View from the Cheap Seats

Savoring Great Film Scores, Catching Up on Classic Blu-rays & George Hamilton

August 5, 2016 - 4:00 pm   |   by
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I think it’s time we caught up. Walking outside during this Oklahoma summer is like tasting something after it’s been in the microwave about eight minutes. The heat and stupidity started even before Memorial Day and has not abated. It’s like we’re living on Mars – I’ve been pricing those spacesuits which protected Matt Damon.

But thank goodness for the movies. Especially the kind one watches in the comfort of one’s own home. Let’s discuss.

Here’s a serious complaint – as I learned over the years, watching a great film is a multi-sensory experience – you see, you listen, you emote. And for me, always a major component of that experience is the music score. For those who pay attention, music is usually the heart of the movie – name a classic up through about 1990 or so for which you can’t hum a main theme. Or name a dud or two with a score that is better than the picture. [Read on here...]

I said 1990 because that’s when movie viewers such as I watched as film scores started their descent toward ineffectuality, actually where we stand today. Try to hum a melody from Batman v Superman or Spotlight or even a modern classic like The Lobster. Even toward the end of the golden age, there were those composing terrific scores – John Barry did Dances with Wolves (a score far better than the film) Ennio Morricone added luster to The Untouchables, and Jerry Goldsmith thumped over the opening credits of both Total Recall and Basic Instinct.

Come on, other than Randy Newman, name three terrific film composers working today? You can’t.

That’s why a company like Intrada is so essential for true film buffs. They find scores from classic movies, use modern recording techniques to bring the ear maximum pleasure, then release them to the waiting stereo systems for the sheer pleasure.

Here’s a case file study from yours truly – Olive Films, of which we’ll talk much more, recently released a slate from the terrific, later work of Otto Preminger. The other night I sat down to view the Blu-ray of Hurry Sundown. Now, we all know this picture is a little hokey and Michael Caine was totally miscast, but, compared to our choices in the local bijou, HS is solid and totally commands interest. Plus Olive’s transfer to Blu-ray is eye popping.

I’d known the name Hugo Montenegro for years – look him up on Spotify and he’s right up there with Andre Kostelanetz, Percy Faith, those kinds of guys who would worked under contact with record companies to arrange and record pop songs and put them on disc. I remember specifically having a 45 of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly theme by Hugo Montenegro, although, of course, it was written by Ennio Morricone.

For Hurry Sundown, I was surprised to see that Montenegro actually composed the score and that it was terrific – after the movie I went to YouTube and found some cuts. And also found that he had also scored the Duke’s The Undefeated, Sinatra’s Lady in Cement, and several Dean Martin/Matt Helm movies.

About a week later I got an email from Intrada announcing a new release of the score on CD, so I of course had to have it to feed my iPod and have listened lots since.

The True Grit Soundtrack albumWhat was your first soundtrack album? Mine was one of two – True Grit, because that was and is a bellwether film experience for me and Viva Max because, if you’ll recall from other musings I’ve posted, we watched it filming. I also remember The Sting because it was an early purchase with my own funds – from, believe it or not, giving piano lessons.

But then soundtracks were what I bought. I especially loved Henry Mancini, whose biography is a must read if you want to know the business side of scoring, composing, recording and music publishing. Of course, Oklahoma Crude was an early favorite, but I knew Pink Panther, and Baby Elephant Walk, and Peter Gunn and so on.

Intrada has lovingly released two of my favorite Mancini scores. First there’s The Great Waldo Pepper, a George Roy Hill/Redford picture that was a little odd in its day but which had an almost military march sort of feeling that’s pretty catchy. The other is Mancini’s score for Silver Streak, that I don’t remember being recorded before – or maybe I just didn’t have it. It’s a fantastic companion to the movie, one of Hank’s best – all railroad themed and fun.

Another favorite was Jerry Goldsmith, who, actually like Mancini, I was able to meet when I grew up. I remember distinctly seeing Goldsmith’s name on Planet of the Apes, as a kid but of course it was unknown to me at the time that those percussive sounds were the benchmark of a landmark movie score. I also had the Patton album and, I’m sure, others, but it was Chinatown that played on my turntable until the grooves wore off.

