eater, a fierce Bengal Tiger as we see him prowling, his eyes offering a gaze of doom. Repeating grim declarations by horns of menace resound with ominous power, answered by contrapuntal trumpets feroce. Beneath is a restless sea of tremulous strings sinistre, striking fear in the hearts of all that dwell in the jungle. At 1:59 we segue into Tabaqui the Jackal’s Theme, which offers repeating five-note phrases by a comic clarinet, which supports the crafty and mischievous predator. At 2:07 we segue into the Hyena Theme for this scavenger of the murderous tiger’s feast! Its theme offers a repeating, rapid fire eight-note phrase by saxophone energico. At 2:15 we segue into Kaa, the rock snake’s theme, “the wise one, and oracle”, which is carried by lurking, menacing, serpentine strings as we see him slithering down a tree branch. At 2:33 we return to Buldeo carried by his gentle theme as he speaks of the timeless struggle between the village and the jungle. At 2:45 woodwinds Indiani supported by drums gentile reprise the Jungle Book Theme, which supports a rolling panorama of the jungle, which hides within its depths, “many a ruined city”. At 2:59, as we gaze upon a great lost city, the Jungle Book Theme expounds on sumptuous strings and woodwinds for a statement. At 3:31 we segue into the prancing, scurrying and playful Monkey Theme as we see today’s inhabitants of the lost city swinging through its ruins. Rózsa offers a playful, bubbling piccolo to support their happiness and antics. The theme shifts often comically among woodwinds as we see the various members of the monkey family.

(*) “Buldeo The Great Hunter” reveals him speaking of his former days when he was a great hunter supported by a wistful rendering of the Jungle Book Theme. We see Buldeo relating his vision to the villagers of his plan to conquer the jungle and build a great city. “Natu Runs Away” reveals the young child escaping his crib and crying as he wanders the jungle stalked by a Shere Khan. Messua’s husband agrees to search as the child’s mother Messua is frantic. We open with the lurking menace of Shere Khan’s Theme as the tiger stalks the husband. Slowly, Rózsa escalates the menace as the tiger closes in, unleashing an accelerando of terror, which leads to its lunging attack at 0:40. Shere Khan’s Theme resounds gruesomely with victory. At 0:58 an accelerando by strings of desperation surge joined by blaring horns of alarm as Messua sounds the alarm and the villagers mobilize. An aggressive and martial rendering of the Jungle Book Theme joins to propel the villagers. At 1:34 Buldeo confronts the tiger as its menacing theme sounds with defiance. He cast his spear and drives the beast away, joined at 1:44 by violins affanato as they gaze at the dead man’s body. Buldeo mobilizes the men to arm themselves with spears and search for Natu supported by the forthright strength and determination of the Jungle Book Theme. At 2:13 Rózsa introduces Mowgli’s Theme on solo oboe delicato as Buldeo searches for Natu while a pack of wolves look on. We close with a return to real time and Buldeo relating to Memsahib the tale of the boy being raised by wolves.

“The Wolf Cave and Mowgli’s Lullaby” offers a tender score highlight. It opens with a serpentine flute Indiani weaving a meandering line as the men search for Natu. At 0:34 Rózsa offers a delightful and playful child-like rendering of Mowgli’s Theme as we see him entering the wolf den, and playing with their cubs. Buldeo relates that Akela the father wolf and Raksha the mother wolf took him into their family to protect him from Shere Khan. At 1:20 Buldeo relates that they named him Mowgli – little frog and that they taught him the ways of the jungle, supported by an endearing and lyrical rendering of Mowgli’s Theme. In “Shere Khan Chases Gorofli from the Jungle” we open with a pleasant strolling rendering of Mowgli’s Theme as we see him moving through the jungle. At 0:28 an energetic Buldeo’s Theme joins as he relates that twelve years later Shere Khan hunted for Mowgli, determined to finally devour him. At 0:38 Mowgli takes flight with Shere Khan in hot pursuit, driven by flight music propelled by strings energico. At 0:41 harp glissandi support his vine swinging tree to tree. At 0:44 a desperate string accelerando joins as Mowgli tries to outpace the tiger. At 0:53 he dives into a pond and begins swimming for his life, propelled by his desperate theme rendered as a rapid string furioso with the crocodile pursuing him with lethal menace. At 1:24 he reaches the shore, and turns back as Shere Khan’s Theme resounds with menace. The tiger is approaching through the pond shallows with Shere Khan’s Theme and the Crocodile Theme entwining as the Lord of the Waters drives Shere Khan out of the water. At 1:43 a thankful string rendering of Mowgli’s Theme supports his escape, with Shere Khan’s angry theme joining at 1:52 as the crocodile defiantly bars his path. We close with a lyrical rendering of Mowgli’s Theme as we see him at jungle’s edge observing the bustling human activity of the village.

