November 2001 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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EDITOR’s CHOICE November 2001

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DVD Review

Special Edition:
Superman - The Movie. (Special Edition) Music by John WILLIAMS  
Starring: Marlon Brando, Geene Hackman and Christopher Reeves. Directed by Richard Donner.
  WARNER DVD Video DO13011  
Film: 146 mins. (DVD includes over an hour of extra features plus DVD ROM material and silent play-through of the film with only the music) with (Superman II) Additional music by Ken THORNE [Film:123 mins]

Super man DVD boxed set Superman - the movie Superman II

This has to be one of the best film-to-DVD productions to date. For John Williams admirers, this is clearly an obligatory purchase. The Superman score is, of course, justly celebrated as one of Williams's very best. Here is a chance to admire it to the full, for not only is the film presented in excellent refurbished digital sound, but one of the many DVD features allows viewing of the entire the film without sound effects or dialogue so you can concentrate fully on the music. It is a remarkable experience. We can see exactly where he music is spotted and where the producers preferred no music either for dramatic effect or to let the often explosive sound effects take centre-stage. We can now admire, for instance, those early scenes that brought the best from Williams: the wonderful elegiac music underscoring the funeral of Superman's (earth) father (Glenn Ford) and his leave-taking from his (earth) mother (Phyllis Thaxter). [With breathtakingly beautiful photography of the mid-west landscapes] And that glorious material that accompanies the 'Fortress of Solitude' sequences.

The film's refurbished images are crystal clear and the sound very impressive. The added features are comprehensive. As well as the music, just about every aspect of the production is covered from special effects and costume design to casting (screen tests of possible alternative actors are shown but it is very clear that only Christopher Reeve was in the running as was Margot Kidder as Lois Lane.) Disappointingly, John Williams has too little to say about his music much more could have been divulged about how he developed the score and what factors influenced him.

In addition to all the aforementioned features a ROM content allows one to follow the storyboard with the film and to go on-line to get further information about Warner Bros productions.

The second DVD in the Special Edition box set is devoted to Superman II (filmed back-to-back with Superman - The Movie). Considering the huge success of John Williams music it seems incredible that the producers did not retain his services for the sequel. Opinion was sharply divided over its merits. Many reckoned it to be the most satisfying of the series before it descended into bathos through Superman III and the abysmal Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. Ken Thorne's poverty of invention is all too evident as set against John Williams's majestic music for the original.

For John Williams aficionados and for all young in heart this is one DVD that is a must.

Ian Lace

*****

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