Film Music Review
The Sammy awards








Fantastic Voyage (1966)


13 Tracks (Playing Time = 47:50)

Album produced by Lukas Kendall and Nick Redman.  Music composed and conducted by Leonard Rosenman.  Recorded at Twentieth Century Fox Studios.  Original recording produced by Leonard Rosenman, 1966.  Score remixed by Michael McDonald, Private Island Trax, Hollywood, CA.  Edited and mastered by Daniel Hersch, d2 Mastering.  Revised master preparation by Mike Matessino.  Album art direction by Jim Titus.

La-La Land Records 1279

Rating: ****

 Limited edition of 2000 units.

Lukas Kendall’s Film Score Monthly magazine began a series of limited edition film score releases that lasted about a decade or so seeing many great scores get a full treatment on disc.  In their first year, the new label released FANTASTIC VOYAGE. 

Leonard Rosenman’s 1966 score was, and is, one of the great science fiction film scores of the 20th century matching a film whose visuals were quite stunning for their time and still impress to this day.  Based on a story by Otto Klement and Jerome Bixby, the Richard Fleischer film is about a team of scientists that are shrunk and inserted into the human body in order to save the life of a half-dead assassinated diplomat.  The film garnered Oscars for its art direction and special visual effects and further nominations for Ernest Laszlo’s cinematography as well as for film editing and sound effects.  Rosenman’s score, though overlooked by the Academy, manages to also provide the proper entry into this amazing tale. 

In a period where we are confronted with overbearing, wall-to-wall scoring, some may find it rather fascinating to note that the score for FANTASTIC VOYAGE does not even appear in the final film until some 38 minutes into its 100 minute playing time.

From the first few sounds of the “Main Title” place us firmly in musique concrete with a variety of sounds and effects that recall the work done in FORBIDDEN PLANET.  (The track is also subtitled “Sound Effects Suite”).  Moving into “The Proteus” we are firmly in Rosenman’s atonal musical world with repeated rows of material, sequenced that sounds also become part of a particular pattern, but a lyrical idea tends to cast itself across this musical landscape with an almost romantic Berg-like motion featuring occasional angular leaps.  There is much going on in this texture of dissonant harmony with delicate orchestration highlighting important thematic motifs.  One might even say some of the flourishes have an impressionistic quality at times (like the opening of “Channel to Ear”).  Using winds from lower in the sound spectrum, along with unusual couplings, also causes some rather fascinating results.  The music can also react with great drama as it supports on screen visuals.  “Get the Laser” has moments of more intense action pacing that helps further create tension (and features some of the more dissonant sections of the score).  What is most fascinating is that while Rosenman uses atonal approaches to this score, he helps make the music engaging by repeating important phrases in such a way that they can be discerned above these denser harmonic structures.  These become recognizable threads that help anchor the score superbly.  There are times when the music is obviously “Mickey-Mousing” a bit awith on-screen developments but Rosenman finds ways to make this feel so natural in his musical atmosphere that they work to create dramatic soundscapes.   When the music shifts in “Optic Nerve/End Cast” to a more traditional block harmony (along the lines of Roy Harris) the result is simply amazing and yet, the final bars repeat a similar row-like phrase before all is finished.  The result is the sort of mastery one often finds missing in film scoring today. 

The new La-La Land release is a straight re-issue of the FSM one from 1998, but it has been remastered with a resulting improved overall sound, courtesy of Mike Matessino, and a new essay from Julie Kirgo.  The long-out of print disc will be a welcome release for those who missed out the first time. 

FANTASTIC VOYAGE deserves an honored place in every film score fans music library.

—review by Steven A. Kennedy


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