The War of the Worlds - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Soundtrack Review
Tremble with fear, pathetic Earthlings … George Pal is comin’ to getcha!!!
Intrada unleash a quartet of classic Silver Age scores to a cluster of genre movies that take us beyond the stars, bring unearthly menace to our own backdoor, and reveal nature at its most determinedly vindictive. With a spellbinding 2-CD release that brings us the music from four of the illustrious fantasy producer George Pal’s uber-destructive SF/thriller output from Tinseltown’s most outrageously high-concept period, we hear the orchestral might, magic and menace of composers Leith Stevens, Nathan Van Cleave and Daniele Amfitheatrof.
These are rich and wonderfully textured scores, in love with the sense of mystery, wonder and terror that these genre’s conjure, and ripe with the era’s most outlandish orchestration and evocative instrumentation. At once brimming with vintage glory and yet profoundly modern in technique and execution, these are influential, iconic and downright indomitable.
Disc 1contains When Worlds Collide and The War of the Worlds.
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Nope – it’s a bloody big planet comin’ straight for us!
When Worlds Collide (1951) was one of those big, meaty socio-political masquerades that conjectured upon the destruction of the world as we know it. But it wasn’t monsters or aliens this time, but a couple of rogue planetoids hurtling towards the Earth on a wickedly unstoppable, unavoidable collision course. But the focus of the story, which starred Richard Derr, Barbara Rush, Larry Keating and John Hoyt, was more about the cultural and societal effects of the coming catastrophe and the human cost of impending obliteration, and how civilisation comes to deal with its fate, than with the actual screen-erupting chaos of such soon-to-be Emmerichian visual overkill. Yet it was sold on the image of all-out flaming, city-quashing chaos and destruction. The conceit here was that although one of the wrecking-ball planets would actually smash into and completely obliterate us, the other one, which was closer, would just narrowly miss us – and this one, called Zyra, was potentially Earth-like and habitable. Thus, the boffins of the globe unite and hatch a daring, last-ditch plan to save mankind. They intend to build an Ark that can take a gathered collection of three dozen humans straight to this new planet, colonise it, and thereby engender the furtherance of civilisation. But who gets to go?
Ahhh, well … you need to watch the film to find out the results of one of the weirdest lotteries ever conceived. But one dead cert for the trip was composer Leith Stevens, George Pal and director Byron Haskin ensuring that When Worlds Collide he’ll be the one serenading the apocalypse from a safe location aboard that newfangled and highly symbolic Ark. Pal had worked with him before on The Great Rupert and Destination Moon, so he knew the man’s exacting standards and also knew that he could rely upon him to deliver all the necessary vigour and pride and an air of noble sacrifice.
When Worlds Collide is presented complete and hails from acetates at the University for Missouri-Kansas City’s Miller Nichols Library Marr Sound Archives (phew!), which is where Stevens donated his own personal collection of scores and recordings. The resulting presentation sounds superb.
Percussion, dust-devil-like squalls of strings and shrill lassos of aggressive brass swiftly generate form out of chaos and become a strident fanfare that beats out a slow, remorseless litany for the theme of impending annihilation in Main Title. Then Stevens gets the girls involved with a gorgeous and ethereal female choir that intones both the heavily religious aspects of the coming storm as well as the celestial cause for hope that the tangible heavens may have to offer. Further mysteries are opened up with more typical SF relish via warbling Theremin and quivering strings. The Black Box has a pleasant semi-exotic rhythm, with woodblock percussion and xylophone and brief, almost oriental figures. This light, but colourful drive is continued throughout Uncertainty as well.
A certain choppy and playful attitude suffuses the far eastern nature of Bellus, Zyra and the DA until tingling frissons of unease creep in with uneasy strings and pensive woodwinds. But the exotic taint returns as the nature of the galactic threat becomes apparent to the astro-observers. For UN Headquarters there is an officious stance at the opening, the sort of theme that you would always get in a film of the period that suddenly informs you the building that is on screen is a place of great importance. The choppy exotic phrase conflicts nicely with this po-faced etiquette, revealing the coming difference of opinions that will pose problems between academia and officialdom. For Project Recruiting and Project Indoctrination, the two musical ideas continually harass one another. A wooden drumming keeps time, denoting the loss of such a precious commodity as mankind struggles to come up with a workable solution. Strings keep on worrying until the track plays out.
