by David A. Koran
"Huh, huh-huh, huh... He said 'Herrmann'" - Butthead (from "Beavis and Butthead")
Yes, boys (and girls), I said Herrmann. After getting a treatment last month by Joel McNeely with the long awaited Psycho, Varese Sarabande resurrects the ailing 20th Century Fox Classics series by releasing, as complete as we know, the soundtrack to Journey to the Center of the Earth. 1959 saw the release of this movie starring Pat "The Milkman" Boone and James Mason, a rather 'campy', by today's standards, treatment of the Jules Verne classic.
The release is an excellent outing by Bernard Herrmann that was settled between such monumental pieces such as Vertigo and North by Northwest in 1958 and Psycho in 1960. It resides in a musical period that is most closely identified with "the Herrmann Sound", and this re mastered version helps capture it perfectly. The piece is very atmospheric and thematic in it's approach to the simple plot of taking a journey to the center of the planet and returning. It's a serious bit of ominous music, from the "Prelude" to "The Mountain/The Crater" cues, then it switches to some action-esque music for "Abduction", but only to then switch back for the continuing traverse down.
This is the type of film music that I believe, was intended to be noticed and add to the atmosphere of the movie. Most film music nowadays is centered around a rousing and whistle-able main and/or ending credits theme. The music in intentionally written to be mostly noxious and avoidable as lest to take away from the dialogue, action, or special effects. For those people who have a hard time swallowing the Harryhausen-type effects, Herrmann's music, in this instance makes up for it rather suitably.
The actual recording has weathered well it's several decades in the studio vaults, and is accompanied by several original stills and pieces of artwork. Although I believe the liner notes could have been a bit more copious, they will do for this much anticipated and well produced album.
Planet of the Apes - Jerry Goldsmith
One word for this album... "WOW!". It's the third release of this score on CD (once before by Intrada and Project 3), but it's the only time EVERYTHING has been included. Not lessening the fact that the complete version is here, accompanied by a suite from "Escape from the Planet of the Apes", but the most remarkable attribute is the sound quality. The score was recorded a little over 30 years ago but sound better than some scores recorded and released recently. I personally never cared much for the scored in it's previous releases, but this re-mastering has made me give it a second chance, especially with all the extra goodies. A work that could only top the co-release of Journey to the Center of the Earth.
Well, starting off with the "20th Century Fox Fanfare" sans the extension, we switch gears to the eerie and odd "Main Title". You can immediately tell the difference between the previous releases and this one, easily discerning every one of those carefully put and placed notes that helped make this score one of Goldsmith's best and most famous. Without further ado, sequentially, we are given two previously un released cues of the "Crash Landing" and "The Searchers" already taking it beyond the coolness of Intrada's previously expanded release. The last time I saw this film was in February at 1 am in the morning, but these pieces definitely added depth to the barren landscape of Lake Powell, Utah, which doubled as the surface on the "other Earth".
The uniqueness of the score is easily brought to your attention through the rather unique orchestrations and instrumentations within each piece. Many of those instruments heard are non traditional percussion, but are augmented quite well with electronic enhancements (echoes, etc.) as well as having synthesizers meshed into the mix. Many of these techniques are still mirrored today (successfully and unsuccessfully) by composers as Christopher Young, Basil Poledouris , and Hans Zimmer. "Be the envy of all your composer friends... use a Moog!"
The rest of the score pretty much follows in excellence, and even transcends the compositionally polar opposite, the "Suite" from Escape From The Planet of the Apes. This, as far as known was intended as being a comedic alternative to the first movie (this was, I believe, third in the series), but has all the trappings as the temp track for Bullitt or any Shaft movie. It's definitely tinged with the popular 70's style of film composing ushered in by Goldsmith, but also Lalo Schifrin, Elmer Bernstein, and Henry Mancini. It's a fun piece to listen to the contrast as well as trying to pick out it's original roots from Planet of the Apes.
The packaging is in quality to the Journey to the Center of the Earth release, but this time contains liner notes from Jeff Bond, one of our friends at Film Score Monthly. Overall, it's a joy to listen to and well worth buying even if you have the other releases. I just hope the rest of the Fox re-issues follow closely to these new footsteps.