Sunday 28 October 2007

The Knack (and how to get it)

Over forty years after its release, it's hard to imagine how new, fresh and original 'The Knack' was. Borrowing heavily from the French New Wave in terms of look and feel, the film and its pop-jazz John Barry soundtrack are a fascinating snapshot of the so-called swinging sixties in London.

Whilst The Knack has some stunning elements - the stark black and white photography, the white on white decor and the views of London (somehow familiar yet quite alien) the film is not what it was.

Perhaps its original elements have been copied or pastiched so many times that the film is now a cliche. Scenes of 'wacky' youth leaping around in the street have been done to death. For fans of the movie's director Dick Lester, The Knack is closer to A Hard Day's Night than Help! which he also directed and like those films it has a cool soundtrack.

As with many Barry scores, many of the tracks are variations on the title theme, but each has its own identity. With Alan Haven's groovy jazz organ to the fore it's one of Barry's more overtly jazzy scores. There's some great arrangements with Barry's tradmark swooping strings, bold brass and that sexy muted trumpet used so effectively in his mid-Sixties output. In fact many of the musical styles he used for the Bond soundtracks like Thunderball are evident and there are times when you can almost visualise a tuxedo clad Connery prowling a casino instead of the hapless Michael Crawford looking vacant by the Thames.

If you want to hear well crafted melodies equisitely arranged and performed then look no further than The Knack.

TV and Movie Scores in a Blue Note style

Blue Movies: Scoring For The Studios is an uber-cool collection of famous movie and TV scores given a dust off and a new set of funky threads, care of classic jazz label Blue Note.

UK readers will immediately recognise Billy Taylor's good time I Wish I Knew How as the theme music for the long running BBC film programme. The great Leroy Holmes adds his unique spin to the James Bond theme, while no self respecting Bond fan should be unfamiliar with Count Basie's swingy arrangement of From Russia With Love. Grant Green and Dianne Reeves' sexy Down Here On The Ground from Cool Hand Luke will have you thinking of anything but boiled eggs. Soul Diva, Marlena Shaw's Last Tango In Paris now sounds like some great long lost Bond theme. Elsewhere, Richard 'Groove' Holmes elevates the lachrimose Love Story to something more palatable and punchy. Don't take my word for it, check out these great Blue Movies.

Exiled - an Asian Wild Bunch? (Updated)

Johnnie To's explosive gangster movie "Exiled" aka "Fong Juk" owes more to the elegaic westerns of Sergio Leone and Sam Peckinpah than John Woo. Whilst it has its balletic scenes of stylised gun play, the movie focuses on the Western values of friendship, honour and loyalty.

Guy Zerafa's awesome soundtrack with its twangy guitars and understated strings echoes Morricone and although I'm not aware of an official soundtrack release, at least two of the tracks are identified as:

"CAMILLE"co-composed, arranged, orchestrated and recorded by Guy Zerafa and Dave Klotz. From the recording entitled 'Azul' performed and composed by Diego Marulanda (2000 - unpublished)

"DOLPHIN SKY"co-composed, arranged, orchestrated and recorded by Guy Zerafa and Dave Klotz. From the recording entitled "LIVE PERFORMANCE"performed by Paul Royes and Guy Zerafa. Composed by Paul Royes (2002 - unpublished)

Saturday 27 October 2007

Cabin In The Sky

Produced by Arthur Freed and directed by Vincente Minnelli in 1943, Cabin in the Sky retells the Faust legend with an all-African-American cast.

Employing the talents of Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Lena Horne and Ethel Waters, Cabin in The Sky is a virtual who's who of African-American entertainers of the era. Ethel Waters' Happiness is a Thing called Joe is especially touching along with her version of Taking a Chance on Love, while Duke Ellington's storming Going Up hits you like an express train. The comparison between Armstrong's swingy take on Ain't it the Truth compared to Lena Horne's sexy rendition is quite stunning. Enjoy every moment.

Anytime, Any Place, Anywhere...any track?

I picked this CD up in a junk shop ages ago and thought I'd share it with you. It's obviously some kind of Martini promo from Germany. Like the drink It's a right one...that's about all I can say about it!

