Friday 28 December 2007

Let's All Make Love In London

Tonite Let's All Make Love In London is the soundtrack to Peter Whitehead's 1967 documentary of the swinging-60's London scene. It is notable for its psychedelic soundtrack and a who's who of 60's cultural icons including Michael Caine, Mick Jagger, Edna O'Brien, Julie Christie and a wonderfully fruity David Hockney.

In addition to some early live recordings of a very youthful looking Pink Floyd, Tonite ... features a pantheon of Andrew Loog Oldham's Immediate label including The Small Faces, Vashti (Bunyan) and Chris Farlowe. The title of the movie comes from penultimate cut of the soundtrack and is a bit of socio-sexual political prose from beat poet Allen Ginsberg (aka Carlo Marx from Jack Kerouac's On The Road).

Both movie and soundtrack are a fascinating glimpse into the 1960's scene and notwithstanding the rare Pink Floyd performances, there are of course some very sample friendly quotes from the scene's cultural movers and shakers.

Sunday 23 December 2007

The Razor's Edge - a cut above the rest

John Byrum's 1984 feature The Razor's Edge is the second movie adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham's 1944 novel of the same name. Comedian Bill Murray plays it straight as Larry Darrell, a traumatized WW1 fighter pilot who decides to search for elightenment by travelling to Tibet.

Critics and audiences expecting Murray's wise-cracking funnyman persona especially after Ghostbusters, were clearly confused by his noble attempts to demonstrate his acting talents and gave the Razor's Edge a universal thumbs down. In fact Razor's Edge is beautifully framed and staged with Murray putting in a thoroughly convincing performance.

The late Jack Nitzsche's lush orchestral soundtrack for The Razor's Edge is suitably romantic with a sweeping Barryesque theme. Elsewhere you will hear snatches of Aaron Copland and Samuel Barber as well as ethnic music to reflect the exotic locales. This is a classic soundtrack not to be missed.

The Quest for Jonny continues

When I published a piece about Hanna and Barbera's Jonny Quest in November, I was pleasantly surprised by the response of those who had fond memories of this great cartoon adventure series.

First broadcast in 1964, Jonny Quest was created by veteran comic book artist Doug Wildey. According to the imdb, (Jonny Quest) "was originally intended to be a cartoon version of the classic radio serial Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy" However Wildey suggested a more original concept and Jonny Quest was born.

Jonny Quest was voiced by then child actor Tim Matheson, who later became immortalised as sex-obsessed smoothie Otter in the classic frat boy comedy National Lampoon's Animal House from 1978. Matheson himself became the co-owner and chair of National Lampoon magazine from 1989 until 1991.

The great jazzy score for Jonny Quest was of course provided by Hoyt Curtin who sadly passed away in 2000 at the age of 78. Curtin famously said that he wrote the Jonny Quest theme "in a killer key because I know how to play trombone and I know the hardest place to play is all of the unknown, odd positions. There wasn't anything open. Just murder, E-flat minor."

Jonny Quest was syndicated all over the world including Japan as Jonny Quest-O - It's a tribute to the imagination of Hanna and Barbera, Doug Wildey and Hoyt Curtin that this now veteran animation remains as fresh today as it was all those years ago.

Summon The Heroes - Williams at The Barbican

In June 1996, John Williams played a sell out concert at London's Barbican, celebrating not only William's enviable catalogue of classic film scores but also the fruitful relationship between the composer and the LSO, begun with the recording sessions for Star Wars in the late Seventies .

With his characteristically relaxed style Williams took the podium and kicked off the the first part with the Copland-like Atlanta Olympic theme, Summon the Heroes, - a fitting theme for a night of heroic music. This was followed by the Cowboys Overture and then JFK. The second part came to life with a salvo of Star Wars music - both the Imperial March and the Star Wars theme still get the blood pumping while Princess Leia's theme is a beautiful as ever. Part three took in the stirring Superman March, CE3K, Jurassic Park and an emotional Schindler's List. The final section featured ET, Sugarland Express and closed with a triumphal Raiders March - a perfect end to a great night of music.

Wednesday 19 December 2007

SAHARA - Clint Mansell gets his just deserts

Directed by Breck Eisner and released in 2005, Sahara is an action packed adventure movie based on the popular novel of the same name by Clive Cussler. With his tongue thrust firmly in his cheek, Matthew McConaughey plays intrepid adventurer, archaeologist and all-round hero, Dirk Pitt.

Chock full of death defying stunts, Sahara follows Dirk and his sidekick Al Giordino on their quest around western Africa for the “Ironclad”, an armoured gunboat from the American Civil War. Along the way they pick up Penelope Cruz, some dodgy Europeans and a corrupt warlord. Sahara makes no pretence at being deep and meaningful, it's just great fun and leaves you with a silly smile on your face at the end.

Although the soundtrack contains some classic rock tracks from Steppenwolf, Grand Funk Railroad and the Faces, it is Brit musician Clint Mansell, composer of the pounding Pi soundtrack, who supplies the good humoured and energetic score for Sahara. At times it recalls elements of David Arnold's Stargate and on cues like All Aboard, Arnold's own faux-Barry Bond-lite scores. To add some depth to a fundamentally action-based soundtrack Mansell employs some exotic Middle-Eastern and African stylings which reflect the west African backdrop very nicely.

All in all Sahara is perhaps not the most original soundtrack you'll ever hear, but it's got some strong themes and it's good to see Mansell elevate himself to the next level of big screen scoremuffins.

Sunday 16 December 2007

Enter the Labyrinth

One of my favourite horror fantasy films from 2006, Guillermo Del Toro's breathtaking Pan's Labyrinth (El Laberinto del Fauno) is set in two worlds - 1944 fascist Spain and a secret fairytale fantasy realm populated by nightmarish creatures, fairies and a mysterious faun.

Using stunning and sometimes gut-wrenching visuals, CGI, puppetry and makeup, Pan's Labyrinth tells the story of Ofelia, a girl fascinated with fairy-tales. Along with her pregnant mother, Ofelia is sent to live with her new stepfather, a ruthless captain chasing leftists in the hills of Northern Spain. During the night, she meets a fairy who takes her to an old faun in the centre of an overgrown labyrinth garden. She discovers she is a princess, but to prove her royalty and meet with her real father, the king again, Ofelia must complete three gruesome tasks.

Spanish composer Javier Navarette produced a poignant and melancholy score for Pan's Labyrinth A simple lullaby provides the basis for the score and reoccurs in various guises throughout the movie. The strength of Navarette's work is that it can be listened to outside the dark, dreamlike world of Pan's Labyrinth, yet in the context of the film it enhances the emotional impact of Del Toro's masterpiece.

