May 2004 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Gary S. Dalkin
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

index page/ monthly listings / May /

The Fantasy Film Music of George Pal  
Music composed by Russell Garcia, Leigh Harline, Miklos Rozsa, Ken E. Jones, Frank De Vol
  Available on La-la Land Records (LLLCD 1016)
Running Time: 71:49

fantasy film music george pal

This CD is a very nice idea indeed: a compilation of music taken from the work of celebrated producer/director George Pal; who gave cinema-goers a series of memorable fantasy productions and in particular one of my all time personal favourite movies, The 7 Faces of Dr Lao (1964). Fans of the genre and the era (late 50s-mid 70s) will get a lot of out of the nostalgia of the music, but thankfully there is much more here than simply a walk down memory lane to recommend this CD.

While Russell Garcia's work on Atlantis-The Lost Continent (1961) is pleasant enough and features a reasonably catchy 'Main Title', his score for the semi-classic The Time Machine (1960) is far superior with its somewhat melodramatic but affecting 'Main Title', along with clever musical transitions to signify the changes that time brings in 'Montage Cues', a sequence in the film itself that once seen is never forgotten.

An album highlight is Leigh Harline's wonderful score for my aforementioned favourite The 7 Faces of Dr. Lao with the Western/Asian hybrid 'Main Title' a minor classic of charm and poignancy, and also featuring the stately, melancholic 'Apollonius' and the frenetic 'Pan's Dance' with the emotional 'Farewell/Finale' to close. Great stuff!

Another real treat is the masterful Miklos Rozsa's work from the quirky sci/fi thriller The Power (1968) with its innovative, striking 'Prelude' where cimbalom, a Hungarian instrument similar to zither but played with mallets, creates a truly distinctive, haunting atmosphere of mania and unease. This is carried on through other cues like the driving, frenzied 'Death on the Centrifuge', although the change of pace with acoustic guitar on 'Viva La Amour' is a surprising counterbalance and gives the music some added depth. Rozsa's work here is well worth seeking out and is probably the best thing on this CD in terms of technical invention and skill.

Ken E. Jones' 'Main Title' for Tom Thumb (1958) in contrast is a straight-forward, likeable, sprightly, at times romantic, if rather brief essay on the film's two major themes, and in similar vein is Leigh Harline's The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (1962). This though forgoes the romance for jaunty humour which works rather nicely. Less successful is Frank De Vol's score for Doc Savage-Man of Bronze (1975), a campy, ill conceived comic book romp that adapts marches by John Philip Sousa, particularly 'The Thunderer', as a key theme. Your admiration for this tongue-in-cheek approach will be dependent on your own taste and sensibilities. As stand alone music it is actually reasonably entertaining with one or two touches of imagination in the incidental suspense music ('Doc Confronts the Assassin/Assassin Jumps', 'Final Confrontation') but is ultimately more of a curiosity rather than something that will draw listeners back for repeat plays.

Supported by a well presented booklet this offering from the always interesting La-La Land Records deserves support and praise. It gets my thumbs up at least.

Mark Hockley

***(*) 31/2

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