Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
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2010 August 23 • Monday

The 127th Soundtrack of the Week is Bronislau Kaper's Home from the Hill.

Robert Mitchum plays an incredibly macho Texas patriarch who has forced himself on practically every woman in town while his wife, disgusted by his animal nature, won't let him touch her. He has two sons, a sissy who's been raised by his wife, and an illegitmate woodsman who lives in a shack in the woods.

With its concentration on masculinity, sex, violence and rape, and with a crucial scene of the mama's boy being taken on a bogus "snipe hunt", Home from the Hill might have informed Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs.

A lot of the movie is hard to take today but it's not bad, mostly because of Vincente Minnelli's typically assured direction, Milton Krasner's excellent camerawork, Bronislau Kaper's rich score and, of course, Mitchum's performance, the center of the movie's gravity.

One of the indications of Mitchum's greatness is the inability to imagine another actor playing a Mitchum role as successfully. Any other actor in Home from the Hill would seem absurd. But when Mitchum sits in his den—"a man's room", as he calls it—and lectures his son on manliness, he pulls it off as nobody else could have done.

George Peppard plays the illegitimate son.

Peppard had come out to Hollywood after a background in the New York theatre scene and Lee Strasberg's famous Actor's Studio. As author Lee Server recounts in his Mitchum biography, Baby, I Don't Care, Peppard asked Mitchum if he had "'studied the Stanislavsky method'".

"'No,' said Mitchum, 'but I've studied the Smirnoff method.'"

The music creates sumptuous American heartland atmospheres as well as stirring dramatic and emotional moods. As the liner notes for this Film Score Monthly release note (quoting Tony Thomas's book Music for the Movies), Peppard once gave Kaper credit for praise his acting received, saying that all he did in a celebrated scene was "walk and stare straight ahead. All the acting was done by Kape".

Its a beautiful score, with action, mystery, drama, tension, lyricism and even a couple of pop versions of the Main Title, source music for a scene with a juke box.