Don't miss the chance to see this wonderful film.

Saturday 15 December 2007

Criminal records

Film and TV music is all about evoking moods and for me apart from Spy music, you can't beat a bit of crime music to get the old pulse pounding. Here's a couple of primo examples of the genre.

Representing movie and television crime drama recorded between 1954 and 1964, Music in the First Degree features compositions by Elmer Bernstein, Henry Mancini, Count Basie, Leonard Bernstein, David Amram and performers like Shorty Rogers, Stan Kenton and Quincy Jones. It's a bold and brassy affair that bursts from the speakers with little gems from familiar and forgotten crime related affairs like, The Wild One, The Man With The Golden Arm, Johnny Staccato, Touch Of Evil, Sweet Smell Of Success, Peter Gunn, Mike Hammer and The Naked City. Mix yourself a mean martini or a manhattan and let this collection take you into custody.

The wah-wah infested 1970's are represented here by Funky Songs for Private Eyes by German multi-instrumentalist Ambros Seelos. It's a blistering blend of previously unreleased funk and big band grooviness. With a lineup of musicians from the USA, Belgium and South Africa, the band encompasses a myriad variety of musical styles including groovy, easy, funky, jazzy and big band. Take down this band's particulars.

Grosse Pointe Blank - Don't kill anybody for a few days. See what it feels like

Writer / director George Armitage's 1997 release Grosse Pointe Blank is a gloriously witty and entertaining black comedy starring John Cusack as Martin Q. Blank, a professional assassin hired to carry out a hit in a small Detroit suburb, Grosse Pointe. By coincidence, his ten-year high school reunion party is taking place there at the same time.

Cusack has a talented supporting cast including Dan Aykroyd as a rival hitman Mr Grocer, Minnie Driver as Debi his former Highschool sweetheart, sister Joan Cusack as his administrator, and Alan Arkin as Dr Oatman, Martin's unwilling shrink.

John Cusack burst onto the screen in Rob Reiner's delightful 1985 romantic comedy road movie, The Sure Thing - something of prototype for When Harry Met Sally. Since that time the versatile Cusack has proved he can do Rom-com (Say Anything and Serendipity); Horror (1701 and Identity); Arthouse (Being John Malkovitch); Blockbuster (Con-Air) Thriller (Runaway Jury) and wry Comedy (High Fidelity and GPB).

If you like the High Fidelity soundtrack, you will love the music from Grosse Pointe Blank. The original soundtrack is a treasure trove of quality 80's music including The Clash, The Jam, Guns 'n ' Roses, The Specials and Bowie and Queen. A second helping of Grosse Pointe Blank was issued that contained some fine tunes by Siouxsie and The Banshees, The Pogues, Tones On Tail, The Pixies, Echo and The Bunnymen plus some of Punk icon Joe Strummer's score for the movie which is used to great effect in the film.

There are some truly magical scenes in the movie such as a particularly violent struggle between Blank and a rival hitman underscored by the Beat's Mirror in the Bathroom. An emotional scene with a school friend's baby uses Bowie and Queen's Under Pressure, while a tender moment between Martin and Debi features Pete Townsend's charming Let My Love Open the Door.

Normally I have an intrinsic dislike of soundtracks made of songs included to make a record company rich. Grosse Pointe Blank however is an exception because of the care and attention lavished on choosing the songs to reflect the era and how they mirror the action. If you've never seen or heard Grosse Point Blank or The Sure Thing ...shame on you!

King Rat

Actor turned director Bryan Forbes' 1965 adaptation of James Clavell's King Rat portrayed the Japanese prisoner-of-war camp Changi in Singapore (actually filmed outside Los Angeles) as a living hell. George Segal plays the titular King Rat, a Jack-the-Lad US Army Corporal who controls of the camp's black market.
With the war reaching its end, the movie focuses on the King Rat and his British compatriot played by James Fox and their attempts to buy their freedom before the brutal guards slaughter them.

Forbes had established a professional relationship with John Barry who supplied the atmospheric score for Forbes' 1964 release Seance on a Wet Afternoon. With King Rat, Forbes, no stranger to War movies, wanted something different from the ordinary run of the mill wartime epics. Rising to the challenge, Barry composed a haunting theme that runs throughout the film created using an exotic array of percussion instruments to reflect the Pacific environment. King Rat may be one of Barry's less familar works but nonetheless it's an essential addition to any self-respecting John Barry Prendergast fan's collection.

Trouble Man - the real Mr T

Directed by former actor, Ivan Dixon (last seen in Hogan's Heroes and Car Wash) and released in 1972, Trouble Man was one of a series of hard-edged blaxploitation movies popularised by such hits as Shaft and Superfly. Alas compared to those genre defining examples,Trouble Man was a flop, though it spawned a superior score penned by reigning Motown monarch, Mr Marvin Gaye.

Trouble Man starred Robert Hooks as Mr. T, an LA-based pool shark, private dick, and all-purpose Mr Fixit. Despite this promising premise, contemporary reviews for the movie were negative in fact Vincent Canby from the New York Times described Trouble Man as "a horrible movie." The same cannot be said for Marvin Gaye's soulful score.

In a similar vein to his innovative What's Goin' On released the previous year, Trouble Man is full of great moments such as the sublime title track featuring Gaye's gliding ethereal vocals and magnificently moody arrangement. There's some memorable tenor, alto and baritone sax from Trevor Lawrence while Marvin contributes some excellent 'moog, ivory tickling and sweetening.' Overlooked perhaps in favour of Curtis Mayfield's Superfly and Isaac Hayes' Shaft, Trouble Man is actually a more complete and enjoyable experience. Well that's my opinion anyway. I'll leave it to you to decide.

Monday 10 December 2007

Antarctica - Vangelis' incredible journey

Koreyoshi Kurahara's 1983 movie Antarctica is based on Japan's first scientific expedition to the Antarctic in 1958. Inspired by a true story and filmed in a semi-documentary style, Antarctica attempts to piece together dramatically how the expedition's sled dogs cope when they are abandoned by the team forced to return to Japan because of bad weather.

Following in the footsteps of those great weepy creature features like Born Free, Ring of Bright Water, The Belstone Fox et al, Antarctica has some major eye-dabbing moments and by the time Vangelis' majestic and moving score kicks in, you may find yourself transformed into a blubbing heap of weeping humanity. There's no comic turns and funny voices applied to the dogs - they are given a dignity as befits them. Disney tried to remake Antarctica in 2006 as Eight Below but it lacked the power and raw emotion of the original.

