THE FASTEST GUN ALIVE/HOUSE OF NUMBERS

(Film Score Monthly)

A few weeks ago I watched one of my favorite films, BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK, and the same thing happened that happens every single time I watch it. For weeks thereafter I cannot get the magnificent main theme of composer Andre Previn's  melodramatic score out of my mind ------ "dah, dah, dah, dah, DAH, dah, dah"  is constantly swirling in my head, sometimes on the most innappropriate occasions! Will it never leave?

Thanks to this month's Film Score Monthly release  of Previn's score for THE FASTEST GUN ALIVE, I have finally, at long last, been liberated from that incessant "dah, dah, dah, dah, DAH, dah, dah." But in solving one problem I've created another : no matter what I do, or where I am, I cannot relinquish FASTEST GUN'S main theme "dah, dah, dah, DAH, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah " from my head!

It's instantly apparent from the opening fanfare that FASTEST GUN is cut from the same vaguely dissonant and sinister cloth as BLACK ROCK , though, joyously, there's much more of it. Both scores find fantastically inventive ways to place their equally riveting main themes in a stunningly wide range of settings and vary the accompanying harmonies  and rhythms in such spellbindingly creative ways that the theme retains its freshness throughout. And both climax with a quotation of their respective main themes followed by a final chord featuring trilling trumpets. These similarities actually add to the considerable degree of enjoyment that this fabulous score provides. But how do I get that damn theme out of my head?                     

Previn's score for HOUSE OF NUMBERS, like Herrmann's score for BENEATH THE TWELVE MILE REEF, (also previously released by FSM) is an example of a composer so completely undaunted by the massive mediocrity of the film itself that he's able to create a passionate and original score that stands entirely on its own. NUMBERS, a hopelessly lackluster and implausible little B picture, was dumped into the marketplace as a second feature to a far superior B,  the Robert Taylor starrer TIP ON A DEAD JOCKEY (which had a terrific, and thus far unreleased, Miklos Rosza score ------- how about it FSM?). The wonderful thing about Previn's score is the very lack of subtlety that encourages it to go over the top in such a brazenly unapologetic manner that the listening experience becomes uniquely exhilarating and joyful. Both of these scores amply demonstrate the sheer exuberant brilliance that a Previn score can provide. 

--DICK DINMAN

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