September 2001Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

index page/ monthly listings /Sept01/

Hugo FRIEDHOFER Between Heaven and Hell. Soldier of Fortune OSTs FILM SCORE MONTHLY Vol 4 . No. 9 [72:55]
[Available through the magazine, Film Score Monthly, or its website( for $19:95 plus shipping: Film Score Monthly, 8503 Washington Boulevard, Culver City CA 90232, ph: 310-253-9595 or toll-free 1-888-345-6335 fax:310-253-9588;]



Nowadays Hugo Friedhofer is often overlooked as a major force in the development of film music, but within his orchestrations and melodies it's possible to hear the voices of many modern day composers (Jerry Goldsmith in particular) who have obviously been influenced by his ground breaking work.

Two scores are featured here, although due to damage to the masters, the second Solider of Fortune (1955) is not as well represented as everyone might have liked. However Between Heaven and Hell (1956) appears in its entirety.

Opening with 'Sam and Jenny's Theme', this is a surprisingly tender and lyrical piece, considering that this is a war movie, but this motif serves to illustrate the leading character's (played by Robert Wagner) past and in particular his relationship with his wife. More typical, but just as distinctive are the cues which support time spent in the heat of battle or more usually the tension and near hysteria of the anticipation of combat. From the 'Main Title' with its militaristic percussion, incorporating that often used but always effective, doom-laden piece 'Dies Irae', there are many excellent examples of psychological suspense music, as in 'George Company', which is startlingly bleak at times and the portentous 'Norzagaray'. To counter-balance all of this oppressive gloom, Friedhofer returns to his 'Sam and Jenny's Theme' in 'Retrospect No.1' and 'Retrospect No.2', although darkly ominous chords tellingly bookend both cues.

Best of all are two really outstanding tracks. The first, 'Strategic Sam/Scared' is a very distinctive, ahead of its time dissonant piece which takes us on an extended journey across the battlefield of both the mind and the body. But even better is

'Don't Argue/Desperate Journey', where a snare drum pounds away, becoming increasingly dramatic and concluding with a powerful burst of 'Dies Irae'.

Between Heaven and Hell is an impressive, moody score with a good deal of inventive intelligence and Friedhofer's music should be admired all the more for standing the test of time, still sounding fresh almost a half a century later.

Sadly, as the first-rate sleeve notes tell us, the score for Solider of Fortune (1955) has been very badly damaged and therefore only a loosely assembled collection of cues were salvageable. However the twenty plus minutes of music available gives us a good taste of this Asian flavoured, romanticised score. Certainly in terms of quality, even allowing for the lack of material, this is the lesser of the two works, although there are still several moments where the composer's individualism shines through.

Although for me the central motif introduced on 'Theme (piano)' is a typically romantic, very 'Hollywood' piece, those who enjoy such things will find the more expansive, oriental styled 'Main Title' particularly enjoyable. Of far greater value though are 'Marine Patrol', with its rippling water effect, 'Inquisition', a very restrained, sinister cue that sounds almost like the dripping of a Chinese water torture and 'Lee in Action', a suspenseful, almost John Barryesque, dynamic cue (although disappointingly this was not used in the film itself). Of interest too is 'Search Montage', a Chinese flavoured piece, full of intrigue, again with that rippling effect, becoming almost like something out of Voyage from the Bottom of the Sea at one point!

All in all, a notable release that will enhance Hugo Friedhofer's reputation with modern film music fans ,while simply bringing a big smile to the faces of his many long established admirers.

Mark Hockley

Ian Lace adds -

Film Score Monthly seem to be ploughing a deep furrow into 1950s and 1960s 20th Century Fox film music nostalgia. (I do hope that, at length, they are going to visit other studios especially the more dramatic departments of MGM.). Now we have some more music from the neglected Hugo Friedhofer - always an interesting talent. The scores here are of uneven quality, Soldier of Fortune, the superior and more satisfying listening experience. Between Heaven and Hell has the usual gung-ho, staccato, battle music: snarling figures, brutal rhythms. Yet he cleverly blends all this wth subtly oriental material in evocatively wide perspectives and adds the Dies Irae à la Liszt in Mephisto mode to potently underline the evils and tragedy of war. In contrast calmer more elegiac tracks speak of war's futility and tragic loss. The romantic cues are really sub-Steiner (Friedhofer of course orchestrated much of Steiner's music at Warner Bros.) This is not the case with the big long-spanned melody that is the main theme of Soldier of Fortune for this is one of Friedhofer's best melodies. Friedhofer captures the atmosphere of the orient and Hong Kong very imaginatively throughout this score with apt use of ethnic instruments and subtle harmonies and colouring to heighten the atmosphere of intrigue and menace. Such tracks as the glitteringly liquid 'Marine Patrol' have a beautifully impressionistic gloss.

Between Heaven and Hell Soldier of Fortune

Ian Lace

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