Ken Takakura is magnificent and restrained as one of the guilt ridden scientists who returns to Antarctica to find the dogs. Takakura, you may recall was the Japanese policeman assigned to watch over Michael Douglas and Andy Garcia in Ridley Scott's Black Rain.

Vangelis really pulled out the stops with his rousing soundtrack for Antarctica, conveying the vast wilderness of the region as well as the many deeply emotional moments of the movie. An official soundtrack was released but an unofficial recording exists originally issued by Off World Music, who brought out some of the early Blade Runner bootlegs. It was later rereleased in equally unofficial form by Arkhan Records. The unofficial recording contains music taken directly from the film, and as a result certain tracks are a little muddy sounding but they are nevertheless beautiful to listen to. The sharp-eared among you will notice that one cue was recycled by Ridley Scott for the Unicorn Dream sequence in Blade Runner. It's worth purchasing the original soundtrack as well as hearing the unoffical version to get a real feel for the music.

I can't urge you enough to check out Antarctica. Those of you with multi-region players will be able to track down a region 3 copy easily. But a word of warning you may need to invest in industrial quantities of Kleenex whilst watching it. It's a bit like The Shawshank Redemption for animal lovers. You'll never look at a Husky the same way again. Long live Taro and Jiro.

Saturday 8 December 2007

One Million Years BC - Men in furs, women in bras

One Million Years BC was Hammer Film's most expensive production to date. Released in 1966, the adventure fantasy ignored history and pitted cavemen against Ray Harryhausen's stop motion dinosaurs.

Apart from the prospect of being eaten by your lunch and having no form of language other than grunts, Cavemen did manage somehow to invent the fur brassiere and decent haircare products for cavewomen like Raquel Welch.

A sort of follow up was made in 1970 called When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth which had a lower budget, even less dialogue - one word "Akita". On the plus side it starred the curvy Victoria Vetri who in a reflection of a more relaxed censor and an AA certificate showed innocent schoolboys like myself what was underneath the furry bra!

Hammer's third caveman picture, Creatures The World Forgot was released in 1971 and abandoned any pretence of dinosaurs and concentrated on the life of cavemen and how they coped with a grunt based language and providing Norwegian lovely Julie Ege with bras.

Italian-born composer Mario Nascimbene supplied a primitive-sounding score for all three movies featuring as one would expect percussion wordless vocals and Morricone style strings. Although the score for One Million Years is the strongest, I still have a soft spot for When Dinosaurs ruled the Earth specifically the Love Theme and the Boom-Chak Boom-Boom-Boom Boom-Chak percussion for the caveman scenes. Whilst the recording quality is a little abrasive, presumably mastered from the actual movies, the scores are fine examples of Nascimbene's 60's /70's film work.

Viva Blackpool!

Blackpool was a BBC production, part musical, part thriller, part drama filmed in the English seaside town of Blackpool. The series was notable for its comic touches and in a nod to Dennis Potter used pop music to underscore the narrative.

A gripping and witty whodunnit Blackpool, told the darkly comic tale of Ripley Holden (David Morrissey) a womanising small-time entrepreneur whose bid for fame and fortune rests on his state of the art amusement arcade. The discovery of a dead body during the opening prompts the arrival of DI Carlisle played by future Doctor Who, David Tennant. Matters are made worse when Carlisle falls in love with Ripley's long-suffering wife, Natalie , played by the delicious Sarah Parish.

Blackpool features 24 songs by Elvis, Diana Ross, The Smiths, The Clash and host of other artists. However, the official soundtrack issued to accompany the series only contains a fraction of the fun music featured on the Blackpool soundtrack and replaces the missing tracks with the dreaded 'music inspired by'. This prompted yours truly to seek out all the music from the series.

Standout tracks from the first half include, Johnny Nash's Cupid, Elvis Costello's Brillaint Mistake and The Smith's The Boy With A Thorn In His Side. The second half standouts are without doubt, The Faces' Ooh La La and Queen's Don't Stop Me Now. Check out the DVD to see just why these great tracks work so well. Like Pulp Fiction, the tracks become indellibly linked to the onscreen images.

Ralph Bakshi's Lord of The Rings - an heroic failure?

Since the release of Peter Jackson's epic and generally speaking definitive adaptation of Tolkein's Lord of The Rings trilogy, Ralph Bakshi's 1978 animated version has become something of a filmic footnote.

Veteran animator Bakshi's Lord of The Rings is not helped by the fact that it is not only incomplete but also very condensed and to those unfamiliar with the book, it is pretty confusing. Characters come and go for no apparent reason and in the case of Saruman his name changes halfway through the film to Aruman.

Viewed today the first half of the movie is actually pretty good. The voice artists are excellent and many of the early scenes are genuinely magical. Alas the extensive use of rotoscoping during many of the action scenes is rather clumsy and makes the viewer feel slightly cheated.

Although the film actually performed well at the box-office, earning back $30 million from its $4 million production costs, the second half was never completed. Two truly ghastly cheapo direct to video family oriented versions of the Two Towers and The Return of The King complete with songs followed, but they really don't count.

Leonard Rosenman created an epic score for the The Lord of The Rings, with lots of rising fanfares and unusual intrumentation. In the first half of the soundtrack the charming Mithrandir cue uses children's and adult choruses and poetry by Mark Fleischer. The Helm's Deep cue utilises a language invented by Rosenman, occasionally using his name backwards! The main theme for Lord of The Rings which closes the second half of the score is the cue most people remember and is so hobbit forming you'll be whistling it to yourself for ages. Clearly Rosenman was so pleased with it he decided to recycle elements of it in his somewhat nautical theme for Star Trek IV - The Voyage Home.

Saul Zaentz, the producer of The Lord of The Rings may have lost out ultimately to Peter Jackson's masterful interpretation, but it didn't stop Zaentz from producing Lord of The Rings The Musical. Whilst this ambitious production has received a mixed reception, notwithstanding the problems of condensing the entire trilogy in 3 1/2 hours on stage and representing major sequences with a modest cast, it is actually tremendous fun, so make the most of LOTR The Musical before it closes.

Sunday 2 December 2007

Cinemaphonic Soul - classic 70's jazz funk

I was tidying up the loft the other day and came across a couple of little gems, Cinemaphonic Soul Punch and Cinemaphonic Electro Soul - two criminally crucial compilations of 1970's UK and US jazz/funk library music.

Considering this music was churned out on a regular basis for use in TV, movies and commercials it holds up remarkably well and has been imortalised in a pair of fine library lounge core compilations - Ready Steady Boogaloo and Blow up Vol 4..but I digress.

