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In Fond Memory of Ray Harryhausen (1920 -2013)

 

A Retro Review...

Editor's Choice -
Best of the Month
February 2006
 

MIGHTY JOE YOUNG (and other Ray Harryhausen animation classics) (2005)

MIGHTY JOE YOUNG (1949) - tracks 1-40/ playing time = 35:44
20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH (1957) - tracks 41-64/ playing time = 21:07
THE ANIMAL WORLD (1956) - track 65/ playing time = 4:03
Bonus Track: "Heaven" - track 66/ playing time = 0:48

66 Tracks (Playing Time = 61:48)

Produced by David Schecter and Kathleen Mayne.
Radio Symphony Orchestra of Slovakia (Bratislava),
Masatoshi Mitsumoto, conductor.
Orchestral reconstuctions and music preparation by Kathleen Mayne.
Recording Engineer: Hubert Geschwandtner.
Slovakian digital editing: Vladimir Valovic and Herbert Geschwandtner.
Recorded in Bratislava, Slovakia, Apri 14-25 1998.

Monstrous Movie Music MMM-1953

Rating: ****

 

After years of waiting, the Big Ape has finally arrived!

What I mean is the original MIGHTY JOE YOUNG film score by Roy Webb has been released for the first time by Monstrous Movie Music. It took seven long years but it was worth the wait.

This is a compilation of several films which Ray Harryhausen worked his stop-motion magic on to create dazzling effects.

First up is MIGHTY JOE YOUNG (MJY).

While it's not as impressive a score as KING KONG (who could improve on Max Steiner?), MJY does have very effective music. Roy Webb's music is colorful and fits the film extremely well. David Schecter's notes mention that Webb was "clearly influenced by Steiner's KING KONG, and at times, MJY's music sounds more like Steiner than Webb. It's obvious that Webb knew what type of score he should provide." One example of that is track 10 ("Night Club Fanfare") which is reminiscent of the "King Kong in New York" theme. And the various African Dances (tracks 11-13) also seem to pick up some ideas from Steiner.

Probably the highlight of this score is in the night club. Schecter describes it as "a unique scene in all of fantasy filmdom, Joe's introduction to the nightclub crowd succeeds because of its music as much as its visual conception." The inspired use of Stephen Foster's poignant song "Beautiful Dreamer" works so well because the theme is first played on the solo piano and then builds to its full glory when performed by the orchestra as Mighty Joe appears. This song was beautifully arranged by Webb and orchestrated by Gene Rose.

And to add to the enjoyment of this track 15, it also has several cymbal crashes played by Ray Harryhausen himself.

All of the tracks of this 35 minute suite illustrate what a terrifc score this is and to quote David Schecter again: "along with the amazing special effects, Webb's widely-overlooked score is a major element of the movie's high quality. Of course, Hollywood has seldom recognized the value of good music, and MJY's music was less than $60,000, approximately 2% of the film's final budget."

The other major score is 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH. This one has music by Mischa Bakaleinikoff and a whole bunch of Columbia Pictures music library cues. Schechter mentions there are 18 composers listed for this film score. That's quite a music collaboration! But as Schecter points out, Bakaleinikoff contributed 49 of the 95 music cues. Since his were the only original ones, he deserved the sole composer credit for the film.

Some of the music cues composed by others are included in this CD compilation. They include: "Pa Warns Rudolph" (track 42 - David Diamond), "Galley Fire" (track 48 - George Duning), "Trailer & Fisticuffs" (track 55 - David Raksin), "Trial and Escape" (track 56 - Daniele Amfitheatrof), "Meet One Trouble" (track 58 - Werner Heymann) and "Evil Deed" (track 59 - Max Steiner). Many of these cues are quite short. For example, the Steiner cue is only 0:44.

This patchwork score naturally isn't as cohesive as MIGHTY JOE YOUNG, but it doesn't seem to matter that much because the cues do fit together well enough. Also Bakaleinikoff made sure to compose transitions that connected all the cues from different sources. But the most appropriate cues are the original ones anyway.

For example, track 50 has the theme for the creature, known as the Ymir. This creature theme is heard several times on Novachord, first with trumpet. The tracks after that continue to accompany the growth and eventual killing of this unusual Harryhausen-inspired creature. Even with all the cooks in the kitchen, this is still a very tasty dish of sci-fi cues. The last one is by George Duning and was originally used in a 1949 Glenn Ford & Ida Lupino western, LUST FOR GOLD. But it fits nicely as the happy ending music so common in '50s films.

Moving on to the next score, ANIMAL WORLD has only one track, composed by Paul Sawtell. This is the weakest of the lot. Track 65 consists of two cues: "Survival" and "The Ceratosaurus." It's pretty mundane music with lots of heavy brass and swirling strings. Yet it's not totally without merit since the use of xylophone, piano, trumpets, French horns, strings and woodwinds does nicely convey the dinosaur's entrance.

The final track is a bonus cue titled "Heaven." It's a complete version by Frederick Hollander of the cue (track 41) heard in 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH. But it clocks in at only 0:48, not much longer than the shorter version on track 41. It reminds me of something you might hear on the classic Twilight Zone TV series.

The recorded quality on this compilation is excellent. The same goes for the 40 page booklet with its appealing artwork and design. Inside the booklet are many photos of sample score pages, recording sessions, and some of the film composers. And the notes by David Schecter are must reading, for the humor as well as the numerous interesting bits of information.

This CD is appropriately dedicated to Ray Harryhausen.

Kudos to all who worked on this outstanding CD!

It's a first class production and I highly recommend it.

--Roger Hall, 18 February 2006

 

Ray Harryhausen on YouTube:

http://video.search.yahoo.com/search/video?p=ray+harryhausen+youtube

 

To order this CD, go to:

www.mmmrecordings.com

 

David Schecter and Kathleen Mayne Mayne have been named for a
Special Preservation Sammy Award as Best Album Producers

 


 

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