Posted by Oscar Flores
Added on Tuesday, November 26, 2013
So I Married an Axe Murderer, Remo Williams, Mission of the Shark and Breakfast at Tiffany's
The 1993 Columbia film So I Married an Axe Murderer is a comedy with an axe murderer on the loose. It is a romance with suspense. It is riddled with jokes, visual gags and plenty of fun. And it required almost wall-to-wall music, via numerous songs and source music, literally from start to finish. Composer Bruce Broughton had the task of filling in the gaps, tying up loose ends, bridging the jokes and keeping a brisk pace. He also had the additional challenge of making the action-packed finale as exciting as possible. He wrote a score that was initially tuneful and flavored with humor, then ushered in suspense and climaxed with over-the-top action. He skillfully kept everything cohesive by fashioning a winding, flexible melodic idea with hints of mischief and danger that could be used in guises from hip to suspenseful, from gentle to exciting. It was just the unifying musical approach the picture needed.
For this premiere presentation of Bruce Broughton’s score, Intrada had access to the complete digital two-track stereo session DATs made by Armin Steiner, Broughton’s frequent scoring mixer, allowing for not only a presentation of his score as heard in the film but also the alternate versions of cues as well as the unused sequences that were replaced by material from other artists. The results are an album full of easy-to-digest tunes, smoky suspense cues, original source numbers and, ultimately, some genuine orchestral fireworks.
So I Married An Axe Murderer stars Mike Myers as a poet who is unlucky in love. And when it comes to butcher Harriet Michaels (Nancy Travis)—whom he falls in love, plans to wed and then suspects is the notorious Mrs. Axe, on the lam for whacking off her last three husbands—he's really unlucky.
It is a noteworthy occasion when a composer gets the opportunity to revisit a work that helped put him on the map. When Craig Safan rose to prominence in Hollywood during the 1980s, one of his first big hits was a thoroughly engaging score for the action-adventure film Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985). Ultimately, the film's performance did not justify the expense of a big-screen sequel, but rather than abandon the franchise, the film’s producers decided to retool Remo as a television series designed to pick up where the theatrical film had left off. Craig Safan’s music for Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins had been a massive undertaking. He had composed almost the whole score on Synclavier. Then he overdubbed a 60-piece orchestra, and then on top of that overdubbed a smaller Korean orchestra. The smaller budget of the TV pilot reduced Safan’s ensemble to around 40 players—and instead of overdubs, the entire score was realized live on the scoring stage. The composer used synth and creative instrumentation to closely approximate the sound of the native Korean instruments that had been used for the theatrical film, and the result is a score that maintains a remarkable degree of continuity with its predecessor. Two principal themes from The Adventure Begins return in the pilot score. First is the main Remo Williams theme, which kicks off with a dynamic fanfare before moving into an energetic passage of pulsing synth and bright brass chords—all punctuated by a distinctive “ricochet” effect that the composer drew from his sample library. The other major returning theme is for Chiun: a lengthy, flowing line that rises and falls like a single meditative breath.
Premiering three years after the Remo Williams pilot, the made-for-television film Mission of the Shark: The Saga of the U.S.S. Indianapolis presented Safan with very different subject matter. The film recounts the true story of an American heavy cruiser sunk by a Japanese submarine in the final weeks of World War II. The U.S.S. Indianapolis had just completed a successful mission when disaster struck. Of its crew of 1,196 men, around 900 survived the immediate aftermath of the sinking. But a series of tragic errors prevented the Navy from noticing the attack. By the time real help arrived, some five days later, there were only 316 survivors. Music would be vital to keeping the audience connected to the film’s emotional core. Safan crafted a noble theme in an Americana vein, emphasizing the tones and lush textures of a brass chorale. The film’s budgetary constraints, however, required a bit of cleverness when it came to orchestration, not allowing for the big brass and strings sections he wanted. To compensate, he creatively chose to composer for only cellos and basses—no violas, and no violins. To fill the resulting gap, Safan made subtle use of synth strings. The main theme highlights trumpet and horn, and much of the orchestration—with its sonorous wind writing throughout—suggests a concert band. The entire score is broadly drawn and rich with major-key harmony, but it is worth spotlighting “Shark Attack,” a decidedly aggressive sequence. In what may be the composer’s most dramatic sequence, the attack is intensified by incredibly dynamic low brass (particularly tuba) and percussion. It is a striking moment indeed in what is a powerful work overall.
For the 1961 Paramount Pictures' film Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Henry Mancini wrote the melody of a lifetime and the score to go with it. Along with lyricist Johnny Mercer, he penned the song “Moon River” and enjoyed seeing it win the 1961 Academy Award for Best Song—and rapidly become one of the most recorded hits of all time. His Academy Award-winning score became equally famous. As was the norm in those days, Mancini selected approximately half an hour of melodies from the film score and re-arranged them for an RCA album aimed at the easy listening market. While the arrangements made for tuneful listening,the more serious orchestral sequences went unrepresented. Incredibly, while the “Moon River” theme, with its signature harmonica solo representing the lonely melancholy of principal character Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) was the most famous melody in the picture, Mancini chose to leave it off the re-recorded album save for the main title and a cha-cha version. That meant the entire final (and justifiably celebrated) sequence of the picture—the search for “cat,” that unforgettable embrace of the two lovers, the beautifully shot closing image of both cat and lovers re-united in the rain—and the dramatic treatment of “Moon River” with its trademark discordant notes of suspense leading to one of the most stirring orchestral crescendos and codas in all film music, went completely unrecorded for the record-buying public. Also gone were all of the lonesome variations of the melody, as well as the dramatic scoring for “Doc” Golightly (Buddy Ebsen), the magnificent parting sequence at the bus station, and many other cues.
For the first time, fans of this moving and magnificent film score can hear the soundtrack versions Mancini composed and conducted for the film—every dramatic cue, all of the sentimental variations, every big band tune and all the other pieces that make up this special soundtrack CD. Working from a number of master materials, including the 35mm three-channel stereo tracks, mono film soundtrack stems, DAT transfers made by Paramount Pictures and a handful of alternate and demo recordings, the entire score was remixed into a rich and rewarding stereo experience (with the exception of three score cues and the variety of extras that appear on this CD). It’s everything film music fans could want and it's everything Henry Mancini wrote for this most cherished of never-before-released soundtracks.