With cool contributions from leading library luminaries as Syd Dale, Alan Hawkshaw, Walter Murphy and Mario Nascimbene, these collections boast some wicked wah-wahs, awesome arps, menacing moogs, funky Fenders and boss bass.

Put Cinemaphonic Soul Punch and Cinemaphonic Electro Soul on the car stereo while you're on the way to Tesco's and imagine you're wearing a window pane check suit with two foot flares and lapels, packing a Magnum and driving a monster muscle car while staking out a major drugs bust. Right On!

The Black Windmill - pure Buddism

Veteran director Don Siegel's 1974 thriller The Black Windmill tells the story of John Tarrant, a secret service agent, played by Michael Caine whose son is kidnapped while Tarrant is investigating an international arms syndicate. When Tarrant discovers that he can't rely on his own people, he hunts down the kidnappers himself.

Don Siegel was of course the director of Dirty Harry and perhaps this fact was an indirect influence on Roy Budd's soundtrack for The Black Windmill . It is one of his funkiest works and is more American sounding and has more than a touch of Lalo Schifrin about it. At a risk of being lynched by the Roy Budd fan fraternity, it is for me a more satisfying listening experience than his breakthrough score for Get Carter. I'll leave that to wiser Budd (Budweiser?) fans to decide.

Friday 30 November 2007

Get Shorty and walk tall

Screenwriter, William Goldman famously said of Hollywood and the screen trade that "No-one knows anything." It is this adage that is exploited to the full in Barry Sonnenfeld's 1995 big screen adaptation of Elmore Leonard's novel Get Shorty.

It stars John Travolta as Chili Palmer a mob debt collector hitting on Hollywood. Ably supported by Gene Hackman, Rene Russo and Danny DeVito, this tongue in cheek gangster/ romantic comedy lifts the lid on how movies do... or don't get made.

The jazzy soul based score credited to John Lurie is as cool as Chili Palmer and owes a fair debt to Booker T and The MG's who also turn up on the soundtrack along with US3, Morphine and Greyboy. Musically, the Get Shorty soundtrack has less in common with Out of Sight, another Elmore Leonard adaptation and is more in tune with Jamshied Shariff's excellent score for the Nickelodeon feature Harriet The Spy or George S Clinton's swampy score for Wild Things. Each has that widescreen swagger that makes you want to wack up the bass and wear Ray Bans in restaurants.

ANGEL - live fast die never

Angel was a darker more adult spinoff series from Joss Whedon's phenomenally successful Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Despite this excellent pedigree, a cast you really cared about and Whedon's witty words and caustic quips, Angel was sadly spiked by the network after five seasons. By no means a failure, but still a sad demise for a TV show that got it in the neck when it deserved a longer life. (Browncoat Firefly fans will be familiar with this scenario).

Removed from Buffy's Sunnydale environs to the streets of Los Angeles, the series followed the exploits of Angel (aka Angelus/Liam), a vampire cursed with a soul who searching for redemption, fought evil plaguing the city with the help of his associates including Cordy, Wesley, Fred, Lorne and Gunn.

Whereas Buffy The Vampire Slayer featured music from indie bands in many of its sequences, the Angel score with the exception of its excellent viola based indy rock theme by Darling Violetta, was more orchestrally focussed. Generally, the action cues utilized familiar instrumentation like bubbling sequenced electronics, orchestral stabs and that old soundtrack standby, the anvil. The quieter more reflective sequences accentuated Angel's lonliness and remorse. But it wasn't all doom and despondency especially when the old green queen Andy Hallett in his Lorne persona was pumping out Lady Marmalade and It's Not Easy Being Green in an over the top Vegas style.

Angel left our screens confronting a gang of unpleasant unworldly beasties bent on ending the world as we know it. He and his team will be sadly missed but you can still relive the high points of the big blood-guzzler trying to save us mere mortals by giving this score a listen.

The united colours of Pleasantville

The term 'Capraesque' could easily be applied to Gary Ross' delightful 1998 feature Pleasantville. Starring Tobey Maguire, Reese Witherspoon, William H. Macy, Joan Allen, and Jeff Daniels, Pleasantville pitches modern day teenage twins into the world of the black and white 1950s titular television town where everything is 'swell' and sex and toilets don't exist.

As a result of the actions of David (Tobey Maguire) and his sister Jennifer (Reese Witherspoon), the Pleasantville population and the environment literally transforms from black and white into colour.

Pleasantville is for me one of those great heartwarming, lump in the throat movies like Frank Capra's It's A Wonderful Life or Lost Horizon. Apart from the stunning cinematography and an excellent cast, Pleasantville has two threads of great music. The first is an Americana-styled score by Randy Newman while the second is a dream jukebox of early Rock'n'Roll and Jazz classics.

You get some real crackers like Presley's Teddy Bear, Gene Vincent's Be-Bop-A-Lula, Miles Davis' So What, Brubeck's Take Five and Etta James' gorgeous At Last. Also included is Fiona Apple's sonambulistic rendition of the Beatles' Across the Universe and hearing la Apple's whistful vocals and Randy Newman's touching Real Rain fair brings a tear to the eye.

Tuesday 27 November 2007

Fantastic Planet / La Planete Sauvage

René Laloux’s trippy psychedelic sci-fi animated feature from 1973, based on Stefan Wul’s novel Oms en série, was a co-production between France and Czechoslovakia.

Fantastic Planet tells the story of the fight for freedom by humans (Oms) kept as domesticated pets by an alien race of blue humanoid giants called Traags. The film is seen as an allegory of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in the late '60s.

I first came across this little gem of a film when it was part of a double bill with Crystal Voyager - a surfing movie that used Pink Floyd's Echoes to frame the action. But I digress..... Currently out of print, Alain Goraguer's memerising psychedelic jazz score for Fantastic Planet is the perfect accompaniment to a science fiction cult classic.

Sunday 25 November 2007

Performance - Nothing is true, everything is permitted.

The late 1960's were a transitional time. The so-called Summer of Love was long gone, hippies became yippies, drugs became heavier and things were getting darker. Many musicians and film makers were responding to the zeitgeist with projects like Zabriskie Point and the disturbing Performance - famous for its casting of Mick Jagger and its graphic depictions of violence, sex and drug use.

Filmed in 1968 but not released until 1970 Perfomance was directed by Donald Cammell and Nicholas Roeg and was initially envisioned as a Swinging 60's romp starring Marlon Brando.

With a dramatically re-written script dealing with identity crisis, the lead role eventually went to distinguished actor James Fox who played 'on the run' psychopathic gangster Chas who seeks refuge in the basement of a house owned by former rock star Turner played by an androgenous Mick Jagger - a quantum leap from the wrinkly beknighted roue and corporate huckster of today.

