Here's another curiosity from the Gutbrain bookshelves: Learn How To Be a Handcuff King and Mystery Man.
My mother-in-law gave me this. (Thanks, Jane!) It's a no-nonsense guide to magical escapes, the sort of thing Houdini was famous for doing.
The preface has some good advice. "If you wish to become a successful entertainer as a Handcuff King, Mystery Man and Escape Artist, the first thing to bear in mind is that you must overcome self-consciousness…. As a well known teacher of magic once said, 'You must develop your nerve.'"
Ennio Morricone joins us again for Claudia Cardinale Month.
Um, but once again I think we'll pick a Morricone score other than C'era una volta il West. Hey, Once Upon a Time in the West is one of the greatest soundtracks of all time, but we'll get around to it later. Maybe it will be Charles Bronson month again next November. (I doubt we're going to have a Henry Fonda month.)
But Morricone scored several movies starring Claudia Cardinale. The music for Corleone is wonderful. 10 tracks of it were released on a CD in 1995 (along with 12 tracks of Morricone's music from the movie Il Pentito).
Even though that release boasted of being the "WORLD PREMIERE COMPLETE RECORDING", a CD containing 22 tracks came out in 2007.
Ennio Morricone's Corleone is Soundtrack of the Week #110.
The first track, "Addio a Palermo", begins with a very "Moonlight Sonata" kind of melody, played on piano with strings accompaniment. It segues into a classic Morricone structure, smoothly undulating chains of notes. Then it's back to the initial theme again.
The second track, "Corleone", is in 6/8, as "Addio a Palermo" was as well. But that meter in the album opening had a much more even feel despite deliberate variation of tempo. "Corleone" sticks remorselessly to one slowish pace and stresses the first of every three notes, hammering the time signature into your brain. After developing a suspenseful atmosphere in this way, organ comes in with first a melody, then an on/off playing of one note held down. It's a hypnotic piece, and classic Morricone.
"Una Voce Dal Carcere" is a beautiful romantic piece for strings and piano. "Rivolta Popolare" suggests tension and excitement, again with strings and piano but with winds added near the end. "Addio al Figlio" is a reprise of the Beethovenesque "Addio a Palermo" and is followed by a reprise of "Corleone".
The seventh track on the record is "Cospirazione", a mysterious and atmospheric number that makes use of sustained notes from the wind section to create a kind of musical fog. Quotes from "Corleone" float to the surface. "In Tribunale" sounds like Morricone channeling Bernard Herrmann's more ethereal writing.
"Alla Donna" is a variation on the "Addio" theme. "Cassandra" is a suspense cue. Then there's another arrangement of "Una Voce Dal Carcere" followed by a "classical music" cue, "Celebrazione e Colazione". After this come reprises of "Addio a Palermo", "Cospirazione", "Corleone", "Una Voce Dal Carcere", "Addio a Palermo" again, "Cospirazione" again, "In Tribunale", "Una Voce Dal Carcere" again and one more "Addio a Palermo". (Somebody must have really loved "Addio a Palermo".)
The last track on the record is jazz source music in a hot New Orleans style. While the earlier release of the Corleone soundtrack managed to hit all the major themes, it didn't include this unique track.
Here's another interesting and specific film reference book: The British 'B' Film by Steve Chibnall and Brian McFarlane.
These days "B" is meant to describe any kind of supposedly schlocky movie, but it used to mean a movie that would play in a double feature before the "A" movie.
At least two of my favorite movies are featured inside, The Trollenberg Terror (a.k.a. The Crawling Eye) and Devil Girl from Mars (not technically a "B" film, apparently).
I'm lucky enough to have seen both of those on the big screen when I was a teenager! According to Chibnall and McFarlane, The Trollenberg Terror is "a spin-off from a television serial". I'd like to find out more about that.
This poster for 1958's Womaneater, "a deliciously far-fetched tale about a carnivorous 'devil' tree with an appetite for Vera Day" made me think of the Avengers episode "The Man-Eater of Surrey Green".
