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Friday, July 20, 2007

CD REVIEWS - Wait Until Dark + The Devil's Brigade

As other commitments prevented my from posting anything yesterday, I am covering two discs today to make up for things.

Wait Until Dark
Music by Henry Mancini
Film Score Monthly Vol.10 No.7 (US)
20 Tracks 50:33 mins

Henry Mancini was at his peak in the 1960s, when one great melodic score followed another. 1967's Wait Until Dark was one of his less melodic efforts, but even so carried a couple of memorable themes and, whilst practically everything he wrote those days found it's way to vinyl, this film was for some reason sadly neglected. Fans have had a long wait for its release, but finally those fine fellows at FSM have rewarded their patience.
The film starred Audrey Hepburn, giving a great performance as a blind woman menaced by three villains seeking a doll full of drugs in her New York apartment. It was to be her last role for nearly ten years when she returned to the screen alongside Sean Connery in Robin and Marian.
Much of the film's score is dark, anguished and menacing, based largely on an unsettling theme, first heard in the opening "Come On Loui," voiced by electric harpsichord over twin pianos, one of them playing out of tune. This theme is followed by "The Doll," a music box lullaby that is to play a lesser, but key, role in the score. The former is further developed in the "Main Title" where it is initially whistled before being carried by a number of instruments. In subsequent tracks the theme often makes its sinister presence felt.
A momentary interlude is provided by "Light Relief," which is just that, light and gay. The first of three source bossa novas follows, with "World's Champion Blind Lady" sandwiched in between, a warm guitar and strings introduction to the "Wait Until Dark" theme, later developed further in "Pick Up Sticks" and sung at the end of the score by Sue Raney, with lyrics provided by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans.
As regards the more dramatic moments in the score, these are provided by "Bulbus Terror," "Gassy!/Strum Along/The Doll" and "Cutting Roat a New One, which together make for some pretty intense writing.
Three bonus tracks complete the disc, the first a very nice strings and guitar rendition of "Wait Until Dark;" the second a slower version of the opening theme; and the third an interesting series of "Piano Tests," in which Mancini and engineer Dan Wallin can be heard trying out the opening theme prior to the writing of the score.
It's great to finally have this neglected Mancini gem available and, as always, a colourful and informative booklet accompanies the disc, with stills from the film, together with Lukas Kendall's notes and cue-by-cue guide.
Go to for more details, samples and of course to order your copy.

The Devil's Brigade
Music by Alex North
Intrada Special Collection Vol.42 (US)
24 Tracks 67:03 mins

Don't be put off by all the bonus tracks on this CD, featuring original source music, jazz standards and arrangements of Christmas carols, there is still nearly 43 minutes of Alex North's score for this World War II actioner, along with a couple of alternate cues at the end of the disc.
1968's The Devil's Brigade can be likened to The Dirty Dozen, also recently released on CD in its original form, not only in its premise and execution, but that it too received a disappointing LP release, this time of rearrangements by Leroy Holmes, that didn't do the score any kind of justice. This disc is therefore not only very welcome, but it's actually quite an eye-opener as, though I always thought the score effective enough on film, large portions of it were cut up or left out altogether and so we get to hear this music for the first time in its original form.
North's score is based almost entirely around his stirring main theme, which is a combination of original march theme and the traditional "Scotland the Brave." The "Main Title" gets things off to a rousing start with this material, which then turns somewhat balletic, with rhythms not unlike some of the composer's music for the likes of Spartacus.
Although a traditional military march version of the theme is heard in "Graduation Ceremony," nearly all the tracks before and after this present dramatic and suspenseful variations on the main theme, including some intense writing for the mountain assault scenes that make up the climax of the film. Along the way though there is an heroic lament for "Dunkirk Revisited."
The final track "Surrender Aftermath & End Title" presents a mix of warm and elegiac writing before reaching a proud crescendo and then signing off with a rousing version of the main theme.
The final two album tracks are the aforementioned alternate takes on the Main and End Titles, the first reprising the military band version of the main theme, before seguing into the balletic variations, with a rousing rendition of "Scotland the Brave" to close; the second reversing the themes.
Accompanying the disc is a colourful and informative booklet, with stills from the film and Douglass Fake's detailed notes.
Why not order your copy whilst picking up Wait Until Dark from Screen Archives, or you can go the source at


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