It has a certain cheesy 007 quality with its drink of choice, the cover art and the "spysound" of the Martini Music and the James Bond and Casino Royale themes. It's still a very weird compilation which will no doubt make sense after numerous Martinis (which I guess the compiler was on). Prost!

OK Connery - the best forgotten one

Released in 1967, Operation Kid Brother (aka OK Connery) had very little to recommend it other than having Sean Connery's non-acting brother Neil in the lead role and a supporting cast of official Bond stalwarts including Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell, Adolfo Celi, Anthony Dawson, Daniella Bianci and Yachuco Yama (from YOLT).

It's said that Operation Kid Brother pissed Sean Connery off so much he didn't speak to those involved for some considerable time. Ennio Morricone and Bruno Nicolai's groovy spy soundtrack, redresses the balance and brightens up an otherwise painful viewing experience.


Yes it really is the music that accompanied the test cards during the late 1960's and early 70's on BBC TV - back in the days before day time TV. There's some genuinely good stuff from the likes of Syd Dale, Gordon Langford, Johnny Scott, Frank Chacksfield and Roger Roger.

Anyone old enough to remember the latter's Greenland Sleigh Dogs will instantly recall that girl (Carol Hersee), the blackboard and that scary bloody clown! Take a totter down TV memory lane.

Wednesday 24 October 2007

Burke's Law

If there was one thing 1960's TV detectives had over their modern counterparts apart from sharp suits, slick wheels and classy dames, was great music. Burke's Law was no exception. Composer Herschel Burke Gilbert penned a super cool and highly original crime jazz soundtrack for this popular 60's TV show.

Burke's Law was a detective series which ran on ABC from 1963 to 1966. It starred Gene Barry as Amos Burke, the millionaire Los Angeles Chief of Detectives, who was chauffeured around in his Rolls Royce to solve crimes.

The title Burke's law comes from Burke's habit of spouting such profundities as "You can't solve a murder without first finding a suspect: Burke's Law or Cynical Conversation makes for bitter brew - never mix 'em: Burke's Law."

Tickle your Funny Bones

In between his breakthrough film "Hear My Song " and the mainstream "Serendipity", writer/director Peter Chelsom made "Funny Bones" - a charming and at times magical bittersweet comedy with a cast and a soundtrack to die for.

Released in 1995, Funny Bones features a stellar cast including an uncharacteristically restrained Jerry Lewis, screen legends Oliver Reed and Leslie Caron, the great Oliver Platt and rubber faced mugger Lee Evans - probably more famous outside of the UK for his roles in There's Something About Mary and Mousehunt. It's a tribute to Peter Chelsom that he manages to get some great performances from all of his cast especially where the titanic egos of Lewis and Reed are concerned.

Oliver Platt plays the son of famous comedian (Jerry Lewis), whose Vegas debut is a disaster. He returns to the English seaside town where he grew up to buy material from local performers. However his past catches up with him and a dark family secret is revealed.

The soundtrack features John Altman's pleasant big band score accompanied by a collection of old jazz, novelty songs and blues songs. It's like discovering a box of old 78's in the attic of a long departed eccentric uncle. Both the film and soundtrack deserve some attention so go and give your Funny Bones a tickle.

X marks the spot

Spike Lee's 1992 three hour plus biopic of assasinated activist Malcolm X was perhaps not everybody's cup of java. The movie was considered too long, too imperfectly paced, too superficial in some places, and too obsessive in others. It was however, highly entertaining, illuminating, and deeply inspiring, as is its soundtrack.

Eschewing a score per-se, the Malcolm X soundtrack features a virtual history of black music to frame Malcolm X's life.

1. Revolution - Arrested Development
2. Roll 'Em Pete - Joe Turner
3. Flying Home - Lionel Hampton
4. My Prayer - The Ink Spots
5. Big Stuff - Billie Holliday
6. Don't Cry Baby - Erskine Hawkins
7. Beans & Cornbread - Louis Jordan
8. Azure - Ella Fitzgerald
9. Alabama - John Coltrane
10. That Lucky Old Sun Just Rolls Around Heaven - Ray Charles
11. Arabesque Cookie - Duke Ellington
12. Shotgun - Jr. Walker & The All-Stars
13. Someday We'll All Be Free - Aretha Franklin.