Martial Law brings a sense of dramatic and frightening haste as chaos reigns and the world panics. But the female choir returns in a vain attempt to soothe humanity’s anxiety and terror in Evacuation Montage. Distant bells chime, and the soaring voices rise and fall like the dreams and prayers of a world on the brink of obliteration. The oriental flavour mingles with the drive that Stevens brings to Securing the Rocket, the ship that the rogue scientists intend to be the saviour of the people of Earth. Or, at least, a select few of them. Cartoon-like tiptoe suspense introduces A Savage Outburst, and then rattling percussion and a frantic pace with trilling trumpets and circling strings suddenly injects action into the score. Save the Ship only increases the fury, as the orchestra squirrels-away with frantic string descents, blustering trumpets and pell-mell percussion, the xylophone clattering with adrenaline beneath the battering tumult. Horns then rue the confusion and the anger as the track ebbs away.
There is more apprehension and conflict in A Revengeful Night and then a switch to lower, more mean-spirited menace for dark, churning brass and bass in Bellus Approaches which then blends into the quieter, more despondent Doomsday Drawing. Further discord is the order of the day, with driving rhythms and serious, whining strings throughout Calendar Montage, though Stevens is able to temper this with little distractions from the irresistible oriental motif and even a faltering, hesitant suggestion of romance. Violins try to take the edge off the horns in Tony’s Generosity, eventually softening the rough and reluctant disdain and coaxing an almost rousing flourish from a crescendo of daringly jubilant brass. This will happen again in Ecstasy and Despair, but will only end with a fractured, lonely, gypsy-like figure for a lone violin. This is the constant Yin and Yang of civilisation’s dwindling hopes and its growing pity and remorse.
Two tracks cover the nick-of-time escape from the doomed planet as the rocket-ship makes its rollercoaster-like run along an epic rail-track up the side of a mountain. Zero Hour gradually builds up to the point of no return, and then drops back down into a trembling woodwind reverie as the reality of what the chosen crew are about to commit to. The cue then rises again with dread-filled brass capturing the regrets and terrors of the voyagers on a planetary exchange. The Take Off is, thus, all about impetus, and the orchestra then rush at a crazed gallop alongside the Ark as it makes its tremendous leap into space. There is Max Steiner-like volcano of symphonic might at work here, with all quarters of the orchestra coming together in a molten cauldron of breakneck intensity. Stevens has this controlled cacophony continue into The Flight, but then brilliantly pulls the plug in-synch with the ship leaving the Earth’s atmosphere and penetrating the cold safety of outer space. With just a sizzling string-line and little hums and buzzes from woodwinds he implies that they have broken the bounds and gone beyond the danger zone. The rest of the orchestra gradually returns, wavering with uncertainty. Massive sustained cymbals and spidery strings then shiver up the score’s collective spine to provide an electrifyingly primal crescendo as one world is snuffed out and another is sighted.
The New World then whisks us into a variety of new colours. Partly euphoric in a traditionally grand old Hollywood fashion at the start, and sweetly pastoral and angelic in its closing section, this final track runs the risk of becoming stock cliché, but Stevens is canny enough to realise that this wouldn’t be playing fair to the notion of a chosen few finding a veritable new Eden when so many have perished in their wake. Thus, he has a middle section that is full of eerie wonder and mystery and not a little bit of mythical apprehension, and all twirled around the ever-entrancing sound of the Theremin. Spellbinding.
There are four more tracks here. Unknown offers a delirious 19-second crescendo, whilst High on the List is a jazz-band late-night slowie. Café Fox Trot is a more up-tempo slice of vintage raving. And there is a variation of the Main Title.
Oh, get over yourselves. Maybe they come in peace.
Yeah, right. Run for lives! The Martians are here!!
And if they aren’t about to Collide with each other, then Worlds are at War with one anotherin the second of these two ingenious and chaotically doom-laden offerings. Byron Haskin’s flamboyant decimation of apple-pie eating America was, of course, taken from the novel by H. G. Wells, but although its action was relocated Stateside and updated to the fifties, it managed to maintain a great deal of the horror, adventure and suspenseful set-piece chaos of the literary source. After having seen the world destroyed already, but found hope and salvation for a select few, Leith Stevens was recalled for duty to compose for this attempt at galactic genocide, and his score is one of brutality, fear, and dread.
