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Thursday, April 17, 2008


Eye of the Devil
Music by Gary McFarland
Film Score Monthly Vol.11 No.1 (US)
17 Tracks 48:44 mins

The FSM label does not always bring us momumental film scores, but occasionally releases an undiscovered gem, as is the case with Gary McFarland's score for Eye of the Devil, a 1966 chiller, also known as 13, starring David Niven and Deborah Kerr. It's a little-seen film and the composer's name meant nothing to me when I picked up the disc. In fact he only composed one more film score after this, for Who Killed Mary What's 'er Name?, another film I am unfamiliar with, before his tragic and somewhat mysterious death at the young age of 38.
Though principally a jazz composer, arranger and performer, McFarland was taking an increasing interest in film composing and, on the evidence of this disc, could easily have made another career for himself in that field.
The score's "Main Theme" opens the album, introduced as a harp solo, played on-screen at a dinner party. This blossoms on horns and strings in the following "Philippe's Study." It's an attractive piece that actually found a life of its own away from the film, being recorded numerous times under various titles. An LP of the score, which was recorded in England with members of the National Philharmonic, under the baton of Jack Parnell, was actually planned at the time of the film's release, but was cancelled when the film performed poorly following its delayed release due to production problems. The theme receives a number treatments throughout the score, most of them lush and positive. There are however many eerie, mysterious moments, McFarland often making use of vocal combinations in some quite spare, but also soothing, ethereal passages.
"Procession" is an interesting track, presenting a tuneful opening for peeling bells," which gives way to a soothing choral, before the bells take over again.
A devilish Hunting horn theme adds suitable menace in "Christian Galloping" and "The Grave in the Forest" and "Nightmare" offers dissonant action writing. The climax of the film features what is best described in the press release as a "bolero of death," which starts out quite sparingly in "You Must Help Me" and is developed through the following two tracks, before ending in a furious climax. The main theme returns in all its glory for the finale "Jacques and the Eye."
As a bonus, the percussive jazz accompanying the film's trailer is tacked on at the end of thedisc.
All in all, the score holds up well in comparison with other similar genre offerings of the time. I'm thinking of the Hammer horrors, and McFarland's jazz sensibilities also bear some similarity to the work of Jerry Fielding, Michel Legrand and their contemporaries.
As always, the disc's accompanying booklet features stills from the film, together with detailed notes and cue-by-cue guide, courtesy of John Bender and album producer Lukas Kendall. Go to for further details, samples and to order your copy.


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