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Old 20-09-2005, 16:53   #1
John Hodson
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The Best Music in Film; Your Favourite Classic Scores?

The Sight & Sound website has a nice section - The Best Music in Film;

"In September 2004 Sight & Sound ran a series of special features celebrating the relationship between cinema and music. We invited film-makers and musicians from across the world to reflect on this subject by inviting them to respond to three questions about music and the movies. Their responses formed the centrepiece of our coverage. Here we publish their remarks in all their unedited glory..."


Some nice choices -

Roy Andersson - "My favourite film soundtrack is 'The Harry Lime Theme' in the movie The Third Man (1949) with Orson Welles. It is unique music and absolutely not predictable. It is of its own as the movie is. And that meeting, the movie and the music, creates a very special atmosphere: nice, beautiful but at the same time a little frightening and a little sad. This music was not planned, it was found. It existed already and maybe that is the reason behind its quality."

Olivier Assayas - "With not a second of hesitation David Mansfield's music for Heaven's Gate (1980). Its the one movie soundtrack that I can listen to on its own. And then it's also the very soul of this film. Somehow it embodies everything the movie is reaching for, especially a heartbreaking sense of time passing. I remember the catch line on the poster, it went something like (I'm not sure of the precise wording) what one loves in life is things that fade. Usually this is stuff to make fun of, in this case it was pure poetry to me. And exactly what Mansfield's soundtrack is about. I haven't seen Heaven's Gate since the time it was made, and as much as I liked it then, I always felt that my taste for the film had to do with my fondness for its score that seemed to have it's roots at the deepest of the disturbing emotions of immigration, loss, vanity of human fate. Possibly the film doesn't have the most structured narrative, but then it's mostly about feelings, images, dreams, visions, in ways similar to those of poetry, unlike most of cinema. And the key is in the music..."

Francis Ford Coppola - "The Thief of Baghdad (1940), also, Spellbound (1945) - the same composer, actually. They are just memorable, seemed to catch the essence of the film. But there are many great ones..."

Roger Corman - "Maurice Jarre's original score for Lawrence of Arabia (1962) is my favourite because it most perfectly recreates and enhances the epic and subtly exotic feeling of David Lean's masterpiece. It mixes sweeping orchestrations with Arabian-sounding rhythms in a way that evokes the vast, mysterious expanse of the desert as hauntingly as David Lean's indelible images."

Alex Cox - "A film called The Big Silence (1968), (sic)* directed by Sergio Corbucci with music by Ennio Morricone. It's completely different from everything else that he did."


So what are your favourite classic scores and why?

I'll chuck in a couple or three - Miklos Rozsa's epic score for an epic film; the music of Ben-Hur has been buzzing in my head for days now - the overture is sublime, his music for the charioteers entry is magnificent.

John Barry's cool jazz themed score for The Ipcress File could easily have been sub-Bond, but Barry avoids that trap and turns in music that fits the film perfectly.

Jerome Moross could hardly have been described as prolific, but his score for another Wyler epic, The Big Country, is both memorable and economical; Moross's score is spare but never less than hummable, from those marvellous opening credits to the 'clash of the titans' at the end. Fantastic.

*Shouldn't that be The Great Silence BTW...
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Last edited by John Hodson; 20-09-2005 at 17:16.
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Old 20-09-2005, 17:00   #2
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Probably too main stream for this forum but Superman. Highlights being the music over the opening credits and when he saves Lois from the helicopter and the fanfare kicks in as he rips his shirt apart.
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Old 20-09-2005, 17:02   #3
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Herrmann's score for Vertigo - hey, I'm obvious but I love it to pieces: dreamy, mesmeric and insistent. Also Herrmann's score for The Day the Earth Stood Still, because I'm a sucker for anything with a theremin in it and it reminds me of Gort's crinkly knees. Holy Christmas! Berenga!