Sadly, not all of The War of the Worlds could be attained for this release, but what has been unearthed from Paramount’s vault – which comes to around sixteen minutes - carries the most important elements of this barnstorming musical onslaught of Martian ferocity. Unlike Collide, the acetates for this highly cherished Technicolor triumph did not survive, but the elements heard here stem from 35mm protection copies of the musical reels held at the studio.
The Main Title is a demonic rush of orchestral scaremongering. Brassy tempests, whooping woodwinds, clamouring cymbals and whirling strings create a maelstrom of destructive activity. Lurching fifties-cool drums urge a snazzy up-tempo beat whilst whiplash trumpets, sinuous string serpents and harp flourishes are only held back from one-another by clashes of cymbals. Stephens pitches us headlong into a furious rush of musical violence that leaves you breathless.
After a spiralling descent from shrieking strings that wouldn’t be out of place in Gerry Anderson’s Thunderbirds, The Thing has nervous violins goaded by woods to step closer to the freaky pit that something from outer space has landed in. The sustained shivering they make as the woods gently fold in and out of them is vaguely reminiscent of how John Williams would go on to score the tensely classic moment when Police Chief Brody informs grizzled fisherman Quint that he’s “gonna need a bigger boat.” This is quiet and subdued yet filled with massive trepidation at the same time. Percussion makes a faint but excited pulse, then harsh, metallic-sounding brass sways and staggers across the soundscape. If you run with that earlier Jaws association, then you can’t help but spot the persistent and disquieting two-note motif that comes in during It’s Moving. Gradually becoming more insistent, and then decelerating again before icy rivulets of high strings, this marks time like some countdown clock to doomsday. Which, of course, is precisely the point.
Heat Ray Dispenser starts off mysteriously for methodical violin, but a rising clamour for brass and bass, with a resounding cymbal collision then tips us off that these visitors aren’t just here to sightsee. If you are expecting to hear the hugely spine-tingling sound of the Martian weapon, they quickly move to Track 31 of Disc 1 (in the Extras) to experience the body-frying might of pitch-altered electric guitars with their tone and feedback manipulated by the film’s sound design team to create the alien death-ray.
When the local pastor makes the grave mistake of Attempted Communication with the Martians, the music turns even more sombre and doomed. A dirge-like refrain is dealt by tragic strings and melancholy woodwinds. The pastor gets immolated for his troubles, and Stevens compounds the desperation and terror felt by the hidden onlookers sheltering in the farmhouse. These onlookers, the film’s heroes played by Gene Barry and Ann Robinson, are then further persecuted by The Scanning Eye, as the invaders search for fugitives in the wreckage. Stevens scores this sequence with low menacing tones and little, muted shivers from the strings in a gothic combination that seems very reminiscent of the old Universal horror music devised by the likes of Frank Skinner and Hans J. Salter. As the track develops the strings become more agitated, drifting higher in nervous skitters until trombones and trumpets bludgeon their way in with blustering elephant-like calls, driving the cue to a close.
The most famous and haunting refrain from the score comes in the foreboding and Holocaust-recalling “rout of humanity” sequence of Evacuation. Driven from the hellish ruins of their cities, mankind seeks refuge away from the slaughter that the Martians are perpetrating. Stevens had done this before in Collide, of course, and he doesn’t skimp on the misery and gravity of the situation, and the imagery that the film projects. He has the brass attempt a sweeping clarion call at the start, but this is then swept asunder beneath choking banks of earnest strings and weeping woodwinds – a slow, sorrow-filled orchestral exodus of futility and despair. Something of this mournful cadence crept into John Barry’s hellish symphony for the grim vision on the wrong side of The Black Hole. But, thankfully, in End Title, Stevens is able to bring some light and hope back into the score, with an uplifting surge for the full ensemble, replete with bells chiming to depict a new dawn and a definite ray of sunshine.
I covered the brilliant score from John Williams for Spielberg’s surprisingly intimate remake and this makes for an interesting companion-piece. Both composers, decades apart, depict the same pivotal scenes, and both do it with a similarly amazing blend of the hugely bombastic and the icily unearthly … though the two are poles apart in texture and tone.
