VALLEY OF THE KINGS/MEN OF THE FIGHTING LADY

THE SUBTERRANEANS

(Film Score Monthly-producer, Screenarchives.com (distributor)

Three excellent Film Score Monthly Golden Age scores that have recently seen the light of day have one primary thing in common: they were all originally attached to MGM films that are essentially forgotten today, which is, especially in the case of VALLEY OF THE KINGS and THE SUBTERRANEANS, absolutely no reflection on the quality of the scores themselves.

VALLEY OF THE KINGS (1954), one of the first of the archeological action adventure films and a clear inspiration for the bloated and bombastic INDIANA JONES series, benefited immensely from excellent Robert Surtees (KING SOLOMON'S MINES) location photography in Egypt and the gruff, no-nonsense masculinity of star Robert Taylor, who miraculously was able to invest a fancifully written role with a believability that eluded  most of the rest of the cast. Despite its visual opulence and strong central performance it failed to find a substantial audience.

It did, however, return composer Miklos Rozsa (who during the forties had primarily specialized  in creating memorable scores for the film noir genre and had recently switched to big-budget costume extravaganzas) to the THIEF OF BAGHDAD, JUNGLE BOOK,  FOUR FEATHERS, SAHARA-type of exotic Arabian fantasy score that had been responsible for his early rise to prominence and it proved conclusively that no composer was more suited to this particular type of film. 

But VALLEY OF THE KINGS, a far more complex and varied score than any of the above, also proved that Rozsa's style had matured considerably, and clearly the MGM Studio Orchestra was vastly superior, both in size and level of talent, to any of the earlier orchestras. Indeed, this is my favorite of all the scores mentioned above. It fairly tingles with inspiration, melody and energy and is not to be missed  by anyone who, like me, feels that when  Miklos Rozsa was at MGM he was at the very top of his game. 

MEN OF THE FIGHTING LADY (1954) while workmanlike and competent in execution, suffered from a undernourished and patchy screenplay that betrayed the fact that its source material stemmed from two diverse short stories about a Korean War air incident. Consequently it failed to duplicate the success of top-billed star Van Johnson's previous military hits BATTLEGROUND (1950) and, to a lesser extent, GO FOR BROKE (1952),  but it did feature a breathtakingly intense and haunting 20 minute Rozsa suite for the rescue sequence that, after 51 rather mundane and musically sparse minutes, energized and invigorated the latter portions of this film. This stirring music has been remixed and remastered in stereo and is a worthy addition to any Rozsa collection.

To date, Andre Previn at MGM fans have been encouraged by the prior cd release of his scores  for BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK, FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE, HOUSE OF NUMBERS and THE FASTEST GUN ALIVE  and now, yet again courtesy of Film Score Monthly, we have been blessed with the release of Previn's jazzy and sensational score for one of the biggest bombs of all time, the deservedly forgotten THE SUBTERRANEANS (1960), but there isn't one forgettable track on this bracingly electrifying soundtrack that seamlessly combines some of Previn's most seductive full orchestra romantic compositions with deliriously hot jazz creations by an incredible ensemble that includes such jazz icons as Carmen McRae, Gerry Mulligan, Shelly Manne, Buddy Clark, Art Pepper, Jack Sheldon and, of course, Previn himself at the piano. THE SUBTERRANEANS is the joyously swingingest score that Film Score Monthly has hitherto released and will be savored by Previn and jazz fans worldwide. 

And now, dear FSM, allow us to tactfully suggest that sometime in the not-too-distant future you grace us with Previn's brilliant score for the RING AROUND THE ROSY sequence of Gene Kelly's INVITATION TO THE DANCE, possibly supplemented by the abandoned Malcolm Arnold tracks, if in fact they still exist. 

--DICK DINMAN

          

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