Newman's How the West Was Won is so mythically memorable that I have, essentially in my every off moment, been whistling or humming it (much to the chagrin of everyone around me) since the Cinerama screening in Bradford - I knew it before, obviously, but hearing it in that context and alongside such a spectacle... I truly haven't been able to get it out of my head. So if a chappie in Asda annoys you with his strident whistling, don't slap him. For it is I. Me. Whatever.

Without a doubt, though, my favourite score, exalted above all others, is Nascimbene's The Vikings - anephric is not a creature of immense subtlety and this rip-roaring ode to wassailing, axe-throwing and wenching sends shivers up, down and all around my spine whenever I hear it - pity the CD I've got of it (an Italian release, I think) is so appallingly echoey.

The music I want played at my funeral - because, obviously, my every breath was a viking one *cough, damn this icy fjordic air*, even though I scraped my dainty face. I'm wearing a helmet with enormous horns as we speak.

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Old 20-09-2005, 17:05   #4
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Ennio Morricone's scores for all of Leone's films
Definaty Hermann's score for Vertigo.
Barry's Bond Soundtracks (with my particular faves being OHMSS and The Living Daylights)
Bit too late for classical but Vangelis' score for Blade Runner is superb too.
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Old 20-09-2005, 17:13   #5
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Bernard Herrmann's evocative, haunting and plain gorgeous score for the Gene Tierney/ Rex Harrison Fox film "The Ghost & Mrs Muir".
Beautiful on-screen images, superbly accompanied by a perfectly-fitting soundtrack score.
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Old 20-09-2005, 17:37   #6
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Most of Morricone's stuff is good, but i also really like Carpenters Halloween score.
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Old 20-09-2005, 17:39   #7
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Well, let me be the first: Hugo Friedhofer's magnificent The Best Years Of Our Lives.
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Old 20-09-2005, 17:50   #8
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without a doubt the finest classical score for any film is Richard Einhorn’s Voices of Light from Criterion's edition of Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc.

Hermann's work on pretty much anything is good, Vertigo and Taxi Driver particularly good. Morricone's For a Few Dollars More and Death Rides a Horse are his real standout scores for me.

While not a classical score, the way music is used in Lukas Moodysson's films is outstanding - he's at the top of his game in this respect.

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Old 20-09-2005, 18:09   #9
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Rozsa's El Cid and Newman's How the West Was Won

both have aged well...
now if we had a decent release of both on DVD..
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Old 20-09-2005, 18:12   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cecil B
both have aged well...
now if we had a decent release of both on DVD..
I believe the latter is coming
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Old 20-09-2005, 19:01   #11
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John Williams' Superman is one of the finest scores going, I think it's his best work and meshes beautifully with Donner's movie.

I'd choose Ennio Morricone, and I'm torn between his scores for Once Upon a Time in the West and Aldo Lado's Who Saw Her Die? (the latter has some achingly beautiful melodic themes).
I'm a sucka for a nice tooon....

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Old 20-09-2005, 19:07   #12
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My selections:

John Barry - "Raise the Titanic": My favourite Barry score and one he's kept coming back to time and again ever since.

Bernard Herrmann - "Obsession": One of his last scores and utterly marvellous. I like his work on "Sisters" and "Endless Night" too.

Basil Poledouris - "Big Wednesday": Gives a suitably epic atmosphere to one of my favourite films.

Ennio Morricone - "Exorcist II The Heretic": Morricone at the top of his game. My other Morricone favourite is "Lolita" but that's way out of our jurisdiction.

John Williams - "The Cowboys": Early Williams and all the better for it with superb use of themes derived from a variety of sources, notably (as ever) Copland. I love "Missouri Breaks", "The Fury" and "Sugarland Express" too, much superior in my opinion to his more famous scores.

Miklos Rosza - "Spellbound": Appropriately over the top score for a delightfully over the top film. My favourite Hitchcock score (although I love "Marnie" and "Vertigo" of course)

Pino Donaggio - "Carrie"/ "Don't Look Now": Can't choose between the two.

Lalo Schifrin - "Magnum Force": The ultimate urban cop movie score.