There are three tracks added here. We can hear the Main Title sans its percussion elements, as well as the Main Title and Prologue as they are heard in the film with the exciting opening voiceover narration. And, of course, there is the Heat Ray Dispenser Sound Effect, which runs for almost three minutes of unearthly SF wackiness.
Disc 2contains The Naked Jungle and Conquest of Space.
Hey, what’s the matter? Ya got ants in yer pants?
The major draw of this release, for me at least, is the inclusion of the odd-one-out score to The Naked Jungle. Perhaps sitting at odds with the cosmic mood of the other three scores, this is the most colourful, mysterious, luxurious and most terrifying of the line-up. Based upon Carl Stephenson’s original short story Leiningen vs The Ants (which I discovered in Second of the fantastic Pan Books of Horror republished back in the seventies), this 1954 film, directed by Byron Haskin (replacing original helmer Joseph H. Lewis) and starring Charlton Heston and Eleanor Parker, told the frightening two-fold tale of a colonial plantation owner who gains a mail-order bride and then has to fight to protect his land from an immense army of approaching soldier ants. The film is both a romance of environmental mystique and converted emotions and, most famously, a tremendous depiction of man against nature with a truly horrific threat posed against our determined hero, who will not simply run away from this jungle-devouring carpet of death ten miles long and two miles wide. Heston had proved himself to be a man of action and grand cinematic gestures already, with Ben Hur, The Ten Commandments, El Cid and 55 Days At Peking and, after Naked Jungle turns in Planet Of The Apes, The Omega Man and Soylent Green would further establish him as a genre icon as at-home with SF as he was with historical drama. As the belligerent Leiningen, he brings that trademark stoicism and granite-hewn conviction to bear as he fashions an odd romance with Parker’s stranger in a strange land, gradually softening in her company and revealing hidden depths. But he is forced to fight for his land – the coffee plantation that he has spent a lifetime developing – when the army of ants goes on the warpath, laying waste to all it encounters and stripping the living to bones within seconds, and he will need every ounce of courage, resilience and single-minded determination that he can muster.
Former concert conductor Amfitheatrof’s music does the same, standing beside him every step of the way.
He conjures mystique, beauty and danger with hypnotically lush themes for the first sections of the score, as we get to know this remote region of the South American jungle, and the irascible and brutish Leiningen himself. There is sweet romance delicately plucked from out of the brusque landscape of this hard man’s world as Parker’s Joanna arrives and begins to undermine Leiningen’s cold and ruthless demeanour and assert her place in this harsh environment.
Awesome tribal drums have you throwing-out all sorts of silly shapes in Prelude and then again in Drums # 2. The score’s main themes are breezed through in Main Title, but most notably the savage and nightmare-inducing motif for the ants, themselves. A lengthy Opening Sequence has a distinct element of Williams’ The Lost World to it in places – a dark and foreboding impression that all is not well in this place – but this is an addictive piece that allows traditional orchestra to duet with bongos and shakers and exotic rattles. Amfitheatrof teases us that it will end sweetly, but then pulls the rug with discord and unnerving brass and edgy, throat-constricting woodwind flutters.
There is a charmless but dignified texture to Leiningen’s Arrival that is then countered with swooning woods, gently sliding strings and breathy romantic listlessness in First Meeting. Already the composer is setting up the various pieces on this exotic chessboard. The evocative stomp of the jungle, itself. The dark glowering of Leiningen. The wistful romanticism of Joanna. And the flesh-shearing evil of the ants.
In Bitter Words, tension is wrought about with the confrontation of the two worlds that epitomise the ill-matched couple. Amfitheatrof cleverly uses his orchestra like a conversation between the pair. Leiningen’s callous attitude marked by aggressive pushes of unyielding strings and horns, and Joanna’s with bending strings that weave around the initial hostilities that greet her. Survey of the Plantation, by contrast, is a rhythmic tribal patois with native voices providing colour and some degree of growing atmosphere. There is a looming threat out there, and this cue seems to tell us that the workers on the plantation can sense it. Although displaced, geographically, a fantastic voodoo quality is gained here.
