Way, way back in 1970 when I was hardly knee-high to a grasshopper I was handed an American LP on UA Records titled Forest Of The Amazon, a large-scale orchestral work by the premier Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos for soloist Yma Sumac, orchestra and chorus. This, I was assured, constituted the rejected score for MGM’s 1959 film Green Mansions, which starred Audrey Hepburn, Anthony Perkins and Lee J Cobb. I was a little sceptical. I had not seen the film at that point – but it did crop up on TV the following year – and indeed much of the thematic material for Forest Of The Amazon did emerge in one guise or another via Bronislau Kaper’s score for the movie – although I think at that time I missed the onscreen credit for Villa-Lobos’ contribution.
Apparently Villa-Lobos was commissioned to compose the score – and he would seem the right man in the right place for the task, the film being set deep in the forests of the Amazon - but it transpired that many of the intricacies of matching music to picture eluded the Brazilian composer and finally it was decided that the noted MGM staff composer Bronislau Kaper adapt Villa-Lobos music and contribute from his own muse where thought necessary. In the final analysis the majority of the score was essentially Kaper, albeit utilising much of Villa-Lobos’ basic thematic material and some of his florid orchestral colourings, although Kaper’s much denser musical palette does equally dominate. Villa-Lobos’ original compositions did indeed later emerge as the concert work Forest Of the Amazon, originally recorded as a forty minute suite but later better served by a complete recording at closer to seventy minutes.
The score for Green Mansions is generously presented on this disc and it never falters for a moment in all its glorious seventy-nine minutes – from its impressionistic opening to the film’s gripping first scene – a chase sequence recognisably scored in Kaper’s most demonstrative mode. But overall impressionistic qualities do preside, the mystery and awe of the rain forest almost tangibly evoked through ravishingly rich orchestrations. Villa-Lobos’ original motifs flit in and out of the symphonic texture like exotic birds on the wing whilst Kaper’s own winning key melody “Song Of The Green Mansions”, wears its musical heart more on its sleeve reminding that this is, after all, a Hollywood score, but one par excellence nonetheless. If Kaper does truly comes into his own then it is for the film’s more sinister moments and action sequences, for which he creates darkly hued timbres and potently intense passages of musical mayhem – and there are energised passages here that predate Kaper’s inventions for his Mutiny On The Bounty score several years later.
The score for Green Mansions is an extraordinary fusion of two quite individual musical talents who seem to compliment each other perfectly here. If the film has dramatic deficiencies, and it does, then these are almost compensated for by a score at once exotic, atmospheric, exciting, and melodically munificent. When one of the world’s leading classical composers and one of Hollywood’s most prodigious talents forge forward together so spectacularly then the listener can only be the fortunate beneficiary. And thankfully, finally, after forty-six years this exceptional score is available commercially – if you like your film music dazzling, vividly coloured and brimming with copious invention then this disc of Green Mansions is a bounty to be desired. And as if all this sumptuous stereo music were not enough in itself there is a sterling and lavishly illustrated twenty-four page booklet which informs us of everything we might ever want to know about this film, its unusual scoring history and the music on the CD.
Film Score Monthly News Release:
This doubleheader features two Colpix Records LPs: Lord Jim (1965) and The Long Ships (1963). Both are melodic symphonic scores from historical adventures.
Lord Jim was filmmaker Richard Brooks' adaptation of Joseph Conrad's novel about a disgraced British seaman (Peter O'Toole) who seeks redemption in the furthest reaches of Southeast Asia. Bronislau Kaper's transcendent score -- one of the last major works from the composer of Mutiny on the Bounty and other epics -- features a powerful main theme and beautiful secondary melodies for Jim's spiritual journey and romance with a native girl (Daliah Lavi). The balance of Kaper's score features symphonic action music as well as authentic source cues for gamelans.
The Long Ships was a Viking adventure directed by renowned cinematographer Jack Cardiff. Somewhat goofy in tone, it starred Richard Widmark as a flippant Norseman and Sidney Poitier as a Moorish sheik in a race for a "Golden Bell" which contains the lion's share of the world's gold. The score by Yugoslavian composer Dusan Radic is an exciting sword-and-sandal-style effort with a stirring main theme and rhythmic setpieces.
FSM's premiere CD of Lord Jim/The Long Ships features each LP program remastered from the original 1/4" stereo album tapes. New liner notes are by Jeff Bond and Lukas Kendall.
- Main Title/Chase/River Boat 5:24
- Abel and Jaguar 3:38
- Dead Jaguar/The Village 2:23
- My Name is Abel/Kuako 1:57
- At the Pool/First Visit 4:04
- Rima's Face/Rima/Nameless Chord 2:30
- The Snake 3:04
- Where is Your Mother?/Vultures/Look/The Flower 7:42
- It's Gold/The Shuttle 2:24
- Is It You?/The Prayer 5:37
- Riolama 1:26
- The Young Man 3:01
- Nevertheless/Avoc, Didi/Marake 6:57
- Which Way? 2:03
- Escape 2:27
- Natives Return/Natives Foiled 3:28
- Nuflo's Story 2:08
- You Will Go/Ruins/The Cave/Digging 10:08
- Fire/Dead Fawn 3:29
- Fight 2:20
- End Title 3:03