Jerry Goldsmith - "The Final Conflict": Just a year out of our range but still Goldsmith at his very best, which is saying something.

If I could go way out of the classic forum range, I'd add Vangelis' score for "1492", Patrick Doyle's score for "Carlito's Way" and Lennie Niehaus' scores for "Bridges of Madison County" and "Unforgiven".
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Old 20-09-2005, 19:20   #13
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Ben-Hur is my all time favorite but then anything by Miklos Rozsa is great. Other excellent scores are The Egyptian, co-composed by Alfred Newman and Bernard Herrmann; Land of the Pharaohs by Dimitri Tiomkin and The Ten Commandments by Elmer Bernstein. All these are historical epics of course. A genre which produced the best film music ever.
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Old 20-09-2005, 19:23   #14
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I can't say too much about it, but don't be expecting How The West Was Won on DVD anytime soon.
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Old 20-09-2005, 19:28   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by haineshisway
I can't say too much about it, but don't be expecting How The West Was Won on DVD anytime soon.
Aw, now come on, just a little hint will do; big problem, small glitch? C'mon, ante-up...I swear to God, this is just between you and me - you can't leave at it that, have a heart, noooooooooooo...........

*Sigh* Now I'm humming Alfred Newman....

Can't leave without chucking in Dimitri Tiomkin's beautiful score for The Alamo, Barry's Quiller Memorandum and Ron Goodwin's thundering Where Eagles Dare...

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Old 20-09-2005, 19:50   #16
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Old 20-09-2005, 19:51   #17
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Hum it with me, John! Mmmm-mmm-mmmmmmmm-mm-mm-mm-m-m-m-m-mmmmmmmmmm!

He's such a tease. And I had such high hopes...

Ah well. Can I say how much I like Schifrin's Gregorian chorus (almost) for THX 1138? I have done now.

I must also express my utter love of all things David Shire and Michael Small, the latter in particular. Amazing, discordant scores in the '70s, obviously among them The Parallax View (melancholia which I would die for, and the stirring marching-band variant of the theme over the end titles), Marathon Man (with its odd synthetic tones), Night Moves and then... nothing. Drifted in an '80s malaise and did Jaws the Revenge. What a tragedy.

Shire's scores for All the President's Men and (hey it's outside a classic remit but I have to show what a manchild I am by picking it) his lovely, by turns aching, ragtime and terrifying, score for Return to Oz are my favourites of that particular composer.

I should stick in my Alex North fanboyism as well - Spartacus, obviously (the blaring, martial main title, the fight between Spartacus and the Woody of Strode, - I even like the slightly sickly love theme. If you want to see a grown man cry all you have to do is stick on the cues from the crucifixion scene and shout "He's free, Spartacus!" at me).

And, again, outside a classic sphere, his score for Dragonslayer is magnificent and genuinely pagan.

Last edited by anephric; 20-09-2005 at 20:07.
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Old 20-09-2005, 19:52   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by haineshisway
I can't say too much about it, but don't be expecting How The West Was Won on DVD anytime soon.
I watched this on TV on sunday. The print was horrendous. Looked like a big watermark down the middle of the pic for some of the film.
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Old 20-09-2005, 19:54   #19
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That's the Cinerama stitching - learn to love it.
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Old 20-09-2005, 19:55   #20
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I was watching that too, I think TV3 must have discovered an old 16mm P&S print in the trash can out back and decide to use it to fill up the Sunday slot. The watermarks are inherent to three-strip Cinerama though, I think.
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Alex Cox, Classic Scores, David Mansfield, Ennio Morricone, Francis Ford Coppola, he Day the Earth Stood Still, Heaven's Gate, How The West Was Won, John Barry, Lawrence of Arabia, Maurice Jarre, Olivier Assayas, Raise the Titanic, Roger Corman, Roy Andersson, Sergio Corbucci, Spellbound, Superman, The Best Music in Film, The Harry Lime Theme, The Thief of Baghdad, The Third Man, The Vikings, Vertigo

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