Gentle romance is hinted at in Silhouetted Temptation as it suddenly becomes possible that this decidedly odd couple could perhaps just make it. Listen out for the owl-like hooting of an ethnic flute and the gorgeously crystal clear harp and glistening of chimes that provide so much magic to the lilting and heart-warming cue. Little details that make all the difference … and really shine in this wonderfully warm and crisp presentation. Drunken Developments brings the romance fully to the fore, with lots more of those keening, elemental strings and the soulful glamour of the harp to ensure that if your heart hadn’t swollen to busting already, it was about to gush right down your shirt. The Hanging, however, which follows straight on, features the fateful drumbeat of those about to meet their maker, and lots of harsh, metallic gruffness from the brass. Dark cello swipes then get butted aside by a sudden sweet retaliation from the harp. The cue then ends delightfully with the harp conversing pleasantly with the clarinet. Amfitheatrof is one of the most playful of composers – even amidst a growing sense of wrath, he can wrestle lilting little moments of cheer.
But it is the skin-crawling and inexorable drive and eerie momentum of the latter half of the score that makes the pulse pound. Marabunta (which is the name given to this ghastly rampage of ants) first gives us the dark, heart-stopping motif for the approaching threat – a swift and shrill vortex for strings that is then repeated for spiralling woodwinds is then swallowed by the most memorable phrase from the score – unstoppably heavy crushing low piano notes that you would normally associate with the ponderous stomping of some giant robot, say, yet work extraordinarily well with the horribly spectacular imagery of the immense insect horde as it crawls voraciously over the landscape. Suspenseful woods and grimly ominous brass begin to grow like shadows, but then the composer casually hurls in an almost Tom & Jerry variation of the ants’ string-vortex to momentarily diffuse the tension. But you know how tricksy he can be, by now. The proper ant theme then makes repeated attempts to break through again, yet it never quite successful. Musically, this is still the lull before the storm – almost like a foul stench of death being caught periodically on the wind over the mountains. The enemy isn’t here yet. But it isn’t far away.
After some deliciously shivery woodwind tremors, romance then settles down for the rest of the next track, Almost Enticed. With Leiningen and Joanna now able to set aside some of their differences, it is all beginning to look quite rosy in the plantation. Even the harp seems to agree. So, on such a lovely evening as this … what could possibly go wrong?
That infernal, blood-freezing ant motif comes on again in Army on the March. They are getting much closer, and their victims are piling up. That low piano plods ever onwards, stopping for nothing. The string and woodwind flurry makes you squirm as though the creatures are swarming up your back.
Amfitheatrof changes tactics now. In Explosion Montage, the pace becomes furious and energetic at the start, horns and woods surging alongside one another, spurred on by the harp. Little detailed effects suggest the scurrying of the ants – frantically plucked cello strings, snatches of deftly struck percussion. As strings and brass enter the fray, the harp makes regular caresses as though to give us some hope to cling to. The Fight Begins bleats with trumpets and belches with trombone, and the two descend like the once valiant succumbing to fear-glazed madness. Violins rear and dance, the harp swirls like the eddying of a whirlpool. Drums and horns blast in Retreat, violins are almost sawn in-two. Horrific brassy shrieks grate on the nerves. A lurching motif struggles against the rising ride of ever-gnawing blackness. The track ends with a mournful, receding horn.
The romantic theme returns in I Love You, but it is engulfed by a grasping, growling low register mire from tortured brass and grunting woodwinds, almost as though the very orchestra has become at-one with the seething belly of the jungle. High anguished strings latch onto the sacrifice that will have to be made.
In Flooded Amfitheatrof actually delivers a cue that is very akin to a sort of darkly heroic Batman theme. Deep brass roars out as final challenge as Leiningen makes one final stand against the terror-horde, and unleashes the power of the river he has dammed to sweep them away. The harp is never far away from the carnage, and it soars over the scene of overflowing chaos. There are some strains of exultant, though still anxious brass here that are reminiscent of how Dimitri Tiomkin musically saw off The Thing From Another World. The track and the score then reach their combined crescendo in End Title, regaining the lush, romantic sweep that the ant-battling couple were so adamant couldn’t be theirs at the start of their ordeal. This time, Amfitheatrof doesn’t trick us and hurl in another insect attack.