With genuine gangsters turned thesps in the cast, it is rumoured that Fox took part in a real robbery as part of his research into his part and after the troubled production closed, he took a sabbatical from reality in the nether world of heroin addiction. There are also stories that some of the sex scenes were not simulated and footage exists of some of the principals engaged in some onscreen hanky panky.

The soundtrack produced and written by veteran knob twiddler Jack Nitzche (apart from Jagger and Richards' Memo from Turner), is both intriguing and terrifying, being a melange of folk, blues, wailing and primitive electronica. Ry Cooder's distinctive slide guitar is all over the score and his open tuned guitar style clearly made an impression on the Stones and can be detected on much of the band's late 60's and early 70's output.

The stand out track that most Stones fans seek out is of course Jagger's sinister solo spot Memo from Turner. Although the Stones recorded their own version which eventually saw the light on their patchy odds and sods release Metamorphosis, it fades in comparison to the snarling, satanic swagger of the film's original. Other highlights include The Last Poets' proto-rap Wake up Niggers and the scary Turner's Murder, which features Merry Clayton, who provided the soulful vocals for the Stones' Gimme Shelter, wailing over Beaver & Krause's thunderous electronica.

"The only performance that makes it, that makes it all the way, is the one that achieves madness."

Drugstore Cowboy - Elliot Goldenthal

The critically acclaimed Drugstore Cowboy from 1989, was writer / director Gus van Sant's breakthrough movie. With a cast including Matt Dillon, Kelly Lynch, Heather Graham, and William S. Burroughs, Drugstore Cowboy was filmed mainly around Portland, Oregon. It tells the story of a group of drug addicts travelling across early 1970's US robbing pharmacies and hospitals to support their habit.
Drugstore Cowboy's quirky film score is made up of an inspired if perverse selection of 60's hits plus Elliot Goldenthal's own slightly avant-garde compositions. Drugstore Cowboy was among Goldenthal's earliest movie scores and is about as far away as you can get from his big budget offerings. Instead he uses a small ensemble including keyboards, synths, sax and digeridoo. Well worth a listen.

100 Years of Cinema

For soundtrack buffs there are a great many collections available that address certain film genres, like War, Westerns, Romance, Musical etc. To get round the labyrinthine copyright issues, compilers often have to miss out crucial scores or make do with re-recordings. This is not the case with The Official Cinema 100 Album, which brings together original recordings from 34 feature films.

I have seldom found a soundtrack collection that is so diverse. The first part encompasses such classic scores as: Things To Come; Casablanca; Ben Hur; Breakfast at Tiffany's; Dr No; A Shot In The Dark and 633 Squadron; while the second part features such cinematic delights as Dr Zhivago; Grand Prix; The Thomas Crown Affair; Out of Africa and The Piano to name but a few.

Unfortunately it appears to be out of print but if you are looking for a comprehensive collection of classic movie music, The Official Cinema 100 Album is an essential addition to any soundtrack collection.

Saturday 24 November 2007

Demolition Man - Elliot Goldenthal

A Joel Silver production, Demolition Man was a time travelling action film released in 1993. The film starred Sylvester Stallone as the no-nonsense renegade cop and a pre-Blade Wesley Snipes acting Stallone off the screen as his scenery chewing nemesis. As with many Silver productions the emphasis is on bombast. The soundtrack by Elliot Goldenthal hot on the heels of scoring Alien³ features a cue called Action, Guns, Fun, which pretty much sums up the film.

The Demolition Man soundtrack introduced movie audiences to Elliot Goldenthal's off-beat style that came to fruition in Joel Silver's cartoony Batman movies. Goldenthal's signature big brass clashes and complex, dramatic string arrangements are very much in evidence throughout the soundtrack which won him an ASCAP award in 1994 for best original score.

Bond and Beyond - John Barry

In April 1999, the Royal Albert Hall played host to the great John Barry conducting the English Chamber Orchestra in a performance of Barry's phenomenal movie portfolio.

Cutting a slight, stick like figure Barry took to the stage opening the first half of the concert with a majestic Goldfinger, followed by the regal We Have All the Time In The World.

Coming over as a slightly curmugeonly but likeable schoolmaster Barry introduced each movement throughout the night with the occasional anecdote. He certainly had little time for the likes of Duran Duran and A-Ha! Ultimately though he was there to perform and kept the small talk to a minimum. Themes from Zulu, Somewhere in Time, Moviola and Midnight Cowboy followed - the latter accompanied by the harmonica playing of Tommy Morgan who played on the original soundtrack as well as Dances with Wolves which closed the first half of the set. Not before the roof was raised with the stirring Space March. For a cue that was basically underscore for You Only Live Twice, Space March was deservedly a concert highlight along with the sultry Body Heat.

The second half opened with Born Free followed by All Time High and Out of Africa. Chris Botti took the stage to add his distinctive tones to the haunting Remembering Chet and Playing By Heart. A suite from the Beyondness of Things, a sparkling Girl withThe Sun In Her Hair and a medley of Bond themes closed a magical evening of sensational music by one of our greatest living composers. This man deserves a knighthood!

Sunday 18 November 2007

Blade Runner Trilogy: 25th Anniversary 3 CD Soundtrack release on UMTV

Universal Music TV is set to release a stunning 3CD collection to mark the 25th Anniversary of Blade Runner on December 10th, 2007. Featuring previously unreleased music from the film, bonus tracks and a brand new album of Vangelis material inspired by the film with sleeve notes written by Ridley Scott.
Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, with its apocalyptic depiction of LA in 2019, has become one of the most celebrated sci-fi releases of the 20th century. It’s one of those films where all of the constituent parts - the set, the lighting, the characters, the sparse dialogue and of course the music - work uniquely together to produce a cult masterpiece.

The music has always been a key element of Blade Runner and there have been various versions of the soundtrack over the years, some ‘official’ and some bootlegs. But they have all either been incomplete or have suffered from poor sound quality, until now. Blade Runner Trilogy: 25th Anniversary is a 3CD set which - for the first time - puts all the pieces together, providing the complete music from the film and a lot more besides.

CD 1 features the original and remastered soundtrack as it first appeared in 1994, twelve years after the film was released. The second CD contains all the remaining music from the film that did not appear on the original 1994 soundtrack, plus two bonus tracks ("One Alone" and "Desolation Path"). None of this material has been released before.

