The 9 Most Terrifying Words in Film Music

The Exorcist

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. Even a four-year-old knows that’s bullshit. Words do have the power to hurt. Even in the isolated world of film music fandom, words can hurt. Forget the constantly plagued carping on the message boards. I’m talking about those elements of film music that send a chill up your spine or cause you untold amounts of agita whenever you think about them. Some of them are valid, others not so much. That’s a personal choice. Here are nine…

Read More

CD Review: Snow White and the Huntsman

snow-white-and-the-huntsman-poster

Snow White sure has come a long way since Disney. From perky but bland cartoon to beautiful but bland live action cartoon earlier this year (MIRROR MIRROR) and now somnambulistic but bland live action corpse thanks to Kristen Stewart, she of the vacant, glassy-eyed, open-mouth school of acting. So it’s no surprise that director Rupert Sanders’s menacing take on the fairy tale—SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN—basically ignores its title and focuses more on Charlize Theron’s evil queen. And what a queen she is—beautiful and endowed with the power to steal youth, all decked…

Read More

CD Review: Last Breath

lastbreath

For someone who worships THE OMEN, it might come as a surprise that I’m not a fan of horror films. And I like torture films even less. I don’t understand what entertainment value can be gleaned from watching human beings cause each other extreme emotional and physical torment. So to say watching LAST BREATH was torture is not only an obvious pun, but an understatement. The film, which made the rounds of the horror film festival circuit but was released direct-to-video, stars director/writer Ty Jones and Mandy Bannon as an unhappily…

Read More

CD Review: Ben-Hur (1925)

benhur

Long before Charlton Heston chariot-raced his way to Oscar glory, MGM filmed BEN-HUR as a silent film in 1925, starring Ramón Navarro as Judah and Francis X. Bushman as Messala. At nearly $4 million, the film was the most expensive silent film ever made. With exhortations of “The Picture Every Christian Ought to See,” audiences flocked to see the film. Though the film ultimately operated at a loss, it turned the newly merged MGM into a major force in Hollywood. In the 1980s, the Technicolor scenes were found in a Czech film archive…

Read More

CD Review: Wings

Wings

Whenever I hear the word “wings” I’m reminded of two classic TV comedy moments. The first is Carol Burnett and Madeline Kahn in a Eunice sketch rehearsing Mary, Queen of Scotland. Only Carol could make the line “Oh, mah lady, mah lady, you flah before me as on wangs!” into pure comic gold. The second is a typical Simpsons throwaway gem. In an episode from a very early season, the camera pans across the living room and you hear the TV announcer: “Tonight, on Wings…ah, who cares…” Pure genius. Now those…

Read More

9 Oscar-Winning Scores Still To Be Released

Thoroughly Modern Millie

You’d think there be a month that went by that I didn’t think about the Oscars. Alas, I’m just that shallow. Even though an Academy Award is no indication of quality, the Oscars are how I taught myself about the history of film music and I don’t like holes in my Oscar collection. Yet after 35+ years of burdening myself with such a foolish obsession, my collection is still minus too many excellent Oscar scores. I doubt the collection will ever be complete when it comes to nominated scores. There…

Read More

The Green-Eyed Monster

A Double Life

O, beware, my lord, of jealousy! It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock The meat it feeds on. (Othello, Act 3, Scene 3) Jealousy certainly does make monsters of us all. In A DOUBLE LIFE (1947), Ronald Colman stars as an actor whose latest role as the jealous, murderous Othello begins to take over his psyche, blurring reality. George Cukor’s direction is tight, Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin’s script is clever, and Colman gives the performance of a lifetime, winning himself an Oscar in the process. With lines that blur…

Read More

Zing Went the Newman Strings of My Heart!

Alfred Newman

Alfred Newman—my guide, guru and guardian angel, at least when it comes to film music. Why? Three words—the Newman strings. Nearly everything you want to know about Newman’s film music can be found in his treatment of the string section of the orchestra. And no string section ever sounded quite like the one that Newman perfected over his 20-year career at 20th Century Fox. What made the Newman strings so exceptional? No doubt, it had a great deal to do with Newman’s talent as a composer. But kudos should also…

Read More

The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima

The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima

In 1917, three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal, reportedly saw a vision of a lady in a cloud. Over a period of six months, the crowds expanded on the 13th of each month as news spread of sightings of what appeared to be the Blessed Virgin Mary. THE MIRACLE OF OUR LADY OF FATIMA (1952) explores the age-old combination of fear, faith and religious persecution without ever treating the story with a heavy hand. The performances by the three children are never cloying and Gilbert Roland’s breezy role as the town skeptic helps…

Read More

I Spy With My Little Eye

theif

He was closer to Julius and Ethel Rosenberg than George Smiley or James Bond. In THE THIEF (1952), Ray Milland stars as Dr. Allan Fields, a nuclear physicist spying for some unnamed foreign country (you can assume Russia). As the Feds close in, he goes on the run, all the while increasingly racked with guilt. The film is an effective film noir with a none-too-subtle propagandist element that is certainly understandable, given the country’s obsession with the McCarthy hearings at the time. Sam Leavitt’s stark black-and-white cinematography and the excellent use of…

Read More