Film Music Review
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9th Anniversary Special

This e-zine 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 were lost.

Nine years later FMR has grown to an extensive 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).

You can read previous anniversary comments at this links:

8th Anniversary

Up until a few years ago, Film Music Review focused mainly on new film scores.

Beginning 1 July 2006, a new policy was begun of reviewing mainly film music from at least a decade ago.

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.

See these specials celebrating the 9th anniversary of Film Music Review:

100 Essential Film Scores of the 20th Century

Remembrances of Rozsa by Steve Vertlieb

For this FMR 9th anniversary, here are 9 favorite film scores chosen by our reviewers...


My Favorite Nine

By Roger L. Hall

For this 9th anniversary, I have done the extremely difficult task of choosing my favorite 9 film scores. There are so many film scores I could choose but I decided to select these nine, listed in chonological order:

KING KONG (1933) -- this is the first major Hollywood film score and remains one of the best today. The music by Max Steiner perfectly matches the action and sentiment of this classic fantasy film. I first watched KONG in front of our family TV for one week in the mid-1950s when it had its TV premiere on "Million Dollar Movie" on WOR in NYC. I still remember the thrill I had from watching it each time and listening to Steiner's superb score.

THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938) -- Another film I first watched on TV, but in grainy washed out color. When it was restored and released on video I was amazed at the clarity and richness of the colors and the impressive sound of Erich Wolfgang Korngold's great score. Though it has been remade, this version with Errol Flynn as Robin Hood remains by far the best. I believe the Korngold score is one of the best ones every written for an adventure film.

CITIZEN KANE (1941) -- Now there are probably some who will disagree but I believe this is the greatest film score from the past. Bernard Herrmann's terrific score has all sorts of musical styles, from ragtime to waltzes to an aria from an imaginary opera. I can't think of any other film composer who has composed a score with so much depth and diversity. Herrmann had the luxury of working closely with Orson Welles and knew him from their work together at CBS Radio, where the infamous "War of the Worlds" was broadcast in 1938. The KANE film score makes an excellent compliment to this greatest of all American films.

THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES (1946) -- I love this film about three servicemen returning home after World War II. Hugo Friedhofer's touching film score adds just the right amount of sentiment hen it is needed. The opening scene of these servicemen returning to Boone City is among the most poignant in any film. For me, this is the greatest film ever made about the suffering and struggles of servicemen during wartime. Friedhofer's reinforces these feelings perfectly and the score is his crowning achievement in a long and distinguished career.

HIGH NOON (1952) -- It is hard to believe that there has never been a release of the complete soundtrack to one of the first of the so-called "adult westerns" from the 1950s. Dimitri Tiomkin's score and song were both Oscar winners and fully deserved that honor. His score uses the opening "Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin'" song as a motif throughout the film. As with David Raksin's great score for LAURA (1944)., HIGH NOON is an example of a monothematic film score, where a single theme dominates throughout. Tiomkin's did many western scores which included RED RIVER, RIO BRAVO, and THE ALAMO. The Russian-born Tiomkin turned out to be highly skilled at writing for the American West. His western film scores are among the best ever written and HIGH NOON stands right up there at the top.

VERTIGO (1958) -- This is the second Bernard Herrmann score on my list but I can't leave out one of his great Hitchcock's scores. Some people might prefer NORTH BY NORTHWEST or PSYCHO, but for me VERTIGO has the supreme Hitchcock film and score. Herrmann's music continues to dazzle and delight and his ability to write such intensely emotional music is just amazing. Like all the film scores on my list, I never tire of listening to this mesmerizing film score.

BEN-HUR (1959) -- Truly one of the greatest epic films ever made and the superb film score by Miklos Rozsa is one of the greatest film scores as well. Rozsa was a classically trained composer who delighted in doing research for the historical films he scored. This one doesn't contain any original Roman music since none survives, but does contain a few Greek melodic fragments that Rozsa found. But what is more important is Rozsa's deeply spiritual score that moves effortlessly between with dark and light melodic themes. A masterpiece of film scoing.

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (1962) -- Elmer Bernstein's simple and sensitive film score makes all the difference in this excellent film starring Gregory Peck. Bernstein's ability to keep his score childlike is an excellent example of using less to achieve more. This was Bernstein's favorite score and it is mine as well. It is a beautifully realized achievement in film scoring and deserves the praise it has received.

