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December 2005 Film Music CD Reviews

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

index page/ monthly listings/ December/

The Devil at 4 O’Clock/The Victors  
Music composed and conducted by George Duning/Sol Kaplan
The Devil at 4 O’Clock
Orchestrated by Arthur Morton
Recorded at Columbia Pictures Studios, Hollywood, California
The Victor
Orchestrated by Wally Stott
“March of the Victors” lyrics by Freddy Douglass
Recorded in London, England
  Available on Film Score Monthly – FSM Vol.8, No.9
[Devil]: 31:05 [Victor]: 38:46 Total Running Time: 70:58
Amazon UK   Amazon US

The debt owed by the present generation of film score afficiandos to the crew at Film Score Monthly can surely never be repaid. But sometimes in the hype surrounding some of their more popular releases – for example the recent re-issue of John Barry’s superlative King Kong LP or the expanded CD-set of Bronislau Kaper’s Mutiny on the Bounty – less-renowned-but-worthy scores fall between the cracks. So it is with this pairing of CD-issues of Colpix catalogue titles – George Duning’s The Devil at 4 O’Clock and Sol Kaplan’s The Victors.

Duning’s score for the 1961 Spencer Tracy – Frank Sinatra disaster movie is surely one of the best scores written for a film about the wrath of a volcano, falling behind Delerue’s Joe vs the Volcano, but well-ahead of Silvestri’s Volcano and Frizzell’s Dante’s Peak. The idiom is symphonic, the score concept essentially leitmotif-driven. With all the power of Goldsmith’s Capricorn One or Waxman’s Taras Bulba main titles, ‘Devil at 4 O’Clock – Main Title’ thunders to attention with a driving ostinato for low strings and bellicose brass before a soaring orchestra and choir performance of the main theme, the melody also recalling Waxman’s Taras Bulba.

The gorgeous love theme is established in ‘Theme for Camille’ – a string-and-woodwind rhapsody evocative of innocence and sincerity. The driving ostinato returns for ‘Up the Mountain’ in a more extended performance, leading into an section of impressive pizzicato before a new optimistic theme appears. ‘Didn’t You Know’ is a musical portrait of flirtation – a swaggering motif for flute with light cymbal hits represents Frank Sinatra’s amoral Harry, while the more wholesome Camille is represented by her theme for strings and woodwinds. The duel between the two characters is superbly and poetically evoked in the music over the course of the lengthy cue.

The volcano re-asserts its destructive power in ‘Wail for a Village’, which moves from dissonant flute trills to a choral elegy which plays as unintentionally comical due to the use of percussion quite reminiscent of Danny Elfman’s oompa-loompa music from the recent adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Duning’s distinct action music style is showcased in ‘Big Quake and Trek’ (note a four-note motif in the woodwinds that should be very familiar from the scores of James Horner), before a solemn set of iterations of the main theme are passed through the orchestra. A new theme dominates the action setpiece ‘The Lava Trap’ – a highlight of the album. Duning’s use of the low-end of the piano range here anticipates Goldsmith’s use of that device.

Each track in the brisk album presentation offers up a fresh direction for the score. The main theme is more optimistically presented in ‘A Fleur’, with a lovely passage for piccolo. The woodwind melody in the latter half of ‘Dead Child’ is heartbreaking (and the sound quality particularly impressive). A sprightly (and it must be said – saccharine) version of Camille’s theme dominates ‘I Thee Wed’, for the wedding of Sinatra’s character and Camille.

The score closes with a powerful duo. Solo cello and flute lead the way for the theme for Spencer Tracy’s Father Doonan in ‘Prayers for Charlie’, ending with a solemn choral elegy that is in no way humorous. This is the first time Doonan’s theme appears in the film, and one wishes another variation from the extended score was included in place of the more banal music in ‘I Thee Wed’. ‘Farewell to Camille – End Title’ reprises all the main themes – Harry’s, Camille’s, Doonan’s, and the main title as events work to their tragic close and the survivors of the volcano weigh up what they have lost.

Duning’s score would be a hard act to follow for any composer, and the fundamentally differently nature of The Victors – an anti-war film from writer-director Carl Foreman about Allied soldiers moving through war-torn Europe – puts Sol Kaplan’s score at something of a disadvantage. It is considerably more eclectic, the score concept rooted in counterpointing Foreman’s realistic scenes of human degradation with the music of humanity – popular styles. Nonetheless, Kaplan’s journey through pop culture idioms makes for a fascinating musical journey when taken on its own.

The ‘Main Title’ is an orchestral march so jubilant it could, as the liner notes indicate, have accompanied a jingoistic newsreel, and is presumably used ironically in the film. The end of the track introduces the theme for soldier’s mateship – a ‘love theme’, if you will, for the fraternity of soldiers. This theme is given a concert arrangement of sorts in ‘My Special Dream’, as sentimental a theme for friendship as you could hope to find, and presumably also ironic up to a point. The piece moves from a music box source music to a fully symphonic arrangement. The theme forms the basis of the ‘The Olive Grove’, the orchestration evoking the drunken-ness of the soldiers in the scene. Latin percussion and jazz trumpet follow for ‘The Wolf Pack’, and a mandolin-dominated love theme for ‘Signora Maria’. ‘Off Limits’ is a cabaret piece – appearing as source music in the establishment of a German woman the soldiers come across.