The third and final disc will be of real interest to Vangelis fans - as it contains an entire album of newly written material composed by Vangelis to mark the 25th anniversary of Blade Runner. The music is strong and flowing, and retains the dark, atmospheric sense of the original score. There are some intriguing spoken word contributions too, from Ridley Scott, Roman Polanski, Oliver Stone and a host of distinguished actors, personalities and world dignitaries.
Full track listing details:
CD 1: Blade Runner Original Soundtrack Album
Track 1: Main Titles (3': 42")
Track 2: Blush Response (5': 47")
Track 3: Wait For Me (5': 27")
Track 4: Rachel’s Song (4': 46")
Track 5: Love Theme (4': 56")
Track 6: One More Kiss, Dear (3': 58")
Track 7: Blade Runner Blues (8': 53")
Track 8: Memories Of Green (5': 05")
Track 9: Tales Of The Future (4': 46")
Track 10: Damask Rose (2': 32")
Track 11: Blade Runner (End Titles) (4': 40")
Track 12: Tears In Rain (3': 00")
CD 2: Blade Runner Previously Unreleased and Bonus Material
Track 1: Longing (1': 58")
Track 2: Unveiled Twinkling Space (1': 59")
Track 3: Dr. Tyrell’s Owl (2': 40")
Track 4: At Mr. Chew’s (4': 47")
Track 5: Leo’s Room (2': 21")
Track 6: One Alone (bonus track) (2': 23")
Track 7: Deckard And Roy’s Duel (6': 16")
Track 8: Dr. Tyrell’s Death (3': 11")
Track 9: Desolation Path (bonus track) (5': 45")
Track 10: Empty Streets (6': 16")
Track 11: Mechanical Dolls (2': 52")
Track 12: Fading Away (3': 32")
CD 3: BR 25
This is the album with the new music, composed by Vangelis for Blade Runner’s 25th anniversary.

Track 1: Launch Approval (1': 54")Spoken word: Scott Bolton, Bryce Bolton
Track 2: Up and Running (3': 09")Spoken word: Sir Ridley Scott
Track 3: Mail From India (3': 27")Ney: C. Lambrakis
Track 4: BR Downtown (2': 27?)Spoken word: Oliver Stone, Akiko Ebi, Cherry Vanilla
Track 5: Dimitri’s Bar (3': 52")Spoken word: Akiko Ebi, Oliver Stone, Saxophone: Dimitris Tsakas
Track 6: Sweet Solitude (6': 56")Saxophone: Dimitris Tsakas
Track 7: No Expectation Boulevard (6': 44")Spoken word: Rutger Hauer, Wes Studi, Bhaskar Balakrishnan (Executive Director of the Asian Heritage Foundation), Shobhana Balakrishnan, Laura Metaxa, Sir Ridley Scott, Zhao Yali (Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Cyprus)
Track 8: Vadavarot (4': 14")Spoken word: Irina Valentinova, Florencia Suayan Tacod
Track 9: Perfume Exotico (5': 19")Spoken word: Edward James Olmos
Track 10: Spotkanie Z Matka (5': 09")Spoken word: Roman Polanski reciting excerpts from the poem "Spotkanie z Matka" by Konstanty Ildefons Gaczynski
Track 11: Piano In An Empty Room (3': 37")
Track 12: Keep Asking (1': 29")Spoken word: Bryce Bolton
All music composed, arranged, produced and performed by Vangelis.
"One of the great experiences of my directing career was working on the music for Blade Runner with Vangelis at his Marble Arch studio in London where he would perform rough demo film cues for me on the fly, obsessing over every detail and capturing every moment with exceptional beauty...the final result took us far beyond my expectations." - Ridley Scott, sleeve notes
This CD release ties in with some significant DVD products launched to coincide with the 25th anniversary. On December 3rd, 2007 a 5 DVD set ‘Final Cut: Ultimate Collectors Edition’ is released, which contains all 5 versions of the film, plus interviews, a documentary on the making of the film and a letter from Ridley Scott.

Saturday 17 November 2007

Walking With Dinosaurs - when dinosaurs really did rule the earth

First broadcast in 1999, the BBC's time travelling Walking with Dinosaurs was the most expensive documentary series per minute ever made. Filmed in New Caledonia, California, Chile, Tasmania, New Zealand, Bahamas, the six-part series used computer-generated imagery and animatronics to recreate the life of dinosaurs in the style of a nature documentary.

Benjamin Bartlett's soundtrack for Walking With Dinosaurs is a billion years away from the music that used to accompany Ray Harryhausen's cuddly stop motion antics of yore. Employing the BBC Concert Orchestra, Barlett presents a sumptuous score that echoes the experimental side of Goldsmith, the majesty of Williams and the romantic sweep of John Barry. Giant of the Skies could have easily been from the pen of Out of Africa era Barry, Antarctic Spring could have come from Goldsmith, while Time of the Titans is a fitting counterpart to Williams Jurassic Park theme.

Land of The Tiger - Nicholas Hooper

If there's one thing that the BBC excels at it's wildlife documentaries. The epic Land of The Tiger took viewers on a breathtaking tour of India and its myriad flora and fauna. The soundtrack to this six part series was provided by Nicholas Hooper who recently composed the score for the latest Harry Potter movie.

Using the talents of the BBC Concert Orchestra plus sound samples and Indian players, Hooper creates a sweeping soundtrack that skillfully mixes both Indian and Western tones and textures that evoke the vastness and diversity of this fascinating continent.

Despite its Indian setting Hooper avoids the cliched sitar and utilizes flutes, violins, tablas, the otherworldly santoor and the beautiful vocals of Krishna Chakraborty. Land of The Tiger is no balti house background muzak, this is a musical feast to savour.

Out of Sight - David Holmes

Cinematic adaptations of Elmore Leonard's novels have, on the whole, been notoriously bad. The notable exceptions have been Tarantino's criminally under-rated Jackie Brown, Barry Sonnefeld's Get Shorty and Steven Soderbergh's Out of Sight. Starring George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez, Out of Sight retains all the slickness of Leonard's plotting and dialogue, yet provides a perfect platform for its director and stars to shine.

The soundtrack, provided by DJ David Holmes, is impeccable with classic cuts from the Isley Brothers, Dean Martin, Mongo Santamaria and Willie Bobo interspersed with dialogue from the movie and Holmes own Fender Rhodes led compositions. Tracks like The Trunk Scene, Tub Scene and No More Time Outs positively ooze the all too evident onscreen sexual chemistry between the movies' two attractive leads.

Out of Sight proved that Elmore Leonard could be brought to the screen in a way his many fans appoved of, George Clooney wasn't just a pretty face, Jennifer Lopez wasn't just a perfume commercial with generously proportioned gluteous maximus and Steve Soderbergh and David Holmes were a winning combination.