“Jungle Lullaby” reveals Mowgli watching with curiosity and fascination the various human activities unfolding in the village. Rózsa sow a nocturne of tranquility with a soothing lullaby sung by a female vocalist. (*) “Mowgli’s Curiosity” reveals him stealthily sneaking into the sleeping village, which Rózsa supports with a tension misterioso replete with xylophone adornment. He becomes mesmerized by a fire, which he has never seen before. Strings of tension rise with slow growing crescendo as he reaches out and places his hand in the flames, and then screams out in pain. The rest of the scene is unscored as the village wakes and a chase after the boy. They catch him, cover him for modesty and realize from his howling and unfamiliarity with fire that he was raised in the jungle by wolves. In “Mowgli’s Mother” Durga suggests to Messua that this boy may be Natu who was lost twelve years ago. She disagrees, yet opens her heart and home agreeing to take him as her own. Rózsa supports with a tender rendering of the Lullaby Theme full of maternal love, which entwins with fleeting phrases of Mowgli’s Theme as she reaches out to him. At 1:12 a deeply moving solo violin tenero supports he at last accepting her welcoming hand. We close with exquisite beauty and tenderness as Messua takes Mowgli home with her. Afterwards, Buldeo, who distrusts Mowgli as a wolf demon, wants to kill him before he brings death to the village.

(*) “Mowgli’s New Home” reveals Mowgli’s difficulty adjusting to his new house, as woodwinds and horns of uncertainty carry his first steps inside. He panics when she closes the front door and tense strings of flight carry his run and leap into the back yard. Mowgli’s Theme emotes with uncertainty as he is first confronted by a barking dog, and then later as he examines a horse, which he has never seen before. The tender violin borne Lullaby Theme joins as Messua pulls out Natu’s baby shoes, and tries to reach out to Mowgli, repeating the word “mother”. She asks what the wolves called him, and after howling, says Mowgli. She gains his trust and they retire for the night. “Among Men” reveals narration, which states that for months Mowgli learned the ways, language and customs of men. Rózsa supports with a playful and child-like rendering of Mowgli’s Theme full of youthful energy as we see him riding through the village. His and Mahala’s eyes lock and we get the first indication of a nascent attraction. In (*) “Messua and Mowgli” we see Messua at home pulling out coins out from a cup supported by the Lullaby Theme, which joins with a playful Mowgli’s Theme. He learns of money and convinces her to let him buy a knife from Buldeo so he may one day kill his mortal enemy – Shere Khan the tiger. In “Mowgli visits Buldeo’s House” he converses with Mahala learning about her father, the great hunter who has killed tigers and bears. An unobtrusive Mowgli’s Theme dances in the background to support their conversation. She is curious about him, but when her father Buldeo returns, her orders her out and to not talk to “this creature”. He sells Mowgli a knife, hoping that he will leave the village and return to the jungle. As he departs Mahala joins him and asks if he can talk to animals, which he does with her pet monkey. She is fascinated and asks to join him tonight when he returns to the jungle, to which he agrees.

“Mowgli and Mahalla go to the Jungle” opens as a misterioso draped in auras of night, with the Storytelling and Jungle Themes entwining as Mowgli escorts Mahala to the jungle’s edge. He howls and the wolf pack howls back, granting them safe passage. They travel in supported by a solemn Jungle Theme, which commences a crescendo grandioso, which crests at 2:17 as Mowgli is joyfully reunited with the pack. (*) “Journey to the Lost City” opens with powerful low register horns bravura declarations of the Elephant Theme, which announce their might and magnificence. Mowgli’s Theme joins as he converses with Hathi the elephant and is told Shere Khan is far away. A spritely Mowgli’s Theme supports as he and Mahala swing over the river on a vine to the opposing bank. Bagheera’s, the Black Panther Theme joins as Mowgli runs to greet his dear friend. An aggressive Mowgli’s Theme joins as he shows off his knife to Bagheera. Mowgli’s Theme adorned with idyllic woodwinds carry his and Mahalla’s run to the temple ruins.

