Review: Egyptian, The
3 / 5 Stars
Imagine how amazing it would be if John Williams and Jerry Goldsmith collaborated on a film score together? Would the two film score giants be able to share themes and come together with a powerhouse score? Well, just such a scenario took place nearly 50-years ago. Bernard Herrmann and Alfred Newman worked together on the Fox film The Egyptian. The story focuses on a young physician to the poor named Sinuhe (Edmund Purdom) and how he destroys his life for a whore from Babylon, Nefer (Bella Darvi) while a poor barmaid Meryt (Jean Simmons) loves him - and he just doesn\'t see it. The film also deals with a rebellion between those who worship the Aton, the One God, and those who worship the old way - and how Sinuhe gets caught in the middle of a devious power play for the Pharoah\'s throne.
The score is epic and large - beginning with a triumphant brass fanfare, the "Prelude/The Ruins" has the obligatory epic choir, and the strings are sweeping as expected. The source music in "Crocodile Inn" (Newman) segues into a simpler theme played on a recorder in "Thebes" (Herrmann). More choir and percussion is heard in "Chant for Dead Pharoah" (Newman) - but it sounds more like "Aaahhhhhh" than an actual chant. I found Herrmann\'s action in "The Chariot Ride" to be more interesting, but then it segues into more "spiritual" music by Newman.
Herrmann\'s darker side peeks out a bit in "Taia", and a rather lovely string theme underscoring Nefer and her unobtainable beauty can be heard in "The Offering". In "The Deed", Herrmann refers to Newman\'s theme for Merit, as she witnesses him sign over his family\'s house and tomb to Nefer - all in hopes of obtaining her love. Since it\'s unobtainable, Sinuhe tries to kill her in "The Perfection of Love / Violence". A dark and brooding cue, "The House of the Dead / The Burial" is classic Herrmann. Finally in "Valley of the Kings" does Newman really contribute to the score, beyond the source cues and small themes heard thus far. It\'s a thematically rich cue, with distinct themes for Merit, Sinuhe, Thebes and the One God, Aton. Sinuhe leaves Egypt, having destroyed his family name, and ruined his life. He goes abroad and becomes a physician catering to the rich, only to return with a classic Herrmann chaos cue, "The Homecoming" - where he finds that civil war has broken out.
Newman\'s "Hymn to Aton" is a song with lyrics actually derived from ancient Egyptian texts. It\'s a nice choral work that evokes Newman\'s other religious epics. After a bunch of cues dealing with life returning to normal for Sinuhe, a dark dramatic cue ("The Princess / The True Pharoah / The Tomb") underscores the dark plan the Pharoah\'s sister has to kill her brother and take over the throne. But true mayhem ensues in "Danse Macabre", a frenetic and angry cue. Newman takes over the action with "Death of Merit, in which he uses his "Hymn to Aton" in a much darker way, as the Egyptian army slaughters the followers of Aton. As Merit lies dying, a tender rendition of her theme gently swells.
"The Death Potion" (Herrmann) and "Death of Akhnaton" (Newman) underscore the planning and execution of the Pharoah by Sinuhe and his best friend, Horemheb. The music is tender and Newman\'s cue is particularly moving - as the Pharoah is released from his mental anguish. With a large fanfare, ("I Am Pharoah / Horemheb\'s Victorious Entrance") Horemheb takes over the throne. After being exiled, Sinuhe dies years later, having told us his story. With a final reprise of the main theme, Newman wraps up the score to The Egyptian.
As usual, the liner notes are informative and insightful. But why on earth can\'t they color correct the photographs? For an example check out this link here. As for the music, it seems that Newman basically wrote the main themes and source music; Herrmann seemed to fill in the rest with his own material, and fleshing out Newman\'s themes. It\'s a rather good collaborative effort, but there are a few problems with this particular album. Due to some restoration issues, much of the score has been destroyed. But what was left has been presented on this album, is pretty much all that remains that is listenable. But the recording quality itself leaves much to be desired. There is an abundance of tape hiss and occasional distortion; there doesn\'t seem to be much of a low end so the music sounds rather flat and diminished. So the question is: do you take the original recording even if the sound quality leaves much to be desired? Or do you go for a re-recording (put out by Marco Polo) even though the performance might not be exactly the same as the one in the film? The decision is ultimately yours.
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