Film Music Review
The Sammy awards






THIS ISLAND EARTH (and other alien invasion films)(2005)

Film scores and themes:

WAR OF THE SATELLITES (1958) - track 1/ playing time = 1:23
THIS ISLAND EARTH (1955) - tracks 2-28/ playing time = 37:42
EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS (1956) - track 29/ playing time = 0:47
THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS (1962) - tracks 30-47/ playing time = 20:10

47 Tracks (Playing Time = 60:12)

Produced by David Schecter and Kathleen Mayne. Radio Symphony Orchestra of Slovakia (Bratislava), Masatoshi Mitsumoto, conductor. Orchestral reconstuctions and music preparation by Kathleen Mayne. Recording Engineer: Hubert Geschwandtner. Slovakian digital editing: Vladimir Valovic and Herbert Geschwandtner. Recorded in Bratislava, Slovakia, Apri 14-25 1998.

Monstrous Movie Music MMM-1954

Rating: ***1/2


This is another long awaited CD release [see also MIGHTY JOE YOUNG]. The highlights of this compilation are the longer suites from THIS ISLAND EARTH and THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS.

The first track is from WAR OF THE SATELLITES with music by Walter Greene. This is from a low budget film that according to David Schecter's notes "was filmed in just over a week abd took promotional advantage of the recent Russian launching of Sputnik." Unfortunately the music sounds like it was composed just as fast and haphazardly. But considering that Walter Greene composed over 50 minutes of music, it doesn't make too much sense to provide only a less than two minute Main Title track. But maybe the rest of the score is as uninspired as the brief opening track.

But following that weak track is the CD title score, THIS ISLAND EARTH. This is one of the overlooked sci-fi gems of the 1950s. The music is also top notch. As usual with Uinversal-International films of the 1950s, more than one composer worked on the score. Most of it was done by the hardworking and underappreciated Herman Stein. Several additional cues were provided by Hans Salter and Henry Mancini. This is a film I vividly remember when it was released and I thought it was very well made with music that skillfully fits the film. I remember the promotional ad which proclaimed proudly: "Two years in the making!" Now that's no so long but in the 1950s when films were cranked out like mass-produced cars, this film required longer to get the special effects right. And it succeeds in that regard with effects that are still effective today, though the story is somewhat uneven, especially in the final scenes on the planet Metaluna. The music is a big asset to the mood and action of this sci-fi film.

The Main Title (1:48) is a memorable one and includes the "Metaluna theme." The other cues are also highly effective. Ample use is made of the Novachord, a forerunner of the synthesizer, which Schecter aptly writes "was a common Hollywood instrument for creating an atmosphere for out-of-the-ordinary subjects."

The cues contributed by Hans Salter are track 24 - "Flight from Metaluna" (2:13); track 26 - "Down to Earth" (1:36); track 27 - "End Title" (1:10); and track 28 - "End Cast" (0:19). Since Salter was such a pro at writing this kind of Universal film--Irving Stein reportedly called him, "The Master of Terror and Violence"-- he handles his job well enough. The same applies to a newer kid in town, Henry Mancini. He had more to do with CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON and other film projects. He is given only one track for THIS ISLAND EARTH: "Metaluna Catastrophe, Pt 2" (2:23), which demonstrates his promise of better things to come. In fact, as David Schecter mentions in his notes, that same Mancini cue was used in another Universal film, TARANTULA.

Following THIS ISLAND EARTH is the Main Title from one of Ray Harryhausen's ealy triumphs, EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS. Unfortunately it is all too brief, lasting less than half a minute! Once again why include only a short track from a film? This time it's from a cult sci-fi film. The Main Title music is by another underappreciated film composer, Daniele Amfitheatrof. There were many others as well, such as George Duning, Hans Salter, David Raksin and even Miklos Rozsa. Schecter mentions there are "approximately 50 cues" for this film. Why not include them all? Or else leave it out altogether. It's easy to miss this brief Main Title that sounds like a comma between two long paragraphs--to use a literary comparison.

Next comes another cult favorite, THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS. This has music by Ron Goodwin. But there was also an almost equal amount of music written by Johnny Douglas for this film. But years later, Douglas threw away his music manuscripts thinking nobody would be interested in his contributions to this sci-fi film. Fortunately, Ron Goodwin didn't throw his score away, because it's a very good one. I'd recommend you read very carefully David Schecter's detailed and interesting notes about the two composers to learn all about how difficult it was to complete the film.

The opening Main Title (2:03) contains a forceful brassy theme that sets up the mood of this highly unusual sci-fi film, loosely based on a 1951 novel by John Wynddom. The next track on the CD is titled "Greenhouse" (1:46) which begins in the low strings and moves with what Schecter calls a "treveling theme" for the Triffids. As with THIS ISLAND EARTH, most of the tracks are quite short, most lasting less than two minutes. But this score moves along at a good pace and incorporates enough variety that the short cues shouldn't bother anyone. This TRIFFIDS suite is convincingly conducted by music restorer, Kathleen Mayne.

Also don't forget to read the extensive notes in the 40 page booklet. David Schecter has done his research extremely well and it deserves special praise. There are numerous photographs of sample score pages, recording session photos, various contributors (including the Schecter family of David, Kathleen and Mollie Sue MacSchecter), and all the film composers.

The sound recording quality of this CD is upfront and very satisfying.

If you're a fan of earlier sci-fi, you should get much enjoyment from listening to this very good CD.


--Roger Hall, 18 February 2006


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