“The Lost City” reveals their arrival at the ruins of the great lost city. The bubbling, playful woodwinds of the Monkey Theme support the sight of them scurrying over the ruins. At 0:29 a flute misterioso, and later a solo oboe joins with refulgent, mystical twinkling adornment, which supports Mowgli’s tale of how mighty hunters came here to kill until the jungle cast them out. At 1:07 Mahala tells Mowgli the tale of this great kingdom, which swells on a majestic rendering of the Storytelling Theme. At 1:38 portentous strings of unease join the Jungle Theme as Mowgli shouts “Where are they now!” with resounding echoes as Mahala slowly steps backwards until she falls into a subterranean cavern. She calls for help, and at 1:52 Mowgli climbs down to join her. They are amazed to discover that they have stumbled into the king’s magnificent treasure trove. Rózsa offers a trumpet led rendering of the Jungle Theme replete with refulgent, twinkling splendor as they behold an astounding bounty of gold, jewels, pearls and coins. We end darkly as Mahala examines a pearl necklace.

“The White Cobra” reveals the menacing white cobra snake stealthily slithering towards Mahala. Rózsa offers his King Cobra Theme, an eerie, serpentine slithering motif of menace by violins and shimmering accents. At 0:28 the theme shifts to solo oboe with Mowgli distracted and unaware, while Mahala is paralyzed with fear. At 0:41 the theme intensifies as the snake extends its hood, and slowly rises up to eye level, prepared to strike her. At 1:01 an upsurge supports the snake speaking that he is the warden of the king’s treasury. A beleaguered rendering of the Jungle Theme joins as Mowgli declares to him that they are of one blood as pleads for him to not harm Mahalla. The music assumes a dissonance of death with its theme increasing in menace as the cobra calls her a thief and prepares to strike. At 2:51 a frantic orchestral surge erupts as Mowgli sees his opening, leaps, obtains a strangle hold around the cobra’s neck and slices out its venomous fangs. The defeated snake admits his age has outlived his poison. We close at 3:06 on a happy go lucky Storytelling Theme as they prepare to depart. In (*) “A Fateful Choice” Mowgli, throws back the pearl necklace, but takes an ornate ruby crested ankus supported by a flute misterioso. Rózsa weaves a menacing tapestry of death with the Ankus Theme as the cobra says that while the ruby could buy a thousand villages, beware that it will kill, and kill, and kill for killing’s sake. In the end, Mowgli abandon’s the ankus and they depart with Mahala taking a single gold coin. She wakes the next day clutching the coin in her hand as a seductive solo violin weaves its tale. Her father Buldeo discovers the coin and learns from her of the treasure Mowgli revealed. He is upset that she went into the jungle with Mowgli, but we see treasure lust in his eyes as he promises her not to harm him, ordering her to keep knowledge of the treasure secret.

“Buldeo’s Revelation” reveals him dropping the gold coin, which is recovered by the barber, who contests with Buldeo and his client the priest for possession. Buldeo wins the day when he reveals that he has found a lost treasure in the ruined city, which he will share. Rózsa supports with traditional Indian source music, which plays unobtrusively. “Shere Khan and the Stampede” offers a tour de force score highlight, where Rózsa whips his orchestra into frenzy. It reveals water buffalo at rest in the waters of a river, supported by the gentle strains of the Storyteller’s Theme as Mowgli sleeps on the river bank nearby. Tension enters at 0:11 as we see birds spooked and taking flight. At 0:14 an ominous Shere Khan’s Theme supports his approach, swelling with menace as he draws near. At 0:46 tremolo violins with drums commence a slow crescendo of alarm as we see the wolves, jackals, Bagheera, and deer rear up with fear. As horns of doom declare at 1:11 Shere Khan’s theme, which causes the jungle fauna to panic, joined at 1:27 by powerful statements of the Elephant Theme as the adults’ close ranks to protect the young. Howls and screams ring out from all the animals waking Mowgli, who raises the alarm and orders the water buffalo to flee. With every step Shere Khan’s Theme swell with mounting terror, which unleashes a cattle stampede towards the village. At 1:59 a spirited, kinetic accelerando on Mowgli’s Theme supports him riding a steer and driving the stampede ever forward to the village. His theme in the upper register and the tiger’s theme in the lower register entwine, joining the violin carried Storytelling Theme to drive forward relentlessly on a crescendo of desperation. At 3:34 trilling woodwinds unleash a crescendo on the Storyteller’s Theme as Mowgli’s dismounts and joins other men in closing the city gate. At 3:57 a pleading Lullaby Theme enters as Messua begs Mowgli not to face the tiger alone. A plaintive rendering of the Jungle Book Theme supports his insistence that he will slay Shere Khan with his knife. An ominous Shere Kha’s Theme portends doom as Mowgli leaps over the city wall to pursue his destiny. We close with a grieving Lullaby Theme as Messua’s informs Buldeo of what Mowgli has done.