A classic and extremely clever and exciting score that has been taken from the surviving three-track stereo protection copies.
Two tracks. In the first we hear Prelude in E Minor, and in the unnerving second, we get the itchy-coo park of Ant Noise. This is performed with unbelievably skin-prickling finesse by the amassed bank of violins. It is incredibly vivid and scratchy and worrying. Imagine the sound of the demons of The Evil Dead, who were often depicted with infernal fiddle-playing from Joseph DoLuca’s simple orchestra, and magnify it tenfold!
Say, why don’t we go to Mars instead of the Martians coming to us?
The imaginative reaches of the galaxy inspire Nathan Van Cleave’s score for 1955’s Conquest of Space, but he is propelled more by the machinations of the minds of the men who undertake to venture out into its cold depths. Although this is a really rather naff movie – a trip to Mars that incurs dangerously obsessive crewmen, rogue asteroids and meteors and Martian hardship - that is something of a chore to sit through, you can’t find much to fault with the celestial music that accompanies its ill-thought-out voyage beyond the stars, and I would have no hesitation in saying that the audio experience is much more satisfying and detailed than the visual one. I’ve discussed Van Cleave’s contribution to SF before, especially his remarkable scores for Robinson Crusoe on Mars, The Space Children andColossus of New York. This soundtrack, heard here in almost complete form and again hailing from 35mm protection copies, is no less unusual and interesting.
Starting off with a marvellous two-cue opener entitled Main Title/The Firmament, this commences with deep bass tremors, searing strings and furious brassy double-taps, before setting out its celestial aspirations with the ethereal and somewhat sombre beauty of a swooning female choir. This vocal element is delightfully spooky and it wouldn’t surprise if it was heard wailing around some old Transylvanian castle. In Stricken, we hear a portentous motif that wavers ominously. With low notes from bass, an edgy and ponderous, almost Barry-esque mood of slow suspicion and subterfuge is created in Stricken. Things then get anxious and rapid-fire in the shrieking opening section of Meteors, with churning tumultuous brass and woods, swirling cyclonic strings and a mounting rhythm of frenzied agitation. This then segues, via a delightful bridge for the wailing choir, into a glisteningly suspenseful piece that rises and falls in delirious peaks and troughs for high strings and plucked harp, ominous oboe, gently tapped high notes from the piano, and then floating waves for violin that see the second cue, Transport Rocket, to a close. This has been a fabulous couple of tracks that completely and continually wrongfoot you, pulling you this way and that with hypnotic ease. Van Cleave was at his most ingenious and complex here.
There is a heraldic, though distinctly un-heroic fanfare at the heart of the grimly serious Orders to Mars, magnified by low woods, shivering strings and then trombone, that will reappear in various iterations throughout, but then listen to the quite dazzling semi-ecclesiastical motif that closes the track. Once again, Van Cleave turns on a dime and upends the musical texture and phraseology. Off to Mars boasts an almost mischievous oboe that wobbles through buffeting clouds of bashing, crashing discord. The clarinet then makes a steadily repetitious two-note negotiation over the thin-ice of subdued strings in Stowaway. You want cymbals and mighty brass? You got ‘em. With the threat of Asteroid, Van Cleave delivers a very Herrmannesque passage of rushing blasts of trumpets, bellicose trombones and ogreish belches from tuba that clash against typhoon-tossed strings and rib-shivering spumes from cymbals. There is so much energy here that you could be forgiven for believing that this movie offered nonstop thrills and spills.
After a spot of low-register brooding and another religious phrase in Last Rites that claws the heavens with imploring strings, and a morose solo trumpet wail that faintly foreshadows how he will deal with a lone survivor on the hostile red planet in the awesome Robinson Crusoe on Mars re-establishes that darkly earnest theme from Orders to Mars, Van Cleave then moves back in suspense mode for Approach. The sense of dangerous discoveries being made is acute. The cello swipes against glacial walls of higher strings. Woods murmur far down beneath. A raucous crescendo makes an impact two thirds of the way through, and then the track is permitted to judder uneasily to a close, the trumpet fanfare returning briefly at the close.
