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Two Scary Scores from the 1940s and 1950s

 

 

 

 

HANGOVER SQUARE and FIVE FINGERS

Music composed and orchestrated by Bernard Herrmann.
CD Produced by Bruce Kimmel and Nick Redman.
Soundtrack Executive for 20th Century Fox: Tom Cavanaugh.
Restored, Edited and Mastered by Mike Matessino.
35mm Assembly and Tech Support: Ron Fuglsby
Art Direction and Package Design: Doug Haverty

HANGOVER SQUARE (recorded July - December 1944)
FIVE FINGERS (recorded December 1951-January 1952)

Kritzerland CD KR-20030-1

Rating: ***1/2

 

As if any further proof were needed that Bernard Herrmann was perhaps the most innovative film composer of the 20th century, here are two more examples of his supreme mastery of film scoring. Of these two scores HANGOVER SQUARE (1945) is the best known mainly because it is from a now well regarded film-noir thriller directed by John Brahm and concluding with the now well known concert piece for piano and orchestra, "Concerto Macabre." The final chords of this concerto have always given me shills -- such a sad yet highly dramatic conclusion. The entire work reminds me oF piano music by Franz Lizst, which is appropriate since it is set in a long ago time in the dark and misty streets of London, beautifully filmed in black & white.

I believe this is scary film especially thanks to the mesmerizing performance by Laird Cregar playing the fictious composer, George Henry Bone. Unfortunately, Cregar didn't live to see what is probably his best film role. He had been on a crash diet to lose weight and died of a heart attack just two months before the film opened. But thankfully his performance lives on and the same can be said for Bernard Herrmann's evocative score.

Though the sound is not up to today's digital standards, it is still a score which deserves to be heard. Naturally the highpoint is the "Concerto Macabre." In addition to the entire 10 minute work (tracks 14-16), we also get "The Lost Movement" (track 17) which was recorded but apparenmtly not used in the film. There is nothing in the notes by Bruce Kimmel to give any details about this unused movement nor about the performer of the concerto who gives a bang-up performance.

 

FIVE FINGERS (1952) is a spy film not as well known except perhaps to Herrmann afficiandos. Listening to its music (tracks 18-36) you can hear another effective Herrmann score with many of his trademark use of low woodwinds and darker orchestration. There is also several a clever quotre of an old British tune, "Heart of Oak" for "The Embassy" (track 20).
As Kimmel wrote in his CD booklet notes:
His score conveys every bit of suspense and emotion, from the dramatic main title to the jittery music for "Cicero" [track 19], to the brief-but-beautiful "Romance" [track 28] to the exciting music for "Escape" [track 32].

Here is another release that Herrmann fans will want
to add to their collections.

-- Roger Hall, Film Music Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1955)

Music composed, Conducted and Produced by Carmen Dragon.
Executive Album Producers: Richard "Rick" Henn and Neil S. Bulk.
Executive Album Producers: M.V. Gerhard and Matt Verboys.

Restoration and Mastering by Stephen Marsh and Fernando Lee.

Analog-to-Digital Transfers & Editing
Alan Goulding, Andy Harper and Richard Henn.

Album Art Direction by Dan Goldwasser.

Recorded June 20 and October 28, 1955 at Allied Artists.

La-La Land Records LLLCD 1349

Total Album Time = 58:20

Rating: ***1/2

Like Herrmann's score to HANGOVER SQUARE, the score by Carmen Dragon for INVASION is an important element in the success of the film. Both scores open with impressive Main Titles. The one by Carmen Dragon is described by Jeff Bond in his very good booklet notes as "tense and shattering." That it is and then there are a series of quieter cues before the theme mentioned by Jeff Bond as "a swelling crescendo that leads into his ugly, brass-heavy monster music and shrill flourishes from woodwinds" appear" in "Tell Me Who" (track 6). The music perfectly captures the dramatic discovery of the first of the "pod people" discovered by Jack and Teddy Belicce (King Donovan and Carolyn Jones) who show it to Dr. Miles Bennell (Kevin McCarthy) and Becky Driscoll (Dana Wynter). The music continues to be much more suspenseful with a rapid string "stinger" passages along with the low heavy brass. It's very effective in building the suspense of this scary film without any gruesome monsters but which moves along with no wasted dialogue.

The 24 page booklet has detailed notes by Bond and an appreciation by Dragon's son-in-law, Richard "Rick" Henn. who mentions that "the one thing he mentioned that he was very proud of in his INVASION score was the use of the low-register; staccato sixteenth-note passages on the grand piano. He felt he was one of the first film composers to use this device to create dramatic intrigue within a film." Dragon then added that "others took up the torch and used the device extensively." A thoughtful addition to the CD booklet is a list of all the musicians who played in the orchestra, including a very popular guitarist from that era, Laurinda Almeida, and of course conducted by Carmen Dragon, who was had earlier shared an Oscar with Columbia music director, Morris Stoloff, for their work on the musical COVER GIRL (1944).

This was Dragon's last film score and it was quite a way to leave the field of film scoring. His score helps to make this film one of the scariest ones of the early 1950s and it remains a favorite of mine and probably others as well.

This is another recommended release from La-La Land.

-- Roger Hall, Film Music Review

For more about Carmen Dragon's music see this link:

http://www.carmendragon.com/index.php

 

 

 

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