In “Kaa the Rocksnake” Mowgli runs through the jungle supported by a tender woodwind rendering of his theme. At 0:17 he calls out to his friend Kaa the great python supported by his theme, which is carried by a plodding bassoon, kindred woodwinds and serpentine strings as we see him slithering through the waters. When Mowgli declares that they are of one blood at 1:01, a loving statement of the Lullaby Theme supports Kaa’s agreement for Mowgli to join him, his swim propelled by his youthful theme. A tête-à-tête between their two themes supports their conversation as Mowgli gets Kaa to forgive his childhood mischief by using effusive flattery and compliments. At 1:52 Kaa’s Theme supports him telling Mowgli that before he died Tabaqui informed him that Shere Khan had recently killed and was now asleep by the bamboo. At 2:00 after Mowgli says Tabaqui died? Kaa points his head to his swollen abdomen supported by a hapless Tabaqui Theme. A playful Mowgli Theme joins with Kaa’s Theme as Kaa agrees to join him upstream as he cannot kill Shere Khan on his own. At 2:42 interplay of a faster paced, swimming rendering of Kaa’s Theme, the Storyteller’s Theme and Mowgli’s Theme supports him carrying Mowgli upstream. Kaa’s plan is for Mowgli to use his cunning to lure Shere Khan into the waters, where Kaa will strike. At 4:42 Mowgli goes ashore while Kaa lies in wait. Spirited strings animato emote the Storyteller’s Theme to carry Mowgli’s departure. We close ominously on Shere Khan’s Theme as Mowgli taunts him from the safety of tree branches.

(*) “The Death of Shere Khan” was not recoverable in the score digital transfer efforts. It offers another score highlight, an astounding tour de force. It reveals Mowgli’s deliberate, unrelenting taunting of Shere Khan from a tree branch out of reach. When Mowgli yells, come and catch me, Shere Khan’s Theme roars with lethal menace as he bares his teeth. Mowgli baits the trap by fleeing, swinging on tree vines with the tiger in hot pursuit. Rózsa unleashes his orchestra and propels the chase with Mowgli’s swinging supported by a kinetic cello ostinato replete with harp and piano glissandi contesting with Shere Khan’s aggressive horn declared theme. Mowgli reaches the water’s edge and dives in with the enraged Shere Khan following. Rózsa unleashes a string furioso as Kaa coils around the tiger and drags him down. Shere Khan’s Theme roars with primal fury as Mowgli repeatedly thrusts his dagger into his chest. As blood flows up to the surface, we close with an expiration on Shere Khan’s Theme as the victorious Mowgli breaks the surface. A proud Mowgli drags Shere Khan’s carcass to the shore and removes his dagger from his chest. “Budelo’s Treachery” reveals Buldeo, the barber and priest are searching for Mowgli to learn the location of the king’s treasure. Buldeo scouts ahead and comes upon Mowgli’s triumphant kill, and disputes it, which elicits Mowgli’s indignation. Buldeo pulls a gun on Mowgli, and demands that he take him to the treasure chamber. Unknown to Buldeo, Bagheera is stealthily stalking him from a tree branch aloft. When Mowgli refuses, Buldeo aims his gun and threatens to shoot. Bagheera leaps down on him causing the gun to misfire, and knocks him out. When Buldeo wakes up he is stunned to find Bagheera atop his chest growling. He believes Mowgli has transformed into the panther and begs him to spare his life and change back to his human form. Bagheera departs, Mowgli shakes Buldeo who opens his eyes, convinced that Mowgli is an evil shape-shifter. Rózsa offers a silly, comedic little ditty as he ingratiates himself, begs forgiveness, bows down and offers homage, joined in a ridiculous display by the barber and the priest. Mowgli commands that they leave and be prepared for him to bring home Shere Khan’s pelt. We close on an aggressive Bagheera’s Theme as he follows Mowgli’s command and chases the three men back to the village.