The authors note that it was "part of an unashamedly exploitative double bill with Blonde in Bondage ('In the spotlight she Strip-teased. In the shadows she collected her pay-cheque in shame!')".
Speaking of The Avengers, screenwriter Brian Clemens, who wrote many episodes of both that show and Danger Man, apparently spent years "churning out scripts" for Danziger Productions' 'B' films.
Edwin Astley, one of my favorite soundtrack composers (Danger Man, Randall & Hopkirk Deceased, The Saint, etc.) also worked for the Danzigers. The authors single out his music for a movie called Naked Fury as an example of how his "sympathetic and unobtrusive score … would enhance the action". They also mention that he was Pete Townsend's father-in-law, which was news to me.
Fans of the Goon Show will find Harry Secmobe, Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan in here.
Michael Caine also makes an appearance, early in his career.
Ultimately it's all about money, and the authors give the finances their attention. Here's the Final Statement of Production Cost for The Diplomatic Corpse.
Strongroom looks good.
Great book! And since it's in English (unlike Segretissimi), I might actually read it.
The one hundred and ninth Soundtrack of the Week is The Pink Panther (1963) by Henry Mancini.
Here's another movie whose music I used to record from a video source, laserdisc in this case. The CD above contains an LP re-recording with liner notes by Peter Sellers. I hope the original soundtrack recording shows up someday.
Just as it's Peter Sellers's movie—and not only is this the best Pink Panther film, it contains one of Sellers's most nuanced and sophisticated performances, rather incredible when you consider that he was a last-minute replacement for Peter Ustinov (!) and had virtually no time to prepare for the part—this is really tenor saxophonist Plas Johnson's record. That's him playing the lead on the famous "Pink Panther Theme". Legend has it that his fellow session musicians were so impressed with his solo that they applauded him after they'd cut the track.
"It Had Better Be Tonight" is one of Mancini's most rhythmically infectious tunes. The instrumental version here contains some wailing accordion playing. The melody comes back for "The Village Inn", where it's accompanied by a mutated "Pink Panther Theme", and then there's a horrible English-language chorus version. The Italian-language solo voice rendition that's in the movie is much better.
"Royal Blue" is a hypnotic, late-night croon of a tune, similar in some ways to Mancini's "Dreamsville" from the Peter Gunn soundtrack. There's a fine trumpet solo, then another killer Plas Johnson solo.
"Champagne and Quail" is background music for a dinner party, as I recall. "The Tiber Twist" is, well, a twist number, background music for a party scene, perhaps. (I haven't seen this movie in ten years or so.)
More brilliant playing from the accordionist can be heard on "Cortina" and, of greater concern to our focus on Claudia Cardinale, on "The Lonely Princess", a heartbreaking number for Cardinale's character, Princess Dalla.
"Something for Sellers", one of Mancini's beloved cha-chas, has more great accordion playing and yet another brilliant Plas Johnson solo. "Piano and Strings" actually is piano and strings, another dreamy, romantic lullaby-like piece.
The record concludes with "Shades of Sennett", silent-movie madcap music to accompany the frenetic chase scene near the end of the film.
—Edward N. Luttwak, Times Literary Supplement (October 16, 2009)
Here's a curiosity from the Gutbrain bookshelves: Criswell Predicts Your Next Ten Years, by Criswell, the psychic who narrated Plan Nine from Outer Space.
The book was published in 1969, so we can look back in awe at Criswell's foresight.
And so on. Criswell looks beyond the next ten years and predicts "the end of the world on August 19, 1999!", which makes everything else seem trivial.
He also predicts that "the sunken continent of Atlantis will arise from the briny depths of the Atlantic Ocean on May 6, 1987!" (to be followed by the rise of "the sunken continent of Pacifica … from the briny depths of the Pacific Ocean exactly one year later on May 6th, 1988!").
It's nice to have specific dates like that. Too bad we only had about twelve years to enjoy Atlantic before the world ended.
