Film Music Review
The Sammy awards






8th Anniversary Special

This online webzine began online with Volume 1, Number 1 on 8 July 1998.

In that first issue there were 6 scores and 4 compilations reviewed, with the highest ratings going to Max Steiner's KING KONG (Marco Polo re-recording) and John Williams CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (Arista expanded CD). Due to a computer malfunction these reviews have been lost.

Now eight years later, FMR has grown from a few web pages to a multi-page e-zine with over 500 Book, CD, and DVD reviews posted. The previous reviews for Volumes 1- 7 of Film Music Review were on an AOL website (now closed).

There are still a few copies remaining of the reference book, A Guide to Film Music. But supply is limited so order your copy soon! Click on the link in the right column to order the guide, which comes with a free CD.

Up until recently Film Music Review focused mainly on new film scores.

Beginning 1 July 2006, a new policy has begun of reviewing only film music from at least a decade ago, or from the early 1930s to the early 1990s.

This has been to highlight vintage film music in an attempt to preserve it and is in keeping with the goals of the American Music Preservation web site. It is also in reaction to the low quality of many new soundtracks.

What follows are some thoughts by two reviewers on

Film Music for the Ages

By Roger L. Hall

Film music right now seems to be at a low point in its history.

Just about every film today gets a soundtrack album, often with lots of bad songs and a bit of score thrown in for good measure. This is a most unfortunate trend.

Many, but not all, of today's soundtracks just don't approach the level of excellence of past decades from film composers like: Elmer Bernstein, Jerry Goldsmith, Bernard Herrmann, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Henry Mancini, Alex North, Alfred Newman, Miklos Rozsa, Max Steiner, Dimitri Tiomkin, Franz Waxman, and Victor Young. All of these composers were film music masters working within a certain time or Age.

What are these "Ages"?

I would classify them according to various decades and have added links to a few soundtracks reviewed:

  • Golden Age (1930s - 1950s)
    -- from Max Steiner's KING KONG to Miklos Rozsa's BEN-HUR. This age featured mostly large orchestral scoring with movie studio orchestras handling most of the recording work. Some of the studios had very high quality standards, especially M-G-M, 20th Century-Fox and Warner Bros.
  • Silver Age (1960s - 1970s)
    -- from Bernard Herrmann's PSYCHO to Jerry Goldsmith's STAR-TREK:THE MOTION PICTURE). A turn away from the big lush studio orchestra sound to a smaller orchestral sound incorporating more rhythmically accented music.
  • Bronze Age (1980s - 2000s)
    -- from THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK by John Williams to today's film scores. The techniques include increased use of synth and ethnic music, as well full blown orchestral scores. A few examples:

    Naturally there are film composers that fit into more than one Age, such as Elmer Bernstein or Jerry Goldsmith or John Williams. But it is more their film scores that defines where they fit in time. So Bernstein's HAWAII (1966) would be in the Silver Age and his FAR FROM HEAVEN would be in the Bronze Age. The same would apply for Jerry Goldsmith, John Williams, Ennio Morricone, and John Barry.

    Just like with today's film soundtracks, there are some from the past which are not so good, such as several early film scores by James Horner, such as BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS and HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP.

Though it is better to hear the complete soundtrack, there are those who want to sample many of the great themes from the past. For them, there are many compilations available. One of the best is a 4 CD set from Silva: CINEMA CENTURY 2000. There are 55 themes included and they provide a good survey of film music from the 1930s to 1990s.

There are several outlets of film scores from the Golden and Silver Ages of remastered CD releases, such as: Film Score Monthly , Brigham Young University Film Music Archive (for example, Tiomkin's THE BIG SKY, and Marco Polo/ Naxos (Korngold's THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD.

There are also some Online services which offer interviews and selections from these scores. One of them is the very good four part series by Erik Woods, "A Tribute to Charles Gerhardt", with The National Philharmonic Orchestra performing film music by Golden and Silver Age composers: Herrmann, Korngold, Rozsa, Steiner, Tiomkin, and Williams.

Finally, I'd like to mention some of the fine producers who have given film music listeners many hours of listening pleasure.

These producers include (in alphabetical order):

  • James D'Arc
  • Ray Faiola
  • George Feltenstein
  • James Fitzpatrick
  • Lukas Kendall
  • John Morgan and William Stromberg
  • Ford A. Thaxton
  • Robert Townson

These and other producers have provided remastered or re-recorded CDs of older film music and deserve much praise for their efforts.

I salute them all.

The Cinema Century

By Steven A. Kennedy

As we are midway through the first decade of the 21 st Century, it is hard to imagine the multitude of musical scores yet to be uncovered.

The last decade has seen a real increase in discovering, or re-discovering, the great film music of the first 100 years of cinema. Yet, it is fascinating what is being explored, or ignored.

From the Silent Era, very little recording of scores has progressed. It is somewhat hard to believe that even a classical label has yet to embark on recording some of the early theater orchestra stuff. New World Records used to carry a recording of one of the great theater organs which featured some of this music. But interest in the early era of film music is lacking. Instead, we have many attempts at writing new scores like Carl Davis’ work on the Chaplin films (available from Silva) and more famously, Philip Glass’ score for DRACULA.

If you watch film music discussion boards, very little interest or conversation exists regarding anything from pre-1940. BYU continues to release Max Steiner scores but you really do not see much excitement about them. Thankfully, they are preserving his work for future generations to explore. Steiner helps provide a link to the Silent era methods of scoring while also moving film music into the Golden Age.



It would seem that most of Korngold’s music has been re-recorded or put to CD by now with varying success, but it surprises me that Waxman’s music is less known. Work on the movie studio system related to film music is still slowly getting attention. In some cases, it may be too late to track down everything.

A resurgence in interest in jazz from the 1960s has seen a few scores pop up here and there on CD from this era as well. It is a great way to hear orchestrations by many composers who would go on to film music careers. Of growing interest for me are the jazz scores by Henry Mancini, Johnny (John) Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, and Quincy Jones. They all are distinctly different but the overlap of orchestration approaches is fascinating to listen to from one score to the next. And, we are beginning to see lesser known scores from the 1970s and even 1980s get released.

As we get ready to focus our attention on older film music, it is odd that both SUPERMAN RETURNS and THE OMEN reused music from two films that were of primary influence to me as a pre-teen (at least with SUPERMAN).

While my personal interest in maybe hearing a great score from a new talent wanes with this decision, it also makes perfect sense as even this far into the New Year I have yet to hear anything that is really distinguishable. Unless you count ABOMINABLE…a score from Lalo Schifrin no less!



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