(*) “Mowgli’s Return” was not recoverable in the score digital transfer efforts. It reveals Mowgli triumphantly riding a water buffalo into town baring Shere Khan’s pelt supported by a happy rendering of his theme. A slow building and menacing Buldeo’s Theme portend treachery as we see villagers looking at Mowgli with anger in their eyes. A grim Jungle Book Theme sounds as Buldeo orders Mowgli’s arrest having poisoned the villager’s minds with the lies that he was a witch. Mowgli is to be burned, and thundering nativist drums and cymbal strikes set the stage as we see him being whipped by Buldeo. His howling for his pack to save him is supported by shots of them distressed with orchestral cries of pain. Buldeo’s malignant theme sounds as he demands from Mowgli the treasure, or his death by fire. Messua begs for his release, with her tears empowered by a grieving and desperate Lullaby Theme. Aching strings carry her plea for Mowgli to give up the treasure’s location and return to her, but he refuses. A lurking Buldeo’s Theme joins as we see him conspiring with his two collaborators to allow Messua to free Mowgli, so they may track him to the treasure. A plaintive Jungle Book Theme joins as he realizes now that his true home is not among men, but instead, the jungle. The theme gains hope on a solo violin as Messua cuts his bonds and gives him his dagger. Buldeo and his men watch with satisfaction as his malevolent theme supports. We close with an explosion of action as racing strings and the Jungle Book Theme propel Mowgli’s dexterous leaping escape.

The following three cues were not recoverable in the score digital transfer efforts. In (*) “Mowgli Being Tracked” dire horns and a tense Jungle Book Theme supports as Buldeo and his two companions track Mowgli’s path in the jungle, with Mowgli fully aware of their presence. Interplay with the Hyena Theme begins as we see one watching Buldeo’s team. Bagheera’s Theme next joins with the Jungle Book Theme as Mowgli and him set a trap for Buldeo. A string propelled accelerando of desire supports the men finding the temple ruins and racing within. Declaration of the Jungle Book Theme by horns bravura launch a grand statement as the men look about in wonder. Yet the theme darkens as each yell out echoing declarations of the power and prestige they will soon gain. The deafening echo’s scatter the temple monkeys who flee carried by the playful, scurrying woodwinds of their theme. Anxious strings carry their search of the ruins. As the barber and priest scurry about Rózsa supports with the comedic farce of the Comedy Theme until the barber spots the entrance to the treasure chamber. (*) “The Treasue” reveals the barber’s descent where he is greeted by the white cobra, who is shot by Buldeo. The shimmering seduction of desire borne of the Ankus Theme calls out to Buldeo, who picks it up, while farcical Comedy Theme supports the barber and priest collecting treasure. An extended exposition of the Comedy Theme supports the antics and envisioned glory of the barber and priest that the treasure shall bring to them. The seductive allure of the Ankus Theme supports Buldeo’s loving caress, yet the ankus arouses greed in the others resulting in a fight for ownership. Ultimately Buldeo surrenders it to the barber and declares they need to collect their shares and depart before nightfall. As they bag their shares an energetic Storyteller Theme supports their efforts. In (*) “The Departure” Bagheera roars and Mowgli feigns to be his voice, ordering them, to get out of the Jungle. This scares the men who depart urgently supported by a grim Jungle Book Theme. The theme lightens and emotes as a travelling motif as they travel through the jungle. Later, the theme darkens as they reach the river and wade across in fear. They soon begin to quarrel over which way to go supported by the Comedy Theme as Mowgli looks on, amused that they are heading back to the lost city.