Tuesday 23 October 2007


With Halloween almost upon us, I felt it was time for a little seasonal fun, care of Messrs Hanna and Barbera and the multi-talented tonsils of Paul Frees and June Foray on this great recording from 1966 - The Monster Shindig

I confess I bought this LP first time round and as all kids do, drove my parents absolutely bug-nuts, by playing it constantly on our old Dansette, to the extent that I can still quote huge chunks of the dialogue and sing the songs composed by Three Dog Night alumnus and Beach Boys buddy Danny Hutton.

So in the classic words of Creepella Gruesome, "Let's roll back the rugs and get this Monster Party started."

Sunday 21 October 2007

Star Wars goes lounge-core

It wasn't all stomping around in big boots, destroying planets and choking people - even Vader had to relax sometime and settle down with a martini. Ever wondered what Han and Chewie listened to after a busy day dodging Imperial slugs and making the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs?

The answer is Cocktails in The Cantina - thirteen finger-popping tunes from the Star Wars galaxy, performed in delightfully tongue in cheek style by the Evil Genius Orchestra and featuring adult movie star Jasmin St. Claire in her best porno Leia pose.

As much as I love the orchestral original, this is a great piece of nonsense and fun to put on when you have guests round (really!). Some of the arrangements actually transcend the it's so bad it's good syndrome, Princess Leia's theme is really rather touching.

The concept behind the original Cantina band music in the movie was that it was meant to sound like some aliens who had found some Jazz scores and without knowing what it should sound like, produced their own interpretation - this is more of the same really

Saturday 20 October 2007

The Three Caballeros - Disney's Psychedelic Masterpiece

Of all great Disney cartoons produced in the studio's golden era, one film that seems to have been overlooked is the short latin American flavoured feature, The Three Caballeros - a phantasmagorial feast for the eyes.

Premiered in Mexico City on December 21 1944, The Three Caballeros (week 34) was Disney's second latin American-focused feature, the first being Saludos Amigos!. (week 18) Made at the request of the US Government to create goodwill amongst its Latin American neighbours, it was directed by Norm Ferguson and featured four short films on Latin America combining live-action and animation. The movie was linked by a story revolving round Donald Duck's birthday and his Latin American amigos, José Carioca, the parrot (previously seen in Saludos Amigos!), and Panchito, the Mexican charro rooster.

The breathtaking psychedelic scenes featured a number of popular Latin American stars of the era, including the beautiful Aurora Miranda (sister of Carmen Miranda), Dora Luz, and dancer Carmen Molina. The animated/live action sequences were filmed using a combination of front and back projection. One stunning set piece takes place in Baia with Aurora Miranda singing Os Quindines de Ya Ya against an animated background where her suitors turn into er...fighting cocks and houses dance to the exotic latin rhythms. In another trippy sequence for Jesusita, Carmen Molina dances with giant cacti! However, there's no way to accurately describe the sheer wierdness of the scene for Donald's Surreal Reverie. So it's no surprise then that people flocked to the 1977 theatrical re-release possibly under the influence of some exotic jazz tobacco!

The Three Caballeros was nominated for two Academy Awards® -Best Sound (C. O. Slyfield) and Best Scoring of a Musical Picture (Edward H. Plumb, Paul J. Smith, and Charles Wolcott).

The Region 1 DVD release is available to purchase here while the Region 2 version can be obtained here If you have to own two classic Disney movies demonstrating the studio's creative juices in full flow, one of them arguably should be Pinocchio for far too many good reasons to explain here and of course The Three Caballeros.

Michael Caine - Pop Culture Icon

Before tarnishing his reputation with utter trash like The Swarm, The Island, Jaws 4: The Revenge and a host of equally crummy turns and cameos, Michael Caine was the embodiment of the Swinging Sixties. Despite appearing in some of the greatest crimes against cinema, Caine has also appeared in some of the most iconic movies of the 60's and 70's.

Whilst on one of my pilgimages to the London vinyl and CD emporia to feed my 'habit', I came across Billion Dollar Caine, a fascinating collection of movie music and classic dialogue from Michael Caine's cool period. Half expecting it to be another of those City of Prague re-creations, I was pleasantly surprised to find orginal recordings.

