DESTINATION MOON (1950)
Music composed by Leith Stevens.
Produced by David Schecter and Kathleen Mayne.
Digital editing and mastering: Ray Faiola.
Layout: Gina Vivona.
Liner notes: David Schecter.
Cover art: Vincent Di Fate.
35 Tracks (Playing Time = 56:32)
Monstrous Movie Music, MM-1967
For those who follow science-fiction films, DESTINATION MOON was the first one to make an impact in the 1950s. Though it is slow moving at times and has a "dim-witted lunkhead" (David Schecter's term) as a technician, played by Dick Wesson, it is basically a truthful depiction of early space travel as it was imagined at that time. This is well before the actual Moon landing in 1969. The very good screenplay was by Rip Van Ronkel, James O'Hanlon, and acclaimed science-fiction writer, Robert Heinlein. The Visual Effects received an Academy Award and there was a nomination for Art Direction but no nomination for the film's composer, Leith Stevens. That isn't too surprising because sci-fi music was not yet accepted at Oscar time. That had to wait until STAR WARS and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND in the 1970s.
This is the description given in the CD booklet:
Leith Stevens was the first film composer to write a 1950s science fiction score...Stevens' use of polytonality and some uncommon harmonies occasionally nudged the writing beyond the limits of conformity associated with a lot of motion picture scores of the time, but it remains entirely accessible throughout.
The Main Title (1:43) begins with a short chord played by flutes and clarinets answered by low brass and the woodwinds join in for a brief but very effective opening. Then follows more of the same type of purposeful music.
To add a bit of comic relief, there is a cartoon with the popular animated character Woody Woodpecker. The music for these tracks (5-8) was not by Stevens but instead composed by Clarence E. Wheeler and is reminiscent of the great Carl Stalling cartoon music.
Probably the most interesting track is "On the Moon" (4:18) which starts with only a few instruments (alto flute and bassoon) and also emphasizes the Main Title theme. As Schecter points out, some of this music is similar to Herman Stein's score to THIS ISLAND EARTH, a favorite film from my youth.
This is not the type of score that will have you worked up with fast and lively themes. Much of it is on the slow side but fits the seriousness of the film and the sound is presumably in vintage mono.
Once again the CD booklet is a delight to read, with witty comments, numerous pictures including score manuscript illustrations and a biography of the vastly underrated Leith Stevens, who also composed a memorable scores for two other great 1950s science-fiction classics,
WAR OF THE WORLDS and WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE
This CD release only has one brief bonus track of eerie sounding pre-recorded "Harmonic Glissando" (1:09) used along with the live orchestra in "On the Moon" (track 24).
Special praise must go to Vincent Di Fate for the stunning cover art for this CD, and also to Gina Vivona for the attractive booklet layout.
This is the first complete soundtrack recording of DESTINATION MOON and should be of great interest to anyone who enjoys vintage 1950s film scores.
Yet another in a long line of outstanding releases from Monstrous Movie Music.
-- Reviewed by Roger Hall, 30 November 2012
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