Best of the Month for July 2008
26 Tracks (Playing Time = 71:07)
Music Composed by Max Steiner
The Moscow Symphony Orchestra,
conducted by William Stromberg.
Album Produced by Anna Bonn, John Morgan and William Stromberg.
Executive Producer for Tribute Film Classics: Anna Bonn.
Executive Producer and Distributor for Screen Archives: Craig Spaulding.
Music Preparation: Anna Bonn, William Stromberg.
Music Reconstruction / Orchestration: John Morgan.
Design: Jim Titus.
Recording Engineer/Editor: Alexander Volkov.
Recorded at Mosfilm Studio, Moscow, Russia, November 2007.
Tribute Film Classics TFC-1003.
This magnificent soundtrack of the complete film score for Max Steiner's SHE is another superb recording and a continuation of the excellent first two Tribute Film Classics CD releases:
(2008 Sammy Award for Best Restored Score)
I must say that Max Steiner has been one of the favorite composers of mine since my youth. I can still remember watching KING KONG for one solid week when it was first shown on television on WOR in New York City in the mid-1950s. Since the station was owned by RKO, they began showing their past film library, especially from the 1930s and 1940s. That is when I notificed the name of Max Steiner on such films as THE LOST PATROL and THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME. But I can't recall watching SHE at that time, if it was shown on television.
Recently I watched the Kino DVD with both black & white and colorized versions and relaized what a terrific score Steiner had composed for SHE. The film stars Randolph Scottt, Helen Mack, Nigel Bruce and Helen Gahagan in her only film role playing the mystical queen, Hash-A-Mo-Tep. Though it is not on the same level as his masterful KING KONG score (also restored by the same team of John Morgan and William Stromberg and available on Marco Polo and later on Naxos),
that doesn't mean that SHE isn't worth being restored.
After all, Max Steiner was Hollywood's first truly great composer. Therefore, any film score such as this one that hasn't yet been given renewed life through modern day technology
deserves to be given the deluxe treatment.
The opening track (Main Title/ Time Passes - 2:07) swells up from a low chord announcing to the viewer and listener that something truly magical is forthcoming later in the film. Following several tracks establishing the story, based on a popular adventure novel by H. Rider Haggard, there are several action cues, including track 6 ("The Saber-Toothed Tiger" - 2:19) and especially the next track ("Avalanche" - 1:21) with the ferocious scoring accompanying the huge ice wall collapsing on some of the expedition party as they climb the place known
as "the Sugal Barrier."
The mood switches to a more ethereal theme on track 12 ("The Queen/ Tanya in Bed" - 5:07), with a wordless choir intoning the appearance of the main character of the story who speaks in these words printed in the CD booklet: "I am Yesterday and Today and Tomorrow. I am Sorrow and Longing and Hope Unfulfilled. I am Hash-A-Mo-Tep...She...She who must be obeyed." This and other tracks has some similarity to Steiner's music on Skull Island in KING KONG.
I believe the highpoints of this magnificent score are near the end of the film with "The Hall of Kings" sequence (tracks 20-22) with the extensive and exciting ceremonial ballet in several movements. And then there is the climactic cue of the "Flame of Life" (track 24)
when Steiner puts it into the fire, so to speak,
bringing about the final resulotion of this most unusual adventure story.
There is also a short bonus track (1:27) for a non-Steiner score
which is a surprise so I won't give it away.
The beautifully designed CD booklet, including the gorgeous cover art, is by Jim Titus.
The opening page of the booklet has personal comments by legendary stop motion animator, Ray Harryhausen. There follows an explanation of Max Steiner's composing style, "RUBATO AND THE LUFTPAUSE" by William Stromberg; "THE MYSTICAL MODERNISM OF SHE" by producer and score restorer, Anna Bonn; "AN OPERA WITHOUT ARIAS" by James V. D'Arc, curator of the BYU Film Music Archive; and "ARRANGER'S NOTE" by John Morgan. The very good track notes are provided by Ray Faiola. This CD booklet is a model of how to provide worthwhile information
for such an elaborate and well executed production.
The performance by The Moscow Symphony Orchestra, under William Stromberg's highly sensitive direction, is top notch all the way,
as is the expert engineering and editing by Alexander Volkov.
This film score has been called "an opera without arias."
But I think it would be better to classify it as "a symphony and a ballet without an intermission."
In other words, it is closer to a symphonic treatment which accompanies a specific story, such as a symphony by Mahler or a ballet by Stravinsky.
The ability to accompany long scenes and use diverse thematic ideas makes Max Steiner a composer
who was establishing new ground rules for film music in the cinema.
I think it would be fair to call Max Steiner: "The Father of Film Music."
And SHE is one of his key film scores of the 1930s.
That makes it an extremely valuable piece of film music history.
Film music fans should be grateful that this score has been lovingly restored
on this Tribute Film Classic release.
It is my greatest pleasure to name this superior CD of SHE as Best of the Month.
-- Roger Hall, 8 July 2008
This CD is available directly from Screen Archives Entertainment. Click on this link:
Also highly recommended is the film, reissued in both original black & white and colorized versions, and a bonus feature with John Morgan's interesting comments about Max Steiner's music on this DVD:
SHE (Deluxe Two Disc Edition)
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