CD Review: GOING APE! soundtrack

GOING APE! soundtrack | ©2015 Intrada Records

 Though he’d never stopped scoring dramatic subjects like THE GREAT SANTINI and ZULU DAWN (not to mention SATURN 3‘s  hulking robot), the 1980s proved to be a three ring circus that proclaimed Elmer Bernstein as a king of comedy. He was certainly on a roll after the hijinks of ANIMAL HOUSE, MEATBALLS and AIRPLANE! scores that famously played their screwball humor “straight.” But definitely not so with the monkeyshines of 1981′s GOING APE!, which teamed TV’s TAXI stars Tony Danza and Danny DeVito with three mugging orangutans. While definitely not the most sophisticated comedy that Bernstein would ever score, the […]Read On »

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CD Review: ELMER BERNSTEIN: THE WILD SIDE soundtrack

ELMER BERNSTEIN: THE WILD SIDE soundtrack | ©2015 Varese Sarabande Records

No composer embodied the pure movie swing of jazz during the art form’s mainlining into much of film scoring during the 50s and 60s like Elmer Bernstein. From the hot sax heroin rush that flooded into Frankie Machine’s veins in THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM to the lustful brass catfight of WALK ON THE WILD SIDE or the salacious gossip beat that stank of  THE SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS, Bernstein tapped into the energetic transgressiveness of music that promised a rawness that the Hayes Code-enforced movies could only hint at. So it’s only natural that Varese head Robert Townson […]Read On »

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CD Review: SEE NO EVIL soundtrack

SEE NO EVIL soundtrack | ©2014 Intrada Records

Where Henry Mancini got to play blind woman’s bluff with Audrey Hepburn in WAIT UNTIL DARK with creeping restraint, composer Elmer Bernstein got to scare the already-gone sight out of Mia Farrow with way more symphonic lavishness in this 1971 thriller from BOSTON STRANGLER director Richard Fleischer, who opened up the basic girl-in-peril idea from a Manhattan apartment to an English home and its surrounding countryside – where nearly all of the occupants have gone lights out thanks to a cowboy-boot wearing killer. Where Bernstein was best known for intimate Hollywood dramas or period epics, the composer was equally adept […]Read On »

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CD Review: ELMER BERNSTEIN: THE AVA COLLECTION soundtrack

ELMER BERNSTEIN: THE AVA COLLECTION soundtrack | ©2014 Intrada Records

Though taken for granted by today’s collectors, being able to get the actual, original tracks for a film score has only been a relatively recent development. What most fans received for decades were performances done after the fact by the likes of Henry Mancini, Jerry Goldsmith and John Williams, who took the most melodically accessible tracks from a given film, then lushly arranged them for albums that barely topped the half hour mark. Before Elmer Bernstein specifically marketed these types of re-performances specifically for the soundtrack appreciator market with his “Film Music Collection” label (whose Film Score Monthly box set […]Read On »

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CD Review: JOHN WAYNE AT FOX: THE WESTERNS soundtrack

JOHN WAYNE AT FOX: THE WESTERNS soundtrack | ©2013 Kritzerland Records

The Duke was an icon who meant manliness – and his musical accompaniment was no less rambunctiously muscular, especially when it came to the genre that he made into his own Monument Valley. But while his western scores left no doubt as to The Duke’s vitality, they each did their part to dig out even more unexpected charisma from this drawling hunk of granite, three terrifically entertaining chisels of which are presented on this Kritzerland collection. First up is a score by the composer who proved to be Wayne’s most unlikely saddle mate at strengthening his All-American image, an elfin […]Read On »

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CD Review: THE CARPETBAGGERS soundtrack

THE CARPETBAGGERS soundtrack | ©2013 Intrada Records

Elmer Bernstein was a composer who could wear many stylistic hats to fit his often over-sized characters, whether it was conjuring a biblical symphony for Moses or gun-blazing western music for John Wayne. But if I have a personal favorite approach, then it’s the Bernstein of the late 50s and early 60s, a time when jazz stood for bad behavior. Bernstein mainlined that hep, untamed sound with the more mainstream sound of an orchestra to create the defining sound of “movie jazz.” It was a deliciously swaggering approach that captured the morally bankrupt doings of heroin addicts (MAN WITH THE […]Read On »

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CD Review: THREE AMIGOS! soundtrack

THREE AMIGOS! soundtrack | ©2013 Perseverance Records

Credit longtime Elmer Bernstein fan (and family friend) John Landis as the guy who thought the composer’s important orchestral style could be applied to hilarious ends by being played straight in ANIMAL HOUSE. It was a film that made Bernstein an inadvertent king of comedy by unwinkingly using his old-school sound for the likes of AIRPLANE! STRIPES and GHOSTBUSTERS. So it was natural that Landis would call on Bernstein to inadvertently spoof the Oscar-nominated western sound of TRUE GRIT and THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN for three not-so magnificent silent movie stars fooled into becoming real heroes in 1986’s THREE AMIGOS!  Bernstein’s […]Read On »

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CD Review: THE BLACK CAULDRON

THE BLACK CAULDRON soundtrack | ©2012 Intrada Records

Even if Disney animation didn’t exactly get their answer to THE LORD OF THE RINGS with this 1985 fantasy spectacle, THE BLACK CAULDRON did brew up the last epic genre score that Elmer Bernstein would compose for a major studio. There’s certainly no mistaking his inimitable touch during the era, as CAULDRON‘s theremin-like Ondes Martenot, playful electronics and bold, brassy statements are part of the same, tasty brew from whence the likes of SATURN 3, SPACEHUNTER and HEAVY METAL sprang. But if there’s one Bernstein score that THE BLACK CAULDRON really shares its lifeblood with, then it’s the over-the-top sound […]Read On »

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CD Review: TRADING PLACES soundtrack (2,000 edition)

TRADING PLACES soundtrack | ©2011 La La Land Records

An old fogey named Elmer Bernstein became the new (and perhaps unwitting) king of youth comedy scores when filmmaker John Landis had the idea that the composer’s straight-laced, old Hollywood approach would be ideal to play the classically pompous academia who did their best to make sure Faber College had no fun of any kind. The keg smash of 1978’s ANIMAL HOUSE made Bernstein into The Man in more ways than one, tuning his often brassy approach to the height of wealth-spoofing irony- an approach that would pay huge dividends for both men ten years later with TRADING PLACES. Of […]Read On »

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CD Review: THE GREAT SANTINI soundtrack

THE GREAT SANTINI soundtrack | ©2011 Film Score Monthly

The tenderness of Elmer Bernstein’s score for TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD meets the officious jackboot he’d apply to STRIPES to accompany one of Robert Duvall’s best roles as a marine pilot who wears his full-fury stripes at home. Bernstein was equally adept at dealing with youthful life-lessons and the charge-ahead determination of military hard-asses. And no picture played better to both melodic strengths than the critically decorated GREAT SANTINI, whose score swings from the twinkling of adolescent magic to the roaring military drum force of a blowhard, who nonetheless packs his own hidden heart. The film’s South Carolina location in […]Read On »

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