What's it All About? Whilst I'm not exactly sold on the cover art, you can't judge a book by the cover and this compilation delivers an impressive selection of cues from Alfie, The Italian Job, The IPCRESS File, Billion Dollar Brain and Get Carter. The sound quality on the dialogue tracks is a little ropey, but overall it's a great Caine compilation.

Thursday 18 October 2007

Senor 007 - Bond and the boogaloo

As an avid Bond fan, the music is all important. My all time favourite 007-related project, is Ray Barretto's Martini cool (or should that be Marguerita cool?) album Senor 007.

Released in 1965 at the height of Bond-mania, this a must have for all Bond fans. Barretto, a former band mate of Tito Puente, doesn't put a well shod cuban heeled foot wrong. There's no filler, every track is a killer. Play it loud!

The Man Who Fell To Earth - the lost soundtracks

Hot on the heels of the critical success of his bizarre supernatural tale Don't Look Now, maverick director Nicholas Roeg, cast his 'letric eye on Walter Tevis' short novel, The Man Who Fell To Earth, casting rock legend David Bowie as the benign but unhappy alien, Thomas Jerome Newton in this 1976 art house classic.

Bowie, then at the height of his cocaine habit, was an inspired choice by Roeg who made clever use of Bowie's fragility and otherworldly weirdness. Rumour has it that Peter O'Toole was considered for the role, but when Roeg saw Alan Yentob's classic rockumentary Cracked Actor featuring a deeply paranoid and slightly unhinged Bowie during the gruelling 1974 Diamond Dogs/Soul Tour, there was no question who was ideal for the role.

In my opinion, Bowie has never given a more compelling performance on film, though perhaps he was, to an extent simply playing a version of himself.

The added bonus of getting Bowie in on the production was of course that Roeg not only had the kudos of a bona-fide rock star in his movie but he would also get a soundtrack from the man and thus reach out to Bowie's extensive and loyal fans. There are several stories circulating why Bowie's soundtrack never materialised. One is that Bowie submitted a score which Roeg deemed unsuitable or unusable or that Bowie had a hissy fit when he discovered that he would be just one composer considered for providing the soundtrack. Whatever the reason, John Phillips of the Mamas and The Papas fame got the gig.

Ironically, only a few cover versions by Phillips made the soundtrack with much of it made up of old hits by such artists as Roy Orbison, Bing Crosby, Hank Snow, Jim Reeves, The Kingston Trio and Artie Shaw. The vast majority of the soundtrack employed the talents of Japanese percussionist Stomu Yamashta.

The film's original opening scene was apparently edited to Pink Floyd's Breathe from their then new release Dark Side of The Moon. Maybe the Floyd wanted too much money or refused to let their music be used is not known but, an edited version of Yamashta's Poker Dice was eventually used in the film.

Yamashta's music is used to great effect throughout the film. A violent sex scene between Rip Torn and a young nymphette is intercut with Bowie watching a Kabuki perfomance to the percussive 33 1/3, whilst a tender love scene between Bowie and his co-star Candy Clark is underscored by the beautiful Wind Words - a song to melt the coldest heart. A very Pink Floyd like Memories of Hiroshima works to great effect in a chilling scene as Bowie transforms into his true alien form.

Rumours abound of tapes of Bowie's lost soundtrack locked away in vaults never to see the light of day. There have even been bootlegs released claiming to be Bowie's soundtrack, under the title, The Visitor (a reference to a record Newton makes for his wife in the film). It's a safe bet that these either don't exist or are poorly produced fakes. The reality is that the only known Bowie music to have its origins in The Man Who Fell To Earth are Weeping Wall and Subterraneans which turned up in a dramatically re-recorded form on Bowie's groundbreaking classic Low. NB: Some 24 years after its release Bowie performed the entire Low album live to an enraptured audience in New York.

Although, the end titles and the posters for The Man Who Fell To Earth mentioned the availability of a soundtrack, it never materialised and as a result fans like myself have been forced to forage around to find the various tracks, many of which are long deleted or not available digitally, that make up the Man Who Fell To Earth soundtrack.

