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TO OLIVIA – Debbie Wiseman

February 23, 2021 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

It’s something of a forgotten fact these days, but for thirty years between 1953 and 1983 the great British children’s author Roald Dahl was married to the Oscar-winning American actress Patricia Neal. While they were together Dahl wrote many of his most acclaimed novels (including James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Fantastic Mr Fox, and The BFG), as well as film screenplays such as You Only Live Twice and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Meanwhile Neal simultaneously enjoyed the peak of her acting career, appearing in movies such as Breakfast at Tiffany’s, In Harm’s Way, and The Subject Was Roses, and winning an Academy Award for Hud in 1963. However, their private life was marred with tragedy, the most significant event of which was the death of their eldest daughter Olivia from measles in 1962 when aged just 7. This new film To Olivia, directed by John Hay, explores the life of the couple around that time, how the tragedy of Olivia’s death inspired them both to their greatest professional work, and how Dahl went on to become a staunch pro-immunization campaigner for the rest of his life. The film stars Hugh Bonneville as Dahl and Keeley Hawes as Neal, features Sam Heughan and Geoffrey Palmer in supporting roles, and has a sublime score by composer Debbie Wiseman. Read more…

JULIUS CAESAR – Miklós Rózsa

February 22, 2021 Leave a comment

MOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio executives were impressed by the commercial success of Henry V in 1944 and sought to adapt another of William Shakespeare’s plays for the big screen. They chose his 1599 work Julius Caesar and tasked producer John Houseman with the project with a generous budget of $2.0 million. Houseman had a vision for the film and hired Joseph Mankiewicz to direct, as the story would be dialogue driven, which was the type of film in which Mankiewicz excelled. Once attached to the project Mankiewicz made the creative decision to personally adapt the play and write the screenplay. Houseman did not want another lavish epic, but rather a small more intimate production, which explored the drama of ambition and power politics. Second, he insisted that the film be shot in black and white because “we wanted people to relate to the newsreels, to the Fascist movements in Europe, which were still relevant”. A cast for the ages was assembled, which included Marlon Brando as Marc Anthony, James Mason as Brutus, John Gielgud as Cassius, Louis Calhern as Julius Caesar, Edmund O’Brien as Casca, Greer Garson as Calpurnia, and Deborah Kerr as Portia. Read more…

THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS – Howard Shore

February 19, 2021 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Despite having first appeared on screen in 1986 in director Michael Mann’s Manhunter, the character Hannibal Lecter exploded into public consciousness five years later with this film, The Silence of the Lambs. Based on the best-selling novel by Thomas Harris and directed by Jonathan Demme, the film follows the investigation into a serial killer dubbed ‘Buffalo Bill,’ who abducts young women and methodically strips skin from their bodies before murdering them. Rookie FBI agent Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) is tasked by Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn), the head of the Behavioral Science Unit, to visit and interview the incarcerated Lecter (Anthony Hopkins in a career-defining role); as well as being a cannibalistic serial killer himself, Lecter is also a brilliant psychologist, and it is believed his insight may help the FBI catch ‘Bill’ before he kills again. However, as well as helping build up a profile of the murderer, Lecter also convinces Clarice to provide details of her own life as part of a ‘quid pro quo’ arrangement, and the two begin an unlikely intellectual relationship that threatens to derail the investigation. Read more…

BLIZZARD OF SOULS [DVĒSEĻU PUTENIS] – Lolita Ritmanis

February 16, 2021 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

They don’t make many movies in Latvia but, when they do, they tend to be epic. Dvēseļu Putenis – known in English as Blizzard of Souls – is one of those. It is based on the acclaimed novel of the same name by Aleksandrs Grīns, one of the most acclaimed writers in contemporary Latvian culture, who was also a war hero, journalist, and staunch opponent of the Soviet occupation of Latvia, before he was executed by Soviet forces in 1941. Blizzard of Souls is his most famous work, and tells the semi-autobiographical story of a young Latvian schoolboy named Artūrs who enlists in the national battalions of the Imperial Russian army in hopes of finding glory. Artūrs participates in many battles in World War I, and eventually returns home to Latvia – only to find the homeland he loves coming under threat from the very forces he fought for. The film was directed by Dzintars Dreibergs, and upon its release quickly became the most successful domestic film since Latvian independence in 1991. Read more…

