Best Music (Scoring) – 1974

Official Nominations: The Godfather Part II. Chinatown. Murder On The Orient Express. Shanks. The Towering Inferno. The Great Gatsby. The Little Prince. Phantom Of Paradise.

The category continues to be divided into two, with the official winners being The Godfather Part II and The Great Gatsby. After the mess surrounding the score and snub for The Godfather, there was only one winner here. In truth the score isn’t all that different from Part I but it’s still strong enough to be the choice. Jerry Goldsmith’s Chinatown is the only other potential, a woozy score with plenty of wistful moments, a score which on its own evokes Marlowe imagery, lonely PIs and boozed up dames, and maybe the odd footchase through a dark alley.

The Murder On The Orient Express soundtrack always reminded me of a score from decades earlier, albeit done with better production values – it’s classy, has sudden dramatic outbursts, and the necessary touches of glamour and romance. Shanks isn’t about a series of prison stabbings – it’s somehow worse. It’s amusing that a movie about a killer doll gets nominated for an Oscar. Well, not quite, but it is about a puppeteer played by Marcel Marceau who, with the help of an evil doctor, can control the dead. How William Castle got Alex North to work on this I don’t know, possibly via the use of an evil doctor and puppeteer, but it’s an Oscar Nomination for a horror movie so I can’t complain. It actually isn’t that bad a film – lent authenticity by Marceau’s performance and North’s wispy stop-start score – you can imagine the notes being pulled up and down by the invisible hands of a puppeteer.

The Towering Inferno is, I always forget, another score by John Williams. Even before he made all the soundtracks you love he was knocking it out of the park. If anything, this one actually reminds me of Star Trek – there’s that sense of ambition and exploration and scope in the music. Not a lot of memorable cues though. The Great Gatsby… not a book or an adaptation or a period of time and place I’ve ever really enjoyed so I’m usually biased against such things. Thankfully the score doesn’t go too far down the sound of the period that I don’t like, but still… The Little Prince is a strange one – an unsuccessful musical with a good cast. In theory it sounds like a musical version of the story could work, and that’s coming from someone who hates musicals, but this one doesn’t work. Most of the songs are annoying and the music is forgettable – it’s not a patch on the 2015 version. Finally, Phantom Of Paradise is the weirdest one of the lot – another musical, or maybe more accurately a Rock Opera with horror elements, directed by Brian De Palma. The rock opera movie would have a more successful release the following year, but this one has its moments, possibly let down by the lack of known performers. It’s a film about a disfigured rock star who seeks revenge against an evil producer who steals all his work and gets rich. A number of the songs are good, the overall score is consistent, though none of it became a hit and the film wasn’t a huge success.

My Winner: Chinatown

My Nominations: Chinatown. The Godfather Part II. The Phantom of Paradise. Black Christmas. Foxy Brown. Earthquake. The Taking Of Pelham 123. Blazing Saddles. Dark Star. The Sugarland Express. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Young Frankenstein.

Three of the official choices make it to my list – you should know by now my choices tend to be somewhat more eclectic.

Black Christmas has a pretty unnerving and chilling soundtrack, filled with moans and creaking and wind howls along with twist on Christmas classics. Foxy Brown on the other hand is just good, solid, sexy fun by the great Willie Hutch. John Williams was just starting to hit his stride in the early-mid 70s, as you’ll see from this list and pretty much every subsequent year. Both Earthquake and The Towering Inferno have decent central themes and much to love and quite a few similarities. Elsewhere, he also collaborated with the little known Senor Spielbergo on The Sugarland Express – a weird one which has too much wailing harmonica and not enough of the good stuff – strings, building brass, hooks, yet is great when it works.

David Shire’s The Taking Of Pelham 123 feels like a disaster score, which I suppose is apt. It’s suitably chaotic, the lead ba-dum-da-dum brass pulsating and pounding. Finally, we’ve got to have The Texas Chainsaw Massacre soundtrack (Wayne Bell and Tobe Hooper) – perhaps more than any other main theme this year does it catch in your memory. Those screeching, ‘whatever they ares’ in the intro remain horrifying now, setting up a truly unique and nightmarish film – you watch and hear the opening, and you know you’re in trouble. Aside from that there is booming distortion, clashing cymbals, and other anti-music just off-putting enough to create an unequaled atmosphere.

Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, Dark Star. I was going to pick The Godfather Part 2, but lets not.

My Winner: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Let us know which score gets your vote!

Best Music (Scoring) – 1962

Actual Nominations:

Lawrence Of Arabia: Maurice Jarre’s theme is instantly recognisable and indeed set up several musical clichés which still exist today- it’s difficult to watch any desert scene in a movie without that oriental swirling string style used in the 1962 hit. The soundtrack is filled with these foreign moments whilst also sounding distinctly French, but most importantly it immediately evokes images of endless sand landscapes, mirages, and wanderers in white with their faces covered before impending dust hurricanes. It is a deserving winner and gets my official vote.

Freud: Jerry Goldsmith got his first Oscar nomination for this Biopic of Freud, a film which was not a success and has been long since forgotten. The soundtrack however has managed to stand he test of time and is full of plinky plonky plucked strings and dissonant sounds- it almost sounds like the archetypal mystery movie soundtrack. There aren’t a lot of obvious melodic moments but rather many merged smaller pieces which create a great amount of tension and inertia. It was also famously re-used for Alien in 1979.

Mutiny On The Bounty: Bronislau Kaper’s theme is an old school epic theme, typical for Milestone’s movies and one which is full of stirring strings and choirs and definitely creates thoughts of high sea adventure in one’s head.

Taras Bulba: Franz Waxman’s score for Taras Bulba is an unusual one- it has all the cheesy hallmarks of pre-1960 Hollywood with dreary, lost vocals and gentle melodies but it is punctuated by bizarre harpsichord sounds and Eastern scales.

To Kill A Mockingbird:Bernstein is a God amongst composers, but I have to say the theme for the 1962 flick didn’t leave an impression on me. On re-visiting it reminds me of Edward Scissorhands and although it lacks a standout moment, the overall feel of soft playing and melodies gives a sense of innocence and eventually tragedy and justice when you are familiar with the plot. It is a strong score which stands well on its own and may have been down played during the movie.

The Music Man: This was the winner for this year’s awards and it’s an obvious one- the film is packed full of jolly hits which appeal to musical fan’s taste, and naturally there are a few of the songs which are so damn catchy that even the most hardened anti-musical man would struggle not to smile at a few of them. However, as a whole it is simply too cheesy and happy for my tastes and will not be getting my pick as winner.

Billy Rose’s Jumbo: George Stoll’s adaptation of the Rodgers and Hart score is equally old school Hollywood and although there are a few decent songs and though it does adequately evoke images of Circuses and clowns, it is so generic and unimaginative that it goes in one ear and out the other for me.

Gigot: Again we are in ye olde territory here, not surprising with Gene Kelly at the helm, although thankfully it doesn’t go overboard with the wailing choral voices or soundless strings. There is nothing outstanding here but it suits the tear-jerking, soppy nature of the film.

Gypsy: And once again it’s another horrific old style score to fit another horrific film admirably. Even for musical fans I don’t think there is anything outstanding here.

The Wonderful World Of The Brothers Grimm: This movie was all about the visuals and the stories and the adventure and it is unfortunate that the film got a fairly generic, unimpressive score- weird fairy tale ditties aside.

My Winner: Freud

My Nominations: Lawrence Of Arabia. Freud. Mutiny On The Bounty. To Kill A Mockingbird. Dr. No. The Phantom Of The Opera.

Only Dr No and The Phantom OfThe Opera are newly added to my choices. Monty Norman and John Barry’s famous James Bond Theme is one of the most recognisable pieces of music ever written and stands the test of time – the rest of the score is punctuated by Calypso sounds and Caribbean styles. Edwin Astley’s score for The Phantom Of The Opera features strong original and burrowed music, but has since been overshadowed by later versions.

My Winner: Freud