For those of you interested in the background to this fascinating film, an excellent article on The Man Who Fell To Earth is available Here

Wednesday 17 October 2007

Apocalypse Now - The first and last great 'Nam movie?

Of all the movies about the Vietnam War, there's no greater example than Apocalypse Now, Francis Ford Coppola's sprawling epic from the mists of 1979.

A troubled and expensive production, the visually stunning and intellectually stimulating Apocalypse Now still bewitches. Who can forget the psychedelic Do Lung Bridge or Colonel Kilgore's airborne cavalry charge?

Written by Coppola, John Milius and Michael Herr, Apocalypse Now was loosely based on Joseph Conrad's 1899 novella Heart of Darkness. George Lucas is said to have come up with the concept and was originally cited to direct the movie. However he had to defer directorial duties to Coppola as a result of his increasing involvement with a certain galactic saga, forcing him to swap GI's and Viet Cong for Stormtroopers and Ewoks..but that's another story.

For soundtrack duties Coppola kept it in the family with father Carmine twiddling the knobs on a variety of bubbly, whooshy and whoozy synthesisers. In the context of the movie, the soundtrack seems at odds with the era and the action and yet completely in keeping with the otherworldly environment and madness.
A single cd was issued of the soundtrack as a double cd set, which not only contained extracts of the soundtrack but also dialogue from the movie, so the listener is presented with an aural version of the film.

In the privacy of a darkened room with a few candles and maybe a rice cooker bubbling away with the odd incense stick, disc one and disc two will transport you to the steamy jungles of Cambodia.

GOLDENEYE ...Playing the game.

Anyone who owned a Nintendo N64 in the nineties, will have fond memories of its groovy graphics and gameplay. One of the more popular games on this slightly ill-fated console (given that it was up against the Sony Playstation) was the James Bond spin-off GoldenEye.

I can't begin to count the hours I spent trying to get out of various scrapes or being shot to blazes by my nimble fingered daughter in exotic deathmatches.

Unusual for a game of that era, it had a great soundtrack by Grant Kirkhope and Graeme Norgate. Ok it's not like the full on orchestral games scores that gamers have become used to these days (there's still one cue from Medal of Honor that has me ducking for cover) but one listen of the GoldenEye 64 soundtrack will have old gamesters going all misty eyed and reaching for their Kleenex. I know I did when I heard it again.

Monday 15 October 2007

Ray Anthony

What a man..Ray Anthony looked like Cary Grant, married balloon chested b-movie star Mamie van Doren and recorded the best selling single recording of Peter Gunn - not bad for a guy who was born Raymond Antonini on 20 January 1922 in Bentleyville, Pennsylvania

My first experience of Ray Anthony was on one of those Crime Jazz lounge collections with his storming Gene Krupa style version of the theme from Dragnet. I don't know how he did it but he seemed to get such a big sound on his recordings.

A classic example of that big sound is available on his Like Wild! album which includes the aforementioned version of Peter Gunn and the closing track, a cool and cooking Walking To Mothers which I presume is underscore from Peter Gunn.

Well worth bending an ear to (provided you turn the volume way up and you have deaf neighbours). Check it out

Jazz From Great TV Shows - Crime Jazz Galore

One old LP..that's what we used to call 'em in the ol' days, that has received a lot of rotation in my secret lair is Jazz From Great TV Shows by Bob Mersey with Det Moor and his Orchestra.

Bob Mersey was staff arranger and composer for CBS television and Columbia Records. Jazz from Great TV Shows is a classy piece of crime jazz, a compilation of incidental pieces Mersey wrote for such shows as Route 66, The New Breed, Manhunt, Kraft Mystery Theater,and Window on Main Street.

What's it like? Well it's twelve tantalising tunes that conjure up chases down rain slicked alleyway, cops called O'Malley, Martinis, Motorcycle gangs, Beatniks, Bad boy Nogoodniks, Broads, Bourbon, Lucky Strikes, Femme Fatales and Fedoras. A tour de force of big ass brass with more swagger and sass than a Coupe de Ville's tail end, backed up with body blow bass lines that bruise. Not to be missed

If you like this check out The Crime Lounge for more here.

