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SCORE! The 150 greatest OST’s – pt. 7 (of 15)

90.) The Black Stallion (1979) – Carmine Coppola

Carroll Ballard directed this lyrical horse-tale about an Arabian stallion that befriends a boy when the two are tragically shipwrecked and stranded on a deserted island. When the boy is rescued, he and the horse continue their friendship, and with the help of a has-been trainer work towards turning the horse into the fastest in the world. Carmine Coppola, wife of Francis Ford, who also provided the music to her husband’s Apocalypse Now, gives us the beautiful sounds accompanying the horse’s journey to horse champ in this equine take on Rocky. The soundtrack is a 3-disc set filled with alternate takes and other goodies.

Here’s track 2 from disc 2, “Home”:

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and track 10 from disc 2, “Training II”:

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and track 7 off of disc 3, “The Legend”:

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89.) Suspiria (1977) – Goblin

Dario Argento’s classic horror film concerns an American dancer (played by Jessica Harper) who joins a famous European ballet school where things are not quite as they seem. Immediately upon her arrival one of the dancers is murdered, followed by strange rumors, bizarre noises, and a general air of creepiness. The more she investigates, the less she likes what she finds. Beautiful cinematography and inventive mayhem abounds, and Goblin’s soundtrack is a revelation, frightening on its own and fueled by poly-rhythmic percussion and creepy chanting. And those bells! Everywhere the bells!

Here’s the unforgettable theme, “Suspiria”:

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88.) Star Wars V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980) - John Williams

We got Hoth. Leia and Han Solo bickering. AT-AT Walkers. Tauntaun guts and true friendship. The Wampa ice monster and Luke’s Jedi magic. Chewbacca. Dagobah. The ghost of Obi Wan. Luke training with Sesame Street reject Yoda. R2-D2 and C-3P0 captured. Darth Vader. The Emperor. Colt 45 pitchman Lando Calrissian in his sky kingdom. Betrayal. Solo in carbonite. Boba Fett. The Dark Side rising. Oedipal revelations. An epic sword fight followed by our hero’s symbolic castration. Now that’s what you call a kid’s movie! In the capable hands of the “original trilogy” (by which I mean Irvin Kershner, Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan) this second installment in George Lucas’s Star Wars films is the single greatest action/sci-fi/adventure achievement of all time, the benchmark for all to follow. Even Williams’ “borrowed” score (check out Erich Von Korngold’s target=”_blank”>”Kings Row” if you don’t believe me) manages to breathe new life into old sensations: of high adventure, archetypal quests, and the wonders of cinema. Here’s the “Imperial March,” hard-coded into every adult male’s DNA:

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87.) Phantasm (1979) – Fred Myrow and Malcolm Seagrave

Don Coscarelli’s low budget horror film spawned a franchise that had intermittent glimpses of genius hampered by cheap special effects and dramatically-challenged acting, but was fun nevertheless. The first installment tells the story of a recently orphaned boy who discovers a local mortician, “The Tall Man,” is up to no good with the recently-deceased, and alongside his brother and an ice cream man sets out to investigate. This terrible decision sets off a chain of events involving flying spheres, robed midgets, and an inter-dimensional slave ring. The soundtrack is an electronic variant on Halloween (aren’t they all?) but with its own DYI charm. Here’s track 10, “Tall Man on Main Street”:

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and track 14, “Hearse Chase”:

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86.) Tess (1979) - Philippe Sarde

Say what you will about Roman Polanski’s reputation for being a scoundrel and a lecher of the first order, his films are always compelling, and his choice of soundtrack composers is flawless. Tess is no different – the story of a simple farmer who begins to hope that he is descended from the illustrious D’Urberville family that lives a day’s carriage ride away and sends his daughter to investigate is a lesson in hope, love, illusion, seduction, incest, and human nature. The soundtrack by Philippe Sarde is one of many successes, among them Quest of Fire (La Guerre du Feu) and another Polanski effort, The Tenant (Le Locataire), which is available on a CD release along with Tess.