Intrada has released a total, revelatory soundtrack of Chinatown that offers what might be the loveliest, most appropriate film noir soundtrack ever.

Go to www.intrada.com and see for yourself. Their inventory is not just for the classics.

 

Olive Films & Catalog Indie Blu-ray Releases

Aside from Olive Film’s Otto Preminger releases, they’ve been busy cleaning up classic films for your viewing pleasure.

A real find this month from Olive is a 1984 made for Showtime feature called The Ratings Game, directed by and starring Danny Devito, which is a poor man’s version of Network but has its own share of laughs and indictments of the entertainment industry. Devito shows an early version here of the nasty business he would expound upon with movies like Throw Momma from the Train and War of the Roses. The Ratings Game is a great find by the folks at Olive.

Also from Olive is the Blu-ray edition of Stagecoach, starring all four Highwaymen in 1986; Otto Preminger’s Tell Me That You Love Me Junie Moon, a groovy comedy from 1970 with an early performance by Liza Minelli and a true family favorite from the late 60s called Yours, Mine and Ours, starring Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball in a sort of Brady Bunch type comedy. Go to olivefilms.com

The Gong Show Movie (Blu-ray Disc)The Shout! Factory has made your correspondent quite happy with their Blu-ray release of… yes, The Gong Show Movie, which brought Chuck Barris and the gang, including a topless Jaye P. Morgan, to the silver screen. I’ll bet I saw it five times in the theater and this classic has never been released in any home video format.

I used to skip last hour at Purcell High School in those pre VCR barely had cable days to watch The Gong Show, which, I realize now, was satirizing American Idol and other crappy shows of that ilk 40 years before they were ever on the air. I loved it then and watch you tubes of it now.

Actually, my friend Brad Copeland had Chuck on the radio several years ago and let me sit in. To even get to speak to this genius was an honor. I asked him then if episodes of The Gong Show would every officially be released on home video. His response?

“Who would ever want to watch that?” he said.

Go to the shoutfactory.com website and see the company’s other new releases like the semi disaster pics Rollercoaster, which I think was the last movie (unless it was Battlestar Galactica) released in Sensurround, and Two Minute Warning.

Shout! Factory is also keen on television releases, like The Bold Ones, both The Senator with Hal Holbrook, and The Defenders with E.G. Marshall.

Kino Lorber also, each month, offers terrific finds, usually restored to Blu-ray. A recent headliner is The Taking of Pelham 1… 2… 3 with Walter Matthau, Robert Shaw and Martin Balsam.

Pelham has grown in stature since its release – especially with the Denzel Washington/Tony Scott remake and I don’t remember the original being a box office smash. However, from the first time I saw Pelham in the theater, it’s been a favorite – the politics of New York, great villains and, of course, Matthau, one of the most versatile and off kilter leading men of all time. If one hasn’t seen this classic, Kino Lorber’s Blu-ray is a most own.

There’s more – John Huston’s legendary film of Moby Dick, with Gregory Peck and Orson Welles and a script by Ray Bradbury in Blu-ray, along with Robert Wise’s film noir The Captive City, and his adult romance Two for the Seesaw, with Robert Mitchum and Shirley Maclaine.

 For the serious film buff, KL has really dusted off some silent treasures by Fritz Lang – Spies and Woman in the Moon. All these are available at kinolorber.com.

Warner Archive is thrilling its fans by releasing several of their true, honest to goodness classics in Blu-ray. What started as a few releases every month or so, has now turned into an avalanche. These films are so well known and important they need no introduction.

How about musicals like Victor Victoria or Silk Stockings or The Unskinable Molly Brown or Bogart classics like To Have and Have Not or Father of the Bride or even 1973’s The Deadly Trackers with Richard Harris and Rod Taylor?

These Blu-rays are just part of the Warner Archive collection. Go to warnerarchive.com to see the catalog.