Sunday 14 October 2007

Blade Runner - the soundtrack

For soundtrack fans one of the most eagerly awaited scores may at last be making its way to us in a form that it deserves. I am of course refering to Vangelis' legendary Blade Runner score, which will hopefully be released in full and will address the peeves that many fans of the soundtrack had when it first saw the light of day officially in 1994. Apart from being incomplete, it had been seriously meddled with and edited so that many cues were out of sequence or had been embellised by new pieces of music.

Disgruntled fans like myself sought out the myriad bootleg versions that had been created from cassette run offs from the mixing sessions or isolated music tracks from DVD's of the film. The most famous of these was of course the Esper Edition, which was created in very limited numbers by a group of fans known only as Esper Productions for circulation amongst themselves.

It used cues from every available source (official and unoffical) including the Blade Runner Game. Even though its original release was limited to a few copies for friends, subsequent copies of it began to surface and soon it became a much sought after Blade Runner essential and for many it is the best available example of the soundtrack. It's unlikely that the new version will be as complete as the Esper contains many non Vangelis cues that would be a copyright nightmare.

Inevitably, greedy self serving opportunists have bootlegged this very worthy release and charged extortionate sums for it on Ebay. Some have gone as far as to dress it up and embellish it and pretend that it is the work of Esper Productions - Classic examples being the so-called Esper MK2 and Esper MK3 which are still commanding ridiculous sums of money and lining the pockets of greedy non-fans.

It got to the point that Esper Productions published the following announcement on the excllent Vangelis Rarities site


In light of the sheer amount of "Esper" discs (i.e. "Esper Edition" and L.A‚ 2019) being sold on the internet over the past few years and with the emergence of new bootlegs claiming to be "Esper Productions‚" we wanted to take this opportunity to officially clarify that any vendor claiming to be‚ or selling on behalf of "Esper Productions" has absolutely nothing to do with the original people involved. These rip-off merchants have quite simply‚ stolen our "label."

The "Esper Edition" was made by two Vangelis/BR fans. Both of us would like to remain anonymous for obvious reasons. The intention of this private release was to give "our take" or interpretation of what the Blade Runner soundtrack should be. -that’s it.- The fact that these bootleggers have appropriated the discs and label name and started selling them on various websites‚ ebay‚ etc‚ is indeed regrettable.

We’re totally against the idea of lucrative gain being derived from these kinds of fan projects. Moreover‚ let me further clarify that neither of us have ever made a single cent off this effort.We made a total of ten original copies: five for each of us. We then distributed them to friends in the Vangelis circle. Among them‚ is Antas who has been gracious enough to let us publish this note on his site. Why only ten? It was always meant to be a homemade project.Since‚ the "Esper Edition" has surprisingly become "stuff of legend" in many Blade Runner circles‚ mentioned on many webpages all over the internet. While secretly very flattered- we’d also like to take this moment to "de-mystify" the release.Why did we make it?

Basically‚ we were sick of so many BR bootlegs floating around that never "got it right" in terms of chronology‚ or thoroughness. They all had something unique to them‚ but there were always oversights. So‚ like taking pieces from a puzzle‚ we decided to simply "cut and paste" from all the exiting releases (official‚ bootlegs‚ private releases‚ etc)‚ 1982 video‚ 1992 directors cut and construct something fresh. We paid close attention to chronologically follow the sequences from the film. Although not agreeing at first‚ we finally decided it would be best to have the tracks flow into one another‚ as a sort of BR suite. We originally wanted to make the discs just for our enjoyment‚ but we thought it would be neat to come up with artwork and make it a "private release" for our friends.

That’s all. As for the follow-up‚ "L.A. 2019‚" we wanted to make an "ambience" cd that transported the listener to the world of Blade Runner. The sound effects are almost entirely from the BR game‚ with Vangelis stuff layered in the back. We inserted "Reve" and an unused piece from "The Bounty" as well‚ because they both fitted the mood very well.Why the name "Esper Productions?" We thought a logo of the Esper machine would make an original pseudo trademark. Hence the name.

Lastly‚ let us stress that our intention was always to make this a project by fans for fans. It was created out of love for Vangelis’ music‚ not money. Having said this‚ if other fans want to further the "Esper" concept by adding‚ re-editing or using our "work" to get a different result‚ that’s fine -provided that they do not use the name “Esper Productions‚” which has been ripped-off just to cash-in.