Here is track 2, “La Visite Chez Les D’Uberville”:

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and track 8, “Tess Retrouve Angel”:

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85.) Sunset Boulevard (1950) - Franz Waxman

Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard is a major work of art whose presence can be felt in everything from the works of David Lynch to the Coen Brothers to that shit channel TMZ which funnels our attention through an IV into the veins of proto- and quasi- celebrities. The story of has-been silent-screen goddess and demented recluse Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) and the small-time writer (William Holden) who wanders into her world and becomes her errand boy and lover has never been surpassed for sheer audacity, in its willingness to strip the facade of glamor from Hollywood and expose the desperate and needy attention-hungry people who weave the stuff of dreams. Wilder’s magnificent film is aided by legendary composer Franz Waxman’s (Bride of Frankenstein, Rebecca, Rear Window, Gone with the Wind) magnificent score. Here is track 1, the “Sunset Boulevard Prelude”:

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and track 5, “An Aging Actress”:

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84.) Theater of Blood (1973) – Michael J. Lewis

In another movie about crazed egotistical thespians, the great Vincent Price plays a Shakespeare-obsessed actor who, having been snubbed by critics, commits suicide. But when a rash of murders targeting the very same theater critics spreads through London, each dispatched in an homage to the Bard, Scotland Yard begins to suspect the actor may have faked his death. A hilariously baroque revenge picture directed by Douglas Hickox, which benefits from a fantastic score by Michael J. Lewis. Here’s the main theme:

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and track 18, “Fugato”:

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83.) The Godfather (1972) – Nino Rota

Francis Ford Coppola’s adaptation of Mario Puzo’s novel is justifiably lauded by critics and fans everywhere as a masterpiece, the movie which ushered in the age of big budget, glossy mafia movies which glamorized the life of the men of the inner sanctum. The acting is top notch, with Al Pacino, Marlon Brando, James Caan and Robert Duvall delivering impeccable performances, Gordon Willis’ cinematography is masterful, and Nino Rota’s score is somber and ironic, mirroring the Corleone family’s fading old world values in the face of their growing empire. Here’s “I have but one heart (O Marenariello)”:

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and track 9, “Appollonia”:

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82.) Arizona Dream (1993) - Goran Bregović

Time of the Gypsies, Black Cat, White Cat and Underground director Emir Kusturica’s brief foray into English-language films is a mixed affair, starring a fresh-off 21 Jump Street Johnny Depp as a drifter who travels to Arizona for an uncle’s wedding and ends up in a love triangle with two strange women (Faye Dunaway and Lili Taylor) in this film that’s too enamored with its own strangeness to be very good, but which is nevertheless full of interesting visuals, eccentric characters, fish imagery and accordion music and the fine performances of Vincent Gallo, Paulina Porizkova, Michael J. Pollard and Jerry Lewis. The music by Bregović is a delight, an amazing Gypsy punk soundtrack which prefigures the work of acts such as Balkan Beatbox and Gogol Bordello by at least a decade. Track 1, “In the Deathcar,” features vocals by Iggy Pop.

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and check out track 8, “Gypsy Reggae”:

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81.) L’Onorato Famiglia (1973) - Bruno Nicolai

Tonino Ricci’s action-packed movie is firmly couched within the genre of 1970’s Italian crime films but has a sobering message in its criticism of the rampant corruption in Italy, in which everything is controlled by the privileged few. Bruno Nicolai, longtime friend and associate of Ennio Morricone, provided the exciting score. Here’s track 7, “Disperatamente”:

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and track 9, “Gin”:

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and track 13, “Un Solo Amore”:

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Click to see part 1 (OST’s #141-150) , part 2 (131-140),  part 3 (121-130), part 4 (111-120), part 5 (101-110), part 6 (91-100), part 7 (81-90), part 8 (71-80), part 9 (61-70), part 10 (51-60), part 11 (41-50), part 12 (31-40), part 13 (21-30), part 14 (11-20) and part 15 (1-10).