Friday 9 November 2007

Spaghetti Westerns

The Spaghetti Western emerged in the mid 1960's as a variant of the traditional western. Produced by Italian studios they were filmed in Spain with an Italian, Spanish, German cast and the occasional American like Lee Van Cleef and of course Clint Eastwood.

Immensely popular and violent for the time, these minimalist movies such A Fistful of Dollars, For A Few Dollars More and the epic The Good the Bad and The Ugly have rightfully become part of movie legend and iconography. Possibly the most famous Spaghetti Western Director was Sergio Leone whose partnership with composer Ennio Morricone set the style and tone for the entire Spaghetti Western genre. Morricone's influence continues today with Guy Zerafa's Spaghetti Western style score for Exiled

Most people with even a passing interest in the genre will be familar with Morricone's signature Spaghetti style. Twangy guitars, whistling, big strings, trumpets, bells, organs and almost wordless vocal interjections. I chanced upon this slightly inaccurately titled compilation called Western Spaghetti which is a fair introduction to certain aspects of Spaghetti Western music and Morricone, though quite why Hugo Montenegro's Man From UNCLE Theme is included is beyond me! Still any collection that includes A Fistful of Dollars, the stupendous Paying off Scores and the haunting Harmonica Man from Once Upon a Time In The West is alright by me.

John Waters' Hairspray - A Divine comedy

Almost 20 years before Travolta 'dragged up' in a fat suit and Marc Shaiman cranked up the camp-ometer to 11 with his musical remake, Hairspray was John Waters and his 'muse' Divine's crowning commercial achievement.

Unlike Shaiman's shamelessly entertaining danceathon which features original compositions, Waters' Hairspray, apart from Rachel Sweet's gloriously Spectoresque title tune, uses actual dance tunes from the 60's. And what a collection it is. Some are so obscure, that they could only have come from John Waters' personal record collection.

It's hard to pick the standout tunes because virtually every one is either a dance floor shaker or a soulful smooch. If I had to choose I'd go for Ray Bryant's The Madison Time, The Ikettes' I'm Blue (The Gong Gong Song) and The Five Du-Tones' Shake A Tail Feather.

There's no question of whether one version of Hairspray is better than the other as they both have their magical moments. While Waters' original will remain a much loved 80's movie, Shaiman's musical could well become this generation's "Grease".

For those who don't know, here are a few 'Hairspray' facts:

  • Jerry Stiller appears in both versions of Hairspray and is Ben Stiller's dad.
  • Debbie Harry, Sonny Bono and Ric Ocasek (from 80's band The Cars) appear in the original.
  • Talkshow Queen, Rikki Lake plays Tracy in the original.
  • James Marsden who plays Corny Collins in the musical plays Cyclops in The X-Men.
  • John Waters cameos in the musical as the 'Flasher who lives next door' in the opening song.

Thursday 8 November 2007

Crippled Champions - The Crippled Bargain

If you like Vampyros Lesbos or in fact anything that emerged from Cine-Citta in the early 1970's, then 50% of this compilation will appeal to you.

Part crime jazz, porno pop, shock rock and alt. rock, this slightly schizophrenic collection from 1998 mixes 10 tracks of dubious taste and quality, and 12 sexy boogaloo tracks from such artists as Jerry van Rooyen, Peter Thomas and Gert Wilden. There's big beats galore, parping brass, moody Moogs, hot Hammonds, shimmering sitars and furious fuzz guitar. A word of warning though, things do get a little scatalogical on track 13 and things don't really recover afterwards.

The change is quite sudden and I can only describe the experience as being akin to watching a cute nature programme on TV about Puffins or Meerkats and then someone comes in unexpectedly and switches over to the Kerrang channel and hits you over the head with a frying pan.

That aside Crippled Champions features some great music (provided you programme your CD player to only play tracks 1-12). Stand out tracks are Jerry van Rooyen's The Great Bank Robbery, Gert Wilden's Rolf Torring and Doris Troy's earth shattering opener Kill Them All. Play it loud at your next orgy!

John Williams Documentary

It's fair to say that John Williams single handedly brought back the classic Hollywood orchestral soundtracks to the silver screen with his partnerships with Steven Spielberg and George Lucas.

In 2006 John Williams was interviewed by the BBC's Francine Stock. During the interview broadcast on BBC Radio's Film Programme he discusses his music, his influences and his close relationship with director Steven Spielberg.


Fans of Vangelis' landmark soundtrack have even more reasons to be cheerful, with news filtering through that the forthcoming official release of the Blade Runner soundtrack will be a triple-CD set.

Subject to official confirmation, the new release will be a deluxe set, commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Blade Runner movie. Described as a three CD package titled "Blade Runner Trilogy", the set is said to start with the 1994 official Blade Runner soundtrack. The second disk will feature unreleased music from the film (bootlegs excepted click here for details), as well as unreleased music made for the movie at the time. Finally, the third disk is expected to be Vangelis' new album, inspired by and thematically linked to Blade Runner.

Confirmation and more details will be coming soon. It's expected that "Blade Runner Trilogy" will be released in December. Well that's my Christmas present sorted :)

Wednesday 7 November 2007

Bedazzled - Moore than meets the eye

Released in 1967, Stanley Donen's Bedazzled was one of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore's first faustian filmic foray. A far cry from their familiar Pete 'n' Dud TV personas, Bedazzled cast Moore as a short order cook enlisting the help of the devil played Peter Cook to win the hand of the comely Eleanor Bron.
Infinitely better than Liz Hurley's diabolical remake, Bedazzled was only a moderate success at the box-office (even with the help of Raquel Welch!). However Dudley Moore's jazzy soundtrack has become a much sought after collectible.

The Bedazzled soundtrack certainly deserves its fame - the classico/jazz main title theme, Lillian Lust, The Millionaire and the Ying and Yang pop of Love Me and Bedazzled fill me with enertia.

The diminutive Dud was so much more that the cuddly and cute comedic foil for genius satirist Peter Cook's acerbic wit. Classically trained Moore was an established name in the London jazz scene with the Dudley Moore trio comprising Moore on piano, Chris Karan on Drums and Pete McGurk on Bass. Evidently Moore taught himself the rudiments of jazz in about 30 minutes after attending an Errol Garner concert.

In addition to a regular jazz gigs, the Dudley Moore trio provided the musical interludes on Cook and Moore's hugely popular Not Only But Also TV Show. In 1965, Decca released The Other Side of Dudley Moore a stunning debut with a profound Oscar Peterson / Errol Garner influence and featured many of the compositions performed on the show including the melancholic Sad One For George, the stormy Sooz Blooz and a slinky My Blue Heaven. The album was issued on CD with two extra tracks under the title Authentic Dud Vol.2 which was unfortunately withdrawn due to copyright issues.

