CD Review: Captain Blood – Classic Film Scores for Errol Flynn
Out of the numerous albums in Charles Gerhardt’s Classic Film Scores series, CAPTAIN BLOOD–CLASSIC FILM SCORES FOR ERROL FLYNN, released in 1975, was the final album devoted to a particular star. While some of the scores on the album are familiar from other entires in the series, Gerhardt and the New Philharmonic Orchestra once again bring this great Golden Age film music stunningly to life.
Three of Flynn’s most famous films were featured on Gerhardt’s first album in the series, THE SEA HAWK, devoted to the music of Erich Wolfgang Korngold. Those three scores are also included in this volume, but with newly recorded material. In the “Ship in the Night” cue from CAPTAIN BLOOD, oboe, English horn and flute solos are shouldered out of the way by soaring string and French horn lines. The album closes with Korngold’s Oscar-winning score for THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD in a satisfying 12-minute suite that shows off the trumpets and French horns to great effect. Gerhardt once again proves why THE SEA HAWK is Flynn and Korngold at their swashbuckling best. If you’re a fan of the FAMILY GUY episode in which Peter pretends he’s a pirate, you’ll recognize the show’s faithful treatment of Korngold’s exciting music. The male voices of The Ambrosian Singers cap off the suite with a rousing vocal rendition of the score’s main theme.
In 1948, ADVENTURES OF DON JUAN gave Flynn one of his best later swashbuckling vehicles, equally matched by Max Steiner’s thrilling score. A trumpet fanfare for the King leads into one of Steiner’s finest themes, accompanied by Spanish-flavored whirling dervishes in the strings and percussion. The “Procession Into London” captures Steiner at his most majestic. This excellent suite provides a rousing start to the album and whets my appetite for Tribute Film Classic’s complete re-recording due in the spring.
THEY DIED WITH THEIR BOOTS ON may have played fast and loose with the historical facts of Custer’s last stand at Little Big Horn, but Steiner’s score provides a typically beautiful love theme and captures all the drama of battle with bugle calls and vicious music that recalls the music of Charles Ives in its use of period music. Steiner’s famous Warner Bros. logo leads us into the more traditional western strains of his score for DODGE CITY.
Flynn was a multi-faceted actor whose ease in front of the camera belied a deeper talent that went beyond his swashbuckling historical dramas. In OBJECTIVE, BURMA!, he leads a group of men on a dangerous mission to blow up a strategic radio station during World War II. Franz Waxman’s Oscar-nominated score is a model of excitement and tension, perfectly captured in the thrilling “Parachute Drop.” With its steady snare drum rattle, swirling strings and rousing march, the cue was later included on Gerhardt’s expanded SUNSET BOULEVARD disc devoted to Waxman’s music and was one of the essential cues that made me explore that composer further.
Except for its appearance on LP, the only commercial music available from THE SUN ALSO RISES is included on this album. Based on Ernest Hemingway’s acclaimed novel, Flynn took third billing behind Tyrone Power and Ava Gardner. While the film can’t match Hemingway’s prose, neither can it match the beauty and majesty of Hugo Friedhofer’s score. The suite begins with dramatic, minor-key chords and a yearning French horn melody followed by a typically lyrical, yet unsentimental, love theme that gently eases into the tentative waltz rhythms of “The Lights of Paris.”
CAPTAIN BLOOD was another rare Gerhardt album that I never purchased on LP or an earlier CD incarnation. Considering it’s anchored by two of my favorite Golden Age composers, I’m not sure why I neglected it for so long. But that denial has made the discovery of this great music all the more thrilling this time around.