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October 4, 2010   1 Comment

Mind Boggling Sci-Fi – PHASE IV

PHASE IV is a quirky, highly magnified meditation on evolution.

In my last post I reviewed Billy Wilder’s One, Two, Three, and featured the poster designed by Saul Bass – an interesting figure in filmdom, who began as a graphic designer (creating AT&T’s globe logo), then became a highly sought after poster designer, and who would later create the modern title sequence, changing it from the static billboards of old Hollywood into the artistic vignettes you find in most films today. In some cases his intricate title sequences were superior to the movies they opened (I’m looking at you, Edward Dmytryk‘s target=”_blank”>Walk on the Wild Side), but they always helped brand the movies they were part of, sometimes working as extensions of the poster and promotional campaign. Bass worked with many of the greatest film directors of all time, including Robert Wise, Martin Scorsese and Otto Preminger, and was a favorite of Alfred Hitchcock’s, for whom he (allegedly) designed the shower sequence in Psycho. And yet for all his visual acumen, Saul Bass only directed one movie, 1974’s Phase IV, an excellent science fiction mood piece that tells the story of two scientists at war with a rapidly evolving colony of ants. It’s an unusual movie, beautifully shot, which moves at a slow pace yet taps into some intriguing concepts regarding the nature of consciousness, not unlike Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 – substituting cryptic ant-designed chimneys for Kubrick’s mysterious monoliths. A commercial flop long misunderstood and unjustly maligned (including a skewering by target=”_blank”>MST3K) Phase IV is a film that deserves a second chance, especially for fans of cerebral sci-fi, or simply of movies that try something different. It’s a shame Bass never got to make another movie – who knows where his own directorial evolution could’ve taken him!

A great poster (albeit misleading), ironically designed by someone other than Bass.

Here’s a short film by Saul Bass, written by Phase IV writer Mayo Simon, called “Why Man Creates,” which won them an Oscar.

and to find a documentary on Bass’s title work follow this link.

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July 19, 2010   No Comments

Cold War Hilarity – ONE, TWO, THREE

ONE, TWO, THREE is a great look back at a forward-thinking auteur at the top of his game.

Billy Wilder was undeniably a genius, a master filmmaker and social satirist of the first order whose keen observations often turned out to be true – in 1951’s Ace in the Hole he foreshadows today’s manipulative and self-promoting reporters (take that Rick Sanchez!) and in this scathing comedy, One, Two, Three (1961), written with frequent collaborator I.A.L. Diamond, he predicts what would be Communism’s tragic weakness – American goods and the lure of the Western lifestyle! On the heels of his comedy masterpieces Some Like It Hot (1959) and The Apartment (1960), Wilder crafts what might be the most atypical screwball comedy ever – one which mixes Capitalism, Communism, the Cold War and American cultural imperialism into a heady brew that’s easily 40 years ahead of it’s time, feeling more like an episode of The Simpsons than a turn of the century madcap comedy. In it, James Cagney plays C.R. “Mac” MacNamara, high level Coca Cola executive banished to West Berlin for some transgression years earlier, who concocts a plan to redeem himself by being the first to sell the Soviets the secret formula and make a killing for his bosses in Atlanta. But just as he’s on the verge of convincing his Soviet counterparts (a bumbling trio obsessed with buxom blondes), the boss complicates matters by asking Mac to host his only daughter on a European excursion. And when she falls in love with an anti-American East Berliner (played by Horst Buchholz, the “German James Dean”), everything seems ready to blow up in his face like a heavily shaken bottle of Classic Coke. Filled with references to James Cagney’s earlier films (as well as to Wilder’s), what transpires is that rare film that entertains on all levels, and is an absolute must for fans of intelligent satire with historical substance – plus a dash of slapstick thrown in for good measure.

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July 16, 2010   No Comments

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