ROMEO AND JULIET – Nino Rota

February 15, 2021 Leave a comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Director Franco Zeffirelli’s first film was The Taming of the Shrew in 1967, which was adapted from the original Shakespearean play. It was a commercial success, and for his next project he conceived a new adaptation of another of Shakespeare’s famous plays, “Romeo and Juliet”. A lack of funding however drove him to pursue a television production. Yet his fortunes changed when Paramount Pictures agreed to join in partnership with BHE Films, Verona Produzione and Dino de Laurentis Cinematografia to finance a big screen release. A budget of $850,000 was provided and the British team of Anthony Havelock-Allan and John Brabourne would produce the film. For the screen play Zeffirelli collaborated with Masolino d’Amico and Franco Brusati. In an audacious casting move Zeffirelli decided to cast the lead roles as minors, assuring fidelity to Shakespeare’s original conception. Leonard Whiting, a 17-year-old, was cast as Romeo, and Olivia Hussey, a 15 year old, as Juliet. Joining them would be Milo O’Shea as Friar Laurence, Michael York as Tybalt, John McEnery as Mercutio, Natasha Parry as Lady Capulet, and Robert Stephens as the Prince of Verona. Read more…

ENNIO MORRICONE REVIEWS, Part X

February 13, 2021 Leave a comment

In this tenth installment of my series looking at the early careers of iconic composers, we take a look at the final seven scores written by the legendary Ennio Morricone in 1970. These titles include one of the most important giallo scores of all time, a couple of quirky dramas, two spaghetti westerns (one of which stars Clint Eastwood), and a psychedelic sex comedy score that has to be heard to be believed! Read more…

SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY – Jerry Goldsmith

February 11, 2021 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

One of the biggest box office successes of 1991, Sleeping With the Enemy is a psychological thriller directed by Joseph Rubin, written by Ronald Bass from the novel by Nancy Price. Julia Roberts stars as Laura Burney, a Massachusetts housewife whose seemingly perfect marriage to Martin (Patrick Bergin) is shown in private to be a repeating pattern of physical and emotional abuse, gaslighting, and obsessive compulsion. Desperate to escape, Laura fakes her own death in a boating accident, moves to Iowa, and starts a new life under an assumed name. Before long she finds herself attracted to a kind and handsome college professor (Kevin Anderson) and starts a tentative relationship; meanwhile, back in Boston, Martin starts to suspect that Laura is not dead, and begins to make vengeful plans to get his wife back. He can’t live without her, and I won’t let her live without him. Read more…

THE LITTLE THINGS – Thomas Newman

February 9, 2021 Leave a comment

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

On paper, The Little Things should be a guaranteed smash hit. It’s written and directed by John Lee Hancock, the man behind Academy Award nominated films like The Blind Side and Saving Mr. Banks. It stars three Oscar-winning actors of genuine pedigree – Denzel Washington, Jared Leto, and Rami Malek – and has an excellent supporting cast of reliable character actors, as well as top-notch behind the scenes crew. The plot concerns the hunt for a serial killer in Los Angeles in the 1990s, a traumatized ageing detective called back into action, a hotshot young investigator who clashes with his superiors, and a cat and mouse chase through the darkest parts of the Southland which pits the hunter(s) against the hunted. It’s a recipe for success. So how did it end up being so terrible? How did the screenplay get so that it was both confusing and predictable at the same time? How did these three acclaimed thespians veer so wildly between somnambulance and embarrassing over-acting? How on earth did both the Golden Globe voters and the members of the Screen Actors Guild think that Leto’s off-putting performance as a dead-eyed weirdo was in any way awards worthy? These are questions to which I will likely never know the answer, but there we are. Read more…

THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY – Alex North

February 8, 2021 Leave a comment

MOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

20th Century Fox Studio executive Peter Levathes took notice of Irving Stone’s best-selling novel 1961 The Agony and the Ecstasy with almost 51 million copies sold and saw opportunity. He purchased the film rights for $125,000, yet was unable to proceed with the project as the studio suffered significant financial reversals in 1962 due to cost overruns on several films, most notable “Cleopatra”. Industry icon Daryl F. Zanuck was brought in to save the studio, and within 12 months it was again operating in the black. This allowed him to move “The Agony and the Ecstasy” into production. Carol Reed was hired to both produce and direct the film with a $7.2 million budget. A stellar cast was hired including Charlton Heston as Michelangelo, Rex Harrison as Pope Julius II, Diane Cilento as Contessina Antonia Romola de Medici, Harry Andrews as Donata Bramente and Albert Lupo as the Duke of Urbino. Read more…

ENNIO MORRICONE REVIEWS, Part IX

February 7, 2021 Leave a comment

In this ninth installment of my series looking at the early careers of iconic composers, we take a look at half a dozen scores written by the legendary Ennio Morricone in 1970. The scores include an intense action thriller, a revenge-themed war film, a historical epic drama that sounds like a dance party, an abstract score for a crime drama, and two scores containing what many people consider to be two of his all-time greatest themes, one of which is my personal all time favorite Morricone love theme! Read more…