Without doubt, it was his partnership with Peter Cook that put Dudley Moore's name on the map followed by his lucrative career in Hollywood culminating in a sad demise in his latter years. However, there was more to Dud and thankfully his musical legacy lives on in the Bedazzled soundtrack and on the BBC Radio Four panel game Quote Unquote where his Duddly Dell composition provides the theme music.

Sunday 4 November 2007

The Black Dahlia

Brian De Palma's good looking thriller The Black Dahlia, based on James Ellroy's novel, has a lot going for it. However comparisons with Curtis Hanson's stylish LA Confidential, another Ellroy adapation are inevitable.

Even if the Black Dahlia may be slightly lacking as a movie, there is much to enjoy in Mark Isham's soundtrack, which at times echoes elements of Jerry Goldsmith and the melancholy of John Barry's later work.


Richard Thorpe's 1952 adaptation of Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe was an exciting and colourful affair. Filmed in Britain in glorious technicolor, it boasted a cast that included a luminescent Elizabeth Taylor, the great George Sanders and the rather wooden Robert Taylor in the lead role.

Many years ago my mum took me to see Ivanhoe at our local fleapit on its upteenth reissue, and I always remember the kids in the audience (including myself) getting very excited by the battle sequences even if some of the Saxons and Normans were plainly fighting with very floppy rubber swords!

The real star of Ivanhoe however, is Miklos Rozsa's rousing score. It's one of his very best and excentuates the spectacular actions scenes as well as the doomed romance between George Sanders and Elizabeth Taylor's characters.


Peter Weir's 1985 feature Witness, threw Harrison Ford into the Amish community to protect a witness to a murder linked to police corruption. Not perhaps the most exciting concept at first glance, but nevertheless Witness proved to be a popular hit with cinema audiences.

Veteran composer Mauric Jarre supplied the soundtrack. Instead of reflecting the somewhat bucolic non-technical nature of the Amish by using traditional acoustic instruments, Jarre provided an entirely synthesiser based electronic score. The film's main title and the Building of the Barn are stunning examples of how well Jarre's soundtrack works. In less sensitive hands this juxtapostion could have been jarring (no pun intended). It is perhaps because Maurice Jarre as a trained classical musician regards a synthesiser in terms of the sounds it can produce as opposed to its technology thus injecting warmth and humanity into a pure electronic instrument. It's a gift that only a few other musicians like Vangelis have mastered. So watch the movie and let the sonic textures of Maurice Jarre's lush score for Witness envelop you.


Terry Gilliam's 1985 dystopian black comedy Brazil and its second cousin once removed Blade Runner for many years defined the look of advertising and filmic futures. Even today Brazil still packs a wallop.

The late Michael Kamen provided the soundtrack and makes much use of Ary Barroso's 1939 hit Brazil, a translation of "Aquarela do Brasil," as featured in Disney's short latin feature Saludos Amigos. Even Kate Bush gets to warble the tune. Featuring score and snippets of dialogue the soundtrack for Brazil has a decidely dreamlike quality that admirably matches the mood of its visual counterpart.


Not since Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire has black and white photography looked so colourful as it does in Luc Besson's romantic comedy Angel-A. The success of the movie is helped in no small way by the image of statuesque Rie Rasmussen confronting pint sized Jamel Debbouze.

The dreamy soundtrack for Angel-A is provided by Norwegian singer-songwriter Anja Garbarek. Whilst she occasionally strays into the trip-hop territories previously occupied by Bjork and Emiliana Torrini, the elfin Anja holds her own and produces a very appealing and pretty soundtrack for a beautiful film.

Saturday 3 November 2007

Henry Mancini - a life in film

In 2003, during its Archive Hour slot, BBC Radio Four broadcast a touching documentary on the life and work of the late great Henry Mancini - the man who composed some of the most enduring popular music on screen and on record.

Presented by conductor and composer Carl Davis this hour long documentary features archive interviews with the man himself along with many memorable reminicences by family and friends including fellow composer Elmer Bernstein and film director Blake Edwards. As well as discovering the stories behind the music there's an all pervading feeling of love for (Henry/Hank/Weirdo) Mancini. The Life of Henry Mancini is a must for all music fans.

Welcome to Sherwood Forest

Warner Brothers' 1938 adaptation of 'The Adventures of Robin Hood' was a perfect example of all the right ingredients coming together to create a timeless classic. An inspired director in Michael Curtiz; a great leading man, leading lady and villain - Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland and Basil Rathbone respectively; plus sumptuous technicolor and of course Erich Wolfgang Korngold's magnificent score.

Orchestrated by Hugo Friedhofer and Milan Roder, Korngold's lush and romantic compositions virtually write the book on leit motif based soundtracks. Each character and scene has its own memorable theme. Who can listen to Capturing Sir Guy without seeing Robin and his Merry Men literally swinging from the trees of 'Sherwood Forest' to do battle the villainous Sir Guy of Gisborne.

There are possibly three classic soundtracks from Hollywood's Golden era that the serious collector must own. Korngold's Robin Hood is most definitely one of them.

Sad fact for movie anoraks #1 - Maid Marion's white horse in the movie was Roy Rogers' legendary four-legged friend Trigger.
Sad fact for movie anoraks #2 - James Cagney was Warner's original choice for the role of Robin

La Femme Nikita

Director Luc Besson, really hit his stride with the stylish thriller, La Femme Nikita. An insipid Hollywood remake followed along with a so-so TV series, but the original was the best.

Starring his then current squeeze Anne Parillaud, Nikita was a triumph. It was cool sexy and above all exciting. It also continued Besson's relationship with his musical partner, composer Eric Serra who provided the score for The Big Blue, Leon and The Fifth Element among others.

Throughout the soundtrack, Serra's signature (pochhhhh) percussion and fretless bass pervade the score as well as his Peter Gabriel style vocals. However it's when he chills out that things really take off. The Free Side and First Night Out are simply stunning and while they frame the movie visuals beautifully, they stand on their own.

It was perhaps on the strength of Serra's Nikita that he got the gig to score the first Brosnan Bond movie Goldeneye. Alas his first stab at the sacred 007 shrine was not a success, in fact even though it's recognisable as a Serra soundtrack alas everything that was good about Nikita is sadly missing from Goldeneye. But don't let the Bond bomb colour your opinion, indulge yourself in the bombe surprise of La Femma Nikita