QBVII Jerry Goldsmith Prometheus XPCD175 The days when impressively written orchestral film scores were granted a meagre thirty minutes or so of representation on LP — or, even worse, were not preserved apart from on the sprockets of the film the score was written for — thankfully seem more and more remote these days. And the current recognition of (and more importantly, restoration, reconstruction and recording of) the very best scores by such composers as Jerry Goldsmith is due to the indefatigable work of such producers as James Fitzpatrick, who here provides a generously filled two-CD set (in wide-ranging and detailed sound) containing one of Goldsmith’s most impressive scores, written for a solid Leon Uris TV drama. The latter went in for some tendentious pleading for the state of Israel, but such issues are unimportant in the context of this beautiful, Hebraic-sounding score, mostly in meditative vein (apart from a striking fanfare or two), with the missing pages of the score painstakingly restored by composer/orchestrator Aaron Purvis. There is one caveat, and it’s a small one: the CDs link the often-short cues, showcasing Goldsmith’s conception in organic fashion, but include one cue which is in fact ‘God Save the Queen’, followed by an undistinguished, source-music waltz. But this is nevertheless nearly two hours of vintage Goldsmith; aficionados of the composer will be in seventh heaven.
THE BIG SCREEN David Thomson Will you agree with this review of David Thomson’s new book? My own favourite critics are those with whom one disagrees with quite as much as one agrees – and stimulating criticism must open the reader’s eyes to virtues of a given medium (such as cinema), as well as stimulating dissent. And that is precisely what the doyen of film critics, David Thomson, does in this exhilarating, argumentative and erudite book, celebrating the entire history of the form – and upsetting several apple carts in the process. The Big Screen is quite the equal of anything else that the author has written (which is no mean praise), even though the reader who shares Thomson’s love of film will spend quite as much time muttering in disagreement as noting how unerringly he is able to distil the very essence of cinema — and analyse how it works on us. The subtitle, The Story of the Movies and What They Did To Us, suggests the ambitious reach of the book – from history to psychology — and there is no film writer more qualified to tackle this daunting remit. His publishers modestly claim David Thomson ‘has a fair claim to be one of the greatest living writers on film.’ Surely, with the death of Raymond Durgnat — and the move into more eccentric, politically correct realms by some of his contemporaries — Penguin can now amend that encomium to ‘the greatest living writer on film.’ The Big Screen by David Thomson is published by Penguin
The Good Book Guide on BRITISH GOTHIC CINEMA Barry Forshaw Vampires, werewolves, meanly lit streets and louring castles, bloody killings and corrupted virgins, a spinetingling combination of horror and eroticism, history and legend, British Gothic cinema casts a long and frightening shadow over modern culture. From classic early Hammer Films, beginning with The Curse of Frankenstein, to modern zombie thrillers typified by Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later or retro ghost stories like Hammer’s recent The Woman in Black, the genre has entertained and terrified generations of cinema-goers. Leading crime fiction and film expert Barry Forshaw turns his attention to Gothic Cinema and its debt to the seminal literature, such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which provided potent inspiration for 20th-century filmmakers. Lively, intriguing and authoritative, this is a fascinating history of a popular genre, enriched with revealing interviews with directors, writers and actors, and enlivened by the author’s enthusiasm for his grisly subject. Palgrave Macmillan 240pp Pb. £16.99
Shock Value Jason Zinoman When I was writing British Gothic Cinema, a key theme for me was how Hammer Films – for all their virtues – had begun to seem old-fashioned in the 1970s. This was partly because of the studio’s recycling of familiar ideas, but it was also due to the new wave of edgy, provocative contemporary-set horror films mostly emerging from the United States. The standard bearer for this new wave was George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, which as well as delivering intense and visceral shocks injected a sociopolitical intelligence into the genre. That film (and its variety of shocking companions) is celebrated with great enthusiasm in Jason Zinoman’s fascinating study. The rather prolix jacket copy reads ‘How a few eccentric outsiders gave us nightmares, conquered Hollywood and invented modern horror’ — but for once, the blurb has it right. Zinoman analyses precisely how such films as the big-budget The Exorcist and the cheaper independent Last House on the Left both exploded and rebuilt the horror form leaving it essentially changed for ever. Directors such as Wes Craven, Romero (inevitably), John Carpenter, Brian de Palma and even the then-arthouse filmmaker Roman Polanski were to bring new levels of creative innovation to the field. It’s an area which is now being much written about, but rarely with such entertaining attention to detail as here. (Shock Value by Jason Zinoman is published by Duckworth Overlook)