Spring 2005 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Marc Bridle
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

index page/ monthly listings/ April/



Mutiny on the Bounty (1962)  
Music composed Bronislau Kaper
  Conducted by Robert Armstrong
  Available on Film Score Monthly Vol. 7 No. 16
Running Time: 297:09 (Total)
Disc 1: 79:15
Disc 2: 79:01
Disc 3: 79:53
Purchase from: Film Score Monthly Vol. 7 No. 16
Film Score Monthly, 8503 Washington Boulevard, Culver City, CA90232; Tel: 1-888-345-6335; overseas: 310-253-9595; fax: 310-253-9588 e-mail: Info@filmscoremonthly.com

Amazon UK   Amazon US

3CD set featuring the complete original soundtrack, alternative recordings and the original re-recorded 1962 LP tracks.

This, the 100th title issued by Film Score Monthly, is a massive album. A three CD set offering almost 4 hours of music from the 1962 version of Mutiny on the Bounty. The music is divided into three sections; 'Film Recordings', featuring the complete original score, 'Alternate Recordings', including cues recorded for but unused in the final release cut of the feature, and 'Bonus Material', including further alternate cues and tracks as arranged and recorded for the original 1962 soundtrack LP. Packaged in a beautifully produced 'clamshell' case, the lavish booklet is everything and more we have come to expect from FSM, filled with pristine colour stills, poster reproductions and detailed notes on the making of the film, the composer, and each and every track on the CDs. The whole is, not unlike the film it celebrates, a massive and somewhat daunting production. For more details about the album contents see the FSM press release and track listing below this review.

1962 was the height of the super-spectacular 70mm road-show blockbuster era, and following the massive success of MGM's 1959 Ben-Hur, a version of which had been produced to huge popularity in 1925, the studio looked into the archives for other properties suitable for relaunching as widescreen 70mm Technicolor epics. Thus three years after Ben-Hur, came a new MGM production of Mutiny on the Bounty, a title which in its 1935 version took home an Oscar for Best Picture besides seven other nominations. The new film starred Marlon Brando and Trevor Howard, and recounted one of the most famous adventures in British naval history. Argument continues over which screen version of the tale is the best - personally the 1983 film The Bounty, with Anthony Hopkins and Mel Gibson, remains one of my favourite movies - but the 1962 version is unarguably the most lavish and spectacular, marred perhaps most by a highly eccentric performance by Brando as Fletcher Christian. What is not in dout is the stature and scale of the score, the crowning glory in the career of Bronislau Kaper, who if not one of the star names of the Golden Age of film music, remains a major composer with around 160 films to his name, from now forgotten German films from the early 30's to songs for the Marx Brothers' A Night at the Opera and A Day at the Races, to Gaslight, Them! And Somebody Up There Likes Me.

MGM had originally wanted Miklós Rózsa, the studio's undoubted champion of the epic film score (he had scored the 1959 Ben Hur, as well as King of Kings, and was then currently working on El Cid) to pen the music. But Rózsa wanted nothing to do with the project, so eventually, and justly - given one of his first Hollywood assignments had been to contribute an uncredited song to the 1935 version of Mutiny on the Bounty - scoring duties fell to Kaper. The result is a fresh and vital score with an energy quiet different in sensibility from Rózsa's Hungarian folk-rooted style, a musical world which rightly sets the film apart from MGM's previous Biblical epics.

Here the music may have something of the pomp and glory of Miklós Rózsa's style spectaculars, but equally draws upon the by 1962 well established template of the swashbuckling adventure score, dating back to Korngold's Captain Blood (1935) and The Sea Hawk (1940), but also the likes of Robert Farnon's Captain Horatio Hornblower (1950). Other MGM epics show influence too - early on in the score, in 'Main Title/Portsmouth Harbor (sic)' Kaper introduces a folk-dance theme which could have stepped right out of Jerome Moross' score for The Big Country (1958). Then again, the influence of the score on future productions is evident in 'Leaving Harbor' - if you ever wondered where Jerry Goldsmith found his influence for the Starship Enterprise 'Leaving Drydock' look no further…

The range of Kaper's score is considerable, from the powerful crescendo finale of 'Making the Horn' through the stunning set-piece 'The Storm' to wonderfully triumphant music for the rounding of the Cape of Good Hope, through the dramatic and tense sequence where the crew of HMS Bounty first encounter 'Tahitians' - pungent, stabbing brass in violent collision with relentless ethnic drumming… Then there is the exceptional 10-minute set piece which brings the film to its intermission, a blistering sequence climaxing with 'Outrigger Chase/Prisoners' and the introduction to the intermission itself.