Criswell also answered "the 101 questions most often asked him" in the second half of the book.
Criswell predicted Weekend at Bernie's! Well, there you have it. This is why they say that truth is stranger than fiction.
It's a movie about the patriarch of a powerful family and how he fades away as the world changes, as society makes "progress". His heir has fought in the war and is poised to take over at the end of the film—though he's ruthless in ways the retiring head of the family is not. It has gorgeous cinematography and a wonderful score by Nino Rota.
It's not The Godfather. It's Il gattopardo (The Leopard, 1963) a brilliant Luchino Visconti picture starring Burt Lancaster, Claudia Cardinale and Alain Delon. I assume it must have exerted a strong influence on Francis Ford Coppola. Who knows, maybe that's why Nino Rota got the Godfather gig.
It's Soundtrack of the Week #108.
It's a beautiful film. The cut I saw was over 3 hours long but felt short. It's a perfect drama and so well photographed that just about any shot would look good hanging on your wall.
About an hour into the movie I was wondering where Claudia Cardinale was. When she shows up everybody notices.
The CD begins with a long cue, eight and a half minutes: dramatic, sweeping, romantic, playful, sad. Then comes "Angelica e Tancredi" the love theme for Cardinale and Delon. Then there's another monster cue, almost eleven minutes long, that covers various scenes and moods.
After that we're off to the ballroom: "Mazurka", "Controdanza", "Valzer Brilliante", "Polka", "Quadriglia", "Galop", "Valzer del Commiato". I don't usually make it to the end of the CD, to be honest. Rota does these cues very straight, which is what is needed for them to work in the movie. They don't make for the most exciting listening on their own.
8½ would have been a groovier Rota/Cardinale selection, but I've been listening to that music for more than twenty years. The Leopard is new to me. And those first twenty five minutes—perhaps they made up the A side of an LP—are gorgeous.
Check out this website:
If you look at either of those you'll see a lovely photo of me playing the guitar. It was taken by Mr. Dorgon when David Grollman and I performed as a duo in San Francisco a few years ago.
The best part about all this is that they translated my interview and playlist comments into French. I love the way I sound in French! If you read it, try to hear me as the computer voice from Alphaville.
Thank you, Pierre and everybody else at macao!
The replacement of LPs with CDs as the standard for recorded music resulted in both losses and gains. CDs held more content and were manufactured for a lower cost. Almost anybody with a computer can make a CD at home.
The gain in quantity of content has to be weighed against the loss of quality of form. I've seen many beautiful LPs. I can't think of a single CD that, as an object, impressed me at all.
Consider this Gerry Mulligan album, Butterfly with Hiccups. It might be on CD by now. The music is quite good, and essential for anybody interested in Jim Hall. But while the music, the content, can be adequately transferred to CD, the form will be left behind. Will we ever see anything like this again?
The same thing happened with fanzines. They're websites now. Much cheaper and easier to make. (There are still some fanzines, of course, just as there are still people making LPs. Paper and vinyl products are no longer the standard, though, and they used to be.)
As with CDs, websites seem to be doomed to dullness. The most that you can ask of them is that they function and are as convenient as possible. You can put a lot more content in a website but when it comes to form, what can you do? The most beautiful website in the world is still just a website.
But the most beautiful fanzine in the world…. Well, I don't know what it is. But one of them must have been Edith Abeyta's Quench #1, though—the Quench zine that was about beverages, not the Quench zine that "deals with issues of sexuality, race, gender, class, religion, politics". That Quench is a website now.
The cover is eye-catching. It's a handmade patchwork of squares cut from aluminum soda cans, held together with taped aluminum strips. That's a brassiere ad featuring soda drinking in the center. Check out what's glued to the corner.
A bottle cap filled with glitter, a tiny toy jet plane and a little square of paper with "Quench" on it.
Each one of these had to be hand made. The zine itself unfolds like an envelope.
Inside is a plastic pouch containing three Quench stickers.
The table of contents:
All the best fanzines were monomaniacal. Soda recipes? Yes!
