November 2000 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Hugo MONTENEGRO (1); David ROSE (2)
Hombre (1); The Undefeated (2)
 both scores conducted by their composers
 Film Score Monthly Vol. 3 Number 6 [Total playing time 73:48 - The Undefeated: 47:33 - Hombre: 21:30 - Mystery Track: Hombre Trailer music: 3:30]

Hugo Montenegro was a multitalented musician-arranger-composer who had an undistinguished career as a film composer on a small number of less than notable films, and is most famous for his extremely popular arrangement of Ennio Morricone's theme for The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966). That his film composing career was undistinguished does not mean that he was a bad composer, far from it. On the evidence here, with the right films he could have become a major name in the field. Unfortunately for Montenegro the characters in this 1969 John Wayne western may be The Undefeated, but they are also forgotten. The movie was one of five Wayne made with the director Andrew V. McLaglen, the others being McLintock! (1963), Hellfighters (1968), Chisum (1970) and Cahill: United States Marshall (1973), none of them among the star's better work. While it may have not been particularly good, at least The Undefeated was a big western, full of action and beautifully photographed, giving a composer plenty of opportunity to make a strong impression. Montenegro responds so well it can only be regretted that he did not work more in the genre, and while the score is lacking a certain individuality it is a remarkable piece of work for a man who had only penned his first film score two years earlier.

As Lukas Kendall notes in the booklet, "The Undefeated is a long, showy score steeped in tradition yet with a pop gleam in its eye…" That pop gleam is actually very slight, more of a nod on brief occasion to the light orchestral arrangements in vogue in the '60s rather than actual pop song structures or a pop beat. How long the score is I have no idea, because as Kendall also points out, the original mastertapes have suffered considerable damage which producer Douglass Fake has had to work around to produce 47-minutes worth of score representative of the whole. This is perfectly fair, and given that 47 minutes would have once made a longer than average LP, more than reasonable. At this length the score does not outstay its welcome, while again to quote Kendall, it makes "for a balanced and enjoyable program."

While Fake notes that the score, particularly the stirring main theme, falls within the Copland tradition, it seems more within the post-Magnificent Seven (1960) Elmer Bernstein tradition. The main theme is very much in this lineage, just listen to 'Meet Blue Boy', especially at the riff 12-19 seconds into the cue. The piece then develops in the pattern of the more playful moments of Jerome Moross' The Big County (1958) before going back into Magnificent Seven country, while throughout the score it is quite clear this music was written at the same time as Jerry Fielding's The Wild Bunch and John Williams' The Reivers. Familiar it may be, but with the mixture of Mexican melodies, folk-pastoral and action music it is also highly enjoyable. Oddly, the folk elements recall Richard Rodney Bennett's Far From the Madding Crowd, (1967), a drama as far from the western as imaginable. The Undefeated is just the sort of score awaiting rediscovery, and please someone, a spectacular modern re-recording: the sound, especially on such rousing set-pieces as 'Incident in Mexico' can get rather strident.

Hombre (1967) was a very different sort of western, a comparatively small film, an intimate psychological drama which nevertheless had its share of action and adventure. Directed by Martin Ritt, starring Paul Newman and scored by David Rose, Hombre was typical of another sort of 60's film making, the understated melancholy character piece. It was a film which used music sparingly, but to great effect. The cues in the film itself are very short, so the decision has been taken here to assemble them into four longer pieces, which together with a track based on the main theme recorded for a single that was never issued, total just 21 minutes. This is a gentle, folk-like score, not dissimilar to Jerry Goldsmith's A Patch of Blue (1965) in mood and scale. Much of the score is lyrical yet, in using an electric organ, deliberately achronistic, while the later suspense passages balance percussion and piano in a way familiar from Goldsmith of the same era. It works very well in the film, which is after all what it was intended to do, but on album doesn't particularly hold the interest.

The last track is entitled "Mystery Track: Hombre Trailer", which may seem like a contradiction, giving the mystery away. However, while it is known that this selection of cues was intended for the trailer to Hombre, all that is known otherwise is that, with the exception of some Jerry Goldsmith, these are 20th Century Fox library cues. Lukas Kendall says, "The identity of most of the track is unknown to us - experts, please write in - but Jerry Goldsmith fans will laugh out loud at the concluding bars, a theme we never expected to hear in stereo from this era." I'm not going to spoil the fun, and I'm sure someone out there can identify all the mystery music.

As usual for a Film Score Monthly album, the disc is very well presented with colour film stills and black and white photos of the composers, together with good booklet notes. The sound is good, but we have become used to much better and as I mentioned above, I would welcome a re-recording of The Undefeated simply because this is the sort of music one wants to be able to turn the volume up for and enjoy for the sheer visceral impact of those sweeping melodies. I wouldn't say, as the cover does, that these are classic scores, but for anyone interested in the development of the music of the western these are both in their very different ways superior examples of the genre.

Gary S. Dalkin


[This CD is available exclusively from the magazine and website ( for $19.95 plus shipping: Film Score Monthly, 8503 Washington Boulevard, Culver City, CA90232. Phone: 310-253-9595; Fax: 310-253-9588; ]

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