And that's just half the film. The score turns darker once the lights dim again, with many terse, brooding and darkly anguished cues - for example 'Breadfruit Overboard' - which while highly effective in context do make for a protracted listening experience. As indeed does the morbidly expressive 15-minute finale montage of 'The Vote/They've Given Up/Gentle/Christian's Death/Definite End'.

This is clearly a film score of the highest order, though hearing every last note through several times  - running a total of 100.57 - could almost be enough to drive a music reviewer to mutiny.

That said, there are more gems among the 'Alternate Recordings', including a more brooding, mysterious opening, for a version of the film which was to have been cast in flashback. Many tracks are longer versions of pieces featured in the complete score, or cues presented in a different orchestration or arrangement. For instance, 'The Storm' is 5.02 long in its complete version, a full two minutes longer than the version which appeared in the finished film. Also radically different is the version of 'Tahitians' which features a symphonic score throughout, dispensing entirely with the native percussion used in the final film version, while an alternative version of "Follow Me' dispenses with the native choir featured in the final version. The alternate version of 'Sea Water' is far more dynamic and aggressive than the film version, but also only around one third the length.

The alternative music is essentially the same, but there are differences in timings, and often the emphasis is more intense, aggressive and menacing. There are also cues unused in the completed film, including a rousing set piece for the Mutiny itself.  There are also several more playful cues which were deleted from the latter part of the film: for instance the sprightly 'The Bird'. Meanwhile the finale, returning to the framing device which originally enclosed the flashback structure of the film, the music is largely different in the closing moments.

Personally I found myself preferring many of the alternate cues to the versions used in the film simply because they prove to have a harder, more propulsive edge. Perhaps as conceived with this music the film would have had great impact, erasing any hint of sentimentality delivering a modern tightly honed, less commercially compromised feature.

As for the 'Bonus Material', these tracks, some 44 minutes worth, are really yet more alternate cues, plus some material as originally presented on the 1962 soundtrack album. Here we enter the realm of the serious film music fanatic who must have everything, but again, the music is here for those who love it so much they really must have four hours of material from the movie.

Sound is generally excellent throughout, though some of the cues with native percussion sound decidedly less hi-fi than the orchestral recordings.  Packaging is as previously mentioned, first rate.

This is an absolutely essential purchase for serious fans with the money to spare as this is a classic action adventure score forming a bridge between the Golden Age of film music and the tradition which still continues today in the better summer blockbusters. Perhaps though, were it legally possible, FSM should have released a single disc edition of highlights which could have captured a much broader audience.  Nevertheless, a hugely significant release and a vital addition to any film music collection.