As we were speaking of music earlier, we must remember that the DVD invasion also includes fantastic opportunities to enjoy live performances. This month we get some dandies as Time Life releases Opry Video, an eight-disc box set which features some of America’s greatest country performers in their natural habitat, from the 1950s through the 70s. Here’s Cash and Parton and Jones and Wynette and Lynn and Ray Price and all in between. Absolute treasure.

Michael Pare is an unstoppable leading mean, who brings something different to every role he plays while also being a true eagle – an honest and evocative person who has seen it all in the entertainment business. From Streets of Fire to Into the Storm to Eddie and the Cruisers, the dude’s made over 125 movie and TV appearances and I had the honor of speaking to him regarding his newest picture, a western called Traded, which also features Tom Sizemore (a hell of a fine actor) and country singers Trace Adkins and Kris Kristofferson.

Traded has all the elements we have come to expect in a Western film and with that cast will most certainly be a video hit. It’s available on disc and pay per view.

We mustn’t forget our friends at Twilight Time – who recently, and most surely will again, had a colossal sale on their very rare products. There are those of us who can’t wait until their updated release list comes around and as I’ve really had some time to watch some of their incredible discs, I’d like to expound.

Inserts (Blu-ray Disc)Cowboy is the Twilight Time find of the year so far. I had no idea what a terrific western this is and, until now hadn’t realized that with Jubal (another Twilight Time offering) and 3:10 to Yuma and Cowboy, Glenn Ford and director Delmer Daves could easily be identified in the same breath as Randolph Scott and Budd Boetticher or James Stewart and Anthony Mann for superior Western pictures in the 50s.

Cowboy was all premise – Glenn plays an earthy cattle baron who is forced to take newbie Jack Lemmon on a drive. That’s where convention stops. What follows is an incredibly adult story of life in the West with unforgettable characters, fast quick action and a tough brutal worldview. Buy this movie.

I also had never seen either Hawaii or The Hawaiians and I’m glad I waited until the Twilight Time releases to do so. Both are epic in the true sense of the word as well as a total feast to the eyes and ears.

Inserts is for sure a lost movie which Twilight Time has blessed with its profound work. It’s seedy and nasty for sure, telling a story of adult filmmaking in the day, but this Blu-ray offers essential viewing.

Also available from Twilight Time is Hardcore, a tough, important picture directed by Paul Schrader and starring a raging George C. Scott as a Calvinist father whose daughter has fallen into southern California porn; Romeo is Bleeding, a modern noir with Gary Oldman, and the Fred Zinneman classic The Member of the Wedding.

Go to twilighttimemovies.com for all things Twilight Time.

 

The Great George Hamilton

Now for a bit of personal privilege. I’ve mentioned before that I’m darn lucky to have Gray Frederickson in my life – he’s an industry veteran with an Oscar for producing The Godfather Part II and a hallowed reputation in Hollywood. One of his greatest friends since the late 60s is George Hamilton and actually, I had spent a little time with him, but Gray had always told me what a joy it was to spend real time with one of the last true leading men in the movie business.

I can’t announce why Mr. Hamilton visited Oklahoma – let’s just say he might be sinking his teeth into a sequel of one of his most popular films – but a day with this man was all it was made out to be. I’m not the first to say he may be the greatest dinner companion in modern history, like say some of the great wits of the 20s. Every question you ask is answered with a story. An unbelievable story. Like the first time George met Robert Mitchum for Home from the Hill – Mitchum was sitting under a tree talking to a man reposing on the lowest branch, who turned out to be William Faulkner, or the time he got a leading part because he caught a studio head misbehaving while George was posing as a French room service waiter or his version of what happened when Sarah Miles’ manager was murdered during the filming of The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing.

Bud Elder, OK Governor Mary Fallin, George Hamilton & Gray Frederickson, July 2016

When you see a George Hamilton picture on TV or you see him interviewed or whatever, know that he is a man among men and I’m counting the minutes until I can pepper him with questions once again. I even called our Governor, Mary Fallin to come hang out with us.

That’s the age we’re in friends – and it’s glorious. These movies, which played theaters then were immediately sold to television, where they were demeaned by local editors and blown out of proportion by the small screen.

Until next time, see you at the flickers!

- Bud Elder

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