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977) -- Most fans of John Williams would probably pick STAR WARS over this film score but for me CLOSE ENCOUNTERS is a far more satisfying experience. When I spoke with Williams years ago and asked him to name his favorite film, he said it was usually the one he was working on, but then paused and said he probably preferred CLOSE ENCOUNTERS because it was such a great project to work on with Steven Spielberg. I agree with him and his memorable five note motif used for the aliens is a brilliant choice as well as his beautiful setting of "When You Wish Upon A Star" from Disney's animated film, PINOCCHIO. The final scenes have been compared to a supreme religious experience and that feeling is mostly due to the brilliant scoring by Williams. Even though some of the dialogue is awful and the family situations way over-the-top, this remains a magical film music excursion into a futuristic world of aliens that come to visit us and are friendly. The Williams score makes it even more hopeful that this "encounter" can be a revelation.

Roger Hall's 9 Favorite Film Scores:

KING KONG (1933) -- Max Steiner
THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938) -- Erich Wolfgang Korngold
CITIZEN KANE (1941) -- Bernard Herrmann
THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES (1946) --Hugo Friedhofer
HIGH NOON (1952) --Dimtri Tiomkin
VERTIGO (1958) -- Bernard Herrmann
BEN-HUR (1959) -- Miklos Rozsa
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (1962) -- Elmer Bernstein


My Favorite Nine

By Steven A. Kennedy

To celebrate the 9th Anniversary, here are a painfully chosen select 9 from the many amazing film scores created over the past half century. My criteria for selecting these had to do with 1) how did this music impact me when I heard it (i.e., did it stick with me)?, 2) how often do I find myself returning to these pieces to hear them?

So in historical order, I start with Herrmann’s score from THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1951). The cool opening main titles are what grabbed my attention when I heard this music for the first time. The odd combinations of instrumental color were also most intriguing to me. This film introduced me to a composer whom I later realized had written music for my favorite Hitchcock films. And this leads me to choose my second selection as well (somewhat out of order), PSYCHO (1960). Once you experience the music from this film you can’t not pay attention to film music.

It was not uncommon to catch part or all of BEN-HUR (1959) as the big weekend movie. There were bits and pieces of this score that appeared on pops recordings that made it into my music collection. Again, it was backtracking through Hitchcock’s SPELLBOUND and then other film noir, where I rediscovered Rozsa’s musical input.

As an adult, I finally caught the film TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (1962) and was hooked by Bernstein’s music over the opening sequence and later at it’s climax the music found a way to humanize and draw you into the children’s worldview in a way that no other film seems to have done since. I can’t even read Harper Lee’s book without hearing this music playing along.

In the middle years of cable, I used to watch AMC a lot and it was here that I first experienced the amazing film, WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOLFF? (1966). Alex North’s minimal score works so well in the film that you cannot realize how sparsely spotted the film is, but the thematic ideas build slowly through the film and finally Jerry Goldsmith recorded this fine score. Though it was on an old Charles Gerhardt recording that I first revisited hearing the score on its own.

I used to play the theme from Goldsmith’s CHINATOWN (1974) from an old movie and TV theme book I bought ages ago. It is the single most familiar theme from the composer’s output. It’s a classic bit of quick film scoring to boot.

Though I was an avid movie goer as a kid in the 1970s, it was not until a friend played me the first LP of STAR WARS (1977) that I became more than just a peripheral fan of film music. John Williams was the only film composer whose albums found their way into my LP collection over my classical music purchases. No other score album was played as much as this one throughout the next 10 years until I bought the CD boxed set from Twentieth Century Fox. And then there was RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981) yet another of the great Williams’ scores that caught my attention from the opening of the film and sent me to the record store to play over and over again.

It was pretty hard to delete a number of fine film scores written over the next few years, but college and grad school kind of took over my financial focus for a while. But in 1989, Kenneth Branagh’s massive HENRY V introduced me to another of my favorite composers, Patrick Doyle. The powerful choral sequence and engaging score material made me return to film music as a viable musical medium and rekindled my love for the genre.

While many of the scores mentioned above may never be remembered in the next fifty years, I would be surprised if the theme from Williams’ score for SCHINDLER’S LIST ever disappeared from the public memory. It was, for me, one of the reminders of transcendent musical experiences that continues to move me to this day.

So there you have it. Nine scores that still find their way to my ears more than others. Ask me the same question a year from now and it could be slightly different, but I do not think so.

Steven Kennedy's 9 Favorite Film Scores:

THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1951) -- bernard Herrmann
PSYCHO (1960) -- Bernard Herrmann
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (1962) -- Ellmer Bernstein
CHINATOWN (1974) -- Jerry Goldsmith
STAR WARS (1977) -- John Williams
RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981) -- John Williams
HENRY V (1989) -- Patrick Doyle
SCHINDLER'S LIST (1993) -- John Williams

To read two film music essays:

"Film Music for the Ages"

"The Cinema Century"

go to:

8th Anniversary Special



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