In another touch that will become synonymous with Bernard Herrmann, trembling woods and deep bass reverberate at the start of Mars and Madness. Flute and harp and plucked cello make delightfully nervous proddings against this dark, suffocating shroud. The track then recoils from twisting strings, a faint flurry from percussion and sudden interjections from brass and horns. It slows down to a pensive, wounded low tone, retreating into the shadows. In Life and Death, Van Cleave juggles a reverent mood of almost transcendental grace with sinister low tones suggestive of creeping about in places that … angels would fear to tread. This later atmosphere carries over into the bleak, woodwind-nudged Snow, a slow, fateful dirge-like and subterranean sounding passage that suddenly and majestically is transformed by a giddy orchestral rendition of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen which, as if further proof were needed, reaffirms the composer’s amazing on-the-hoof dexterity and wit. Chimes echo in the background, and the track then repeats the familiar carol but with a darker, more gloomy aura around it.
In The Elements, after a delicious radio-bleep signal that comes courtesy of the harp, the music is still low, cavernous and subterranean. The use of woodwinds and tuba – somewhat playfully bellicose against the pervading air of lumbering doom – is very similar to how John Williams would handle such orchestration in his early Star Wars scores. Here, and elsewhere in this score, this interesting connection should become abundantly clear. So, as you can now appreciate, Nathan Van Cleave’s ominous-cum-witty approach was to become a sure-fire influence upon two of the greatest film composers of all time – Herrmann and Williams. The second, smaller cue in the track, Earthquake, as its title suggests, is a violent landslide of fury that rolls brass, woods and bass together with horns into a headlong rush that only hurtles to a rest when a slow and woozy bassoon begins to swagger the track to an end.
Van Cleave then finishes the score with Victory. A jaunty flute and chime ditty flutters down the wall of a still-very-reserved and earnest bank of woods and conservative strings. You can hear the harp glistening in there somewhere, too. But this is still trying very hard to remain stately. The clarinet performs a subdued and softened version of the fanfare and then, once again delivering an immaculately smooth swing-shift, Van Cleave turns everything into a breezy, high-saluting, grinning-from-ear-to-ear reformatting that gleams with pride. Harp, chimes and ebullient brass sound off in Finale, and then the last cue, Cast, transforms into a stomping, dress-blues parade march and full fanfare that, to be honest, doesn’t fit in with the rest of the score. I’m actually quite tempted to think that the composer was leaned-on to give the audiences something rousing and upbeat to send them out with a patriotic smile on their faces.
Two tracks here. One is Space Muzak, which is a swinging dance-band jazz source cue, and the original version of the Main Title, which is far less sinister and introduces the fanfare motif much earlier.
Packaged with sumptuous artwork and some terrific notes from Jeff Bond and Lukas Kendall, Intrada’s 2-disc presentation is an absolute delight. Obviously, we’d love to have had more of TWotW,but what can be heard here is wild, frightening, eerie and splendid – all the things that you would want and expect from a grotesque Martian invasion. And the scores for Collide, Conquest and Naked Jungle are just superb, with Chuck’s last stand against the mighty Marabunta being the overall standout for me, as a film as well as a score, what with its varied themes for exotic love and mystery, the dark splendours of an untamed world and for the nightmarish advance of the relentless ant army.
There’s no denying that much of the appeal for these scores lies in the abundant nostalgia that they create – which is lurid, intoxicating and cosily exciting. But these are undoubtedly important milestones for genre music, also. The breadth and scope of these apocalyptic epics calls for huge scores packed with mythical action, high tension, fantastical stylings and strong human emotion, the likes of which had not been heard before. It is debatable of course, but I think that these grandstanding works played a part in providing the impetus for the passionate and dazzling fantasy writing of Bernard Herrmann, the undisputed king-to-be of the genre. His distinctive and immortal voice created the triumphs of The Day The Earth Stood Still, Mysterious Island, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, Journey to the Centre of the Earth and Jason and the Argonauts, but the inspiration for going so wild and creative must surely lurk somewhere within the fabric of the mesmerising music you can listen to here.
These are wonderful, compulsive scores that paint pictures in your mind just as vivid as the films they enhance.