NOT WITHOUT MY DAUGHTER – Jerry Goldsmith

February 5, 2021 Leave a comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Not Without My Daughter was a true-life political drama/thriller directed by Brian Gilbert, based on the autobiographical book of the same name by Betty Mahmoody and William Hoffer. Sally Field plays Betty, a typical American housewife and mother married to an Iranian doctor, Sayed Mahmoody (Alfred Molina). When Betty and Sayed travel to Iran to visit his family, Betty finds herself plunged into a nightmare when Sayed announces that they will be staying in the country; surrounded by an unfamiliar culture, and with Sayed becoming increasingly abusive and controlling, Betty makes the difficult decision to flee the country and return to the United States, and hatches a dangerous plan to smuggle herself and her daughter across the border to the US consulate in Turkey. Read more…

DARK VICTORY – Max Steiner

February 1, 2021 Leave a comment

MOVIE MUSIC UK CLASSICS

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Actress Bette Davis discovered the play “Dark Victory” and was determined to play Judith Traherne in a big screen production. She convinced Warner Brothers producers Hal Wallis and David Lewis, as well as Director Edmund Goulding to take on the project. Yet they did not have the film rights, which they had to purchase from David O. Selznick for $50,000. The film would be based on the 1934 play “Dark Victory” by George Emerson Brewer Jr. and Bertram Bloch, with Casey Robinson hired to write the screenplay. A budget of $1 million was provided and a truly stellar cast assembled. Joining Davis would be George Brent as Dr. Frederick Steele, Humphrey Bogart as Michael O’Leary, Geraldine Fitzgerald as Ann King, Henry Travers as Dr. Parsons, Ronald Reagan as Alex Hamm and Cora Witherspoon as Carrie Spottswood. Read more…

LIONHEART – John Scott

January 28, 2021 1 comment

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

One of the most unlikely movie stars of the 1990s – or any decade, really – was the Belgian martial arts champion Jean-Claude Van Damme. A fortuitous series of events led to him becoming friends with fellow action movie star Chuck Norris, which in turn led to his breakout acting performance in the film Bloodsport in 1988. Through subsequent films like Cyborg and Kickboxer, Van Damme’s reputation for choreographing bone crunching action sequences made him a sort of B-movie equivalent to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, a man for whom all problems can be solved with a roundhouse kick to the face. The 1991 action movie Lionheart was the first Van Damme movie financed by a major studio (Universal); in it he plays Lyon Gaultier, an officer in the French Foreign Legion stationed in Djibouti who is forced to go AWOL and travel to Los Angeles to look after his seriously injured twin brother and his family. In order to pay for the medical care Gaultier agrees to take part in a series of underground martial arts fights – and if that were not enough, he also discovers that his superiors in the French military are searching for him, so that he can be court-martialed for desertion. The film was directed by Sheldon Lettich, and co-stars Harrison Page and Deborah Rennard. Read more…

IL GATTOPARDO – Nino Rota

January 25, 2021 Leave a comment

100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Studio executives of the Italian production company Titanus decided to bring to the big screen the popular 1958 best-selling novel Il Gattopardo (The Leopard) by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa. Collaboration with 20th Century Fox brought the necessary financing for a budget of $2 million. Titanus producer Goffredo Lombardo was tasked with the project, and Luchino Visconti brought in to direct. Controversy arose over casting the key role of Prince Don Fabrizio Corbera of Salina as Visconti desired Marlon Brando or Laurence Olivier but the 20th Century Fox leveraged their financing of $2 million to force Burt Lancaster into the role over Visconti’s objections. Joining him would be Claudia Cardinale as Angelica Sedera, Alain Delon as Prince Tancredi Falconeri, and Rina Morelli as Princess Maria Stella of Salina. Read more…

Under-the-Radar Round Up 2020, Part VI

January 22, 2021 1 comment

As the year winds down and the COVID-19 Coronavirus continues still to decimate the 2020 theatrical movie schedule, it appears that yet again a lot of the best film music released comes from smaller international features not as reliant on massive theatrical releases to make their presence felt. As such (and as I did last year under much different circumstances) I am very pleased to present the sixth and final installment (for this calendar year) in my ongoing series of articles looking at the best “under the radar” scores from around the world.

The titles included are a Spanish TV documentary about a legendary footballer, a Norwegian fantasy-horror about Norse gods, a Spanish comedy score set in the 1970s, a raucous animated adventure from Ireland, and three terrific scores from Italy: a mafia thriller, a biopic about a beloved entertainer, and a comedy about serial killers! Read more…