Check out this beautiful spread:
Another element that would, I believe, have to be done by hand for each issue. So would this:
What's inside this mysterious pouch located on the inside back cover? Let's open it and see.
Tiny rubber lungs. I really don't see how any fanzine in the history of the world could be cooler than this. And how could a website possibly compete?
Each issue is numbered.
I wonder if this #134 or #34 of issue #1. Did Edith Abeyta really make more than a hundred of these?
How much did it cost? $5.00. Five dollars. For a hell of a lot of work and a thing of beauty.
Last November when it was Charles Bronson Month here, we selected Ennio Morricone's Città Violenta (Violent City) instead of Morricone's better known C'era una volta il West (Once Upon a Time in the West). The latter we said we'd save for Claudia Cardinale month.
Welcome to Claudia Cardinale Month! All of April's Soundtracks of the Week will be from her movies.
Claudia Cardinale was born on April 15, 1938, in Tunisia. She's still working a lot, in film and television. Her Internet Movie Database page shows 105 credits for her as of this writing, including movies still in production and pre-production. In addition to acting, she's been a UNESCO good will ambassador for the Defense of Women's Rights for almost twenty years now.
Our first Cardinale movie, and the one hundred and seventh Soundtrack of the Week, is Il bell'Antonio, scored by Piero Piccioni.
Marcello Mastroanni is the Antonio of the title, a young man who returns from Rome to his native Sicily, where everybody is talking about his prodigious sexual exploits, his irresistibility to women and how he's been taking advantage of it.
In fact, Antonio has never had sex, and isn't capable of doing so. Not merely impotent, he becomes physically sick if he attempts intercourse. As a man in the Sicilian society portrayed here, nothing could be more shameful and he tries his best to hide it. His parents are eager to arrange a marriage for him to the daughter of a powerful local family but Antonio won't consider it.
Until, that is, he sees a photo of the prospective bride: Claudia Cardinale. "An angel," whispers Antonio as he falls in love. Cardinale's character Barbara has been raised not to know anything about the facts of life, so when the two marry and move into Antonio's parents' orchard, they become like Adam and Eve, innocents at play in a garden of Eden.
Of course there will be a serpent, and acid satire of ideas about sex, love, religion, politics, until a tragic, humiliating, despairing conclusion. It's one of the saddest movies I've ever seen, and one of the most impressive, too, with a daring and intelligent screenplay, perfect performances and brilliant photography.
Piccioni came up with a hauntingly beautiful main theme for Antonio's tortured soul. The whole score is a great example of how much can be done with a relatively small ensemble. Most of the music draws on jazz idioms and recalls high points of jazz film scoring such as Elmer Bernstein's Sweet Smell of Success and The Man With the Golden Arm, Johnny Mandel's I Want To Live! and Duke Ellington's Anatomy of a Murder.
The CD doesn't include a track listing, or much information at all, but there are 29 cues, ranging in tone from downbeat to upbeat. There's some music for a wedding, some music for a funeral, some great baritone sax playing and some moody numbers that reminded me of Sun Ra's Jazz in Silhouette. My favorite cues are the more dramatic underscore compositions with string section, particularly an unusual 12/8 one. (It might be 6/8, actually, or something else. I'm not so good at figuring out that stuff.) You hear it a few times, once with Italian vocals.
There are two new CDs you all should know about. After Alice made her tenth CD of original material, she put together a greatest hits CD called The Magic Lantern.
You can buy it here. I play guitar on the song "Alaska". All ten songs on this CD are great!
After putting together The Magic Lantern, Alice went ahead and made her eleventh record, Dexter Price!
As you might guess, these are songs written for our son, Dexter. You can buy it here. I play guitar on the title track. Other guests include Jason Crigler and Adam Levy on guitar, Lee Feldman on piano, Danielle Gasparro, Noe Venable, Greta Gertler and Sandy Bell on vocals. Alice plays and sings everything else! Another ten wonderful songs: check them out!