Sundry News & Soundtrack Reviews

Before I get to the latest soundtrack reviews, this past Black Friday La-La Land Records revealed their year-end limited releases, and it's a pretty alluring quartet: Michael Kamen's Die Hard (2CDs), Ennio Morricone's Fat Man & Little Boy (2CDs), Danny Elfman's Scrooged, and Jerry Goldsmith's Tora Tora Tora.

Of the 4 releases, Die Hard should sell out really, really soon, since the prior Varese release came out in 2002 - that's 9 years one of the best action scores ever written has been off the market, which has undoubtedly spawned high eBay sales, and bootlegs.

Like The Poseidon Adventure, Tora was peviously released by Film Score Monthly, and one suspects there will be more reissues from their catalogue, since early releases such as Tora came out 11 years ago, and there have been a few leaps & bounds in audio restoration and mastering.

While we're on the subject of FSM, there's also been a few posts at the magazine's Message Board regarding Twilight Time's Blu-ray release of Mysterious Island, where the tone, to put it politely, sometimes dips into pure crazy juice about transfer quality.

I just reviewed the Blu-ray for Rue Morgue (the piece will run in the January issue), and here are some simple specifics regarding the film and audio transfer created by Sony and licensed to Twilight Time:

Image: very crisp, but but due to the higher details in HD, you do see a higher grain level for layered optical effects. It's the nature of the original effects and film processing, but the colours are stable and balanced, and more importantly, Sony matted the film to 1.66:1, which is more reasonable than the terrible 1.85:1 matting the studio applied to their 2002 DVD.

Sound mixes: there's the original mono, and a 5.1 mix that tries to create a balance between the mono mix, the music and effects track (which was present on the unmatted laserdisc), and surviving stereo music stems which were also used for the Cloud 9 stereo CD.

The laserdisc featured a 2.0 surround sound mix, whereas the BR's 5.1 mix sounds like a fresh reconfiguration of the same available elements, although one can hear where the mono-only materials have been lightly enhanced; where they've been blended with the stereo cues; and where the stereo cues boom all on its very own.

To some extent, I still love the mono mix, but the 5.1 mix has been designed to exploit the parameters of a wider surround image without any trick-oriented directional effects. The sense is more of a stereophonic experience, which is arguably better than an effects-tweaked 5.1 mix because it doesn't dampen the impact of Bernard Herrmann's immaculate score.

The isolated music track contains both stereo and mono M&E material, but it feels like a 70/30 split, which isn't so bad. Those accustomed to M&E mixes as the sole source of a score - like Jerry Goldsmith's The Satan Bug - won't be phased, but those expecting a miracle track might feel disappointed.

Here's another way of looking at the reconstruction of Herrmann's score: it still contains the same stereo cues as the Cloud 9 album, so there's no loss of material. When the Rue Morgue review runs, I'll have a follow-up review at with more details on the Blu-ray, prior video editions, and of course, the film within the Ray Harryhausen canon.

Coming soon at will be a Q&A with members of the Twilight Time team. The label's first year anniversary is coming up in 2012, and I'm keen to use the label profile to promote discussion about the major changes in home video as it pertains to classic films, and what may lie in store in the near future.

There is no such thing as "Ultraphonic High Fidelity" - only MONO.

And while we're finishing up on the topic of Twilight Time, the label also revealed some of the new titles for 2012 for Blu-ray: Picnic, and my personal favourite, The Roots of Heaven, which may feature an isolated track of Malcolm Arnold's score. See TT's Facebook page for more info + cover art.

I've avoided the Spanish Roots DVD in the hopes the film might materialize in Region 1 land, but the Blu-ray has made the wait quite worthwhile. The only other format I've seen Roots was as a grainy 16mm TV print on TVOntario, so to see and hear this underrated classic by John Huston in its original ratio and a stereophonic mix will be a treat.

Idle thought: I wonder if my mono Roots LP with be worth anything after the DVD streets? I paid a mint for what was once branded one of the most valuable soundtrack LPs on the market.



Lastly, enfant terrible of British cinema Ken Russell has died at the age of 84, leaving behind a lengthy canon of mischievous work, and several modern classics such as Women in Love, the shallow but stylish Billion Dollar Brain, the trippy Altered States, and of course The Devils, which the BFI are planning to release on DVD in March of 2012.

Russell's final work was a mediocre  segment for the flat horror anthology Trapped Ashes (2008), and I'd like to remember him not in grotesque drag (really;  it's a horrid image) but as the naugty boy if cinema, with his wicked humour, bizarre taste for combining distressed nuns, over-sized Christ iconography, and snakes in highly inappropriate montages, not to mention getting some of the finest composers around to write music for his film.

Rue Morgue has a great snapshot of Russell and a trio of links, and Shade Rupe wrote a fitting tribute to the late director at Indiewire, and he's also posted additional stills and links at his Facebook page.

Russell's autobiography, A British Picture, is one of the funniest books I've read because he's so unbridled in his recollections, yet one quickly gets a sense of an artist constantly struggling against tightwaddedness in the film world, be it the BBC, or American studios. His fight to turn Altered States into a finished film was bloody valiant, although there are two images that remain indelible: Russell (under the supervision of 'an expert') tripping out after an isolation tank immersion, and screenwriter Paddy Chayevsky taking a chainsaw to the expensive sets because he was having a drradful tantrum.

Just uploaded are a trio of videogame soundtracks:  Greg Edmonson's Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception [M] (La-La Land), Steve Jablonsky's Gears of War 3 [M] and Cris Velasco & Sascha Dikiciyan 's Warhammer 40,000: Spacemarine [M] (both from Sumthng Else).

Coming shortly: a review of Warner Home Video's Batman: Year One Blu-ray, plus Bear McCreary's music from the TV series The Cape, via La-La Land.

Mark R. Hasan, Editor ( Main Site / Mobile Site )


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