Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:

The Battle of the Bulge (1965)
Queensland SO/Werner Andreas Albert
CPO 999 696-2

The Battle of the Bulge (1965) is Frankel's last film score. The film is an epic war movie dealing with what was the largest battle of W.W. II in Europe as well as the last German effort to counter the allied forces on their way to Germany. The battle was fought around Christmas 1944 (one of the worst winters of the century) and involved several hundred thousands soldiers on both sides including quite a number of young inexperienced recruits in the German camp, a general characteristic of Germany's ultimate resistance when both young men and elderly people were forced into military service often at the expense of their own lives for little result, if any.

The Battle of the Bulge called for an epic score matching that of the events. As a result Frankel's score is large-scale (over 78 minutes of music) of which the half had never been recorded before and of which the other half had been used with many cuts in the final edited film. Ironically enough the part of the score which is likely to impress the audience (when young German recruits sing Das Panzerlied) is the only music not composed by Frankel. (Think of Colonel Bogey in Lean's The Bridge on the River Kwai which was not written by Arnold.)

Conceived as a long-term structure Frankel's score generously uses a number of themes which are all heard either in the Prelude or in the first long sequence. The Prelude is based on a rhythmic pattern in the upper strings that gives way to Das Panzerlied (a slightly ironic tuba solo) merging into Guffy's Tank Theme (a string hoe-down depicting the American bravado embodied by Guffy [Telly Savalas]). A short interplay of these themes leads into the triumphant Victory Theme which of course will be restated at the end of the film.

The second sequence introduces two more themes, i.e. Lt.Col. Kiley's Theme (a beautiful horn theme and the finest invention in the whole score) and Hessler's Theme (a dark impenetrable tune played by the brass and basses suggesting the cold-headed, emotionless Hessler [Robert Shaw]). All these themes will be quoted later in the film either completely or partially, straight or slightly varied.

Two other themes will soon appear to play an important part in the later stages of the score: the Armoured Night Theme "conveying rampant militarism and armoured might associated with tanks" (E.D. Kennaway in his excellent notes) and Lt. Weaver's Theme (a trumpet solo). There is, appropriately, a good deal of martial, at times rawly brutal, music (generally brass and percussion, sometimes with high screaming woodwind) though Frankel's dramatic gift also yields some finely wrought slower, calmer music.

A particular example of Frankel's dramatic flair is found in the scene depicting the meeting at night of Hessler and a Courtesan 1st Class sent by his superior to boost Hessler's morale before the battle and whom Hessler bluntly dismisses. The music for this deeply unsentimental scene almost entirely relies on cold string harmonics and sparse woodwind. A really chilly love scene if ever there was one. Worth mentioning too the delightful vignette Christmas in Ambleve based on snippets from Good King Wenceslas and The First Noel. One of the most quoted themes however is Das Panzerlied which also receives its choral setting with foot-tapping (as in the similar scene in the film) superbly done by uncredited male voices (possibly members of the orchestra).

All in all this magnificent release of a large-scale score is a fine tribute to Frankel as a composer of highly distinguished film scores. A very welcome offshoot in CPO's Frankel series. Recommended and not only to film buffs.

© Hubert Culot

See also review by Gary Dalkin in Film Music on the Web

Reviews from previous months

You can purchase CDs, tickets and musician's accessories and Save around 22% with these retailers : - The UK's Biggest Video Store

Concert and Show tickets


Musicians accessories

Click here to visit

Return to Index