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Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

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I’ve always loved creaky old movies, especially Westerns, and have gotten used to people turning up their noses at whatever film I might mention. So one of the joys of riding herd over this blog for the last five years has been running into a gang of folks who enjoy these things as much as I do. Who discuss them, study them, and give them a level of respect that “regular people” can’t understand.

That’s one of the things that makes David Schecter’s work at Monstrous Movie Music so special. He’s one of us. We’re his customer base. And he continues to deliver the goods.

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Western Medley
, a two-CD set, presents the scores to three Westerns from Lippert Pictures: The Great Jesse James Raid (1953, composed by Bert Shefter), The Baron Of Arizona (1950, by Paul Dunlap) and Last Of The Wild Horses (1948, from Albert Glasser). It’s a terrific release, from the music itself to the lavish packaging to the thorough liner notes.

I’m particularly enamored of Shefter’s work for The Great Jesse James Raid. Evidently, no one bothered to tell him this was just some cheap 73-minute cowboy movie. While in some ways it’s pretty conventional stuff, there’s enough music for over half the film’s running time–and it’s so well done. The film doesn’t deserve this score (or Wallace Ford, come to think of it).

Haven’t spent as much time with the other scores. I’m very familiar with Sam Fuller’s The Baron Of Arizona and a fan of Paul Dunlap. He never disappoints. Last Of The Wild Horses is a nice score; many of us know Albert Glasser for his work on 50s horror and science fiction stuff.

This is a set you’ll want to spend some quality time with. Recommended. Let’s hope there’s a Western Medley Volume 2 someday. And by the way, the films themselves are available through Kit Parker Films and VCI (Jesse, Wild Horses) and Criterion (Baron).

a_1980-Cover-GatlingGun--3Out at the same time is Paul Sawtell and Bert Shefter’s music for The Gatling Gun (1971), a near-impossible-to-see picture with a production history that’s probably more entertaining that the film itself. Before release, the film was confiscated when one of the producers was brought up on racketeering charges.

It was directed by Robert Gordon and stars Woody Strode, Guy Stockwell, Robert Forster, Patrick Wayne, John Carradine and Pat Buttram. The score’s very good, and now I’m really wanting to see the movie.

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Today would be composer Jerome Moross’ 100th birthday. 50s Western fans know him for his terrific score for The Big Country (1958), William Wyler’s epic Western starring Gregory Peck. It’s easily one of the best to be found in any Western — and it’s got some stiff competition.

Moross’ daughter (who has been a huge help with my research) has organized a number of showcases for her dad’s work. You can follow the festivities at moross.com.

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I’m really happy to have been involved, even to a tiny extent, with the CD release of a couple of 50s Western scores — Paul Dunlap’s score for Hellgate (1952) and Bert Shefter’s music for The Tall Texan (1953) — from David Schecter’s label Monstrous Movie Music. Both are Lippert pictures, available on DVD from Kit Parker and VCI.

Over the course of his career, Paul Dunlap scored over a hundred films, mostly B movies of various sorts — from I was A Teenage Werewolf (1957) to Shock Corridor (1963). There were lots of Westerns: Jack Slade (1953), Stranger  On Horseback (1955), The Quiet Gun (1956) and Oregon Trail (1959), to name just a few. While Dunlap wasn’t a big fan of some of the films he worked on, his name’s on some films I love. Every seen Big House U.S.A. or Shack Out On 101 (both 1955)?

Hellgate is an excellent film, a low-budget reworking of John Ford’s Prisoner Of Shark Island (1936). Sterling Hayden, Ward Bond, Joan Leslie and James Arness are directed by Charles Marquis Warren. It’s obvious Dunlap liked this film, and he came through with a terrific score. The CD presents the music in sequence, cue by cue, from a set of original acetates (a few cues have been lost to time). Dunlap’s score for The Lost Continent, a 1951 sci-fi picture starring Cesar Romero, is also included.

1974_Cover__Main_Page_Bert Shefter was a Russian-born concert pianist and conductor. He scored his first film in 1950 and by the time he retired, had more than 60 movies and hundreds and hundreds of TV shows to his credit. His scores include Cattle Empire (1958), Return Of The Fly (1959) and Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965). His work on It! The Terror From Beyond Space (1958) really knocked me out. Like Dunlap, Shefter never coasted, never give less than 100% — even if if the picture didn’t really deserve it.

The Tall Texan was directed by Elmo Williams, the Oscar-winning editor of High Noon, and shot by Joseph Biroc. A solid, low-budget 50s Western (it cost just $100,000), it stars Lloyd Bridges, Marie Windsor and Lee J. Cobb. Shefter gives themes to several of the main characters, including a menacing piece for the Indians, and makes good use of a couple popular tunes, “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and “Blow The Man Down.”

I really like these films, and it’s easy to recommend these CDs. Monstrous Movie Music has assembled a nice package, with thorough notes and some fascinating archival material. David Schecter says that if these titles do well, there are other 50s Western scores he’d like to get around to. Let’s help make sure he can.

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Here’s The Longboards, a Surf band from Bilbao, Spain, doing a beautiful cover of Peggy Lee and Victor Young’s theme from Johnny Guitar (1954). The Norwegian band The Spotnicks released a great version of this back in 1962.

And since we’re on the subject of Johnny Guitar, here’s an interview with Ernest Borgnine where he brings it up.

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It’s hard to even imagine it, but there’s more to life than 50s Westerns.

For me, there’s Surf Music. And I’m lucky enough to be just 34 miles from The Instro Summit, “America’s biggest all-instrumental music festival.” It’s more than 20 bands over three days, and it’s this weekend. All-Rockin’, No Squawkin’!

To mark the occasion, I give you Los Straitjackets’ terrific take on Elmer Bernstein’s “The Magificent Seven.”

Back in the saddle on Monday. In the meantime, go read Maury Dexter’s book.

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Happy Easter.

Even if Gene Autry did sing “Here Comes Peter Cottontail” in Hills Of Utah (1951), there’s not a lot of Easter to be found in 50s Westerns.

But with The Bravados (1958) coming up this week (Gregory Peck’s birthday was the 5th), I was reminded of the church scene towards the end. That’ll have to do. What a movie!

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Happy Birthday, Johnny Cash.

Johnny Cash

February 26, 1932 – September 12, 2003

The Man In Black never appeared in a 50s Western, though he’s in A Gunfight (1970) and several Western TV movies. His LPs Ride The Train (1960) and Sings The Ballads Of The True West (1965) show Cash to be a real student of the Old West. These are great albums.

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