“Night in the Jungle” reveals the men camped out for the night. A woodwind misterioso emotes the nocturnal tapestry of the jungle as the men sleep. At 0:19 the Lullaby Theme supports Mowgli pondering the prophecy that the ruby will bring death to those that possess it. We conclude on a misterioso of uncertainty. In “The Murder” tremolo violins of tension with dire horns support’s the priest waking and crawling towards the ruby. The lurking menace of the Conspiracy Theme joins with the shimmering allure of the Ankus Theme as the priest moves closer to the barber. A crescendo of tension builds, and crests at 1:11 as the priest grabs the ankus and savagely kills the barber. A plaintive Storyteller’s Theme supports the aftermath, joined by a dire Conspiracy Theme as the priest demands that Buldeo bear witness that he killed in self-defense. A grim Conspiracy Theme supports Buldeo taking his and the barber’s share of treasure and departing with the priest. At 2:36 a beleaguered Jungle Book Theme supports their struggling trek through the jungle’s dense growth. “Fury of the Jungle” reveals the men lost and struggling in the jungle leaving a trail of gold coins behind as they weaken from carrying its weight. Interplay of a beleaguered Jungle Book and Conspiracy Theme carries their progress. They collapse and again the priest declares falsely that he killed in self-defense. We slowly swell on a crescendo of tension buttressed by slithering strings sinistre as Buldeo turns away and see in the river’s reflection the priest preparing to strike as a crocodile glides towards them. At 0:46 strings del terrore erupt and Rózsa whips his orchestra into a ferocious torrent as Buldeo turns and fights with the priest. A crescendo of violence swells and crests at 1:35 as Buldeo casts the priest into the jaws of the crocodile as his theme resounds with a dark fury. We close with a sardonic rendering of his theme as he makes jest of the priest’s demise.

(*) “Buldeo Flees” reveals Mowgli ordering Bagheera to send Buldeo home. As the panther pursues, interplay of his theme and Buldeo’s Theme supports Buldeo’s desperate run to freedom. With a rising terror we see one by one all the animals joining in the hunt. He loses the ankus after striking a crocodile and a sardonic rendering of Buldeo’s Theme supports his frustration. As an enraged Buldeo departs he curses the jungle and swears to return with fire to destroy it. Later we see Mowgli conversing with the Elephants supported by their theme, and asks that they join him in defending the jungle from the pack of men. As he mounts Hathi and they set out, a proud rendering of the Elephant Theme supports their progress. In town the Lullaby Theme supports Messua’s fear that she and her defender Durga are to be burned as witches. Buldeo returns to the village and declares that Mowgli has killed the barber and priest. An angry rendering of his theme carries his fury as he sets a cart of straw aflame and rides it into the jungle. As Mowgli rides the herd of elephants to the village the heavy and plodding Elephant Theme carries their progress. Soon Mowgli smells the fire, and rides the elephants with urgency, empowered by a driving rendering of their theme, which also supports villager fleeing. An aggrieved Lullaby theme enters when Mowgli meets Mahala who advises that his mom has been left in town to burn as a witch. He directs her to safety in the river and an urgent Elephant Theme propels Mowgli’s ride into town.

“Mowgli saves his Mother” opens with a string furioso of desperation as people flee for their lives. At 0:55 a powerful iteration of the Elephant Theme supports Mowgli riding to save his mother. Rózsa stokes tension and the Elephant Themes drives forth with urgency as Mowgli leads them through the village. At 1:42 he breaks down the door to his home and rescues his mother and Durga supported by a thankful and heartfelt rendering of the Lullaby Theme. A shift to the jungle reveals animals fleeing for their lives, which Rózsa supports with strings of desperation. At 2:43 an urgent Elephant Theme supports Mowgli taking his mother with the herd to the lake for safety. At 3:02 an aching Lullaby Theme joins as Messua pleads with Mowgli to stay here in safety, but he says he must return to the jungle to save his friends.