In 2005 however, an excellent sound quality bootleg of the MK2 surfaced for a short while called Esper Analysis, which was not only affordable (about the cost of two cdr's as I recall) and came with silkscreened discs in a double DVD package with some pretty nifty artwork.

If you can get hold of a copy, it's certainly worth a listen, until the official version comes out anyway.

It's a toss up whether side one is better than side two - you decide

Have A Better One

Saturday 13 October 2007


What is there to say about Trancers? Trash or
Classic you can't ignore it.

I first became aware of it through director Alex Cox when he featured it in a season of cult classics. With a plot that borrowed from Blade Runner and Terminator it was a great little piece of cheap sci-fi pulp.

Tim Thomerson played the lead as Jack Deth a sort of grizzled bargain basement Blade Runner. The eye candy was provided by a very young Helen Hunt in an early role as a sort of young punkette waitress. She performs a particularly buttock clenching (for me) dance scene in a punk club that she and Jack visit.

Several more Trancers movies followed spreading the already thin premise to almost transparent levels. Each getting cheaper and more dreadful as the numbers stacked up - a bit like Police Academy except Trancers was good in the beginning..but I digress.

The original is still worth seeking out though the official DVD that I have is a pretty dire transfer from what looks like a video disk mastered from a VHS. I only say this because half way through a fight sequence there is a very noticable break in the film as if the laser disk stopped and had to be turned over.

Mark Ryder & Phil Davies' electronic score for the film apparently had an official release sometime in the 80's but created few ripples in the music world, possibly because the majority of it was pretty undistinguished and followed a predictable Brad Fiedel /John Carpenter style. One area where they did get it right though was the haunting theme which is well worth listening to.

Check it out.

Harry Palmer films

The sixties were definitely the high point for Spy movies. With the Bond Francise leading the pack, there were many others aiming to usurp 007 including The Man From UNCLE, Derek Flint and of course Harry Palmer.

Adapted from Len Deighton's spy novels featuring an unamed spy, it took the combined talents of Producer Harry Saltzman (who provided the name), Director Sidney J. Furie, screen writer Bill Canaway, Michael Caine and of course John Barry with his richly exotic jazzy score to make The IPCRESS File the phenomenal success it became. An intelligent script, inspired direction with wacky camera angles, a great lead actor and that wonderful score.

The next adaptation Funeral In Berlin, whilst retaining Caine, Director Guy Hamilton led Harry Palmer down a different darkened alleyway with a more conventional story and directorial style. Composer Konrad Elfers eschewed all of Barry's stylings and cues and opted for a score that less characterised Harry Palmer but emphasised the location, Cold War era Berlin. The theme music echoed the Berlin Cabaret of Isherwood and Brecht though retained a jazzy feel.

The Billion Dollar Brain was the final movie outing for Harry Palmer, and under Ken Russell's bombastic direction Palmer became more of an observer of the increasingly bizarre goings on and effectively lost what made him so special in the first place. The soundtrack however took a even more left field approach with Richard Rodney Bennett composing a haunting score with a small ensemble and heavily featured the Ondes Martenot - a relative of the sonically similar Theramin.

Although two more direct to video follow-ups were made, featuring a soundtrack by Rick Wakeman that sounded like he'd done it for the beer -it really was time for Harry Palmer to hang up his raincoat.

Palmer's heyday was the 1960's and musically he will be best remembered by the three soundtracks, which at various times have been in and out of print. Shame really - each has its own special identity and are well worth a listen to get three individual perspectives of spy music.
For a more in depth appraisal of Harry Palmer, check out this excellent Harry Palmer Site here

Monday 8 October 2007

Marie Antoinette

A quick glance round the bargain bins and the 3 for the price of 1 sections of your local DVD emporium will no doubt reveal several copies of Sofia Coppola's brave attempt to make Marie Antoinette into a pop culture icon.

As lovely as Kirsten Dunst was and most certaily remains..the film was IMHO, a bit of a clunker. The soundtrack on the other hand was rather splendid.

As much as I generally loathe those crappy compilations, this one works rather well.The word eclectic hardly does this musical smorgasbord justice. Try some for yourself