Full Track Listing
THE WAR OF THE WORLDS | WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE
WAR OF THE WORLDS
01. Main Title 1:11
02. The Thing/It’s Moving 3:12
03. Heat Ray Dispenser/Get the Military 1:45
04. Attempted Communication 3:09
05. The Scanning Eye 2:41
06. Evacuation 3:00
07. End Title 1:03
Total Score Time: 16:02
WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE
08. Main Title/Foreword 2:35
09. The Black Box 1:11
10. Uncertainty 1:33
11. Bellus, Zyra and the D.A. 1:59
12. U.N. Headquarters/Nasty Headlines 1:11
13. Project Recruiting/ Project Indoctrination 4:28
14. Martial Law/Evacuation Montage 1:34
15. Securing the Rocket 0:51
16. A Savage Outburst/Save the Ship 2:54
17. A Revengeful Night/Bellus Approaches/ Doomsday Drawing 2:32
18. Calendar Montage 2:52
19. Tony’s Generosity 2:56
20. Ecstasy and Despair 0:58
21. Zero Hour 1:35
22. The Take Off 1:52
23. The Flight 2:23
24. The New World 3:49
Total Score Time: 37:12
The Extras (WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE)
25. 10AA Unknown 0:22
26. High on the List 1:58
27. Café Fox Trot 1:14
28. Main Title 1:16
Total Extras Time: 4:46
The Extras (WAR OF THE WORLDS)
29. Main Title 1:13
30. Prologue and Main Title 1:45
31. Heat Ray Dispenser Sound Effect 2:58
Total Extras Time: 5:54
THE NAKED JUNGLE | CONQUEST OF SPACE
THE NAKED JUNGLE
01. Prelude/Main Title 1:27
02. Opening Sequence/ A Lonely Arrival 5:02
03. Leiningen’s Arrival/ First Meeting 2:28
04. Bitter Words 2:24
05. Survey of the Plantation 2:42
06. Silhouetted Temptation 1:27
07. Drunken Developments/ The Hanging 3:51
08. Marabunta 1:51
09. Almost Enticed 2:20
10. Army on the March/ Escape Destroyed/Magnified Enemy 2:34
11. Drums #2 1:49
12. Explosion Montage 2:35
13. The Fight Begins 2:05
14. Retreat 2:00
15. I Love You 2:07
16. Flooded and End Title 3:07
Total Score Time 39:55
CONQUEST OF SPACE
17. Main Title/The Firmament 2:30
18. Stricken 1:23
19. Meteors/Transport Rocket 2:40
20. Orders to Mars 2:47
21. Off to Mars 1:31
22. Stowaway 1:20
23. Asteroid 1:22
24. Last Rites 1:24
25. Approach 2:22
26. Mars and Madness 3:42
27. Life and Death 1:53
28. Snow 3:31
29. The Elements/Earthquake 3:46
30. Victory/Finale/Cast 1:37
Total Score Time 31:48
The Extras (CONQUEST OF SPACE)
31. Space Muzak 2:37
32. Main Title 1:08
Total Extras Time 3:39
The Extras (THE NAKED JUNGLE)
33. Prelude in E Minor (Chopin) 1:01
34. Ant Noise 1:07
Total Extras Time 2:08
An outstanding package of four classic fan-adored scores, that is bolstered by simply gorgeous artwork, a great booklet and, most importantly, terrific audio quality from the various sources utilised to make them finally available. Naturally it would have been even better if we could have had the full score for The War of the Worlds, but the key tracks that have made it into this presentation vividly allow all the colourful terror and suspense of the Martian invasion to roar out with a vengeance.
Lots more action and drama can be found in the detailed variety and vigour of When Worlds Collide, and then some surprisingly effective and thrilling cosmic splendour in Conquest of Space. For me, though, the icing on this rich and highly filling cake is the tribal grit and fury of The Naked Jungle, a thriller score with a little bit of everything thrown in – some romance, a heady dose of the exotic, some cheeky playfulness, but essentially a ferociously primal exercise in jungle terror and resolute heroism. As I mentioned within the review, there are clear references that you can pinpoint throughout these scores that have influenced the likes of Bernard Herrmann, John Barry and John Williams. So it is also great to discover something of a seedbed of ideas and imagination here within this glorious package.
This set represents awesome entertainment all round, folks, from a 2-disc platter that pulls out all the stops and leaves you breathless.
It comes very highly recommended.
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