“The Fire” offers an outstanding score highlight with exceptional thematic interplay. It opens with swirling strings as we see the swelling jungle conflagration. At 0:06 a strong and plodding Elephant Theme resounds as Mowgli rides Hathi and the herd in a procession to the safety of a jungle lake. At 1:16 a heavy and molto tragico rendering of the Jungle Book Theme unfolds as we see a montage of jungle shots, including the lost city, being consumed. At 1:42 the Elephant Theme joins with swirling violin vortices, which express the implacable, all-consuming fury of the fire’s flames. At 2:19 a bold horn declared rendering of a heroic Mowgli’s Theme entwines with the Jungle Book and later Storytelling Themes to support his heroic efforts to save his jungle friends. The thematic interplay is exceptional, and inspired, as we conclude with a grand climax. “The End” reveals Messua calling to Mowgli supported by a loving Lullaby Theme as he brings a log with bear cubs safely to shore. At 0:14 she begs him to stay with her but he declines saying “I am of the jungle. Their lair is my lair. Their trail is my trail. Their fight is my fight”.[12] An aching rendering of the Jungle Book Theme supports his farewell as Hathi lifts him up and they depart with a heartfelt rendering of the theme as Messua declares to Mahala; “He is no longer my son, but a godling of the woods.” At 0:42 we return to the present atop the Storyteller’s Theme as Buldeo relates that he did not get his revenge, and in the end was defeated by the jungle. When Memsahib asks what happened to Mowgli and Mahala, he replies, “That is another story” and we conclude with a majestic declaration of the Jungle Book Theme, which culminates in a grand flourish.

The Film Music Society made an earnest effort to bring Miklós Rózsa’s long sought masterpiece, “Jungle Book” to fruition. Unfortunately, several important cues were not salvageable from the acetate masters, and the digital mastering while appreciated, did not fully achieve 21st century qualitative standards. Despite the audio imperfections, I believe the listener is still able to experience the beauty of Rózsa’s handiwork. It suffices to say that a new recording of the score needs to be done. In accepting the assignment, Rózsa understood that this was at its heart a fantasy score full of wonder, mystery, myth and heroism, and that he would have to infuse his soundscape with the traditional Indian musical sensibilities to provide cultural authenticity. A multiplicity of an amazing eighteen themes were created, many of which endeared us to, and brought the animals of the jungle to life. The beautiful and ethnically rich Jungle Book and Storyteller Themes grounded the film and provided the essential threads, which underpinned and ensured the continuity of the story’s narrative. Our hero Mowgli’s Theme was masterfully juxtaposed by the villainous Shere Khan and Buldeo Themes, expertly expressing drama, tension and conflict. While the endearing and tender Lullaby Theme spoke to both Messua’s love of Natu/Mowgli, but also Mowgli’s love of his animal kin. Folks, I believe Rózsa’s conception and execution of his score brilliantly supported the drama, wonder, comedy and mythos of the film’s narrative, thus allowing Korda to realize his vision. In scene after scene Rózsa’s music enhanced the film’s narrative and imagery, achieving a remarkable cinematic confluence. I consider this early career opus one of the finest in Rózsa’s canon, and a gem of the Golden age. I believe that the Film Music Society album offers a good option for those wishing to experience one of Rózsa’s finest efforts, and I recommend you seek out this album until such time that a new 21st century digital recording can be made.

For those of you unfamiliar with the score, I have embedded a YouTube link to a wonderful fifteen-minute suite; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WbwfAQtAVS0

Buy the Jungle Book soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Main Title (1:32)
  • The Jungle (2:49)
  • Animals of the Jungle (4:47)
  • Natoo Runs Away (2:33)
  • The Wolf Cave and Mowgli’s Lullaby (2:08)
  • Shere Khan Chases Gorofli from the Jungle (2:27)
  • Jungle Lullaby (1:23)
  • Mowgli’s Mother (1:46)
  • Among Men (1:05)
  • Mowgli and Mahalla go to the Jungle (2:37)
  • The Lost City (2:15)
  • The White Cobra (3:24)
  • Shere Khan and the Stampede (4:39)
  • Kaa the Rocksnake (5:14)
  • Night in the Jungle (1:04)
  • The Murder (3:07)
  • Fury of the Jungle (2:22)
  • Mowgli Saves his Mother (3:17)
  • The Fire (4:03)
  • The End (1:36)

Running Time: 76 minutes 36 seconds

Film Music Society FMS-002 (1942/2004)

Music composed and conducted by Miklós Rózsa. Orchestrations by Eugene Zador. Score produced by Miklós Rózsa.

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