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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 Time Machine  
Music composed and conducted by Russell Garcia
  Available on Film Score Monthly via Screen Archives: FSMCD Vol. 8, No. 13
Running Time: 52:57
Amazon US

See also:

  • The Fantasy Film Music of George Pal
  • Atlantis The Lost Continent
  • The Time Machine (2002)
  • The Time Machine is one of the few worthwhile attempts to film a classic science fiction novel, remaining much more faithful to HG Wells’ source material than George Pal’s previous Wells’ adaptation, The War of the Worlds (1953). And, based on the evidence here, as well as on FSM’s disc of Atlantis The Lost Continent, composer Russell Garcia could, had things turned out differently, joined the Hollywood A list.

    Garcia’s main theme evokes the nobility of Victorian England, while a secondary theme depicts the time travelling protagonist’s friendship with the character Filby, and has a folk-like quality very much in the English tradition. Both are strong, memorable melodies and occupy the territory well explored by such composers as Vaughan Williams, Alwyn and Finzi.

    What however makes Garcia’s score particularly distinctive is his inventive ‘science fiction’ music. While conventional strings effectively handle the more romantic and emotional side of the story, a three note motif for celesta and various shuddering, shimmering, whoosing soundscapes urgently propel the listener into a bold musical future appropriately years ahead of its time. Indeed, Garcia’s work here is as ground-breakingly inventive as the scores for such films as Forbidden Planet, Fantastic Voyage and Planet of the Apes, and what makes it particularly compelling is the way he often combines experimental sounds with romantic folk-like music and / or pungent, hard-hitting action music with all the violent gusto of a composer such as Miklós Rózsa.

    Garcia created his own effects for the futuristic aspects of the film, including the sound of the time machine itself. He noted, ‘I went in with three percussion men…and recorded all kinds of effects – hitting a musical saw with a soft mallet and wavering it, hitting gongs and holding a mike in the centre and gradually moving it out to the edge, and crinkling cellophane and blowing into gelatine with a straw, taking a knife along the edge of a table and making it vibrate and then bringing it in so it would make that b-r-r-r-r-u-u-u sound. Every kind of effect I could think of’. And it works so wonderfully well that coupled with tape manipulation and given a mix-down with more tracks than any other film to that date the result is still today sets the template for many a time travel adventure. Yet that was not the limit of the composer’s musical ambition, for in addition to his assorted effects and conventional orchestra he also added such instruments as: gourd, twanger, ratchet, sleigh bells, temple blocks, gongs, xylophone, vibraphone, chimes, cowbells, slide whistle, harpsichord and voice.

    The end product is one of the most iconic and definitive film scores in Hollywood history, and certainly one of the great science fiction scores. The orchestrations are endlessly creative and ever changing, such that the soundtrack is littered with dozens of memorable, ingenious, outstanding moments, far too many to single out in a review of a score which really would benefit from a detailed full length analysis if the composer were to be done justice. For that reason I have outlined the overall approach of the score and described the types of music to be found, rather than singling out any particular pieces.

    The orchestral music has been mixed from the original three track stereo scoring masters, while the sound effects have been interpolated from the only remaining, mono, source. The result is blisteringly powerful and filled with detail. One can only imagine how much more spectacular the album might have sounded had the effects multi-track source tapes survived, but as it is the disc is a thrilling, highly rewarding experience.

    Yet again FSM have delivered an essential addition to any serious film music collection.

    Gary Dalkin


    Film Score Monthly News Release:

    The Time Machine (1960) is one of the most memorable cinematic signposts of author H.G. Wells and filmmaker George Pal. The film stars Rod Taylor as George, a Victorian era-inventor (presumably Wells himself) whose time machine takes him through the turmoil of the 20th century to a distant future where mankind has been reduced to sheep-like Eloi harvested by cannibalistic Morlocks. The film boasts a winning performance by Taylor, imaginative visual effects, and one of the most distinctive props in the history of science fiction: the sled-like time machine.

    The score to The Time Machine was by Russell Garcia, whose earlier sci-fi concept album Fantastica had attracted Pal's attention. Garcia was a veteran of the Universal music department who scored two films for Pal at M-G-M: The Time Machine and the subsequent Atlantis: The Lost Continent.

    The Time Machine is by far Garcia's most famous work, a thrilling symphonic score bursting with the film's sense of wonder and adventure. Two themes stand out: the majestic main title theme for the story as a whole, and the heartfelt, British Isles-flavored melody for the relationship between George and his best friend, Filby (Alan Young). The score features full-blooded action music (for the terrifying Morlocks), a romantic variation on the main theme (for George's relationship an Eloi woman, played by Yvette Mimieux), and sound effects-styled but distinctly musical passages (influenced by the Fantastica album) for the operation of the time machine.

    This CD marks the premiere release of the original soundtrack recording for The Time Machine. (An earlier recording -- released on CD by GNP/Crescendo -- was a 1987 re-recording conducted by the composer in Germany, except for three brief tracks from the film itself.) The complete symphonic score is presented in stereo, with "effects" passages (which Garcia himself supervised and considered part of his score) interpolated in mono.

    Track Listing:

    The Time Machine
    1. Main Title/Credits/London 1900 3:11
    2. Terror/All the Time in the World/Fourth Dimension/Time Machine Model 2:49
    3. A Sick World/Warm Friends 2:24
    4. The Time Machine/People Scurry/Fast Change 2:59
    5. Ancient Auto 1:04
    6. A Good Friend Gone/Off Again/Quick Construction/Prayer/Sunburst/Land of the Eloi 4:54
    7. Beautiful Forest/Fear 3:11
    8. Rescue 1:40
    9. Weena 1:48
    10. Trapped in the Future/Night Scare 2:55
    11. Reminiscing 1:44
    12. The Time Traveler 2:42
    13. Morlocks/Fight/Escape 8:39
    14. Love and Time Return 2:38
    15. End Title 2:02
    16. Outtakes Suite 7:33

    17. Total Time: 45:20

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