THE SWAN / SHOES OF THE FISHERMAN

(Film Score Monthly)

THE SWAN-----Bronislau Kaper was an uncommonly versatile film composer. Just a cursory glance at some of his cinematic accomplishments          (THEM, HOME FROM THE HILL, THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE, MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY [1962])effectively illustrates the impressive length and breadth of his great talent. But if there was one particular genre of film for which he was most particularly suited, and in which he had no equal, it was the romantic period pieces, many of which were imbued with fairy- tale-like qualities. Those rapturously melodic bittersweet scores, which included LILI, THE GLASS SLIPPER, and, to a certain extent, A FLEA IN HER EAR, were scores of such charm and sensitivity that they actually far transcended the variable qualities of the latter two films. If it weren't for LILI, however, which I believe to be Kaper's magnum opus, THE SWAN, the complete score of which has just been released by Film Score Monthly, would easily be my favorite Kaper score. 

For the inescapable fact is, that this is a score of such unparrallelled delicate, wistful and sensitive loveliness that it becomes, in fact, the real "star" of THE SWAN, a film that was considered to be a richly appointed old-fashioned antiquity even upon its release in 1956. Just try to get some of Kaper's unsurpassingly romantic and beautiful themes out of your head after experiencing this latest superb Film Score Monthly c.d., which includes not only the original three-track stereo masters of the film itself, but also the L.P. album monaural tracks.                             

Incidentally, the comprehensive liner notes for THE SWAN include one major mistake in stating that Brian Aherne "appeared in two theatrical retellings of the Titanic disaster, A NIGHT TO REMEMBER (1943) and TITANIC (1953)" when in fact the 1943 film was a comedy-mystery that had nothing to do with the ill-fated ocean liner, while the 1958 A NIGHT TO REMEMBER, which didn't include Mr. Aherne in the cast, was all about the TITANIC. Additionally, the included original L.P. liner notes refer, in one instance, to M.G.M. Production Chief Dore Schary as Mr. "Scary", which, while obviously a typo, coincidentally happens to be the stated opinion about Mr. Schary by certain M.G.M. stars, such as Esther Williams and Jane Powell. 

THE SHOES OF THE FISHERMAN --- I've always had a love/hate opinion of Alex North's works. While I appreciate some of them (VIVA ZAPATA, THE WONDERFUL COUNTRY, THE KING AND FOUR QUEENS, CLEOPATRA ) , I dislike a great number of his works, such as THE MISFITS, THE SOUND AND THE FURY, and ,most of all, SPARTACUS, which I consider the most over-scored film ever released this side of Max Steiner, an assessment , by the way , which is echoed by no less than Peter Ustinov in his commentary on the Criterion dvd.         

THE SHOES OF THE FISHERMAN, however, is North's richest, most powerful, and most melodically accessible score since CLEOPATRA, and while Film Score Monthly, because of its later vintage, considers SHOES a "Silver Age" score, one listen to this powerful and beautifully orchestrated score will convince you that you're listening to a fine "Golden Age" work. In this particular instance North seamlessly combines his modern and original style with a stunning variety of simple and emotional themes that make for a wonderfully rich listening experience in excellent stereo. Also included on this generous two-disc set are the entire original L.P. tracks, as well as additional source music and, if all of that weren't enough, Film Score Monthly has also included almost ten minutes of demonstration tracks from ICE STATION ZEBRA and more than forty minutes of additional album recording tracks from WHERE EAGLES DARE, for which there was no room on their original releases of those titles, making purchase of this great c.d. absolutely essential for dedicated film music buffs.                   

--DICK DINMAN

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