Gary Dalkin

Disc One
  FILM RECORDINGS (June and September 1962)
1. Overture 4:37
2. Main Title/Portsmouth Harbor 4:23
3. Leaving Harbor 3:27
4. Two Dozen Lashes/Men Break Ranks 3:48
5. Bounty/Chart 1:12
6. Making for the Horn 2:07
7. Norman 0:41
8. The Storm 3:02
9. We've Lost 1:08
10. Whiplashing Montage 2:53
11. Tahitians 4:50
12. Maeve, Maeve/Te Manu Pukarua/Go On Then/Girls and Sailors 3:48
13. Follow Me (Love Song) 3:07
14. Rule Britannia/Rubbing Noses/Lovemaking Montage/Potting Shed 3:57
15. Maimiti/Goodbye Maimiti/Deserters and Outrigger Chase/Prisoners/Intermission 9:47
16. Tahitian Drums/Entr'Acte 3:47
17. Maururu A Vau (Tahitian Farewell Song)/Dead Plant 2:50
18. The Ladle 1:19
19. One 1:44
20. Keel Hauling -- Headsails and Fores'ls 4:52
21. Sea Water 2:47
22. Breadfruit Overboard 1:41
23. Back to Tahiti/Torea 1:56
24. Maimiti Go Too 4:32
Total Disc Time: 79:15
Disc Two
1. Searching/Wrong Chart and Pitcairn 6:19
2. The Vote/They've Given Up/Gentle/Christian's Death/Definite End 15:20
3. Main Title/Prologue/Chanties 6:29
4. Leaving Harbor 3:31
5. Bounty/Chart 2:04
6. Making for the Horn 3:32
7. The Storm 5:02
8. Whiplashing Montage 2:40
9. Tahitians 5:14
10. Native Folk Song/Kids and Leis/Go On/Girls and Sailors 4:24
11. How Very Sweet 2:46
12. Maimiti/Goodbye Maimiti/Chase/Prisoners/Plotters and Intermission 9:59
13. Dead Plant 1:31
14. The Ladle 1:45
15. One 1:54
16. Keel Hauling/Headsails and Foresails 4:49
17. Sea Water 0:58
Total Disc Time: 79:00
Disc Three
1. The Mutiny 3:21
2. Breadfruit Overboard 2:20
3. Tofoa Be Damned 1:05
4. Burial Service 2:02
5. Maimiti Go Too 4:14
6. After Court/Wrong Chart/Pitcairn 5:13
7. The Bird/Little Mutiny 1:18
8. The Vote/They've Given Up/Gentle/Christian's Death and Epilogue 15:21
(Additional & Album Versions)
9. Overture Introduction (alternate version) 0:29
10. Theme From Mutiny on the Bounty (album track) 2:18
11. Leaving Harbor (intermediate version) 2:38
12. Two Dozen Lashes/Bounty (intermediate version) 0:28
13. Making for the Horn (intermediate version) 1:41
14. Whiplashing Montage (intermediate version) 3:00
15. Arrival in Tahiti (album track) 3:16
16. Ori E Ori E/Te Manu Pukarua (Native Festival Music) 2:12
17. Girls and Sailors (album track) 1:56
18. Love Song From Mutiny on the Bounty (Follow Me) 2:11
19. Torea/Tahitian Drums (Native Festival Music) 2:18
20. Rule Britannia/Lovemaking Montage (alternate version) 3:47
21. Outrigger Chase (album track) 2:01
22. Burial Service (alternate version) 2:01
23. Pitcairn Island (album track) 1:49
24. Christian's Death (album track) 4:40
25. Tahitian Outtakes 3:43
26. Leaving Harbor (album track) 2:37
Total Disc Time: 79:50

FSM Press Release

Because YOU demanded it! (...and had no idea what you were getting into!)

Mutiny on the Bounty (1962) was a gargantuan roadshow production from the end of the Golden Age of Hollywood. The film's true-life story is known the world over: how First Officer Fletcher Christian led a revolt against the tyrannical Captain William Bligh on the H.M.S. Bounty in 1789. The story has been filmed multiple times -- most famously by M-G-M in 1935, and more recently in 1984 -- and the 1962 production was M-G-M's attempt to recapture their earlier success, with Marlon Brando as Christian and Trevor Howard as Bligh.

The film made more news for its behind-the-scenes troubles than on-screen drama: Brando was famously difficult and the production went over-schedule and over-budget, along with Fox's Cleopatra nearly sinking the studio system. Although originally assigned to Miklos Rozsa the score was transferred to Bronislau Kaper, who had been at M-G-M so long that he had written the love song for the 1935 production. Mutiny would be Kaper's last work at the studio and a fitting musical triumph -- one of the essential works of the "roadshow" era of the Golden Age, and a classic symphonic score.

The score features three main themes: the mammoth, seafaring music for the Bounty itself; aggressive, menacing material for the mutiny; and a South Seas-flavored love theme (with lyrics by Paul Francis Webster). Huge musical set pieces accompany the Bounty's setting sail and ocean voyages; the crew's frolicking with the native Tahitians; the pursuit of a band of deserters; and the ship's eventual destruction. The score is large-scale in every way, and previous releases have merely hinted as to its power and scope.

With so much music in the film, it was a given that this release would be a 2CD set. However, the film's post-production was so protracted that each and every cue was recorded two and sometimes three times -- first in March 1962, then in June, and again in September and October. Fans have long known about the two different endings to the score which appeared on different editions of the LP -- those are here -- and so are each and every alternative orchestral cue, along with as much of the source music as would fit.

This release features three programs split over three CDs: Disc one and the beginning of disc two features the complete score as it is heard in the finished film. The remainder of disc two and beginning of disc three features a complete "alternative score" from the initial recording sessions -- as it was intended from March 1962. The remainder of disc three features album versions, additional source music, and additional alternative orchestral cues. All told, it is four hours of music on three CDs, all in stereo and remastered from the original six-track 35mm film.

The release comes in a "clamshell" jewel box with the three CDs and booklet inside. Liner notes are by Jeff Bond and Lukas Kendall. Due to the size of the production, the price is $34.95 -- and worth every penny!

Return to Index

Reviews from previous months

You can purchase CDs, tickets and musician's accessories and Save around 22% with these retailers: