The Blue Max brings back quite a few memories for me, it was the first time I was introduced to the stunning beauty of Ursula Andress and also it was the first time that I heard Jerry Goldsmith
’s sweeping and dramatic soundtrack, it was also one of the first import long playing records that I purchased, which was around four years after I first went to see the movie. I think I was about eleven years old when I first saw the picture and then at fifteen managed to get the music on a mainstream recording that boasted that eye catching and colourful art work and all for the Princely sum of £3.15p including postage (thank you Michael Jones). The score remains one of my favourite Goldsmith works to this day and this latest edition of the score on a two CD set is breathtaking. LA LA LAND records should be given a great big pat on the back for bringing us the complete score from this now classic WW1 movie. Goldsmith’s vibrant, melodic and wistful sounding music is timeless and is still as moving and stirring as it was when he first composed it over forty years ago. The compact disc set is split into THE INTENDED FINAL SCORE which is represented on disc number one by twenty five cues, these are in the correct running order of how they appeared in the movie, and the sound quality is wonderful. The second disc contains twenty eight cues; these are in sections of one to fifteen THE 1966 SOUNDTRACK ALBUM, Tracks sixteen through to twenty two ADDITIONAL SOURCE MUSIC and tracks twenty three to twenty eight are categorized as ADDITIONAL MUSIC, so this is most certainly the most complete edition of the score ever produced. CD one opens with Goldsmith’s soaring central theme from the score and the Main Title theme from the movie. The picture opens with the central character Bruno Stachel played by George Peppard lying in the muddy and blood filled trenches of a battlefield, the infantry man is scrambling around in the in the gruesome conditions dodging bullets and trying to avoid explosions, he rests and hears in the distance the sound of an engine, he looks to the sky and sees a German bi-plane The music begins in a quite subdued fashion the composer utilizing flutes at first to usher in the cue, he adds to this a fragile brass punctuation that supports the flutes and this then grows into a more pronounced brass motif strings then enter the composition in a romantic and majestic style, with percussion enhancing and embellishing the performance, the strings soar and are augmented by brass fanfares which lead to the cues stirring and resounding crescendo. Track number two, THE NEW ARRIVAL, is heard as Stachel is driven through war tired soldiers who are a pitiful sight Goldsmith’s music perfectly underlines the scene and also conjures up the weariness and desperation of troops who tired, hungry and demoralized. This edition of the soundtrack contains tracks that were not used in the film and also tracks that have not appeared on any of the many releases of the score.
Track number five, THE FIRST VICTORY is an anthem like arrangement of the central BLUEMAX theme, Goldsmith’s soaring strings are supported and carried along by a brass fanfare that repeats itself and underlines the proud and patriotic atmosphere that the composer creates with his sweeping string arrangement. The music is heard after Peppard’s character shoots down his first enemy plane. Track six THE CAPTIVE is a fairly brief but effective piece, Stachel intends to bring in a British aircraft, to his airfield without downing it, the gunner is unconscious (assumed dead by Stachel) and the British pilot decides to allow himself be taken prisoner rather than be killed. Goldsmith’s music is again sweeping and almost joyous as the British plane is accompanied by Stachel, but the mood of the music changes to reflect the scenario on screen, the gunner regains consciousness and attempts to fire at Stachel which forces the young German to shoot the British plane down. THE BLUE MAX is as I have already stated a classic Goldsmith score, but with this edition it becomes even more so, this is an essential purchase, a must have release that is throughout its glorious booklet adorned with numerous stills from the movie, highly informative notes by Jeff Bond and Julie Kirgo and a beautiful front cover. This is one you must own.
Read other recent reviews by John Mansell: Addio, Fratello Crudele
, The Dark Side of Light