One of the few pieces of traditional orchestral underscore is the theme for ‘Jean-Pierre’, a childlike motif that transforms into a polyphonic nightmare through orchestration as it is discovered that the titular French child was prostituted by the late-departed Germans. An album highlight is ‘The French Woman’ – opening with a duet for flute and cello so heart-rending it is worthy of Barry or Delerue.

The popular music arrangements pick up again in ‘No Other Man’ – a lounge piece for piano, percussion and two trumpets (playing counterpoint with each other) that serves as source music in the film. The cabaret returns in ‘Magda’s Theme’, with a more downbeat setting of the melody from ‘Off Limits’ for jazz trumpet and piano as one of the soldiers gets involved in a relationship with Magda. ‘Sweet Talk’ presents the last of the score’s many memorable themes, a gentle love theme for Helga. The end of the track transitions to a dissonant orchestral passage for ‘Death Fight’, ending in an ironic statement of ‘My Special Dream’. Kaplan overplays the irony with the ‘End Title’, featuring lyrics about the brave young soldiers that are a bit too insincere to be funny. The sprightlier versions of all the main themes are combined in ‘Overture’, an awkwardly edited piece which nonetheless demonstrates Kaplan’s adeptness at working with different popular musical idioms throughout his score.

Both scores are fine works by composers who are remembered these days more for their contributions to the Star Trek TV series than their feature scores. Fans of the symphonic approach to scoring will get more than their money’s worth with Devil at 4 O’Clock, while Kaplan’s score will appeal more to those whose tastes are a bit more eclectic. Those who appreciate the different dramatic roles music can play in films should enjoy both, and hopefully these LP reissues will be a good seller for Film Score Monthly. Their production standards set the standard as usual – with superb original liner notes by Jeff Bond and Lukas Kendall and reproduced liner notes from the original Colpix LPs. Sound quality is strong given the age of the material for the most part, with the liner notes explaining some of the awkward elements in two of cues from The Victors.

Michael McLennan


Film Score Monthly News Release:

This CD features two soundtrack LPs from the Colpix Records catalog: The Devil at 4 O'Clock (1961) and The Victors (1963). Colpix Records (1958-1966) was set up to release soundtracks from Columbia Pictures, but over time its catalog has changed hands; it is today controlled by Rhino Entertainment Company, who have licensed these albums to FSM. The LPs could not be expanded, but each makes its CD debut here -- at a special lower price.

The Devil at 4 O'Clock starred Spencer Tracy and Frank Sinatra in an early "disaster" movie involving a volcano annihilating a South Pacific island. The excellent score by George Duning (Picnic, Toys in the Attic), one of his last for Columbia Pictures, features engaging melodies and action sequences -- a solid symphonic score that is highly enjoyable. Duning was a gifted melodist and The Devil at 4 O'Clock includes one of his quintessential love themes.

The Victors was an unusual "message" film written, directed and produced by Carl Foreman. The film follows a group of American troops (including George Hamilton, George Peppard and Eli Wallach) during World War II and shows how they are devastated by the conflict -- albeit largely in peacetime, not combat. The unorthodox score by Sol Kaplan is used to melancholy, ironic effect in the picture, often as source music. It is symphonic but with a "pop" flavor, like newsreel and radio music drifting in from the past.

Part of the justification for pairing these two soundtracks -- besides licensing exigencies -- is that George Duning and Sol Kaplan later contributed music to the original Star Trek series. The Devil at 4 O'Clock sounds exactly like a feature-film version of Duning's Trek scores, while The Victors sounds almost nothing like Kaplan's Trek music.

These two Colpix LPs are presented in stereo sound, remastered from the 1/4" album tapes. A Frank Sinatra performance of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" from The Victors (unrelated to Kaplan's score) has been omitted due to licensing restrictions; it can be heard on an existing Sinatra CD. The booklet includes liner notes from past LP editions plus new commentary by Jeff Bond and Lukas Kendall.

Track Listing:

The Devil at 4 O'Clock: Music Composed and Conducted by George Duning
  1. Devil at 4 O'Clock -- Main Title 1:40
  2. Theme for Camille 1:56
  3. Up the Mountain 2:24
  4. Didn't You Know 5:52
  5. Wail for a Village 1:40
  6. Big Quake and Trek 1:51
  7. Lava Trap 3:57
  8. La Fleur 1:40
  9. Dead Child 1:43
  10. I Thee Wed 1:56
  11. Prayers for Charlie 3:17
  12. Farewell to Camille -- End Title 2:31

  13. Total Time: 31:05
The Victors: Music Composed and Conducted by Sol Kaplan
  1. The Overture 4:03
  2. Main Title 2:14
  3. The Olive Grove 2:57
  4. The Wolf Pack 2:14
  5. Signora Maria 2:38
  6. Off Limits 2:14
  7. My Special Dream 2:37
  8. Jean Pierre 3:16
  9. The French Woman 2:47
  10. No Other Man 3:16
  11. Magda's Theme 3:25
  12. Sweet Talk and Death Fight 3:54
  13. March of the Victors -- End Title 2:29

  14. Total Time: 38:46

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