MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY
SADDLE THE WIND
(Film Score Monthly --- Distributed by www.screenarchives.com)
The recent alliance of Film Score Monthly and the venerable and prestigious Screen Archives Entertainment company has gotten off to a whoppingly great start with what amounts to the most comprehensive and indeed the best Golden Age score release of the year, their stupendous 3-disc CD set of Bronislau Kaper's legendary MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY, which while correctly labeled chronologically as a Silver Age release is, in reality, Golden Age film composition at its very finest.
With the phenomenal success of William Wyler's remake of BEN-HUR , MGM's brass disastrously assumed that the public would embrace any and all multi-million dollar "reworkings" of ancient blockbusters and proceeded to virtually bankrupt their company with the likes of the lame Samuel Bronston-produced KING OF KINGS, the atrociously misguided CIMARRON, the almost comically over-the-top and miscast FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE, and most tragically of all, the beautifully produced, intelligently written and skillfully directed MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY, which was single-handedly dry-docked by the outrageous antics of its moronic leading man Marlon Brando. ( The excellent 46 page booklet included in this "bounty-full" CD set goes into great detail about Brando's infantile antics.)
The one surpassingly positive element that all of the above-mentioned remakes has is that each and every one inspired Miklos Rosza, Andre Previn, Franz Waxman, and, in the case of BOUNTY, Bronislau Kaper to contribute masterworks that provided the only high-points that these sorry debacles displayed.
When I met Mr. Kaper years ago at a film composer's gathering and I mentioned that LILI and MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY were my two favorite Kaper scores, he beamed and almost shouted "Those are MY two favorites!" Upon listening to the almost four hours of BOUNTY music so generously included in this thrilling package I'm now convinced that this is by leaps and bounds the greatest of the Kaper compositions. So fine in fact that it equals, in my estimation, the best work of Korngold, Steiner, and Rosza, all of whom might have been logical choices to score this particular film.
Film Score Monthly's premiere CD BOUNTY release features three separate programs. First is the underscore as heard in the finished film on disc one and the beginning of disc two. The remainder of disc two and beginning of disc three features almost every cue of an almost complete yet alternate score. The balance of disc three features yet more alternate configurations and LP versions of certain cues. (The entire soundtrack has been remixed and remastered from the original 35mm masters.)
I've said it before and I'll say it again. This is easily the best Golden Age soundtrack of the year. No film music aficionado can afford to pass it up.
Not to be sneezed at is Film Score Monthly's Golden Age release of SADDLE THE WIND, in which they have miraculously managed to unearth a never-before-heard alternate score by Jeff Alexander that accompanies the original Elmer Bernstein film score.
The modestly-budgeted SADDLE THE WIND was one of three films formulated to close out star Robert Taylor's exclusive MGM contract (the longest in film history!) and the combination of a terrific Taylor performance, incisive Rod Serling screenplay, astute direction by Robert Parrish, great wide-screen photography, and a superbly supportive Bernstein score all contributed to what amounted to one of the best, if least-known "psychological" westerns.
It's fascinating to compare the Bernstein and Alexander scores, and while both are valid in their own individual ways, it soon becomes apparent that Bernstein's deeper and darker compositions bolster up SADDLE THE WIND'S brooding underpinnings far more effectively, which is not to imply that Alexander was a slouch, as his jaunty score for John Sturges' ESCAPE FROM FORT BRAVO is very good indeed.
Even if Alexander's proficient score were not included, the Elmer Bernstein soundtrack alone would be reason enough to purchase this CD, but the fact that it is, along with no less than three different tracks of Julie London's beautiful rendering of the hauntingly poignant title tune, make this a no-brainer purchase for any serious film music collector.